Chapter 1: Luke Sutcliffe
Loki sits in a shadowed corner of the bustling London bar. He doesn’t want to draw attention to himself. Not yet.
His poison green eyes twitch back and forth, a metronome flicking between the comers and goers that pass through the entrance. None of them receive a glance that could be construed as anything more than cursory. With his gaze firmly occupied, tracking every new face at the entrance of the overpriced establishment, his mind turns to reciting his new mantra:
Tonight I am Luke Sutcliffe. I am a young British man, fresh out of business school and just finding my stride. I am suave, even tempered, soft spoken, and witty (but not too witty). It is my dream to work for the most successful advertising company in the world: Asgard.
The poison eyes flick, flick, flick over dozens of faces.
I am not here looking for company. I am far too respectable and sophisticated to allow a perfect stranger to take me to their bed. No, I am here for the only scotch in London that isn’t watered down.
Flick, flick, flick.
I am confident and ambitious, but inexperienced and naive. I am a man of few words. I am submissive. I require guidance from someone strong, and capable, and--
There. The beat of the metronome breaks, the mantra forgotten. He’s found him.
Thor steps into his favorite bar, exhausted and in need of a familiar routine after returning from his business trip to Edinburgh. He takes a vacant seat at the oak bar, nodding at the girl behind the counter. She smiles back and pours his usual. Scotch, neat.
“I swear it’s the only scotch in all of London that isn’t watered down,” says a deep, silken voice to his right.
Thor turns to find one of the most beautiful people he’s ever seen occupying the seat next to him. He definitely wasn’t there when Thor sat down. He would have noticed. The man's words catch up to him and he grins. “That’s what I always tell people, but no one ever believes me,” Thor replies. “Nice to finally meet someone with taste.” He sticks his hand out. “I’m Thor.”
“Luke.” The beautiful man takes his hand. His fingers are thin, almost delicate, but even longer than Thor’s. Thor smirks to himself - you know what they say about the size of a man’s hands. Or was it feet? He discards the thought.
The beautiful man has a firm grip and pumps Thor’s hand twice. Before Luke can pull away, Thor flips their hands so the other’s is on top and kisses the back of it. “Luke, it’s an absolute pleasure.”
Luke retrieves his hand with a considering look, eyes like variegated emeralds flitting over Thor in a quick once-over. Thor grins under the attention. Luke turns his gaze back to the neat drink in front of him, identical to Thor’s. He takes a tidy sip, not even grimacing at the burn. Oh, Thor likes this one.
Luke makes no move to continue their conversation. He seems to have deemed their interaction complete. Thor frowns. That’s not how this usually goes. Still, he takes the opportunity to really look at the man. The rest of him is as long, slender, and pale as his hands. Even sitting, Thor can tell he is tall, possibly almost as tall as himself. He looks younger than Thor by a few years, maybe 25. He’s wearing slacks and a button-up that look cheap but well tailored. His black hair is impeccably neat and curls just below a sharp jaw. He has cheekbones that Thor wants to slice his fingers on and the greenest eyes he’s ever seen, bespattered with flecks of gold and turquoise.
After throwing back the last of his scotch, Luke glances at him again. Thor doesn’t bother to disguise his staring. “Can I buy you another drink, Luke?”
The appraising look is back on the lovely man’s face as he seems to take Thor’s measure. Finally, his head dips in a slight nod, lips curling up in a tiny smile. Thor beams, full force, and motions for two more scotches from the bartender.
The giant blonde Oaf is probably the easiest mark Loki’s ever had. Since he first laid eyes on Loki he hasn’t looked away once. It’s the most blatant and uninspired flirting he’s ever witnessed. Is this man really next in line to take over Asgard? This is quickly shaping up to be one of Loki's more boring jobs. It’s not any fun without a challenge. But he doesn’t get to choose the marks. At least he gets to enjoy the nice view that is Thor for the duration of this job.
His plan for this one is simple. He’s had it worked out since the first time he read through Thor Odinson’s file. Loki will play Luke, who is soft spoken and wide-eyed, fitting right into Thor’s taste for submissive partners. But unlike Thor’s multitude of one night stands, he has to stand out. So he’s also sophisticated and somewhat intelligent, sharing in Thor’s tastes and opinions. But he has to draw out Thor’s interest. So he plays hard to get. Luke must appear to be fighting his attraction to Thor in order to maintain his own dignity. But then he needs to stoke Thor’s interest enough for it to become infatuation. So he’ll become forbidden fruit, off limits. That won’t deter Thor, it will only make Luke more desirable. So Luke will reject him outright, but Thor will continue trying to seduce him anyway, like the spoiled brat he is.
Once Thor’s infatuation is at its peak, Luke will confess his feelings for Thor, crying and telling him that he could not bear to be just another one of Thor’s conquests. After salivating over Luke for so long, it should be no trouble to get him to make declarations and promises that Luke is different and will be his one and only. Then, and only then, will Luke will fall into Thor’s arms and allow himself to be taken, moaning and writhing like a submissive twink. This will cement Thor’s interest by fulfilling his need to be in control. If all goes to plan, Thor should marry him shortly before he succeeds Odin as owner and CEO of Asgard. The ‘coronation’, of sorts, is scheduled for six months from now. He needs to win Thor’s heart by then.
Thor has been talking with Luke for hours. Normally he would have asked him back to his flat by now, but Luke is far more interesting to talk to than his usual fare. He keeps his words concise, but what he says is always smart and poignant. They agree on nearly every topic that has come up, from scotch to politics, philosophy to movies.
That being said, it’s getting late and he has to be at work early the next morning. Not to mention that Luke’s neck is so very long and just begging to be licked. He interrupts whatever Luke is saying, having quite lost the thread of the conversation once his eyes found Luke’s clavicle peeking out of the recently loosened collar. “Would you like to come back to my place?”
Luke’s eye twitches almost imperceptibly. Oh, Thor can tell he’s annoyed at being interrupted, but won’t let himself show it. It’s adorable. He lets his hand fall to Luke’s thigh, massaging into the surprisingly developed, long, corded muscles. “We get along marvelously on just about everything so far. But I can think of one more way I’m pretty sure we’ll get along even better.”
Luke leans into him, earning a soft moan from Thor. Luke’s thin lips brush against his ear, sending a shiver through the larger man. “Oh, I can think of more than one, Thor.”
At that, Thor growls and turns his face to capture the sinful mouth. But Luke’s finger intercepts, landing on Thor’s lips in a mockery of a ‘shushing’ gesture.
“Alas, I have an early morning tomorrow. So I will have to decline.” With that, Luke stands, slips his blazer on, winks, and strides out of the bar before Thor can even comprehend what has happened.
Was he just rejected?
Chapter 2: A Taste
Thor drags himself into work the next morning. He didn’t drink enough to be hungover, but he lost enough sleep going over and over his interactions with Luke that he might as well be. The man was stunning and they seemed to match up so perfectly on everything. Why had he declined Thor’s proposition? There was no way he had truly just been worried about his early morning. What could be so important as to justify denying their chemistry and obvious mutual attraction?
Thor tries to banish all thoughts of the beguiling man as he makes his way to his office. He has a job to do and can’t spend the day brooding over one failed hookup. He unlocks his office and sets to filing all the paperwork from his trip. Before too long, there’s a knock on his office door. “Come in.”
His father opens the door. “Welcome back, Son. I trust your trip went well?”
Thor grins back at Odin. “It went exactly as we expected. They are eager to partner with us.”
“Good, good. I look forward to your debrief at the 10:00 meeting.” Odin moves to go but turns back at the last minute. “Oh, I nearly forgot. I have good news. I’ve hired a new assistant.”
Shortly before Thor’s two week trip, Odin’s assistant had come into a large inheritance and moved somewhere tropical. Thor has forgotten where. Hell, he doesn’t even remember the woman’s name. Something with an A?
“He’s been a big help this last week since he started. I see potential for him to progress in the company.” That’s a big endorsement, coming from Odin. “I haven’t gotten the opportunity to really show him around yet, though. I’ve been so busy. I was hoping you might give him a tour of the building this morning.”
Thor groans internally. The last thing he wants to do on his first day back is play tour guide. But he knows better than to say no to his father. “Of course. I just need to finish up this paperwork. Have him come by in half an hour.”
Odin nods and walks out of the office, closing the door behind him.
Exactly half an hour later, there’s another knock. Thor gets up to answer it, preparing to get this tour over with as quickly as possible. After swinging the door open, though, he stands there gaping for what he vaguely recognizes as Too Long. Standing in front of him, looking every inch as beautiful as he had last night, is-- “Luke!”
“Tho - Mr. Odinson! I - I’m Odin’s new assistant…”
Thor cannot believe his luck. He had been prepared to return to the bar every night until he found the mysterious man again, but here he is, delivered right to Thor’s door. And he’s Odin’s new assistant, so he’ll be here every day!
Luke looks at least as stunned as Thor feels. He’s staring at Thor with a mixture of shock and confusion, but a small smile is somehow managing to survive the onslaught. He looks far too endearing and delectable for his own good. So, like any reasonable person would do in his place, Thor grabs Luke by the lapels, quite literally dragging him into his office, and locks the door behind them. He pushes Luke bodily against the door and proceeds to claim the kiss that he was denied last night at the bar.
Luke lets out a ridiculously adorable squeak as Thor’s mouth seals over his. He’s stock still for long seconds as Thor sucks on his lips. Just when Thor thinks he’ll be shoved off, Luke moans and presses into Thor, delving his tongue into the larger man’s mouth and taking control of the kiss. Thor groans and presses Luke even tighter to the door.
When they finally part for air, Thor stares into Luke’s emeralds, loosening his grip on the thinner man. Who, he notes, is indeed only a scant inch shorter than himself. Thor has just gotten his breath back and is ready to go in for another kiss when Luke suddenly gives him that shove he’d previously been expecting. No longer having anticipated it, he unbalances and stumbles back into his desk, sending several things crashing loudly to the floor.
“What are you doing? We are in the workplace!” Luke hisses.
Not moving from where he’s braced against his desk, Thor stands wide eyed and panting. “I… I’m sorry. I do not know what came over me.” Bit of a lie. His bottled up lust is what came over him. “I was not expecting… you.”
Luke clears his throat and straightens his suit. “Yes, well. I will admit to my part of the fault. However, this cannot happen again. Last night we did not know each other as coworkers. Now that I know you to be Odin’s son, I cannot under any circumstances become involved with you. I take this job very seriously. It has been my dream to work for Asgard for years and I will not allow a fling to sabotage my position here.”
Thor swallows both the surprising sting that comes with Luke’s use of the word “fling” as well as his disappointment at his rotten luck that this intriguing man turned out to be his coworker. He saw in Luke last night intelligence, passion, and poise. If there was ever a person built for success, it’s him. And if he were to begin an affair with Thor and they were found out, Luke would likely be accused of trying to sleep his way to the top. Normally, Thor probably wouldn’t have let that stop him. But there is something about Luke that makes Thor want follow the man’s every direction. He demands a certain respect that Thor almost feels the need to kneel before. More than anything, he feels an almost desperate desire to please the man.
Thor straightens up from his sprawl against the desk, absently smoothing out his clothes and keeping his eyes low. “You are right. I did not think before I acted.” He looks up at Luke again, attempting to communicate his sincerity. “I have no desire to see you sabotaged and I realize how it would look for us to… become involved. I apologize for my rash actions. I will respect your wishes and pursue you no further.”
Loki is stunned. After all of that, Thor is just… giving up? This is not part of Loki’s plan. Becoming Odin’s assistant is supposed to make Loki the forbidden fruit, only more tempting for being off limits. Then, once Loki tells him ‘no’, Thor is supposed to stubbornly continue to attempt to seduce him despite Loki’s rejection. Thor’s file had indicated he was not the kind of man to put someone else’s desires over his own. But Loki’s just dangled the forbidden fruit in front of Thor’s nose and all it took for him to leave it alone was, what? Luke’s desire to keep his shitty job as an assistant?
And even after he’d just gotten a taste! Loki knows for a fact that he is a spectacularly good kisser. Phenomenal. Irresistible. Unrivaled. There is no chance Thor hadn’t enjoyed it. Loki stubbornly convinces himself that giving into Thor’s kiss, or assault really, was calculated. It wasn’t that he’d gotten caught up in it himself or, heaven forbid, enjoyed it. Nope. Calculated. Although he did slip up in taking control of the kiss. He will have to remember to relegate himself to the submissive role with Thor in the future. The Odinson likes his partners submissive.
“Well, that is certainly… decent of you,” he forces out.
“My father has told me that he expects to see you advancing in the company. He does not say such things lightly. He sees potential in you. And I witnessed the same last night. I will not stand in the way of you realizing your dreams.”
Loki just about gags at the poetic declaration. What, does this guy think himself some prince of old? Well, such declarations are not what Loki wants to hear. He needs Thor’s interest to grow, not to be so quickly snuffed out. For now, Loki will just have to play along and try to find new openings to regain Thor’s interest.
“I appreciate your understanding. And your kind words. I wish nothing more than to succeed here at Asgard.” Loki offers a small smile.
Thor smiles back at him. “I do hope that you will accept my offer of friendship, though. I very much enjoyed our conversation last night and would like to further get to know my new coworker.”
Loki grits his teeth and says in his most pleasant voice, “Yes, I would like that very much.”
Chapter 3: A Beautiful Sound
This job is a little different than Loki’s usual. His signature con is gaining people’s trust and access to their entire lives by marrying them. Who is a person more desperate to trust than their newly wed partner? And who has more access to a person’s life than their spouse? The trust which Loki gains through marriage is his ticket to getting whatever information or items he is tasked with obtaining for the Order.
There’s also the added benefit that this allows him to gain legal rights to all of their finances and accounts. And, as all of Loki’s marks are quite wealthy, this provides a nice source of income for the Order. With this job, though, there’s even more pressure to marry Thor. And it has to be accomplished by a very specific date. It’s fundamental to the plan.
Ronan explained the assignment to Loki, just as he has with every other. He’d handed Loki a thick file on his new mark: Thor Odinson, son of the owner and CEO of Asgard, Odin Borson. Odin is in possession of the Tesseract, one of the so-called ‘gems’ their employer desires. They don’t know where Odin keeps it. They do know that the only people likely to be privy to that information are the members of Asgard’s board. Loki is tasked with finding a way onto that board.
He can’t very well commit years to working his way through the ranks of Asgard. There is, however, a precedent for getting onto it without climbing the corporate ladder. When Odin became CEO, his wife was also given a spot on the board. Therefore, the best shot for Loki to become a member is to marry Thor, Odin’s heir. This means that Loki absolutely must get Thor to marry him. They decide this needs to happen before Thor becomes CEO in six months. The ceremony is the one time when every person in Asgard will be gathered in the same place, leaving an opening for someone to sneak past their defenses.
Odin’s assistant is paid off in order to open up the position. Loki is the first to apply. Or, well, Ronan applies for him. And after Loki dazzles Odin in the interview, he is hired before any other candidates even have a chance to submit their resumes. He begins work while Thor is away on a business trip. He orchestrates their first meeting to be on the night before Thor returns to the office.
Ronan secures Gamora a job as a custodian for Asgard. Nebula is tasked with convincing Thor to hire her as a gardener. From what Loki understands, she failed. Which means she isn’t on the case. Loki wonders if she will end up in the hospital again for this.
Loki’s teeth remain gritted as Thor gives him the Asgard tour, introducing him to the innumerable staff and showing him every last corner of the thrice damned building. As he effortlessly feigns interest, Loki’s mind is busy running through possibilities. Has Thor really lost interest? Or is he truly as honorable as that? No, that’s definitely not it. According to the file, the man is a pig with a history of taking what he wants. Then maybe he’s just pretending to be honorable as a front? Perhaps he’ll continue to try seducing Loki once he thinks he’s lulled him into a false sense of security. Or perhaps he intends to jump Loki when he least expects it.
Eventually, Loki has to admit to himself that Thor has just lost interest in seducing him. Over the next couple weeks of them working together, Thor regularly gives Loki messages for Odin, taking the opportunity to strike up conversation, and stops by Loki’s desk outside Odin’s office to chat after meetings with his father. However, through all of this, he acts with the height of professionalism and is perfectly friendly without any sign of ulterior motives. He truly seems to just want to be Loki’s friend.
This has made Loki unspeakably angry. How is he supposed to get the fool to fall in love with him when he doesn’t seem to have even the slightest bit of lust left for Loki? Oh, Loki tries to bait him. But every time it seems to backfire.
On one occasion, right after Thor goes into the bathroom, Loki “accidentally” spills coffee on his shirt. He follows Thor into the bathroom under the guise of needing to get the steaming, sopping fabric off his skin and change shirts. Instead of helping Luke divest himself as Loki’d intended, Thor takes up the noble role of guarding the door, hardly even sparing a glance for the half naked man in the room with him.
On another occasion, Loki drops a large armful of papers outside Thor’s open office door. He bends down to retrieve them each individually, with his ass aimed to give Thor a perfect view. Instead of taking advantage of said view, Thor rushes to help, his eyes on the papers rather than Loki and his, if he does say so himself, stunning ass.
On top of all this, Gamora is being terribly unhelpful by sending him an increasing number of entirely unnecessary looks full of warnings for consequences he is quite aware of already. Despite that, he can at least admit that he is somewhat grateful that it is her and not Nebula here. Nebula would not hesitate to report Loki's lack of progress immediately. Gamora, though, he’s fairly sure will wait a while yet before tattling to Daddy. Still, Gamora’s long looks are putting him on edge.
So yes, Loki is angry and frustrated. He was supposed to reject Thor, causing him to chase after Loki to get what he wants. Instead, it feels like the opposite has happened. For the first time in Loki’s years doing this, his mark is not interested in him and has Loki chasing after him instead.
So Loki improvises. He looks for opportunities to sneak into Odin’s office and hack into his computer to search for any clues in regards to the location of the Tesseract. But he keeps getting distracted. Thor is the most infuriating person he’s ever met. He seems to have made it his own personal goal in life to annoy Loki into insanity. Several times over his first couple weeks on the Odinson job, Loki slips up, his frustration bleeding through.
On one such occasion, Loki thinks he’s ruined the entire job.
Thor and Odin are just exiting the older man’s office after having been inside talking for the past 45 minutes. Loki is exultant. He’s been hoping that the two would go to lunch today, leaving Odin’s office unoccupied. However, as they pass Loki’s desk, Thor breaks off from his father and approaches.
“Hey, Luke. How is your morning going?”
Loki curses internally. Thor has been dogging his steps for days. Every time Odin leaves his office, Thor magically appears. This leaves Loki no moment in which to sneak into Odin’s office to search his computer for information, which is the one useful thing he can do if Thor refuses to fall for him.
Loki puts on a pleasant face and attempts professionalism. “It’s been a busy, but good, morning. Your father is quite patient with me.”
Thor laughs. “From what I hear, there’s no need for patience. He tells me you’re excelling in your position.”
Loki affects bashfulness. “He’s too kind. As are you.”
“Or perhaps you’re better than you give yourself credit for.”
“I do hope you are right.” Loki smiles, patience wearing thin. Why can’t this man just forget the damn job and notice Loki’s shapely figure? “And how is your morning going?”
“Oh!” Thor slaps the desk and Loki has to suppress a surprised jump. “You’ll never believe what happened this morning.”
“You know Tyr, don’t you? Big, hairy, ugly guy? Well, in this morning’s meeting he was wearing these ridiculously tight pants.”
Loki feels his eyebrow twitch. Odin’s office is sitting right there, unoccupied and ready for rifling, and Thor is loitering here wasting all of Loki’s short window in which to take advantage of it.
“And they were purple. That’s not important to the story, but I think it will help with your mental image. I mean, Tyr in tight, purple pants. Picture it. Are you picturing it? Looks stupid, right?”
Loki bites the inside of his cheek and nods.
“So he was wearing these godawful pants and strutting around the room like he was the one running the meeting. He wasn’t. I was. But karma caught up with him. You’ll never guess what happened. Do you want to guess? Oh, I’ll just show you.” Thor leans over and makes a loud, obnoxious ripping noise.
Loki’s frustration peaks and he snaps, “For fuck’s sake! How have your ears not fled your head for being held hostage to your incessant prattling without respite?”
There’s a terrible moment where they just stare at each other, perhaps equally stunned by Loki’s outburst. He is horrified with himself. But he’s been listening to Thor’s endless jabbering without making any progress in his plan for almost two weeks now! And the five months he has to secure Thor’s devotion will slip by quickly. Even Loki has his limits for stress.
Loki holds his breath as he waits for what Thor will do. Surely he’ll advise Odin to fire him. And perhaps kick his ass. Loki fights the looming hyperventilation. He’s just ruined this job, hasn’t he? He’ll be punished for this. Whatever happened to Nebula will pale in comparison.
Thor breaks down laughing.
Loki blinks. And blinks again. “I’m sorry, I--”
“Excellent jest!” Thor exclaims. “That is one of the most sharp-tongued insults I have ever received. I will cherish those words, my friend.”
Loki stares, stunned, at the laughing man. Thor isn’t mad? He thought it was… funny? Loki feels his face flush, embarrassed at his own outburst and flustered at Thor’s compliment. He finds himself pleased, not only because his break in character didn’t ruin his cover, but because it is rare that someone compliments his wicked tongue.
However, while this incident is resolved without major consequence, it happens several times more and Loki starts to become rather disturbed at his own failures. He keeps forgetting to keep up the act and rein in his own prickly personality, all due to his sheer frustration. He has never lost the interest of a mark before and no one has ever been able to rile him up quite the way Thor can.
The first two weeks of being coworkers and friends with Luke is… difficult.
It has no doubt been fun. Thor has greatly enjoyed getting to know the man. He is smart, witty, and great at his job. Thor agrees with Odin that it is only a matter of time before Luke is promoted to a more suitable role.
Thor has very nearly convinced himself that his pursuit of Luke’s friendship is no different to how he would act with any person who occupied the desk right in front of Odin’s door. In fact, it would be rude not to stop and talk with Luke after leaving his father’s office, since he walks right by him. Of course, he is quite ignoring the fact that he can’t even remember the name of his father’s previous assistant, who had also occupied that desk.
Alas, while Thor has enjoyed their time as coworkers and friends, Luke remains sinfully gorgeous and unfairly charming. It doesn’t help that Thor can’t seem to get his mind out of the gutter. In their first week working together, Luke goes through the terribly humiliating and physically painful experience of spilling hot coffee all over his chest. Thor, being the terrible man that he is, cannot look at the man stripping himself out of his wet shirt without springing major wood. So he retreats, like a coward, under the guise of guarding the bathroom door.
On another occasion, Luke is so overloaded with papers from Thor’s father that he loses his grip on them, scattering them across the floor. Thor, still a terrible man, stares at the sculpted ass presented to him until he shakes himself, realizing how perverted and rude he is being. He runs to go help collect the papers as atonement.
Trying to be 'just friends' with Luke is exhausting. He truly wants to respect the man’s wishes, but it is difficult to resist the most tempting creature he has ever come across. And it isn’t enough that Luke is gorgeous. No, Luke has to go and actually be fun to hang out with. Anyone would struggle to remain strong under such circumstances.
However, Thor is a man of powerful will and can control himself. That is, until he begins to notice something else about Luke that makes him like the lithe man even more. It is a gradual realization, but he comes to the conclusion that Luke wears an emotional mask much of the time. He seems to feel a need to keep very strict control over his actions, words, and expressions. Thor imagines Luke must tire, worrying so much about what people think of him that he has to put up a front. But every now and then, Thor gets a peak behind the mask. And he’s intrigued by what he sees.
Since they’ve become friends, Thor has been exploiting any chance he gets to talk to Luke. A man can only be so strong after all. This includes taking advantage of every time Odin leaves his office, leaving Luke’s desk unwatched by the patriarch. On one such occasion, Thor is at Luke’s desk telling him about how Tyr ripped his pants at that morning’s meeting. Luke is acting less receptive than usual, barely acknowledging that Thor is talking. So Thor takes it up a notch, talking louder and really emphasizing the funniest bits in an attempt to get Luke’s full attention.
Suddenly, after a particularly loud reenactment of Tyr’s seam ripping, Luke barks, “For fuck’s sake! How have your ears not fled your head for being held hostage to your incessant prattling without respite?”
At first Thor is simply stunned. Then a bit hurt. Then Luke’s words replay in his mind and he can’t hold back a snort. Then a full-on laugh. He’s pretty sure that was the most complicated insult he’s ever heard fit into one sentence. So Luke can be funny too, even if he doesn’t intend it.
Thor catches his breath as he notices the rather horrified look on Luke’s face. The poor man must think he’s about to be reprimanded. Thor hurries to reassure him. “Excellent jest! That is one of the most sharp-tongued insults I have ever received! I will cherish those words, my friend.”
Thor says the words to put Luke at ease, but he finds them to be true. This moment has given him new insight into a different side to Luke, one that somehow seems to suit him more than his usual polite demeanor. Thor wants more of it. And when Luke blushes bright red at Thor’s reaction, it only makes him all the more determined.
Thor makes it his primary goal to get past Luke’s walls. He finds that the most effective method is annoying the stoic man until his mask cracks. With each new fissure in the facade, Thor feels a shining sense of accomplishment. He has begun to think he is finally getting to see more of who Luke really is rather than who he wants people to think he is. It feels special and Thor is honored that Luke is beginning to feel comfortable enough with him to express himself. He learns that Luke can be sharp tongued like a serpent and unpredictably tempered like a cat. No one has ever made him smile more.
Loki’s mood is significantly improved when he finally gets his opportunity to sneak into Odin’s office.
Thor stops by Loki’s desk shortly before noon. “Hi Luke. Uh, any plans for lunch?”
Loki smiles pleasantly. “I brought a salad.”
“Ah, that sounds good. That’s good. You know, if you want--”
“Thor,” Odin interrupts his son as he exits his office.
Thor spins to look at his father. “Yes?”
“How about you come to lunch with your mother and me today? She’s been complaining that she doesn’t see enough of you.”
“Ah, yes, of course,” Thor nods. He turns back to Loki. “Anyway, one of these days you and I should grab lunch. You know, talk about how you’re liking Asgard and all that.”
“Mm, yes.” Loki is too busy celebrating inside his mind to bother with more of a response. Odin and Thor are having lunch, which means both of them will be out of the office. And they will surely take at least an hour. That’s a full hour that Loki will have to snoop around Odin’s office.
Once they’re gone, Loki waves down Gamora in her funny little custodian outfit. She casually walks over from where she’d been wiping windows and switches to straightening the baskets of paper by the printer. Loki hits print on a random document and heads over to retrieve it. He speaks without looking at Gamora. “I need you to stand guard.”
“Got it.” She heads over to empty the trash cans from the cubicles nearest Odin’s office.
Loki takes a quick look around to ensure that everyone in their area has gone to lunch and strides quickly into Odin’s office. It’s unlocked. Loki knows because Odin has tasked him with keeping an eye on it anytime Odin eats out. Loki makes a B-line for the computer, quickly unlocking it with his first shot at guessing the password: Frigga’s birthday. After just 20 minutes of searching, he is able to uncover a likely location for the Tesseract. He finds a floor plan detailing each level of the building. On the basement level of Asgard there is a safe.
Just as he locates the information, Gamora signals that someone is coming. Then she’s rushing away from the office to pretend that she’s cleaning something elsewhere. Loki exits out of everything he’s opened on Odin’s computer and quickly walks back out.
Heimdall, one of Asgard’s board members, is walking toward Odin’s office. He stops when he sees Loki emerge. “What were you doing in there?” he asks in a deceptively neutral tone.
“Oh, I was just borrowing a pen.” Loki holds up the one he still has in his hand from scribbling down notes from Odin’s files. “Mine ran out of ink.”
Heimdall looks at him with that same neutral expression for several beats. “You should keep more than one pen at your desk.” Then he strides past Loki into Odin’s office, picks up a folder full of papers, and walks back out. He doesn’t look at Loki again as he leaves, just gives a pointed look at the sharpened pencil sitting on Loki’s desk.
Damn. That man is far too observant. Loki will have to keep an eye on him.
Loki pulls Gamora aside the next day as she’s taking the trash from Odin’s office.
“I need you to scope out the lower floor. Odin’s computer contained a floor plan that showed a large safe in the basement.”
Gamora shakes her head. “Loki, I’ve already been down to the lower floor. I can’t get in. The door requires a key code to get inside.”
“I didn’t see any codes in Odin’s files. But it’s possible I missed it what with Heimdall interrupting me. He’s suspicious of me, by the way.”
Gamora frowns. “I gave you more than enough warning. You couldn’t come up with a good excuse in that time?”
Loki opens his mouth to retort, but Gamora talks over him.
“Anyway, you have to get back into that computer. We need that code.”
Loki resolves to find another opportunity to get into Odin’s office. Preferably when Heimdall is not around.
Thor paces back and forth in his office, stopping every few steps to reach for the doorknob and retract his hand immediately after. He’ll do it today. He’ll successfully ask Luke to lunch. In a non-creepy way. Just, as friends. Friends can have lunch.
He takes a deep breath and finally grasps the knob. He yanks the door open with just a little too much force, if the surprised face of Karen in the cubicle across the hall is anything to go by. He clears his throat and walks with purpose toward Luke's desk.
Luke is typing away on his laptop, mostly likely filing paperwork for Odin.
“Luke. Hey.” Luke startles ever so slightly. Thor clears his throat and continues more gently. “I, uh, was wondering if you’d like to go to lunch.” Luke looks at him a bit oddly. Thor shuffles, feeling off-footed. “With me. Today. Uh, now.”
Luke’s face resolves into a finger-tingling smile. “That would be lovely.”
The end of their second week as ‘friends’ finds Loki out to lunch with Thor at a cozy cafe. It’s the most progress he’s made in the entirety of those two weeks. Thor may have only asked him to lunch as coworkers, but it still signifies a particular interest in getting to know ‘Luke’, which is better than nothing. And Loki will take what he can get at this point.
As they wait for their food, Thor boisterously tells Loki the story of the time he and his college friends nearly got arrested for trespassing.
“We were trying to save a raccoon from a tree.”
“What possible reason could you have had for that?” Loki is genuinely perplexed.
Thor rubs the back of his neck sheepishly. “We thought it was a rabbit.”
“We were drunk.” Loki raises an eyebrow. Thor chuckles and reemphasizes, “Very, very drunk.
“And tell me, how did this ‘rabbit’ thank it’s saviors?”
“Well, Volstagg got the worst of it. He shielded Fandral with his entire body,” Thor demonstrates with exaggerated movements,” because Fandral was being an absolute baby.”
The story is utterly ridiculous and Thor is so wrapped up in his retelling that he seems completely unaware of their surroundings. At one point, Thor’s animated gestures are so exaggerated that a server has to dodge out of the way of his failing arms.
Loki stifles an undignified squawk of laughter a split second too late, breaking character. Luke is meant to have a soft, tinkling laugh to maintain his seductive and submissive image. Loki quickly composes himself, returning to his far sexier 'Luke' laugh. He is a stickler for details and is never one to break from character. He silently berates himself for yet another failure as Thor continues his story.
Thor is telling Luke the story of the time he and his friends mistook a raccoon for a rabbit. Luke seems quite amused by the story. His laugh is a soft, tinkling sound that makes Thor feel warm. However, when Thor gets to the part of about Fandral beginning to weep in Sif’s arms for the safety of the poor rabbit, Luke lets out a loud, harsh guffaw that ends as abruptly as it began. Luke seems embarrassed, but Thor is quite certain he’s never heard a more beautiful sound in his life.
He immediately wants to hear more of Luke’s genuine laughter. He thinks on it and realizes that the story that had caused it was about Thor’s friends. That gives him an idea. “How would you like to hang out with my friends and me tonight?”
Chapter 4: A Bitter Medicine
Loki walks into the same bar as where he’d orchestrated his first meeting with Thor.
Earlier in the day at lunch Thor had invited him to hang out with he and his friends. He told Loki to meet them at the bar around 8:00pm. Keeping true to Luke’s punctuality, Loki arrives at 8:00 sharp. The bar is already fairly busy but he sees no sign of Thor, so he makes his way to the bar to wait.
“What can I get you?” a raspy voice asks.
Loki looks up to find Nebula behind the bar. Not in the hospital after all. “So he let you back on the case then?” Nebula just stares at him, expressionless. Loki sighs.
He orders Luke’s scotch, grimacing at the taste. Loki hates scotch.
He waits for a good 15 minutes, regularly scanning the crowd surrounding him for a certain face, exactly as he had been the first time he was here two weeks ago. He loses himself in a bitter metaphor about how he’s still right at the beginning, absolutely no progress made, worthless fucking--
Ah! There. A tall blonde man is sidling up to the bar, just three seats down from Loki. The man leans over the bar to order his drink and then turns to recline with his elbows on the bar, eyes skimming across the room. Loki recognizes him from Thor’s file: Fandral Dash, one of Thor’s closest friends. Also, notably, bisexual and an even bigger slut than the other blonde. Loki glances around again. There’s still no sign of Thor. He senses an opportunity to finally make some headway. Jealousy is a bitter medicine, but a controlled dose of it may be just the thing to rekindle Thor’s interest.
Loki glares at the couple occupying the two seats between Fandral and himself until they take the hint and leave. Then he relocates so there is just one empty seat between he and Fandral. Loki is still wearing Luke’s standard slacks and button-up, but he now undoes the top three buttons of the deep green shirt and rolls up the sleeves. He pours his scotch out into an empty bottle sitting on the bar and keeps the newly empty glass in his hand. Then he waits.
It doesn’t take long for Fandral’s scanning eyes to land on Loki. And when they do, they cease their scanning. Fandral immediately moves to the empty seat between them, looking as eager as a puppy dog. He eyes the empty glass in Loki’s hand. “My, my. It looks like you’re in need of a new drink. What’ll it be?”
Loki only makes him sweat for about two seconds before responding, “Scotch, neat.”
“Ah, how sophisticated.” Fandral orders Loki’s drink from Nebula. “May I just say, you are simply bewitching to look upon.” He places a dramatic hand on his breast before declaring, “Fandral, at your service,” and actually bowing. Well, bowing as much as one can while sitting on a bar stool.
Loki amends his previous opinion that Thor possessed the poorest flirtation skills he’d ever seen. Fandral certainly has him beat. This is just painful.
Loki gives a sweet, bell-like laugh. “Goodness, you’re making me feel like a princess.”
Fandral straightens up from his bow and beams. “Ah, but surely you are no princess, but a mighty king. For I feel as though everyone in this room should kneel to you.”
Loki can’t decide whether he is more disgusted by this Fandral’s pandering or pleased at the thought of everyone kneeling to him. He decides it should really be everyone’s natural inclination to kneel to him already. Therefore, his disgust wins out. “Oh dear, you flatter me.”
“I say only what I know to be true. But tell me, my liege, what might I do to earn the pleasure of knowing your name?”
“Luke!” It is not Loki who says it, but Thor. He is pushing through the crowd towards them. Loki notes with no small degree of satisfaction that Thor looks more than a little panicked, glancing back and forth between Fandral and himself. Progress made.
Thor and his friends have a long tradition of meeting at this bar “around 8:00” every friday evening. Of course, when they say 8:00, they really mean more like 8:30. Thor had automatically told Luke to meet them ‘around 8:00’ and realized too late that the punctual man would probably have arrived at 8:00 exactly. Cursing when he remembers that he doesn’t have Luke’s phone number, he runs out his door at 8:10.
After wandering around the bar for several minutes trying to find Luke, Thor finally spots a shock of black hair. When he gets closer he sees that Luke is not alone. Fandral is already with him. Oh good, Luke hasn’t been left been waiting alone! His excitement about getting to spend time with Luke outside of work begins to overtake his worry. Then he sees Fandral lean far too close to Luke with a look Thor knows all too well on his smarmy face. His panic returns full force. “Luke!”
