A white flare of pain turns into an explosion in his head; he hears his name and loses his grip on his brother and then he blacks out.
☈ ☈ ☈
It’s Thursday and the desert shimmers; he squints to look at it, that unusual shake to the air, but it’s probably just a trick of his headache.
Theo’s going to a party even though he doesn’t want to; he has this merciless headache and he’s exhausted, though he’s not sure why. He usually likes parties, drinking and sharing stories with friends and watching as everyone and everything gets louder and louder.
He takes a bottle of wine and a couple of sixers because no one can have too much booze, no one, and when Syl meets him at the door, she shakes her head.
“Can’t even tuck in your shirt, can you?”
Theo smiles. “I’m more comfortable like this. And you said I looked like a model. Especially in jeans and plaid.”
“You’re never gonna let that go, are you. I was drunk!”
“Too bad,” he says, smile trying to work around his headache.
Syl sighs, pushing her dark hair behind her ears. “Fine, whatever, Mr. Big Ego. Get in here. If you can fit. With your huge ego. Got a new face for you to talk loudly at. He’s from the lab.”
“Where is this prey?”
“Over there,” Syl says, pointing behind her, balancing the wine and beer. “And I bought a new box of glasses, just for you, big boy. Break ‘em if you want.”
He wants to say thanks because he forgets his own strength a lot of the time, the same way people forget if they locked their doors, but he’s distracted, looking for the new face to talk loudly at.
A tall man, lithe, about his height, shoulder-length black hair and a half-smile directed at Vince as they lean against the bookcases, the man flicking the pages of a book with long fingers as he talks and randomly, Theo needs to see the man’s eyes.
He doesn’t know why.
“Uh, I’m assuming you want an introduction. I’m hoping,” Vince says, blinking fast in his usual signal of stop being stupid, Theo. “Unless you just want to continue standing there looming like an idiot.”
“Oh, yeah, right, sorry.” And sometimes he feels pretty damn stupid.
“Theo, this is Lock Lafoy. Lock, Theodore Owens. Or Musclehead. Mr. Big Ego. The Almighty Hammer—“
“Whoa, okaaay, yeah, shut up now, Vince,” he says, this needs to stop, he likes to brag, but this is embarrassing, “I said now, Vince,” because Lock is staring at him with green eyes, green like chips of marble Theo saw once in a museum, his expression barely restrained dark amusement. “Theo,” he says, holding out a hand.
He’s expecting a light, easy handshake, but Lock equals him, firm, and Theo’s fingers squeeze involuntarily when Lock says, “Theodore.”
“You can call me Theo.”
Vince grins, eyebrow up, like he’s waiting for a fight to break out any second, and Theo gives Lock’s hand another shake, but Lock lets go, says, “Theodore.”
And it sounds familiar.
His headache starts to dissipate.
Theo runs off to get a beer and Lock is reminded of a puppy, a golden retriever, with that easy blonde coloring and bounding step.
Vince says, “He’s a boxer. If you couldn’t tell.”
“Given the massive size, the bruise on his jaw, the scrapes on his knuckles? Makes sense.”
And just like that, Theo’s back, as if he’s fetched a stick Lock’s thrown and Lock feels the need to step away like he might be pawed at, but he’s sort of trapped and he sighs to himself, annoyed.
“Doesn’t make me a caveman,” Theo says and Vince replies, “You come pretty close.”
“Boxer like you, had your brains knocked around a few times? It’s nice that you can make complete sentences,” Lock says before he can think about it; it’s instinctive to snark at this stranger he’s just met and his belly shakes in confusion. “Actual proper sentences with polysyllable words instead of guttural sounds and glottal stops.”
Theo looks surprised, then he laughs, loud and rolling, and Lock hides a smile because dammit all to hell, Theo’s laugh is contagious, and Vince shakes his head, saying with a wave, “I have other guests. This is a party. I know how iffy you are about parties, Lock, imagine our glee when you deigned to join us mere mortals, but sorry, you’re babysitting.”
“But you aren’t paying me!”
A huff of laughter from Theo and he says, “I think I’ve got a dollar.”
“You’re not worth that,” Vince says and Lock is indignant, shoving the book into its place on the shelf.
“That isn’t the issue. I’m the one doing the work,” he says, but Theo starts laughing again and his protest is lost in the noise.
“Lock,” Theo says as if he’s trying it out, “that sounds…”
“Unfortunate. I know. I’ve had this name my whole life, I’ve had time to realize that.”
Theo actually blushes; Lock smirks, then Theo’s talking fast, “No, well, yeah, you just—“
“Everyone ends up with something unlucky bestowed upon them by their parents, Theodore.”
Lock has to call him by his full name, it’s something in the syllables, in the phonemes, this large man needs the R in his name.
Blue eyes, like electricity, and Lock wonders how nature ever gets that shade of blue in real life.
