Tomorrow’s Not The End Of The World

Narugami never brings it up, so Yamino hardly thinks it’s polite to mention it himself.

Even so, he’s continuously aware of it, some part of himself that writhes and hisses every time one of the Norns show up with Ragnarök on her lips. It would be easier if they could be more like Loki and Heimdall, always sidestepping each other with insincere courtesy at best and outright aggression at worst. The understanding between them goes both ways: Heimdall is mostly reduced to parlor tricks and unlikely schemes, but there is a grain of true desperation in them, as there is in each of Loki’s returning volleys: if I kill you now, I won’t have to face you at the end, I won’t have to die as well …

Narugami is not like that. Thor is not like that. It’s not his nature to tiptoe around something; he is a straightforward man as he was a straightforward god, and for him the path has always been one foot after the other, wherever that takes him. Ragnarök is not on his mind; he’s more worried about keeping his latest job so he can scrape together enough money for rent, or different ways to bum a free meal or two off Loki when he can. There are times when his father slips into his conversation, casual and unconscious (and Yamino envies that, how easily Father falls from Thor’s lips), but always vaguely and in passing — yeah there was this thing I meant to do that my father asked for, but it’s sort of been put on hold and oh hey, is that food? Can I have some? — that is forgotten as soon as it’s mentioned.

Today is Narugami’s one day off, so he’s hanging around the kitchens — he was kicked out of Loki’s study some hours ago and wandered in muttering about the sheer unfairness of some people and he was only trying to be helpful — and then he’d realized Yamino was making dinner and had promptly attached himself as “help.” Yamino has already caught him twice trying to steal a taste.

“D’you know what your problem is, Four-Eyes?” Narugami asks as he leans to peer into the bubbling stew pot. He has one hand on Yamino’s shoulder for balance, and the fingers are heavy and strong. “You’re too nervous. You need to learn to relax.”

Yamino almost pours in too much salt. “Narugami-san?”

“You’re doing good, aren’t you?” Narugami reaches for the wooden spoon. Yamino smacks his hand away automatically; if he’s not careful, Narugami will keep it until later, when he’ll be caught brandishing it around later and calling it Mjollnir as a substitute — ever since an incident with Loki’s favorite lamp and a neighborhood cat that got caught in the crossfire of one of Narugami’s demonstrations, the hammer itself is banished to the umbrella closet as soon as Narugami sets foot inside the mansion, and returned only when he leaves. Narugami rubs his stinging knuckles, grinning.

“Loki’s got a pretty good thing going here,” he goes on, like the interruption never happened. “So why’re you so nervous? It’s not like someone’s going to come and throw you back in the ocean, right? They’d have to go through Loki for that.” He licks the red skin of his knuckles.

Yamino pushes his glasses up his nose. “True enough,” he says. “Loki-sama would help me if someone tried.”

“Sure, ’cause he’s a good father,” says Narugami, eying the spoon and obviously waiting for his next chance to try and snatch it. “So you don’t have anything to worry about, you’re cool. Might as well relax and enjoy it, right? This is a lot better than being at the bottom of the ocean, if you ask me.”

The breath in Yamino’s lungs comes, for a moment, impossibly slow and heavy. When he shifts, he can hear the dry cold rasp of scales. All his extra weight is coiled in some small pocket just below his heart, and it aches. Dimly he’s aware that he’s clutching his spoon hard enough to turn his knuckles white.

“Narugami-san,” he says, and thinks of a thousand wild ideas: he could crush Narugami’s throat easily — he doesn’t have Mjollnir, he’s not expecting it — he could lash out and leave his nemesis crippled, he could spit poison into the thunder-god’s eyes and now, right now, and give into the same instinct he’s seen in before between two ancient little boys — if I kill you, you won’t kill me, you’ll never kill me

“Nn?” Narugami blinks at him, one cheek bulging from a stolen potato chunk. “W’ssat, Four-Eyes?”

And just like that he relaxes and smiles, then smacks Narugami’s hand with the spoon again for good measure.

“Ow!” Narugami rubs the abused fingers again, looking mournful. “It wasn’t that much.”

“You can wait for dinner like the rest,” Yamino tells him. He points. “Tell Loki-sama and my brother that it’s almost ready, if you’d like.”

