A/N: I had an unsettling dream which blended the worlds of Thor/Avengers with the Loki presented in Neil Gaiman's Sandman... Therefore I'm going to dive into the Thor/Loki fandom. Since it's me writing, there is slash (the pseudo-incestuous relationship could be considered squicky, so if you're not okay with it, please do not read it). Nothing explicit beyond kissing though.
Not mine, not for profit.
Events take place after the Avengers movie closes.
"You have lied, manipulated, murdered and shown no remorse, Loki. Though it pains me to see you thus, I must punish you severely to show you where you have not done right by your position as prince of Asgard." Odin's expression was shadowed, as if by hidden grief, but Loki did not acknowledge the weariness in his foster father's eyes.
Instead he lifted his chin defiantly. The Midgardian gag was still in place, as were the shackles on his hands; Thor had wasted no time in bringing Loki to the All-Father's hall. There were few in attendance at this time of night. Apparently, Odin did not want the shaming of Loki made public to all, but Loki cared little for what the All-Father thought.
He cared little for what anyone thought. He had lost. He would take the punishment.
The gag did not hide the disdain in Loki's green eyes as he stared stonily at the person he used to think of as his father, the person he used to desire approval and love and acknowledgment from. Having been exiled once, Loki knew more now about the nature of relationships.
They were weak bonds, some declared through blood and some declared through fealty, but weak nonetheless. There was no man or god that could not be bought for a price.
Loki himself had been bought for a price.
He could sense Thor standing just behind Loki, where Loki could not view his expression. He wondered what the golden son of Asgard would say should he be the one on the throne, giving judgment.
"I, Odin All-Father, ruler of Asgard, king of the æsir, have given thought to you and your mischief. I will therefore sentence you, Loki Odin's son (and here Loki scoffed, his sneer evident to the king), liar, trickster and murderer of many, to this: you will speak no word that you do not mean from the heart, and should you attempt to utter falsehood, your lips will be sewn shut for a score of hours. No food will pass your lips, nor drink, until the hours are passed, and you have reflected and repented upon the act."
As he took the implications of the punishment in, Loki braced himself for the stir of magic. Odin's magic was harsh, fierce and golden-hot-dry-endless; Loki's own magic was cold-sinuous-silky-deep, and warred at the feel of another's magic enveloping himself. Blood thundered in his veins and he couldn't hold back the snarl of pain as Odin's punishment settled into his bones.
Odin suddenly looked small and frail. "Thor, remove his restraints and gag. Lead him to his room."
"My room?" Loki was surprised. "It is still around?"
The surprise was obviously real. Thor regarded Loki almost fondly, almost like the way he used to back before the whole mess happened. "I would not have allowed them to change it, brother."
Loki smiled thinly. "We are not brothers, Thor." A fact; they were not brothers. They had never been brothers, whatever Odin had said. A fact, and therefore not a lie, and why did Loki feel a faint sense of disappointment?
"We are as good as," responded Thor, and led Loki down familiar corridors.
Loki felt a stirring of warmth as he stepped back into his original quarters. The room was as he had left it, his books in their proper positions, his lamps lit, his clothes hanging in the alcove. Despite himself, Loki was touched. They had kept his place for him.
"Why?" he asked.
"I believed you would return home, brother. I have only ever wanted you to come home again," said Thor.
Thor was so naive, Loki thought. He smirked and regarded his supposed brother. "And again be in your shadow, Thor? To follow you as the Warriors Three? To be scorned and mocked for using my brain instead of mere muscle?"
He now knew how to get around Odin's spell; he just had to question, to inquire, to prod and poke without ever making a statement, or to state the bare facts. He could do this.
Thor growled. "You know that I have never wanted that. I just want you by my side-"
"Like a slave?"
"Not a slave, but as my brother!" shouted Thor, finally goaded past his patience. He grabbed Loki's wrists, still sore from the shackles, and shoved him against the wall. "Why can't you see what I'm trying to tell you?"
Loki merely smiled. "Because I am not your brother, Thor. And I never will be."
"We grew up together, played together, fought together-"
"-and fought each other," said Loki, quietly, still with the infuriating smile on his thin, pointed face.
Thor gazed at the slender man, whose smile had not reached his emerald eyes since... Thor could not recall when the last time he saw Loki truly smile. Perhaps at the ceremony, more than a year and a lifetime ago, when Thor was to receive kingship, and Loki was congratulating him.
"Loki," he said, voice so soft he could hardly believe it was himself saying it, "Loki, did you really mean to kill me, back on Midgard? When you dropped me from the flying craft?"
The dark-haired male looked at Thor. And then he pushed Thor away and strode to the bathing room without a word, trailing resentment and bitter fury all the way. "Leave. I am tired and need rest. I assume the room is secured, and Odin has himself seen to the magical precautions, so you need not fear that I will run."
