The sun shone obnoxiously bright from a cloudless sky, and Thor was sweating buckets. This was unusual for him, since he normally needed at least half an hour of hard sparring to start to sweat. But now he could feel it drip down his neck, irritating the mysterious rash that had appeared on his back and shoulders in the past week. It itched uncomfortably under his shirt, but he tried his best to ignore it.
“You look half-dead” Sif noted, sounding amused as she adjusted her shield. She wasn’t wrong, either.
“Says the woman who spent the morning hunched over the chamber pot.” He grumbled in reply, “how much did you drink last night, you light-weight?”
Sif rewarded him with a hard glare as she drew her sword. Some things you did not jest about, especially since she hadn’t had anything to drink the night before.
They did not speak any more as they sparred, apart from the usual jibes and taunts. Thor was having a reasonably good day after all, apart from the annoying rash and the exhaustion aching in his bones. Hela had slept through the night without waking either of her exhausted parents even once, for the very first time. Thor had not realised how much work was required from new parents, and even though Loki was wonderful with her Thor really felt that he would like a bit more time alone with his beautiful consort. Preferably in the bedroom.
“Have you considered finding a caretaker for the little one?” Sif asked, as if she had read his thoughts. Her sword seemed to fly through the air, striking Thor’s shield hard enough to make it rattle.
“Yes, but Loki is resistant.” That was putting it mildly; they’d almost had a row about it. Their first proper row since they married in Vanaheim.
“What does the healers say?” Sif asked as they paused to drink, offering him a wooden ladle full from the bucket holding water. “About the rash.”
“I have not been.”
“You really should, it’s clearly bothering you. And you never get sick.”
“You sound like Loki.” Thor filled the ladle again, letting the water pour over his sore back. It had started to ache, more than was normal when sparring. And it itched dreadfully.
“Maybe you should listen to him.”
Thor rolled his eyes, exasperated. “It is nothing, just a rash. It will pass.”
Sif didn’t look like she believed him, but did not argue.
“Very well” she said calmly, “it’s your skin.”
“Yes, it is” Thor said as he left the sword and instead drew Mjolnir. Sif’s face hardened as she raised her shield.
Frigga carefully put down her teacup, not sure what to say. She had never been at a loss for words before, not with Loki. But now, after the last few months, she didn’t know where she stood with him anymore. And the worst part was that it was wholly her own fault. Some things you can’t forget, even if you find it in you to forgive them. Some wounds simply ran too deep. And she should know; the birth of Hela had opened wounds in Frigga that she had thought healed over long ago. Wounds she had then punished her child for. A child she loved, and now he was a stranger.
“Have you thought any more of what I suggested?” She asked slowly, “about a caretaker?”
Loki looked up from the baby, his happy smile turning into a frown. He wasn’t sure how to tell her that he had in fact arranged for one to be sent to Asgard post haste.
“I have” he simply replied, looking back down at the baby. Hela was sucking on her fist, making little gurgling noises of contentment. She was so cute he wanted to look at her forever.
“I am sure one of my maids-” Frigga began, hesitant.
“Thank you” Loki interrupted, “I would appreciate that.” He wasn’t completely sure that he wanted one of his mother’s maids, but she was right in that he needed the help. Thor did his best, but he had his duties. And Loki had his, and somewhere in the midst of all that they were expected to care for a child that needed them at all hours of the day and night. Something had to give, and perhaps a nanny was just what they needed.
“I shall arrange for one to come to you as soon as possible” Frigga said, not wanting to say that she already had one in mind.
“Good” Loki said decisively, effectively ending the conversation.
“You should get that seen to” Loki echoed Sif later that day, referring to Thor’s back, as he bounced Hela in his arms. Thor ignored him, more interested in digging through the lunch basket the kitchen staff had put together for them.
They were in Frigga’s gardens, safely ensconced under a large, leafy tree. Loki, who was unwilling to put Hela down on the ground and had not thought to bring her ice basket, gave the infant a leaf to play with and watched with exasperation as she immediately put it in her mouth, drooling and giggling.
Thor, very pleased with the basket’s contents and immediately helping himself to most of it, finally looked up at his husband.
“Dearest, it is of little importance. Just a rash, it will go away.”
“And what about the back ache, and the sleeplessness, and the tiredness? Thor, you never get sick.”
“Precisely, and i am not sick. I am just… overworked.”
Loki clearly did not believe him.
“Overworked, he says” he muttered to Hela, who was chewing on the leaf with toothless gums, “overworked indeed.”
Thor distractedly scratched at his neck as he stretched out on the blanket the kitchen maid had put down before she left them to their own devices. It was itching something terribly, his shirt chafing against sensitive skin.
“Maybe you’ll feel better if you take of the shirt” Loki said, finally deciding it was safe to put Hela down for a bit. She did not protest, happy to keep chewing on the leaf.
Thor hesitated. He had not yet shown anyone just what his back currently looked like, and didn’t feel like showing Loki either.
“Thor. Brother. ” Loki insisted firmly when he saw the hesitation, “let me see. Perhaps my sejdr can help.”
Thor hesitated. It was rather ugly, and he wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of Loki seeing him at anything other than his finest. There had been a time when he did not care, but things were different now. They were married. Had a child of their own. He did not want to appear unattractive.
But this was Loki, his own darling Loki, who had seen him at his worst and married him anyway. He could not deny him the simple request of removing his shirt. So remove it he did.
“Oh Thor” Loki sighed as he saw the red skin spreading over Thor’s back and shoulder blades, it looked hot and inflamed and must itch horribly.
“It’s not that bad” Thor muttered, even as he rolled his shoulders in an attempt to alleviate the sullen ache in them, different from the usual ache he got from sparring.
Loki placed a cold hand in the middle of Thor’s back, immediately soothing and relieving the discomfort. Thor sighed in pleasure, leaning forward slightly so as to give better access. Loki called forth his sejdr, using his powers of ice to cool and numb the area until Thor felt no discomfort any longer apart from the chill.
Once he had finished, Thor pulled him close and kissed him in gratitude.
One kiss became two, became many, and soon Thor was lying on his back on the blanket, Loki sprawled on top of him, as they exchanged lazy kisses and gentle caresses. It felt good to touch each other again, since they had not lain together properly since their wedding night in Vanaheim nigh on a moon ago.
It was wonderful, Loki thought; he had missed Thor’s touch as much as he expected Thor had missed touching him. But he still protested when the thunderer started to undo his breeches.
“Not now” he panted, “Hela-”
“Is too small to understand. And we are alone. Come brother, let me please you.”
And, norns help him, Loki was powerless to say no.