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Only One Love

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“Soul marks such as yours are rare.” She told her son. Gently she touched the strange raised and coloured letters on his skin. The boy looked up at his mother.

“What does it mean?” He asked.

“Well it means someday, you will meet someone who has a matching mark. It may not look the same but it will pull you like a magnet. They will change your life.” She holds her child in her arms.

“How come I have one and not you?”

“Like I said they are rare. Not everyone has one. Some times it means you will make a friend who will be by your side when you need them most. And sometimes, sometimes they mean you will find a person who will love you for everything you are. Those are the most rare soul marks, heart marks. They can last a lifetime and beyond. Mind marks, marks for soul mates that are friends, can fade over time. Not heart marks though. They stay bright forever.” She kissed her son. “Now off to bed with you, before your father gets angry.”

“What if I die before I find my soul mate?” He asks solemnly. It breaks his mother's heart to hear him so sad.

“You won't. You will find them. I know it and I hope I'm there to meet them too.”

***

Many years later.

“He fell.” She is told. She weeps. Her son is dead before the promise of the strange raised letters on his skin could come true. She wonders if her son's soul mate can feel the pain. She wonders if her son's soul mates mother is trying to explain what happened.

***

He stood, waiting for the man who he had once known as his brother. He knew now that his mother had died. He knew he would never meet that someone she had promised him. Looking out over the dead world he said to himself. “I am alone.”

***

He stood, looking over the immense house. It looked dead. He knew someone was inside. There had been lights on an hour ago. Quietly he snuck in a window. He sat at the table, waiting for the sole occupant to be alerted by his home to the presence of an intruder. He knew his own name was Bucky but not much more. Softly he spoke to a movement in the darkness. “I am alone.”

***

“I can't believe you are making me do this.”

“Well how else am I supposed to fix what’s wrong, Barnes. I can't just plug into it and run a diagnostic. With it being connected to your brain and all, you feel things with it long before the on board circuits notice.” Stark scolded as he walked around the shirtless, metal armed man, who was posed with said metal arm on his hip and his normal fleshy arm in the air. “Okay. Now go like this.” The inventor pumped his arms up and down in the air above his head.

“You're just doing this so you can set it to music and post it online. I know that’s what you're planning Stark.” Bucky grumbled but he repeated the motion anyway.

“Ah-ha now I can see it.” Tony looked up from the computer. “Yeah I think you have some plates catching on each other at the elbow. Come here and keep moving the joint so I can see it with my eyes.”

“It feels like a servo might be stuck.” Bucky said as Tony watched the joint closely. He grabbed Bucky’s arm and twisted it to see the problem area in different lightings.

“One of the plates isn’t sitting right. Probably a servo.” Tony let his arm go. “Go get lunch or coffee or whatever keeps the rest of your weaponry running. It’s gonna be a slow fix.”

“Thanks Tony. You want anything while I’m out?” Bucky smiled. Tony was the only one he would ever trust with his arm.

“Cannoli. From that pastry shop you always go to. I’m gonna need to keep the brain fueled up so cannoli are required.” He grinned and slapped Bucky on the shoulder.

***

“There that should be enough to show him what it is. Between the photos and the video he should be able to get an idea of what ails you.”

“I do not understand why they won't allow me to just show him. It would save time and energy.” The broad blond man placed his hand comfortingly on his adopted brother's thin shoulder.

“They have their reasons. These Sanctums are not open to anyone except by invitation. I happen to have a good relationship with Doctor Strange. He will see me but you must remain out here. I hope I do not need to be asking this but…”

The slender raven-haired man rolled his eyes. “I know, stay nearby. Don't get into trouble and try to remain unnoticed. I am not a child. I doubt I will be noticed.”

“Here. Buy a tea or something and wait on that bench. You seem rather moody today.”

“I have had this damned collar on for a month. I have none of my magic and feel like I am exhausted all the time. We have traversed most of the nine realms looking for answers and now you've dragged me back to this vile city so you can visit with your friends. Perhaps I am done with this and would just like to be returned to my cell at this point.” The thinner man grabbed the bills from the brute. “Go see if this Strange is any smarter than the last imbecile.”

He watched the blond enter the odd building. He was glad to be alone for a moment. How the other man could be so smothering with his presence was beyond him.

 

***

It always had to be the shop Bleecker Street. Bucky liked the walk but it was a bit of a hike for cannoli. He figured he’d grab a sandwich at the café while they prepped Tony’s order. He also thought he might grab Tony something to give Steve. They had only just started trying to make the thing between them work and Tony had no idea what Stevie liked.

***

The little café had a good selection of teas and he was enjoying something with an odd combination lavender and green tea. It was unusual but also a bit relaxing. The raven-haired man stood next to a newsstand looking at the headlines. This world always seemed to be headed for destruction. Just off to the side of the papers announcing that the world was ending next week, Thursday to be exact, he felt strange small pull. It was not unlike the draw that came with using a tracking spell but more compelling. He looked up to see what was trying to draw him.

***

Bucky passed by the Sanctum on his way to the café. He always hoped he might run into Doctor Strange. From what the few who had met him said he was a genuinely interesting person. No luck today though. As he passed the nearby newsstand he felt a weird pull. Looking around to try and figure it out he locked eyes with a pale man looking at the papers.

***

It was brief. As they looked away they felt something that made them wonder about their mothers' words to them as children.

***

The pale man turned to the stack of books next to him as Bucky passed. Whatever had happened, it was gone now and he still had cannoli to buy and a lunch to eat.

***

He wasn’t sure if the man had pulled his attention or if it was the books. Next to him were a number of books on translating one language to another. Mostly they were something to English. Picking up the top one he was surprised to find he recognized a few of the symbols. The book was “Russian to English, with unique words and Cyrillic alphabet references, to help any traveler”. He rubbed the mark on his shoulder before asking the man seated behind the ledge about the cost of the book.

***

It didn't take long for Bucky to get his lunch, Tony's cannoli and a dozen cookies for him to give Steve. He decided he'd pass the sanctum on the way back. Maybe see if he could figure out the weird pulling feeling. He rubbed the soul mark between his shoulders, a nervous habit from his childhood, as he got close to the newsstand.

