The clearing that Thor had stumbled upon was large, lush and green, an expanse of soft grass surrounded by the thick trunks of the trees that he had been previously lost within. A small clear pool sat at the base of the large tree that resided in the centre of the clearing. It's roots twisted and twining around each other as though it were an imitation of Yggdrasil itself.
Thor suddenly had the feeling that he had not wandered into the clearing on chance alone. It was beautiful to be sure, but also eerily quiet and unsettling, and entirely far too reminiscent of Loki.
“Brother” he called, although the bellow of his voice felt almost sinful in the quiet of the clearing. “I know that you are here Loki. I have no patience for your games this day.”
A chuckle echoed around the clearing before Loki revealed himself, perched on one of the gnarled branches of the tree, one leg drawn up with the other dangled, swinging loosely. Thor noticed that Loki had allowed his hair to grow further, the black locks reaching almost to his mid-back. It suited him.
“You were never so stoic in our youth Thor.” Loki replied, a smirk on his face. “I recall that you were rather fond of hide-and-seek with me. We would play for hours.”
“That was a long time ago brother. We have long grown past childish things.” Thor said through gritted teeth. He had no time for Loki and his peculiar behaviour.
“What is it that you want? I have been lost in this forest for coming up to two hours and I simply wish to return home. If you want to fight, then let us have at it without any of your dallying. I have no time for your riddles.”
Loki frowned and pushed himself forward to fall to the floor, coming to stand not far from Thor. Thor gripped Mjolner's handle tightly, for Loki was hard to anticipate when such a mood was upon him, and Thor would be unable to ascertain what exactly it was he wanted even if he were given a full year to think upon it.
“Yes well I would suppose the King of Asgard has a great many things that he would need to attend to.” Loki replied, making no effort to disguise the bitterness in his voice. “I would assume that becoming lost on a hunt would cause you many a problem were you not able to find your way out again.” He looked to Thor slyly from underneath his eyelashes.
“I am more than aware that it was your illusions that led me to this place, in case you had meant that to be a startling revelation.” Thor sighed. “That much was clear to me as soon as I entered this place.” he gestured to the clearing in which they stood.
“Of course not. Even your stupidity could not fail to recognised repetition, and you are more than familiar with my skills.” Loki growled. “Go then. My illusions shall hinder you no further, and you will find the edge of the forest quickly enough. We are not very deep into these woods at all.”
Loki turned away from Thor, walking back towards the tree and leaving Thor somewhat bewildered. Never slow to react however, Thor reached out and grabbed Loki's arm, preventing him from leaving, although Thor was certain that Loki could simply vanish if he had truly wished to leave.
“You brought me here for a reason and yet you idly dismiss me without revealing your purpose? What is your play brother? It has been too many long year and I tire of this endless battle between us.” Thor demanded, squeezing Loki's arm tightly. Loki twisted to look at Thor over his shoulder, a lock of dark hair falling over his eyes as he did so, and Thor had the inexplicable urge to push the lock back over his ear. He resisted and looked to Loki meaningfully.
“You did not tell me that moth.” Loki paused. “That Frigga had passed on.” He spoke quietly, eyes focused on the ground at his feet. Thor gently let go of his arm. Loki did not run.
“I was unable to find you.” Thor replied softly. “Not for lack of trying.”
And Thor had tried. Frigga had taken ill shortly after Odin had passed away, surviving just long enough to bear witness to Thor's coronation before she moved on to be with her husband in Valhalla, and Asgard whispered that she had died of a broken heart. Before she had died, she had spoken to Thor, beseeching him to let her see Loki, to bring her youngest to her bedside, seemingly forgetting in her sickened state that Loki had long since shunned Asgard, not having set foot there in many years. Thor made no promises, and his mother died the following day. Thor searched high and low for months after with a rather blatant disregard for his new status as King, but if Loki did not wish to be found, then none would be able to find him, and Thor was never able to let him know of what had transpired, returning to Asgard angry and disheartened.
It was perhaps fortunate that quite some time had been allowed to pass. Enraged as he had been, Thor was certain he would have been more than willing to deal Loki a fatal blow had he come across him during that time. As it was, now he could not bring himself to be angry at his erstwhile brother, although he have every right to be. Instead, he could only feel pity. Loki's actions had brought this upon himself, drove away those who loved him and isolated himself. Now he was paying the price. Loki was a pitiful creature and so pity was all that Thor could muster for him.
It was also the one thing that Loki could never abide. Especially from Thor.
“I suppose you think that I am deserving of this.” Loki stated.
“You cannot deny that you brought this upon yourself.” Thor replied. “It is you that continues to run, we have made it more than obvious to you that you can always come home to us.”
“No Thor, only you would see me back in Asgard. Do not be naïve, we both know that you are not that foolish.” Loki spat, walking away, but only to pace back and forth at the base of the tree, still not making any attempt to leave. Thor presumed this could only be a good thing. He stepped forward, gripping Loki by the neck, his thumb brushing the defined jawline lightly, just as he had the first time they had ever had this conversation, on a dark cliff side in Midgard so very long ago.
