Notes: Set in the immediate aftermath of the movie, and based on the assumption that Loki does, indeed, survive that fall.
Dedication: Written for omens.
THE GENTLE HEART (IS A SAVAGE LEASH)
When they finally find Loki, it is on a world distant and cloaked and peopled by dark elves. "Like to like," whispers Sif, but then they see him, through Heimdall's star-sphere, and fall silent.
Loki is -
Bare. Bound. Bound in the flesh and in the spirit, the accursed, ink-black letters of Druhir, the language of the dark elves, carved into his skin. He's writhing. He's in agony, and they have their hands on him, and they're -
They're dead barely a moment after Thor steps through the Bifrost.
There's blood everywhere. There's blood on the steps of the altar, and on the altar, and on Loki himself, the elven crimson spilled across his thighs like a sheet to preserve his modesty, for this is the only way Thor can protect him, the only way Thor's brutish hands know how.
"Brother," says Thor, because that is what Loki is, despite everything.
And Loki's mouth twists, even through the agony, and there is a strange, mad crumbling in his eyes, as if of a cliff above a green, roiling sea - as if he's ashamed, as if he ever has to be ashamed, and he's -
He isn't in agony, at all.
Except that he is, for the instant Thor touches him, he's arching again, keening, his voice raw from hours of screaming, his chest abruptly spattered with his own release. And for that moment - that singular moment - he's flushed and taut and lovely, terrifying in his ecstasy, like an oiled whip or a curved blade, or some weapon in endless motion that might, only by lodging itself in Thor's flesh, find rest.
Thor had only meant to untie him. To free him, but Loki looks more trapped than ever, more hurt than ever, and -
"Why," Loki rasps, and he sounds betrayed. "Why did you find me?"
Because I had to, he doesn't say. Because I had to bring you back.
He only presses his hand to Loki's throat until Loki chokes, until he loses consciousness, so that he might not react anymore to Thor's touch in the manner that the sigils force him to.
Fandral looks - Fandral looks horrified. Sickened. As though he might vomit.
Sif looks blank, and oddly serene, as though the sight of the rape of one of Asgard's princes is one that doesn't - doesn't -
He wraps Loki in his arms, and lifts him from the altar, and takes Loki home.
The terms of the geas are simple. Obedience - absolute, physical obedience - and an enforced concern for the comfort and, and pleasure of one's masters.
Thor is Loki's only master, now, for he will tolerate none other to touch him. To hurt him, and -
Thor will not hurt him.
He swears it, and means it, and yet, when he refuses to let Loki polish his boots or kneel at his feet or service him with his mouth, that is exactly what he ends up doing, and it is only when Loki nearly dies of the blood-fever - the sigils are carved not only on his skin but on his veins - that Thor relents.
"You're a bastard," gasps Loki, after Thor finally takes him to bed, and strips him, and caresses him back to wakefulness. Back to health, and that flush is returning to his deathly-pale skin, to the stretches of it that are pale beneath the writing. "You - "
"Yes," says Thor, and tries to be gentle, gentler than they - than any - gentle, in any case, and fails, yet again, for Loki clings to him and shudders when Thor's hands leave bruises, when Thor's teeth draw blood. "Yes."
No one speaks of it. No one is permitted to speak of it, for if Thor catches wind of any such rumor (the trickster-traitor is now a whore, a bed-slave, a thrall) he dashes the speaker against the wall, and threatens to cut out the offending tongue.
Sometimes, he does.
Cut out wagging tongues.
No one speaks of it. It is, perhaps, a small mercy that Father is once again in the Odinsleep, although Mother's understanding - the warmth of her palm on Thor's forehead, like a benediction, like forgiveness - is no mercy at all.
And if, at mealtimes, Loki sits on the floor and leans his head against Thor's knee and eats only the food Thor offers to him by hand, no one remarks on it. And if, at night, Thor retires to his chamber with Loki and not with Sif or any of his other habitual companions, no one remarks on that, either. And if Thor only goes to battle dressed in armor that Loki has fastened on him, buckle by careful buckle, none complain, and if Thor returns only to find Loki and pin him to their bed and rut into him like an animal, none notice.
Or seem to notice. It's -
It's ugly, and intoxicating, and Loki's mouth is so clever, although why that continues to surprise him despite years of having been deceived by that very mouth is - is beyond him. Gloriously beyond him, and Loki is so lithe, the runes moving upon him like tiger-stripes, flickering even in the darkness, lit with Thor's pleasure and for Thor's pleasure, Loki's slitted eyes gleaming in the firelight, poison-green and catlike.
And Loki's smiles, when they twist, have the same familiar, vicious arch they used to, before - not - not what - nothing like what Thor had seen, that day, that horrible, fateful day.
And Loki's laughter, when it's bitter, is bitter in precisely the same way as it always had been, sharp as an uncut crystal and glittering with hidden things, strands of light and quicksilver shadows, and -
And Loki's face, luminous and transported with rapture, is as victorious amid its sweat-sodden curls as it always had been when Loki had won, when one of his ploys had succeeded, when he'd plotted and plotted, when he'd conquered or despoiled.
Loki is -
Loki is home, and he's -
"Mine," Thor says, and, "brother," for they are both true. His hands are trembling. His heart is trembling, and Loki leans down to kiss it, lips damp upon Thor's chest, before lifting Thor's hands from his hips and kissing them, as well.
"Yours," Loki says, and, "it's all right," for they are both false.
And Thor listens to him, because it's a beautiful voice, a voice that ensnares and bewitches, and it's a voice that's as old and cool and dark as the recesses of an ancient forest, and Thor cares not that it's treacherous, for it is also wise. Wise as it is in giving counsel on matters of policy, counsel so sound that none in the great hall - no matter how unwilling - can refute it, and wise as it is in whispering secrets in Thor's ear, of who can be trusted and who cannot, of which worlds need conquering, of which wars create peace.
And sometimes, as Thor drifts to sleep, he remembers what Sif had said (Like to like), but Sif was one of those that could not be trusted, after all, and is no longer in Asgard to hurt him. To hurt Loki, and -
- and if there are those that murmur in muted corridors about the dark elves, and how Loki had studied Druhir as a child, he pays them no mind.
Not after he's silenced them, at any rate.
Silence is - silence is good. Silence is welcome, unless it is interferes with Loki's words, just as sleep is welcome, unless it interferes with Loki's touch.
Nothing - nothing should interfere. Nothing can interfere -
"Sleep, beloved," says Loki, soothingly, his body soft and moulded to Thor's own, like the most perfect skein of silk, the most quiet strain of song. "Sleep."