Chapter Text

He looked up from the book, wondering what was taking that idiot so long as he tried to ignore the terrible swirling feeling in the pit of his stomach. Checking to make sure he was still unnoticed, sitting alone on the park bench, he tried to adjust the strange collar he had hidden under his dress shirt. Waking up with that thing around his neck had been a shock. Almost as bad as the one he'd had a few years ago. If he regretted anything it was not escaping when he had the chance. Now he had to be escorted everywhere, like a child. Glancing back down at the book in his hands he reread the translation for the strange word. Odnoliub, Russian, meaning someone who has only one love in their life. Of course it had to be love. Damn sentiment. Marks like the one on his left shoulder were rare. Some saw them as a gift, others a curse. It meant you would meet someone who would change you. Not something he was interested in. Love was a child's emotion, one he had never felt and one he certainly didn't want. He cared for a very select few people, but he didn't feel that urge to help, impress or even be truly kind to them. His eyes once more surveyed the street. A man stood across from him, staring. An impulse to go to this man caught him off guard.

“Loki.” He nearly jumped at his own name.

“Are you alright?” Thor asked. “You seem unusually distracted.”

“I am fine. What did this sorcerer Strange know of my predicament?” His voice was cold as usual.

“He cannot help.”

“Cannot or will not?” His tone sharpened.

“He cannot help Loki. If that collar didn't appear to be draining energy, perhaps he could but he would like to take it to utilize once you are free of it.” Thor placed his hand on the thin dark haired man's shoulder. “Now tell me, what has you so distracted that I surprised you?”

“It is nothing that concerns you, Odinson.” Loki looked to see the stranger had gone.

“You are not to be keeping secrets from me. That was your bargain with the Allfather. You would make me aware of any and all things affecting you. I am well aware that you are displeased about this arrangement but-“ Loki cut the blond brute off.

“Seeing as I am no longer allowed to keep my own counsel.” He gestured at the book. “That cursed mark is from a Midgardian language. Now I know it's meaning and am trying to process what it means for me. The man who was staring at me from across the way then distracted me.”

“So, someone shall unfreeze your soul then.” Thor snorted a short laugh, reading the marked word. “I wish them luck as I do not envy their position.” He turned to leave.

“Are we not returning to Asgard? We have exhausted all those in this realm who might have had the skill to remove this infernal thing.”

“No. We have exhausted all of those you thought may have be able to help. Doctor Strange commented about it's mechanical appearance and an idea struck me.” Thor smiled. Loki didn't like that smile, it was too much like his own. “There is only one Midgardian who is capable of dealing with machinery like this.”

Loki stopped in his tracks. “No. Absolutely not. I will live with this collar, thank you.”

“Stark could help.”

“I am not going anywhere near that place. Heimdall! We are ready to return.” Nothing happened.

“You forget he cannot hear you because of that collar, and that you are still a prisoner Loki. I am simply trying to help you. You may not be my brother but that doesn't mean that the past millennium of being so didn't happen.” He looked like a kicked puppy. Loki might have felt a small pang of sympathy, of the desire to give in just to make him smile but he pushed it back down.

“They will kill me Thor. After what I did here and what they must go through everyday because of it, I doubt I would make it past the entrance hall.”

“Strange said the collar will likely kill you if not removed.” Now he had Loki's attention. “He told me that you are so deeply connected to you abilities that it draining that power is likely draining your very life force.”

“I do not like this, but if the choices are slow death or a quick one at least I have some choice.” He spoke quietly.

***

Bucky sat quietly as the engineer poked at something in his metal left arm.

“Ok Iceman, what gives? Your freaking me out with this whole silent thing today.” Stark put his tool down and looked him in the eye. Well at his nose really but the intent was there. Most people couldn't get past the strange distant look he had.

“I had a weird moment on my way back. Just trying to figure it out.”

“Well why don't you share with the class and maybe we'll understand.” Tony smirked as it was only himself and the decommissioned human weapon in the room. Well JARVIS and Dum-e were there too, but only one of them might have some insight. The other just had a fire extinguisher.

“Well, since I found myself in your kitchen in Malibu, with my brain all fucked up and my arm seized, I have had a quite a few things come back. One of those is that I have a soul mark on my back at the base of my neck.” He leaned forward so Tony could see it. “It's why I haven't cut my hair.”

“Is it a heart mark or mind mark?”

“I have no idea.” He felt his hair get moved and then a light finger move over the raised green symbols that hid just below the collar of his shirt. “I don't even know what language it's in.”

“So what about it has you so quiet then Barnes?”

“I'm not sure. I think I might have seen the person it connects me to on my way back from the coffee shop. Just some random guy, sitting on a park bench reading. Outta nowhere I get this crazy urge to go talk to him. I was about to move when it was gone. The guy had been startled by someone and the weird pull was gone.” Bucky looked at the other man with some confusion. “I think it was my soul mark pulling me but I have no bloody idea.”

“Beats me. You're the first person I've known with one. So I have no clue.” Tony sat back. “You got anythin' J?”

“None of my searches have come back with any relevant information, Sirs. However, Mr. Stark, I should inform you that Thor and his brother are in the lobby looking for you.”

“The hell? Why'd he bring that psycho here?” Tony grumbled, getting to his feet. “Send ‘em to the common floor. I'm gonna find out what the hell he's doing here.”

“Tony. Wait! I'm still... strapped to the table.” Bucky watched as he marched out the door without ever looking back at the soldier.

***

“Anthony!” Thor bellowed cheerfully as Tony stepped out of the elevator. “It has been far too long my friend.”

Tony accepted the offer hug because, really, no gave better hugs than the Asgardian and sometimes you just have to accept affection.

“Hello again, Stark.” Loki's cool voice quietly reminded them both why they were there.

“Reindeer Games. What the hell are you doing in my tower again? I thought you'd been locked up for the rest of eternity.”

“Indeed.”

“Loki has found himself in a bit of a situation. We were hoping you could help.” Thor stated.

“Okay, uh, why me?”

“Because, it appears to be a problem more in your skill set than anyone else’s.”

“Because no one else in this blasted realm seems to be able to help. Bunch of pathetic, feeble-minded, humans.” Loki snarled after Thor spoke.

“Loki, hold your tongue.” Thor snapped. Loki leaned against a wall, crossing his arms over his chest.

“So what's the matter with him?”