Both men look up at Thor’s shout. He pushes through the last few people and ends up standing right behind Luke’s seat. He clamps a hand on the brunette’s shoulder with a strained grin. “I’m so sorry, I should have told you that none of us would arrive by 8! I left my house as soon as I realized my mistake.” He turns his gaze to Fandral, giving him a sharp look. “I do hope you were not bothered by anyone while you waited.”
Fandral quickly puts as much space between Luke and himself as possible. “Luke? Oh dear, you’re Thor’s --”
“Coworker!” Thor interrupts loudly. “Yes, this is my coworker, Luke.” Fandral, along with Thor’s other friends, already know about Thor’s not insubstantial obsession with Odin’s assistant. They’ve certainly heard him talk about Luke often enough.
“Yes! Coworker. Thor’s dear, lovely coworker who had not gotten a chance to tell me his name yet, before you arrived.” Thor relaxes minutely. So Fandral hadn’t known who Luke was when he’d hit on him. Still, Luke had not looked to be entirely unreceptive.
Sif, Hogun, and Volstagg all arrive soon after. They find a table in a quiet corner of the bar. Thor is unhappy to see Luke take the seat next to Fandral but he tries to put it out of his mind. Luke is his just his friend and he’s free to do as he pleases.
Loki is, remarkably, not having a terrible time. Admittedly, a large part of that is the sense of accomplishment that has come with discovering that Thor is not as unaffected by him as he pretends to be. Since seeing him flirt with Fandral, Thor has kept a jealous eye on the two of them all night. Of course, Loki has no intention of flirting with Fandral further. Or, at least, not beyond the occasional lingering touch on the arm, just to watch Thor squirm. He got what he needed. Thor has shown his cards. He still wants Loki.
While that may be the bulk of the reason behind his good mood, Loki cannot deny that the company is less than horrible. He’s never really had any friends of his own, so it’s always interesting for him to see how people interact with theirs. Thor’s friends are as mismatched as could be. Fandral, despite being cowed by Thor’s ire earlier in the evening, shows himself to be a complete drama queen. Hogun says little and moves his face less. Volstagg is the oldest of the group, often bragging about his three young daughters. And Sif. Sif does not like Loki. Interestingly enough, she is Loki’s favorite out of the group. She reminds him of Brunnhilde. He wonders how Brunnhilde is doing now.
Thor and his friends all have many stories about the ridiculous things they’ve done over the years that are, quite honestly, hilarious. And of course, there’s Thor. Thor, who has been gazing at him with stupid, happy puppy dog eyes every time Loki can’t quite hold back a genuine guffaw. Loki stops really bothering to hold them back at all.
Even Sif starts to warm up to him, eventually. At one point in the evening, Hogun makes Thor laugh just as he takes a drink, causing him to spray half the beer in his mouth all over Loki. Loki snaps at him, “You Oaf! Do you require tutelage in swallowing?” Loki is mortified. Why can’t he control himself around this man?
Thor, of course, turns beet red, but Sif laughs uproariously, thumping the table. She lifts her beer to him, saying, “You know, Luke, I had you pegged as a dishonest creep when we first met, but you’ve proven me wrong. Truer words have never been spoken. Thor is indeed an ‘oaf’ incapable of swallowing.” Yes, Loki likes Sif.
Nebula has started to serve Loki water colored to look like scotch. It wouldn’t do for him to get drunk on the job. Thor and his friends, on the other hand, start to get spectacularly intoxicated. He even hears Hogun giggle at one point.
Volstagg lets out a belching laugh and says loudly, “Luke, where are you hiding all those drinks you’ve had? A skinny little thing like you should be on the floor by now!”
Loki smirks at him. “Oh Volstagg, you just don’t want to admit that I’m outdrinking you. Come on, swallow some camels.”
The others all gawk at him until Thor asks, “Did you just tell Volstagg to… swallow a camel?”
Are they idiots? It’s a common enough saying. “Yes, you Oaf. Swallow some camels. You know, admit you’re wrong.”
They all stare at him for a beat longer before breaking down in hysterics. Fandral claps him on the back. “Oh, my dear Luke! You must surely be the only one of your kind.”
Once the alcohol really begins to take over their systems, they decide it’s time to start dancing. It’s not really a dancing kind of bar, but the music is loud and there’s space enough. Loki, far too sober for this, follows them out onto the floor and stands to the side. He watches as they all begin to jump and wiggle in an uncoordinated tangle.
A group of young women join in, asking the various members of Thor’s group to dance. Fandral and Hogun seem to be too drunk to notice the women trying to dance with them. Volstagg, being happily married, politely declines several offers. Sif, though, grabs a lithe brunette by the waist and begins to grind with her. She dutifully flexes as the woman admires her biceps. Loki is surprised to see Thor declining offers just like Volstagg.
He sees an opportunity. He moves into the crowd of dancers, worming his way between Hogun and Fandral, to dance beside Thor. Loki ungelates his body in a graceful rhythm with his arms raised high. He twists and turns, ensuring that Thor gets a good view of each of Loki’s assets in turn. He subtly shifts closer and closer to Thor, until their arms or hips brush every few beats. He knows how much Thor has had to drink and he’s pretty sure his inhibitions are pretty low. That, plus the possessive streak that Loki’s flirtation with Fandral sparked, has Loki pretty confident in what Thor’s next move will be.
He’s not disappointed. Before long, he feels large hands tentatively grasp his hips from behind. Loki leans into the touch, which tightens as Loki begins to swirl his hips in a tight figure eight. He leans his head back on Thor’s shoulder, turning his face to bury it in the blonde locks. He inhales, smelling spring: something earthy and fresh, overlaid with a slightly floral scent.
Getting lost in the sway of the music and the soft smell, he nuzzles closer. At some point his hands find their way onto the thick thighs aligned behind his own, squeezing, pulling them to slot against his. The wide hands run up his lean torso. One of them brushes an erect nipple through his thin shirt, sending a shiver through the thinner man. At some point, Loki’s eyes have closed. They fly open when he feels lips on his neck. Thor’s head is bent over Loki’s shoulder and he’s mouthing at Loki’s pulse point. Loki vaguely realizes that his pulse must be hummingbird fast under Thor’s lips.
Loki comes back to himself all at once. What is he doing? He had only meant to give Thor a bit of a tease, enough that he could blame it on the alcohol, before pulling away. He hasn’t curated Thor’s interests enough beyond physical attraction to be moving into this stage of the plan yet. If Thor gets what he wants before falling for Loki, he may just consider it an itch scratched and move on. No, he has to secure Thor’s undivided attention and affection before he lets their relationship turn sexual.
Instead, he completely forgot himself and is just as rock hard as the length currently pressed against his ass. Loki panics, yanking himself out of Thor’s arms. Without looking the man in the eye, he mutters that he has to be getting home and quite literally runs for the door.
Chapter 5: Fix This
Comments and Kudos are appreciated! They keep me motivated
Loki can’t believe how much he’s fucked this up. This isn’t like him. And he had thought this was going to to be such a simple job. Instead, he’s broken character countless times over the past two weeks. And tonight at the bar he was worse than ever. After a couple hours of being immersed in the rambunctious group of friends, he’d totally lost control of himself. He had constantly been either snapping at Thor and calling him Oaf or cracking up in a most unattractive, un-Luke-like laugh. He’d gotten lost in the mood, forgetting that those aren’t his friends. He doesn’t have any friends. He’d allowed himself to cackle and snark, letting far too much Loki show through the Luke veneer. Then he’d gone and fucked up more than he’d imagined possible. Thinking he was teasing Thor with a bit of a dance, he had actually gone ensnared himself! He has been denying his attraction to the obnoxiously muscled man admirably up until now. Then one dance and he had actually forgotten for a few moments that this wasn’t real.
On top of it all, by panicking and running away he’s probably made things even worse. Now Thor’s ego will be wounded. He might even be angry. Those aren’t emotions conducive to fostering affection. Loki resolves to spend the weekend in ‘his’ apartment, allowing time for Thor to cool off and for himself to figure out how to fix this.
Thor is angry. He keeps going over the events of last night in his mind. They’d been having such a fun time. Luke had seemed more relaxed and genuine than he’d ever seen him. Thor had even relaxed over Luke’s flirtation with Fandral, since it seemed to be more about humoring the man rather than any real interest. And Fandral had mostly behaved himself after learning who Luke was.
Then Thor had gotten to dance with Luke. He had lost himself in the moment and completely forgotten his promise to not pursue the lithe man, his friend. He had taken advantage of Luke’s inebriated state and broken that promise. So yes, Thor is angry. He is unspeakably angry at himself.
Luke had clearly been upset too. As soon as Thor started the really heavy petting, Luke had bolted. He probably feels betrayed that Thor would go back on his word like that. And now Thor has no idea how to make things right. He will have to apologize, of course. He knows that much. But he can’t think of any apology that could mend this.
He decides that this can’t wait until Monday when they’re back at work. No, he has to make this right as soon as possible. And ideally not in a building full of their coworkers. He logs onto his computer and opens Asgard’s personnel files with every employee’s contact information. There are certain perks to being the heir to Asgard. He types in ‘Luke Sutcliffe’ and finds what he’s looking for.
Loki has his hands fisted in long blonde hair that smells like sunshine. He yanks it, hard, earning him a long groan from the hair’s owner. The man’s moans turn rhythmic, becoming harsh and loud, and then truly awful as they resolve into an obnoxious ringing. Loki wakes, recognizing the sound of his phone. He rubs his eyes, trying to banish the dream and ignore his erection.
He grabs the still ringing phone, not bothering to check caller ID since no one besides Gamora or Nebula would be calling. “H’lo?” he slurs sleepily.
Fuck. He should have checked caller ID. He sits up, hard-on gone and suddenly quite awake. “Sir,” he replies. It occurs to him then. Nebula was at the bar last night and she never misses an opportunity to tattle to Daddy. She must have seen Loki leave Thor high and dry.
“I hear you’re not doing your job.”
“I assure you, I am. It’s just taking a little more time than I’d anticipated. I made a lot of progress last night--”
“Don’t lie to me, boy. I know that’s your thing, lying, but I suggest you reserve that skill for your mark. You have some damage control to do and I expect it to be done promptly. Or else you will find yourself removed from the case.”
Loki swallows. Nebula had somehow kept herself from being removed from this case and, therefore, avoided another hospital visit. She’d been given a second chance on this job. Loki will not be so lucky if he fucks this up. “I understand.”
“Yes. You do. Now go fix this.” The line goes dead.
Loki throws the phone at the wall. The back pops off and the battery falls out, but it’s not broken. Pity. He screws his eyes shut and wills his eyes to stay dry. He has ever been quick to tears, which is often helpful when he needs to gain sympathy from a mark. However, when he is just Loki, not Luke or whoever, he does not like this trait in himself. It makes him feel weak and out of control.
He sits in bed for a long time, trying to calm down. He’s panicking and he needs to stop. He attempts to bring his breathing back from the edge of hyperventilation. He rolls his shoulders, trying to relieve the painful clench in his muscles.
The doorbell rings. Loki groans. Can this day get any worse? He uses the toilet and gargles some mouthwash before making his way to the door in hopes that they’ll give up and leave before he gets there.
After finding Luke’s contact information, Thor tries calling him. It goes straight to a generic voicemail. He checks his watch. It’s nearly 11:00am. He debates for all of five second before typing the address under Luke’s name into his phone’s GPS and heading out to his car. He cannot leave things between them as they are now.
Luke lives remarkably close to Thor. It’s less than a five minute drive. Thor finds the flat easily. It’s on the ground floor and has its own entrance. He double checks that he has the right one and rings the doorbell. He waits for quite a while. He’s about to try ringing it again when the door at last swings open.
Luke is wearing black silk pajama bottoms with a black tank top, his feet bare. His hair is curling more than usual, clearly free of the product he usually styles it with. He looks like he just rolled out of bed. Thor rakes his eyes up the lean form, hungrily devouring the sight before him. Then he catches himself. This is exactly what he came here not to do. Why can’t he keep his mind out of the gutter with this man? He feels even worse when he notices that Luke’s eyes look red. Has he been crying?
“Luke, I - I’m so sorry about last night.”
Luke looks at him with an expression that comes very close to confusion. “You’re… sorry?”
“I know, it’s not enough and I have no excuse. I’m a terrible person and you deserve a better friend than me and I spoiled a perfectly wonderful evening and you were laughing so much and I’m such a dick and I promised not to push you into anything you don’t want--”
“Stop.” At Luke’s quiet command, Thor shuts his mouth. He wonders again at this strange compulsion he has to obey Luke’s every direction. “Just… come in,” Luke sighs. Thor does.
Loki opens his door to find Thor waiting for him. The man looks on edge. Is he here to kick Loki’s ass?
“Luke, I - I’m so sorry about last night.”
Loki blinks at him. That can’t be right. What would Thor be apologizing for? He’s not mad, he’s-- “You’re… sorry?”
Thor starts talking at 100 miles per hour. Loki is still shaken from waking up from a sex dream about the man currently standing in front of him and then being threatened and having to bring himself back from the edge of a panic attack. He can’t follow the jumble of sounds pouring from Thor’s mouth. The word is out before he can catch it. “Stop.”
Thor blessedly stops talking and watches Luke with sad puppy dog eyes. Loki suppresses a groan. Satan help him. The man is unfairly adorable. “Just… come in.”
He steps aside to let Thor in and shuts the door behind him. The flat is small, just one room containing a bed, a small seating area, and a kitchenette with a bathroom off to the left. It has to pass as a place that a guy right out of college and working as an assistant could afford.
They stand awkwardly facing each other just inside the door. Loki realizes somewhere in his mind that this would be a good time to do damage control for last night. But his head is still pounding, filled with images of what will happen to him if he fails. He realizes through his haze that Thor is speaking again. Then he grasps the back of Loki’s neck and--
Loki is suddenly in a different room, one more familiar to him than ‘Luke’s’ apartment. There’s classical music playing. He can’t breathe. The hands on his neck keep tightening. There’s shouting. A face hovers inches from his own. It’s wide and scarred, snarling.
The terrifying face fades and resolves into a worried one. Not scarred and horrible, but golden and pretty. There are hands shaking him. Loki grabs the person’s arms and spins them, pinning the person to the wall. He snarls into the man’s face, hands on the neck in front him. Then he recognizes the face. Thor. He’s strangling Thor. He lets go as if burned.
Luke’s apartment is small, but it’s tidy and sophisticated, just like the man who lives there. Luke hasn’t said anything since inviting him inside. He can’t even seem to look at Thor. He must really be mad.
Mustering courage, Thor tries again. Slower this time. “Luke, you have my sincerest apologies. My actions last night broke your trust. I have no excuse. I can only promise you that it will not happen again.” Luke still isn’t quite looking at him. Thor has to do better. He steps forward and grasps the back of Luke’s neck. “My friend, I promise you--”
He cuts off when, at Thor’s touch, Luke’s eyes blow wide and he stops breathing. He almost sounds like he’s choking. Thor panics. “Luke? Luke!” The man’s eyes stare straight through him, as though seeing something else. He’s still not breathing. Thor grabs the man by his upper arms and shakes him. “Luke? Hey! Snap out of it!”
Then Luke’s eyes clear and he finally gasps a large breath. Thor sucks in his own relieved gulp of air. “Luke, you--”
But then Luke grabs Thor with surprising speed and strength, spinning them and shoving Thor’s back into the wall. His hands go to Thor’s throat and start squeezing. He looks rabid. Thor makes a choking sound remarkably similar to the ones Luke had been making just seconds ago.
Luke only squeezes Thor’s throat for a matter of seconds. Then he yanks his hands away, staring at Thor with wide, horrified eyes. Through desperately trying to replenish his lungs, Thor attempts to figure out what just happened. Did Luke just attack him? He definitely just attached him. Tried to strangle him, in fact. Thor has a thought to hit him. Or strangle him back. But then he rethinks. Why did Luke do that? Luke must be even more angry than he’d thought. The erratic behavior must be from Luke fighting to control his anger. It would be just like him to keep it bottled up, only for it to explode out all at once.
Luke begins to stutter out an apology. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I--”
“No, I’m sorry,” Thor cuts him off. He doesn’t want Luke to suppress his anger. He wants him to let it out so it stops torturing him. Thor suppresses his own pride and shakes his head. “I deserved that. It’s only fair after how I treated you last night. I completely disregarded your wishes and let my own feelings get the better of me. I am sorry. I truly did try to keep myself from developing feelings for you. But I could not resist your sharp tongue. And last night, seeing you so happy and relaxed, I just… I forgot myself. I let myself think that we could be... But I promise you, I will do better. I want to be your friend and I can ignore this, so please, I--”
Luke kisses him.
Thanks to everyone who is following this! Comments and kudos give me life <3
Chapter 7: Compulsion
*wiping nervous sweat from brow* I hope you enjoy this one! It's a first for me, so please be gentle...
See end of chapter for warnings
Comments and Kudos always appreciated :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
If Loki hadn’t already ruined everything before, he certainly has now. He just tried to strangle Thor. He just tried to strangle the man who he is supposed to make fall in love with him. Admittedly, he hadn’t known it was Thor at the time. But that’s hardly something he can explain while he’s still Luke. Luke is a well-adjusted college grad, not a barely sane con artist with a tendency to break from reality.
Already knowing it’s pointless, he attempts to fix things. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I--”
Thor cuts him off with his own apology. “No, I’m sorry.” Okay, now Loki knows there must be something wrong with the man. He’s still apologizing? After Loki just tried to strangle him?
Thor goes on. “I deserved that. It’s only fair after how I treated you last night. I completely disregarded your wishes and let my own feelings get the better of me. I am sorry, I truly did try to keep myself from developing feelings for you.”
Wait, Thor has feelings for him? Beyond lust?
“But I could not resist your sharp tongue. And last night, seeing you so happy and relaxed, I just… I forgot myself.”
And those feelings are based off of--?
“I let myself think that we could be... But I promise you, I will do better. I want to be your friend and I can ignore this, so please, I--”
Loki is kissing him before he can make the decision to do so. It only takes Thor a second to catch up and start kissing back. Loki pushes him back against the wall and proceeds to plunder every corner of Thor’s mouth. He’s enveloped in the same smell of spring, but now there’s a current of ozone running through it, the smell of a storm rolling in.
Loki hooks one long leg over Thor’s hip until the larger man gets the idea. He gathers Loki up in his comically huge arms and lifts, allowing Loki to wrap both legs around Thor’s broad waist. Loki grinds down on him, enjoying the display of strength. There aren’t many people who can so easily lift a man as tall as Loki. Clamping his legs tighter around the large man, he leans back and lets Thor’s hands on his ass take his full weight as Loki shucks his own shirt over his head. Thor growls and walks them over to the bed. He lets Loki fall back onto it and strips Loki’s trousers and boxers in one movement. He follows quickly after to drape himself over the thinner man. Together, they wrestle Thor out of his clothes as well. Loki revels in the feeling of being completely enveloped and covered by the large expanse of Thor’s body, their cocks rubbing together. But that isn’t what he needs right now.
Loki uses Thor’s own weight as momentum to flip them over, reversing their positions. He reaches over to the bedside table and retrieves a condom and lube, reveling in the way Thor’s eyes darken even further. Loki flicks the lube open, dribbling a copious amount onto his right hand, soaking his fingers. With his left, he grabs Thor’s generous thigh and roughly pushes it up. Without further preamble, he pushes two lubed fingers into Thor at once.
Thor cries out, surprised and probably in a bit of pain, but he bucks down onto Loki’s fingers inside of him, spearing himself even further. Loki proceeds to prep him fast and rough, quickly working his way up to four fingers. Thor is panting and flushed, already looking absolutely wrecked. Loki removes his fingers, earning a small whine from Thor.
Loki smirks down at the man. “Don’t worry, Sweetheart. I’ll take care of you.” Thor gives a deep, rumbling moan at the words. Loki leans down to give him a filthy kiss, which Thor returns with enthusiasm, grabbing the brunette’s head with both hands and forcing his tongue inside Loki’s mouth. Then Loki’s got a hand on either of Thor’s thighs and shoves them nearly to his chest, delighted at the man’s surprising flexibility. He grins as best as he can around Thor’s tongue in his mouth, positions himself, and fucks in.
Thor’s shout breaks their kiss. He throws his head back, eyes screwed shut, mouth open and panting. He looks stunning. Loki lets his own mouth hang open on a pant as he admires the view laid out beneath him. Thor’s golden hair is spread out on the pillow like a halo, face tensed with pleasure-pain and sweat glistening on his brow. His strong pecs and biceps flex under a voluptuous cushioning of flesh that makes Loki want to squeeze and lick.
He gives Thor a moment before pulling out and pushing back in more slowly, getting more of his length into Thor’s obscenely tight heat this time. By the fifth slow thrust, his cock is fully sheathed inside Thor. Loki moans loudly at the way the muscles of Thor’s ass flutter around him.
Thor’s hands, which had remained buried in the black hair while Loki worked his way inside, now move to wrap around the thinner man. As Loki gives him time to adjust to the penetration, he feels Thor map out Loki’s bones and muscles. He drags his hands over and between Loki’s shoulder blades, caresses over his sides, and runs both hands down his back, fingers tracing each notch of his vertebrae. When the hands grab his ass, Loki’s hips give an involuntary thrust. They both moan at the resulting sensations.
Loki begins a gentle pace, rocking into Thor with slow, even movements. Thor wraps his legs around Loki’s waist and his arms hook under Loki’s shoulders to grab at the black hair again. As Thor’s body opens to him, Loki picks up the pace. Thor cranes his head up to capture Loki’s lips once more. As their tongues meet in an uncoordinated tangle, Loki pushes Thor’s legs up even further and begins pounding into him mercilessly. Thor moves his hands to brace against the headboard as Loki’s hips drive him further up the bed.
Thor’s neglected cock is leaking and bouncing against his stomach. Loki switches his angle a few times until Thor’s moans turn into sharp cries, cock twitching and leaking even more. The man almost looks like he could cum just like this. But Loki finally finds his mercy and brings a hand to Thor’s weeping length. It doesn’t take long before Thor is crying out and spurting over Loki’s hand. Loki switches to a deeper angle and moves to brace his elbows on either side of Thor’s head. Thor’s hands come up to frame his face and drag it down to his own. Loki loses his rhythm as Thor claims his mouth in a reverent kiss. And then his vision is whiting out as he spills inside Thor.
They pant into each other’s mouths for several beats before Loki pulls out and rolls off. He discards the condom and looks up at the ceiling. His mind is blissfully quiet. At last.
Until it’s not.
Without the lust clouding his mind, he’s able to see exactly how badly he’s just fucked up. Again. Had Loki stuck to his plan, we never would have slept with Thor before he had assurances from the man that he wanted no others. Not only that, but Loki has broken away from Luke’s submissive personality. Thor’s file had explicitly informed him that the man likes submissive partners. He is Mister Toppy Alpha. He does not like dominant partners and he does not bottom.
“Stop.” Thor’s voice interrupts Loki’s whirlwind of thoughts. He turns his head to look at the blonde. Thor is lying on his side and watching Loki with a fond gaze. “I can hear you over thinking. Stop.” He slings an arm around Loki’s waist and pulls him until his head is nestled under Thor’s chin. It feels marvelous.
So Loki stops.
Luke is kissing him. He tried to strangle him and now he’s kissing him. Thor has major whiplash, but he’s certainly not complaining now.
Luke is utterly beautiful. And Thor finally lets himself look. As clothes come off and more expanses of Luke are revealed to him, Thor really takes the time to admire the form beneath him. Luke is long, lean, looks strong like a dancer. And apparently he doesn’t just look strong, as he exhibits when he flips Thor’s considerable weight beneath him with ease. Thor is caught up in admiring the man and, before he knows it, Luke is shoving two fingers into his ass. He thinks he should tell Luke at some point that he doesn’t bottom.
He forgets to mention it.
After surfacing from his own intense orgasm, Thor watches Luke fall apart above and inside of him. It’s one of the most intimate moments he has ever experienced.
Luke rolls off and, as they lay there panting, Thor reflects on what just happened. He had gone from thinking he had completely fucked things up with Luke to having the man’s cock up his ass in mere minutes.
Thor has only bottomed a few times before and has never enjoyed it. But he’s never found someone who could match him for dominance, physical strength, and confidence quite the way Luke can. Being fucked by Luke was some of the best sex of his life.
Thor rolls to look at the man lying next to him. He can tell from the blank eyes and the furrow on his brow that Luke is getting lost in his own head again. “Stop.” Luke turns to look at him. Thor tries to communicate his own state of peace with his eyes. “I can hear you over thinking. Stop.”
Luke's forehead smooths out and he suddenly looks very young. Thor reaches for him without having to think about it.
As Luke settles under his chin, Thor wonders if maybe that compulsion he feels to obey goes both ways. Because Luke relaxes and is soon fast asleep.
This chapter contains sexual content
Chapter 8: Acceptance
Thanks so much to everyone who is following, commenting, and leaving kudos! I started writing this thinking it would just be for me but I'm so glad that other people are enjoying it too <3
Thor wakes up feeling pleasantly cool. He runs hot, so he’s usually burning up first thing in the morning. It’s a nice change.
He looks down at the dark head tucked against his chest. He feels an odd swelling inside his chest that’s difficult to identify. Normally he feels a need to plan a polite escape the morning after hooking up with someone. But now he feels… peaceful. That too is a nice change.
He brings both arms up to encircle Luke, pressing the length of their nude bodies together. He knows Luke is awake when he tenses at the contact. Thor feels a spark of dread. Did he read this wrong? He strokes the black hair in a desperate plea for Luke to not freak out.
“Morning,” Thor whispers, some instinct telling him to keep his voice low.
For a moment he thinks Luke won’t respond. Then he lifts his head and looks up at Thor with wide eyes. “You’re still here.”
Thor shifts nervously. He can’t tell whether Luke is relieved or disappointed. “Yeah. Is that okay?”
Luke throws the blankets off and slings a leg over Thor, straddling him. The ravenous kiss is answer enough.
Thor moans and grabs Luke’s ass with both hands, rolling their hips together. In the morning light, Luke looks more delicate, almost bird like. But Thor doesn’t fear breaking him. He knows the deceptive strength that lies beneath the soft skin. He rolls to pin the thin man beneath him, grinding him down into the bed.
Luke shoves lube and a condom into Thor’s hand. He immediately obeys the silent command, coating his fingers with a generous slick and hiking Luke’s leg up onto his shoulder. He circles the tight entrance slowly, exploring and caressing more than prepping. His other hand maps out the lines of Luke’s chest while his mouth travels along his jaw and clavicle. He skips the temptingly long throat, remembering Luke’s aversive response to it the night before.
When he finally enters Luke it’s slow and gentle, the perfect contrast to the previous night’s roughness. Thor slips his fingers through Luke’s as his hips rock forward, joining them. Luke’s neverending legs wrap around Thor in a serpentine embrace that seems to threaten constriction should he attempt to pull too far away. It’s a good thing Thor has no intention of leaving Luke’s body until he absolutely has to.
It quickly becomes apparent to Loki that he hasn’t scared Thor away at all. On the contrary, Thor has done a complete 180 from resolutely being Loki’s friend that constantly needles him to being a soppy romantic. Loki finds it… endearing. But he’s finally made headway and it has been made very clear to him that he cannot afford any more distractions. Nebula and Gamora certainly doing hesitate in reminding him often enough.
So, as it becomes a regular thing for Thor and Loki to stay over at each other’s places, he starts searching Thor’s computer instead of attempting to find opportunities to access Odin’s. Thor’s home computer is a far easier target, as he keeps it open and unlocked on his desk most of the time. This gives Loki a plethora of opportunities whenever Thor is sleeping, showering, cooking, or for any other reason leaving Loki alone in his bedroom.
The first thing Loki looks for on Thor’s computer is a definitive location for the Tesseract. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t find it. Next he looks for the code to open the door to the lower level of Asgard where the safe is located. He quickly finds it in the trusting Oaf’s “notes to self,” right on his desktop.
He gives the code to Gamora to have her test it and confirm it’s the correct one. It is.
They can’t go into the basement yet, though. When Gamora tested the door code, she only barely inched the door open, just to shut it immediately when she heard voices. Loki learns from a floor plan that he finds on Thor’s computer that there are several people who work on the lower level, among them Heimdall. And there’s no chance of sneaking in after hours. The security in Asgard is too tight to be worth the risk. Besides, it would be a wasted trip without knowing the code to the safe.
However, now that Loki’s relationship with Thor is progressing, he’s confident that he can get Thor to marry him before he’s made CEO. Hopefully then Loki will be made a board member and be allowed information that will get him access to the safe.
Thor has been dating Luke for almost two months. For the first time in his life, he understands what it means to be in love. Since they first got together, Thor has pushed Luke to express his true personality more and more. And with every new bit of Luke that he sees, he falls more in love.
Thor has talked to Luke about the front he puts up. Luke had seemed quite distressed when Thor first brought it up. Eventually, though, they’d ended up having a really good conversation. Thor had been able to express his desire to know every single part of Luke, even the so-called ugly stuff. Luke, in turn, had expressed to Thor that he’s spent so much time trying to be what other people want that he’s never really taken the time to get to know himself. Thor had promised him that they would get to know the real Luke together.
Any more, Luke almost always seems to be relaxed and genuine. Even when he’s biting Thor’s head off or calling him Oaf, Thor knows it’s a privilege that Luke doesn’t hide his ire from him anymore. Besides, he’s pretty sure Luke uses Oaf more as a pet name than an actual insult these days.
Despite how well things are going, Thor can’t help being nervous now that they’ve been together for a little while. He has never lacked for willing bed partners, but relationships were never really his thing. The longest of them was with Jane and they had barely made it past three months. Thor is resolved to keep Luke, though. His other relationships had largely fallen apart due to Thor’s own ambivalence toward his partners. He already knows that won’t be an issue this time, though. He’s never been so smitten. He would never forgive himself if he lost Luke.
Loki has never experienced someone loving him for who he actually is, thorns and all. Usually, he constructs a meticulous persona, custom made for each job, that is perfectly crafted to make the mark fall in love with him. But that didn’t work for Thor. He didn’t succeed in hooking Thor until he’d started acting more like himself.
Since then, Loki has slowly come to the realization that much of what Thor likes about him are the parts that are Loki, rather than Luke. This is quite useful, seeing as it means Loki spends a lot less effort pretending to be someone else. It also feels undeniably good for someone to like Loki for who he actually is for once, rather than whoever he’s pretending to be at the time. And he’s never had friends before, but Thor’s friends have almost started to feel like his own. They too seem to like the real Loki.
Of course, he hasn’t completely given up the act. He still pretends to like Thor’s scotch, keeps up his British accent, plays up his ambition to have a career at Asgard, and reins in the part of himself that’s a little too close to the edge of sane.
But his relationship with Thor is getting dangerous, nonetheless. Too often he forgets himself with Thor, letting slip truths that should really not be shared. Like the time that he’d told Thor about his identify issues. He’d been telling the truth when he told Thor that he doesn’t really know himself very well. Oh, he knows he’s a sarcastic, smart ass little shit. But beyond that? He’s spent far too many years pretending to be other people.
Three months into their relationship, Loki moves in with Thor. On their third night living together, he has Thor splayed out beneath him on their bed while Loki rides him. He’s bouncing at a frantic pace with Thor’s cock aimed perfectly at his prostate. God, he’s so close and neither of them has even touched his weeping cock yet. Thor’s hands are roaming over Loki’s thighs and hips. They start to trail up his troso. Lost in sensation, Loki speaks without thinking. “Yes, fuck, grab my tits!”
Thor pauses for a split second, long enough for Loki to realize what he’s said and panic. He scrambles off of Thor, landing on his ass on the other side of the bed. He blushes furiously and keeps his eyes on his fidgeting hands while he attempts to stutter out an explanation. He doesn’t get very far before Thor’s fingers lift his chin to make Loki look him in the eye.
Thor’s eyes bore into him for a long moment. He seems to be looking for something. Then he’s pressing Loki to lay back on the sheets. He goes willingly and watches Thor kneel between his legs. Then Thor leans down slowly, keeping his eyes on Loki’s face, and sucks a nipple into his mouth. It’s by no means the first time Thor’s done this to him. But this time is different. As he sucks and licks, he brings his hands up to cup Loki’s pecs, rubbing and squeezing as if they’re a pair of breasts. Loki moans, struggling to keep his eyes open to watch the sinful display.
Thor continues to fondle his chest as he raises his mouth up to Loki’s and kisses him deeply. He pulls back and says, “I love your lips.” Kisses his adam’s apple, gently. “I love your neck.” He kisses along the length of Loki’s sternum to place a wet kiss on his nipple. “I love your tits.”
Loki’s eyes go wide and then nearly shut as he moans at the words.
Thor continues kissing on down. “I love your stomach.” Kiss. “I love your hips.” Kiss, kiss. “I love your cock.” He gives the head a sucking kiss that has Loki bucking. Then his mouth is on Loki’s entrance, giving another wet kiss as he pushes one finger inside to press against his prostate. “I love your cunt.”
Loki cums so hard he sees lighting.
They talk about it later. Thor provides him with the term ‘genderqueer’. Loki thinks on it for a while. He decides it fits, more or less. When Thor asks, he tells him, truthfully, that he doesn’t much care what pronouns he uses. He doesn’t quite feel dysmorphic. It isn’t’ even that he doesn’t feel like a man. He just kind of feels like a woman sometimes, too. He decides not to worry too much about exact terms and definitions. He’s okay with being called a man and he/him, so long as that doesn’t restrict him to never wearing dresses or getting his tits sucked. He’s just happy to have a way to describe how he feels. It’s even nicer to have someone who understands, or at least cares enough to try.
It’s a beautiful, sunny afternoon and Thor and Luke are out for a walk. They meander through the park holding hands. Or, more accurately, Luke drags Thor by the hand through the park in zigzagging patterns, dictated by Luke’s attention span. Every time he gets bored of the view in front of them or irritated by the angle at which the sun is hitting his skin or offended by the way a frog looks at him, Luke switches their direction. Thor is dizzy, but intensely amused.
Luke changes their direction again, citing the foul smell of the stream they’d been following for the last couple of minutes. They walk back through the trees and out onto a paved path. Thor looks at Luke, waiting for him to choose in which direction to follow it.
He doesn’t. Instead, he says, “Isn’t that your mother?”
Thor turns to look where he’s pointing. Surely enough, there is Frigga strolling down the path. Delighted, he goes to call out to her. But then he remembers that Luke had asked to keep their relationship secret from anyone involved in the company for now. Luke is still worried about what knowledge of their relationship would do to his job. Frigga isn’t involved with the company anymore since she retired to start a plant nursery, but she is still married to the CEO. Instead of calling out, he looks back to his boyfriend.
Before he can ask Luke what he wants to do, Frigga calls out. “Thor!”
Luke drops Thor’s hand and quickly puts some space between them.
Thor gives Luke a quick apologetic look before turning to greet her. “Mother, how unexpected.” He smiles and gives her a hug when she reaches them.
When they break apart, she steps back and then looks over to Luke, blinks. “Aren’t you Odin’s assistant?”
“Ah, yes. Thor and I just ran into each other mere moments before you came along.”
Thor smiles brightly at Luke. His boyfriend is so smart and fast-thinking. “Yes! I was just out for a walk and ran into Luke here--”
“Oh, Thor, do stop,” Frigga says with a tinkling laugh. “You just gave him a look as though he were the sun itself. You did not just run into each other.”
Thor grimaces and glances at Luke, hoping his boyfriend won’t be angry at his transparency. To his surprise, Luke is giving him a very similar look to the one Frigga just described. Thor returns it.
The three of them continue their walk together. They explain to Frigga that they’ve been dating for the last three months, but don’t want to tell people at work yet. Frigga promises to keep their secret so long as Thor deigns to start sharing Luke’s time with her.
It becomes a regular thing for the three of them to get together for lunch or strolls in the park. Luke and Frigga also go shopping together often. Luke comes home from each shopping trip with new things, like sundresses, mascara, and Thor's personal favorite, lingerie. It’s clear that Luke has told Frigga about his newly discovered non-binary identity and that Frigga is in full support. In fact, Thor is is pretty sure that his mother loves Luke almost as much as he does.