Genetics, and obviously, Theo received all the good genes; even the recessive ones for blond hair and blue eyes stand out stark and heavy.
Lock says, “Boxer,” because he needs to say something.
“That’s me. Co-own a gym. I’m the company accountant too, can’t you tell. Vince brings Syl by because she loves to beat him up and he was tired of the treatment.”
And Lock’s about to laugh, but irrationally, he doesn’t want to in front of Theo, he doesn’t want to give him the full satisfaction; Theo smiles though like he knows, he can read it on Lock, which isn’t fucking fair.
“You. What do you do.”
“Astrophysicist,” Lock says and his brain thinks, Big man probably can’t even spell that, and he smirks again, but Theo nods.
“What, it goes with the jacket and slacks.”
“Of course. Wait, that was a pun. You made it a pun.” Theo grimaces and now Lock does laugh, shoved out of him as Theo crosses his arms, scowling.
This all seems familiar.
☈ ☈ ☈
It’s Thursday and Lock gets a text while he’s at his desk, spinning his pen in his fingers.
Syl gave me your number after last week’s party. Lunch.
Theo. The man crashing into Lock’s life. He doesn’t even make it a question, he just says ‘lunch’ and Lock’s supposed to go along.
For some reason, Lock can picture Theo as a little kid, the burly athletic kind who was the natural leader, dragging kids like Lock off on adventures involving mud and worms and rocks and wasp nests.
All scrawny arms and legs, Lock would’ve followed and Theo wouldn’t have left him time to pick up the book he dropped, c’mon, you gotta see this.
He texts back. Can’t find the question mark on your phone?
Poindexter thinks he's so smart in his big shiny lab. Fine. Lunch?
Lock glares at the screen. Are you in the area?
And Lock isn’t surprised, he isn’t, he knew Theo would appear, the man takes up so much space in the world, if Lock saw him at night, he’d blot out the stars.
He looks out the window and Theo’s down on the sidewalk, frowning at his phone, the glass-and-plastic square small in his hands. He sways in place, shifting like a fighter, and Lock thinks, He’s always moving.
He shakes his head, a touch dizzy. He doesn’t know Theo that well.
Then Theo glances up and sees Lock at the window. He waves, grinning like a supernova.
Lock goes to lunch and doesn’t think twice about it (c’mon, you gotta see this).
☈ ☈ ☈
It's Thursday and Theo breaks a pop tart in half, crumbs scattering everywhere and Lock says, "How can you eat those?"
"I bite into them."
Theo can practically feel the exasperation coming from Lock, cutting through his sugar haze. "You're a boxer. Don't you have to maintain your"—Lock waves a hand at him—"physique."
"Only on Wednesdays and Fridays and every other Tuesday." He grins at his own joke and Lock sighs as the hand he was waving catches his chin.
Strawberry on his tongue and Theo thinks about it too late. "You want one?"
"You're insane. No." Lock pauses, eyes in slits. "You look like a six-year-old."
Theo grins even bigger around the other half of the pop tart.
Someone goes down hard in the ring, spitting blood, and Theo laughs, laughing harder when Lock rolls his eyes because he’s realized he wants that response from Lock. The exasperation. The half-smile on Lock’s profile that makes him look like a supervillain.
Breaking another pop tart in half, he calls to downed man, "Get used to it, kid, blood tastes almost better than beer.”
Suddenly, Theo tastes something different in his mouth, not the processed sugar of the pop tart, but something like honey, thick and sweet.
He feels drunk.
When he looks at Lock, he thinks, You’ve never been a happy drunk, too quiet for your own good.
But how would he know.
He says, “Let’s get drunk.”
☈ ☈ ☈
It's Thursday and Lock has that feeling again. It's like a memory that's more like a dream and he isn't sure which it is. Whenever he remembers it, his clothes make his skin itch.
“I didn’t ask,” Theo begins, a chunk of sandwich shoved into the side of his cheek and Lock raises his eyebrows.
“Hey, hang on there, I ask important questions.”
“Will this one win you the Nobel Prize, Theodore?”
Theo glares at him. “Shut up. So. Lock.”
“Yes,” Lock says, popping open a bag of chips.
“Is that like Loch, as in Loch Ness Monster?”
And Lock stares at him, really, Theo chewing with a cocky smile on his face, which should be impossible, Theo should be impossible, they barely fit under this table anyway and their knees keep knocking together and Theo’s trying to learn about his name.
“So like ‘lock and key’?”
“You don’t know how to spell my name? I don’t know if I should be offended or—”
“That’s it, ‘lock and key.’” Theo looks triumphant and Lock drops the last corner of his sandwich, smirking.
“Yes. And you’re in luck, I think they might just award you the Nobel for that. Let me find the applications.”
“Do you have a key?” Theo widens his eyes, leering before biting into a chip.