Thor looked at the raven-haired man who sighed and undid the top few buttons of his shirt. Around his neck was a rather mechanical looking collar that seemed to be attached to his skin.

“That looks painful. How'd you get that around your neck?”

“If I knew I might be able to get it off myself and yes it is quite painful.”

Tony immediately began looking the whole thing over. Humming and muttering as he did so. After a few moments he looked Loki in the eye.

“Getting it off may hurt, a lot. I think I can do it but why are you coming to me and not trying yourself?”

“Because it has dampened his abilities and we believe it may be slowly killing him.” Thor sighed.

“Holy hell. So this is sort of a right now kinda thing then eh?”

“Preferably, yes.” Loki rolled his eyes. All of this banter was wasting his time, possibly his life.

“Alright. I'm already setup in one of the labs. I think the tools there should work. Follow me you two.”

***

Bucky was playing on his phone when they arrived in the lab.

“What the heck are you still doing here Barnes?”

“Oh, I don't know Stark, maybe I'm still strapped to the fucking table.” Barnes snapped at the genius.

“Why didn't you say anything?” Tony asked but Bucky wasn't paying attention. That same strange pull had hit him again.

Loki felt the strong impulse to approach the man Stark had strapped to his work bench.

“Who are you?” Both asked in unison.

“Oh right, you were still being a murder puppet when Loki was here last. So uh, Loki this is Sergeant James Barnes, everyone just calls him Bucky and Buckaroo, This is Loki Odinson the guy who tried to destroy New York with creepy ass aliens. He's Thor's adopted little brother.”

“Laufeyson. Odin is NOT my father.” Loki corrected coldly.

“Well, I guess it's good to meet you Loki Laufeyson.” He offered his free hand to the pale man.

Loki stared at him for a moment before remembering it was a greeting. He shook the Sergeant's hand. “Yes, well, the same for me as well James.”

Neither let go of the others hand right away.

“I prefer Bucky, if you don't mind Loki.” Loki raised an eyebrow. “Not a lot a good memories of my name rattling around in my brain.”

“Oh. I guess I understand that.” Loki's voice was quiet as he finally let go of Bucky's hand. “Why are you strapped to the table?”

“Oh. My arm is messed up and Stark's been fixin’ it for me.” He looked at the man mentioned. “Are you gonna finish with me before or after whatever you're doin’ for these guys?”

“After. He's kinda got a life sucking collar in that needs to get removed.” Stark finally unstrapped his arm. Loki was stunned when Bucky turned and revealed the metal appendage.

“Mind if I stay and watch? I've got no where else to be.” Bucky asked. Something about Loki was intriguing him. He really wanted the chance to talk with him.

“Well.” Thor spoke before everyone. “Loki is to be under supervision at all times so I can leave that to you Bucky. Think you can handle him?”

“Well, you have yet to beat me in sparring so yeah, I think I got this.” Bucky gave a charming smile. Loki looked away. He felt a now very familiar stirring, a strange pull towards the metal armed Bucky.

“I'm going to find Captain Rogers then. Loki, behave, please.”

Bucky watched as the black haired man rolled his green eyes at Thor as he walked out of the lab. He could still feel the pulling sensation. It hadn't subsided since Loki had stepped into the room. Bucky smiled as Loki sat himself on the edge of the table.

“Okay asshole, I'm not that tall.” Stark glared at Loki who was now smirking. He was messing around with Tony and Bucky could see on his face that he enjoyed getting a rise out if the engineer. Loki slid off the table and sat next to Bucky.

“Is that more to your liking Stark?” His voice dripped with sarcasm.

“Much. Now can we loose the shirt and get your hair up out if the way?”

Loki sighed undoing the shirt and slipping it off. He didn't look at Bucky until he felt a cold metal touch on his hand.

“Here. Use it to put your hair up.” Again Loki stared at him and the odd little circle he held between his fingers. “I can do it for you if you want.” He was trying not to sound nervous. Loki nodded and Bucky gently put his hair in a half bun, flip thing.

“Thank you.” His voice was surprisingly soft.

“You're very welcome.” Bucky let his tone match the alien man's.

“Great. So now look up and don't move. I need to be able to see.” Tony picked up the tool he'd been poking Bucky with just moments earlier and began to look for a way in.

“When did this happen?”

“About a month ago. I woke up in my cell with it on my neck. No one came in, no one went past and I didn't wake once. The only thing that changed was a power drop right before I awoke.”

“So someone magicked it onto you? That's gutsy. You're one of the most dangerous beings I know...” Tony looked at both men. “I have two of the most dangerous people I've ever met in the same room and they aren't trying to kill me or each other. JARVIS record this. It's a miracle.” Tony waved his hands in the air and Bucky snorted a laugh.

“Why would we be trying to kill each other?” Loki inquired.

“He's Cap's best pal from before he became all Cap like.”

“Stark, what are you raving about?” Loki was actually starting to worry that he was letting a lunatic near his throat.

Bucky was still chuckling. “I knew Steve when we were kids. He was a tiny, sickly, little fella with far to much aggression. He let a crazy person and a doctor experiment on him and he got all, well, big.”

“That crazy person was my dad Barnes. Just ‘cause you killed him-“ Bucky jumped in.

“And I knew him during the war. He's the crazy one who flew the dumbass behind enemy lines to see if I was alive.”

“You killed Stark's father?”

“He killed a lot of people.” Stark stated with a cold edge. He moved to a tool box across the room. “Go ahead and relax for a moment Loki.”

“Really?” Loki looked at the soldier with a sudden interest.

“I don't wanna talk about. Don't ask.” Bucky stood up and moved away from the strange man.

“I think the tool I need is in another lab. I'll be back in a sec ‘kay?” Stark knew neither man was actually paying attention to him. He just needed an excuse to leave. He didn't want to be a part of this conversation.

“Oh, but I am so curious about you. Who you kill or attempt to kill can tell much about who you really are.”

Bucky scoffed. “So you and the loud blond man are from Norse legend, or at least that's what everyone told me when I met Thor the first time. You tried to destroy New York with aliens and according to Steve, you’re at least kinda scared of thunder. I have heard you called a trickster, a silver-tongued liar, a war criminal, a heathen god and a psychopath. Even some sorta monster from a world different than you appear to come from. So why in world would I tell you anything about myself?”