Loki adores Frigga. Since she learned of he and Thor’s relationship, she has treated Loki as if her were her own child. It is the most parental attention he has ever received.
During one of their lunches with Thor, Frigga invites Loki to go shopping, just the two of them. He jumps at the opportunity to get some time with Frigga all to himself. They go to a large outdoor walking mall filled with art stores and boutiques. They wander for hours, trying on funny hats, critiquing art, and spritzing each other with perfumes.
They are standing in an art gallery, looking at a large oil painting full of odd shapes that twist and writhe around each other in an unidentifiable heap. Loki smirks and says, “I think it’s a camel eating socks. A metaphor for our consumerist society, hoarding our possessions inside our humps.”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous,”Frigga scoffs through her own smirk. “I think it’s a tree with a bunch of little people jumping off its branches. It’s a metaphor for humans abandoning nature.”
Loki’s lip quirks further up his face. “It’s a bridge with a troll underneath and fish jumping out of the water to avoid it. Metaphor for capitalism.”
Frigga snorts. “It’s a bunch of cats dancing in a circle around a fire, which is spitting rocks at them. Metaphor for religion.”
They get kicked out of the gallery for laughing too loudly.
They walk into a fancy boutique. Frigga browses their scarves while Loki steps further into the store. He stops by the lipsticks. He gazes at them for a long moment before shaking himself and moving to continue on towards the men’s section.
Frigga catches his arm. She gently pulls him back to the lipsticks. She peruses them while he waits awkwardly to the side. Does she want help choosing one for herself? Frigga selects a dark red called ‘Bathory’. Loki finds the cheeky reference to Elizabeth Bathory highly entertaining.
Then Frigga surprises him. “Step over to the mirror.” He gives her a confused look. “Oh, come on. This color is perfect for you.”
He blushes nearly as red as the lipstick, but does as she says. She expertly applies it for him and he looks at himself in the mirror. He smiles, genuine and happy.
Frigga smiles back.
Chapter 9: Inguz
Thank you so much to everyone who has left kudos and beautiful comments! You have no idea how much it makes me smile.
On the morning of their four month anniversary, Thor wakes before either Luke or the sun. He lays admiring the face on the pillow next to his for a long time. His love looks as though he’s frozen in some arctic night. His lips and skin are so devoid of pigment so as to look carved from ice. His eyelids are nearly purple against his frost white skin, looking somehow both sickly and ethereally beautiful.
When the sun begins peeking through the blinds, casting stripes over Luke’s pale and perfect skin, Thor leans over his boyfriend and brushes a feather-soft kiss on his cheek, his chin, his nose, his eyelids, his freckles. He keeps going until Luke slowly begins to wake. It begins with his nose twitching. Then his whole face twitches. Then his hand comes up to bat half-heartedly at Thor’s face. Then, when Thor kisses the corner of his mouth, Luke’s teeth follow and snatch Thor’s lower lip in a vice grip.
Luke’s eyes are open half mast, narrowed both threateningly and sleepily, staring through Thor. He doesn’t release Thor’s lip. He just lays there, with Thor trapped at his mercy. Thor’s heart beats fast. He’s not entirely sure whether it’s from arousal or the slight touch of fear that always comes when Luke gets like this. Likely both.
Finally, Luke’s eyes fully focus and he seems a little more present. Thor immediately surges forward, turning Luke’s bite into a deep kiss. Luke moans into it and rolls his hips up against Thor.
They both gasp as their hardening cocks rub together. Thor readjusts so that he’s straddling Luke, his thick thighs bracketing the slim hips, their cocks perfectly aligned. They grind together with long, slow thrusts as they see how far they can get their tongues into each others’ mouths.
Luke’s hand blindly finds the lube on the bedside table. He slicks a finger and curls his hand under Thor’s left buttock to reach his entrance. The slicked digit slides in easily after last night. When Luke finds his prostate, Thor’s hips do a double snap into Luke’s.
Then Thor is grabbing the lube. He reaches his hand down between them, trapping it between their rolling hips, and presses a slicked finger inside Luke. They moan into each others mouths as they massage each other’s prostates and their cocks roll together in a slow, intense rhythm.
Luke comes with another bite to the abused lip, bringing Thor over the edge with him.
When they’ve caught their breath, Luke asks, “So, what earned me such an early wake up call on a Saturday?
Thor has a thought to be hurt that Luke forgot the anniversary, but instead decides to see it as an opportunity to surprise his boyfriend. “Oh, no reason. But now that we’re up, we might as well get ready for the day.” He jumps out of bed and trots over to the bathroom to start the shower. He stops to lean over and pick up some of their clothes on his way, hoping the view of his ass will convince Luke to follow him.
Loki watches as Thor leans down, displaying his ass. He knows exactly what the larger man is trying to do. It won’t work. He’s still annoyed at being woken so unceremoniously, despite the following orgasm. On second thought, the orgasm was quite good. And that view of Thor’s ass is also quite pleasing. And now it’s quickly disappearing into the bathroom. He’d better follow it before it’s completely out of sight.
Half an hour later, they’re drinking coffee on the balcony, letting their wet hair dry in the breeze. Loki is reciting a poem to Thor. Not a real one, he’s just making it up on the spot.
“The old man knows his oranges are ripe
When they fall and hit his head.
The young girl finds a bloody fruit
And knows her father is dead.
Another orange falls upon the scene
And the girl is not home for bed.
The old woman finds quite a gruesome scene
And thinks, ‘my, what a marvelous red’.”
Loki continues on for quite a few verses and Thor laughs with his head thrown back, pinching his nose to keep coffee from coming back up. Loki admires the strong, elegant curve of the man’s throat, follows Thor’s adams apple with his eyes as it dances to his laughter.
He thinks he will miss this.
He knows he’s getting close to the end of this job. The ceremony that will see Thor taking control of Asgard is just one and a half months away. He’d gone out to the bar with Thor and his friends a few nights ago and Nebula had pulled him aside to remind him just how short on time he was to marry Thor and get access to the Tesseract.
He’s started subtly prodding Thor in the right direction. He needs Thor to come to the conclusion that they should get married on his own. If Loki proposes, it could be seen by Odin as a grasp for power, which would hurt Loki's chances at being put on the board.
However, it’s more difficult than it should be to manipulate Thor. Not because the man is too stupid to get it. Nor because he’s smart enough, or at least untrusting enough, to figure out that he’s being manipulated. No, it’s difficult because Loki simply does not want to manipulate him.
Loki has had many marks over the past years. Some of them he hated and some of them he grew to care for. No matter what, he has never had trouble doing his job. He is Loki, nicknamed the God of Lies, Master of Mischief, Trickster. He and the Black Widow are the best the Order has ever had, their success records near perfect. So no, Loki has never had trouble keeping up his act with a mark. He has never let himself be distracted by a mark. And he has never hesitated in manipulating a mark until they were twisted into a celtic knot around his bony finger. But, for some reason, Thor is different.
They go back inside when their coffee runs out, their hair dried in curls from the wind. Thor sets to making breakfast and tells Loki to take a seat, which confuses him. In the month or so since he moved in with Thor, they’ve fallen into a smooth rhythm with each other, tag-teaming the cooking and other daily house care. They dance around each other in the kitchen, handing off items and weaving in and out of each other’s space effortlessly.
But today Thor cooks alone. He makes them french toast covered in raspberries and peaches from Frigga’s garden along with eggs, bacon, and fried potatoes with peppers. It’s far more extravagant than their usual. Loki is only more confused.
On top of all this, Thor has been grinning non-stop since he woke Loki at the crack of dawn. That in and of itself is not exactly unusual. The man certainly spends enough time with a grin on his face. But now it’s begun to take on a slightly manic quality. It reminds him of the time Thor spent all day getting more and more excited about going to the zoo after Loki had finally agreed to come with him.
Loki is worried. What is he missing?
“Want to tell me why you’re attempting to vibrate at the frequency of a hummingbird wing?”
Thor grins so wide that his eyes nearly squint shut with the pressure from his strained cheeks. “Wait here.” The large man runs back into their bedroom. Loki blinks.
Then Thor is barrelling back, holding a shiny green gift bag with rainbow tissue paper exploding out of it. Loki blinks again. “What’s the occasion?”
“Just open it.”
Loki huffs and gives Thor an annoyed glare. “It’s not my birthday, which is the only time you’re meant to give someone a gift without receiving one in return. I didn’t even know there was an occasion I was meant to buy you something for. It hardly seems fair for you to spring this on me without giving me the chance at reciprocation.”
Thor’s eyes go a bit sad, but he’s still smiling fondly. “Just open it,” he repeats.
Loki rolls his eyes and rips the garish tissue paper out of the bag. A card falls out along with it. He opens it and reads,
My beloved Loki,
These four months with you have been the best ones of my life thus far.
He stops reading there. It goes on for a whole page. It crumples a bit in his hand as he draws in a ragged breath. He’d been so focused on moving the plan forward that he had completely forgotten.
Any time in the past, Loki would have found the idea of a four month anniversary absurd. It’s too arbitrary of a number to bother celebrating. Except that when they first started dating Thor had confided in Loki that he was bad at relationships, enough so that he had never been in one that lasted much more than three months. So hitting the four month mark is a big deal for him.
And Loki forgot.
He startles when Thor’s hand strokes his cheek, wiping away tears he hadn’t been aware were there. “It’s okay,” Thor says, “You’re here. It doesn’t matter that you forgot. Still having you here after four whole months, that’s what matters.”
Loki sobs. It isn’t even about the forgotten anniversary anymore. He’s in a pit of self loathing. Thor is the kindest, most loving person that’s ever come into his life. No one has ever made Loki feel so cared for, so appreciated. And Loki is plotting to betray him, to leave him. He sobs again, louder.
Thor lets out a startled sound. Then he’s gathering Loki into his enormous arms, wrapping him up so tightly that Loki thinks there may actually be hope for him to remain in one piece. At least until he leaves.
Loki snakes his arms around Thor’s neck, moves to straddle his lap, and holds back just as tightly. He’s probably cutting off some of the man’s air, but Thor doesn’t complain. Loki sobs in Thor’s embrace until his comfortable warmth overtakes the ice that runs in Loki’s veins.
When Loki quiets, Thor pulls back enough to look him in the eye. “Really, love, it’s okay. More than anything, I just wanted to be able to give you something today to show you how important this is to me. How important you are.”
Loki very nearly chokes up again, but he instead reaches for the gift bag. He’s still sitting in Thor’s lap and brings the bag to rest between their chests. He reaches in and pulls out a wide, flat jewelry box. Inside it are two matching bracelets. They are both delicate herringbone chains, one gold and the other silver. They each have a small charm of Inguz, the Norse rune for new beginnings and true love.
Loki blanches. Did Thor figure out that Loki’s really from Norway, not Britain? But then he remembers that Thor’s family has Norwegian roots. That must be why he thought to use a rune. He breathes a sigh of relief and relaxes. He lifts one of the bracelets up into the light above their heads to admire it. They really are stunning.
He looks down at Thor with his chin still lifted toward the bracelet held above his head and smirks. “I get the gold one.”
Thor laughs, his eye-squinting smile making a return.
They still haven’t told Odin or anyone else at Asgard that they’re in a relationship. Luke has remained firm that he does not want to jeopardize his position working at Asgard. At first Thor had found it kind of fun sneaking around and being secretive. But it’s beginning to wear on him. Luke knows Thor loves him but Thor wants the world to know it too.
They haven’t been together all that long, in the scheme of things, but Thor knows what he wants. He’s never felt this strongly for someone before.
He has thought long and hard about how he can be with Luke openly without ruining Luke’s career. Thor will be taking Odin’s place as CEO and owner of Asgard in just a few weeks. Once that happens, he will be the one giving people promotions. So, if they take their relationship public, any promotion he gives to Luke people will assume he got because of his relationship with Thor.
However, back when Odin was named CEO, he was already married to Frigga. Since Asgard is first and foremost a family company, Odin’s wife had been given a place on the board without question. She served on the board until she decided to retire and start a plant nursery.
Therefore, once Thor is CEO of Asgard, no would would question it if his spouse was also made a member of the board. And that is certainly a promotion from where Luke is now.
His mother loves Luke. His friends love Luke. And, most importantly, Thor loves Luke more than anything. And so, he’s made a decision.
Thor is going to ask Luke to marry him.
Chapter 10: An Odd Feeling
*peeks out from behind chapter* Enjoy?
Thor plans the perfect proposal. First, he will surprise Luke by taking him to the Shakespearean play he’s been wanting to see. Afterwards, they’ll go to dinner at their favorite restaurant, the one where they had their first proper date. Just as they’re finishing their last glasses of champagne, the ring will arrive atop a pile of whipped cream adorning Luke’s favorite food: devil’s food cake.
But as Thor watches Luke laugh with Frigga at the dining table in his childhood home, he gets an odd feeling. It starts in his fingers. He flexes them to relieve it. Then it’s in his toes. He scuffs his boots against the floor. Then it’s in every part of him and he can no longer ignore it.
Odin, Frigga, and Luke all turn to look at Thor in surprise. He realizes too late, and without much caring, that’s he just interrupted a story.
“Yes, darling?” Luke asks. Thor’s noticed he only uses such terms of endearment in front of Thor’s parents.
“Would you step outside with me?”
Luke blinks several times, visibly attempting to contain his confusion. “Of course.” The odd feeling pulses.
They stand and Thor leads Luke out the back door with a hand on his back. The darkness of the evening sky and the overflowing life of Frigga’s garden enclose them as they step away from the house.
Thor stops and Luke turns back to look at him. The uncertainty in his eyes only further solidifies in Thor’s mind what that odd feeling has been telling him.
“Luke. Will you marry me?”
They schedule their wedding to be just one week before Thor is to be named CEO and owner of Asgard. It just barely makes the timeline for Loki’s plan.
Thor has finally figured out that the only solution which allows him to keep Luke while also allowing Luke to progress in Asgard is to get married. Of course, it had taken quite a bit of Loki dropping less and less subtle hints to help Thor along to that conclusion. But finally they are here.
As soon as they are engaged, Thor and Loki tell Odin about their relationship. He takes the whole thing remarkably well. They also agree that Loki should resign from his position as Odin’s assistant so that his ascension to being a board member will look less like a promotion due to Thor’s favor and more like Loki rejoining Asgard as a member of the family after becoming Thor’s spouse. This is a relief to Loki. He has been feeling a need to get out from under Heimdall’s watchful eye for a while now. The man is far too observant and seems far too suspicious of Loki.
In the months that he’s been dating Thor, Loki has learned a lot about the man. While the information in the file that Ronan had initially provided him with had not been wrong, per say, there is a lot more to Thor than that. For starters, Thor is just about the biggest romantic sap there ever was. He claims to have never been in love before, which would explain why there was no mention of this in his file. It’s a new development. Loki seems to have triggered a lot of new developments in Thor. Their friends and Thor’s mother have all told Loki on several occasions how much they believe he’s changed Thor for the better.
Thor has changed Loki too. He’s helped him accept and put a name to his struggle to fit into a single gender. He’s given Loki friends for the first time in his life, or at least shown him what it would be like if he did. He’s given him a mother figure who’s already shown him more care than any parent he’s ever had. And he’s made Loki understand how it feels to be loved for qualities that aren’t just a farce.
In short, Loki needs this job to end. He’s allowed himself to get far to invested. He needs to distance himself and get his head in the game. Because the end is fast approaching and, when it comes, Loki has to be prepared break Thor’s heart.
They are married in a small ceremony with Thor’s family and friends along with Ronan and Corvus posing as Luke’s best friends from college. Loki had already told Thor earlier in their relationship that Luke’s parents had passed away several years back, to explain away their absence. Luckily, Thor doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with a small gathering. Loki doesn’t miss Heimdall’s suspicious look when he sees the emptiness of Luke’s side of the aisle, though.
The ceremony itself is beautiful. They marry in Frigga’s garden, where Thor proposed. It’s simple and all the more perfect for it. Most of Loki’s weddings have been awful, gaudy displays. It feels right that this one is more intimate.
Thor looks magnificent, dressed all in white. Loki had their suits specially made, matching pearlescent waistcoats and ties, Thor’s coat short and fitted, Loki’s long and flowing. He privately thinks that together they look like a pair of carved statues.
And when Thor and Loki dance, he even manages to forget that it isn’t real for a few moments.
Once they’re married, Asgard’s board members decide to go ahead and let Loki join the board, since Thor will be CEO in just one week. All according to plan. In his first week as part of the board, Loki is filled in on quite a few of Asgard’s secrets. The location of the Tesseract is not one of them. Nor is the code to the safe. The code to get into the lower level isn’t one either, but that’s fine. He found that already.
One thing he does learn is that each board member is assigned a different security code that allows them to access secure files. Loki is given a security code as well. Later that same day, when Odin is in a meeting, Loki sneaks into his office to search his computer again. He finds a list of numbers, one of which matches Loki’s own security code. The list contains the same number of codes as there are board members. He figures it’s a safe bet that these are the security codes for every board member.
That night he examines them and finds a pattern. The codes fit into a sequence.
It makes sense. Only Odin knows all of the board members’ security codes. And the fact that they all fit into such a neat little pattern secures Loki’s confidence that, together and in sequence, they make up the code to the safe.
One week after they’re married finds them preparing for Thor’s “coronation,” as Luke has taken to calling it. Thor has never been happier. He has the most amazing man as his husband and is about to inherit his birthright.
He’s attempting to fasten his tie when he sees Luke’s reflection walk up behind his own in the mirror. “You are hopeless. Here, let me tie it for you.”
Thor gladly lets himself be spun and gazes adoringly at his scowling husband as he fixes the mess Thor’s made of his tie. Luke is wearing a black three piece suit that shimmers green when the light hits it. His emerald eyes are emphasized by mascara and a hint of smokey green eyeshadow at the outer corners of his lids. He’s standing taller than Thor in his three inch pump heels. His hair is just getting long enough to start licking over his shoulders. He looks utterly beautiful and Thor can’t believe how lucky he is.
When Luke finishes fixing the tie and steps back, Thor asks him, “How do I look?”
Luke examines Thor’s black suit, red shirt, and silver tie with exaggerated consideration. Then he smirks and says, “Like a king.”
Thor grins. “I suppose that makes you queen.” Luke just hums in response, but Thor can see a smile in the creases at the corners of his eyes.
Thor grasps the back of Luke’s neck. He’s noticed over the last few months that the man has a strange sensitivity about his throat. The first few times Thor had tried this same gesture back when they first started dating, Luke had tensed up. He’d seemed to stare straight through Thor to someone else, his eyes glassy and terrified. Thor had also made the connection that this must have been the reason Luke had freaked out and stopped breathing that time Thor had touched his neck shortly before they first slept together. Over the last few months, though, Luke has warmed up to it and begun leaning into the touch. It’s become somewhat of a gesture of endearment between them.
On cue, Luke leans into Thor’s hand on his neck, his face splitting into a smile.
Thor asks him, “Are you excited?”
“Of course. I’ve looked forward to this day as much as you have. You’re my husband and my friend. I couldn’t be more proud.” He looks into Thor’s eyes for a long moment. “Never doubt that I love you.”
Thor’s eyes crinkle in a silent laugh. What makes Luke think he would he ever doubt it? They’re soulmates, of course they love each other. He leans in to give Luke a fierce kiss in answer. When he pulls back, Luke almost looks sad. Concerned, Thor assures him, “Worry not, my love. I could never doubt it.”
Luke smiles faintly. “I know.” Then he pulls away. “Come, your throne of paperwork awaits.”
Loki gives Thor one last kiss before the larger man goes up to the front of the room to stand by his father. He looks regal. Truly a king. Loki uses his phone to snap a picture of the gorgeous blonde. Thor, despite being in front of all of Asgard, makes a ridiculous face for the photograph. And if Loki’s responding laugh is a little hysterical, who can blame him?
A slap to his back jolts Loki forward. The following rumble of a laugh confirms the asultant’s identity.
“Volstagg. A pleasure, as always.”
“Luke! You got taller.”
Loki lifts an eyebrow, meeting Volstagg’s gaze. With the assistance of his pump heels, it isn’t difficult. “Or perhaps you’ve grown shorter.”
As the portly man rumbles another laugh, another of their friends joins them. He leans around Volstagg to greet Loki. “Luke, dear. You look ravishing.”
“Fandral, darling. You flatter me so. Surely I pale in comparison to your own radiance.”
“But my radiance can only be a reflection of your own, for I am but a wave, pushed and pulled by the beauty of the moon.” He snatches up Loki’s hand and sweeps down to kiss it.
Loki and Fandral have an ongoing play-flirtation battle to see who can outdo the other. Fandral generally wins. He always has some new Arthurian compliment that manages to reduce the room to giggles. It’s provided Loki with no end of amusement.
“Ugh, Fandral. He’s married.” The new arrival looks them over with disgust.
“Sif.” Loki nods curtly.
“Luke.” Sif merely lifts her chin a hair.
Loki and Sif have a running joke that they don’t get on. Everyone knows it’s a lie and no one but Sif and Loki get the joke.
A small huff announces the arrival of Hogun. Loki gives the quiet man a deeper nod than he spared for Sif. Hogun gives a meaningful nod back. Sif rolls her eyes.
“Really though, Luke,” Volstagg says sincerely. “You look lovely.”
Loki’s face tugs into a small grin. He’s only just begun showing more of his feminine side in public and it feels good to have their friends' approval.
“You’re only saying that because it’s the first time you’re seeing anything but the top of his head,” Sif snarks with a lopsided smile. Loki can tell it’s her way of showing support for him.
“And you’re just envious that I can walk in four inch heels,” Loki smirks.
“Girls, girls. You’re both pretty.” The uncharacteristically sassy quip comes from Hogun. They all burst out in surprised laughs, including Hogun.
A fork tings against a champagne flute and they all turn to the front of the room. Odin’s speech is about to begin. Loki’s gaze inevitably slides to the younger man next to him. He finds Thor already looking back at him, smiling softly at the scene of Loki laughing with their friends. It breaks one of the last remaining intact pieces inside of Loki.
The pain threatens to overwhelm him and overflow his eyelids, so he resolutely shuts down his emotions and goes back over the plan in his head.
He’ll take the Tesseract today. Every person in Asgard will be gathered on the executive floor for the ceremony. And, therefore, away from their desks. This includes the people who work on the lower level, most importantly Heimdall. With the basement clear of all personnel, Loki will be able to sneak into the lower floor and try the code for the safe.
If it works, he’ll have to leave today and never see Thor or the others again. If it doesn’t, he’ll have to get out of here even faster because an incorrect code being entered into the safe will almost certainly trigger an alarm.
Odin is giving his final speech as CEO and owner of Asgard. All of their employees are gathered into the largest conference room on the executive floor of the building. Thor is standing to Odin’s right in front of the room, awaiting his turn to speak.
He lost sight of Luke a while ago.
He’s sure his husband is just buried in one of the clusters of Asgard employees, but he’d hoped Luke would stay standing near the front when Thor was officially named CEO. He’d wanted to be able to look into his husband’s eyes while thanking all those who’ve supported him.
Odin is nearing the end of his speech. “I have served as Asgard’s CEO for 30 years. I have done so to the very best of my abilities. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished in my time here. Now, it is time to pass on the mantle. Thor Odinson, my heir, has proved himself--”
A loud alarm goes off, filling the room with a wailing siren. Thor’s never heard this alarm before. He looks at his father. Odin is ghost white when he whispers, “The Tesseract.”
Loki stands in the crowd and gazes at Thor, not hearing a word of Odin beginning his undoubtedly long speech. The thought occurs to him that this is his last chance to make a different choice. To stay here with their friends. To stay with Thor.
To live out the rest of his days as Luke Odinson, husband, friend, and son-in-law. To wake up every morning to cerulean eyes and go to sleep every night with golden curls twisted around his fingers. To have friends. To have a family. To have Thor. To have a life.
But he can’t. If he fails in this job, he will not have a life at all, let alone one with Thor.
So, with a final look to try and memorize the beautiful golden face, Loki is moving. He worms through the crowd, under the guise of getting to the refreshments table. He takes a cup from the intern serving punch and then slips out the door.
Gamora is waiting outside with a glare twisting her features. “What took you so long?” she hisses.
He doesn’t bother answering. “Is it clear?”
She gives him a searching look before, finally, “Yeah, it’s clear.”
He removes his high heeled pumps, tossing them to the side of the hall. He’ll run faster without them. He’d been vain to wear them at all. Gamora follows as he runs down the stairs to the lower level.
Just as Gamora had said, every floor is empty and clear. They get to the basement door and Loki keys in the code. He hears a low mechanic clang, indicating it’s unlocked. He pushes the door open just enough to allow sound through. They listen for a full minute before slowly pushing the door open. Just as they’d hoped, this floor is empty too.
Gamora remains at the entrance to keep watch while Loki goes inside. This level is one large room, with several desks and lots of filing cabinets. There is just one door, on the far side of the room. It’s also locked. He tries his own board member security code. It clicks open. Inside, on the far side of the small room, there’s a large, metal door with an electronic keypad. The door to the walk-in safe. Loki walks over and, without delay or hesitation, keys in the sequence of board member security codes.
There’s a series of loud clicks and then the metal door unlocks. He grasps the large door and pulls it open. The inside of the safe is at least as big as the room guarding it. It’s full of countless priceless items. Loki only has eyes for one.
After the alarm goes off, Odin immediately starts yelling orders to his senior board members. At his word, they run out of the room toward the stairwell, Heimdall leading the charge.
Odin finally turns to him. “The vault has been broken into. We need to get the building on lockdown before the culprits can escape. Keep everyone up here.” With that, Odin runs off after the other board members.
Thor shakes his shock away and begins hollering instructions to the floor full of distressed Asgard employees. He goes around and locks all four of the doors that lead into the huge conference room to keep the assailants from getting to them. Only once everything is secure and everyone is contained does he allow himself to look for his husband.
He can’t find him.
He circles the room twice, asking everyone if they’ve seen Luke. At last, a young intern who had been handing out punch at the refreshments table tells Thor that he saw Luke go out into the hall during Odin’s speech.
Thor panics. Luke wasn’t in the conference room when the alarm went off. And Thor just ensured he couldn’t get back in by locking all the doors. Luke is trapped outside with dangerous assailants.
Thor yanks open the door by the refreshments table and runs out. He trips over something and looks down. It’s one of Luke’s shoes. The other one is sitting nearby. Thor’s mind whirls. What happened? Had Luke been trying to get back inside when an assailant had grabbed him and knocked his shoes off in the struggle? Or had he ditched them himself to better run from his attacker? Thor is starting to hyperventilate, but he forces his legs to move him onward down the hall to the stairwell.
He has to find Luke.
Chapter 11: Good Boy
Moment of truth, y'all.
Loki strides into the safe. The glowing blue cube is raised up on a pedestal. Cords stream out if it, connecting to numerous computers. Well, shit. He wasn't warned about that. How is supposed to disconnect each one without setting off a million alarms? He’ll be caught before he can get them all. He looks at each of the screens displaying data collected by the tesseract. The text moves so quickly over them that he can't catch any of it.
Looking more closely at the Tesseract, he realizes the cords are connected to it in bunches that narrow into just three ports on the cube. He grips one bundle with his left hand and grips the other two with his right by curling his thumb and index around one and his other three fingers around the other. He takes a deep breath and pulls them out all at once.
Immediately a deafening alarm blares through the basement, undoubtedly loud enough to be heard throughout the entire building. He snatches up the tesseract and runs. He doesn't bother closing the safe or the door of the room guarding it. He runs straight for the door leading to the stairwell. Gamora is already holding it open. He runs straight through, with her on his heels.
They hit the main floor and run toward the rear exit. Gamora grabs Loki before he runs into the hall and pulls him behind an alcove. Heimdall runs into sight a second later. The man certainly has a gift for timing, he muses. This is the second time he’s caught him. Loki hands the Tesseract off to Gamora and steps out of the alcove.
"Oh my God, Heimdall! What is happening?" He yells over the alarm.
Heimdall stops and looks at him suspiciously. "Luke? What are you doing down here?" Three more board members run past them, towards the basement. Then Gamora slips out of her hiding place and slips behind Heimdall in the opposite direction. Loki keeps his eyes away from her and distracts the man in front of him.
"I forgot my phone in the downstairs bathroom and wanted to take a picture of Thor once he's officially crowned. I ran down to get it. But then that awful noise started--”
Clearly in a hurry and impatient with Loki’s rambling, Heimdall cuts him off. “Alright, just get back upstairs with the others. We will deal with this.”
As Heimdall continues toward the lower level, Loki runs after Gamora toward the rear exit. Outside, Nebula waits with a car idling. Gamora and Loki leap into the backseat and she takes off. Loki looks out the back window, knowing he’ll never return here.
Knowing he’ll never see Thor again.
Thor searches every floor of Asgard for his missing husband. What he finds, instead, are Odin and the other board members crowded around the open safe. Tyr begins explaining the situation to Thor, something about one valuable thing or another being stolen. Apparently, while Thor had been organizing everyone upstairs, they had already searched the entirety of Asgard. The assailants are gone.
Thor doesn’t have any room in his mind to care about that right now. “Did you find Luke when you were searching the floors?” he asks anxiously.
Tyr frowns at the interruption, but Heimdall looks up. “Did he not come back upstairs?”
“No, he’s not upstairs. Wait, you saw him? Where?”
“I ran into him when I came downstairs after the alarm. He said he left his phone in the bathroom and came down to get it.”
Thor frowns. “No, that can’t be right. He used his phone to take a picture of me just before Father started his speech.”
Heimdall’s face turns grim and he gives Thor a heavy look. “And now we cannot find him. Nor the thief.”
Thor’s panic spikes again. “Do you think they kidnapped him? What would they want with Luke?”
Heimdall and Odin look at each other. The other board members all have the same grim look. It almost looks like pity.
Odin steps forward and puts a hand on Thor’s shoulder. “Thor,” he takes a sighing breath, “Luke had his phone, he lied about why he was downstairs. That was just after the safe was broken into. And now we can’t find him.”
Thor shakes his head, keeps shaking it. He stares at his father with horrified, confused eyes. “No, you can’t mean--”
“Heimdall caught him snooping in my office when I was out a while back. He lied then too. It only happened that once, so we brushed it off. But this gives it new meaning.”
Thor’s mind catches on something. “It was Heimdall. Both times Luke was ‘caught lying’ it was Heimdall who witnessed it.” He turns to glare accusingly at the man. “He’s setting Luke up!”
At Thor’s accusation, Heimdall’s expression looks sad, of all things.
Odin, though, looks furious. “Thor, use your head! You’ve been played. He was just using you to get to the Tesseract. You are responsible for facilitating a con man getting into Asgard. And instead of taking responsibility, you’re pointing fingers like a child!” Odin seems to be ignoring the fact that he was the one who hired Luke in the first place.
Thor rages. “He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me! There is no way he could have done this, not to me. You stand here accusing my husband while he is scared, kept by assailants that kidnapped him. We should be out hunting them down like the monsters they are!”
“You are a vain, greedy, cruel boy!”
“And you’re an old man and a fool!”
Odin goes quieter. “Yes. I was a fool… to think you were ready.”
“No! Through your arrogance and stupidity you have allowed a great crime against Asgard to be committed. And now, rather than take responsibility for it, you accuse the best man you know of treachery. You are unworthy of Asgard. You are unworthy of your title. You are unworthy of the love which that criminal convinced you so thoroughly he bore for you.” He straightens his back, expression going cold. “You are henceforth no longer my heir as the future head of Asgard.”
Thor storms out of Asgard, intent on finding Luke himself. Fuck Odin. Fuck Asgard. His husband needs him now.
However, when he tries to put gas in his car, he discovers that none of his credit cards are working. He tries the ATM. It tells him that the balance of his collective accounts is $0.
He convinces himself that the kidnappers must have somehow taken all of his money along with Luke and the Tesseract. When he gets home to find Luke’s wedding ring sitting on a note reading “watch the video file on your desktop”, he’s sure it will be the culprit demanding ransom.
But it isn’t. It’s just Luke, speaking to Thor.
Thor. If you’re watching this then I suspect you’ve already figured out what has happened. There is no easy way to say it, but here it is. You will never see me again.”
Thor’s breathing stops. It feels like Luke’s hands are around his throat once more.
The sooner you accept it, the easier it will be for everyone. I’m sure you will ask yourself many questions in the coming days. You will replay every moment we shared together. And people will ask you those same questions. What will you tell your friends and family? All anyone needs to know is this. You missed your days as a bachelor, a different warm body every night. And I was jealous of your prestigious new position as the head of Asgard. There were personality differences, fights, resentment. And people will accept this.
But you will still want to find me, to punish me.
Now listen to me very carefully. If you ever go to the police or try to find me, know this. One, you will fail. You will never find me. Two, Asgard will be persecuted for having been in possession of the Tesseract. As I’m sure you know, owning it is a federal offence that will land anyone who knew of it in jail and bring about the ruin of Asgard. Everyone in your family, everyone in the world will know that Asgard attained its success through illegal means. Don’t put yourself through that. Don’t put your lovely mother through that. Just leave it be.
Okay, this is the hardest part. Saying goodbye. Thor, you must move on with your life. You are a good man with a great heart. If you weren’t, this probably wouldn’t have happened to you. You will find love again. I know it. And you will be the best CEO that Asgard has ever seen. I wish you luck. I wish you happiness.
Goodbye Thor Odinson.
Thor shatters the screen.
Nebula drives them to a lavish hotel on a run down street. They ride the elevator up to the designated rendezvous point. Loki carries the Tesseract in a secure briefcase. He’s still sock footed.
When Gamora knocks, the door opens almost immediately. “What took you so long?” Ronan’s words mirror the ones Gamora asked Loki not 30 minutes ago.
“It hardly matters. We have it.” Loki pushes past Ronan into the room. Gamora and Nebula follow. The suite they’re in has several rooms, each leading further back from the door. Loki walks all the way to the far end. The last room is a dimly lit sitting space. In front of the flickering fireplace, a large man sits in a purple velvet armchair. He doesn’t acknowledge his four underlings walking into the room, just stares intently at the flames in front of him.
“We have it,” Loki says. He sets the briefcase down heavily on the coffee table, opens it.
The man finally looks up, at the Tesseract. Then he looks at Loki. A slow grin spreads over his scarred face. “Good boy.”
Loki resists the urge to prickle at being spoken to like a hound. Instead, he cocks his head with an exaggerated look of sweetness, bordering on sarcastic. “My pleasure.”
The man scoffs a laugh. He stands, towering over everyone in the room, and brings his huge hand up to cup Loki’s cheek. “You’ve done well, son.” He smooths Loki’s hair back, smudges his thumb against the green eyeshadow, then grips Loki’s chin, hard. “And for that I will overlook your unprofessionalism on this job. You can’t hide things from me, boy. If you get distracted on the next job, I will not be so forgiving.” He moves his hand down to cup the front of Loki’s throat, a direct inverse of Thor’s loving grip on the back of his neck. “I trust you remember what happened the last time you defied me.”
Loki swallows beneath the large hand, pushes the phantom chime of classical music from his mind, nods.
“Good. Your next job is in America. You fly out tonight.”
Thanos grins. “That’s my boy.”
Chapter 12: Miserables
Let's see what those heartbroken fools are up to
comments and kudos make my day!
Thor paces his flat like a caged lion. The crunch of glass under his boots goes unheard as steps on the remnants of his laptop. He clenches his fists and imagines a throat beneath them. His mind is ablaze and there’s only one thought left unclouded by smoke.
What the hell is a 'Tesseract'?
With the last dredges of gas in his car, he drives to Asgard. Normally he’s a cautious, polite driver. Today he drives recklessly. The sound of car horns and squealing tires is soothing somehow. By the time he gets there, his mind is oddly quiet.
He confronts Odin and learns that Asgard had indeed been in possession of the illegal item Luke had referenced in his video. The Tesseract. Apparently it’s a piece of AI technology that allowed them to hack into their competitor companies’ firewalls to track all of their personal files and sabotage them by leaking information that would cause controversy and bring the companies down. Much like what would happen to Asgard if word got out that they had been in possession of this Tesseract.