Lock isn’t going to laugh, he can’t because it’s Theo, so he frowns, it’s all he can do or he’ll give in. “No, I don’t have a key.”
The chip crunches hard and Theo nods, says seriously, “Wow, so you’re a eunuch.”
One of these days, Lock’s going to murder him and he’s going to take his time doing it and it will be a sweet, sweet pleasure, but not today, Theo’s knee is nudging his and he knows Theo does it to tease him, all of this, the big dolt.
He kicks Theo instead.
“I get it, you’re touchy about the subject,” Theo says, and Lock kicks him again, and Theo says, “All right, all right, not a eunuch. Maybe,” almost upending the table to rub at his shin.
“Oh, so you want me to show you right here in the deli. Scare poor Maggie. Get us banned for life. Then where would you take me to ambush me in public with your poorly rationalized accusations. And eat five pickles in a single sitting.”
“I think them’s fightin’ words.”
A challenge, and Lock doesn’t back down from challenges even when he can talk his way out of them. “Fine. When.”
With a heavy theatrical sigh, Theo stretches, arms out wide. “Well, I’d fight you today, but we’ve just eaten. And I can’t for the next few weeks, got a busy month training all those 95 pound weaklings, and then it’s summer, then there’s all those holidays, so—“
Somehow Lock is smiling and Theo’s smiling back with happy blue eyes and Lock helplessly thinks, I’ve missed you.
He looks out the window and they sit in silence, the clock over the counter ticking loud as the second hand sweeps past the tomato, lettuce, Swiss cheese, all the ingredients for a sandwich instead of numbers.
"When you were little, did you ever think you had a twin? But you lost them before you were old enough to remember them?" he asks, out of the blue, Russian dressing running over his hands and the frilly toothpick stuck into the pickle spear.
Theo stops, fingers greasy from his salt and vinegar chips. He looks like whatever he says will be wrong.
And it's not far from the truth.
☈ ☈ ☈
It’s Thursday and they were supposed to go to the movies, but Theo didn’t check beforehand and then nothing sounded good at the theater, it’s a damn shame when you can’t just go to the theater and there’s something showing. So they’re just wandering the streets.
Theo wants to get into trouble. Lock looks like he’s trouble waiting to happen.
The sun’s setting behind all the buildings and earlier when Theo was headed over towards Lock’s apartment, the desert was shimmering in the distance.
He thinks it’s a sign of some sort because he could see all these colors in the uneasy shake of air, like prismatic heat waves. He should ask Lock about that, maybe they could start a project of their own, Lock’s the scientist after all.
Theo just puts his fist into people’s faces. Or trains them how to do it others.
But Lock makes him think he’s something more, stronger than he really is, cleverer than people realize, he doesn’t know, this is all some stupid shit, Hallmark crap. The other night he dreamt about being split in half and he was searching.
When he found his other half, it didn’t look like him, but he knew.
Lock walks next to him, hands in his pockets, and Theo bumps his shoulder, just so Lock can sigh and say, “What.”
He shrugs and does it again and Lock shakes his head like maybe he’s plotting to murder Theo.
Perversely, he thinks he’d like that and he grins and Lock says again, “What,” all exaggerated annoyance.
They’re passing a bank of televisions in a store window and Theo stops to watch eighteen sharks jump in the air simultaneously, the water splashing muted because it's Shark Week after all and there's nothing like death in hi-def.
Then Lock's there, muttering to himself and Theo watches as Lock shifts in the flickering light, one second he’s Lock, then his skin is awash in otherworldly blue shadow, then he’s back to being Lock.
Theo thinks, Brother, why didn't you tell me.
And he's dizzy, as if he's received a blow to the head, spinning him completely around, he can't find his feet.
He smashes back down to earth as Lock grabs his arm, saying, "Theodore, what just happened?"
"You look like you saw a ghost. Or are you really that afraid of sharks."
Green eyes and Theo grounds himself in the color.
It’s Lock, it’s always Lock, in light or shadow. Theo throws an arm around his shoulders because he needs to know Lock is real.
He wants Lock to insult him. Lock insults everyone; he's a smooth talker, he could flatter if he wanted and Theo's father warned him years ago about smooth talkers, but Theo finds Lock's insults to be impressive and amusing; he can see through Lock most of the time and he doesn't care, even if all he can see is a complicated mess he doesn't always understand.
He needs to hear Lock’s voice. “C’mon, you ever watch Jaws? You really wanna be swimming and get your leg bitten off, see your own blood in the water and maybe skin or some bone—“
“Stop, colorful explanation over,” Lock says, shrugging under Theo, but he won’t let Lock go. “Can’t believe you’d be afraid of sharks. You probably wanna go jump in the ocean and wrestle them—”
“You have to hit them on the nose—”
“And I’m sure the shark would win because you’d be too busy trying to bludgeon it over the head to realize it’d eaten your arms off.”
They walk a ways, the world darkening around them, and Theo lets his arm hang on Lock.
