Title: Hospitality
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Dirty talk and sexual innuendo; graphic violence; TW for past torture.
Summary: Written for a Norsekink prompt asking for a retelling of the lay of Geirröd, from the Thorsdrapa.

Every now and then, Loki loses his mind.

He sends it out winging over the mountains, tumbling through the swirling currents of air and the cool, wet wisps of cloud. Bright sun glares in the sky, flashing white and blinding off snow-capped peaks; the scent of snow and pine rises on the thermals to greet him, and Loki flies.

No matter how far he flies, though, sooner or later he falls; tumbles towards the cruel stone teeth below and lands with a crashing jolt back here. And here, back in the choking, reeking darkness, Loki knows that he is not mad, no matter how much he wants to be; for if he were truly mad, he would not have to face this choice.

Light woke Thor, a glimmering flame that cut through the comforting shadows of night and called him to wakefulness.

"Gnah," Thor croaked, fighting his way out of a strange and disturbing dream. In his dream he had been in a feasting-hall, but the chair he was sitting in kept rising and rising towards the stone ceiling overhead, forcing Thor to fend it off desperately with a pole to keep from being crushed. "Wha'?"

"You never were a morning person, Brother," a familiar voice came out of the shadows. Thor sat up and squinted, casting blearily about for the source of the voice - and light.

One of the lamps set over his chest of drawers had been lit; it cast a dim golden light through the darkened chamber, casting dark soft shadows throughout the familiar space. Enough to see by, but not to see much by.

Loki sat on the floor with his back to the chest, the light spilling down on his head from above. He wore a long, voluminous cloak of some dark color hard to distinguish in this light, and had it drawn about him, hiding most of him from sight. That was Loki all over, ever playing at games of concealment and trickery.

"That would be because it is not yet morning," Thor muttered, rubbing his face with his hand and yawning widely. "Brother, what are you doing here? We had not seen you for three months, and the first thing you do is come to interrupt my sleep?"

"Has it really been three months?" Loki said, the tone of voice making the question not really a question. He sounded flat and quiet, as though he were talking to himself and not to Thor. "How time does fly."

"Yes, and what have you been doing that kept you away for so long?" Thor wanted to know.

"I was busy." Loki shifted position and pushed to his feet, pulling the cloak around in front of him. He took a few steps towards Thor until he was bending over him in the bed, the light silhouetting me from behind. "Did you miss me, Brother?"

"No," Thor said, which was not quite truthful. He had missed Loki, at least a little bit, but Loki tended to scorn and laugh at him when he admitted to such sentimental things. "It was only a few months. You've been away for longer before."

"Indeed, hardly any time at all." Loki tilted his head to the side, although the light behind him meant that Thor could not read his expressions. "And you never thought of coming after me, or following me, to see what I was up to?"

"No!" Thor said, startled. Loki tended to guard his privacy very protectively, and had lain enough increasingly vicious boobytraps in his wake until people learned to cease prying into his affairs. "Why would I? And I couldn't have, anyway Loki; you went off in the form of a bird, if you'll recall. What was I supposed to do, put on wings to follow you?"

"Of course," Loki said flatly. "What about the others? Mother, Father? Did they think of me, while I was away? Did it ever occur to them to look for me, or to command Heimdall's gaze to seek me out?"

"Not particularly," Thor said, confused by this line of questioning. What was Loki on about? He was a grown man, not Thor's baby brother any more, and if he wanted to go off and be by himself for a few months then he could; they'd both been gone from home for much longer periods of time before. Frigga had fretted, of course, because that's what mothers always do; Odin had wondered aloud a time or two what mischief Loki was conjuring, that kept him so long from home. But none of them had seen any particular reason to worry.

Thor grinned suddenly, seeing an opportunity to get back at Loki a bit for his relentless teasing. "Actually, Brother, I think that everyone was just enjoying the peace and quiet."

Loki drew in a breath, and the sound was so tense and fraught that for a moment Thor blinked wildly, casting about for the source of what could have set him off so. Then, all in a moment, Loki's demeanor changed. He laughed, the sound as familiar to Thor as his own voice, and turned to sit on the edge of Thor's bed. The light spilled across his smiling face, the sharp-angled features and lean form.

"Well," Loki said, and laughed again. "That was your loss, then. Because I have met the most amazing woman."