He considers going to the authorities anyway. Let Asgard burn. Let Odin go to jail. His father isn’t the man he thought he was, anyway, and he doesn’t want anything to do with Asgard now that he knows. And he needs to find Luke. Ask him why. Or possibly strangle him. He’s undecided.
But then he thinks of his mother, just as Luke’s video had said to do. Odin told Thor that she doesn’t know. Exposing the truth would hurt her. She would see Odin and their company for the sham that they are. She would lose her husband to a prison cell. He can’t do that to her.
Which leaves Thor with no course of action left to take. Without being able to go to the authorities, he has no way of finding Luke. The man left with all of his money and Odin has cut him off, so he can’t hire a private investigator.
Feeling a need to do something, anything, he searches every corner of his and Luke’s flat. He doesn’t even know what for. He searches for hours. All of Luke’s things are still there. He finds the silk nightgown he bought Luke for his birthday. He finds the matching pairs of boxer briefs with lightning and dagger prints that Luke got for them as a joke, but they both ended up wearing all the time. He finds a knot of black hair in the trash, pulled out of Luke’s brush. He finds the fancy blender that Luke had insisted upon getting so they could have milkshakes whenever they wanted.
He finds Luke’s notebook of poetry, every page a rhyme about Thor’s hair or his lips or his ass. Luke used to read them aloud in his sweet moods. Thor slumps down on Luke’s favorite chair and reads every poem. With every melodramatic word, Thor’s anger melts away into something far worse, something that feels a lot like long, pale fingers wrapping around his heart and tearing. He sits there and cries until dark. Then he climbs into Luke’s side of the bed and continues to cry.
Thor is miserable.
Loki is miserable.
He’s wearing close to nothing and dancing on a stage surrounded by a sea of grasping hands. There is just one pair of hands that he actually means to have touch him tonight, though. The owner of said hands is well into his cups and doing a strange drunken dance of his own where he stands amongst the spectators. It might be awhile until he calms down enough for Loki to be able to corner him.
Loki looks up at the ceiling and dances, wanting to pretend he’s anywhere else. He thinks of the first time he danced with Thor, that time in the bar. His hands had felt so large and strong. The two of them had moved together in perfect rhythm. He had smelled like both sunshine and rain. Loki inhales, imagining it.
His nose wrinkles. The smell of sweat and liquor brings him back to reality. He shakes the distracting thoughts from his mind and turns to reciting his newest mantra.
My name is Lucky. No last name. I left home at 18 and have been estranged from my family ever since. I am not smart or skilled, but I am beautiful. I am young, playful, and always up for a good time. I’m spoiled and a bit of a brat, but never do I truly lose my temper. I don’t take life seriously enough to have anything to get angry over.
Loki looks back to the one he’s here for. The strange man has stopped his drunken dancing and is ogling Loki with his elbows resting on the circular stage. Finally. He’s noticed him.
Loki hooks a leg around the pole and hoists himself onto it, wraps his arms and legs around the cold metal. He remembers how he used to climb Thor’s strong body just like this. Then he lets himself fall back, his legs still clinging to the pole, to rest his hands on the floor behind him. He leans his head back. He is nose to nose with the man he is here for.
En Dwi Gast.
After five days of working at the strip club, Loki’s plan is still going perfectly. He’s gotten much more one on one time with En Dwi since first getting his attention.
He has no idea what to make of the man. He is probably the strangest person Loki’s met. Ever. Loki once again mentally curses Ronan’s files. They always seem to leave out some vital part of the mark’s personality. He’s had many marks over the years and there’s always some inconvenient surprise.
Stephen’s file had left out his tendency to start meditating any time he felt stressed, no matter where he was. Tony’s had left out his proclivity for pop culture references that Loki had to pretend to understand. Brunnhilde’s had left out that, while usually an angry drunk, tequila makes her an over emotional one. Thor’s had left out his inhuman capacity for kindness, when Loki’s plan had revolved around the assumption that he was an arrogant ass.
And then there’s En Dwi. Well, Loki has to admit that there probably isn’t room enough in one folder to list this man’s peculiarities. Loki’s currently straddling the older man and dancing obscenely while En Dwi makes strange cat-like purring noises, interspersed with the occasional yowl.
It’s the fifth day in a row that the strange man has come to the club and requested Loki’s services specifically. Perfectly in accordance with Loki’s plan. The club is unpleasant and the company under him more so, but the relief of once more feeling in control outweighs all that. He spent his entire job conning Thor feeling out of control. But now he’s back to what he knows, which is playing rich fools for all they’re worth.
Right on schedule, En Dwi propositions Loki with the exact offer he’s been counting on. In the middle of a lap dance. Weird guy. “Mm, you know Pet, you’re the most, hmm, delicious thing I’ve found in a, uh, long time.” Loki does a figure eight with his hips that has En Dwi gasping and laughing. “Ah, uh, a pretty thing like you deserves to be, mm, well kept.” Loki grinds down on the older man. “Ah! Ha, yes, you deserve a throne. Luckily,” he grabs Loki’s hips and halts him so that he’s just sitting on the man’s lap, “you are, mm, sitting on a throne of wealth right - right now.”
Loki’s face slices itself into a sharp grin. He is back to doing what he knows, what he’s good at. He won’t screw this up like he did the last one. He can’t allow himself to be distracted again. Which means he has to exercise all thoughts of Thor from his mind. If the golden man knew the real Loki, he would hate him anyway.
When En Dwi grabs his ass, Loki grins wider and grinds into his hands.
Chapter 13: Day 33
Art at the end of the chapter....
Comments and kudos as appreciated as always
In the month following Luke’s disappearance, Thor hardly leaves his flat. He stops socializing, stops going to the gym, and just stops caring. He’s out of a job, so he doesn’t go there either.
Any time one of his friends comes by his flat to try and talk to him, he yells at them until they leave. When his mother comes around with groceries, he sits silently while she talks at him, until she too leaves. None of them know the real reason Luke is gone. He’d rather they stay away than have to lie to them.
He thinks constantly about his time with Luke, going over every moment in his mind. Had he really planned this from the beginning? Or was it an idea that came to him once they were already together?
He starts blaming himself somewhere around day three. Luke must have done this because Thor wasn’t good enough to him. If he had been able to make Luke happy, he wouldn’t have left. If Thor had just paid better attention… How could he have been so blind?
On day 5, he drinks half the liquor in the house.
On day 6, he pours the rest of it down the drain.
On day 10, he puts on the silk nightgown he bought for Luke, stretching it to the point of ripping. He goes to bed in the gown, holes gaping in the seams along the sides. It still smells like him.
On day 10, he puts the matching lightning and dagger patterned boxers Luke bought them down the garbage disposal. It clogs the kitchen pipes. He starts exclusively using the bathroom sink.
On day 16, he chops his hair off. Luke had always loved playing with Thor’s hair. He would bury his fingers in it while Thor fucked him or tangle them in it and shove Thor facedown to fuck him. And sometimes he would just run his fingers through the strands and fold braids into them, weaving poems about their golden color. So Thor cuts it all off. He does a hack job of it, making irregular patterns in the sides. He leaves it.
On day 22, he realizes he’s gained weight. He had lost a significant number of pounds while he’d been with Luke. He’d attributed it to constantly chasing the chaotic man around in zigzags as well as often letting Luke and his sweet tooth have Thor’s portion of dessert. But since Luke left, Thor has gained back all of what he’d lost in the half a year since they’d met, and then some. It’s the heaviest he’s ever been. He can’t bring himself to care.
On day 24, he wrecks everything in the house that still reminds him of Luke. There isn’t much left unscathed. Then he hurls both his and Luke’s wedding rings into the wreckage. He goes to rip off the silver Inguz bracelet too, but stops short. He wonders if Luke still has his matching gold one. He collapses onto the half demolished bed and cries.
On day 26, he starts considering the sleeping pills in the medicine cabinet.
On day 32, he takes the whole bottle. Then he throws them right back up and passes out.
On day 33, he wakes up on the bathroom floor to a loud banging sound. Eventually, he recognizes it as knocking. He makes no move to find out who it is. That is, until it’s joined by a voice.
“Open up! FBI, open up!”
He gets up and scrambles to open the door. On the other side is an intimidating woman in a suit. “Yes ma’am?” he asks, wild eyed.
She flashes a badge. “FBI. There’s a problem with your husband. May I come in? Thank you.” Without waiting for Thor’s permission, she barges past him into the flat.
“Hey, wait a minute,” Thor objects, somewhat half-heartedly.
She looks around at the wrecked flat. “What the hell’s going on in here, buddy?”
“Oh, I - I was - housework.”
She gives him an unimpressed look and continues examining the room. As she inspects the smashed remains of Luke’s favorite chair she asks, “Are you Thor Odinson? Odin Borson’s son?”
“I am, yes. Although he might not like to acknowledge it these days.”
“Married to Luke Sutcliffe?”
“Well, uh… y - yes.”
She turns to look at him sharply. “You don’t sound exactly sure. Are we talking about this,” she pulls a newspaper clipping out of her inner coat pocket, “Luke Sutcliffe?” She brandishes the paper showing his and Luke’s marriage announcement from the newspaper in Thor’s face.
“Yeah… Yeah, that’s him.” Thor furrows his brow uncertainly. Why would an FBI agent be looking for Luke? Then a thought occurs to him. “Oh my god, is he dead?” Tears spring to his eyes as he grabs the officer’s lapels.
“What? No, no.” She pulls back from his hands with a look of disgust. He realizes dispassionately that he probably smells. He can’t remember the last time he showered. “I need to know exactly where he is. Immediately,” she says.
“He - he left me, okay?” Thor sniffs. “All right? He’s gone. He - he took everything.”
The officer shuts her eyes and lets out a harsh breath through her nose, clearly upset. She walks a few feet from him with overly controlled movements. Then punches the wall hard enough to leave a dent. “Shit!”
She visibly tries to calm herself down, still puffing like a dragon. Then she straightens her suit coat and turns back to him. “When did he leave?” she asks with forced calm.
“Um, a month ago.” He’s starting to doubt this woman’s identity. This hardly seems like professional behavior. She hasn’t even told him her name. “Who the hell are you?”
“Federal Bureau of Investigation,” she says impatiently. “Did he leave a video, a sort of explanation video thing--”
“What was your name again?”
“I need to see that video.”
“Let me see that badge again.”
“That doesn’t matter, I need you to listen to me. I need to see the video--”
Thor laughs manically. “You’re not FBI,” His laugh turns to a scowl as he growls, “Where is he?”
She grabs Thor by the front of the shirt and shoves him up against the wall, causing his head to crack deafeningly against it. “Let me see the fucking video!”
When his vision clears, Thor shoves her back, sending her flying into a broken table. “Where is he?!” he bellows.
She comes back and grabs his arm, yanking it painfully behind his back. “I need you to listen to me!”
Thor grabs hold of her with his other arm and throws his body forward, sending her flying over his shoulder onto the shredded couch. “Where is he? You know where he is!” He jumps on top of her, keeping her pinned and warding off her flailing arms. “Who are you?!”
She kicks and punches him, several good hits landing heavily on his face and stomach. He can feel blood dripping down his brow.
Finally she cries, “I’m his wife!”
“Yeah, that’s right asshole. He’s my husband too, just like you.”
Thor scrambles off of her and falls off the couch.
“We married the same man and he took us both,” she pants.
Thor just stares at her, too shocked to start processing. Luke has… a wife?
She continues seething. “He took me for everything I had. Lost me my place at Valkyrie Industries, stole every last cent to my name, broke my goddamn heart. That fucking bastard--”
Thor hits her. “Don’t call him that.”
She straightens her head back up and spits blood onto the cushion, smirks. “So, you gonna help me find him?”
Chapter 14: The Photograph
Heads up, I have this fic drafted out all the way to the end, but I'm editing and adding/subtracting scenes as I go. So if you have suggestions/preferences don't hesitate to shoot them my way! I'm always open to feedback. Shoutout to hebravelyranaway for offering up a scene request already <3
Thor learns her name is Brunnhilde and she’s from Liverpool. They sit out on the balcony with ice packs pressed to their various hurts. They tell each other their stories.
“I knew him as Lachlan. We met at Alcoholics Anonymous. When I first saw him, I thought he was some kind of bad boy. He rode up to the meeting on a bright red motorcycle, dressed completely in leather. But then he got up in front of the group and told his story. He was a war vet, like me. He didn’t talk nearly so harsh as he looked. It was like seeing a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Most men are the opposite, you know,” she says with a smirk.
Thor snorts. “Luke was more like a snake in a suit.”
She gives him an odd look, but continues. “He was a bike mechanic. He taught me to ride. And he was a Buddhist, which suited him. He was the most peaceful person I’d ever met. He never raised his voice or had a mean word to say about anybody. We only dated for four months before he proposed. But I didn’t hesitate. Guys like him don’t come along every day.” She pauses, looking out over the view of the city. “We were only married for three days before he disappeared. He took all my money. And - and something that lost me my job as Vice President of Valkyrie Industries.”
Thor looks up in surprise. “You worked for Valkyrie Industries? With Hela?
She raises an eyebrow. “Yeah, she’s the president. You know her?”
“She’s my sister. Well, sort of. She’s 15 years older than me and our father disowned and excommunicated her when I was 10, so I never really knew her.”
Brunnhilde blinks at him. “Didn’t you say that your father just disowned you too?”
He scratches the back of his neck sheepishly. “Yeah, I guess you could say he has kind of a go-to way for dealing with his problems.”
Brunnhilde snorts at that. “Sounds like. Well, anyway, after Lachlan left I fell off the wagon and drank myself into a stupor for several months. Then, one day I had the thought that I should be out there tracking him down so I can beat his face in. So I got started searching. I got no where, of course. Really, it was just by luck that I made a trip to London to visit my mother and picked up a newspaper to find Lachlan’s face staring back at me.”
Thor is still trying to process everything that’s happened in the last hour. “Okay, so… Luke pretended to be this bad boy biker guy that--”
“Stop. Stop that,” she scolds. “Luke doesn’t exist, okay? Lachlan probably doesn’t either. He’s a con artist and--”
“No, no. I see how it looks like that,” Thor hurries to correct. The idea of Luke not being real is too horrifying to consider. “But our - our relationship, the way we were with each other--”
“What? He completed you? He made you a better person? Well, Lachlan made me finally feel human and get sober for the first time since I went to war. He was the best thing that ever happened to me. Wake up, idiot. That’s what he does.”
Cowed, Thor quiets.
“You need to accept that he never cared about you. He never cared about me. He played us to get our money.”
“So why didn’t you go the police?” Thor asks, indignant.
She looks at him warily. “He didn’t just take my money. I told you before that he took something else that lost me my job.” Thor nods, vaguely remembering that. “He stole something from Valkyrie Industries, an illegal piece of technology called the ‘Aether’. I didn’t know of it before that. Hela kept it secret. Apparently, she was somehow able to use it to wipe the hard drives of all our competitors’ computer systems. I guess that's why our company was so successful. She told me that if I ever went to the police, she would implicate me.” She looks sad, betrayed, confused.
Thor understands those feelings perfectly. A little too perfectly. “He took something illegal from Asgard as well. Something I didn’t know about. My father had something called the ‘Tesseract’ that allowed him to track our competitor companies’ systems for sensitive information on their top execs. He used that information to cause scandals that brought their companies down.”
Brunnhilde looks at him wide-eyed. “That’s gotta be connected! He must be specifically targeting people with access to illegal technologies.”
“Yeah, but how? You and I didn’t even know our companies had them. How would he have known?”
“I don’t know,” she concedes.
They sit in silence for a while. Thor can’t seem to wrap his head around this whole illegal technology dilema thingy. Hell, he’s still trying to picture Luke having an alternate life where he has a wife and rides a motorcycle. “Do you have a picture of… Lachlan?”
She gives him a long look before pulling one up on her phone and handing it to him.
The picture is of his Luke. He looks exactly the same. Except for how he doesn’t. His features are unchanged and he’s still pale as a ghost and thin as a whip, but everything else is different. He has curly red hair that reaches to his shoulders. He’s wearing a garishly decorated leather jacket that Luke wouldn’t have been caught dead in, or so Thor would have thought before seeing this picture. Even his expression looks different. It’s spread in a wide, carefree smile and shows a kind of peace that Thor never saw on Luke’s face.
Suddenly he feels ill.
He pulls up a picture of Luke on his own phone. He sees the subtle disquiet that always seemed to haunt his love’s eyes, never quite at peace. Thor had known there was something broken inside of Luke, had strived to be the glue that could hold him together. He would have spent the rest of his life happily helping Luke fill the fractures in his mind. Now Thor feels as though his own mind has been shattered.
Amidst the rubble of his thoughts, an idea makes it through. “Hey, what do you know about facial recognition software?”
Brunnhilde looks at him in surprise. Then she grins. “Thor Odinson, I take back what I said about you being an idiot.”
They find a guy that offers a facial recognition service. The shop is full of binoculars, hidden cameras, and other weird spy-esque stuff. The fee for running a picture through facial recognition is $1,000. Between the cash in their wallets and pawning their watches, they have just enough to cover it, plus $20 to spare.
“How long before we know the results?” Brunnhilde asks the guy once they’ve paid.
“An hour, a day, a week, who knows,” he says, dismissively. “I’ll call you when I have something.”
After they leave, they return to Thor’s flat, where he sets to clearing the broken things out of the living room to give them a place to sit while they wait.
“I’m starving,” Brunnhilde says. She opens his fridge. It’s empty, except for a block of cheese. She opens the cabinets. They only contain two boxes of poptarts and a can of corn.
They use their last $20 to get groceries. Then they finish clearing out the living room and sit on the shredded couch to eat. They seem to have an unspoken agreement to avoid the topic of their shared husband. Instead, they talk about their mothers, their childhoods, their tastes in music. It would almost feel like a date, except that they’re here because they are both in love with the same man. Eventually, they fall asleep on the couch, half draped over each other.
Thor wakes up early the next morning to his phone vibrating in his pocket. He shoves Brunnhilde’s foot off his face and sits up. She stops snoring and lets out an undignified grunt. Thor looks at the caller ID. It’s the guy they hired yesterday. He answers eagerly. “Yes, hello?” Brunnhilde sits up to listen.
“Thor Odinson?” the guy asks.
“Yes, that’s me.”
“I’ve got something.”
They rush to the shop where the guy works. As soon as they’re inside, the guy is pulling out a folder. “I got a hit. It looks like your guy is a model. The pictures you gave me matched with a nude shot.” He smirks.
Thor growls at the letch.
Brunnhilde grabs the folder and snaps it open. Inside there’s just a single picture. It’s Luke, but with long blonde hair. He’s completely naked except for some smokey makeup on his eyes, bright red lipstick, and pump heels. His pubes and sparse leg hair are shaved away.
Brunnhilde makes a curious noise. “He almost looks like a woman.”
Thor glances at her. He supposes Luke hadn’t told her he was genderqueer, seeing as he had only figured that out once he was with Thor. Then he realizes that even that may have been a lie. If Lachlan and Luke are so completely different, most of what both he and Brunnhilde know of their husband was probably just an act.
He feels sick again, so he looks back at the guy. “Where’s the rest of the information? Did you find a location?”
“Oh, yeah, I got his exact address.”
Thor and Brunnhilde look at each other in awe. “What is it?”
“It’ll be another $5,000 if you want that information.”
“What? You said it was $1,000,” Brunnhilde says.
“I said it was $1,000 to find your guy. It’s $5,000 if you want the intel.”
“What? That’s bullshit!” Brunnhilde yells.
Thor scowls deeply. “You scammed us!”
“Hey, it’s my establishment you’re in. I make the rules. Now pay or get out.”
Thor picks a third option. He grabs the guy and drags him out over the desk. He fists his hands in the guy’s shirt and lifts him up to his tiptoes.
“What. Is. The address?”
Address in hand, they leave the store chipper. Until they realize.
“Hold on. He lives in New York. How are we going to afford flying to the United States?”
They dig Thor and Luke’s wedding rings out of the debris in Thor’s flat. They pawn them to pay for plane tickets.
When they land in New York, they head straight to the address. They decide to skip the FBI shtick, since it hadn’t worked too well last time. They give a taxi driver the address and find themselves distributed in front of a very large, expensive condominium in Manhattan. The front door is locked.
Thor huffs. “Now what? How are we supposed to get inside?”
Brunnhilde rolls her eyes and and pulls a lock pick out of her jacket pocket.
Thor baulks. “Where did you get one of those?”
“I stole it from the asshole we hired to find our guy.” Thor remembers all the weird spy stuff the guy had for sale, has a thought to reprimand Brunnhilde for stealing. He doesn’t.
He stands watch while she works. It takes a long time. “Have you ever done this before?”
“Shockingly, no,” she snaps, “I’ve never had occasion to break into a building before.”
Luckily, no one comes along in the hour it takes her to get it unlocked. When she does, Thor lets out a loud whoop before she slaps her hand over his mouth. “We’re sneaking in, remember? It’d be best not to draw attention to ourselves.”
Inside, they find a directory for where each apartment is located. They peruse it until they locate the correct one. It’s the penthouse, which takes up the entire top floor of the building.
“Hot damn, our guy is rich,” Brunnhilde whistles.
“Well, he did take all of our money,” Thor points out. She winces.
They get in the elevator and ride it all the way up. It leaves them in a small entry area in front of a single door. They knock.
They wait for a solid minute before the door opens to reveal a short, fit middle aged guy with a goatee. He’s wearing a bathrobe over a tank top and pajama pants, rubbing his eyes sleepily. “Yeah? Who’re you?”
Thor and Brunnhilde glance at each other. Well, this isn’t what they expected. “Who are you?” Brunnhilde asks.
Goatee guy stops rubbing his eye and looks at them more carefully. “I asked first. Also, you’re the assholes that knocked on my door. So let me repeat it for you. Who the hell are you?”
Thor shakes himself and pulls out the picture of blonde model Luke, folded to just show his head. “Do you know this man?”
Goatee guy glares, but looks down at the picture. Then his eyes blow wide and he inhales sharply.
“That’s my wife!”
Chapter 15: Commonalities
The Revengers take on a slightly different configuration in this AU...... but fear not, Bruce will make his appearance later!
“Your wife?” Brunnhilde and Thor ask in unison. They look back down at the picture. Well, he does look quite feminine. But still, what?
Goatee guy’s face turns panicked. “Wait, is she dead?”
“What? No… he - she is--” Thor stutters.
The door shuts in their faces. They blink at it.
Brunnhilde curses colorfully. "He isn't here. This is just another poor sap like us."
Thor looks a Brunnhilde for a moment and then back at the door. He yells through it, “We’re looking for her! We’ve tracked her all the way from London!”
The door opens a crack to reveal a suspicious glare on goatee guy’s face. “Why are you looking for her?”
Brunnhilde grabs the picture from Thor and holds it up next to her phone, which shows a picture of Lachlan. “This person is my husband too.”
Thor pulls up a picture of Luke on his phone and adds that to the lineup. “And mine.”
Goatee guy baulks at the pictures and then at Thor and Brunnhilde’s faces. “Fuck. London you say? Well that explains why I couldn’t find her.”
“Did she con you too?” Thor asks. He had known Luke as genderqueer. He’d told Thor he was fine with most any pronouns, so the pronoun switch is not difficult. He can see that Brunnhilde, however, has questions burning on her tongue about it.
Goatee guy sighs. “Come in.”
He leads them to sit in a large, modern living room that connects to a raised bar in an open floor plan. One entire wall is made of glass, looking out over Manhattan. “Drink? He asks.
“Please. Vodka,” Brunnhilde requests. Thor gives her a concerned look. Hadn’t she said she was in AA? She rolls her eyes at him. “I told you I fell off the wagon when Lachlan left. I have no intention of hopping back on anytime soon.”
Thor decides it’s not really his place to question that. “I’ll have a scotch, neat.” He thinks of Luke. Their shared taste for scotch was what had led to their first interaction.
Goatee guy brings the drinks over to the sitting area. Thor realizes that maybe he should find out what to call him, other than ‘goatee guy’. “Uh… what’s your name?”
Goatee guy quickly lowers the drink from his lips, laughing. “Guess I forgot to introduce myself before inviting you inside my house. I’m Tony Stark.”
Thor and Brunnhilde both let out surprised gasps. “Tony Stark? As in head of Stark Industries?” Brunnhilde asks.
“The former head,” Tony corrects. “Back when there was still a body.” He takes a long pull of his cocktail. “If you’ve paid any attention to the news, you’ll know that my company went under last year. It no longer exists.”
Thor does remember hearing about that. Stark Industries was the biggest high tech weapons manufacturer in the world.
Tony goes on, “When Elle left, she took everything. Much like she did to you, I imagine. And it wasn’t just my personal accounts she drained. She stole something that gave her access to the company funds and drained all of that too. Of course, then we didn’t have money to continue operating. We tried to get money from investors, but everyone abandoned us. I couldn’t tell anyone why we were suddenly bankrupt, Elle made sure of that when she blackmailed me. And with the sort of people who invest in weapons manufacturing, exposing that you aren’t producing enough money to fund yourself this far into the game makes you a bad investment. Of course, without money, we had to declare bankruptcy and the company closed. I only have this place still,” he motions of the penthouse around them, “because I inherited it from my father. It was paid off long ago.”
Thor is actually kind of impressed. As awful as it is that Luke would do this to all of them, bringing down a giant company like Stark Industries is damn impressive. But he puts on a somber face and gives Tony his condolences.
Tony waves off Thor and Brunnhilde’s attempts at comfort. “All of us combining our collective misery over being betrayed by the same wife won’t get us anywhere.” He drains the last of his drink.
Brunnhilde flaps her hand at him. “Hold up, pause, pause. Tony, you keep referring to him as ‘she’ and ‘wife’. And Thor, you keep switching pronouns! Someone explain.”
Tony looks surprised. “Elle was trans. Was she not with you?”
Brunnhilde shakes her head. “I knew him as Lachlan, a cis man.”
“And Luke was genderqueer. He didn’t really have a preference with pronouns. He generally just went by he/him.”
Brunnhilde sighs and reclines into an ungraceful sprawl on her armchair. “So he wasn’t even the same goddamned gender with any of us. This guy really has no limits.”
Thor considers that. It gives him some hope that maybe Luke being genderqueer is the true one. It’s certainly the middle ground of all of them. Now that he thinks about it, it’s even consistent with what Luke had said about having identity issues from trying to be what other people wanted for so long. He has a hard time believing there wasn’t some truth to that.
“Well, fuck. Not even really trans. I’ll be.” Tony drains the rest of his glass.
Brunnhilde lifts her heard from where it’s slumped against the chair and looks at Tony. “We don’t know that,” she says kindly. “Maybe this person really is trans and just plays men for some of their roles? We each knew them as a different gender. Any one of them could be true. Or none of them”
“How about we all just continue to use the pronouns that feel right to us? When we find him, then he can tell us the correct one himself,” Thor says, with humor. They agree.
Thor recalls something else Tony had said in his spiel about Elle. “Tony, you said Elle got access to your company’s money and was able to drain it. How did she do that?”
Tony looks uncomfortable. “ She, uh, used a piece of tech that she stole from me to do it.”
Thor and Brunnhilde share a look. “What kind of tech would let someone do that?” Brunnhilde asks.
Tony clears his throat nervously. “Okay, well, you guys have to promise not to turn me in to the cops if I tell you. Although, seeing as you haven’t gone to them already, I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one she blackmailed.”
Thor and Brunnhilde both nod.
Tony sighs. “My father started the company. But back then, no one believed he could make the kind of high tech weapons that he claimed he could. No one would fund his research. But he was able to attain a piece of AI tech that could siphon money from the other companies in the weapons industry. He called it the Scepter. Elle used it against Stark Industries the same way my father used it against those other companies.” He looks at them imploringly. “But I haven’t used it since he died. It’s been locked away, unused, for years.”
Thor gives him an understanding smile. “My father also had a piece of illegal technology that targeted our competitors. So did Hela, Brunnhilde’s boss. We think he’s targeting people with powerful illegal technologies.”
Tony looks gobsmacked. “There are more of them? You think that’s why she chose us?”
“We don’t know how they’re related, but it’s too big of a coincidence. He went into this knowing that we had them,” Brunnhilde says.
“But if he was just after illegal tech, why did he bother taking all of our money too?” Thor realizes it’s a stupid question the moment it leaves his mouth.
In a tone that tells him she agrees with that assessment, Brunnhilde responds, “Why wouldn’t he? As your spouse he already has access to your accounts and he’s already stealing stuff anyway. Might as well. Besides, he needs money to fund his little con.”
“Well, I guess we’ll just have to ask her about that too, once we find her.” Tony claps his hands together. “Now. When Elle first left, I was too busy trying to save my company to be able to do much in the way of looking for her. And after I lost the company on top of losing her, I was too depressed to look for her. But now I have my own Turner and Hooch here to motivate me. So tell me, how did you track our Hyde this far?” He looks at them expectantly.
Thor clears his throat. “Well, Brunnhilde found me when she saw Luke and my engagement in a newspaper. Luke was who Elle was when I knew him. Then, Brunnhilde and I scrounged up enough money to have his face run through facial recognition software. That led us here.”
Tony hums. “So you have no plan for where to go from here?”
“Not really, no.”
Tony stands and collects their glasses, which have all been emptied in record time. “Well, I have an idea.” He walks to the bar, sets down the dirty glasses, and then walks out of the room down a hallway.
Thor looks after him and then turns to Brunnhilde. “Are we meant to follow?” She shrugs. Before they can decide, Tony is coming back. He’s dragging a large black trash bag behind him. Thor has the morbid thought that he has Luke’s body in there.
Then Tony upends the bag onto the floor in the middle of the room. “This is all the stuff I was left with that reminded me of Elle. Maybe we can find some clues in here. Take a look. See if anything stands out to you.”
Thor and Brunnhilde set to sifting. Thor finds paintings, dresses, and an alarming number of sex toys. Brunnhilde uncovers a stack of photos showing Luke with long blonde hair - Elle, Thor corrects himself - wearing an elegant dress, her wrist prominently displaying some kind of high tech smart watch. They are clearly model shots. He thinks of the nude photo they found. “Tony, was Elle a model?”
He smiles. “Yeah, she was. Striking pictures, huh? Those are from the job I hired her for. That was how we met. I was the first to hire her since she moved here from France.”
“Wait, France?” Brunnhilde asks. “Was Elle not British?”
“No, she was French. She was British with you?”
“Yeah,” Thor says, “Luke had a super posh British accent.”
Brunnhilde snorts. “Lachlan was full on cockney.”
They all shake their heads at yet another earth shattering realization about just how badly they were fooled. It’s actually starting to lose the shock value by this point.
“At least we know he’s a natural redhead. That’s one thing,” Brunnhilde says.
Thor frowns. “No, he has naturally black hair.”
She scoffs. “Dude, have you ever seen a caucasian guy that pale with naturally black hair?”
“His pubes were black.”
Brunnhilde blinks. “Lachlan’s pubes were red.”
They both turn to Tony. “Hey, don’t look at me. Elle waxed everything.” He tilts his head to the side. “But yikes. That means with at least one of you she dyed her pubes. Commitment, that.”
“So we really know truly nothing about him.” Brunnhilde sighs.
“That gives me a new idea,” Tony announces. He walks out of the room again. This time he returns with a rolling whiteboard. He positions it to stand in front of the seating area and uses the sleeve of his robe to wipe some equations off of it.
“We should brainstorm for similarities between Lachlan, Luke, and Elle. If we can find some commonalities it might help us learn something about the real person behind them all.” He stands by the whiteboard, brandishing a thick, black marker.
“Good Idea!” Thor exclaims. He can see how Tony managed to head up such a successful company for so long. The guy is smart. Thor moves to a chair closer to the whiteboard.
Brunnhilde does not seem impressed, merely grunting in response. But she also moves closer to the whiteboard, sprawling on the floor in front of it.
“Okay, Point Break. What’s something about Luke that stuck out?” Tony asks.
Thor glares at him for the nickname. Tony just shrugs at him. Thor huffs and says, “He really liked sweets.”
“Elle avoided high calorie food.”
“Lachlan preferred spicy food.”
“Okay, Brienne of Tarth. Your turn, go,” Tony directs.
Brunnhilde just looks confused at her own nickname. Apparently she decides it isn’t worth asking. “Well, he was a war veteran.”
“Not Luke either.”
The whiteboard remains empty.
“Elle had a strained relationship with her parents.”
“Lachlan’s parents, or I guess someone he hired to pose as them, were at our wedding.”
“Luke’s parents were dead.”
Thor thinks for a moment, then says, “Luke had a weird sensitivity about his neck.”
“I never noticed that.”
Tony snaps his fingers. “Elle had a severe allergy to shellfish. Avoided it like crazy.”
“Lachlan loved seafood.”
“Luke would eat seafood, he wasn’t allergic.”
Brunnhilde’s shrugs. “Lachlan was the biggest coffee addict I’ve ever met.”
“Elle too. Even at night I’d catch her drinking it.”
“Yeah, Luke was a total grouch if he didn’t get his coffee!”
Thor and Brunnhilde jump up in excitement.
“Shit guys, we got something!” Tony hurriedly scribbles it on the whiteboard. Then they all stand back and look expectantly at the messily scrawled, Likes coffee .
After a few long moments, Tony deflates. “I guess that doesn’t really tell us much, does, it?”
Discouraged, they sit back down and go back to thinking.
After a few minutes, Brunnhilde slaps the floor loudly. “Guys, we’ve been complete idiots! Lachlan, Luke, Elle… All of his fake names either start with or sound like the letter ‘L’.”
“Oh my god, you’re right!” Tony writes it down. They stand back again to look at the whiteboard.
“That still doesn’t really get us anywhere.” They go back to thinking.
Thor perks up when he thinks of something. “Luke was genderqueer. And Elle was transgender. Brunnhilde, did Lachlan fit into the LGBTQI+ community in any way?”
“Not really. I mean, he was cool with all that, but he was a straight cis man.”
“But still, it’s common to two of them. Does that count?” They decide it doesn’t.
This happens a lot. Lachlan and Luke were both British, but Elle was French. Both Lachlan and Elle came from troubled roots, but Luke didn’t. Luke and Lachlan both displayed short tempers at times, but Elle was meek. Elle and Luke loved reading, but Lachlan liked movies.
Ninety minutes later they have four things written on the whiteboard:
Eats a lot
Hates classical music
“Well that tells us a fat load of nothing.”
Chapter 16: Swallow Some Camels
Um. I had way too much fun with this.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They’ve been sitting dejectedly for a long time, trying and failing to think of new ideas. At some point, Tony had taken the time to print out pictures of Elle, Luke and Lachlan. He is currently sitting on the floor looking at them. “God, she looks goth as hell with black hair. Straight up Morticia.”
Thor glares at him.
“Hey, buddy, I didn’t mean it as a personal insult to your taste or anything. I just… she looks so different.”
Thor sighs. “I know."
Tony looks back at the pictures. “What was she like with - with you guys?”
Brunnhilde’s eyes are distant when she replies. “Lachlan was… gentle. He was a war vet turned biker and when I first met him I thought he was a total fuck boy. I wanted nothing to do with him. But then I saw his compassion. He was always so nice to everybody. Well, unless someone touched his bike without permission. That glare could set a person on fire. But with me he was always kind. And he was quiet. He rarely felt much need for words. He was a Buddhist and meditated a lot. He taught me the value of silence. And he had the best smile. It just radiated calming, joyful vibes. He always wore it too, was always smiling. And he was endlessly patient. With me. And my problems. He looked like a total bad boy, always wearing that damn leather jacket. But he was the gentlest person I’d ever met.”
Lachlan sounds so different from Luke. Thor can’t picture his love as a smiley, quiet, leather-clad biker. It feels surreal to even acknowledge that they’re the same person. It makes him itch.
