Moonlit and silver-limned, Loki's body was a thing of ice - at least, it seemed so, all white, luminous surfaces and sharp hollows. (His collarbones. His throat.) Perhaps he knew that Thor was watching him; he was cunning, after all. He had to know. And yet he did not startle, did not stop; he did nothing but smile, a quiet, private smile, as if his thoughts were far away. He was always so very far away. A fey thing - a slight thing - clever as an ornament or a charmed trinket, too pretty to be kept to oneself, too quick to be stolen away.

Thor's hands clenched despite himself.

Perhaps this was another illusion of Loki's - another bedevilled, beautiful distraction - and perhaps Loki was really elsewhere, making mischief, hurting someone with his sly wit and his slender knives. He had to be elsewhere, because he couldn't be here, so open and innocent and - and pretending innocence. It had to be a pretence. For Loki would never let his head fall back like that; would never part his legs like that; would never look so joyous and wistful, so tender and lost. The sable of his hair would not spread so upon his bed, ruffled as a raven's wing; his back would not arch so, delicate as an instrument or a note of music.

Thor was - Thor was accustomed to beauty. Asgard was filled with it. And yet, and yet, it was not this beauty; it was not this nightingale-song, this sweet and piercing call. Asgard's beauty was golden, sun-bright and burnished and brave - but Loki's beauty was other, something entirely foreign, deceitful as a strange forest, as treacherous as it was tempting. Here, every instance of light was surrounded by shadow; here, every glimmer or glint was a trick to draw the eye.

As, indeed, Thor's eye was drawn.

He watched, helpless as a man under a geas, as Loki exercised patience upon himself. Such patience, as though this were a plot eons in the working, a knot eons in the untying - as though this were a secret he was seducing out of himself, a spell both arcane and precious, too sacred to be spoken aloud. Loki was ever, ever a magician. A conjurer. And so he conjured this vision: of himself, as an embodiment of a winter's night, as the very thing travellers got lost within. His fingers turned a slow, icy blue - and he touched himself with them, lightly, on his thigh, raising the small hairs there, and on his chest, smooth as gossamer, the nipples pebbling with frost and gleaming like dark, encrusted jewels. The sigh that escaped his mouth fogged the air, cool as a winter mist, and through it Thor saw Loki's eyes dip, as if with sleep, only to flutter open again, half-moons of molten red.

Monster, thought a part of Thor's mind, entirely without permission. For Loki certainly looked a monster, his pale skin darkening to blue at his finger-tips, his eyes lit like the furnaces of Hel. Thor looked at him, at his Jotun brother, and wondered if there had ever been another instant when he had been so terrified of something that he wanted so much.

For he did want, the want filling him like hot wine filling a flagon, dizzying him and tilting the world around him, until all he could see with his burning gaze was his brother, debasing himself, glorifying himself, bare and soft-skinned and so hungry for touch that it pained Thor not to give it to him. If Loki was cold, then Thor was aflame - the heat a slow poison eating away at him, blackening the edges of his vision until what he saw was but a curling parchment, set alight with the blaze of his own lust.

It was the heaviness of it - the madness of it - the quickening, oh, the roughening of Loki's breaths - that made Thor drop his glamour.

That made him step forward.

And yes, this was a plot - another glittering, lovely trap - for Loki had taught him this spell, had taught him how to hide himself, and then had given him such a reason - such a terrible, damning reason - to hide himself.

Loki didn't even have the decency to look surprised - to say something, anything, to stop this - to stop Thor from taking this, from having this, from condemning them both.

Instead, Loki only closed his eyes - as if Thor weren't there at all, were still a shade, an unseen thing, a spectre - and let his hands fall away.


Permission, damn him, as if Thor needed -

- this was his -

- his brother, his -

"Loki," he said, and Loki trembled, and then.

Thor. Touched.

Touched him.


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