A happy, cutesy couple practically skips by and they both sneer and Lock laughs at their mirror image, the way Theo feels his lips curling.
Lock says, “Wanna watch Jaws?”
Theo laughs. “It’s just like you to torture me. What if I have nightmares later?”
At his apartment, Theo surreptitiously watches Lock walk around, almost touching things but not quite, his fingers out as if he’s studying everything, trying to learn him.
He should already know Theo.
Cheering on a man-eating shark probably shouldn’t be so much fun.
☈ ☈ ☈
It’s Thursday and Theo’s flopped in the tall grass of the hill, pointing at the stars as if he’s scratching at them, like a lotto square.
“So. Stars,” Theo says.
“Yes. Stars. Space. The forces holding the universe together or pulling them apart,” Lock replies and he can’t help watching Theo’s hands, big knuckles and fighter grace.
Theo shrugs as if he’s guessed a wrong answer. “You’re learning magic.”
Lock’s surprised, his knee jerking, “No, I wouldn’t call it—“ and Theo moves to accommodate them both, head resting against Lock’s hip.
“Yeah, it is,” he insists, “I understand the basics of things, but you’re looking at all the invisible stuff. Behind the curtain. You probably asked a lot of questions as a kid. Or listened too much.”
“Or read too much.”
There’s that happy-go-lucky grin again, Lock can’t look away, and it’s infuriating. He clenches his fists, grabbing up handfuls of cold grass.
“You ever think you’ll learn it all?”
“All what?” He can’t sit here, Theo’s asking all these questions, learning Lock, and it’s new, it’s the same, what the fuck does that mean, Lock doesn’t know what’s going on anymore.
He hates not being in control. He might hate Theo for that.
“All of it. Stuff. Magic. Whatever.” Theo shrugs again, shoulder jostling Lock’s leg where he’s lying in the grass and Lock’s tempted to kick him in the ribs. Or lay hands on him. Just to hear what sounds this fighter makes.
“No,” Lock admits and he lets go of the crushed grass, stains on his fingernails.
Theo shifts to look up at him. “I think you will.”
Lock takes a deep breath because he thinks, You always have faith in me and I don’t know why.
“I dunno, I just know.”
Blind, blinded, blinding faith.
Lock doesn’t say anything and Theo scratches out another star.
☈ ☈ ☈
It’s Thursday and Theo stops by Lock’s lab. Hunched over his star charts, he should be a stereotypical scientist; he doesn’t look like a timid woodland creature and Theo doesn’t underestimate him, won’t, especially in a fight, Lock might not use pure strength, but he’d know where to apply force until it hurt.
Theo appreciates that, like Lock appreciates his books.
But Lock somehow looks like he doesn’t fit in anywhere.
Theo likes that too. It shakes up his world, keeps it interesting.
Thunder rumbles outside and Theo shivers because he’s always loved thunderstorms, they’re epic, all the noise and flashing lights.
All that power broken free and no one can stop it.
Lock said once thunder’s just sound waves and Theo said that sound waves can break things too and Lock said, Theodore, because he always puts the emphasis on that syllable and it sounds familiar, no one else can say it that way.
Theo hears it that way in his sleep.
He stares at the walls: a pen-and-ink drawing with loose flowing lines that look like swirls of smoke until Theo takes a step back and then they coalesce into a tree, the roots are so long they look like the branches; a photograph of a huge black wolf at the edge of a forest, snarling; a charcoal drawing of a woman with long dark hair, covering her body and her face except for one eye, her exposed limbs thin like bones; and another is more abstract, but Theo thinks he can see a circle, the world maybe, with something like a snake winding around it, causing waves in what look like oceans.
There’s something wrong, he feels sick, afraid, afraid for Lock, it feels like a premonition turning his organs inside out, then thunder booms outside like mortar fire.
Not thinking about it, he grabs Lock’s sleeve. “C’mon.”
“What, Theodore, wait.” Lock makes a notation, handwriting precise and slanting like a cut, a string of symbols and Theo wishes his name looked like that, symbols with some secondary meaning. He’s got his name written out in Lock’s handwriting on a bar napkin; he kept it like a silly schoolgirl in love, his name claimed by Lock.
Thunder again and Theo shakes harder, grinning, biting the inside of his cheek. “Lock, c’mon.”
“Where’re we going.”
“Out. Into the storm.”
“But.” Lock doesn’t look surprised and Theo likes that to no end, Lock never seems surprised by Theo, he just goes along. But someday, he’ll surprise Lock, he will, it’s become his mission in life, what he thinks about as he wraps his hands for a sparring session.
It’s not raining when they get outside, but there’s the smell of ozone and Theo can feel the unbearable taut pull of the storm in the air and he laughs. He grabs Lock’s wrist and Lock is staring up at the sky, clouds rolling dark and black overhead, and in a surge of lightning, he remembers holding Lock’s wrist, fingers curled in against Lock’s palm, somewhere else, somewhere echoing golden as they watch a storm and Lock said, You and your silly fireworks.