Tony is smiling, though. “Elle was gentle too. She was so sweet and giving. But so strong. She was a model, you know. She’d had some success in France and had just moved to New York to try and get her start here. But it wasn’t for personal gain. She wanted to make trans people visible and accepted by the whole world. She endeavored to help lead that charge. And she was always so encouraging of my own ambitions. She would talk as though I’d already achieved the thing I was aiming for, like it was a foregone conclusion that I would succeed. She made me feel like I could do anything.”
Thor is talking before he even knows he means to.
“Luke wasn’t gentle. He wasn’t sweet either. He was like a rose: it looks beautiful, but when you pick it up it cuts you. When we first met, he always tried to be so in control of himself, all the time. Always suave and classy. But there were cracks in the mask. Every now and then I’d get a peek at his snark or his biting anger. The more time we spent together, the more that mask seemed to fall away to reveal the man I really fell in love with. That man could spin the most complex of insults at the drop of a dime. And he was funny, painfully so. He constantly had me in stitches with his wit. He was generally the smartest person in the room, and he wouldn’t hesitate to inform you of it. He was like a self-crowned prince, always strutting around, expecting the world to kneel at his feet. But, more than anything, he was exciting. Being with him was like being on a roller coaster. I always imagined his mind must be a chaotic place. One minute he would snuggle up to you and the next he was pushing you away. He could go from plying you with compliments just to turn them all into insults with a single word in the next moment. He would be yelling at me one minute and tearing my clothes off the next. I once had the thought that, if the mood struck him, he might poison me just to to be able to give me the antidote.”
When Thor realizes how long he’s been talking, he stops, looks up. Brunnhilde and Tony’s eyes are a little wide.
Tony laughs. “Damn, Point Break. You have quite the bizarre type. Guy sounds exhausting.”
“He sounds like a dick,” Brunnhilde supplies.
Thor frowns. “No, he was just…” He tries to find the words. “It almost felt like he should have been some kind of alien or even a cosmic being. He was so peculiar and so self assured in being contrary. Everything about him seemed to be an exception to the world around him. He never did what was expected or said what was on other people’s minds. Being around him felt special because you knew you would never meet another of his kind.”
“I guess I sort of know what you mean,” Tony says. “Elle was like no one I’d ever met.” He laughs. “This one time I came home to find her sitting in the bathtub, which she had filled with orange wedges. She said it was some sort of detoxifying thing that would draw all the bad stuff out through her pores. So I joined her in the tub, oranges squishing between my toes, and proceeded to draw something else out of her.” He winks.
“Oh, ew Tony!” Brunnhilde shouts. “We don’t wanna hear about your sex life.”
“Oh, if you think that’s kinky--”
“Brunnhilde, what’s one of your favorite memories of Lachlan?” Thor cuts in, not wanting to hear where that was going. The thought of Luke sleeping with Tony is… distressing.
Brunnhilde stops glaring at Tony to answer Thor. “Hmm. I guess the time he took me on his motorcycle for the first time. It felt special because I knew he barely let anyone so much as touch the thing. He drove me out into the hills and at the top of the highest one he stopped. We just sat there and looked out over the horizon for a really long time. It was the first time I’d been so comfortable being with someone for so long without words.”
Thor laughs a bit. “Luke was rarely quiet. Or, at least, it never felt like it because he could say twice as much with just his facial expressions as most people could in a thousand words. But truly, he almost always had some commentary to contribute to any given situation.”
Tony laughs. “Yeah, Elle could be quite the chatterbox. This one time I took her stargazing and she spent the entire time naming the constellations and galaxies.”
That reminds Thor of a memory that always makes him smile. “I tried to stargaze with Luke once, too. I had gone to the bathroom in the middle of the night and noticed the stars were far brighter than usual. I went and woke Luke. He told me, ‘You’d better have a damned good reason for pulling me out of bed at 2am.’ I took him out onto the balcony, pointed up, and told him, ‘The stars are trying to shine as brightly as my love for you tonight.’ He said ‘Aw, how romantic.’ Then he stalked back into our bedroom, shut the door, and locked it. I was stuck out on the balcony for the rest of the night.”
Tony and Brunnhilde give Thor a funny look as he smiles as the memory.
Brunnhilde clears her throat. “Lachlan was pretty poetic about stars and rainbows and everything like that. He could make any little thing into a sign from the universe or whatever. I used to tease him for being too romantic.”
Tony grins. “I always teased Elle that she loved her books more than she loved me. She was constantly reading and quoting stuff back to me.”
Thor grins. “Luke was always one for words too, but he often chose odd ones. My friends and I always gave him a hard time for his weird way of talking. His nickname for me was Oaf, which is just ridiculous. Who uses that word? And he had all these funny little sayings. Like, ‘ Swallow some camels .’ He always insisted it meant--”
“ ‘ Admit you’re wrong ’,” Brunnhilde completes for him.
Tony smiles, eyes far away. “She said that to me too.” Then his brow furrows. “Wait, that’s a commonality, right? Why would she say such a strange thing as part of all three characters? That’s gotta be the real person behind them all talking.”
Brunnhilde’s eyes widen. “Hey, you’re right. Thor, you said he used a lot of weird sayings. What were some others?”
“Uh, once he told me I’d done him a ‘ bear favor ’. He didn’t even bother explaining that one, just said the name of some French guy.”
“Jean de La Fontaine,” Tony fills in. “He’s a French poet. Elle told me ‘ bear favor ’ was from some fable of his. It means like, having good intentions, but doing more harm than good.” Tony scratches his head. “But Elle was French, or so I thought. I figured that was why she knew it. Maybe she really is French?”
There’s a note of hope to Tony’s voice when he says the last part. Thor understands it. He too can’t help hoping for evidence that the man he’d known hadn’t been a complete lie.
“Hey, that’s actually a good point,” Brunnhilde says. “Lachlan always seemed to expect people to already know the meanings behind his weird sayings. I always figured that was just him trying to be funny, but maybe he really does think those are normal sayings? Maybe in French they are normal?” She grabs her phone and starts typing.
“What are you doing?” Thor asks.
“I’m Googling ‘swallow some camels’ to find out if it has French origins.”
Excited at the prospect of finally finding something useful about the real Loki, Thor and Tony scramble up and over to Brunnhilde where she’s lounging on the floor. They both crouch next to her, looking over either of her shoulders. The search leads them to several sites which all agree that ‘ swallow some camels ’ is a Norwegian saying.
“Ah man, it’s not French,” Tony says. “I guess she just collects weird sayings from random languages. Strange hobby.”
“Wait. I want to check something else.” Brunnhilde types “ bear favor ” into the search bar. She taps on a result explaining the origins of the term. The site informs them that “ bear favor ” does indeed come from a French fable. However, it also says that it’s commonly used as a saying in several other countries. Including Norway.
“He’s not French. He’s Norwegian,” Thor says, gobsmacked. Did they just learn their first real bit of information about the man behind all of their spouses? “Hey, type in ‘ Norwegian sayings ’ so we can see if we recognize any more.”
Brunnhilde types it in and taps a result that says, “ 50 Norwegian Sayings that Make No Sense ”.
They’ve been in hysterics for nearly an hour.
“ ‘ Like the yoke in the egg ’!” Tony exclaims between giggles, “She said that to me all the time.”
“Me too!” Brunnhilde laughs.
“Oh, look at this one,” Thor points to the next on the list. “Luke always used to ask if I was ‘ born behind a brown cheese ’.”
Brunnhilde gives him that funny look again. “This says that’s an insult. It means ‘ you’re stupid ’.”
Tony’s still snickering when he asks, “Did she even try to pretend she liked you, Point Break? I mean, she at least did a good job faking being in love with me, Brunnhilde too by the sound of it. But she called you stupid, nicknamed you Oaf, and locked you out of your own bedroom. I dunno man, sounds like Morticia kinda disliked you.”
Brunnhilde smirks. “Yeah, I’ve gotta say, Thor. It sounds like he pretty much hated you. Enough that he couldn’t keep it hidden under ‘Luke’, even with his acting skills.”
“No, no, that was just always his way,” Thor hurries to correct them. “He didn’t mean any harm by it. You know, he’s like a cat. You can only pet them for so long before they scratch you.”
They both just look at him.
“But like, a friendly scratch! Or like, uh-- a love bite.” Thor demonstrates with a delicate bite to his own hand.
Tony and Brunnhilde both laugh so hard they fall over.
Thor and Brunnhilde crash in Tony’s spare rooms. The penthouse really is giant.
As Thor settles in, Tony and Brunnhilde’s words reverberate in his mind. He tries not to let it get to him. But he’s already doubting everything so much, that he has to wonder. Did Luke really hate him? The one good thing about discovering that he hadn’t been the only target of Luke’s was that he could finally stop blaming himself. Luke was a con artist. He had planned to take everything from the beginning. But this also meant that nothing about their relationship, about Luke’s personality could be trusted.
He now has two other accounts of the same man which report different food preferences, genders, temperaments, nationalities, everything. They’ve all but confirmed that he’s actually from Norway, so even that beautiful accent of his was fake. Thor has to doubt that any of it was real. And now he has to doubt whether Luke ever even liked him at all. Because Tony and Brunnhilde have a point. Luke had not started out prickly and sharp tongued when Thor first met him. That had only been revealed when Thor clawed at the mask. He had even intentionally annoyed Luke just to get a rise out of the man. But what if what was under that mask was not the quirky, unique personality he thought it was? What if it was Luke’s hatred for him leaking out and clashing with the carefully constructed ‘Luke mask’?
Part of Thor feels guilty for even considering that everything he loved about Luke had been fake or merely provoked out of hatred. It feels like betraying him. Another part of Thor wants to fling every biting accusation at Luke that he can. Everything hurts and he’s desperate to feel the anger that he knows should be his reaction. But he just misses Luke so goddamn much.
Bear in mind that Tony and Brunnhilde are both in chaotic mental states, just like Thor. They don't really intend to be mean. Imagine three ex-spouses of the same person sitting together. There would be camaraderie but there would also be some competition, some jealousy, some friction. At least at first.
Chapter 17: Back to School
The next morning, the three of them sit down for breakfast. Evidently, Tony can still afford food, which is more than Thor or Brunnhilde can say for themselves at the moment. Apparently, when the company closed several months back, Tony had to sell all of their equipment. What little of the proceeds didn’t go to all the employees and clients that he owed money to is now his grocery fund. It’s gotten desperately low, though.
As they eat, Thor muses aloud. “You know, it’s kind of funny that Luke - or, whoever he is - is actually Norwegian. It’s a funny coincidence. My ancestors are all Norwegian. My father even insisted upon naming me by patronym, Odinson. He’s Borson. My grandmother taught me quite a bit of the language, too. I ended up taking Norwegian in college as an easy elective, since I already knew quite a bit. In addition to the modern language, we learned some about Nordic runes. I liked them a lot and when Luke and I were together I bought us matching bracelets with the Inguz rune on them.” He holds up his wrist to show them. “I wonder what went through his head…”
Thor trails off, wondering if there was any truth to that day at all. Was Luke really so good an actor? He had seemed so distressed when he realized he’d forgotten their anniversary. Had he just been laughing at the British guy giving the Norwegian guy a Nordic gift? Did that count as cultural appropriation? Had he found it rude? Tacky?
Brunnhilde is looking at him thoughtfully. “Did you talk about your Norwegian roots much with Luke?”
“Not really. It’s not the kind of thing that comes up very often.”
“Wait, this could be useful,” Tony jumps in. “Think really hard. Did she ever say anything about it? Did she ever reference a specific place?”
Thor thinks for a minute. “There was one thing… I made a joke one time, saying if I ever visited Norway I should take a hammer and pretend to be the God of Thunder since I looked so much like an actor who played him in a movie we watched. Luke scoffed and said, ‘ Knowing you, while there you’d be stupid enough to to go to Hammer Fest, thinking it’s a festival of hammers honoring the god. Well, don’t. It’s more like a festival of shit .’” Thor scratches his beard. “It’s not a place, but how many many festivals named for hand tools can there be?”
“Point Break, that’s brilliant!” Tony shouts. He runs to get his computer. “I have no idea what kind of festival that would be, but hey, if it helps us find him, I’m happy. Also, I’m calling you Hammer Time from now on.”
Tony types ‘Hammer Festival Norway” into the search bar. The first result is a Wiki page entitled ‘Hammerfest’. He clicks it. “Oh my god. Thor, Hammerfest isn’t a festival, it’s a place!”
“What?” Thor and Brunnhilde ask in unison.
“Yeah, it’s a municipality in Norway. Guys, that’s gotta be where he’s from!”
Brunnhilde cackles in delight. “Totally! He said it was a shit fest. Isn’t that what everyone thinks of their hometown?”
Excited, they set to researching. It turns out, there are only a little over 10,000 people that live in Hammerfest. They think it likely that there would only be one high school for such a small town. Then they Google it and find out that they don’t have high school in Norway. They have primary school, lower secondary school, and upper secondary school. Lower secondary is for kids between 12 and 16 and it’s the highest required level of schooling in Norway. They decide that’s the equivalent. Through a Wiki page that lists every school in Norway, they find that there is indeed only one lower secondary school in Hammerfest: Breilia skole .
“That means, if we’re correct that our Ocean’s One is Norwegian, and we’re correct that she’s from Hammerfest, she probably went to that school,” Tony says.
“So if we can find a yearbook for the year he would have graduated, we should be able to recognize him and learn his identity,” Brunnhilde adds.
“But how are we going to do that? It’s a small school in a small town. I doubt they have their yearbooks digitized. The only way to see them is probably in the school library.”
Tony grins. “So we fly to Hammerfest and we look in the library.”
Brunnhilde frowns at him. “How do you propose we get there? We don’t have any money.”
Tony gestures around his penthouse full of expensive fixtures. “Oh, but we do.”
They post nearly everything in Tony’s penthouse for sale online. One day later, they’ve already sold several things and have $8,132. The $132 is what was left of Tony’s grocery fund.
The first thing they buy is more food. The second is three one way tickets to Hammerfest Airport. They figure that after they’re done in Norway, they’ll fly to wherever their search leads them next rather than returning to New York. For all they know, they could even find Luke right there in Norway. So they hold off on buying the return trip.
They fly out two days later. Thor spends most of the time leading up to the trip brushing up on his Norwegian while Tony and Brunnhilde mastermind their cover story for getting into the school.
They fly into Hammerfest in the early morning. The trip is long and they have several layovers, but they’re too keyed up to be tired. The first thing they do is take showers in the airport bathroom. Next, they find a map of Hammerfest in a little visitor booth. According to the map, the school is five miles from the airport. They decide to conserve money and walk. The only luggage they brought are backpacks and the weather is mild, so it’s not too unpleasant.
Over an hour later, they’re in front of Breilia skole. School must just be starting for the day, as the sidewalks are full of children swarming to the front doors like bees being sucked into a vacuum. Thor, Brunnhilde, and Tony slip into the throng, hoping to meld into the crowd and get inside unseen. They don’t bother removing their backpacks, figuring they will just help them blend in more.
Once they’re surrounded by students, Thor realizes two things. One, they stick out like three sore thumbs standing head and shoulders above the sea of children. Two, three adults trying to sneak into a school looks super creepy. Tony and Brunnhilde seem to realize these things at the same time as him. They realize too late. They’re already at the front doors and a stern woman stands there glaring at them.
The cover story Tony and Brunnhilde devised for getting into the school is that Thor is from Norway and used to attend this school as a child. Tony and Brunnhilde are his foreign friends. He’d moved away to Britain when he was quite young and hasn’t spoken much Norwegian since. This, they hope, will explain his less than fluent Norwegian and his British accent.
The woman says something in Norwegian that Thor approximates to mean, “ Who the hell are you? ”
He responds in his own broken Norwegian, “ My name is Thor. I used to attend school here. ” She raises her eyebrow skeptically. “ I… moved away a while back. I haven’t gotten to speak much Norwegian since I was a kid. ”
She tilts her head a little, then says in English, “What brings you back home?”
Thor, relieved that he can stop piecemealing the Norwegian he knows together, says, “I just got engaged.” He takes Brunnhilde’s arm. She returns the gesture stiffly. They’d planned this as well, needing a reason for their trip that they could tell people. “I wanted my bride and my best man to see my home.”
The woman’s face softens, oh-so-close to a smile, but still wary. “And you came to the school, because…?” Thor is briefly distracted, noticing her Norwegian accent. He thinks it’s a beautiful sound. He wonders if Luke talks like that when he’s not acting.
Then Brunnhilde’s elbow that’s folded with his own shoves sharply into his side. He winces and answers the woman’s question. “Oh, I just wanted them to see where I spent my formative years.” He thinks for half a second and adds, “And I’d hoped to find some old yearbooks to show them what I looked like as a boy.”
“That is lovely. But I’m sorry, I can’t let anyone who isn’t a student or guardian into the school.” She looks truly apologetic. Thor almost feels bad.
Tony cuts in. “Ah man, I’d really been looking forward to that. You see, I don’t believe this guy’s claims that he’s always been Mister Stud Muffin. He must have had an ugly phase like the rest of us mere mortals at some point.”
The woman finally smiles. “It’s his Norwegian genes. We are a very attractive people, you know,” she jokes.
Tony laughs. “I might not have believed that, were you not standing right in front of me, proving it with that smile.” The woman blushes.
Thor can practically feel Brunnhilde rolling her eyes. He resists his own urge to groan and lets Tony work.
“I’m serious. You’ve made this entire trip worth it already. Even if I don’t get to see this giant lump’s kid pictures, at least I got to see you.” He smiles disarmingly.
Brunnhilde makes a disappointed “Awww”, a much daintier sound than Thor has come to expect from her. “I was really hoping to see how my big boo-bear looked as a little cub.” She looks up at Thor with an expression that he finds nearly as disturbing as being called ‘boo-bear’.
The woman looks between the two of them with an “Awww” expression of her own and then looks at Tony with a more pronounced appreciation. She sighs. “Oh, all right. I suppose, technically, you are a student. Just not a current one.” The three of them beam at her. “We keep all the old yearbooks in the library. You can see them, but don’t go wandering the halls and freaking people out, okay?”
They nod eagerly and she leads them inside. Most of the students have made it to their classrooms by now, leaving the halls fairly empty. They stop by the front office for visitor passes and then continue on. The library is quaint and small, but charming in its own way. She shows them the shelves of yearbooks and leaves them to it, headed to her own class.
They scan the multiple shelves of yearbooks until they locate the ones from around the time Luke would have been there. The students at this school are between 12 and 16 years of age. Luke, Lachlan, and Elle were all between 25 and 26, so they start with the yearbook from 2008-9, when Luke would have been 16. Rather than divide and conquer, they all crowd over the same book. They scan each page carefully, not finding him. Then they move onto the 2007-8 book, getting the same result.
“What if we don’t recognize him?” Brunnhilde asks. “I mean, he makes a living disguising himself. He could have gotten plastic surgery. Or he could have been a fat kid and gotten scrawny as an adult. Hell, we don’t even know his hair color.”
Tony hums. “Yeah, you’re right. But we don’t really have much choice but to just look really, really closely.”
Thor privately thinks that he would recognize Luke no matter what. He knows it’s a naive, vain thought. He holds onto it anyway.
They decide to scan back through the books they just did, to be sure they didn’t miss him. They retrieve the 2008-9 book again and scan past the rows of posed portraits. This time, they go on to look through the candid section of shots taken throughout the year. Nothing. They move onto the 2007-8 book. They do the same with this one, scanning all the rows of portraits and then the candid pictures in the back. Still nothing. Then the 2006-7 book. Portraits, candids. Nothing. They move onto the 2005-6 book. They scan through all the portraits. Nothing. Then they scan through the candids.
“Oh my god,” Tony breathes. They all stare open mouthed at the page in front of them. In the back of the book there’s a full page devoted to one large portrait. It shows a thin, pale boy with short black hair and variegated emerald eyes. In Norwegian, it reads:
In Memoriam of Loki Laufeyson, 1993 - 2005
Chapter 18: The Life and Death of Loki Laufeyson
Thank you for all the positive feedback on Mr. Sandman so far! I started this thinking it would just be for me, but I'm so glad that other people are enjoying it too <3 <3 <3
“Her name is Loki!”
Thor ignores his friends’ exclamations. He’s too busy processing what’s in front of him. He can hardly believe that they found him. They flew to Hammerfest on a meager hunch at best. And they found him.
Loki. That’s the name of his love. It doesn’t feel all that different on his tongue than Luke. And it suits him better. He’d always thought Luke was too common of a name for such a person. Loki is a peculiar name, fit for an anomalous man.
Thor looks more closely at the picture of the 12 year old boy. It’s undoubtedly his Luke. The eyes alone would be enough to know. His features are even more delicate and sharp as a child, though. He looks frail, thin, as if a tap to his sternum would send fissures through his ribs. He’s not smiling, his eyes just look somewhere beyond the camera with an eerie blank expression.
Thor looks at the years by the name. 2005. The people that knew him thought he’d died then, over a decade ago. It makes Thor think himself lucky for the first time in months. Because he’s lost his Luke, but he knows he is still out there. The people here think him gone from the world entire.
He hopes to never know the feeling.
They go to the public library next. They set up at a table with their laptops and a stack of old newspapers from the library archives. Eventually, in a newspaper from 2005 they find an article with the same picture of 12 year old Loki. They find the missing person report to match online.
Apparently Loki was last seen on October 14, 2005. He was believed to be the victim of a kidnapping and most likely a homicide, due to the large amount of his blood that was found after his disappearance. They never found the person responsible.
“Do you think he faked his own death?” Thor asks.
“What other explanation is there?” Tony responds. “But geez, I thought she was committed for dying her pubes. For this, she spilled enough of her own blood that they assumed she was dead.” He shivers.
Brunnhilde clicks her tongue. “Well, I guess we know he’s got black hair now.”
Thor can’t hold back his grin at that. He’d always loved Luke’s sleek, raven hair.
Brunnhilde rolls her eyes at his dopey expression. “Oh, shut up.”
They look in the library’s digital phone book under ‘Laufeyson’. There isn’t anyone by that name in Hammerfest.
“Maybe he was named by patronym instead of surname, like me,” Thor says. “Try searching under the first name ‘Laufey’.
They get a result. Laufey Ymirson.
They walk to the address from the phone book record. It’s located on a street lined with dull, normal houses. The residence of Laufey Ymirson is a small single story with sallow yellow paint. It doesn’t seem like the kind of place that could produce a genius con man like Loki.
As they approach, the front door opens. Without communicating to do so, they all dive behind a neighbor’s beat up red truck. A willowy woman with long brown hair walks out. She has a face drawn with premature wrinkles and sunken cheeks. Thor can imagine that he sees Loki in her slender frame, but everything else is different. He wonders if they have the right place. Could this be Loki’s mother?
She continues on down the sidewalk, back the way Thor and the others came. They all glance at each other and follow, staying far enough back to avoid notice. She leads them to a small grocery. They linger outside as she goes inside.
“Okay, you guys should pose as the engaged couple again,” Tony says in a hush. “Hammer Time, you can tell her you were friends with Loki before you moved to Britain at the age of 10, before Loki’s ‘death’. You only just learned of her death when you came back to visit your hometown with your spankin’ new fiancee.”
Thor nods. Brunnhilde scrunches her nose at the description of her character.
“I’ll stay behind and be the backup,” Tony says. “If you need me to bail you out, just text me.”
Thor and Brunnhilde leave their backpacks with Tony and walk into the store. They glance around, not seeing the woman. After wandering around the store for a while, they spot her looking at the deli counter. Thor walks up and pretends to browse hams. Then he glances at her and fakes a double take. “ Fru Ymirson? ” He uses the Norwegian equivalent of Mrs.
She looks at him and raises an eyebrow. “ And you are? ” He notices she has green eyes, a shade lighter than Lu - Loki’s.
“ Oh, sorry, I’m Thor. I used to go to school with Loki. ” The name feels both foreign and intimate on his tongue, like a swear word whispered behind the backs of school teachers.
Her eyes widen, lips trembling. “ Loki? ”
He shifts, sobers his face. “ I am sorry for your loss. I only just heard of his passing. ”
Her glassy eyes turn suspicious. “ I thought you said you went to school together… You don’t sound like you’re from here. ”
“ I moved away to Britain when we were eleven.” Thor is actually five years older than Loki. He hopes he can get away with passing them off as the same age. “ This is my first time back home since then and I was not told of Loki’s passing when it happened. ”
The words seem to assuage her suspicions. She smiles kindly, a sadness still lingering. “ Welcome home. It’s lovely that you’ve returned. ” Thor thinks of her son that disappeared, never to return himself.
“ Thank you. ” He remembers Brunnhilde. “ Oh! And this is my fiancee, Brunnhilde. I brought her over from Britain to see my home. ”
The woman looks to Brunnhilde. In English, she says, “My, but you are lovely. Welcome to Hammerfest. I am Farbauti Ymirson.”
“Nice to meet you,” Brunnhilde replies.
Farbauti turns back to Thor. “You said that you… knew Loki?”
“Yes, he was a good friend. I am sorry to hear of his passing. I had looked forward to catching up.”
Farbauti's face looks momentarily confused, but then it turns into a wide, teary smile. “Friend? I did not know he had any. I’m glad to know he was not so alone as he let me believe.”
Thor is unable to speak for a moment. No friends? Then he remembers himself. “Yes, we were quite close before distance came between us.”
Farbauti eagerly grabs up his hand in both of hers. “Please, you must come for lunch at my house. Tell me about how he was with you.”
Thor and Brunnhilde exchange a look. Jackpot.
The three of them walk back to the house where they first spotted Farbauti. A part of Thor feels guilty for taking advantage of this woman’s grief. A bigger part of him knows that he needs to find Loki.
Thor notices Tony following discreetly behind them, still playing backup. He wonders if the man just wanted to avoid the awkwardness of comforting a mourning mother. Then they’re walking into the house, leaving Tony somewhere outside.
Inside the house is just as dull as the exterior. The hall they enter into is a light grey. The floorboards are old and worn. The glass light fixtures cast cobwebs and floating dust into sharp relief. The sitting room she leads them to is sparsely furnished with fraying furniture desperately in need of reupholstering.
The only interesting feature in the room is the shockingly large man taking up nearly half of it. His shoulders are wider than the chair he sits in. His legs hang out into the middle of the floor. He is built thick, like a giant from a fairytale. His hair is pitch black and cut close to his skull. His skin is so translucent that a map of blue veins can be seen beneath.
This must be Laufey, Loki’s father.
Chapter 19: Friends and Family
There will be some exciting developments next chapter.... xD
“ Who are they? ” Laufey glares at Farbauti when he asks, remaining seated.
“ This is Thor and his fiancee, Brunnhilde. ” She gestures to each of them in turn. “Thor, Brunnhilde, this is my husband and Loki’s father, Laufey.” She looks at Brunnhilde apologetically. “I’m sorry, dear, he doesn’t know English.”
“ What do they want? ” Laufey interjects.
“ Thor here was a friend of Loki’s. ”
Laufey turns his glare on Thor. “ That runt didn’t have any friends. ” The words are spat out like a piece of rotten fruit.
Thor is taken aback. That’s how he speaks of his dead son? Thor restrains his instinct to hurl insults back at the man. He glances at Brunnhilde, hoping she’ll have a response that doesn’t involve shouting. Then he remembers that she doesn’t understand Norwegian. It’s on him then.
He takes a deep, calming breath. “ Loki was very important to me, ” he says honestly, some need to defend sparked by Laufey’s words. “ Losing his friendship when I moved to Britain as a child was difficult. I missed him greatly. I still do. ” The words are just a little too close to the truth, bringing genuine wetness to his eyes. He’s glad Brunnhilde can’t understand what he’s saying when she looks at him askance.
Farbauti looks simultaneously heartbroken and full of awe at Thor’s words. Laufey continues glaring. “ So you want to reminisce with us, is that it? ” He deadpans.
Thor really hates this man. No wonder Loki left. But Thor is here for a purpose. He shifts from foot to foot, cringing at what he’s about to say. “ Actually, I was quite shocked to learn the circumstances of Loki’s… disappearance. I was hoping you might be able to tell me more of what exactly happened. ” He tacks on, “ For closure. ”
Laufey growls. “ You know not what your snooping would unleash. Go now, while I still allow it. ”
Thor resists the urge to growl back. He’s never taken well to taunts.
Farbauti looks distressed. “ Laufey, he just-- ”
“ Enough. Go! ” Laufey stands to his full height. He’s even more towering than Thor thought. Brunnhilde and he both take a step away from the giant.
Farbauti tugs weakly at Thor’s arm, pulling him back toward the entrance. “I’m sorry, I think you’d better go.” They begin following her back toward the front door. The booming voice follows them.
“ Run back home, little princess. ”
Thor is turning back with a growl before he knows it. Brunnhilde grabs his arm with forceful authority, making him halt and remember their reason for being here. With a huff, he follows the two women back toward the door without looking at Laufey again.
When they’re over the threshold, Farbauti says, “I’m sorry. He has become old and untrusting.” She looks meaningfully into Thor’s eyes. “But thank you. For bringing a piece of Loki back to Norway with you.”
He is momentarily distracted by her words, but tucks them away to speak to Brunnhilde and Tony about later. He gives Farbauti a genuine smile. “Thank you for giving a piece of him back to me as well.”
They turn to leave, but Farbauti stops them again. “Helbindi, one of Loki’s older brothers. He lives in Oslo. If you plan to be down that way, I’m sure he would love to meet a friend of Loki’s.” Her words carry just a little more than simple suggestion with them. Thor tucks that away along with her previous words.
“Could I get his address?”
As they walk back down the street, Tony appears, stepping out of a shrub with such swagger that you’d think it was a ferrari. “So, what’d we learn?”
Thor and Brunnhilde both glare at him.
“What?” Tony asks.
Thor rolls his eyes, but decides to drop it. He has something more pressing to talk to them about than Tony’s apparent fear of frail old women. “I think they know something.”
Brunnhilde and Tony both look at him in shock. Thor keeps forgetting that Brunnhilde can’t understand any Norwegian, so she’s almost as out of the loop as Tony. “Really? What did that old man say?”
“When I started pressing for information on Loki’s disappearance, Laufey got real defensive and told me that I didn’t know 'what my snooping would unleash'. He used weird formal words, so I might not have understood exactly correctly. But that doesn’t sound like a parent who doesn’t know anything about what happened to their child, does it? It sounds like someone with something to hide.”
“Yeah you’re right,” Brunnhilde agrees. “And Farbauti said that weird thing about you bringing a piece of Loki back to Norway. It was as if she knew that he had left Norway, rather than died here.”
“I noticed that too. And the way she told us to visit Loki’s brother. I got the feeling she thought he might give us the information on Loki’s disappearance that Laufey wouldn’t.”
“Wait, what?” Tony exclaims.
Thor backs up and explains the entirety of what Tony missed.
They end up agreeing that their best, and only, course of action is to pay a visit to Helbindi, Loki’s brother. It takes them a train, a bus, and a ferry to get to Oslo. They sleep while in transport and take perfunctory sink baths to avoid the cost of lodging. When they arrive, they take yet another bus to get to the address Farbauti gave them.
The house is nicer than Farbauti and Laufey’s. It’s a tall two story brick house with a large porch in a pleasant neighborhood with lots of trees and well kept lawns.
“Okay, so you two play the engaged couple and I--”
“Oh, you’re not getting out of it this time,” Brunnhilde scolds.
“Yeah, we’re supposed to be a team here,” Thor agrees. “You can’t make us do all the work.”
“Excuse me? All the work? Who is it that’s come up with most of our ideas? Me! If it weren’t for me, you guys wouldn’t have even gotten this far. Besides, it makes sense to have a person stay back. If you think he seems as suspicious as the creepy old couple, then I’ll sneak in and ‘snoop’, as Laufey so poetically put it.”
Thor and Brunnhilde consider that. Thor has to admit that Tony is correct that his help has been invaluable. He even sold all of his possessions to get them here. They concede and let him stay back, leaving their backpacks with him once more.
The fake couple ascends the stairs up to the porch and knock on the large oak door. A few moments later, it opens to reveal a man who rivals Laufey in size. He must be at least 6’7”, his shoulders nearly filling the wide door frame. He has cropped black hair, like Laufey’s, and pale green eyes, like Farbauti. There’s something of Loki in his high cheekbones and sharp chin.
“ Yes? ” Helblindi asks pleasantly.
Thor clears his throat, suddenly aware of how odd it is to show up at a stranger’s house wanting to talk about their dead brother. “ Hi. I’m Thor and this is Brunnhilde. Farbauti gave us your address. ”
Helbindi looks perplexed at that. “ My mother? Why? Is something wrong? ”
“ No, no. We’re visiting from Britain, but I grew up in Hammerfest. We ran into Farbauti during our stay there and got talking. ” He takes a breath. “ Before I moved away, I was friends with Loki. ”
Helbinidi’s face goes completely blank. He looks between the two of them, assessing. Finally, he replies, “ I didn’t know Loki had any friends. ” The words are said warily, but Thor can hear the same hope that had been in Farbauti’s voice when Thor had called Loki a friend. It makes him sad. Loki’s father clearly didn’t care for him and to know that he was also without any friends makes Loki’s childhood look rather bleak.
The sadness in Thor’s voice doesn’t have to be faked. “ I considered him a close friend. Unfortunately, I moved away when we were eleven. We lost touch. I only just learned of his passing. ”
Helbindi still looks wary, but his shoulders relax somewhat. “ And why did my mother send you here? ”
“ I think she thought it might be nice for both of us to have someone to talk to about Loki. ”
Helbindi’s eyes go soft. “ You miss him. ”
“ Yes. ” Thor can see that the same is true of Helbindi. Like Farbauti, mention of Loki seems to make him turn gentler, sadder. Thor wonders if Helbindi can see the same thing in his eyes.
Helblindi looks at Brunnhilde. “ She doesn’t say much. ”
Thor puts his arm around her waist, feels her stiffen with the instinct to punch him for it. “ This is my fiancee, from Britain. She doesn’t speak Norwegian. As you can probably tell, I haven’t spoken it much in a long time myself. ” He laughs self deprecatingly.
“Oh, why didn’t you say so? Most people in Norway speak English. You need only ask.” He smiles warmly at Brunnhilde, ignoring Thor’s comment on his own shotty Norwegian.
She smiles back and shakes his hand.
“Why don’t you two come in?”
Chapter 20: If He Were Alive
I like this chapter :3
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They follow Helbindi through the house to a large sitting room with wide glass doors opening to a view of the trees in the backyard. Thor and Brunnhilde sit on the couch, just close enough as to not look like they’re having relationship problems, and Helbindi takes a broad armchair across from them. It’s suddenly painfully awkward.
Helbindi clears his throat. “So… you knew Loki.”
“Yes.” Thor says. He doesn’t know how to continue.
Brunnhilde comes to his rescue. Thor is so glad Helbindi speaks English. “Thor always spoke highly of his friend Loki. I know moving away to Britain was hard for him. He always talked about reconnecting with him again one day.”
Helbindi looks at them intently. “I’m surprised Loki never mentioned you. Since you were so close and all.” It’s not quite accusing, but it’s not quite friendly either.
Thor, sweating, replies, “Oh, you know Loki. He was always kind of mysterious.” He hopes he’s not terribly far off the mark. It’s hard for him to imagine that someone who faked their own death at age 12 wouldn’t be, though.
Helbindi snorts a laugh. “Yeah, I suppose that’s true. Although I think I would’ve used the word ‘conniving’.”
Thor laughs too, but it’s strained. That sounds like a wretchedly apt description for Luke too.
“Were you and Loki close?” Brunnhilde asks.
Helbindi smiles. “We were. As close as a person could be to Loki, anyway.”
What do you mean?” she asks.
“He was just the sort of person it seemed like you could never really know. His mind always seemed to be in an entirely different realm than everyone else.”
“I know what you mean,” Thor says. He means it. That sounds just like his Luke. He takes a chance. “I could never predict him. He would make connections between things that made no sense to anyone else. Sometimes, I thought he was a genius. Other times, I found myself questioning his sanity. Or mine,” he laughs.