“I am every one of those things and yet none of them. I have committed patricide defending the one I once called my father, and then attempted to stop a war by destroying the planet that the blond buffoon had provoked against us. I was made the rightful king of my world by a woman whom I called my mother only to have that ungrateful bastard who once claimed to be my father, take it from me. In fact he took everything from me in a matter of seconds, simply by revealing that I was a monster, one from the very tales I had been told in my childhood. I was given the choice of death or living without life. I chose death but even that was stolen from me.” Loki dropped his head, then laughed darkly. The impulse to tell this stranger everything drove his mouth. “I was forced to come here with that army. I was told to bring an item you should be familiar with, a glowing blue cube, back for someone who I fear may yet come looking for me. They tried to make me their puppet. Indeed I wanted revenge on Odin but I knew Earth wasn't anything but a stepping stone back to Asgard. I had never intended to actually attack New York. When I realized it would have to happen, I knew how to make sure I was found and stopped before I did too much. I have killed far more than you, mortal. Just on Earth I caused 154 deaths at least. I am the cause of my mother's death.” He stopped. Bucky could hear his breath shaking for a moment. “At least I sent the things that killed her where she was. She defended Thor's lover and he was only a moment to late. He watched her die. I was not allowed to mourn and though, I did not try to have her killed, I was blamed. They were just going to leave me in my cell to rot until I awoke with this collar on.”

Bucky watched the pale man for a moment. He too felt compelled to speak.

“I was never a willing killer. I was drafted into World War 2 from the reserves. Taken prisoner in Germany, experimented on, rescued by Steve, went back into service along side him until I fell from a train during a fight. I survived the fall, was taken prisoner again, experimented on and tortured. It took them along time to make me submit. Then I spent fifty years as an assassin. I have killed civilians and heads of state all without any reason other than following my programming. Steve eventually managed to break the program. I was broken beyond repair but slowly I have put myself back as best I can. I remember the names and faces of every person I killed. From JFK to Tony’s parents. He almost killed me the day I told him. I almost killed myself when I remembered who his father was to me. A friend. At one point all I could really remember was what I had done.” Loki watched as Bucky sighed, looking at his feet, and then looked up. “I learned to live again. I ended up sneaking in a window at one of Stark's mansions and scarin’ the hell outta him. My arm had totally seized and I couldn't fix it. Once he stopped screaming, he helped me. He brought me here and when he found out who I was to Steve, made sure I was well represented in court.”

“I thought you didn't want to speak of all this.”

“Well, you told me more than I think you meant to. I know it's only a fraction of your tale but the past ten years have had more impact on you than the other, what, thousand years. I guess I felt it was only fair that I explain why I am what I am.” Bucky sat back down on Loki's left side.  “Just outta curiosity why do you have the word odnoliub tattooed in Cyrillic on your arm Loki?”

“You can read it?” Loki whipped his head around to stare at Bucky.

“Wait. You have a tattoo you can't read? Why do people do that? That's how you get a tattoo meaning slut when you wanted it to say chastity.”

Loki snorted, trying to suppress a laugh. After a shaky breath he said. “You know Russian?”

“Well yeah. That's where I spent most of the past 70 years. They kept me in Cryo in Siberia. So why get a tattoo in Russian if you don't know the language?”

“It's not a tattoo.”

For a moment or two the just stared at each other. Loki trying to figure out why he had admitted anything to this man who he hardly knew, let alone that he had a soul mark and Bucky was trying to understand what all of it might mean. He could read and speak Russian, but Asgardians had that Allspeak thing they could do. Why couldn't Loki just read and translate it himself that way?

“Okay, I have to ask. I don't know all that much about you or Thor or any of it but, why couldn't you read it yourself? I've watched Thor read ridiculously coded messages without a single issue.” Bucky couldn't look him in the eye.

“Allspeak doesn't work on soul marks. If you can read the language without magical aid then you can read it. I don't know why but that's what I was told when I asked.” Loki smiled at him unintentionally.

“Well what languages can you speak then?” Bucky asked. Loki could tell he was leading to something that he had yet to find the words to ask.

“Well Asgardian, obviously, English, a smattering of Nordic languages coming from the old Norse, a couple of Runic…” Bucky jumped at the word.

“You mean like runes?” He asked with a bright eagerness.

Loki picked up a thin screwdriver that Tony had left out. Using it like a pen Loki scratched 4 thin symbols in the metal table. “My name in runes. It was one of the ones I had to learn in order to do what your people call magic.”

Bucky stared at the scratches. Then at the man who put them there. “Can you read the runes on my back?” He asked before his mind had comprehended what was going on.

“You have runes on you back?” Loki tilted his head, fascinated. “I can try. I mean there are a lot of different runic alphabets.” He suddenly felt rather like a child. He knew he had to get this right. That this was his only chance. He felt a warm hand on his give a gentle squeeze.

“I'm pretty sure you'll know it.” Bucky sounded strangely confident. What did he know that made him feel that, Loki wondered as he watched Bucky pull his shirt off. He admired the other man's muscular back for a moment before noticing the raised green symbols.

The soldier shivered slightly as he felt Loki's thin fingers and cool breath on his neck. His soft voice muttered things Bucky didn't understand as the finger traced a line under the words. Suddenly he heard Loki gasp.

“That is just… I mean it can't… it's the exact same.” Loki muttered as he sat back down next to the metal armed mortal. He felt emotions clogging up the tightly wound and fine tuned clockwork of his mind. Images flickered past his eyes. Walking into the room, the man across the street, the rack of books at the newsstand outside the sanctum, his own green writing on the other man's back, the shade of the red letters on his own mark and how it matched the star now visible on Bucky's metal left shoulder.

“What does it say?” His voice was very gentle, almost scared. Maybe even sounding like he was anticipating bad news.

Loki's voice shook as he spoke. “Someone who has only one love in their life.”

They locked eyes. Both knew now but neither could ask the other if he understood. Voices stuck in their throats, Loki surprised them both by moving first. Though he played cold he had always been sentimental and if he was true to himself for a moment he would have to admit, he had always hoped it was a heart mark. That he was meant to find love, to not be as alone as he felt. He didn't realize he had kissed Bucky until he felt the bigger man pull him closer, returning the kiss.

“I feel like I'm supposed to be in love with you.” Loki's voice sounded small and unsure, even to his own ears. “But I don't know what being in love is supposed to feel like.”