Thor sat down on the nearest chair and covered his face. He did not know how to get his brother to understand, not anymore, and he needed the answer so that he could sleep.
"Father, bind Loki to me," Thor asked immediately the next morning when Odin received his audience. The blond Asgardian had a troubled night, worrying about Loki, and spent the night sitting outside Loki's room, listening for the slightest movement. The fact that the lamps had been burning throughout the night had not escaped Thor either; Loki had not slept.
"Loki will not be willing to do so, Thor," Odin remarked. "He will see it as another imprisonment. He might even kill you in order to flee. I will not risk you, for you will lead the æsir in the future."
"Can your magic not bind our lives together, such that if one survives the other may not die? You are the All-Father, the one who has traversed the nine realms. Surely you can do that!"
Odin frowned and stood up. "Thor, my son, you know little of what you ask. To bind two lives together when one is clearly unwilling to take on the burden is unwise."
"I can take on the burden for both," Thor said.
"You are rash, and headstrong, and forgiving. Loki is not. This is in itself not a good combination. Do not ask me again for this, Thor."
"Father," Thor said, and it was the pleading look in his eyes that stopped Odin from ignoring his son. "Father, do you not want Loki back with us?"
Odin was silent for a long time. "Thor, I love him as my own. I will always regret what I had to do before and what I have done last night. But he is not trustworthy. Do you think I did not hear what he said to you, my son? That, even now, he plots how to overcome my spell to free his tongue?"
Thor did not shake off his father's hand when it rested on his shoulder. However, he raised his head and regarded Odin square in the eyes. "I still trust him, Father. I know he will try to provoke me, anger me, stir me into unwise action... but I trust that he will not try to kill me."
"What happened in Midgard, Thor? Did he not make an attempt on your life?"
"Father, if he had sought my death on the flying craft, why would he have me leave before the Hulk started his rampage? If he had sought my death in the city, why did he not spear me but attack with a knife so small as to be a belt dagger, used for cutting meat off bone in our feasts? Loki... Loki is complex, tricky, and above all cunning. But I believe that Loki, despite all he has done, has not wanted me to die, neither does he plot my death." Thor had spent all night thinking, unusual for him, but he had thought clearly. "Bind us so that he sees that I do not want him to perish either, not by his hands and not by the hands of others. For though I have forgiven him - and I have forgiven him, in spite of all the hurt - there are those who have not. And I want my brother to stay safe."
Odin hesitated, and sighed. "You have always been too fast to trust, my son, but mayhaps you have a wisdom of youth that age no longer possess."
Loki shut the grimoire, angered by its lack. In all the books there was no guide on how to remove Odin's spell; he must have crafted it himself.
No matter. Loki could keep silent. He had learned to keep words to himself ever since he met the Chitauri and the Other – even now he dared not think the name – and he had learned patience.
"Loki, please open the door." There were three polite knocks on the door, though loud, and Loki knew it was his brother – no, the person who thought himself Loki's brother.
Apparently Loki was not the only one who had learned. Thor had learned courtesy, for in the past Thor would barge in without even a request or an apology, and often Loki had to fashion a glamor of clothes to hide his nude form when Thor saw fit to invade his privacy.
Thor knocked again, and this time Loki opened the door. "What is it you want, Thor?" asked Loki.
"Father wishes to speak with us," said the blond Asgardian.
Loki exhaled heavily and walked into the room, reaching for one of his favorite tunics. Its deep green with gold embroidery enhanced the paleness of his skin delicately, and Frigga had made him the belt herself. He touched it, reminded of happier, more innocent times, and exhaled again.
"Thor wishes it. Would you accept it?" Odin asked after he explained the spell.
"I suppose I must," said Loki, seething with rage but not showing it. "He is very... thoughtful to have come up with this idea."
Thor looked askance at Loki. "Is that truly what you think of me? Thoughtful?"
Loki said nothing.
Odin sighed and commanded, "Reach out and grasp your left hands."
One large, tanned paw caught hold of a slender, cold one; Loki grimaced with distaste but kept still his tongue. He had no wish to have his lips sewn shut. The king's staff touched their joined hands and again the invasion of Odin's Asgardian magic fought and defeated Loki's own protective magic,and wrapped another layer around his cold Jotunn heart.
Thor did not release Loki's hand, but looked at the dark-haired male with a strange, tender gaze. "Brother, we are as one now. Our hearts forever linked, and our lives intertwined. Forget our strife; remember we are brothers."
"I am not your brother," snapped Loki, snatching his hand away, and escaping to his room once more.
This time Thor did not knock, but Loki had been expecting him. Thor sat on Loki's unmade bed, studying his brother who glared at him. "You are angry," Thor noted.