But this is Lock here and now and he says, “You trying to be Ben Franklin?”
Lightning streaks white-blue right over their heads and as Theo laughs, thunder booms and from the lab parking lot, all the car alarms go off at once.
Those eyes are staring at him, high polished stones, not afraid, and Lock’s smirking at him.
“You’re gonna get us killed,” he says and Theo laughs again, thunder in a loud reverb over the car alarms.
“No, I won’t.”
In the space between lightning strikes, Theo hears Lock say, “No, you won’t, but you’ll try.”
When it rains, Lock stands there with Theo, black hair falling down around his temples, clothes soaked and Theo watches as he licks water off his lips.
“I dare you to break the storm,” he says before he realizes he’s said it.
Lock grins like a knife-edge. “Because I know magic.”
Lock’s grin disappears and he collects rainwater in his palms before throwing it at Theo.
You’re safe with me, Theo thinks.
You love storms as much as I do, brother, he thinks, but it’s gone in a whip-crack of sound.
☈ ☈ ☈
It’s Thursday and Lock can’t take it anymore, staring at his charts and formulas, he has to get out.
He disappears from the lab and closes his eyes out on the sidewalk and picks a direction.
He ends up at Theo’s gym. That’s usually how it is.
When he gets there, Theo’s climbing into the ring to face off against Hound, a boxer from the gym across town.
Theo leans over the ropes, grinning down at him like a crazy thing, and Lock rolls his eyes because Theo’s about to say something—
“’Bout time you dragged your scrawny ass down here.”
“What’s that supposed to mean.”
“This isn’t a sparring match, Lock. This is a fight,” Theo says, beaming bright and for a second, Lock sees him lit like he’s on fire, torches all around, and he’s outlined in bright red—
Theo and his annoying nickname he crowned Lock with three weeks ago. “What,” Lock says, keeping himself away from the ring because otherwise, he might climb up and sock Theo right in the mouth. Or touch him somehow, deep, inappropriately.
“You’re my good luck charm.” Theo’s brow creases, eyes flaring. “If I win, I’ll call you Lucky.”
“Oh, no the fuck you will not,” Lock says, hands out to strangle Theo, and Theo pretends he’s choking before turning to talk to the ref.
When the fight starts, Lock’s completely prepared even though this is the first time he’s seen Theo box.
Lock blinks, he’s in Theo’s gym; Lock blinks, he’s in a dark cold place with high walls made of shadows, the cold glittering like menace everywhere and Theo’s yelling, swinging around, blood bright on his face and streaked in his hair, he’s gold and red, fighting like a trained killer—
The bell dings and Lock blinks to see Theo watching him from his corner.
Theo smiles, thoughtless joy in a warrior package.
And Lock smiles back, gritting his teeth.
Theo said once it’s a matter of applied physics and Lock said oh really and Theo said yeah, force and velocity and the mass of my fist against someone’s jaw or ribcage, and he made it sound like the most simplistically elegant thing, a flawless, gorgeous moment.
Lock’s wanted to see it ever since.
Theo fights with enthusiasm and shocking efficiency, as if he’s been doing it his whole life, fighting comes down from his ancestors, it’s in his blood, and Lock’s never seen anything so beautiful. Genius.
Hound puts up a hell of a fight, but Theo wins on a 1-2 punch. He slides between the ropes and after he’s divested of his gloves and wrappings, he heads straight towards Lock, sweating at him and laughing breathlessly.
Lock says, “You belong in a zoo, you know that?”
“Aw, don’t say that, Lucky, you wound me.”
He pats Lock on the head before Lock can dodge the giant oaf and Lock can’t think of anything to say.
Theo's thumb rubs up under his jaw, fingers in his hair, cradling Lock’s skull.
For a moment, Lock hates Theo because no one throws him off balance like Theo does, he wants it, everything promised by Theo’s smile, all that instability and it angers him, violence building under his skin with each stroke of Theo’s fingers.
Then his palm slides away and Lock is left with a fight on his hands and Theo doesn’t know, his lightbulb grin shining on Lock’s war.
Scorched earth policy.
He wonders when Theo’s next match is.
☈ ☈ ☈
It’s Thursday and Theo needs a drink.
He texts Lock the name of the bar, then goes to get started early. He needs to be buzzed to see Lock again.
He needs to get rid of this absolute feeling that he has to be around Lock all the time; he needs to know that he can or maybe he needs to know that he can’t or maybe he needs to drink himself into oblivion so he can stop thinking about it.
He shouldn’t have texted Lock. He should get drunk by himself. But he isn’t that pathetic, he isn’t.