“To be honest. Neither do I. I know wanting someone and liking someone but I've never felt what others have told me love feels like.” Bucky didn't look away from his soulmates green eyes and they didn't shift from the cold blue steel gaze that met them.

“Maybe this is why?” Bucky could feel him trembling. It was a lot for both of them.

“I will never fear you James… I mean Bucky… I mean…” Loki stumbled over his silver tongue.

“And I will always trust you Loki.” Bucky said. “I think Tony is probably waiting to finish working in both of us. We can finish figuring this out after I think.”

Loki kissed him again. The collar pulled painfully as he turned his head to do it a third time. “Probably a good idea.”

“JARVIS, you mind telling Stark we're ready for him?”

“Of course Sirs, and Congratulations I believe.” The AI spoke and Loki stared at the ceiling.

“Is that a person?”

“Nah. He's the computer that runs everything from my house to my suit. Not that I should really be telling you any of this, Spaceman.” Tony smiled, holding a larger screw driver. “So are you guys done being weird and almost threatening?” He winked.

“You were watching on a security cam, weren't you Stark?” Bucky smiled, Loki still half sitting on his lap.

“Well let’s just say watching the two of you kiss freaked Thor out more than anything. He said two people as frightening as you are either a match made in hell or fate playing a truly cruel trick on one of us.” He pushed the screwdriver into a well-hidden hole in the back of the collar and it clicked loudly. “Alright, uh Bucky, you need to leave. One of the things I read while I waited basically said you don't wanna be the one to hurt a person in front of their soulmate sooo…”

“I'll be outside apologizing to a pair of muscular, possibly angry blonds. Be gentle Tony, and don't do anything stupid Loki.” Bucky touched his shoulder as he left.

“So what now Stark?”

“Now I hope you don't kill me.” Tony said as he adjust his grip on the metal ring. “Oh and don't hurt Bucky. I actually kinda like having him around here.”

Thor and Steve grabbed Bucky when they heard the scream. He didn't stop fighting them until Loki stepped out to throw Thor the collar.

“I'm fine James. It's Asgardian, I knew it the moment I saw the internal structures. Give it to Strange if you wish, or maybe find out why it was used to try and kill me.” He snarled.

“Bucky, you still wanna get me to look at that sticky elbow?”

“I'm coming Stark. I promise we'll talk more about this later Steve but really, there isn't much anyone can do to change this. I would rather love him and only him than be alone, sleeping with almost anyone just to feel a bit of what I felt holding Loki.” Bucky smiled as he passed the green eyed blushing man.

“Oh shut up.” Loki rolled his eyes at Thor's grin as he followed Bucky back into the lab.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

It Takes Two

“Ya know Reindeer Games, having you standing behind me is…”

“Unnerving?” Loki smirked as he watched the engineer’s hands move with surprising dexterity. He had changed back to his usual attire of black, green and gold armor. “I do not understand why, Anthony. I pose no threat.”

Bucky chuckled. Apparently his soulmate was a sarcastic ass.

“No threat, my ass.” Tony grumbled. “Damn Hydra and their proprietary hardware. They couldn't just use a Robinson head. Nooo they have to use some pentagonal bullshit.”

Loki looked at his soulmate in confusion. Bucky shrugged his one shoulder. “I think it’s a screw driver.”

“Yeah it's a screw driver. Will you move!” Tony stood and snapped at the black haired man. Loki put his hands up in surrender. Even when he had been threatening his life, Tony hadn't raised his voice and it surprised Loki.

“You can see what he's doing from here. Sit down and get out of the crazy man's way.”

“I could just leave that servo stuck like that Barnes.” Tony pointed a screwdriver at him threateningly. “And I'm not the crazy one. How long would fabricating a pentagonal head driver and bit set take J?”

“For one of each in a single size would take approximately two hours, Sir. Might I suggest using the multi-bit?” JARVIS responded. Just like the last time Loki stared at the ceiling.

“Right. That's what I used last time. Barnes remember that, I need the multi-bit. Thanks J.”

“Of course Sir.”

“Are you sure that there isn't a person locked in some room speaking. It sounds… uncannily human.” Loki didn't look away from the speaker until Bucky touched his leg.

“He was a person.” Tony said, not looking away from the arm.

“I met him once. He was Howard's butler. Nice guy.” Bucky smiled. “He was pretty sarcastic too.”

“Well, he did basically raise me. Dad was too busy lookin’ for the Capscicle to pay attention to me. Barnes move your fingers.”

“Yet you're still so much like your dad.” Bucky smiled at Tony, wiggling his fingers.

“Alright. Hand still works and…” there was a metallic pop as the engineer pulled a small hydraulic cylinder out of his elbow. “We have our trouble maker. Now, lets get you back under warranty.”

“That expired when they started tryin’ to fry my brains.” Bucky said.

“Well, just the arm then.” Tony began to fuss about under the plates. “I'm not even looking at the loon and I can tell he's confused. It's like you have two emotions; homicidal and confused.”

“I have other emotions.” Loki feigned offence.

“Yeah Tony, you forgot sarcastic.” Bucky deadpanned. Loki glared and swatted his arm. Bucky grinned, catching the other man's wrist. “Careful. They only made one of me, so warranty or not, I can't be replaced.”

“Well it appears you have few emotions as well James. I would say… Sarcastic and flirtatious.” Loki’s neutral expression showed only a tiny smile.

“See and you forgot murderous. Neither of you actually knows the other yet.” Tony smirked.

“Well it’s not like we just met or anything Stark.”

“He’s right you know. We barely know anything more than each other’s names and a loose description of our stories.” Bucky turned to Loki. “We really should actually talk, instead of trying to passive aggressively threaten each other. Oh Tony, speaking of not knowing anything about your other half, these are for Steve. His favourite.” Bucky reached under his seat and handed Tony the dozen cookies he’s picked up. “And your damned cannoli.”

 “I know Bucky and I are good looking but you don’t need to drool openly Antlers.” Tony grinned a moment later, half eaten pastry in his hand.

“Where can I find something to eat? And I would never drool over someone as short as you Stark. I don’t want to have to look down upon my lover like they are nothing more than a commoner.”

“Me, common. Yeah right!” Tony scoffed. “Just for that I shouldn't tell you that there is a vending machine down the hall that is unlocked so you can just grab food out of it.”

