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Thor drinks because it blurs the lines of what’s real and what isn’t. The press of the present all around him is dulled by bottle after bottle, softened by a liquid tide.

He doesn’t drink to forget. There’s no forgetting. But he drinks because it makes sitting with the enormity of his loneliness almost manageable. Almost. Almost.

Often he drinks to the point of stupor that tips over into total darkness—the black blankness of mind that relieves him of the necessity of consciousness—dreaming without dreaming while still awake. When he’s like that he doesn’t know himself or what he does, and it’s the greatest escape that he can find these horrid days.

After such episodes, if a friend has witnessed one, they gaze upon him with concerned eyes, shape words of worry and pity with their mouths. But his friends are fewer and fewer now, and there are dwindling witnesses to provide comment.

Sometimes, when he’s like that, he’ll awaken somewhere strange: collapsed, dew-damp, in a field; sprawled out on the rocky beach, his feet in frozen water; in the bed of some sympathetic stranger, who remembers how he was their proper king once, and sought, perhaps, to comfort him. He hates those instances the most, waking up with a throbbing head and a thick, dry tongue, plastered to an unknown body, terrified of what words he might have spoken in the dark. What name he called out.

One night he emerges from the blackness to find himself in his own bed, naked and hard and buried in another’s body. There is only a film of light from a knocked-over lamp, but Thor, as his eyes focus, sees that his partner is a slim young man, dark of hair, with a pale cheek and sharp features. At first, an impossible hope, borne on the harsh waves of memory, spurs him on, and he surges up against the other, giving into thrust after desperate thrust.

The young man gasps at this change of pace, a noise that rings too foreign, and Thor shudders to a stop. He tries to move back, but clever hips close tight, long legs wrap around him and do not let go.

“Oh, yes,” sighs the young man. “Brother!”

It would be kinder if he reached up and cut Thor’s throat. Thor stares at him with an aching head and heart, his pulse an irregular, thready beat. “What did you say?”

The young man opens his eyes. Against the dark they are silver-grey, not green. “Did you not ask, my king, that I should play your brother Loki? Have I done something wrong?”

It is Thor who is in the wrong—who has done everything wrong. Yet those names—Loki, Brother—undo him, and he is still drunk enough that he cannot execute a reversal of direction. In the face of this he has no defense whatsoever. “Loki,” he says. His voice cracks on the first treasured syllable. “You are Loki.”

“I am Loki,” says the other, sounding more assured. Thor must have told him what to say. “Show me how you love me, brother.”

It’s not a complete illusion. It never can be. But in the dim light, with bold eyes under black hair gazing up at him, lust-lidded, it is almost enough. Almost. Almost. He might pretend. Thor gives an inarticulate cry and thrusts his cock home, feels Loki struggle around a delighted moan to fit him inside. He knows his weight is a heavier burden now, so he shifts more of it onto his arms, propped up at a better angle to drive deep.

Thor fucks him with increasingly dizzy abandon, able to imagine, as he moves, that the tight muscles that clench his cock are no different at all. There is only slick friction, pleas pressed out of a paper-white throat, hips that receive the bruising grip of Thor’s fingers without complaint.

The last time he had Loki like this, face to face, was their last time in the bed on the Grandmaster’s doomed ship. Loki was so wet and open for him after taking Thor’s cock for hours that Thor was able to slide in as easily as when Loki wore his cunt. Loki’s cock was spent against the mess of come on his stomach but Thor coaxed it steadily back to attention as he kissed Loki’s neck and then his mouth, oh, how he kissed Loki’s mouth.

Loki’s mouth, pliant, his tongue soft for once instead of wickedly barbed, was a joy to plunder equal to anything else they’d done that evening. Thor kissed him again and again, and fucked him again and again, and in the space when Loki could form words he said, rich and warm and wrecked and reverent, “Yes, brother, show me how you love me.”

Thor spends pulsing into the body underneath him, seals Loki’s name into the delicate skin of his neck. He is aware of the other working his own cock and following him into panting release. With Thor’s eyes shut it is Loki who encloses him in clinging limbs and whispered words of praise. Loki who takes the collapse of Thor’s weight upon him without complaint, who trails appreciative fingers over the swell of Thor’s belly as though it is something new about him to discover and catalogue and adore.

It is a long time before Thor can bring himself to pull out and away. The mixed euphoria of the barrel of wine he drank and the pleasure consumed makes him muddled, dazed, and he sprawls on the bed beside his partner. The world tilts and reels around them.

Thor knows himself on the edge of going under once more, treads cliffs of darkness. The room fades in and out of focus. But some understanding clings to him, and he reaches out, runs a grateful hand down one taut flank, feels the cooling wetness there.

“Thank you,” says Thor. “You are a wonder.” Slender fingers cover his, a spark of a touch, then away. “What is your name?”

“Loki,” reminds the other, soft.

Yes, thinks Thor. Yes. “Yes,” says Thor. “Loki, brother. I love you still.”

“So it would seem,” Thor hears. “I do not think we should meet like this again. Next time, come as your true self, and I will come as mine.”

What does that mean, Thor wants to ask. But he is already being carried back into blackness.

When he awakens with a head that feels split-open, and a throat desert-dry, his bed is empty. Yet his heart is gentled—the glassy waters after a tempest, unnaturally becalmed, awaiting further upheaval; but for a moment, a silent, steady sea.

Later, Thor will search New Asgard, and question its citizens closely, though he already knows the answer, that no young man of the description he gives dwells there.