Fergus shows up with Vince and Syl in tow and at first, he doesn’t want to wave them over, but he decides he’d like the company, maybe then he can have five minutes where he doesn’t have Lock in his head, regardless of the fact he texted him and painted a target on his chest.
Lock appears in the middle of the second round and he winces when he sees them sprawled at the huge round booth and Theo fuzzily remembers that Lock isn’t good in these kind of situations, alcohol, loud people, and messy loss of inhibition.
Theo’s held the notion for a while now that Lock would be fucking spectacular, downright breathtaking if only he’d lose control. So Theo takes another drink because he wants to be the one to do that, to cause that earthquake in Lock and be at the epicenter and see it all for himself.
Just for himself.
His friends move over when Theo shoos them to the side and Lock sits next to him and Theo can feel him even through the layers of clothing and alcohol. Lock doesn’t quite fit in here, it’s like two worlds of Theo colliding and it’s going to be dirty.
Theo feels bound, as if he can only watch what’s going to happen.
Lock hasn’t met Fergus and the flirty pilot immediately rectifies the situation, shoving a beer at Lock and saying, “Drink up, pretty boy, and don’t worry, you’re pretty even without all the alcohol I’ve consumed. I am happy to make your acquaintance.” He leers. “Over and over and over. Whenever and wherever you want. I’m nothing if not polite that way.”
Vince laughs, almost spilling his beer and Syl smacks Fergus upside the head, “Shut up, you sexually backwards bastard, not everyone wants to fuck you right when they meet you.”
“But what if I wanna fu—“
“Fergus, shut your fucking trap,” Theo says, warning in his laughter and Lock raises an eyebrow at the proceedings.
“You’re Fergus, the dashing pilot who flies with his dick,” Lock says, “I’m surprised you haven’t crashed yet if that’s how you control the plane. Wouldn’t think it’d reach the controls.”
Vince does spill his beer this time at Fergus’s expression and Syl says, “I think he just crashed. And burned.”
Fergus splutters and Theo watches Lock carefully as Lock says, “Well, I could give you the benefit of the doubt and say maybe your dick is adequate, especially with all the sliding in and out of airports you supposedly do, but maybe your dick’s afraid of heights. It just shrinks away once you’re in the air. I’m sure it happens to a lot of guys, but hey, you could be the first. A wonder of the medical community.”
There’s a glint in his eye like brutality and Theo likes it, as much as he shouldn’t, when Hound walks up, plunking down his bottle to join them.
“Hey, Hound, you recovered yet,” Theo says and Hound nods, points at Lock as if Lock can’t see or hear him, “Who’s your friend. He looks like he could use a drink or five. Is he real.”
“Oh, he’s real,” Fergus says, jeering. “He probably even feels real.”
“You only feel real if you’re fightin’ or fuckin’,” Hound says, “and he looks like he doesn’t do much of either.”
Lock takes a drink.
And then it’s a verbal massacre Theo is lost in as Lock takes each of his friends apart, his words not slurring even after three drinks.
There should be blood flying.
He shouldn’t like it, and he doesn’t, it’s pissing him off, Lock insulting and darkly insinuating until the happy drunken chuckles have died into an awkward silence and Theo can only sit there, angry and violent and his knuckles white where he grips his beer.
Lock systematically wrecks it all.
“Syl, Vince, it’s been a pleasure. I’ll see you at the lab,” Lock says and Theo hears him say under his breath, “unless you go into hiding.” Then he stands. “Hound, as always, be careful and don’t get beaten up on the way home, it seems to be remarkably easy. Fergus, I shouldn’t have to tell you, but stay classy. And STD-free.”
With a smooth smile, Lock heads for the door and Theo stumbles after him.
“What the hell was that, are you looking for a fight,” he demands, grabbing his arm and Lock shrugs him off in the cooling night air.
“I wasn’t expecting a drunken ambush by your moron friends.”
Shoulders straight, and he’s looking past Theo, as if he reading what to say next and Theo’s infuriated.
“You didn’t have to do that.”
“And you didn’t have to let it happen.”
This is the darker side of Lock and Theo hates it, he wants to hate it, and he wants it, he wants to see how deep it goes and what it tastes like; if he stands here much longer, he won’t be able to stop his anger, either at Lock or himself or both of them.
Lock needs to leave, Theo needs him to leave. Apparently, he can get along without being around Lock all the time.
A twist of the knife and they’ll be separated, but he’s not as good at words as Lock.
“Fuck you, Lock.”
“If that’s how you feel about it, Theodore,” Lock says, reply steady, as he steps back into shadow. All Theo can see are his hands.
“Yeah, I do. Get the fuck outta here.”
Those hands move in a complicated gesture, then Lock’s gone.
And Theo is suddenly stone-cold sober and it’s the beginning of the end of the world.
He dreamt the other night he was split in half and he was searching; he found his other half and it didn’t look like him, so he let it go and his heart stopped.
He hates those dreams where he dies.