“And I assume one of you is going to come with me.”

“Nah. JARVIS can keep an eye on ya. Though Thor doesn't really trust anything he can't touch so Dum-E come ‘ere. You mind taking the robot for a walk Antlers?”

Loki stared at the rolling “arm” Stark called Dum-E. It looked harmless enough. “I suppose it would be fine. At least Thor has something other than myself to hit with Mjölnir if I get caught alone.”

“Well, he isn't what I expected my soulmate to be.” Bucky told Stark as Loki left.

“What did you expect?”

“Well, human and maybe not quite as dangerous as myself for starters.”

Loki sighed, leaning against the doorframe out of sight but not earshot of the other two men. That had hurt to hear. It wasn’t like this was what he had wanted either. Deciding he didn't want to hear anything more he began to wonder down the hallway.

“Mr. Laufeyson?” That voice asked calmly.

“What?” Loki glared at the ceiling.

“You are going the wrong direction, unless you are attempting to calm yourself down.”

Loki stopped and stared at the ceiling.

“Your heart rate appears elevated. Would it be because of the Sergeant’s choice of words?”

He was astonished. The voice was supposed to be a machine, yet he still sounded and spoke more like a man might.

“Yes. I…” Loki sighed again. “It's not like either of us had a choice in this and yet he says ‘I'm not what he expected.’ What did he expect?” His voice got hard. “Some little woman who he could marry and have lots of babies with?”

“More than likely. He comes from a time where men were not allowed to be romantically involved with other men. His situation is probably very uncomfortable, as is yours.” The calm voice of the AI spoke.

“Uncomfortable. That's an understatement. I have to live with the knowledge that even my soulmate doesn't want me.” He slumped against the wall, allowing himself to sink to the floor.

“What leads you to that conclusion Sir?”

“It was the dangerous comment. I am dangerous when provoked but most of the time I am mostly harmless.”

“Unfortunately we only have the singular incident to base our knowledge from and he only has what others have told him. Having watched over Sergeant Barnes and the others for sometime now, I believe he is simple voicing that he got something different. Not that those differences are a negative thing Sir.”

“I can't believe I'm saying these things to a computer and an arm on wheels. How can my differences not be a negative? That is all they ever have been. I was…” He looked away from the ceiling but couldn't continue.

The funny arm nudged him gently. Absentmindedly Loki ran his hand over the metal, like he might an animal.

“Being different was wrong. I was different and therefore treated differently and seen as imperfect. As lesser than I should have, could have been. My differences were my failing. No matter what I did I could never be good enough, or strong enough, or… I don't even know anymore.”

“I believe that being different is what draws the residents here closer, Mr. Laufeyson. No one here falls within the norms of human society and they find comfort in being around others like themselves though each is singular in their own right. Even your brother, and I assume he is very much like his own kin.”

“Yes he is. He is what I was measured against my whole life.” Loki shook his head. “I am considered dangerous by everyone. A criminal, a lunatic, an ‘unrightful' king and just a failure at everything by anyone whose opinion still matters. Put me next to Thor and what am I? Nothing. I am invisible. It was the first major trick I learned. How to not be seen. It was easy when no one ever looks for you anyway.”

***

“I thought you said the machine was just down the hall?” Bucky hadn't stopped staring at the door since they had heard Loki sigh. Bucky was kicking himself to Timbuktu over what he had said. He knew Loki hadn't understood what he meant but now the strange alien man was likely hurt.

“J would let us know if there was anything major wrong.” Tony said calmly.

“What if it was Stevie who misunderstood what you had said?”

Tony didn't reply or speak for a moment, just kept working on the arm.

“There. I want you back next week to replace about five more. Go find him, that's what I know I should do if we were I the reversed position. Probably not what I would do but I know its exactly what you will do.”

Before Bucky could even stand JARVIS spoke. “Just to inform you Sir but Thor has just departed leaving Mr. Laufeyson in our custody until he returns. He did state he would not be more than a day before returning.”

“The thundering bastard didn't even tell us he was gonna leave tall, dark and psycho behind.” Tony stated. Bucky said nothing, just got up and left. “Thanks for fixing my arm Tony. Thanks for almost getting ripped to shreds by my crazy soulmate and getting the collar off his neck Tony.” He muttered sarcastically under his voice and unintentionally loud enough for Bucky to hear in the hall.

***

“My Seidr is my greatest strength next to my mind and yet both were seen as a waste. Imagine this, I am standing in my full royal regalia, next to Thor, both of us crowned princes of the realm and yet I have a servant insult me to my face. Thor just laughs it off. So I play a little trick so I can laugh too, so it wouldn't hurt so much to know just how lowly I am viewed. Just how little I truly matter to anyone.” Loki continued to hang his head between his knees.

“You matter to me.” Bucky’s voice startled him but he didn't let it show. “I know you heard me saying that you aren't what I expected my soulmate to be. I heard you sigh outside the door. Whatever you think I meant by that, I think you got it wrong.”

“Really?” Loki still didn't look up. “I think you mean that I am not what you want, or what you deserve. That I am some sort of consolation prize. A broken toy that you are forced to take because all of the perfect ones were gone. I know that you deserve better than me.”

“Better than a prince? Really, I don't even know why I deserve someone who probably had to chase women away from his bed at night ‘cause they all wanted a piece of that action. Men too, I'd bet.”

Loki laughed. The image of himself having to chase men and women out of his bed chamber because they had hidden there to try and seduce him was actually funny. Then the words hit him.

“I am not a prince anymore James. I am a prisoner. Why would you want me?”

“Well, why do you want me? It's not like I spent seventy years of my life as little more than a biological robot.” Bucky slid to the floor across the hall from him. It was wide enough Bucky knew Loki had enough space to not feel crowed but still close enough to know Bucky really was listening.

“I don't exactly know. I know that I don't want to be alone anymore.”

“I would like…” Bucky sighed. “I don't know if you will believe me but I want you to understand that just because you aren't what I expected doesn't mean you aren't what I want.”

Loki finally looked up at him, his expression neutral.

“It’s not that I expected anythin’ in particular. What I got is a person who I have been told can fight with the best of ‘em, is mentally sharp and down right tenacious. Not to mention pretty fuckin' hot and so sassy.” Bucky smiled and winked at him. “I think I got more than I bargained for.”