Helbindi laughs too. He seems to have relaxed. “I guess you really did know him. I couldn’t have described him better myself.”
Thor can feel Brunnhilde looking at him. He doesn’t look back. “Did he do that thing with you where he would give you a compliment, but disguise it as an insult so you wouldn’t notice?”
“All the time!” Helbindi is grinning with his whole face now. “He would do that with people’s nicknames. The nastier the nickname, the more he liked you. God help the person he called something nice!”
“Yes! He always called me ‘Oaf’. I liked to think of it as a pet name.” Brunnhilde looks at him sharply. He realizes his slip. ‘Pet name’ isn’t generally something childhood friends use for each other. Hopefully Helbindi doesn’t notice.
“He must have thought highly of you,” the large man laughs. “I was always ‘Ogre’.” He says the name with a large amount of nostalgia.
Brunnhilde looks baffled. “Loki sounds… eccentric.” Thor and Helbindi both just laugh loudly at that. She looks back and forth between them. “Excuse me. I need the restroom,” she says abruptly. Helbindi points her in the right direction.
After she leaves, Helbindi turns to Thor with a small smile full of melancholic understanding. “ You loved him didn’t you? ” he says in Norwegian.
Thor panics. “What? No, I - he was a good friend--”
“It’s okay. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who did.”
Thor pauses, sobers. “He really had no one else?”
Helbindi shakes his head, looks down. “Our father is a harsh, cold man. Our older brother, Bylster, is much like him. Neither of them got along with Loki. And our mother… well, I think she loved him in her way. But she never seemed to really accept him. I think his… death was perhaps when she finally did. Too late.” He looks up at Thor. “Aside from maybe me, he never let anyone in, never let anyone really see him. It’s good to know there was an exception.”
Thor smiles, his eyes wet. His voice feels choked. “I am glad to have been the exception.” He allows a small part of himself, deeply buried, to hope it’s actually true.
“I am sure you were good for him.” Helblindi looks at him with conflicted eyes. “He needs someone like that in his life. I wish--”
Brunnhilde walks back into the room then and Helbindi snaps his mouth shut. Thor doesn’t miss his switch to present tense.
“What did I miss?’ Brunnhilde asks.
As Brunnhilde and Helbindi chat a bit, Thor pulls out his phone and texts Tony. I think he might know something. Can you get in and search?
Tony’s reply is almost immediate. Yes. Keep his eyes away from the door.
Thor joins in on their chat half-heartedly while watching the front door, at the other end of the hall from where they sit. Luckily, Helbindi has his back to it. As Brunnhilde tells Helbindi about her fake job, Thor sees the door slowly creek open. He coughs loudly to cover any sound it might make. Then Tony is slipping inside while Brunnhilde pounds Thor on the back.
Thor feels the moment Brunnhilde notices Tony. He grips her arm and jerks his eyes toward Helbindi, a silent signal to keep him occupied. He watches from the corner of his eye as Tony slowly slips up the, thankfully silent, stairs. Then he’s out of sight and Thor has to place his trust in Tony. He turns his attention fully back to the conversation.
“--and when Thor said that we should visit Norway before getting married, I was immediately excited. I had always wanted to meet this ‘Loki’ he couldn’t shut up about. Of course, then we learned…” She lets the sentence trail off, a silent euphemism.
Helbindi gives Thor a sad look. “That must have been tough. To find out in such a way.”
Thor clears his throat, trying to get his thoughts away from Tony upstairs. “Yes, it was a shock. Especially so due to the circumstances of his… death”
Helbindi gives him a long look. “Yes. It was horrible.”
“What exactly happened?” Brunnhilde asks. “No one’s told us anything really, just that he disappeared.” Thor notes how she strategically leaves out the bit where they spent hours researching it.
Helbindi looks between the two of them. “Why do you want to know?
“He was my friend,” Thor says heavily. “I need to know.”
Helbindi watches him for a moment and then gives a short nod. He turns his gaze to the floor. “It happened right after our father’s company, Jotunheim, was broken into.” Thor and Brunnhilde share a wide eyed look. “It was never made public information, but we think the same person took Loki.”
“Why would you think that?” Brunnhilde asks.
“Because he disappeared on the same day as the break in.”
That sounds terribly familiar to Thor. He’d thought Luke had been kidnapped when he disappeared on the same day as the break in at Asgard.
“And,” Helbindi takes a breath, “and they killed him. Two days after he disappeared, his clothes and ID were found in a hotel room along with blood. A lot of blood. It matched Loki’s DNA.” He shakes his head. “14 years after his death, I still can’t get over it.”
“But you don’t know for sure that he’s dead, do you?” Brunnhilde cuts in. Thor pales. Oh she wouldn’t. Would she? “He just disappeared. There was blood, yeah, but you can survive a lot of blood loss.” Apparently she would. “What if he’s still out there somewh--”
“He’s dead.” Helbindi says it with such forcefull finality that Brunnhilde clicks her mouth shut. “There was too much blood and he hasn’t been seen in 14 years. Leave it.”
Thor attempts damage control. “I’m sorry, she didn’t mean to be insensitive. We only just learned of this and it’s still sinking in.”
Helbindi’s wariness is back tenfold. He looks back and forth between them with narrowed, suspicious eyes. “Yes, well, he was declared dead. 14 years ago. He’s dead. There’s noone to find.”
The words only increase Thor’s suspicions that Helbindi knows more than he says. Just then, he spots Tony tiptoeing back down the stairs. He glances over at Thor with wide, manic eyes and throws him a thumbs up. Thor quickly looks back to Helbindi as Tony slips out the door.
“Yes. You’re right,” Thor says to him. “Brunnhilde was just trying to make this easier on me. She doesn’t actually think he’s alive. Do you honey?” He turns to Brunnhilde with a sugar sweet smile.
“No,” she says tightly. “I’m sorry. That was insensitive of me. It’s just so sad that he’s gone.”
Thor’s phone pings. It’s Tony. Holy shit dude.
Helbindi sighs. “It’s fine. Loki’s just kind of a sensitive topic for me.”
Thor’s phone pings again. Jackpot!
He elbows Brunnhilde. She looks at the phone, then looks sharply up at Thor.
“Something important?” Helbindi asks, nodding toward the phone.
“Yes, sorry. We forgot about another appointment we need to get to.” Brunnhilde says apologetically. “It’s been wonderful meeting you, though.”
“It’s been my pleasure. I’m sorry that your first trip to Norway was ruined by such dour news, but I’m glad it brought you to my door.”
He turns to Thor. “Thor. What I asked earlier.” He looks at him meaningfully. “Do you still?”
Thor doesn’t hesitate to answer, “More than anything.”
Helbindi seems to search for something in Thor’s eyes. Then he nods, as if to himself. “Loki is dead,” he starts, “but if he were alive… I think you are exactly what he would need.”
Thor stares into Helbindi’s eyes, searching for something himself. “And he is exactly what I would need.” He says the words somberly, his eyes saying something else. “If… he was alive.”
Helbindi gives another sharp nod, more to himself than to Thor. He holds out his hand.
Thor takes it and they shake, a manly goodbye. “Thank you. Truly.”
Helbindi smiles back at him. “No, thank you. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to talk about Loki.” He grasps Thor’s hand with both of his. He slips something into his palm discreetly. Thor gets the hint and pockets it before Brunnhilde can notice.
Helbindi sees them out and they say final goodbyes before he closes the door and they’re walking briskly down the sidewalk.
“What the fuck was that?” Brunnhilde hisses.
“What?” Thor says innocently.
“The whole silent conversation with your eyes thing. You were freaking me out.”
Thor shrugs. “I think he knows that Loki’s alive.” And he knows that I know it too , he doesn’t say aloud.
“Oh my fuck, you guys! I got something!” Tony pops out of a patch of ornamental grass this time.
“What?” They ask in eager unison, previous conversation forgotten.
“Under his bed he had this picture album. The front cover had a picture of little kid Loki. But inside there weren’t any photographs.”
“Well what good does that do us? Brunnhilde asks.
“There was something else inside.” He pauses dramatically.
“Well, what was it?” Thor asks, exasperated and impatient.
“A whole bunch of blank postcards, with nothing but Helbindi’s address on them.”
“But what does that mean?” Brunnhilde asks.
“Each one was from a different city. Three of the most recent were New York, then Liverpool, then London.”
“Where each of us are from.” Thor is starting to see where this is going.
“Yes. The timelines match up. Loki was with me in New York, then with you Brunnhilde, in Liverpool, and then with you Thor, in London. The postcards were in that same order. Well, after at least a couple dozen others.”
“So Loki is sending him postcards from every city he goes to,” Brunnhilde says.
“He knows Loki’s alive!” Thor exclaims. He was right.
“But that’s not the best part.” Another dramatic pause from Tony. “London wasn’t the last postcard in the album.”
“That means he’s already sent Helbindi a postcard from his current city.” Brunnhilde’s eyes are the widest Thor has ever seen them.
“Where was it from?” Thor asks, vibrating with excitement and something else.
Oooooh shit guys
Chapter 21: Insecurity
Loki's voice returns!
Thor has to admit that Tony was right. It was a good idea to have someone hang back to sneak in and snoop. Tony’s discovery is what has finally led them to their ultimate goal: Loki’s location.
“Wait. Miami’s kind of big,” Thor realizes. “How are we going to find him there?”
“Yeah, we have no idea who his new mark is,” Brunnhilde agrees. “It’s not like we can just stalk every wealthy person in Miami to find him.”
“We’ll figure that out later,” Tony waves off their concerns. “For now, let’s celebrate! I think we’ve earned a drink.”
They end up at a small, dirty establishment full of old men with beer guts. After grabbing their own beers at the bar, they find a table in the quietest part of the room.
Tony takes a deep swig of his stout and slams it down. “I gotta say, guys, I’m proud of us. We’ve tracked our Ocean’s One across the damn globe and back.”
“I’ll drink to that.” Brunnhilde chugs half of her IPA in one go.
Thor forces a grin and takes a drink of his own ale. He can’t seem to feel the same excitement as his two companions. He’s in awe that they’ve actually gotten this far, but any excitement is being drowned out by a hundred other things.
His conversation with Helbindi, in particular, is weighing on him. Everything he’d said about Loki’s personality sounded exactly like Thor’s Luke. It’s confusing. What does it mean? Was the mask that Thor had seen in the beginning of their relationship the Luke facade? Was the man that he actually got to know once the mask cracked the real Loki?
But if so, why? Why would he let Thor see that? With both Brunnhilde and Tony he kept up very thorough fake personalities that were outrageously different to what Helbindi described of the real Loki. Maybe it was just all part of the act. Maybe the man Thor knew was just a fake personality that happened to resemble the real Loki a little bit. But then, why had he started off differently? Was that part of the act too? Making Thor just think he was letting him in, past the mask? Or could it be possible that he really--
“Hammer Time, buddy! You gotta stop brooding. This is a time for celebration. We’re fucking heroes!”
Brunnhilde curls her lip. “Heroes? Really Tony?”
“Hell yeah, heroes. We’re vigilantes tracking down a devious con artist. What else would you call us?”
“Heartbroken fools with a bone to pick?”
Thor finally gives a genuine laugh at his partners’ antics. “I think I’m with Brunnhilde on this one. Heroes wouldn’t be going outside of the law because they were blackmailed for possessing illegal objects.”
Tony scratches his goatee. “Maybe we’re like anti-heroes. But anyway, tell me all about it. What was big brother like? Other than being big enough to make Hammer Time here look small.”
They tell Tony about their conversation with Helbindi. Thor and Brunnhilde talk over each other and Tony interrupts with questions every other word. It takes a while.
“And he said that Loki disappeared the same day that Laufey’s company was broken into. They think the same person kidnapped and murdered him.”
“Wait, Laufey has a company?”
They Google it and find out that Laufey Ymirson was the founder of a successful meat packing company called Jotunheim. In 2005 they went bankrupt and closed. The same year that Loki disappeared and Jotunheim was broken into.
“Shit. Do you think Loki’s first victim was her own father?” Tony asks.
“That’s what it looks like,” Brunnhilde replies. “He disappeared the same day as the break in, just like he did with each of us. Only, instead of leaving a video blackmailing him, he left a puddle of blood and faked his death.”
“You think he would do that to his own father?” Thor aks.
“You’re the one who talked to the old man. You tell me.” Thor has to admit Brunnhilde has a point. Laufey was pretty wretched.
“Do you think Laufey had some illegal technology too? Maybe that’s how Loki got the idea to find other people with such things. Maybe she thinks that she’s the vigilante, not the villain?” Tony looks hopeful.
Thor considers that. “I guess that’s possible. Maybe he was upset when he learned that his father’s company was successful due to illegal means? I know I was when I learned the same of my father.”
Brunnhilde scowls at them. “That doesn’t excuse what he did to us.”
Tony’s face falls into something small and sad. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
Thor can’t disagree with them. But it does give him hope that maybe Loki might not be beyond saving. From what, Thor doesn’t know. Perhaps from Loki himself.
They check into a single room at a cheap motel to save money. When it’s Thor’s turn in the bathroom, he is alone for the first time in days. He breathes a deep sigh. He’s not an introverted man, but such constant exposure to the two very large personalities of his companions’ is enough to drain even him. Not to mention they haven’t slept in a proper bed in a few days now.
His mind turns to the item that Helbindi slipped into his hand as they said goodbye. He hasn’t had a moment to himself to look at it yet. He puts his hand into his pocket and draws out the long chain. At the end of it is a ring. Thor vaguely remembers seeing the chain peeking out from beneath Helbindi’s collar. He must have removed it from his own neck to give to Thor. The thought is surprisingly touching.
He looks closer at the ring. It’s small, as if for a young child. He wonders if it was Loki’s. There are snakes engraved into the gold surface, wrapping around each other in an intricate pattern. It looks old, worn. Thor has no idea what it means.
He sighs, pocketing it again. As he brushes his teeth, he thinks back over the day. They are closer than he ever truly believed they would get to finding their collective ex spouse. They’ve come so far and learned so much that he has no doubt left that they will find Loki. Before, it had seemed impossible. Now, it feels inevitable.
Thor strips and gets in the shower. He pushes his face under the scalding water, running his hands through his spiky, shorn locks. He washes over his chest and stomach, feeling the softness that now pads his muscles, the result of his month of mourning for his husband. He pauses in his washing, looking down to examine himself.
Thor has never been a self conscious man. In school he was a jock with perfect abs and zero celulite. Even when he’d begun working in an office and his large appetite had caught up with his waistline, he’d still had more muscle than fat. And he never lacked for interested bed partners, so his confidence hadn’t really receded much. That confidence had only grown when he met Luke, who had always thought Thor beautiful, regardless of how much weight he was carrying.
But what if that was just all a part of the act? Maybe Loki always thought Thor’s extra fat was gross. Thor is suddenly worried that when Loki meets him again he will see Thor’s weight gain and think him ugly and pathetic. For the first time in his life, he is wretchedly insecure.
Loki buries his face in a pool of hair that smells like sunshine. He caresses a generous thigh, relishes in the impressive thickness. Huge arms envelope him from behind, both strong and soft. He feels protected, comforted, safe. And unbelievably horny. Luckily, one of the large hands trails down to his hardness, stroking firmly. He moans.
Then a sharp elbow digs into his own fatless ribs. Ow. Since when were those elbows so bony? They should be soft and-- Oh. Right. He opens his eyes and looks behind him, at En Dwi. The lean, lanky man is stretched out along Loki’s back, smirking.
“Mm, Pet, that must have been some, ah, dream you were having. Thought I’d give you, a, uh, a hand.” Loki cringes at the thought of the sleazy man touching him in his sleep. Then cringes again at his own weakness. His subconscious keeps betraying him.
He has to stop thinking about Thor.
Chapter 22: PTSD
See bottom of chapter for warnings
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Loki releases a puff of breath as a knock reverberates through the geometric office. Finally.
“Ah, yes, yes, come in!” En Dwi shouts toward the door.
Loki repositions his legs on the yellow leather couch on which he lounges and sweeps his hair over his shoulders to display his hot pink earbuds.
The door opens to reveal just the man Loki wants to see. Or, more aptly, hear.
“Mr. Gast. Is now a good time?”
“Oh, absolutely not. But whenever is a good time? Perhaps a party. Mm, yes that sounds like a good time. But enough chatter. It may not be a good time, but it’s a perfect time for a report. You were supposed to give one sometime today, weren’t you? What about now? Is this a good time?”
There’s a long, awkward silence. “Uh, I,” Bruce clears his throat. “I mean, uh, yes.”
“Good. Excellent. Splendid. Sit.”
There’s a shuffle as Bruce makes to comply.
“So, Bruce. Brucey.” The desk squeeks as En Dwi surely leans forward to steeple his fingers. “Begin.”
“Um, the subject of my report is top secret to just you and me. Or, uh, so you said.”
“Mm, yes, good. Quite,” En Dwi affirms.
“Well, is it really a good idea for him to be here then?” Loki assumes Bruce is pointing to him.
“Don’t mind him,” En Dwi dismisses. “He doesn’t understand a word of this, ah, stuff. He’s just there to look pretty. Think of him as part of the, uh, the decor.”
Bruce must still be wary, as this is only met with silence.
En Dwi sighs. “Besides, he’s pumping that godawful music into his ears. He can’t hear a word we’re saying. Watch. AAAAAAAAAH!”
Loki delicately removes an earbud and turns to look at the other two. “Did you say something?”
En Dwi smiles widely at Bruce. “See?” He flicks a hand in Loki’s direction. “Go back to painting your nails, Pet.”
Loki puts his silent earbud back in and returns to painting his toenails a garish neon blue. He hides his triumphant smirk behind his hair as Bruce begins his top secret report.
Thor wakes up sandwiched between Tony and Brunnhilde. Their motel room only has one bed and no couch, so they decided to share. He’s regretting being in the middle now that he needs to pee. Attempting to get up without waking his partners, he slowly extricates his limbs and reaches a leg over Tony. But he misjudges the distance and ends up kneeling on the smaller man’s hand.
“Yeouch!” Tony squacks and flails up in bed, upending Thor to land heavily on Brunnhilde. She jerks under him and starts screaming, a fearful, distressed sound. Panicked, Thor scrambles off of her. She throws her arms over her head and kicks out at him.
Thor and Tony share a look of panic and then they both work together to grab her fiercely kicking legs and pin her to the bed. “Brunhilde! Hey! Calm down, it’s Thor and Tony.” They get her hands away from her face and find her eyes wild and glassy, staring straight through them. It’s exactly how Luke’s eyes had looked that time that he tried to strangle Thor.
Remembering what had helped that time with Luke, or Loki, Thor revokes his hold on Brunnhilde’s limbs and then grabs Tony to get him off of her as well. “Stop, we’re making it worse!” As soon as she’s free, Brunnhilde tackles Thor. He lets himself fall back on the bed belly up, like a dog surrendering. Tony follows his lead and stays back.
Brunnhilde has her arm up against Thor’s throat, pinning him in place. She’s panting heavily and staring through him. Thor takes a chance and reaches up to rub her arm lightly, soothingly. “Hey, it’s Thor. Your friend. No one’s going to hurt you.”
After a few minutes, she seems to calm down, her eyes focusing, and moves back from him. She collapses back onto the bed.
Tony moves to sit closer to her. “Hey, you good?”
She grimaces and sits up. “Yeah. Sorry. PTSD.”
Tony nods in understanding, but Thor is confused. He sort of knows what PTSD is, something related to war veterans and trauma, but not enough to understand what just happened. “Something like that happened happened with Luke once. He attacked me and stared through me just like that. Like he was seeing something that wasn’t there.”
Brunnhilde gives an absent nod, still calming down. “Yeah, Lachlan too. Said he was a war vet, like me. Fucking liar.”
Thor frowns. “But Luke wasn’t a veteran.”
“You can get PTSD from other traumatic events, not just war,” Tony says.
“But there weren’t any other traumatic experiences in his story with me. Are we sure it was an act? There was no reason for him to pretend to have PTSD with me.”
“Unless Loki was trying to gain your sympathy,” Tony points out.
Thor is unconvinced, but decides to drop it. “Well, sorry about triggering an episode,” he says, “but now that we’re all up, how about some breakfast?”
They end up at a diner down the street from their motel. It’s done up to look like a viking cabin. For the tourists, Thor imagines. They all order large platters of food to refuel after the busy few days they’ve had.
“So, now that we’ve celebrated, slept, and have food,” Tony takes a big bite of eggs and continues to talk through them, “how are we gonna find Loki once we get to Miami?” They’d bought three plane tickets the night before, using up much of their remaining money.
Brunnhilde takes an even bigger bite than Tony and makes even less of an attempt to conceal her half masticated food as she talks. “Well, I guess we need to find a person with illegal technology helping out their business.”
Thor, never one to be shown up, takes an even bigger bite than either of them, thanks to the sheer size of his mouth, and says, “They’d probably be pretty successful. I mean, Asgard is the biggest advertising company in the market.”
Tony perks up. “And Stark Industries was the biggest weapons manufacturer in the world.”
They both turn to Brunnhilde expectantly. She blinks, wide eyed. “Yeah, Valkyrie Industries, before Lachlan stole the Aether, was the biggest production company in the business.”
Three forks clatter onto the table. “That’s it!” Tony shouts. Half of the other guests in the diner shush him and he lowers his voice. “We just need to find a company in Miami that’s the top of its field.” He grabs his computer out of his backpack, eggs forgotten. Thor and Brunnhilde watch, rapt, as he types at a blinding speed. Then he’s twirling his computer around to face them. “These are all of the top companies in Miami. But there’s one that stands head and shoulders above the rest, regardless of their field.”
They lean forward to look at the screen. Sakaar Technologies.
Thor squints at the name. “So you think this is where we’ll find him?”
“Hell yeah. Nothing but the best for our Ocean’s One.” Tony grins.
“So, if you’re right, how do we figure out who within the company he’s conning?”
Tony spins the computer back to face himself and starts typing again. “I say we camp out in front of Sakaar’s front doors and wait for one of these people to show up.” He spins the computer back toward Thor and Brunnhilde. It shows pictures and names of each of the top execs that work for Sakaar.
“Wow, Tony. I’m actually impressed.” Brunnhilde smirks. “You’re skills are well suited to conning people. Sure you’re on the right team?”
Tony sobers. “Yes. Elle, Loki, whatever, she abandoned me. She tricked me. You guys have stuck with me and brought me out of my pit of depression. I’m on the right team.”
Thor is touched. Brunnhilde scoffs, but she’s smiling too.
On the plane to Miami, Thor thinks again about the PTSD episode. Is that what had happened with Loki when Thor touched his neck that first time? Or was it really just an act? It had felt so scary, so real. Even before he knew to call it a PTSD episode, he’d suspected that maybe something had happened to Luke’s neck in the past. And Thor can’t think of a single reason why Loki would have faked that. It didn’t fit in with any other part of Luke’s narrative.
That thought has Thor worried for an entirely different reason. If the PTSD episode doesn’t fit in with the rest of what Thor knew about his husband and the PTSD episode was real, does that mean that everything else was the lie?
PTSD episode - if this could be triggering for you, skipping everything after the chapter divider might be best.
I have had up close and personal experience with PTSD and what I've written is based off of that. However, I realize that everyone's experiences of it are different and I in no way am writing this to say that all PTSD episodes look like this.
Chapter 23: Stranger
Ooooh shit y'all...
After landing in Miami around 1:00AM, they check into the cheapest motel they can find, use the washing machine for their meager wardrobes, crash for the last few hours until dawn, and then leave their bags in the room and set out to begin their search.
They take a cab to Sakaar. It’s a huge skyscraper, completely covered in blue-reflective windows.
“Ah, it reminds me of Stark Tower. I miss my tower,” Tony pouts as he gazes wistfully up.
Thor and Brunnhilde exchange eye rolls. “It looks like a ridiculous display of wealth, to me,” she says. Tony sends her a stink eye.
“So how are we going to do this?” Thor asks. “Just stand at the front door and wait for one of Sakaar’s execs or Loki to appear?” He thinks he does an admirable job of hiding his nerves. Now that they're this close, it finally feels real and the thought of seeing Loki again has his insides tied up in celtic knots.
Tony swallows, suddenly looking like he’s about to puke. Brunnhilde’s teeth are set and her hands are shaking. Thor reminds himself he isn’t the only one in this situation. They are all in love with a version of Loki. They were all married to Loki. They were all betrayed by Loki.
Thor looks around them. He spots a coffee shop situated directly across the street from Sakaar. “How about we camp out in there? We can watch the door for any potential marks. If we see one, we can follow them. Hopefully they’ll lead us to - to Loki.”
The others nod and they walk across the street to the coffee shop. They order muffins and coffees and then settle into a window booth that gives them a perfect view of Sakaar’s front door.
Five hours later, they’re still sitting in the same booth, watching out the window for any sign of Sakaar’s higher ups.
Tony slumps down with an explosive sigh. “Guys, we knew this was a long shot. We should probably just--” he cuts off, seemingly staring at Thor’s right pec with a look somewhere between horror and awe.
“Sshhh,” Tony shushes him
Disturbed at having his chest ogled, Thor is considering slapping him when a voice he knows all too well seems to rise to the surface of the coffee shop’s bustle.
“--with whipped cream, blue sprinkles, and strawberry syrup. And an extra large black coffee.”
After a second of his own blank staring at Tony’s ear, Thor turns around slowly, vaguely registering Tony and Brunnhilde doing the same. There, at the counter ordering, is Luke. Or Loki. Whatever.
They all gape for long minutes, stunned into inaction, as Loki completes his order and thanks the girl. His order is ready with a frankly shocking speed, to the obvious chagrin of the people who ordered before him.
Loki looks beautiful. He looks like Luke, and it hurts. Tears sting the corners of Thor’s eyes and he blinks rapidly so that they won’t disturb the vision of his husband standing just 20 feet from him. He vaguely registers Loki’s new American accent, no longer Luke’s posh British one.
Thor realizes somewhere in his mind that he should probably be doing something. Perhaps he should whistle. But then it’s too late because Loki has turned around, holding two large cups, and is staring straight at Thor.
For a moment, it’s like a showdown between a bunch of deer caught in each other’s headlights. Then everyone is moving. Loki is bolting for the door, Brunnhilde is chasing after him, Tony is trying to clamber over the table, and Thor is jumping over the back of the booth.
They chase him for blocks. Thor already knows that Loki is faster than him from their past workouts, but Brunnhilde is faster still. She finally snags Loki by the back of his shirt and slams him into the nearest wall. The other people on the sidewalk skirt around the scene, seemingly unbothered. Thor comes to a stop beside them, chest heaving.
Inanely, he focuses on the two spilled drinks at their feet. One of them is a truly shocking blue liquid with whipped cream and pink goo swirled through the sticky remains. He stares at the mess on the sidewalk for as long as he can stand it before finally forcing his eyes up.
Loki is gazing serenely at Brunnhilde while she snarls, still pinning him to the wall. “Hello, soldier,” he says in a low, cockney accent. She jerks back as if he’d burned her. Loki smirks meanly, leaning against the wall and panting shallowly. Brunnhilde takes another step back.
Thor takes a moment to gaze at the man. His hair is still black, just as when Thor had last seen him, but longer and straighter. He looks even slimmer, like he’s been avoiding the gym. He’s wearing white sneakers, yellow short-shorts, and an electric blue top that hangs off his right shoulder. The one with the freckle. Thor’s eyes jerk back up at the familiar sound of his husband’s quiet laugh. Loki is looking back and forth between the three of them. Tony’s joined them at some point apparently.
“I see we’ve been making friends,” Loki smarms, back to his American accent.
“Yeah, we’ve recently discovered that we all have a little something in common,” Brunnhilde sneers. “Any idea what that might be?”
Loki looks at her with mockingly innocent eyes. “No ideas.”
Thor growls and advances on him. Loki jerks back violently, his eyes going wide. Thor stops. Loki looks absolutely terrified. It’s the same look he’d gotten that time he’d stopped breathing when Thor grasped his neck for the first time. Only, that time, the look had been directed at a person in Loki’s memory. Thor never thought he’d see that look directed at himself. Thor’s anger bleeds away, leaving an empty, aching sadness. He stays two feet away from Loki, gazing into his eyes. “Baby, why?” He hates that his voice cracks.
He wishes he didn’t see Luke in the crease that flickers on Loki’s brow, gone before a true frown can form. They stare at each other for what feels like hours until Loki’s gaze flickers over to Tony, who’s being uncharacteristically quiet, then to Brunnhilde. It settles back on Thor as he says, “How about you lot buy me a new coffee, seeing as mine is now on your shoes?” Thor notices he’s currently standing in the puddle of spilled drinks.
Without waiting for a response, Loki turns in the opposite direction from the coffee shop they just left and begins to walk. Tony is the first to follow him, Brunnhilde and Thor glancing at each other before joining in the procession.
Loki leads them to a little hole-in-the-wall cafe that’s nearly empty. He goes to the counter and orders a black coffee. The other three order the same. Tony pays for all of them. Loki sits on one upholstered bench of a booth and the other three cram into the one across from him. None of them make a move to drink. Thor wonders if they all feel as queasy as he does.
“Who’d like to start?” Loki asks, pleasant and empty, like a sales rep asking out of politeness.
Brunnhilde growls, “You vile, false, Norwegian bastard--”
“Ah. I see you’ve learned of my true parentage.”
“Oh we know more than that, Loki ,” Brunnhilde spits.
Loki’s face seems to drain of the little color it has. He glances at Thor and Thor’s heart skips a beat. But then Loki recovers and reclines further back in his seat. He skims his eyes over the three people in front of him. “So,” Loki starts, “to what precisely do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”
“We’re here to get our stuff back.” Tony finally breaks his silence, tone somewhat flat.
“Ah, he speaks,” Loki says condescendingly. “I’d begun to miss that compulsive yammering of yours.” Tony looks like he just saw a puppy get shot. Loki quirks a twisted smile. “And what ‘stuff’ would you be referring to?” he asks, all snark.
Thor cuts in. “Enough games, Loki.” He searches this stranger’s face for anything of the man he loved. All he sees is a coldness that is wholly foreign. Thor’s voice goes watery as he implores, “Why have you done this?” It’s obvious he isn’t referring to the thefts.
Loki’s expression flickers in a way that gives Thor hope of - something. He watches Thor for a long moment until finally letting out a puff of laughter. He looks straight into Thor’s eyes when he next speaks.
“I don’t have it.”
Thor baulks. “You think this is about the damned Tesseract?”
He receives three separate shushes. They all glance around to ensure no one heard Thor’s mention of the illegal technology.
Loki’s expression turns amused. “What else would it be about?”
“You know damn well what!” Thor bellows.
Loki makes a tch noise and cocks his head. “So angry,” he says in Luke’s posh British accent. “What happened to that sweet Oaf I married?”
Thor feels as though he’s been slapped.
Loki switches back to the American accent. “You always were the easiest one to manipulate.”
Thor lunges at him.
Tony and Brunnhilde both grab his arms. He lets himself be pulled back down to the bench and slumps against his friends. He feels as though Loki just cracked open his ribs and sliced out the treacherous hope that had been cultivating there.
Loki’s face remains smug. “You all are just children trying to play with big kid toys you don’t understand. Give up. Go home.”
“Do you think we came all the way here just to let you get away?” Brunnhilde snarls.
Loki’s face turns hard. “I think if you like being alive and would like to stay that way, you will turn around and go back home.”
Brunnhilde’s eyes narrow. “Is that a threat?”
“Yes.” The sound of a gun cocking under the table has all three of them going pale. “Now, I’m going to walk out that door. And you’re going to let me. Then you’re going to go home and move on with your lives. Pursuing this will bring you nothing good.” His hand goes behind his back, tucking the gun into the back of his shorts, Thor supposes. He stands and walks out of the cafe.
They let him.
Chapter 24: The Invitation
Thank you for the lovely feedback on last chapter! Now for Loki's perspective on things...
As soon as Loki’s out of the cafe, he doubles over and pukes on the sidewalk.
How the hell did they find him? Did they hire someone? They shouldn’t have been able to afford it with all their money gone. And there’s no way Odin or Hela had helped. This is very, very bad. Those idiots are going to get both Loki and themselves killed. The Order cannot find out about this.
He runs a hand down his face. He’s so glad he downloaded that sound effects app. He’d been desperately trying to pull up the right sound while they were talking. Luckily, it seems to have worked. Judging from how little blood was left in their faces when he left, they’d really believed he had a gun and would be willing to use it on them. That makes him sad, for some reason.
Loki straightens, wipes his mouth, and starts walking back toward Sakaar. He can’t let this interfere with the job. Thanos had made it very clear that he couldn’t be distracted this time. Not after the ‘last one’.
His steps falter. Thor. He’d thought he would never see him again. Had steeled himself for the pain of separation. He had not prepared for the far more agonising experience of reunion. Fuck. Thor’s face. He’d looked so goddamn sad.
He keeps walking.
En Dwi is lounging in a large bean bag chair by the window and tinkering with some bit of machinery when Loki walks into the older man’s office on the top level of Sakaar.
“Ah, there you are, Pet! What took your, hmm, cute little butt so long getting up here?”
Loki pastes a smile on his face. “Oh, I just ran into a few old friends that wanted to catch up.”
“Mm, and where’s that, uh, you know, that coffee? I wanted my extra special blue latte.”
Damn. He’d forgotten all about the reason he’d run into the three stooges in the first place. Time for distraction. “Ah, but I can think of another blue thing that’s much more fun to eat.” He gestures to his bright blue shirt. It physically pains him to suppress his wit and play the ditz.
En Dwi hums and gets up from the bean bag. “Hmm, I’ve never had much of a taste for - for eating clothing.” Loki can tell he’s endeared by the young, inexperienced flirting, though.
Loki huffs bratily, all part of the act. “Oh, you know what I meant, En! You wanna eat me out or should I just go home?”
En Dwi laughs loudly. “Ah, pet, you are insatiable. Come here, come here.”
Thirty minutes later, Loki is the one laying on the bean bag and En Dwi is flopped on the floor at his feet, both panting heavily. “Ah, ha, heh,” En Dwi pants, “That was indeed better than some, uh, some cheap beverage.”
Loki rolls off the bean bag and onto En Dwi. He huffs under Loki’s weight. “Told you. Now, why did you have me come all the way downtown to see you, anyway? It wasn’t just for coffee. You have interns for that.”
“Mm, as always, you are right, my pet.” He stands, unceremoniously dumping Loki onto the floor. Ow. Now his elbow is going to ache all day.
En Dwi, still naked, skips over to his desk and pulls out a piece of stationary. He walks over and drops it on Loki’s bare stomach. It’s an invitation.
“You’re inviting me to my own birthday party?” He raises a teasing eyebrow.
En Dwi gives him a big grin, the one that makes Loki’s skin crawl. “Ah, my lovely. If I didn’t, you would simply, uh, forget to show up.”
Loki drops the teasing look for a toothy grin to rival En Dwi’s. He jumps up and throws his arms around the older man. “Oh, En, I can’t wait! How did you even know when my birthday is?”
En Dwi laughs delightedly, hands finding Loki’s bare ass. “I asked your old employer at that, ah, mm, lovely establishment where we met.” He is, of course, referring to the strip club where Loki had worked for all of a week in order to, quite literally, land himself in En Dwi’s lap.
“That’s so romantic!” Loki gives him an enthusiastic kiss, full of tongue.
Well fuck. This day just keeps getting worse.
Thor, Tony, and Brunnhilde slink back to the motel room liked whipped dogs.
“Do you think he really would have shot us?” Brunnhilde asks through a trembling lip.
Thor considers that as he lays back on the beige bedspread. He’s feeling strangely numb. “I don’t know. It certainly seemed that way.” He thinks a moment more. “I suppose we don’t really know him. None of us. He could be anyone. And that could be an anyone who would shoot us.”
Thor honestly can’t tell what he thinks of this. His mind is a blank field of snow. All he knows is that he missed his chance to get through to Loki. Of course, that’s if Loki is even worth getting through to. What if the man Thor knew truly was just a lie? What if Loki is just a cold hearted con man and there’s nothing there to get through to?