☈ ☈ ☈
It’s Thursday and the whole day has been strange. When Lock went to the lab this morning, the desert was shimmering, as if there was rain in the sunshine and the horizon wavered in invitation.
Ravens followed him down the sidewalk to the building and wouldn’t leave. He glared at them.
He wanted to wave a hand and turn them into stone.
A headache has been building behind his eyes for hours now and the air feels tight, like something’s growing, squeezing out oxygen and light and everything else. He’s making a notation when he suddenly can’t see anymore, the numbers blurring and he has to focus on a deep space photograph, pure blackness with tiny dots of stars like holes punched into the paper.
Theo hasn’t spoken to him all day. No texts, no phone calls, no goofy smile showing up for lunch, no sending notes through Vince or Syl when he makes them walk across the building just to tell Lock that Planet of the Apes is on tonight.
Lock clicks around on his computer until he finds the sounds coming from Saturn, the eerie noises that make him choke, but it’s good, he can forget everything else.
He doesn’t get any work done. He has eight stars to name, eight mysterious dots of dying light to properly locate and name and he doesn’t get any closer today than he has since he found them.
He thinks about Theo. He thinks about how he keeps losing the battles but maybe he’s winning the war, but that doesn’t make any sense.
He thinks about Theo and his grin and his easy view of the world. Theo probably doesn’t want to burn down a building to see it on fire, to see how it would collapse. Theo probably doesn’t wake up and wish he could deepen the cracks in the desert with a squeeze of his fingers.
Theo is a warrior though, he could be a destroyer.
He wants to see Theo destroy something, because if Theo did it, clenched fingers and pulled, decimating a work of art, that would be beautiful too and Lock wants to see it.
Especially if it’s Lock he’s rending limb from limb, it would be beautiful and Lock would die with blood on his teeth and happiness on his tongue.
He wants a fight.
He heads to the gym.
When Lock steps through the door, Theo sees it written on him, as if he’s screaming, but he’s holding himself so still Theo thinks he might tear a hole in the universe or something just standing.
He throws an arm around Lock’s shoulders, like this is going to be a friendly conversation, and he’s holding his anger from the other night like a battery, storing the energy. He guides them awkwardly out the back of the gym, to the alley.
“Lock,” Theo says, but Lock’s eyes glitter dangerous.
“This isn’t a sparring match, Theodore. This is a fight,” Lock hisses and Theo sees it all, this is the earthquake, he’s going to cause it, he’ll be here right at the epicenter.
Maybe they’ll survive the fallout.
He balances his weight and Lock throws the first punch.
Theo lets it happen, strong fist clipping his cheekbone, but he catches the second punch and yanks Lock off his feet.
Violence is second nature to him, mother’s milk, and he knows violence is something Lock nurtures, he remembers the look on his face as he watched Theo box, how many times he came back to watch Theo fight.
Lock wants to be decimated. He wants to decimate Theo.
And Theo is happy to oblige on all fronts.
Lock’s thrown behind him and he spins to meet him, a punch to the jaw, but Lock turns into it, Theo’s knuckles sliding up to his eye and then Lock fucking mimics him, shifting past Theo’s second punch to grab him and jerk him sideways.
This isn’t anything trained or learned, this is inherent, this is instinct, Lock fights as if he’s doing everything in split-second time and Theo chases him.
Lock doesn’t even make any noise, baring his teeth; he isn’t a scientist trying to magic the stars into existence, he’s some wildblooded creature Theo wants to fight for all eternity because they’ll probably never end this, every fight will end in a draw and that pushes him harder, feeling it when Lock slams into a brick wall.
Metal screeches on the concrete as Lock kicks Theo, sending him crashing against a dumpster and a light nearby explodes in sparks and glass.
It should be beautiful, except they’re not fighting anymore, they’re fucking destroying each other, throwing each other around the small alley as if gravity is merely an idea and their bones won’t break.
Demolition on an unimaginable scale between the two of them and Theo stops for a moment to see it and Lock immediately halts.
“Why are you doing this,” Theo says and fuck, he didn’t want to ask, it’s broken the spell, broken the fight and there’s black already gathering around one green eye as Lock stares at him.
He waits, licking blood off his teeth.
Then Lock simply walks away, red dripping from one hand.
☈ ☈ ☈
It’s Thursday and nothing’s happened. Lock didn’t fight Theo—he hunted him down like a possession he wanted to carve his name into; he didn’t fight Theo—he took the war to Theo in an alley that now looks like a pipe bomb detonated there.
Each hour of the day, he catalogs his injuries again: the black eye, which hurts any time his face moves; his cut and swollen knuckles, how he can barely curl his hands; the huge bruise circling from his back by his spine around to cover his ribs and he has to keep straightening to keep everything from stacking painful.
He still tastes blood occasionally, as if a wound in his mouth keeps reopening.