“I am no fool Loki. I just live in hope that one day you will finally give up on whatever poisonous ambition that you have got into your head and come home to us. To me.” Thor implored, the emotion in his bright blue eyes so stark and honest that Loki had to cast his eyes aside, for fear it might burn right through him, so was its intensity.
“Do you honestly think Asgard would welcome me with open arms after all that I have done?” Loki murmured. “Particularly as I can tell you now in all honesty that given the chance, I would do it all over again. They would see Asgard's remorseless traitor son hanged and they would celebrate as my neck broke.”
“You say you have no regret, and yet your actions betray you at every turn. Why seek me out to ask of Mother if you truly care so little?” Loki remained silent as Thor spoke, which was as much of an admittance of mistake as Thor could possibly hope for out of the dark haired sorcerer. “I would protect you Loki, and anyone with anything to say about it would answer to me, as long as you just come home.”
Loki let out a choked laugh, that just might have been a sob.
“Well that is a testimony to your 'Royal Diplomacy' is it not? I neither want nor need your protection Thor, and I never had, as much as you have loved to lord your strength over me in the past. Do you really think that I would willingly return to live within your shadow once more, meek and disgraced, now that I have been allowed into the light?” Loki pulled himself from Thor's grip, a sneer on his face. “ I suppose it would be wonderful for you, returning having tamed the feral Jotun Sorcerer that betrayed you all, yet another reason for Asgard to worship 'The Mighty Thor'.”
Thor sighed, pinching at his glabella. It felt as though for every step they took forward, Loki had to jump back another three in order to compensate.
“Must you always retreat into venomous words whenever I reach out to you?” Thor said wearily. “My love for you and my hope for your redemption will never die, but I tire of this Loki. One day you shall find that even I have had my fill and then you shall be entirely alone.”
“You speak as though you are my companion Thor, though this is the first time that we have spoken in months. I am always alone, and that is the way that I like it.” Loki sat upon a low branch, leaning back upon his hands, Slowly, Thor approached him.
“If that is true, then why seek me out? I think you have been lying so long that you have started to believe your own falsities brother.” Thor replied, coming to stand in front of Loki, who refused to look at him.
“I think that you are an arrogant fool.”
“And now you avoid my questions, falling back on childish insults as ever. I am sorry to say that you are becoming rather predictable Loki.” Thor felt that the conversation was coming to a close, having gone in the same circles that it always did, and he found he was able to predict how Loki was going to speak. It was the same basic conversation every time they came together, just phrased differently by Loki's eloquent tongue. He turned to leave, having had more than enough. The deaths of his parents coupled with his coronation and the duties of being King had drained him emotionally and sometimes physically and he simply could not cope with Loki's tricks and insults on top of it all.
However, he was not expecting Loki to launch himself at him, and the slighter man managed to land a solid hit to Thor's cheekbone before the blonde man had time to realise what was happening. Loki was never one for physical combat when it could be avoided, preferring to use his magic if violence was necessary, or underhanded tactics. Thor still had a small scar remaining from the dagger that Loki had jammed into his side atop of the Stark Tower, a small reminder of the battle with the Chitauri that was otherwise just a faint memory.
Loki threw himself at Thor with little finesse and was easily overpowered, Thor bearing him to the ground whilst gripping both of his wrists tightly in one hand alone. A small part of him was unbearably proud of having provoked Loki to such an extent that he would forget himself entirely. Loki lay under him, chest heaving and eyes wide, and Thor could not help but notice how striking Loki's eyes still were, even as the rest of his body had grown far too pale and gaunt.
“Did I hit a nerve perchance brother?” Thor hissed. Loki glared, but Thor continued on, invigorated.
“Perhaps this is why we have not heard of you in so long. Have you ran out of plots and schemes at last, that cunning mind all dried up? Or do you simply have no allies left, all of them more than aware that you will betray them at every turn, no matter what pretty tale you spin with your silver tongue. Or...”
“or perhaps, like you, I have simply grown weary of it all Thor.” Loki said. Thor realised that the other man was not struggling beneath him, which had slipped his notice in his tirade. It seemed only they could get to each other in such a way, even after all these years.
“Why do you persist Thor, after all this time?” Loki asked quietly.
Thor let his forehead rest upon Loki's, who allowed it, and it felt almost as thought they were children once more, wrestling in the fields of Asgard near the palace, when they were going to rule over Asgard together and nothing would ever come between them.
“Because it's you.” Thor murmured in reply “Because it's us and we are always together, even when we fight most horrifically. Because Stark fell, and my friends grew old around me. Mother and Father are gone and Sif and the Warriors three move on with their lives. Only you and I are constant. There is always us and I know that even if all turns to dust around me that you shall remain.”
He brought a hand up to cup Loki's cheek, wiping away a single tear that he was pretty certain Loki was not aware had fallen. Loki let out a shuddering breath, and pulled his hands from Thor's grip, moving them to cup the back of the larger man's head, long fingers carding through the blonde tresses.
“That was unusually eloquent, for you.” He met Thor's gaze. “It has always been about us hasn't it? Through it all, despite my plans and aspirations you were always there, trying to stop me. Trying to 'fix' me.”