“You know I will likely have to return to Asgard, to my cell. I doubt they would ever let you come be with me.” Loki started to stand, his face still neutral. Bucky jumped to his feet.

“Then we make the best of the time we have. Thor left about twenty minutes ago. JARVIS thinks he went to Asgard. So you don't have to have him hanging on your shoulder for at least the rest of the night I would think. We can just sit and talk and maybe know each other a bit before we get separated by time and space again.”

Loki stepped into Bucky’s space, gripped his face and stared at him for a moment. He then kissed Bucky again. It felt so right, no space between them and no one to interrupt them. “I don't want this to be it James.” He murmured, eyes shut, resting his forehead against his soulmates. “I have nothing else to live for. No reason to try and maintain my sanity.”

Bucky pressed a finger to Loki’s lips. “Please stop.” His voice broke slightly. “I don't wanna have that image floating in my head with everything else. I don't wanna think about you alone in a cell. Please.”

“I don't want to lie to you though. It is what awaits me, for the rest of my long life.” He felt Bucky's hands resting on his hips, grounding him.

“How do we change that?”

“Erase my past. Make that old bastard understand what happened to me after he…” Loki drew a hard breath. “He let me fall. He let me try and kill myself. He loves lording his power over me. I am only alive because of him and I have to accept that fact every morning. I doubt he would ever listen to reason about what I did here. He would never let one of his stolen relics out of his sight without being in the trusted hands of his moron of a son.”

“Then we make him trust me.”

Loki looked at the old soldier with some surprise.

“How? He has no respect for humanity. He… well most of Asgard sees humans as lesser.”

“What about you? How do you view us humans?”

Loki didn’t speak for a moment. Bucky knew he was trying to word his answer correctly for what he wanted.

“Both I suppose. I was raised to put myself above all others. Asgard sees herself as the benevolent parent of the other eight realms. However I happen to actually not be Asgardian, but Jotunn, whom they see as monsters. I was raised to believe my own kind were going to eat me if I misbehaved. Finding out what I truly was…” Loki let his words die. Bucky understood what he didn’t say. It had hurt to find out that he wasn’t what he thought he was.

“You’re not a monster. You’re really messed up and finding out that you were “adopted” didn’t help I’m sure. Still you would think a parent would treat his child better, and don’t get me started on the racism. I grew up around enough of that bullshit. I don’t know how many fights that I had to pull Steve’s skinny punk ass out of started with ‘Hey Bog-trodder!’ I can’t stand that sorta shit.” Bucky gripped Loki’s thin hips. “I’m sure he’s gonna love that your lyubovnic is human. I wonder what nasty thing he’ll call me.”

“Mortal. That’s it. They just call humans mortals, even though Asgardians are mortal as well. Jotunns they call mosters, as well as the dark elves. Only the races that fought against Asgard’s rule were labeled as such. You mind releasing my hip, your grip starting to become rather painful.”

“Sorry.” Bucky unlocked his left hand. In his anger it had locked up. Carefully he pulled Loki against himself. “We didn’t fight against strangers ruling us. That doesn’t sound right.”

“Well it was over a thousand years ago. Mostly they just leave Midgard alone believing it not worth the time. Even now they think it to be inhabited by a backwards race of beings who will never understand the universe they inhabit.”

“What do you think?”

Again Loki took a moment.

“That Asgard is the backwards one. At this point they may have more advanced technology but they refuse to see value in people and places different then themselves. I know that with the right group of humans I could likely destroy Odin’s rule and take Asgard for myself. Most of them are inhabitants of this very building. I also know that the true differences between most of the sentient races of the nine realms are very small. All desire to direct their own course, individually and as a collective race. Midgardians have proved no different. I no longer seek a crown in any realm though. I would still be a better ruler than Thor but I do believe that he will do well enough.”

Bucky felt the strange man rest his head against the crook of his neck. He gently ran his flesh hand through the inky black hair. Loki had a lot of issues. He would likely always see himself as better than most people on earth, though never good enough for his own high standards and those he assumed others set against him. But at least he wasn’t about to try and take the world over… again. A thought brought a sudden smile to Bucky’s face.

“You really think that ‘The Avengers’ could over-throw Asgard?”

“Well… Yes.” Loki lifted his head and gave the other man a questioning look.

“We can barely make it through a dinner without killing each other. We’re living, breathing chaos.”

Loki laughed. “I am called the God of Mischief by some. Chaos is something I’m good at.”

“Why doesn't that surprise me?” Tony laughed at the end of the hall. “You never went to get food did you?”

Before Loki could speak, JARVIS did. “He was upset by the Sergeant's words and was attempting to calm down by speaking with myself and Dum-E, then with the Sergeant once he found him.”

Loki didn't look away from Bucky.

“So, are you two good then?” Tony looked at the two men who were still leaned against each other and the wall.

“Perhaps.” Loki said.

“I hope so.” Bucky smiled, running his hand through Loki's jet black hair.

Steve found them a short time later, discussing how the Avengers could over throw Asgard while eating food out of the vending machine. He didn't know what was more disconcerting; hearing Bucky comment about the ease with which he figured he could out wit Asgardian royal guards or seeing Loki eating, and eating Swiss Rolls none the less. The whole scene was just weird. Not knowing what to do he just stood there.

“Your boyfriend is staring at us Tony. I think we're gonna get lectured on eatin' sweets before our supper.” Bucky teased.

“Shut up, Jerk. And you know you really shouldn't binge on junk food Tony.”

Loki just smiled at him. He was enjoying watching the way he made Captain America squirm.

“When was the last time you ate actual food Tony?” Steve finally asked.

“I had a couple of sandwiches during the meeting this morning.” Tony grinned proudly.

Steve looked at Bucky.

“About four hours ago. I grabbed a sandwich at Dino's. Tony wanted cannoli so he sent me to fetch him some.”

“What about you?” He finally made eye contact with Loki.

“I don't know that I would call the disgusting concoction Thor tried to feed me last night food-“ Steve cut Loki off.

“How long before that?” Loki was surprised to see what might have been genuine concern on the Captain's face.

“I don't actually remember. I have been dragged across so many realms as of late that the days have all blended.” He shrugged, taking a bite out of the cake in his hand.