"As you can see," said Loki. "Your observation skills have improved since the last time you were in here."
"Why are you angry?" asked Thor, not paying heed to Loki's jeering tone.
Telling himself to be patient, Loki slammed his bedroom door shut and leaned his forehead against it. He had to be calm, to think of ways to mislead Thor, to anger him – an angry Thor was always easier to manipulate than a serene, peaceful Thor. He had not got used to this version of Thor: calmer, more thoughtful, more introspective. Loki wanted more time, more space. He needed more time and space to think.
And suddenly he was trapped, bracketed by large arms and a warm torso behind him. Whirling around, Loki stared up at Thor. The blue eyes were more intense and focused with dedication than they used to be, less carefree, more depth.
"Why are you angry, Loki?" Thor asked again, his presence too large to be dismissed as mere annoyance.
Thor was too close. He was too large, too near, too close, too warm, too much. Loki snapped, "Because you are the last person I want to be bound to!"
And suddenly Thor's eyes grew wide and horrified. Loki felt it and tried to scream, to tear at his mouth, but threads from nowhere pierced his lower and upper lips, sewing his mouth together, and there was no time to react.
"By the realms... Loki, look at me, are you – are you in pain? Do you hurt?" Thor peered wildly around. "A knife, I need a knife... blasted strings!"
Loki was bleeding at the mouth; he could taste the iron-copper stench inside, see it drip onto his immaculate floor. The pain had been so sudden and so unlooked-for, and Loki swiped impatiently at his tears. He would not appear weak again. Never again.
His fingers dug into his tunic as he tried to get past the intense sensation, and closing his eyes helped. However, when Thor appeared with a small dagger, Loki backed away and sank to the floor. Shaking his head, Loki tried to signal to Thor that the threads that sealed his mouth were of magical construct, and steel would not cut them. Somehow he was understood by the larger male, and when Thor crouched down and touched Loki's face there was a gentleness that hurt almost as much as the sewing of the lips did.
"Brother, oh Loki..." Thor murmured, and pulled Loki into an embrace, allowing the younger male to burrow against the crook of Thor's shoulder and neck. There was nothing else Thor said, and Loki thought Thor said it very well indeed.
He was thirsty, for he had not drunk for the past two hours other than his blood; he was hungry, for he had not broken fast in the morning before Thor brought him to Odin, and his last meal had been before the battle in Midgard.
But Thor was at least as hungry and thirsty as he. The blond Asgardian had refused food and drink, and though he did not say why, Loki knew Thor was trying to prove a point.
He deliberately refused to think what that point might be.
All day long, Thor had stayed with him. After Loki had recovered from the shock and pain of the punishment, he had returned to his bed and curled up on it with another book, this time one on the lore of Yggdrasil. Thor had sat beside him, ignoring the irritated glares sent his way from emerald eyes, and read together with Loki.
In silence they spent the day, and Loki was oddly comforted by how Thor could be quiet when he should be. Loki's hands tightened on his book, and his fingertips turned blue suddenly. Was he becoming softhearted? Was he starting to forgive Thor?
When he heard the snores Loki woke up with a start. Thor was still beside him, his snores loud and rumbling. Loki gently eased himself from his brother and replaced the book, before noticing the tray of food on the low trestle by the door.
Someone had come in without his knowledge. Someone had seen Thor and Loki in repose, side by side, at ease, in peace.
That chilled Loki to his marrow, for reasons he could not quite name.
The water in the baths was usually too hot for Loki, but tonight it seemed to be as ice. Scrubbing at the scabbed scars littering the planes of his body, Loki turned his thoughts over and over, trying to seek out the elusive fear that he had just experienced. What was he afraid of, here in Asgard?
"Loki?" Thor suddenly called out.
Instinctively Loki tried to respond, but all that he could utter was a choked mutter. The threads were still present. In futile anger Loki slapped the flat of his hand against the water, thinking up curses in his head and swearing with all the names of the creatures and gods that he could recall.
Just as he was cursing the head off the squirrel Ratatosk which chattered nonstop, Thor skidded into the bath. He was wild of hair and eyes. "I thought... I thought..." Thor rubbed at his mouth, before he leaned against the wall. "I'm sorry, I forgot you couldn't..."
Loki smirked ironically and traced the threads that bound his lips together. His thin fingers trailed over each strand, feeling the magic resonating and countering his own, and found rage bubbling over again. Damned Odin! Loki thought, almost weak with hunger and frustration, and pushed himself up from the bath, and then his knees wobbled. Before he could collapse, however, Thor had ran over and scooped up Loki from the tub and pulled him out.