"Oh, have you?" Thor grinned, sitting up straighter in bed and running a hand through his hair. If Loki was in the mood to talk about his conquests, there was little chance of getting back to sleep tonight, but Thor found it easy enough to roll with the punches. It was good to have Loki back, to see his bright-eyed smile and hear his wicked laughter. Thor was willing to put up with a fair amount of exasperation in exchange for that. "She must have been quite a woman, Brother, to keep you so occupied for three months."

"You have no idea," Loki sighed. His eyes rolled back in his head, and his expression went dreamy as he recited his tale. "On the wings of the bird I traveled over the mountains, and when I was weary I stopped to rest in a small mountain hold. There I beheld her for the first time, and she laid eyes also on me, and a spark was laid between us like a new-kindled hearthfire.

"She had hair as red as a sunrise, Brother, and snapping green eyes to accompany them. At one moment she would be as shy as a sparrow in winter, the next fierce as a swan, the next coy and teasing as a minx -"

"She sounds like quite the match for you, then, Loki," Thor interrupted, beginning to feel the first stirrings of envy.

Loki flashed a small, sly smile, and Thor was sure he had seen Thor's envy and did not regret causing it in the least. "Her arms were white and radiant as the sun on the sea," he went on, "and when she opened her tunic before me, the tender skin beneath shone as luminous as a sunrise. With a knowing touch she slid beneath the blankets beside me, her hands and mouth clever upon me until I felt fit to burst.

"Such wicked words she whispered in that thick heat, spaced by silvery giggles as fair as the lark's call in the morning. When at last she rolled beneath me, and parted her glowing thighs, there like a chalice -"

"Enough, enough, Brother," Thor interrupted, hastily waving Loki to silence. His skin was beginning to grow very warm with Loki's words, and for all that they had lived some very awkward adolescent moments together, there were some things Thor did not particularly want to share with his brother. "How cruel it is of you, to describe so lovingly a banquet which has already been eaten to a starving man who has none."

"Ah, but there is still another place set open at this banquet," Loki said, leaning forward conspiratorially. "You see, the lady has a sister."

"A sister?" Thor choked out.

Loki nodded. "Yes, a younger sister, though still a woman well-grown," he said, "tall and blond-haired as you prefer them, Thor, and with sky-bright eyes and a bosom threatening to spill out of her tunic with any sudden movement to the side. How many times over the course of my stay did she inveigle upon me to tell her tales of the mighty Thor, Prince Thor the dashing and handsome, and how often did her chest heave with sighs at the thwarted desire to meet you? How many nights did she sigh and moan, her arms and legs trembling with emptiness for lack of your body to fill it?"

"She wanted to meet me?" Thor said, astonished.

"Oh, yes. They knew who I was, of course, and that you were my brother - " Loki rolled his eyes. "And they would accept no substitutes, nor any deterrent to keep thoughts of you from their mind. The younger sister would not cease in her yearning for you, and soon the elder too was infected by the desire to swoon at once into your heated embrace.

"Never underestimate the appetite of a lovelorn maiden, Thor. For months I resisted, I begged, I argued against the necessity of bringing their case to your ears. Surely, I thought, one prince would be enough to satisfy them? And by all the Norns I did try, brother, but I am only one man. Even I must sleep some time. And so in the end, I agreed to bring their case to you, Thor, and ask if you would be willing to come and meet them, and fulfill the most ardent desires of their... hearts."

He drawled that last word with just enough of a leer on his face to deepen Thor's blush, and further tighten the heat drawn into his groin that Thor kept well-camouflaged by the concealing folds of his blankets. "I would -" Thor had to clear his throat before he could speak normally. "I would meet these fair maidens, of whom you speak," he managed to say, trying not to let his tone be too obviously eager.

That sly smile appeared again, and then vanished just as quickly. "Of course you would," Loki said.

"But, of course, only the younger one," Thor hastily added. "I would not seek to part you from your most bountiful lady of the scarlet hair. She's yours, of course." Thor had learned many, many times over the years that attempting to take away from Loki anything that he regarded as his would end in furious screaming and quite probably bruises.

"Oh, Thor, I could not care in the least," Loki said, rolling his eyes. "After three months of her delightful company, and that of her sister, I am most entirely worn out. Between them they have drained me to the dregs. It would be a most grateful boon to me, Brother, if you could see your way fit to spell me in their passionate embraces."

"I should be most glad to, then," Thor said. "When shall we go? Tomorrow night, or perhaps in the morning?"

Loki stood up from the edge of the bed, and his cloak fell back down around him, a smooth sweeping line from shoulder to floor. "We can go tonight, if you wish," he said. "It's not that far."