“Well I'm gonna head over to Romanesco's if you wanna come.” He kept eye contact with Loki. “You need to eat something more than that.”

“You guys up for some Italian?” Tony smiled as he went to follow his boyfriend.

Loki looked from the bouncing brunet to Bucky. “Did the Captain and the Man of Iron just invite you to bring me along to dinner?”

“I think so.” Bucky seemed just as confused. “I need to change if that’s the case, you too. I doubt the armor is a good choice. What you were wearing earlier though should work though.”

Loki smiled and Bucky watched his clothing change back to the green dress shirt and black tie in a shimmer of light. “Neat trick.”

“Thank you.” Loki smiled as he flicked his wrist. Bucky felt a strange warm tingle run over his body. Looking down he saw that he was now wearing a black dress shirt, black slacks and a red tie.

“What the…” He looked back up at Loki.

“Your welcome.” He winked over his shoulder.

“Okay, I look great but ask next time. It's kinda rude to magic someone without permission.” He hustled to catch up with Loki who had already begun to move towards the elevators.

“So long as I can still surprise the others once in a while.” Loki gave a sly smile.

“Just don't go turning anyone into frogs or anything unnatural, you ass.” Bucky goosed him to emphasize his choice of word.

Loki grinned as they stepped into an elevator. “I think Stark would make a pretty damsel.”

“You're not turnin' Stark into a Dame. Not after he pulled the collar off your neck today. Wait till he pisses ya off. He muttered somethin' earlier ‘bout you tryin to rip him to shreds, wanna tell me?”

“It hurt and my power came flooding back so I lunged at him with claws and fangs. I had very little control for a moment. If not for the strange cold foam which that Dum-E sprayed me with I fear I may have killed him.” Loki looked at his hands.

“Dum-E sprayed ya? Wait.” Bucky gawked at him for a moment. “You have claws and fangs?”

Loki sighed then bared his teeth. A moment later Bucky could see the fangs. His nails blackened and lengthened, hard and sharp. As he showed how they were retractable Buck noticed his eyes had started to turn red. In the relative safety of the moment Bucky didn't find it all that frightening, in a tight spot however…

Bucky kissed him just as both claws and fangs began to vanish, replaced by a small look of shame and surprise. They walked through the private lobby of the tower in silence.

“At least you don't have to worry about being caught unarmed.” Bucky smiled, grabbing his jacket from the closet.

“I suppose. I still dislike that I have them and that I tend to use them when I'm not in complete control.”

“I can understand.” Bucky said, pulling on a pair of thin black gloves. “Once I started getting myself back, I had a hard time with the arm. It took a bit but now it's just another part of me. A highly useful part but, just like the fleshy one, still just a part of me.”

“Are you proud to have it?”

Bucky tilled his head slightly to the left. “I guess. It’s part of what make me, me. I am Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier. The winter soldier is known for his skill, accuracy and metal arm. Day to day, it’s just a thing I have.”

Loki was silent as his jacket shimmered into existence. Then he looked Bucky over.

“Can I speak of something and expect that you shall keep it between us?”

“Of course. You want me to tell Jarvis to close his ears?”

“If that is alright?”

“Of course, Sir.” The voice spoke. “Would you like to have audio recording alone disabled or both audio and video?”

“Both. Please” Loki swallowed.

“Done.”

“So… I mentioned earlier that I am not what I appear to be.”

Bucky nodded.

“This is what I meant.” Loki closed his eyes. It took a moment but then a soft gold shimmer, different from the green of Loki's own magic, fell away from his body.

Bucky was silent. Unnervingly silent. Loki finally managed to make himself open his eyes. The look on his soulmate's face was… adoring. He was looking at Loki like he was attractive, and lovable and not a monster.

Bucky didn't say anything as he reached his hand out to touch the soft blue skin of his soulmate's cheek.

“Don't.” Loki stepped back, his voice a bare whisper.

“I'm not gonna hurt you.”

“I might.” Loki shifted his strange red eyes away from Bucky.

Bucky stepped forward, filling more of the gap between them. Again he reached his hand out. “I'm not scared of you Loki.” He had pulled his glove off his right hand. Loki flinched as Bucky's warm hand rested against his cheek.

“This… this… monster is what I truly am James.”

“And anyone who calls you that is gonna deal with me. And it ain't gonna be pretty.” He kissed Loki. His lips were cold. For a moment it was almost painful, then Loki seemed to relax into him and the biting chill seemed to fade. “I don't wanna hear you talkin’ ‘bout yourself like that. I don't fuckin care what you’ve been told. Ya ain't a monster, and I would take you however you are, claws and all.”

Loki couldn't speak. For all of his fancy words and pretty lies, Bucky's honesty had caught him off guard.

“My Ma used to say that soulmates were bound to each other. Nothin' could truly drive ‘em apart. That it didn't matter about any dividing lines ‘cause they were gonna want to be with the ones they were pulled to.”

Loki let the glamour reassert itself over his appearance, pale skin and green eyes over taking blue and red, in a shimmer of gold. “I hate myself. You understand that, right? I can't even look in a mirror some days without wanting to destroy it.”

“Well, maybe I can change that.” Bucky kissed him again before gently taking his hand. “Come on. We're gonna be late. Stark will never let us live it down.”

***

They found Pepper sitting at a table set for five, at the restaurant, alone.

“Pepper! When did you get back?” Bucky hugged the woman gently.

“Just as Tony was dragging Steve into a bedroom.” She wiggled her brows. “I think they're going to be a bit late.”

“I was worried for nothing. I figured I was gonna have to stop Loki from turnin' Stark into a girl ‘cause of the tormenting we would get for bein’ the last to show up.”

“What?”

“Oh right.” Bucky looked over his shoulder. Loki had been standing back, trying to blend in, which for someone with his stature and natural charisma was an impressive feat. “Umm, yeah. So Pepper, this is Loki. Loki, this is Tony's assistant Pepper. She keeps everything and everyone in the tower on track.” He stepped aside. Pepper stared at them both for a moment.

“It is a pleasure to meet you Miss Pepper. I assure today has been rather strange for myself. I can only imagine what yours has been like.” Loki stepped next to Bucky and gave a small bow before taking and kissing the back of Peppers offered hand.

It took Pepper another moment to regain her footing. “You're… how… what?”

“Well no wonder Tony talks so much-“