Loki suddenly realized he should have waited until after he had eaten before he bathed. The heat of the water was gone because he was feverish with thirst and hunger, and his thoughts were running together because he couldn't string a simple sentence together.
He could not even protest as Thor carried him to the bed and then dried him off with thick towels, from his wet hair down his torso, past his hips and to his toes. Loki did allow himself a blush when Thor dried his groin and then turned him over to rub down his back.
"You lied," whispered Thor as he had Loki in a sitting position to better dry the raven-black hair.
Loki glared up; he could do nothing else in his defense.
"You said I was the last person you wanted to be bound to. I'm not, am I?" Thor's voice was so quiet that it made Loki's nerves stir with unease. The drying cloth was tossed aside to the floor, where Loki had discarded his clothes earlier. Thor now tilted Loki's face so that he had to look into Thor's piercing blue gaze. There was again the strange look in Thor's eyes that Loki wished desperately to ignore, but Thor gave him no opportunity to do so.
"Mother came in earlier, after you had fallen asleep," Thor murmured. "She brought food. When she saw... when she saw you, she was upset, and she blamed me for not dissuading Father."
Loki's brows furrowed. Why would Frigga blame Thor for Odin's decision? Nothing swayed the All-Father, especially since Loki himself had not begged for clemency. Loki would never have begged for clemency, not from Odin.
At least one riddle was solved. Loki did not need to fear Frigga, and Thor had been awake then, which was why he himself did not wake.
Again he deliberately ignored the deeper meanings of the actions.
"To be honest I did not think Father would have gone through with it," Thor continued. "And I was trying to keep myself from showing you how much I had missed you. Loki... when you fell, when you fell from the Bifrost Bridge, I should have followed." Thor's hands now cupped Loki's face and he touched his brow with Loki's.
"I was so happy when I heard you were in Midgard, because that meant you were safe, that you were sound, that you were whole, brother. I could not have borne otherwise. And then I heard that you had allied yourself with the Chitauri... that you planned to enslave a planet..." Thor's voice became broken and soft, almost like the time Thor had first lost a fight and came to Loki for support and encouragement. "I did not know what to think. And then everything happened... and you are here now, with me, and I can't even begin to describe how I feel. I have never been good with words, brother, but now you have taken all my words from me."
That was the most eloquent speech Loki had ever heard from Thor, and he was still mulling over the nuances when Thor pressed his lips over Loki's sealed mouth.
Loki's mind blanked.
Thor's hands slipped from Loki's face to his shoulders, and then he gathered the younger man to himself. His words were right beside Loki's ear, and the hot breath was real, as well as the muffled groan when Thor buried his face in damp black tresses.
"I did not go to Midgard to protect them, Loki. I went for you. I went so I could bring you home," he whispered, each word harsh and honest and painful. "I did not even know why we fought. Even now I cannot comprehend... I would give up Mjolnir in a heartbeat, Loki, for you to set foot in Asgard and call it home again."
Loki shut his eyes. He must speak, he had to speak, he had to dissuade his brother from pouring out his heart, he had to sneer, jeer, mock, tease, jibe at Thor; he had to grab that oaf's heart and squeeze it, crush it, trample it beneath his heel. He had to, because all the sincere and clumsy words were making Loki think and feel things that he had given up the right to think and feel.
"Loki, do you not love us anymore?" begged Thor, face still hidden within Loki's hair. His warm breath, wet and hot and all too Thor, sent shivers down Loki's spine. "Do you truly hate me?"
Loki lost his inner battle. Wordlessly he reached around Thor's broad shoulders and squeezed. Thor felt it, and then tightened his arms in response. Loki could not speak, but the embrace seemed to bridge something that had broken some time ago, and Loki felt his heart go still. They stayed that way for a very long moment
Finally Thor pulled away, his eyes gleaming and there was a smile on the blond Asgardian's face. Tentatively – had Thor ever been this cautious? This gentle? - tentatively Thor touched the threads that sealed Loki's mouth.
"These are frightful things," he remarked, "but if there is anything good about them, they have allowed you to listen."
Loki's green eyes narrowed and he punched Thor lightly on the shoulder, and the older man laughed with quiet delight at the familiar action. Then he pressed yet another kiss on Loki's bound lips, taking care not to press too hard lest Loki was hurt, and rested his cheek against Loki's face.
"There are still some hours before the spell is lifted, brother," he said in hushed tones. "Let us rest. I for one do not wish to stay awake and listen to the growling of my belly."
Loki snorted with amusement and lay back against his pillows. Thor hesitated again, before he situated his bulk next to Loki, his warmth resting against Loki's naturally cool body.
Loki accepted the comfort for what it is, and shut his mind against what else it might mean.
He also resolutely refused to think about the kisses. To go there, Loki feared, would mean madness.