“I was just testing it,” Narugami said mournfully. “Making sure you weren’t putting anything weird in it, like all that mail-order stuff you buy. Don’t wanna poison your own dad, do you?”

Yamino does not point out that there is only one he is meant to poison, and that one is standing across from him right now, in a rumpled Japanese schoolboy uniform, a fraction of his original height and weight. He’s only seen Thor’s true form once — a single bearded ruddy face amongst a whole host of distrusting eyes as he was cast down into Midgard’s ocean, but he has never forgotten. (That’s him, his sister had whispered in his ear as she cradled him, like she could protect him from the mob closing on them. That’s the man you have to remember, little brother, that’s the man you’ll–)

After a moment, though, Narugami seems to realize something is wrong; he crosses his arms and frowns at Yamino. “Four-Eyes?”

It takes effort to keep his breathing even. Today, he wonders — it had to be today, not any different from any other day, set in a week where things have been slow, when the Norns have kept their silence and their distance — today, instead of tomorrow or yesterday, when the sun is coming through the windows and dinner is bubbling cheerfully away. When he blinks, his vision flickers double, between man and boy. It takes more concentration than he’d like to see the friend, but once he does it summons up a smile, close enough to real that he pulls it off. “If you hear the door, that’s probably Mayura-san,” he says. “Narugami-san, if you would?”

Narugami stares at Yamino, and he wonders if it will actually become a challenge here, today, in a warm brightly-lit kitchen rather than the cold wet darkness at the end of the world — but then Narugami nods, backing up a few steps before he turns and goes.

Yamino waits until the footsteps up the stairs fade, and turns the kitchen tap on cold, splashing his face twice before he sets to plating the meal.

+++

And the thing is, he could have forgotten it, if that had been the end of it. Not all of it, no — Yamino suspects he was born knowing how he would die — but at least he could have let it slide, laughing it off as one of the strange events that sort of follow Loki like baby birds. On some level he recognizes it as cowardice, because he doesn’t want to see the confirmation of his own death in Narugami’s friendly eyes.

The certainty of his fate sits heavy on him; he’s not his father, who can face the Norns without flinching and pinch their threads just so — not enough to change anything, ultimately, never like that — but maybe enough so that he can win a favor, gain an advantage, delay the inevitable …

Yamino is not like that. There are times when he can still feel the crushing chill of ocean water and it slows him, turning him sluggish and worthless. He can recognize threats but cannot react to them, and that is his excuse when he turns a corner, on his way back to the mansion, and finds Narugami there with his ramen stand.

“Four-Eyes,” Narugami says. Mjollnir dangles loosely from one hand in plain sight, and Yamino draws in a sharp breath before he can stop himself, with fear tasting bright and sharp on his tongue.

“Narugami-san,” he manages after too long, and sees that in the tightening of Narugami’s smiling mouth. “Are you coming to dinner tonight, then? Loki-sama will be glad for the company, Mayura-san isn’t–”

“I like you, you know,” Narugami says over him. His voice is easy and even, but his eyes are cold and hard, never once blinking. He taps Mjollnir against his thigh several times in measured cadences, one-two-three. “You’re not a bad guy. So you know, I really don’t wanna hafta kick your ass just to get a straight answer out of you.”

It takes more effort than he’d ever admit not to back up. His hand tightens on the grocery bag handle, and he pushes his glasses up his nose with his other hand. He wants to change, to bare his fangs at this prince of the gods; he wants to draw first blood in this battle. What he does instead is breathe slow and deliberate, never once blinking; what he says is, “What sort of straight answer do you want? Narugami-san?”

He expects to see Narugami sputter, perhaps taken aback. Instead, Narugami’s eyes narrow in turn to slits and his frown deepens.

“What the hell is your problem with me?”

It’s more plaintive than angry — almost downright sulky — and it leaves Yamino polexaed in shock. He almost asks for a repeat of the question, but Narugami’s scowl is proof enough to stop him.

“You’re … you’re kidding, right?” Yamino draws himself up to his full height, which is slightly taller than Thor’s borrowed shape, though not nearly as broad in the shoulders. His body tightens and draws in on itself, muscles coiled for the strike. His mouth tastes of something bitter. “Narugami-san. Thor. You know what ‘the problem’ is.”