Tony flips on the television. It’s on a news channel. He doesn’t change it.
Thor allows his mind to focus on the screen. A woman with no movement to her hair is reporting on ‘Exciting Things to do in Miami.’ Apparently there’s a lot. Thor listens without any real interest as she plugs sports games, bars, and concerts. But then she teases an upcoming event that has all three of them sitting up and paying attention.
“ And of course, don’t miss the big fireworks show this weekend. En Dwi Gast is having a party and we all know what that means.”
Chapter 25: Brother
En Dwi loves parties. He takes advantage of any opportunity he can sniff out to throw one.
Loki hates parties. He hates the crowd, the noise, the ceaseless socializing with people he doesn’t like. He especially hates En Dwi’s parties because they take all of the things Loki hates about parties and multiplies them by 10.
En Dwi has outdone himself for Loki’s fake birthday. Everyone from En Dwi’s company, all of his friends, and probably 50% of Miami is in attendance. They all buzz through En Dwi’s enormous penthouse like flies swarming around the corpse of Loki’s sanity.
There’s an open bar and it’s clear that few have failed to take full advantage of it. There’s a live band on one side of the suite and karaoke on the other. Fireworks can be seen going off regularly through the floor to ceiling windows. The other noise drowns out their explosions.
Loki is miserable and he is thrilled. He is, indeed, thrilled because he is miserable. On his last job, with Thor, he had thought he was losing his touch. He kept letting his emotions get in the way of his work and breaking character. But not now. Now, when Loki is more miserable than he has been for some time, his acting is flawless. Loki, the God of Lies, is back. He laughs and jokes and sings, all while wanting to stab someone. And he doesn’t break character once.
Shortly into the night, he finds himself chatting with Bruce Banner, one of Sakaar’s head research scientists. Bruce is one of the few people in the room that Loki can actually stand. However, Loki does have to keep a tight leash on his tongue to stop himself from getting drawn into intelligent conversation with the man. Bruce’s research is fascinating and impressive, but Loki is not meant to be intelligent here. He is the young, bratty sugar baby who uses his looks, rather than his wits, to get what he wants. Being too smart makes you into a threat, makes you suspicious.
“You’re so funny, Bruce! I swear, I don’t understand half the words you say. I’m convinced you just make them up to entertain yourself while sitting in a boring lab all day.” Loki cringes internally at the sound of his own voice. It’s begun to grate on him just as much as the other drunken hollering in the room.
Bruce smiles somewhat amusedly. Before he can respond, though, they’re interrupted by En Dwi giving Loki’s ass a hard slap. Ow.
“There you are, Pet! I’d begun to think you’d run off with a, uh, another man.”
Loki gives En Dwi a sultry smile over his shoulder and turns to slide his hands over the man’s chest. “As you can see, I’ve just been talking to frumpy little Brucey here. I’m hardly being swept off my feet by those loafers.”
Bruce huffs behind him. En Dwi laughs and puts his hands on Loki’s waist. “Hmm, don’t mind my dear little pet, Bruce. He uses up all his, uh, mm, kindness, yes, in our bedroom. There’s just none left to spare for anyone else.”
Bruce smiles awkwardly, a strained, uncomfortable thing.
“Oh, but that reminds me. Pet, your, uh, brother is here. I wasn’t aware you had one. Ah, but I know you don’t, uh, speak to that family of yours. Shall I have Korg toss him off the uh, uh, building?”
What? No one is meant to be posing as his brother on this job. Surely Helbindi wouldn’t… No, there has to be another explanation. But if it is Bindi...
“No! No, I want to see him.”
“As you wish, my lovely." En Dwi leads him to the entryway. Bruce must be intrigued by the idea of a mystery brother because he tags along.
As soon as they round the corner, there’s a huge pair of arms surrounding Loki. All too familiar arms. But they don’t belong to his brother. Fuck. This is even worse than Bindi showing up.
Over Thor’s shoulder, Loki sees Brunnhilde and Tony. He gives them a sharp look, putting as much venom into his wide, shocked eyes as he can. With some effort, Loki pulls back from Thor’s hug, which has been going just a little too long and feeling just a little too good.
“Brother,” Loki says through his teeth, “What are you doing here?” He hopes the tightness of his voice passes as trepidation from being faced with an estranged brother.
“How could I miss my brother’s big day?” Thor booms in a poor American accent. “And I brought my girlfriend Val!” He gestures awkwardly to Brunnhilde beside him. “And this is my friend Tom.” He nods toward Tony.
They both give wide, shiteating grins and wave.
Loki ignores them. “Brother… I haven’t spoken to anyone in my - our family in nearly eight years.” His story with En Dwi is that he’s been estranged from his parents since leaving home when he was 18.
Thor looks caught out for a second before recovering. “And I have missed you dearly! I’ve wanted to reconnect for a long time, but didn’t know where you lived. And then your upcoming birthday party made the news! I couldn’t believe I’d finally found you.” His voice goes quieter. “I had to see you.”
Loki ignores the sudden sincerity in Thor’s last words.
The news, of course. That’s how they’d found out about the party. En Dwi’s larger parties were such a spectacle they generally made the news before they’d even happened. Loki suspects that En Dwi himself is usually the one to leak it to the press. There are probably scores of people on the streets below watching the fireworks.
But they shouldn’t have been able to get inside without being on the guest list. Loki snaps his eyes up to look at Korg, who’s been hovering behind Tony. He glares at the giant man until he catches on that he’s in trouble.
Korg raises his hands and says in his weirdly high, New Zealand accent, “Hey, man. The door guy called me and said your bro was here. I’m not one to stand in the wary of joyful family reunions with long lost loved ones.”
Loki growls. Why did En Dwi hire such an imbecile to be Loki’s bodyguard? He instructed Korg to keep out from under his feet tonight and the man went and brought in three others for Loki to trip over in his stead.
En Dwi interrupts with a loud laugh. “Come, Pet, you’re being rude. I think it’s, uh, mm, beautiful. Yes, it’s beautiful that he has searched so hard for you. This calls for another round of fireworks!” He prances off to tell Topaz to signal for more.
Loki herds Thor, Brunnhilde, and Tony off to the side of the room. “I thought I told you to go home?” he snarls.
“You’re not going to scare me away,” Thor vows solemnly.
“You let him call you ‘Pet’?” Brunnhilde’s lip curls.
“That guy seems like a total creep,” Tony agrees.
A gentle hand lands on Loki’s shoulder. He turns. It’s Bruce. “Hey, Lucky, is everything okay here?”
Loki ignores Tony’s whispered, “Lucky, what kind of name is that?” behind him.
He forces a smile. “Yeah, of course Bruce! Let me introduce you to my brother and his friends.” He turns back to the menaces three. “This is my brother, uh--”
“Donald,” Thor supplies, “Nice to meet you, Bruce.” He offers a firm handshake.
“Bruce Banner. Nice to meet you, Donald.”
Tony snaps to full attention. “Banner? Not the renowned physicist, Dr. Bruce Banner?”
Bruce gives an embarrassed laugh. “Yeah, that’d be me.”
Loki clears his throat. “That would be Tom. And this is Val, Donald’s girlfriend.”
Brunnhilde shakes Bruce’s hand and they exchange pleasantries. Tony is still gaping at the physicist.
Bruce looks between Thor and Loki. “For brothers, you don’t look much alike.”
He’s right. They have totally different builds, coloring, and features. Thinking fast, Loki says, “He’s adopted.”
Thor, stupidly, looks hurt.
Then the room lights up with a sudden wave of colored lights spilling in through the glass walls. Apparently the new round of fireworks En Dwi requested have begun. There are so many that the noise finally makes it past the pulsing music. Thor, Brunnhilde, and Tony, whose attention finally leaves Bruce, all gape at the explosions of color going off so close to them, illuminating the windows.
Loki grits his teeth at the obnoxious display. Beside him, Bruce groans at the garishness. Loki wants to turn to the physicist so they can commiserate. Instead, he turns to En Dwi, who is striding toward them and switches on the boyish excitement.
“En, It’s so beautiful!” He runs to meet En Dwi partway, throws his arms around the older man’s neck, and plants a loud kiss on his cheek.
En Dwi giggles, looking quite pleased with himself and caressing the spot Loki just kissed. “Mm, only the best for my pet.”
Loki resists the urge to gag.
Chapter 26: The Anger
Thor watches his love throw himself on the other man. No, not his love, he tells himself, not Luke. Loki.
It doesn’t make watching this any less painful.
“En, it’s so beautiful!” The kiss to En Dwi’s cheek is loud and the sound of it echos around Thor’s skull.
“Mm, only the best for my pet.” There’s that word again. Pet. Like Loki is just one of En Dwi’s possessions.
Loki giggles as the older man grabs his ass through the booty shorts he’s wearing. Thor sees red.
Before he realizes he means to, he storms forward and rips En Dwi’s hand from the pert ass, grabbing Loki around the waist and pulling him away from the older man. “Don’t touch him like that!”
Thor freezes. Shit. What has he done?
He hears a quiet, “Oh, fuck,” from Tony and a groan from Brunnhilde. Loki seems to be as frozen as Thor himself. En Dwi is looking at Thor with a shocked frown.
Thor backpedals. “Ah, sorry! It’s just, the last time that I saw Lo - Lucky, he was still so young and he’s my baby brother, you know. And having just found him after looking for so long, I just--”
En Dwi doubles over with uproarious laughter. It seems to snap Loki out of his shock and he yanks himself out of Thor’s hold. He shoots Thor a glare that turns his emerald eyes into poison. Then he slips seamlessly into a perfect imitation of En Dwi’s laugh. It’s disturbing to watch just how easily he shifts into character.
Loki straightens, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes as En Dwi leans on him, still giggling. They look so natural together, leaning against each other in a way that speaks to physical familiarity. They’re twins with their matching blue eyeliner and nail polish. Both of them are so tall and lean, graceful like dancers. Thor shifts, feeling the need to hide his bulk.
“Oh, En, you should have seen how he was when I first started going out with boys, back in grade school. He was always so overprotective.”
En Dwi wraps his arms around the younger man’s waist and nuzzles his temple into Loki’s. Loki nuzzles back. Then En Dwi looks at Thor. “I’m happy to hear it, Donald. When you showed up right after your brother found himself a, uh, rich, influential boyfriend, I was understandably, mm, suspicious of your intentions. I’m glad to see that you are very much here for him and not for me. Or my money, that is.” His voice goes sterner. “But I will have you know that I am here for him as well. Lucky made the - the choice to remain away from you for, uh, years. Meanwhile, he’s made the choice to stay with me. I do believe that gives me, hmm, ownership rights.”
Thor tries really, really hard not to punch him. He only succeeds because Brunnhilde grabs his wrist tightly enough that the bones creak.
Loki tugs on En Dwi’s sleeve and says in a whiney voice that Luke would have slapped someone for using in his presence, “En, this is boring. Donald never was any fun. I want to dance now.”
En Dwi’s stern look morphs into a smitten smile as he looks back to Loki. “Of course, my lovely. Lead the way.” The two leggy men prance off without another word to the three heartbroken exes.
Thor looks back at his partners. Tony looks like he might cry. Brunnhilde looks mad. Oh, and apparently Bruce is still standing there.
“Mr. Gast isn’t so bad once you get to know him,” Bruce offers kindly.
Thor sneers, unthinkingly says, “I don’t want to like him.”
Bruce gives him a funny look. People seem to be doing that with him a lot lately.
“I need a drink,” Brunnhilde mutters darkly and starts walking toward the bar.
Bruce looks after her and then back at Thor. “You and your girlfriend having issues?” He seems to be saying more with the question, but Thor doesn’t know what it would be.
Tony laughs. “Oh, she’s just tired. They’re fine, we’re all fine.”
Bruce looks unconvinced, but nods. “Well, it was nice meeting you.”
“Yes, yes, so nice meeting you, Dr. Banner!” Tony exclaims.
“Just Bruce is fine.”
“Bruce.” He says it nearly reverently.
Bruce nods, throwing one last funny look at Thor and walks off into the crowd.
Tony whirls on Thor. “What the fuck was that?”
Thor gives him a defensive pout. “I just--”
“You just made both Loki’s boyfriend and Bruce Banner himself think that you wanna boink your own brother!”
Thor is taken aback.“What?”
“You were drooling all over Loki and acting all jealous and possessive! And then your girlfriend stalks off right after the display. That doesn’t look good, buddy.”
Thor flushes scarlet. Well, fuck.
Loki pulls En Dwi onto the dance floor in a desperate attempt to avoid any further disasters. Thor is acting like an absolute imbecile and will fuck this whole job up if Loki isn’t careful. At least Tony and Brunnhilde mostly kept their mouths shut.
“Ah, Pet, that brother of yours is, eh, odd.”
Loki cringes. Thor had acted like a jealous boyfriend. It had been obvious possessiveness, uncharacteristic of a brother who hasn’t seen Lucky in eight years. Loki decides it’s time for another distraction. He has a feeling the menaces three are going to create the need for a lot more of those.
“En, how about you let me thank you for this party?”
“Mm, what did you have in mind?”
“How about a reenactment of the night we met?” En Dwi purs in response. Loki drags him over to a long white couch and pushes him down. Then he steps back and begins a much raunchier dance. He snakes his body in a sinuous wave to the hard bass of the music.
He slowly dances forward until his belly button grazes En Dwi’s chin. When En Dwi reaches up to touch him, he slaps his hands away. Then he straddles the older man with his knees on the couch. He continues to dance, bracing his hands behind himself on En Dwi’s knees, arching his back, and letting his head fall back.
He opens his eyes, getting an upside down view of the room behind him. He spots the menaces three, makes eye contact with each of them, grinning maniacally. He does it to be cruel. He needs to make them give up and leave. They won’t get their stolen property back. They won’t get their fake spouses back. If they keep trying, they’re going to get Loki killed. And above all else, Loki looks out for himself.
He stands and turns to give En Dwi his back. He spreads his legs wide and shakes his ass in the man’s face, hears an appreciative hum. Then Loki looks back to Thor, Tony, and Brunnhilde. He lets himself look. Really look. It’s the first chance he’s gotten to do so without panic clouding his mind.
Brunnhilde has grown her hair out. It looks nice. But she’s holding a very full glass of tequila, which means she’s fallen off the wagon again. And watching Loki dance on En Dwi, her eyes look haunted. It’s a shame. She has enough ghosts in her mind already.
Tony looks drawn, less healthy and carefree. Since they’d found Loki, the man has been uncharacteristically quiet. Loki is legitimately starting to miss his wit. His eyes on Loki are lost and confused, surely trying to reconcile the whore in front of him with the gentle woman he knew.
And Thor. He’s as beautiful as ever and even more massive than Loki remembers, tall, broad, and thick. Loki wonders if Thor’s been eating his feelings. Loki certainly has, although, like a snake, he always seems to stay slender once his kills are digested. Thor’s hair is short now. Loki mourns the locks, but their golden color at least remains. Thor’s posture, though, has changed. He almost looks… insecure. It doesn’t suit him. As he watches Loki dance in En Dwi’s lap, Thor’s eyes scald him. He looks sad, angry. That doesn’t suit him either.
All three of them have purple bags under their eyes as though they haven’t been sleeping enough. They all seem to have aged years in the months since he’s seen them. They all look broken.
Loki did that.
Thor is trembling. Luke always made him feel like he was on a roller coaster, unpredictable and exciting. This new man, Loki, makes him feel like he’s on a roller coaster too. But it’s not exciting. He feels ill, like his insides are getting shoved around with the force of the crests and drops. He feels like things are moving too quickly and yet the ride never seems to reach the end. He feels like he’s hurtling through space, the intensity of the wind blinding him, making his eyes water. He has whiplash from how many directions and plummets his emotions have swerved in the past few days.
The man he married is currently dancing like a cat in heat on the lap of another man. When he looks at Thor, a sick grin splitting his face, his eyes hold no love, no long-suffering affection, no Luke. He looks at Thor like a feline would a rat, delighted with his intention to crush Thor between his jaws.
Luke had not been gentle, but he was never truly cruel. He was sharp, scathing, mean even. But never would Thor have thought him capable of taking sadistic pleasure in torture, the way he now seems to.
In that shitty cafe two days ago, Loki had put on Luke’s posh accent, called Thor ‘Oaf’. He’d so easily slipped on his Luke suit, exactly as Thor just witnessed him do with the Lucky suit. The man is a psychopath. He switches personalities like clothes. Brunnhilde was right. This man never cared about any of them. He never cared about Thor. Luke wasn’t real. This is not the man he knew. The man he knew is dead, if you can say that of someone who never existed in the first place.
As Thor watches his husband dance all over his new boyfriend, he is overwhelmed with grief. He thinks he knows how Loki’s mother felt, mourning for her lost son. Thor’s husband is gone. He no longer has the comfort that Luke is out in the world somewhere, living on, even if it is without Thor. No, Luke is gone entirely, devoured by this viper called Loki.
Thor at last finds the anger he knew he should have been feeling all along. He looks at the man he loved and feels hate. Hate that, for some reason, makes him want to curl up in a ball and cry for the rest of eternity.
Chapter 27: The Real Loki
I hope everyone who celebrates it had a great Thanksgiving! For those who don't, I hope you had a lovely Thursday :)
Loki is fast losing the control he’d finally gotten back. He’s spent the past hour of the party wearing two distinct masks. He’s been trying to keep En Dwi distracted, playing sugar baby Lucky, while simultaneously glaring down the menaces three, playing the heartless psychopath. He can’t remember ever having played two characters at once. It’s exhausting.
He has been pretending to be quite drunk for a while now. It fits with his Lucky persona and, more importantly, it covers his fatigue and gives him an excuse for the somewhat erratic behavior that comes with juggling distractions and avoiding the menaces.
Not to mention that Loki’s pretty sure Bruce’s scientific gaze has noticed the personality split. The man has been watching Loki and the menaces three rather closely since Thor’s outburst. He’s only become more watchful since catching sight of Loki’s death glare aimed at the menaces.
And now, of course, Loki remembers Bucky is here too. Thanos always assigns two people to accompany Loki on his assignments. Usually, he gets Nebula and Gamora. However, while on the Stark job in New York last year, Loki scouted a new recruit. Bucky had been working for Stark Industries operating machinery. Loki saw something familiar in his eyes.
He had gotten to know Bucky well during his time as Elle. The man was a veteran who had found himself unable to fit back into his old life upon return. He had been taken and tortured as a prisoner of war for over two years before he was rescued. When he returned, he went through years of therapy, both physical and psychological. In an attempt to get him reintegrated into society, Tony had given him a job at Stark Industries as a favor to their mutual friend, Steve.
Bucky’s time in captivity had taken from him the carefree innocence of his youth and left him with a bitter harshness. It had also taken his arm. His prosthetic hindered him, made him feel even more out of place in a world full of two-armed people who’d never killed. He no longer possessed skills suited for the real world. His talents laid in subterfuge and brute force, not desk work and socializing.
Loki had looked into Bucky’s eyes and understood what he saw there all too well. He knew from experience, this man would never fit into the normal world. He would never find peace there. So Loki had tested him. He gave Bucky glances of Loki’s own darkness, his talents for mischief and lies. He gave subtle suggestions that there were still things suited to Bucky’s talents, if only he were willing to acknowledge them. He planted a seed in Bucky’s broken mind, watched to see if it would grow and twist its roots into his brain matter the way it had with Loki so many years ago.
When the time to steal the Scepter came, he gave Bucky an opportunity. “You can’t stop me. It’s done. Stark Industries will fall. But you can come with me.”
Bucky had joined Thanos’s Order. They have spent the year since then grooming him, teaching him. This is his first job in the field. In place of Nebula, he is working beside Gamora assisting Loki in conning En Dwi Gast. Nebula had not been pleased at having her job stolen. Loki’s pretty sure she really is in the hospital this time.
Bucky is posing as a security guard. He’d easily gotten hired by En Dwi. The man had seen Bucky’s missing arm and immediately declared him a “tough biscuit”. Unfortunately, instead of hiring him as Loki’s guard as they’d hoped, he was given the duty of guarding Sakaar’s second in command, Topaz. Meanwhile, Loki had gotten stuck with the imbecile, Korg, as his personal guard. This means that any time Loki snoops, he has to find a way to lose the lumbering idiot.
Because Bucky is guarding Topaz, though, that means he is also at ‘Lucky’s’ birthday party. Loki looks between Bucky and the menaces three. Bucky is standing guard behind Topaz where she is slicing herself some cake. The menaces three are all crowded around the bar. Drowning their misery, Loki supposes.
He can’t let Bucky and Tony come into contact. At least, not until he’s thought up an explanation to give Bucky that will keep him from reporting this to Thanos. And so he adds another person to his juggle, keeping En Dwi, Bruce, and now Bucky from coming into contact with Thor, Brunnhilde, and Tony.
This is only made harder when the damn menaces decide to split off from each other and cause their own individual mayhems. Brunnhilde, of course, remains at the bar, drunkenly hitting on every remotely attractive person. All the while, she sends Loki scathing looks full of sour hurt. Tony breaks off to join a group of Sakaar scientists in their discussion about gamma radiation. The man clearly has no concept of keeping a low profile. Not many people even know what gamma radiation is. Thor, meanwhile, starts walking toward the circle of people talking with Loki. Fuck.
Thor latches onto his newfound anger. He won’t let that snake get away with this. He destroyed Thor’s life. He destroyed Brunnhilde’s, Tony’s, and he’s going to destroy En Dwi’s. Thor can’t really bring himself to care whether En Dwi’s life is ruined, if he’s honest, but the principle still stands.
As Brunnhilde drowns herself in tequila and Tony wanders off citing the need for distraction, Thor watches Loki. He’s standing at the center of a group of five other people. Apparently, whatever story he’s telling is hilarious. Three of the listeners have spouted their alcoholic beverages out their noses in their laughter. There was a time that Thor would often laugh just as hard at Luke’s wit.
Thor downs the rest of his beer and makes his way over to the group. He sees Loki shoot him a glare with his poison green eyes. He ignores the warning and continues on toward them. He sidles up to stand across the group from Loki, listening as the snake continues his story without so much as a pause at Thor’s intrusion.
“--and I told him that the only way I would go home with him was if he could get that carrot out of his ass.”
The group cracks up once more at ‘Lucky’s’ story. Thor doesn’t.
“What did he do?” a stout man to Loki’s left asks through snorts of laughter.
“Oh, isn’t it obvious? He cried and ran out, with a very comical limp, I may add.” Loki grins boyishly. “And then I called up my friends--”
Feeling a need to be cruel, Thor interjects, “I thought you didn’t have any friends, Lucky.” He thinks back to Farbauti, Laufey, and Helbindi, all saying the same.
Loki looks sharpley at Thor. Something flickers across his face, interrupting the smug grin he’s been sporting all night. He recovers quickly, though. “Of course I do, Donald. You haven’t seen me in eight years. Clearly your memory of me is damaged.”
A tiny woman to Thor’s right perks up. “Eight years? Why the long separation?”
Loki looks over at her. “I left home at 18. We’ve been estranged ever since.” He looks back at Thor. Tightly, he says, “Until recently.”
“Yes, I’ve missed Lucky,” Thor says. “But we haven’t been entirely without contact.” He sends Loki a smug smile of his own. “Lucky sends me postcards every time he visits a new city.”
Loki’s eyes widen, unhindered panic and horror showing through. Thor doesn’t know if he should feel proud or disgusted with himself. Mostly he just feels numb. His mouth continues on anyway.
“He never writes anything on them, though. I suppose it’s for the best. He would probably just use the space to call me a big old Ogre.” Thor says the words as if in jest, but looks at Loki with cold eyes as he reveals his knowledge of Loki’s nickname for his real brother, Helbindi.
Loki’s reaction doesn’t disappoint. His mouth drops open and his martini hits the floor. The people nearest him scatter to avoid the shards of glass.
Thor keeps going, not even flinching. “Mother and Father never hear from him, though. With how long it’s been, he might as well be dead. Our mother certainly cries enough that you’d think he was. Of course, Lucky never really cared about--”
Loki slaps him.
Thor blinks in shock, head still tilted to the side from the hit. Fuck. He’d gotten carried away. He hadn’t meant to go that far. He turns his head back to look at the man in front of him. Loki is visibly shaking, his hands clenched into fists at his sides, teeth cutting into his lower lip. There are tears in his eyes.
Seeing the pain in Loki’s face, Thor feels like he’s been slapped a second time. He attempts to swallow past the lump in his throat. Tries again. “Lo - Lucky, I--”
Loki stalks away. The rest of the group scatters awkwardly, a custodian coming to clean up the broken glass. Thor feels gutted.
Loki locks himself in the bathroom. Then he lets the tears out, unhindered. Horrible sobs wrack his body as he hugs his arms around his chest. He leans against the door, slips down to slump on the cold tile. It’s the first time he’s let himself cry since he left Thor in London.
Loki can’t bear all that Thor has learned about him. He knows about the postcards, about his nickname for Helbindi. That means they were in Helbindi’s house. They spoke to him. Thor knows about Loki’s pathetic younger self, who’d been devoid of friends, with a father and one brother who hated him, a mother and another brother who pitied him.
He knows that Loki lived an ugly, lonely childhood. He knows Loki is legally dead. He knows of Loki’s career built on a pile of broken hearts. And he was so merciless in showing Loki just how much he knew. He laid bare the wreckage which Loki left in his wake. There was no love, no adoring grin, none of the kindness Loki had come to know from him.
Thor came here looking for Luke and found an imposter in his place. Loki may have let Thor see more of himself than he had other marks, but never would he have given him this much. And now Thor knows it all. All of Loki. And he has just made his opinion on it all quite clear.
Loki had always been certain that if Thor ever saw the real Loki, he would hate him. He was right.
There’s a knock on the bathroom door. Loki sniffs, wipes his cheeks. He’s in the bathroom that’s furthest from where the party is in full swing. He had hoped nobody would bother coming down the hall to find it.
The knock comes again, this time accompanied by a voice. One that Loki knows intimately. “Hey, I know you’re in there. I just want to talk.”
Loki ignores him. That’s the last thing he wants to deal with right now.
The voice quiets to a stage whisper, just barely making it through the door. “Loki, come on. Let me in.” Another knock.
Realizing that the stubborn man will sooner give Loki a concussion with his knocking than give up, Loki relents. He stands and looks in the mirror to make himself presentable. He has criss-crosses pressed into this bare thighs from the tile and red circles around his eyes from the tears. He gives up and opens the door.
Tony’s raised fist almost knocks straight into Loki’s skull when the door is suddenly removed. Tony lowers his hand and laughs abashedly. Loki gives him an unimpressed raised eyebrow.
“Sorry about that. I, uh - hey, have you been crying?” Tony gets on his tiptoes to peer more closely at Loki with concerned eyes.
Loki sighs. He grabs Tony by the shirt, pulls him into the bathroom, and closes the door. No need to have this conversation where anyone could overhear them. “What do you want, Tony?”
Tony looks wounded by the question. “What do I want? There’s a whole lot I want. I want my company to have never been demolished. I want to be back in my house that I had to sell in favor of living in my dad’s damn flat. I want my life to be what it was. I want my wife back.” Tony sounds bitter and desolate. The last year has not been good to him.
Loki would pity him, except that he’d sworn off the practice long ago after being on the receiving end too many times. Instead, he thinks of Tony’s successful weapons company, committed to producing tools to help people slaughter one another. He thinks of Tony prospering on blood money. He thinks of the blood Loki himself would have lost had he not gone through with conning Tony. He feels no regret.
“You will never get any of it back.”
Tony sighs. “I know.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Because I need closure.”
Loki cocks his head. “And how will you achieve that?”
Tony huffs, looks at the floor, then back at Loki. “Can I - can you, uh, be Elle? Just for a minute. I need a final parting with her. I need to tell her goodbye.”
Loki thinks on it. Ultimately, he can’t see any harm in complying. If this is what it takes for Tony to get over Elle and leave Loki alone to con En Dwi in peace, then he’ll do it. Softening his expression and slipping into a lilting accent, he says, “ tu m'as manqué mon amour.”
Tony sucks in a breath, his shoulders slumping and his face scrunching like he’s been punched. He reaches out a shaking hand, tentatively reaching toward Loki’s face. When Loki makes no move to stop him, Tony strokes his cheek reverently. “There you are, Angel.”
Loki leans into the touch, turns his face to kiss Tony’s wrist. In Elle’s French accent he says, “I never left. I live inside of you.”
Tony shudders with a sobbing breath. His hands shoot up to grasp Loki’s face, dragging his lips down to his own. Loki resists the urge to push Tony away, instead allowing the kiss and the flood of unpleasant memories it brings with it . When they pull apart, Tony rocks his forehead into Loki’s. “Fuck, Angel, I miss you so much.” He sobs again. He looks desperately into Loki’s eyes. “I don’t care if you’re a man, a woman, neither, both,” he says urgently. “Please, Elle, Loki, I forgive you for everything. Stay with me, I--”
Loki pulls away sharply, making Tony stumble forward from the sudden loss. Loki’s face returns to its hardened, empty stare, all traces of Elle gone. He watches the sobbing man and waits for Tony to pull himself together.
When he regains his breath, Tony manages to gasp out, “You’re the devil.”
It reminds Loki of the good memories he has of Tony. He gives him a genuine smile, full of fondness. “I know.”
Tony’s face twists with confusion, then smooths out into understanding as they look into each other’s eyes. Loki wonders what he sees.
When they leave the bathroom, Tony turns back to Loki as he stands in the open doorway. His face is somber, but resolved. “I forgive you. Not because I think you deserve it, but because I need to.” He watches Loki closely for a second. “And I think you need it too.”
Loki cocks his head, gives a surprised scoff. Why would he possibly need Tony’s forgiveness? He feels no regret. But Tony just keeps looking at him with those unwavering eyes. Loki rolls his own eyes loudly. “Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
Tony gives something close to his usual bright smile. “How about I get you a drink once we return to that god awful party?”
“Absolutely not, I can’t be getting drunk with that sleazy old man waiting to pounce on me at any opportunity.”
Tony’s smile broadens, turns amused.“You know, I don’t hate the real Loki.”
“A mistake on your part, I assure you.”
Tony laughs, almost sounding like his old self. It sparks a flare of fondness in Loki. His own smile turns genuine once more as he cups Tony’s face and leans down to gift him one final kiss. It’s slow, less desperate and sad than the previous one. They both know it will be the last one. It’s Tony finally getting his goodbye.
Loki and Tony spring apart at the shout. They both whirl to look down the hall with wide eyes. Brunnhilde is standing at the other end of the corridor, bracing herself drunkenly on the wall, face full of horrible anger.
“How could you?” Brunnhilde screams, hopefully not loud enough for people in the midst of music and fireworks to hear. “You rotten, awful, fucking bastard!”
Loki and Tony share a glance. It’s impossible to tell which of them she means. Probably both. Then Brunnhilde is swiveling drunkenly away from them, stumbling back toward the thumping bass and flashing lights. Loki curses and runs after her.
We'll be getting our face to face with Thor and Loki next chapter!
Chapter 29: The Other Man
Thor stands stunned after Loki storms away with tears in his eyes. He had looked so betrayed, so horribly sad. Those had not been the poison green eyes of the snake who’d been jabbing knives into Thor all night. Those had been the anguished emerald eyes of his husband, his broken, beautiful husband.
Thor is hit with an intense wave of remorse. What if that snake had just been another act? What if he was just lashing out to protect himself? It makes Thor sick to consider that Loki might think he would need to defend himself from Thor.
Then again, Thor just proved him right, didn’t he? He attacked Loki, sneering cruel words about his family, his bleak past. In his anger and hurt, Thor too had lashed out. And yet, he can’t regret it. Because it revealed to him a sight he knows well: cracks in Loki’s mask.
Before, when he first met Loki, the man had worn a mask made of soft laughter and suave professionalism. Cracks in that mask had revealed a biting wit and chaotic brilliance underneath. Now, through this new mask made of razor teeth and sickly smiles, the cracks reveal a heartbreaking sadness.
Thor thinks back to Helbindi. When they spoke, Thor had been so sure that the Luke he knew was the real Loki, at least in part. Seeing Loki-the-merciless-con-man in action had uprooted that hope. Now, Thor feels it sprouting once again.
He’s distracted from his thoughts by a commotion that manages to be loud enough to crest over the pounding sound of the party. Turning to look, he spots Brunnhilde shoving past people toward the karaoke stage, shouting something that Thor can’t quite make out. Then he spots Loki trailing after her, pushing through people just as fiercely, and Tony trailing after Loki.
Thor cocks his head, confused at the sight. He quickly catches on, though, and runs to trail after the other three. As he jostles his way through the crowd, he watches Brunnhilde climb onto the stage and grab the microphone from a mousey man in the middle of singing along to Don’t You Want Me . Looking terrified, the man scurries away, forfeiting the stage to the clearly drunk and angry woman.
Swaying slightly and slurring heavily, she announces into the microphone, “I want to give a toast.” She raises her glass of straight vodka, spilling most of it in the process. “To Lucky, the birthday boy.” She chugs what is left of her drink.
By this point, Loki and Tony have reached the front of the stage and are staring up at Brunnhilde with looks of horror. Thor finally makes it to them, not sure whether he should try and interfere by pulling Brunnhilde off the stage. Loki notices Thor’s arrival and glances over at him. Thor catches his eye and they share a worried look. Despite Thor’s concern over present circumstances, his heart swells at the brief moment of unity.
Then Brunnhilde is continuing. “Lucky,” she overemphasizes the name, “is a really lucky guy.” She gives a sloppy giggle. “He gets everything he wants. Everyone he wants.” She seems to notice the three of them gathered at the front of the crowd then. Her eyes narrow on Tony, to Thor’s confusion. “And who would ever refuse him? No matter who else they had to step on to reach him.” Her glare aimed at Tony turns truly murderous.
Thor decides it’s time to step in, being Brunnhilde’s fake boyfriend and all. He bypasses the stairs, jumping onto the stage right in front of her. “Okay, I thinks that’s enough, Sweetheart,” he says with false cheer. “Sorry everybody, I think she’s had just a few too many.”
Brunnhilde growls and tugs against Thor’s hold on her, but the alcohol has made her too uncoordinated to earn much headway. “You dolt, let me go.”
Thor ignores her struggles and pulls her off the stage, back through the crowd, and into an alcove away from the other drunken party attendees. “Get ahold of yourself,” he whispers fiercely.
“Fuck you,” she slurs. “You’re one to talk, been slobbering all over him since we got here.” Her eyes jerk up to glare at Tony who has just caught up to them. “Not as much as him though.”
Thor turns to give a confused look to Tony. He notices the man’s eyes are red. His lips are red too, almost looking kiss swollen. Tony doesn’t meet Thor’s eyes. He looks guilty. As a scowling Loki comes up behind Tony, Thor turns a gaze full of dread to look at him too. Loki’s eyes and lips are just as red and swollen as Tony’s. Thor’s stomach drops.
Brunnhilde gives a mean laugh at Thor’s expression. “Yeah, I caught them snogging by the bathroom.”
Loki shoves into Brunnhilde’s space, crowding her against the wall. “That is none of your concern.” His voice is ice cold.
“You’re my fucking husband!”
“No. I’m not.” He leans closer, looming over her. “My name isn’t Lachlan. I’ve never been to war. I don’t meditate. I don’t have a dream of uniting the world in peace. And I’ve never had a drinking problem. Unlike some people.” He steps back, expression far too menacing for the bubblegum pink booty shorts he wears. “I’m not your husband. You have no claim to me. The sooner you accept that and move on with your life, the better off you’ll be.” He turns on his heel and saunters back out into the party. He doesn't even look at Thor.
Heart on the floor, Thor stares after Loki until he loses sight of him. Then he wrenches his eyes back to Tony. It’s difficult to see him through the haze of rage clouding his vision.