At another time Thor might have questioned the wisdom of jumping out of his bed in the middle of the night to run off and attend a booty call, but right now he was set afire with eager lust and too swept up in his brother's sensual talespinning to take time for caution. He rose from his bed and began pulling his clothes on; long tunic and trousers over his smallclothes, a belt to secure all in place and then a sleeveless jerkin over the top. He strode towards the stand in the corner to collect his armor, but Loki's hand on his sleeve stopped him.

"Come now, Brother," Loki said with a laugh. "You don't need your armor, do you? You are going to a bedroom, not a battlefield."

Thor frowned, and turned towards his brother. "I mislike leaving the palace without it," he said. "Tyr always said that armor must be as a warrior's second skin."

Loki shook his head. "Trust me," he said, and then gave his brother a bright, saucy grin. "You would only find yourself climbing out of it as soon as you reached your destination, and do you really wish to waste time struggling in and out of that ungainly chainmail corslet? Leave the armor behind, Thor. You won't need it."

"Very well," Thor said dubiously, and Loki released his arm and withdrew his hand back beneath the cloak. Thor was almost distracted, for a moment there seemed something odd about the gesture. Something about Loki's hands, previously so carefully hidden from sight under his cloak, that caught his attention.

But then Loki was picking up the lantern he'd lit to waken Thor, and there seemed to be nothing wrong with the way he moved. "Let us depart," Loki said. "At this hour, there should be few on the walls that would challenge us, and I doubt they will have much to say once they learn of the noble purpose of our errand." He threw a smirk in Thor's direction, and moved towards the door.

"Wait but a moment," Thor said, and strode quickly over the carpets to the stand that held Mjolnir, in her place of honor. A certain tension that he hadn't been aware of disappeared as he grasped the haft in his palm, and he moved to hang the weapon in one of the loops of his belt.

When he looked up again, he met Loki's frown, his brows knotted and a stormy look in his eyes. "What are you bringing that for?" Loki asked. "You don't need a weapon."

"Perhaps not," Thor said, and patted the hammer affectionately, "but I would feel bereft without her by my side, Brother. Besides, we might meet bandits or wild beasts on the way, or upon the return, and I would hate to meet battle without a sturdy weapon at hand."

Loki sighed in great exasperation and rolled his eyes, as though Thor were the worst of all dunces in the land. "I told you, it's perfectly safe where we're going," he snapped. "You don't need that blessed hammer. What would the lord of the hall think if you burst upon him, armed like a viking party and with a weapon in hand? It's terribly un-diplomatic of you, Thor. Leave the hammer here."

"Nay," Thor said, a streak of stubbornness rising in him that could match even Loki's. "Whether to battle or court or courting, I will not go out without a weapon by my side to defend me. I would feel naked without Mjolnir."

Loki snorted. "Isn't that the whole point of this exercise, Thor? Unless you planned to take your maidens to bed with armor on your back and a bloodied weapon in your hands, you're going to need to feel naked one way or the other before the night is out." He took a step forward, his eyes glinting in the low light like sharp jade. "Or perhaps do you have other plans for that hammer, Thor? Perhaps you fear that your own manhood won't be able to rise to the occasion of satisfying two such hungry, wanton women. They do say, sometimes, that the length of the spear is meant to compensate for the lightness of the sack. Perhaps you fear to leave Mjolnir behind because you hope to use your shaft as a substitute, to fuck your partners to completion when you yourself lie flaccid -"

"I intend no such thing!" Thor cried, a scarlet flush rising to his cheeks as he clenched Mjolnir's handle in one hand. "Don't be disgusting!"

Loki turned away, and the light swung away with him. "Then leave the hammer here, Thor. Or don't come. I don't particularly care either way."

For a moment Thor hesitated, torn and stricken. But Loki was already walking away, the shadows shifting and growing vast as he stepped with the lantern out into the hallway. He'd already made up his mind to accompany Loki, and... perhaps he should not be so stubborn. It was not as though they were going into battle, or even adventuring to an unknown realm where battle might be found. He was merely going to visit a household. Loki knew the way, and if there had been any dangers Loki would be well aware of them.

He laid Mjolnir carefully back upon the stand, and hurried after Loki. His brother turned his head over his shoulder to see him, and flashed him a smile when he saw Thor empty-handed.

They met no guards or servants on their way out of the palace, either due to the late night or Loki's careful planning of their route, or both. Once in the stable block Loki chose horses for them both, and left behind the lantern; although the night was still deep the thickly clustering stars over Asgard ensured it was never truly dark.