Surprise flashes across Narugami’s face, and then he frowns. “That? We got around it before, didn’t we? Loki refused to set things into motion–”

“Loki-sama –” Yamino takes a breath and corrects himself, “Father — is very fond of the human world. He’ll stay as long as he can, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be forever. And when he goes …”

“You’ll go too,” said Narugami. His expression doesn’t change as he straightens and pushes away from his cart. “We all will. You’re not the only one who goes where he does.”

“No,” Yamino agrees. “Father tends to draw people to him, even when he doesn’t try.”

He remains still as Narugami walks to him, though he can’t help but glance at Mjollnir a few times as it draws closer. Even now the illusion of the ordinary bokutou holds, though some kernel of instinct — the one that has always looked at Narugami and seen enemy, enemy, danger — recoils in horror, remembering exactly what the stories say about the end, when Thor will cleave Jormungand into pieces and only then succumb to serpent’s venom. He cannot, however, contain his flinch when Narugami lifts the blade and places the blunt edge there, where a human’s pulse beats.

“Things change,” says Narugami. “Look, do I have to spell it out? Even the gods change. Look at Loki.”

“But not fate,” Yamino says, just as soft. “It’s still happening. Maybe not exactly as foretold, but what won’t ever change is that when Ragnarök comes, you’ll stand with your father, and I’ll stand with mine–”

“Hey,” Narugami says. “Four-Eyes.”

Yamino can’t help jumping a little when Mjollnir lowers and a broad callused hand curls around the back of his neck; he makes a startled, undignified sound, and the grocery bag in his hand slumps to the ground. Narugami’s face is so close that it looks peculiar, eyes too wide and brows drawn too closely together. Instinct babbles at him and before he can stop himself he’s brought his own hand up to close tightly at Narugami’s throat, squeezing hard. Narugami — Thor — doesn’t even blink.

“Yesterday,” he said, “I woke up late and missed first period and lost my part-time job at the arcade. Today, I got to class on time but I haven’t sold nearly enough takoyaki to make up for my losses.”

Taking a deep breath, Yamino tightens his hand. “Let go.”

“And you know what? Tomorrow, I’m gonna get up, and I might be late. I might be early, that’d be nice. I’ll go to class and see Daidouji, and maybe I’ll come around to get dinner from you’n Loki. And the day after that, I’ll do the same. And the day after that–”

“That’s not going to last forever.” Yamino digs his nails into thin skin; under his palm, he can feel Narugami’s breath struggling. “Someday, ‘tomorrow’ will be the end of the world, and then–”

“And then I’ll get up,” Thor cuts in, “and I’ll go to work. And you will too. Same as always, yeah?”

kill him, kill him now, stupid soft little god, kill him kill him kill him

“The thing about living as a human,” Thor goes on, apparently oblivious, “is that you go for long enough, and suddenly you’re thinking like them. Worrying like them. And you, you never had much reference to work with, being a snake and all.”

Yamino stares. In his mouth, he can feel his teeth curling into fangs, that bitter-sour taste strong enough to linger on every indrawn breath.

“You wanna fight, we can fight.” Narugami finally blinks, but his hand is still heavy on the back of Yamino’s neck, unyielding. “I’d rather eat if you’re willing to cook.” And then he grins, not the god but the boy-shell he wears, and he steps back, letting Yamino go. “I still gotta make a few rounds, see if I can make up my losses, but you’d better set an extra place for me, Four-Eyes. You got it?”

“Narugami-san,” Yamino starts to say, then hesitates. He looks at the boy who isn’t a boy, who will someday be a god again, and feels the weight of a hand on the back of his neck like it’s still there — and thinks how strange it is, that his instinct has fallen completely silent. Without breaking eye-contact he bends and picks up his groceries.

“Dinner will be at six,” he says. “I’ll let Loki-sama know you’re coming.”

+++

“Yamino-kun,” says Loki, “you don’t seem yourself today. Is something wrong?”

Yamino finishes pouring tea and puts his cup down. His hand creeps up to cover the back of his neck. “No,” he says. He smiles gently. “Nothing’s wrong, Loki-sama.”

Loki eyes him over the teacup, huge green eyes thoughtful. The light through the windows turns them translucent, clear like there’s nothing below them but darkness. He moves and the shadows behind him flare upward like wings arching for flight. Yamino’s expression doesn’t waver.

“… is that so,” Loki says, and sips his tea. “Good.”

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