Logically, Thor knows he has no right to be angry at Tony. He was Loki’s husband too. And yet, Thor still feels betrayed. He has come to see Tony and Brunnhilde as his friends. And he only just regained some small degree of hope that the Luke he knew hadn’t been a complete lie. That, just maybe, Loki truly--
“How could you?” Brunnhilde’s voice is shattered. “Tony, how could you do that?” Her biting anger seems to have walked off along with Loki.
Thor is plenty willing to make up for it. He growls at Tony. “You were just scheming to stab us in the backs this whole time. All you wanted was to get Loki back in the sack. You probably coerced him, forced yourself on him.” Thor’s mind is a whirl of nails and barbed wire. He ignores everything he knows about Tony to protect his own conscious from the possibility that Loki willingly kissed the other man. He can’t face what that could mean. He’s been hoping all this time that there was a possibility that Loki truly loved him, had fallen for his mark. To think that he had been correct, just about the wrong mark, is too painful to consider.
“No! How could you think that?”
“Because Tony,” Brunnhilde says sternly, only a slight slur detectable, “Why would he go back to you? You were just a sucker to him, like all of us were. He never loved you. Just like he never loved Thor. Or me.” Thor’s gut twists horribly at her words. “You can’t expect us to believe he flung himself at you, begging for it.”
Tony huffs, eyes on the floor. “It wasn’t like that.” He huffs again. “I was saying goodbye. Loki agreed to be Elle one final time so I could say goodbye to her. Move on.” He lifts his gaze to look at each of them. “We weren’t - she doesn’t--” He shuffles, looking miserable.
Thor feels such relief at the words that it shames him. Because he knows he’s a hypocrite. If he had the chance to steal a willing Loki away from everyone else, including his two friends, he would do it without hesitation.
“What we had is gone. She’s still alluring, sure, yeah. But she’s not Elle. Loki did me a kindness, in a weird sort of way, by showing me that. Elle was just a fantasy, not a real person.” Tony looks absolutely miserable.
Brunnhilde sighs. “I’m sorry, Tony. It was wrong of me to jump to conclusions.”
Tony’s eyes soften. “It’s okay. I understand. I probably would have reacted the same or worse in your situation.”
Thor fights against the niggling voice at the back of his mind whispering that just because Tony is ready to move on from Loki doesn’t mean that Loki doesn’t have any feelings for Tony. He chooses to instead focus on the voice telling him to right the wrongs he’s committed against his friend. “I am sorry too, Tony. What I said… I know that’s not you. My words are entirely a reflection of my own refusal to accept reality.”
“I’m serious, you guys. It’s okay,” Tony insists. “To be honest, I did go into that bathroom hoping to reconnect with my wife, no matter how that would have affected you. But instead, I was shown definitively that Elle truly never existed. It’s freeing, in a way. I’ve had a year to mourn the loss of her and now I think I’m able to accept this. You two are far more important to me than some fake woman who broke my heart.”
Thor thinks Tony forgives them too easily, considering the horrible things they accused him of in their anger. But he claims to understand their feelings, and Thor supposes he probably does. After all, the three of them are in the same position.
“Besides, Elle was a part of the life I had before. She wouldn’t fit so well now.” Tony offers a strained smile.
Thor privately thinks Tony sounds like he’s trying a bit too hard to convince himself that all he says is true. Thor doesn’t call him out on it though. At least one of them is trying to move on.
Chapter 30: At the Time
a.k.a. Loki lies to himself a lot.
There’s still some commotion around the karaoke stage. Thor can’t hear it from across the room, but he can see En Dwi up on stage making calming gestures and motioning for someone to hand him a mic.
Thor, Tony, and Brunnhilde agree that it might be best to avoid that area for a while. Instead, they find a secluded corridor and talk. Tony seems to have had a shift in his thinking since his conversation with Loki. Brunnhilde, too, has calmed down since the confrontation. She’s still angry, but she seems to have decided once and for all that Loki is not and will never again be Lachlan.
Thor sees in both of their eyes some deep sadness dissimilar to his own. More final. And yet, he also sees relief. It’s a burden off their shoulders to have definitive proof that Loki is not Elle or Lachlan. They are free to see him as a different person than the spouse that broke their hearts. For Tony, that person seems to be an amusing and fascinating person worth learning more about. For Brunnhilde, that person is the ruiner of worlds. But despite how differently they see Loki, they are both entirely sure that he is not the person they knew.
Thor finds himself almost envying them. Because he doesn’t have that relief. That freedom. That finality. Because he isn’t sure.
The three of them agree to not allow Loki to come between them again. Their friendship has extended past their shared husband. No matter who Loki is and how they feel about him now, their friendship is worth too much to allow it to be ripped apart by him.
“So what are we going to do for the rest of this god forsaken party?” Brunnhilde asks. She seems mostly sober now.
“We should go find Ocean’s One. Cheer her up,” Tony suggests jovially.
Thor perks up. “Yeah, he looked pretty upset. I bet he could use some company.” The suggestion significantly improves his mood. An opportunity to speak with Loki on civil terms sounds like exactly what Thor needs. Maybe he can make up for the awful things he said earlier. And, just maybe, he can crack this new mask as well as he had the last one.
Brunnhilde rolls her eyes at them. “You guys do realize you’re talking about the man who conned you, ditched you, and stole all your money?”
Thor and Tony glance at each other, shrug. Then they’re striding off in search of Loki. Thor hears Brunnhilde huff and follow. He smiles.
Loki collapses onto a yellow leather couch, stretching his legs along it. He’s at the end of his rope. Far too much has happened in this one night.
The kiss with Tony had brought back lots of memories, not exactly pleasant. As Elle, Loki had always felt suffocated. There was something about being a woman that felt right, a something that Thor had later helped him put a name to. But as Elle he was never expressing it the way he felt it. Being relegated to the role of ‘woman’ felt just as restricting as being pigeonholed as ‘man’. Ronan had assigned him the job of playing a trans woman because Tony’s internet history had indicated a porn preference in that particular direction. As such, it was Loki’s job to fulfill that sexual fantasy. He had later learned that Tony was not nearly so simple as that, but by then the character of Elle was established. She was a woman in a tall, broad shouldered body that wanted nothing more than to feel small and delicate. Small and delicate are two of Loki’s least favorite things to feel.
Tony, at least, seems to have accepted that Elle isn’t real. Loki figures it makes sense that, of the three, he’s the one doing the best job of that. Tony has had almost a full year of mourning to get over his wife. The hurt is still pretty fresh for Brunnhilde and Thor. Tony is also significantly older than the other two. Age brings with it a degree of maturity in most cases. Loki never would have attributed that quality to Tony, with his pop culture obsession and perpetual jokes, but he cannot deny it now.
Brunnhilde is another story. Loki wonders whether he wrecked her the worst. Thor and Tony had lived relatively pleasant lives before Loki came along. Brunnhilde, though, has faced a life of struggle. When Loki met Brunnhilde, her mind was almost as broken as his own. During their time together, Loki had seen a remarkable change take place. The symptoms of her PTSD and depression had drastically reduced, she’d gotten sober, she’d started smiling.
At the time, Loki had mostly been relieved that she had become less insufferable. He’d hated having to see her through PTSD episodes. They always made him all too aware of the treacherous waters of his own mind. He’d hated having to look after a drunken fool. He’d hated having to smile so damn much just to try and get her to mimic it.
Loki had seen Brunnhilde’s recovery as a boon to himself, more than anything. It had made his job easier. However, seeing what’s become of her since he left, he can’t help but realize just how important that change had been to her and how losing it has been just as impactful.
But while Brunnhilde may be in the worst situation out of the three, Loki thinks Thor is somehow the main one that can’t let go. Of Luke, of course, not Loki. Thor hates Loki.
Tony has accepted reality. Brunnhilde is obsessed with anger and revenge. Thor, though, seems violently split. One minute, he’s acting possessive and grabbing Loki away from En Dwi. The next, he’s snarling a list of Loki’s most horrible deeds to his face. Loki suspects that Thor is still holding onto Luke and yet struggling against his hatred for the horrible truths he’s learned about Loki.
His time as Luke, with Thor, had been different from his other jobs. Not just Tony and Brunnhilde, but all of them. With Thor, with Frigga, Fandral, Sif, and Volstagg, Loki had found a place that he was able to be himself and be accepted. Loki knows he’s not a good person. He’s not a likable person. He’s never had a friend in his life. His own family hates him, perhaps save Helbindi. He had long ago accepted that he would never be loved.
And yet, with Thor he had felt nothing but. Thor pushed and pulled until he forced some part of the real Loki out into the air. And, unlike every person before him, he hadn’t run. He had seen that sliver of Loki and he had accepted him, loved him. And with Thor’s favor surrounding him, Thor’s friends and Frigga had come to accept Loki as well.
With every mark before, Loki had been miserable, but he had known it to be the only way he could fit into this world. He’s not the sort of person that does good things, makes people happy, is made happy. He is the type of person who desires a seat so high that none might ever see his face and judge him unworthy. He is the type who finds his only degree of satisfaction by building stair steps out of other people so that he may climb upon the throne he craves. Thanos is the one who can help him achieve that.
Thor had challenged this. He had shown Loki the sheer power of acceptance, of untainted love. It had been tempting. It had been distracting. But, in the end, Loki proved himself to be what he’s always known: a lying snake with no regard for a life that isn’t his own.
Loki stretches contentedly on the couch, comforted by the thought. Thor might hate him now, but Loki was the one to get the first laugh. And he will be certain to secure the last.
His head is tipped back, his eyes closed when he hears an amused voice. “How you doing, Ocean’s One?”
Loki smirks at the nickname. He actually understands that reference. He wonders whether Tony smoothed things out with his friends. Tries to decide whether he cares. He opens his eyes. “If it’s all the same to you, I’ll have that drink now.”
“What’s your poison?” Tony asks.
Before Loki can answer, a scotch appears in front of his nose. Thor is leaning over the back of the couch, handing it to him. He answers Tony’s question for Loki. “Scotch, neat.”
Ah, so it appears Thor’s anger at him has abated. Well, Loki doesn’t feel like returning the favor. He sneers. “I hate scotch.”
Thor’s face falls. “But--”
Loki stands up. Gods, Thor is still fixated on thrice damned Luke. Of course it would be one of the parts of Luke that contained absolutely no hint of Loki that Thor would remember so fondly. “What I said to Brunnhilde holds true for you. I’m not your husband. I don’t like scotch. I don’t have aspirations in advertising. I didn’t have a carefree childhood with loving--” He cuts off sharpley, realizing what he’s just said. God, he sounds so pathetic. He curses and pushes past Thor and Tony, only to run straight into Brunnhilde. She looks slightly less of a mess, but her glare is still firmly in place. Loki skirts her too and strides back out into the party. It’s time for this night to end.
As Loki barges through the mass of sweaty dancers, he searches his mind for solutions. The most obvious way to get rid of the menaces three would be to turn them in to Thanos. Yes, he might be putting himself at some risk, but he’s far too valuable of an asset for Thanos to do any permanent damage to him.
Loki slows his charge through the crowd. He can admit to himself now that his initial justification for not turning them in to the Order was not entirely truthful. He’d been lying to himself when he decided that Thanos would kill him for allowing himself to be tracked down by his ex-marks. The only thing that would truly be likely to bring Thanos to such measures would be if Loki betrayed him. For instance, if Thanos found out that Loki had purposefully hidden the fact that three of his past marks had tracked him down. That might get him killed.
But, if Loki did turn them in, he could avoid that fate. Thanos might punish him for letting his past marks find him, but probably not until after the Gast job was complete and not so badly that he wouldn’t be ready for the next job after that. No, Thanos wouldn’t kill Loki if he were to turn Thor, Tony, and Brunnhilde in. But he would kill all three of them. Loki has no doubt that, if he were to turn them in, Thanos would not hesitate to kill Thor, Tony, and Brunnhilde. People who know what the Order does and who they are cannot remain alive.
And Loki… he can’t let that happen. As infuriating as those three are, he can’t stomach the idea of them being among the scores of bodies Thanos has left in his wake. They’re three of the few marks that he’s actually grown to have some degree of care for. There was a time, not too long ago, when Loki probably would have turned them in, despite his sentiment.
But that was before Thor. No matter what happens, no matter how much Thor might hate Loki now, he cannot let Thanos touch him.
So Loki can’t turn them in. And they’re clearly not going to leave on their own any time soon. The longer they stick around, though, the more danger they put both themselves and Loki in. If Thanos learns that they found Loki and that Loki didn’t turn them in, then Loki probably will die. Thanos would see it as aiding and abetting, betraying the Order. So Loki needs another solution. One that doesn’t result in any deaths.
He finds Bucky. The man is standing vigilant guard to the side of the karaoke stage as Topaz watches En Dwi sing along to Sweet Transvestite . Loki has seen little of his current mark in the last couple hours. Small mercies. At the end of his meager supply of patience, Loki grabs Bucky by his good arm and drags him over to the edge of the room.
“Lo - Lucky? What is it?”
“We have a problem. But you cannot report what I’m about to tell you to the Order. I got you into this life and I promise you that I can get you out of it.” To another person, the words may have sounded like a promise. To Bucky, Loki knows they sound like a threat. The last thing he wants is to go back to the life he left behind. “Clear?”
Bucky nods quickly. “Yes, I promise. I owe you my freedom. I’m loyal to you over Thanos.”
Loki shushes him. “Don’t. Say that name.” Bucky looks desperately apologetic and Loki softens. “There’s a bit of a situation. Your past employer, Tony Stark, is here.” Bucky’s eyes go wide. “He and two other past marks of mine. They tracked me here somehow. We cannot let them ruin this job.”
Loki explains the situation to Bucky and gives him clear instructions. When he’s done, Bucky nods unhesitatingly and goes off in search of Korg. Loki feels a swell of smug satisfaction. The menaces three may have had surprise on their side tonight, but Loki has Bucky.
Chapter 31: Hot and Cold
Thor, Tony, and Brunnhilde all stare after Loki’s retreating form. Again. Thor wonders how many more times this will happen.
“Well, that went well,” Brunnhilde says, voice laden with sarcasm.
“I think he’s warming up to us,” Tony grins, unperturbed.
Thor stares sadly after Loki until he loses him in the sea of drunks. There’s only one thought that manages to make it through his disappointment that brings him comfort: he’s made another crack in the mask. When Loki had sneered at Brunnhilde for calling him ‘husband’, the coldness that had been surrounding Loki since they found him in Miami had been arctic. He’d been menacing, but that coldness made him seem removed, unaffected. However, just now when he yelled at Thor for the same transgression, it hadn’t felt cold. It felt hot, impassioned with real ire.
This tells Thor one thing. That he made Loki legitimately angry. What that means, he isn’t quite sure. Perhaps Tony and Brunnhilde were correct when they said it sounded like Loki hated Thor. Or perhaps Thor inspires stronger emotions in Loki for a different reason. Either way, Thor decides to see it as a positive. Because being able to make Loki angry is to his benefit. Annoying Loki into a rage has always been Thor’s most successful method for getting a genuine reaction out of the man. And he’s determined to get his face-to-face with the real Loki, without any masks or lies between them, whatever it takes.
Tony and Thor ban Brunnhilde from drinking any more that night and she bans them from seeking out Loki right away. With nothing better to do, the three of them take over the hideous yellow couch that Loki had been lounging on. They’re watching En Dwi from across the room where he’s shimmying along the karaoke stage. The strange man has been singing along to a slew of increasingly raunchy show tunes. He’s currently in the middle of a very energetic rendition of Contact from Rent.
“ Sticky licky trickle tickle! Steamy creamy stroking soaking! ”
Thor shudders and tries not to imagine this man doing anything to Loki. Tony is making that rather difficult with his comments.
“Wow, Loki actually has to get it up for this guy.”
“Shut up, Tony.”
“ You whore! You cannibal! More! ”
“I mean, I wasn’t surprised at either of you. You’re both hot as fuck. But I can’t imagine this guy’s dick as anything but a balloon animal.”
“ Fire latex rubber latex bummer! ”
“I mean, wow, I don’t know whether to be horrified or impressed. Bleeding yourself dry to fake your death pales in comparison to the dedication needed to fuck--”
“Tony, shut up!”
“I mean really--”
Their view of the stage is blocked out as a large figure steps in front of the couch. “Oh, hey guys. There you are.” They all blink dumbly at Korg, Loki’s giant bodyguard. “I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m that big tall guy who let you into the party. I do hope you’re enjoying yourselves. I’d feel just terrible if I’d let you into an event that turned out to be a horrible and traumatizing experience.”
They all give noncommittal grunts in response.
“It sounds like you guys are all worn out from having such a blast. Well, you’re in luck. I’ve been instructed to introduce you to a really great dude. Loads of energy, this guy. Keeps it all on the inside though. Would never guess it with his stony face. But I’m sure it’s there. So, come on. Follow me.”
Korg starts walking without waiting for a response. Thor, Tony, and Brunnhilde glance at each other with raised eyebrows before confusedly following. As they pass the karaoke stage, En Dwi shouts into the mic.
“Get up here, birthday boy!”
Thor watches as two other men get down on their knees for Loki to use as footstools up to the stage. Loki steps on each of their thighs, using their heads to balance himself, and lands gracefully in front of En Dwi. The older man scoops Loki up in a lecherous hold and drags him over to the microphone. Together, they start singing Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me .
Thor’s thoughts darken and he steps toward the stage. He’s halted as Brunnhilde grabs his arm and gives him a disapproving scowl. He huffs and glances back at Loki on stage one more time before continuing along behind Korg. He leads them out of the penthouse and into the elevator. Thor is feeling Increasingly wary. “Who exactly are we meeting?”
“Oh, you’ll love him. Mr. Lucky likes him almost as much as he likes me. Almost. I’m his favorite, of course. But this guy’s a distant second.”
Thor only feels more worried, knowing that they’re meeting someone that is close to Loki. Then again, it was pretty obvious that Loki didn’t actually like Korg very much, so perhaps this other guy isn’t really a friend of his either.
The elevator comes to a stop on the sixth floor of the large building. The doors open to reveal a very large, dark room. Thor can’t see any silhouettes of furniture or anything. He wonders what this floor is used for. They’re not in the Sakaar skyscraper, but in another building owned by En Dwi, which has his penthouse suite situated at the top of it.
A dim light blinks to life. It casts strange spinning pricks of light over the room. Looking up, Thor realizes the source of the light is a disco ball hanging high above their heads. The meager illumination reveals that they are standing to the side of a very large swimming pool. Thor suspects this entire building, all 23 stories of it, is just one big funhouse for En Dwi.
Thor feels Tony jump next to him and start poking him in the arm. He looks to where the shorter man is gesturing and nearly jumps himself. There’s a figure standing in the room, leaning against the wall adjacent to them. One of his arms is bent at a slightly unnatural angle, like a prosthetic. His features are mostly obscured in shadow, but Thor can just make out a pair of piercing eyes glaring in their direction.
“Oh, hey man,” Korg says cheerily. “I brought Mr. Lucky’s new pals and newly reunited bro for you to meet, like you asked. I think you’ll really like them. They’re pretty cool. A bit weird, but you get used to it.”
“You can go now Korg.” Mystery man’s voice is deep and monotone. Thor feels his fighting instincts kick in. What the hell is this about?
“Ah, man. I always get left out of the fun stuff. Alright guys, have fun.” With that, Korg lumbers back into the elevator and then they’re alone with mystery man.
“And who exactly are you?” Tony asks.
Mystery man pushes off the wall and walks toward them.
“Hold it right there,” Brunnhilde warns. “No closer until you tell us who you are.”
He keeps walking, not acknowledging that any of them have spoken.
Thor squares his shoulders, making himself as big as possible. Which is quite a bit bigger than this mystery man, he notes, although the other isn’t small. He’s prepared to kick the guy’s ass if he needs to.
The man stops several paces from them, finally stepping into the disco ball’s light. He looks them each in the eye. There’s something off about him, Thor thinks, something in his expression. He may be smaller than Thor, but he seems harsher, darker. He has the air of someone who could kill without hesitation.
“Hey, aren’t you Steve’s friend?” Tony’s question draws three sets of eyes to him.
Thor feels like he’s in the Twilight Zone, surrounded by disco light, shadowed men, and inane words. “What?” He’s comforted that at least Brunnhilde sounds as confused as he feels. Mystery man cocks his head in a way that reminds Thor of Loki, just a little. That makes him itch for some reason.
“Yeah, you’re Steve’s friend. James, right?” Tony says, his expression turning puzzled. Thor is relieved that they all seem equally confused now. “What are you doing here? Do you work at Sakaar now?”
James, if Tony is to be believed about the man’s name, looks at Tony for a long moment. His expression is fixed in a blank stare. In the same monotone as before, he asks, “What do you want with Loki?”
Thor feels a jolt at hearing that name come out of this man’s mouth. How does he know Loki’s real name? Does he work for Loki? Then James’s question registers. Thor realizes they’ve never actually discussed why they’re looking for Loki. It had just seemed like a forgone conclusion that they had to find him and - and what? Get their stuff back? Get him back? Instead of voicing any of that, he growls, “What’s it to you?”
Tony snaps his fingers. “You’ve been looking for Loki too, haven’t you? I heard you disappeared around the same time as Elle. I get it now. You went after Loki, to get revenge on her for destroying my company.” Tony places his hand against his breast. “I’m touched. That really means a lot.”
James gives Tony an unimpressed look. Brunnhilde clears her throat. “Tony, I don’t think he’s operating in your service right now.”
Thor’s brow furrows in grim understanding. “You work for Loki.” He doesn’t word it as a question.
Tony baulks, looking back and forth between them. “What? You were working for Loki all along? Were you a fake person too?” His shock quickly turns to anger. “You didn’t even lose your arm as an American hero, did you? Probably sliced it off yourse--”
James, if that is his name, is suddenly right in front of Tony, slamming him up against the wall with his good arm across the smaller man’s chest. Thor’s never seen someone move so fast. “What do you want with Loki?” he repeats, monotone turning harsh and biting.
Thor and Brunnhilde both make moves to intervene, but James is faster than them. He switches out his arms, shoving the stiff prosthetic up against Tony’s chest and using his good hand to withdraw a pistol from his waistband. He points it at Thor, then Brunnhilde. “I’m going to tell you this once. Leave Loki alone.” His glare is fierce. Thor thinks back to his earlier impression that this man could kill without hesitation. He steps back. So does Brunnhilde.
Tony glares. “I gave you a job out of the goodness of my heart, you bastard. And this is how you repay me?”
James ignores him. “Loki is under my protection. I won’t let you close to him again. You’ll have to cut off my other arm to get past me.”
Thor feels that itch again. This man seems far too invested in Loki to be just some henchman. He feels his scowl deepen. “What are you to him?”
James does that Loki-esque head tilt again, looking at Thor thoughtfully. Then he smirks. “Jealous, are we?” Thor growls and advances on him. He’s stopped by the pistol appearing in front of his face once more. It cocks.
“Stop!” They all freeze at the cry.
Thor knows that voice.
Chapter 32: A Chance
hehe. Did anyone predict it?
At the voice, James whips his head around. He immediately lowers the gun and steps back. Thor and the others all look at the new arrival. Thor knows her. Why does he know her? Then it clicks. “You work at Asgard.” Seeing her here seems so out of place. What would an Asgard custodian be doing here?
“You’re my neighbor,” Brunnhilde says to the woman. She and Thor exchange strange looks. They both know her?
The custodian, Thor doesn’t recall her name, is looking back and forth between Thor, Tony, and Brunnhilde with a somewhat incredulous expression. Then she looks to James. “What’s going on here?” James stutters out a few unsuccessful syllables, looking for all the world like a nervous child. All traces of the menacing killer from a few moments ago are gone. He seems intimidated and cowed by the custodian.
With dawning realization, Thor recalls Tony saying that James used to work at Stark Industries. And this woman works at Asgard, or at least used to, and was Brunnhilde’s neighbor at some point. And now she’s here, with James. Which means that Loki has not one but two people working for him. Maybe more. Just how big of an operation is he running? Thor glares at the custodian. “You work for Loki too, don’t you?”
She gives him a faintly disgusted look. “I don’t answer to him.”
James looks back and forth between them, still seeming nervous. “Loki said to--”
“You don’t answer to him either,” the woman snaps back.
Thor is even more confused now. Neither of them work for Loki? Then who do they work for? And does that mean that Loki--
“Holy shit,” Brunnhilde says in an awed voice. “Loki is just a lackey.”
The custodian snorts. “What, you thought he was the mastermind behind this operation?”
Tony and Thor both give sheepish shrugs. Brunnhilde crosses her arms. “We had no reason to think otherwise.”
“No, I suppose not.” The custodian hums. “So why are you all here? And why,” she turns to James, “didn’t you notify Loki and me immediately?”
James shifts uncomfortably. “Loki, uh,” he fidgets some more, “he - he already knows.”
The custodian’s eyes go wide and then narrow angrily. “And he didn’t report it? That greasy little--” She cuts off abruptly, her face turning pensive. Then she looks right at Thor. He gulps under her calculating look. Eyes still on Thor, she resumes speaking to James. “He purposefully hid their presence? From Me? From Daddy?”
Thor blinks. Daddy? Is she related to their boss? Finally, she looks away from Thor, turning to James. “What did Loki tell you to do?” James keeps his mouth tightly closed. It’s clear he has no intention of repeating it for her. Interesting. That itch under Thor’s skin about this man’s devotion to Loki increases.
The woman lets out a frustrated huff. “God, Bucky,” Thor assumes this must be the man’s real name, “he’s got you trained like a damn puppy, hasn’t he?” Bucky still doesn’t respond. She sighs. “Just go back upstairs. I’ll handle this.”
Bucky looks like he’s about to refuse, but the woman doesn’t give him the chance. “Leave, or I’ll report Loki for not notifying Daddy.” Bucky opens his mouth once more, but then shuts it. He nods once and reluctantly complies, walking away and getting on the elevator.
As soon as it dings closed, the woman looks back at Thor, Tony, and Brunnhilde. “So what are you all here for? Trying to get your stuff back? Not going to happen.”
“No.” Thor only realizes it was he who spoke after everyone in the room turns to look at him. He swallows. Even though he hasn’t given any real thought to why they came after Loki, practically speaking, he knows that there hadn’t been another option. If he hadn’t come after Loki he would have just remained depressed and miserable. He had to know the truth. And he’s not finished finding it. “I’m here because, whether what we had was real or not, he is the person who I have loved above all others. I had no option but to find him.”
Thor doesn’t remove his eyes from the custodian. He can’t look at the others, doesn’t want to know what they think of his answer. The woman looks back at him for a long moment, her face unreadable. Then she moves her gaze to Tony. “What about you?”
“Loki took everything with her when she left me,” Tony says. “My company is dead, everyone’s respect for me is undermined, my wife is gone. Where else do I have to go?”
The custodian looks at Brunnhilde. “And you?”
There’s a pause before Brunnhilde answers. She clears her throat. “Same. I’ve nothing to return to.”
The woman considers them all for a minute. Then she nods, seeming satisfied for some reason Thor can’t fathom. She sticks out her hand. “I’m Gamora.” Thor tentatively shakes it. So do Tony and Brunnhilde. “Alright, then I need the lot of you to listen to me.”
“And just why should we do that?” Brunnhilde challenges.
“Because I can help you. If our boss learns that you’ve managed to track Loki down, he will kill you.” She ignores them when they pipe up, raising her voice to talk over them. “And if he learns that Loki knows you’re here and hasn’t turned you in, he will kill Loki.”
All of them go silent at that. Just what kind of mad man do they work for? Thor can’t stomach the idea of Loki being under that kind of threat. Why would he work for someone so awful?
Tony is the first to recover. “So why do you want to help us? He’s your boss too. Won’t he kill you if he finds out?”
“Because he’s a tyrannical psychopath that needs to be stopped.”
Brunnhilde snorts. “If you really believe that, then why are you still working for him?”
“Because, as you said, if I were to betray him he would kill me.”
“So what’s different now? Why are you willing to risk it?” Tony asks, clearly unconvinced.
Gamora sighs. “Because, as slimy of a get as Loki is,” Thor, Tony, and Brunnhilde all give her dirty looks, “somehow, I still actually care about the bastard. I’d rather not watch him get himself killed trying to keep you lot a secret. That, and,” she pauses for a long moment, “if I were to have Loki’s help, there’s a chance that we, along with a few others that I know, could have a shot at taking down Thanos.” She looks around at them. “And I think this may just be the group that can help me convince Loki to switch sides.”
Chapter 33: A Significant Look
They all gape at Gamora, wide eyed and slack jawed.
“You want us to convince Loki to switch sides?” Tony asks disbelievingly.
“Yes,” Gamora replies. “The fact that he hasn’t turned you in yet, despite putting his own life at risk by not doing so, is enough to tell me that you’re the people for the job.” Thor feels her words hit him. Loki is really taking that much of a chance to protect them from Thanos? Or is there some other reason he hasn’t turned them in?
Brunnhilde’s face scrunches up. “So why hasn’t Loki turned us in yet? It sounds like that would be in his best interests.”
Gamora shrugs. “Who knows? Loki’s mind is a convoluted place.” Thor doesn’t quite believe her. She must have some idea, what with her lack of surprise at the revelation.
“ How do you know Loki won’t change her mind and turn us in once she learns what we’re doing?” Tony asks.
Gamora looks at Thor, despite him not being the one to have asked the question. “He won’t.”
“Well, what if he just shoots us?” Brunnhilde asks. “He didn’t seem to have too many reservations about that before.”
Gamora cocks an eyebrow. “Loki doesn’t have a gun.”
Thor, Tony, and Brunnhilde all exchange looks. “Yes he does,” Tony says. “He threatened us with it.”
Gamora looks taken aback for all of three seconds before understanding dawns on her face. She barks a laugh. “That little shit. He has a stupid sound effects app that he uses to get out of things. Did you actually see the gun? Or just hear it?” Their sheepish expressions are her answer. She shakes her head. “Loki doesn’t carry a gun, he hates them. He’s more of a knife guy.” Thor can’t help but smile, despite the macabre topic. He feels like that suits Loki, for some reason. He’s also pretty relieved that Loki hadn’t in fact been prepared to shoot them.
Brunnhilde’s scowl doesn’t lighten up though. “Okay, so what if he decides to shank us? Like you said, letting us continue flitting around undetected by your boss isn’t in his best interests. Killing us would solve his problem.”
“He won’t,” Gamora repeats.
“How can you be so sure?” Brunnhilde retorts.
Gamora narrows her eyes meanly. “I know him a bit better than you.” The words are meant to wound and they succeed. All three of them are struggling with the realization that they don’t know Loki as well as they thought, if at all.
Tony sighs. “So what’s in it for us to help you? Wouldn’t it be in our best interests if we just left? If we leave before your boss learns that we found you guys, then he has no reason to kill us or Loki.”
Gamora bites her lip. “You aren’t wrong. That would be the simplest solution. And certainly the safest one for yourselves.” She glances at the ground, looking less in control than before. When she raises her eyes, she looks almost pleading. “But if you care about Loki even a little bit, then you’ll help me. He’s entrenched in this. He needs out just as badly as I do, even if he doesn’t know it.” She composes herself a bit, reigning in emotion. “Besides, if I’m going to take down our organization, I’m going to need his help. And don’t you guys want the same? To take down the people that did this to you? This is your chance to avenge the lives you lost.”
Thor’s heart constricts. He’s not sure whether Gamora’s words are genuine or meant to manipulate, but either way they’re working. The thought of Loki being indoctrinated into a criminal organization by a sadistic tyrant makes Thor want to burn the world down to get him out. The fact that Loki hasn’t turned them in yet is enough to give him hope that they might even succeed in getting him to switch sides. Thor already knows what his answer is, regardless of what the others choose. “I’ll do it.”
The other three people in the room all give him shocked looks. Brunnhilde sputters. “Just like that?”
Thor nods. “Like I said before, there isn’t another option for me.”
Brunnhilde watches him for a long moment. Then she lets out an explosive breath. “Fine! Fine, I’ll help.”
Thor is astounded that she’s so quick to agree. “Really?”
“Yes, really. I can’t just let you go and get yourself killed. Besides, revenge is sounding pretty good to me.”
They turn to their third partner. “Tony?”
The man fidgets, not meeting their eyes. “I don’t know guys, this seems pretty big. And I’m finally starting to get over what happened to me, just starting to believe that I could have a life again. It was one thing to hang around and give Loki a bit of hell, but taking down an entire organization?”
Thor tries to think of an argument that might convince Tony. He’ll respect the man’s choice if he decides that he truly doesn’t want to get involved, but Thor will certainly feel better going into this if they have Tony Stark on their side. “Think of all the people we’ll be sparing from the same fate we faced. If you don’t do it for revenge or for Loki, do it for the future victims of this organization.”
Tony gives him a look that tells Thor he knows exactly what he’s trying to do. Thor can’t bring himself to feel guilty. After several long moments, Tony pushes out a sharp breath. “Ugh, fine. I’ll help too.”
Gamora smiles. “I’m glad to hear it.”
Loki is bored. He knows he should be feeling satisfied, but he’s just bored.
After tasking Bucky with getting rid of the menaces three, he gets dragged into singing karaoke with En Dwi and then gets caught up in a dance line with a bunch of drunken engineers. By the time Bucky finally slips back into the party, Loki has nearly decided that dealing with his ex-marks would be preferable to his current situation.
Bucky gives him a significant look from across the room. It’s difficult to interpret, due to being across the damn room. Loki’s got En Dwi hanging all over him, though, so he can’t get Bucky alone to ask him how exactly it went. He assumes the look to mean that Bucky has accomplished what Loki asked him to do. The other three did not return with him, after all.
The satisfaction sets in for about five minutes before Loki realizes he’s back to suffering his way through this party with no greater goal than further endearing himself to En Dwi. After the whirlwind of thwarting the menaces three at every turn, playing sugar baby Lucky now feels quite boring.
But alas, Loki made his bed and now he has no choice but to lie in it. Although, he’s hoping that he can get En Dwi out of that bed as soon as possible. Loki’s had quite enough of those silicone tentacles the man is so fond of.
The next time Loki catches sight of Bucky, the man gives him another significant look. This time Loki is less certain that the meaning is ‘Yep, did everything you asked, boss. No problem here!’
He tells En Dwi that he needs the bathroom and gives Bucky a significant look of his own as he strides out of the room. Being the smart boy he is, Bucky follows. Loki takes a sharp turn and veers off into the master suite. Bucky enters moments later, closing the door behind him.
“So? Are they gone?”
Bucky’s face creases into that same look from earlier. Up close it’s much easier to decipher.
“You didn’t ?” Loki hisses. He ignores the miniscule thrill of anticipation in favor of the far more manageable anger.
“I cornered them on the sixth floor, as you instructed. I threatened them when they refused to tell me anything and showed no intent to leave. I was making progress. But Gamora intervened,” Bucky reports seriously.
Loki’s blood turns to ice. “No.” He feels the wall catch him. Ah, apparently his knees have stopped working.
Bucky steps forward, looking concerned. He stops short of touching Loki. Smart boy. He hesitates before speaking again. “I know you told me not to tell her. She found us while searching the premises for the gem.”
Loki shakes his head, eyes on the floor. No. No, Gamora cannot know. If she knows, then she will report it to Thanos.
Thor will die.
“Loki, are you okay?”
Loki jerks his head up, nearly hitting Bucky’s nose in the process. Damn, when did he get that close? “Where are they? Has she reported them yet?” Maybe he’s not too late.
Bucky steps back out of the danger zone. “I left them all on the sixth floor. I don’t know what she intended to do.”
Loki pushes off the wall, and pushes past Bucky and out the door. He doesn’t stop running even as he sprints through crowds of dancers and past people calling his fake name. He only stops once the elevator doors are closing, Bucky just barely making it in behind him. They ride in silence down to the sixth floor. Loki’s breaths sound terribly harsh in the small space.
As soon as the doors ding open, Loki is running again. He runs around the entire pool, into the bathroom, the storage area. Bucky is saying something but he can’t hear what it is over the loud pounding in his head. He finally stops, hands on his knees, lungs aching, eyes wild.
He’s too late.