Loki led them both out of the palace and through the streets, guiding them towards the mountains that overhung the great silver hall. He brought them at length to a tiny mountain path that wound its way up among the stones, up between dark black rock and the white folds of snow that never melted.

After what seemed an eternity of endless climbing over the rocks, but in reality could not have been more than an hour or so, they crested the edge of a sharp ridge and saw a narrow but deep valley running between the peak of one mountain and the next. Familiar Asgard spread out behind them, reflecting a multicolored glow into the night sky, seeming almost close enough to reach out and touch the golden spires. Ahead of them in the distance, still small but perfectly visible, was the cluster of a tiny village and the dark mouth of a stone hold built into the mountainside.

Thor was astonished. "I never knew this was here," he marveled, even as the horses picked their footing carefully along the trail.

"It can't be seen from Asgard," Loki said, his voice toneless and distant as he stared up at the mountain hold. "Nor is it marked on any of the maps. I never knew it was here until I took to the skies as a bird, and began my exploration of the mountain peaks in the uncharted heart of the realm. The updrafts here are quite wild, you see, because of the way the sun reflects off the snow and heats the air as it rises; to soar upon them, riding from one buffet of wind to the next, was glorious."

He trailed off, and was silent for many minutes before he seemed to stir himself from some deep memory. "But in time, I grew too weary to continue my flight," he said. "And so, I espied this hidden fortress within the mountain's embrace, and came down to rest my tired wings upon the battlements. I could see the hall inside alight with the merry warmth of a fire, and the air was succulent with the scent of roasting meats; laughter and singing echoed through the stony vault. I thought - I thought I could seek shelter here, for the night. I resumed the form of a man and stepped inside, and raised my eyes to the lord of this castle..."

"And that was when you met the lord's daughters?" Thor prompted him.

Loki blinked, and seemed to come back from a far distant place with a jolt. He looked over at Thor, his expression slightly lost and bewildered. "What?" he said.

"You met the lord," Thor said, "and, from the way you spoke of them, I thought the fair sisters you described must have been his two daughters. You said they knew who you were, a prince of Asgard. Any country lord would be pleased, I would think, to have his children become the favorites of a lord of such nobility and stature?"

Loki opened his mouth to speak, then apparently thought better of it - or else could not find any words, since he closed it again and looked back towards the mountain hold. "It is as you say," he said at last, and lifted his horse's reins.

He'd gone only a few paces down the track before he realized that Thor was not following; he turned to look at him, one eyebrow raised. "Thor?" he questioned.

Thor shook his head, frowning. "You are acting passing strange tonight, Loki," he said. He did not miss the way Loki stiffened, his expression closing and his frame tightening with hurt and offense. He quickly added, "But I do not fear. You are my brother, after all, and I trust you." With a grin, Thor shook his own horse into motion.

The two princes rode up the mountain trail towards the distant hold by the light of the stars. They crossed a swift-running mountain stream, their horses' hooves kicking up droplets that sparkled like diamonds in the faint light. The wind carried a keen bite, and a fresh scent of new-fallen snow and pines from somewhere further up the mountain. It was cold, but not unbearably so, and there was the prospect at the end of the ride of a cozy fire, and a warm bed occupied by a willing woman.

For some reason Thor couldn't fathom, the closer they got to their destination the more tense and upset Loki became. Now that the cold air had a chance to clear his head, Thor had to consider the possibility that Loki was playing an elaborate prank on him; he'd certainly known all the right buttons to push to get Thor to follow along. Perhaps at the end of the ride he would face a cold duck in a lake, or a bed that contained not a beautiful maiden but a hideous mountain hag.

Yet even if that were the case, Thor couldn't see what was upsetting his brother so; he ought to be more happy, not less, that his plans were going so well. Thor resolved to play along, at least for now; he'd come this far, after all, and no doubt all would reveal itself in time. Loki's pranks could be exasperating and embarrassing, it was true, but they never left any lasting harm.

At last they came to the foot of the citadel, and reined up their horses as Thor stared in frank awe at the edifice. A high arch had been carved out of the stone, with glyphs and runes inscribed in long flowing lines across the surface; frost and fine snow caught in the hollows, rendering the decorations in delicate white against the black rock. Huge, fine-wrought iron doors stood flung welcomingly open, and a draft of warm air and bright golden light rolled out from within.

"I still can't believe this place was here for so long, and yet we never knew," Thor muttered incredulously. "It's amazing!"

"The master of the hall does not go out of his way to seek out company," Loki said, as he swung over the side of his horse and slid to his feet. For a moment he just stood there, hanging onto the bridle with one hand as he stared up at the archway. "Nor is he particularly fond of Aesir."