Before Loki could begin another rant, Thor cut his words off with a kiss that he supposed should have felt wrong, but in actuality just felt as though it had been a long time coming.
Judging from the eager way in which Loki responded, he was not adverse to what had happened. Thor bit at Loki's bottom lip as he pulled away leaving it plump and pink, his breathing heavier as he looked down at the man beneath him.
“Not fix you. Never fix you. I have only ever wanted to bring you home, where you belong. With me.” Thor spoke against Loki's lips letting his hands travel the lithe body. Often he had awoke from dreams in which he had caressed another beneath him, desiring this one person more than any other before, but upon waking was never able to remember whom it had been that he dreamed of. Now that he had it in front of him, it was obvious that it was Loki. It had always been Loki.
Although admittedly, the reality far outweighed the dream.
Groaning, he licked and bit his way into Loki's mouth, trying to memorise every aspect of kissing the other man, whilst Loki fumbled with the clasps that held Thor's red cape in place. He made to cast it aside once he had released it, but Thor took hold of it himself, wrapping an arm around Loki , lifting him bodily into his lap as he knelt and haphazardly lay the cape underneath them, laying Loki back down and covering his body with his own.
Loki squeezed at Thor's arm, pushing slightly.
“Thor.” he started, but Thor covered his mouth with his own once more, preventing him from continuing.
“Don't” he said simply, and Loki looked to him for one moment with an unreadable expression before nodding one and pulling the other man to him, nimble fingers making quick work of the clasps of his arm whilst Thor pulled the heavy leather coat from Loki's shoulders.
They unclothed each other rapidly, buckles and cloth forming piles around them, along with their boots until they were both left in their britches alone, warm chests pressed firmly against each other. Loki inhaled sharply, a hiss escaping him when Thor began to press his lips down his neck to his collarbone, nipping lightly as he did so, the scratch of his beard leaving red marks that stood out brightly against Loki's pale skin.
Loki pulled Thor back up to him, letting his hands skim the muscled chest until they brushed the tops of the others trousers, fingers toying with the laces that held them tight to Thor's hips.
“Point of no return.” He said lightly, but Thor knew what it really was knew what Loki was really saying. It was a warning, a final chance to back out and pretend none of this had ever happened. Thor just grinned and pushed his hand into Loki's breeches, gripping him firmly, causing the younger man to gasp and arch up into Thor.
“We passed that point a long time ago.” Thor said, releasing Loki's member from its confines and pushing the trousers down his legs, quickly shedding his own in succession. Both men groaned as they came together, and Loki spread his legs, bringing his knees up to allow Thor between them. They pushed against each other again, kissing deeply as Loki wrapped his leg around Thor's waist, using his heels to push them together more tightly.
“Thor.” Loki gasped. “Inside me.” The 'Please' hung unsaid in the air between them.
Thor leant back, caressing Loki's cheek with his fingertips.
“I have nothing to ease the way.” He said gently. Loki just took his hand, and brought it to his mouth.
“I want to feel it for days.” He said, surprising Thor and causing his arousal to become almost unbearable. He moaned as Loki took his fingers into his mouth, laving at them carelessly in his haste, spittle catching on his lip which Thor desperately tried to ignore, lest he come undone.
He prepared Loki hastily, likely too much so, but Loki didn't appear to care, scratching at Thor's back as he pushed inside his body, leaving red trails down the man's back that would remain for the next week. Thor thrust into Loki's tight body hard, holding the lithe legs that were still wrapped firmly around his waist, and he knew neither of them was going to last long. It had been building up for far too long now to spend time on slow love-making. That could come later, if there was a later.
Thor came first, slipping a hand between their sweat-soaked bodies to give Loki's erection three swift strokes before he too reached his climax, coming with a small cry that Thor would never forget as long as he lived. They lay in quiet repose for sometime, Thor rolling off of the slighter man and pulling him into his arms so his head lay against his damp chest, black hair spread out like a fan against the tanned skin, and Thor's fingers caressing his arm lightly.
“I will never come to Asgard Thor.” Loki finally broke the silence, speaking so quietly that Thor almost missed it. He closed his eyes briefly, knowing that their time was coming to an end.
“I know.” he replied.
“You could come with me.”
Thor blinked, looking down to the top of Loki's dark head, although the other had not turned to face him. He had not been expecting that kind of offer.
“You know that I cannot.” Although it was sorely tempting, Thor's duties as King of Asgard had to come first.
“I know.” Loki echoed Thor's words.
They did not speak again after that, Loki falling to sleep on Thor chest. Thor pulled the excess of his cape around their cooling bodies and fell asleep with the younger man tucked firmly into his embrace.
When he awoke, Loki was gone and Thor dressed and made his way out of the forest, finding the way easily. He returned to a great many questions, but he simply answered that he had become lost and spent the night in the forest instead of wandering in the dark.
Everything had changed and yet, nothing had changed at all. Thor knew he would not see Loki again until Loki was good and ready to see him, and so Thor waited, because no matter what, he would never stop waiting for Loki, in the hope that one day he might finally stop running.