"Well, fond or not, he is still in Asgard and must bend his neck to the authority of the All-Father," Thor said cheerfully. "Besides, the laws of hospitality demand that he greet his guests with all due courtesy, provide warmth for the chill, wine for the thirst and food for the hungry."

Loki came out of his preoccupation with a jump, giving Thor an indecipherable glance as he fumbled around for his mount's reins. "Yes, of course," he muttered. "Hospitality."

Thor glanced at his brother as he dismounted in turn, seeing him for the first time tonight in better light than that afforded by lamplight or starlight. Loki's face was strange and pale, and Thor realized with a jolt as he landed that Loki was wearing a glamour; the faint and familiar marks of his features were gone, the scar on his bottom lip, the twist of his left eyebrow. That realization only confused Thor further; for all his tricks and illusions, why would Loki feel the need to spend magic to disguise himself as himself?

"Go on ahead, Thor," Loki said, and his voice was oddly muffled, subdued. "Make yourself known to your host. I'll take care of the horses."

For one moment Thor hesitated; then Loki turned to face him, and a wicked smirk slid over his mouth as his eyebrows raised in disbelief. "Oh come now," he said. "The mighty Thor, afraid of meeting new people? Since when have you ever hesitated to stride into a new realm to conquer, and make it yours? Go on now; surely they are awaiting your glorious presence breathlessly. Especially..." He waggled his eyebrows outrageously. " - the daughters."

Thor snorted, but Loki's accusations of cowardice prickled. He took a deep breath and strode forward, shoulder square and head held high as he strode into the hall. "Hail and well met, master of the mountain hall!" his voice boomed out, ringing among the pillars and high vaults. "I am Thor, slayer of trolls, son of Odin All-Father. I have come to your household to seek refuge for the night!"

His announcement was met only by an echoing silence; Thor's eyes were drawn upwards, to the vaulted ceiling so high it was lost in shadow. The roof was higher than he would have guessed from the archway outside, hollowed deep within the mountain; this whole hall was much larger than it had first appeared, with the pillars as thick around as his waist, the hearth-fire glowed behind a grill large enough to roast a team of oxen. Even the chairs and tables were too high off the ground, tall and thick around as a full tree, and the archways that led off to halls deeper within the mountain loomed up more than twice Thor's height...

"Here he is, as you bade me; unarmed and unarmored," Loki's voice came from the doorway behind him. His voice was shaking, and it took Thor a moment to realize that he was afraid. "And thus I have fulfilled my sworn word to you, and I am released from your power; you have no more hold on me, from now until the world ends!"

Thor whirled around and started back towards the entrance, but it was too late; the heavy iron doors closed with a crash, and Thor hit them and bounced off. He shoved against the doors, but they did not yield; he pounded on them, but to no avail. "Loki!" he roared; the sound bounced around the chamber, but whether it penetrated the thick stone walls and iron doors to reach his brother's ears Thor could not guess. "What have you done?"

"What I bid him," came a voice from behind him; a deep voice, full of rumblings and creakings like an ice floe beginning to break up over an angry sea. The voice sent a chill of fear down Thor's spine, unaccustomed as he was to it. He turned away from the door and pressed his back to it, suddenly acutely aware of his own underdressed, unarmed state.

A shadow unfolded in the back of the hall, rising and rising as it came towards Thor. A giant, Thor realized, the cues of the oversized hall and its furnishings snapping suddenly into place, and his hand itched madly for Mjolnir's haft. How could a giant have lived so long, so close to Asgard, without anyone knowing it? How had they not realized? And how long - how long had Loki been in league with their enemies? Three months he'd been gone - surely it couldn't have happened so fast. It was impossible to think that Loki would turn against the Aesir, against his own family, in a bare span of three months. It had to go back farther than that, and yet they'd never had a sign of it.

"I am Geirröd, friend of Sudhri of the South, the master of storms," the giant rumbled, and as he walked forward the ground trembled. He loomed up before Thor as dark and massive as a thundercloud; his chest was bare, and his skin was dark gray mottled with light that shifted and swirled in the firelight. His hair and beard were wild, catching the light behind him in sudden bright arcs, and his eyes were like holes in the sky. "I know of you, Thor Odinson, giant-slayer. Many of my kin have fallen beneath your hammer, Hrungnir's bane, that dwarven toy that seeks to ape the elemental fury of my kind."

He laughed. "But not I, little Aesir prince; for tonight you will end."

~to be continued...