He’s been knocked out of himself.
But nothing’s happened.
Except that he keeps thinking about Theo.
Lock thinks, The stars will die out first, brother, before we stop fighting.
Then his ribs ache so hard he can’t breathe, tears stinging his bruised eye.
He holds his phone and winces.
Meet, he types, but his sore fingers send it before he can finish the text, fuck, fuck, then a message appears immediately.
Lock doesn’t have to look, he just goes (c’mon, you gotta see this).
Theo’s not by the front door, he’s across the parking lot, staring out at the edge of the desert where it colors the horizon in a thick line.
He smiles when he sees Lock, this small smile like he’s guilty of something, and Lock wants to punish him for being here, he shouldn’t be here smiling, he shouldn’t be here, he is an improbability in Lock’s world.
But Lock doesn’t say anything and neither does Theo. They stare at each other’s battle scars, Theo’s swollen cheekbone, an ugly red-purple spread along his jaw and a bruise at the base of his throat disappearing down into his plaid shirt.
Those blue eyes, so clear above the discolorations of blood under Theo’s skin and Lock might see something in that gaze.
He wants to punish Theo for that look, that recklessness Lock feels too, the blown helplessness.
He closes his eyes and he hears Theo say, “Why are you doing this,” and he smirks because it should be obvious, Theo knows, the man isn’t dense, no matter how much Lock informs him he is. He waits for Theo to walk away.
Theo kisses him.
And the world cracks.
He kisses back and Theo makes a noise, like surprise, as if this was another fight and he wasn’t expecting to win.
Theo warms the kiss with a slide of tongue, hand squeezing hard and final on his hip, and Lock pushes himself into Theo’s grasp, dragging him close, taking the kiss darker and then he remembers.
Gasping, he pulls away and he hears his name.
“Loki,” Thor says against his mouth.
The world ends.
☈ ☈ ☈
It’s Friday and they’ve broken Thor’s bed.
Loki remembers what it’s like to stretch long and teasing underneath his brother and Thor remembers how he likes to mark Loki’s pale throat while he tickles him, fingers sliding greedy over his belly.
They remember how Loki likes to use his teeth and Thor likes to use his hands.
They fuck, too hard and too fast, and the bed breaks. They fight, too hard and too fast, because the punishment is back, the need to hate for how much more they love each other, how much more they are together.
It’s some Midgardian Hallmark shit, on a godlike scale, so they break the couch when Loki becomes bored watching Jaws and decides to exact some mayhem of his own on Thor, listening to the sounds his brother the fighter makes, tangling his fingers in sweaty blonde strands as he holds Thor down against the couch cushions, Thor saying, ‘Brother,’ again and again in rhythm.
“Thor, how can you eat those,” Loki says, brushing pop tart crumbs off his legs and Thor grins.
“How can I not?”
They don’t sleep because they’re still remembering. It was Thor who started it, he kissed first so long ago, but it was Loki who made them invisible long enough to make it to his bedchamber. It was always quick kisses before battle and yanking each other into the shadows and faking drunkenness at the feasts so they could stumble down the halls in mock inebriation until they could get behind locked doors and sometimes they didn’t make it to the bed.
Loki was the first to call Thor ‘brother’ in bed and Thor came so hard, he almost blacked out under Loki.
Here and now, they still have their bruises from the alleyway, so they touch carefully, then press on the trapped blood, like they would have at home, Thor carrying them back from the battlefield, laughing whenever he could breathe, blood on his face, all red and gold and blue, prying the knives from between Loki’s fingers.
It’s Saturday and Loki thinks of something.
Thor’s sleeping, wrapped around Loki so that it’s a tricky thing to get loose without waking his brother, but Loki’s done it countless times before, he’s learned how.
He leaves a note and heads to the lab.
He stares at the deep space photographs of his eight stars, the ones he needed to name, and all he needs to know now is which is Jotunheim and which is Asgard.
From here, he could destroy them, strand him and his brother here on Midgard, gods amongst mortals, oh the marvels and devastation they could wreak; there’s a thin line between might and domination and Loki enjoys watching it blur.
Reaching out, he pulls on his magic until he can feel it in his fingertips, palms, wrists, tingling like the sounds from Saturn.
When Thor appears at the lab, the pictures on the wall are wiped blank, white and blinded.
“Brother,” Loki says, conjuring a flame in his hand and Thor grins, taking the flame from him before quenching it with a flex of his fist.
It’s Sunday and Thor thinks of Loki's smooth secret-keeping expression; he thinks of when Loki – Lock – sight-shifted blue on Shark Week and he sits on the ruins of the couch and says, “Loki, tell me.”
Loki shifts proper, blue skin and red eyes, his mouth a tight line because Thor knows this is a secret Loki doesn’t want to have or know or let exist and he’s stuck with it, he’s living it, it exists because he does.
“I’m not your brother,” he says, curling his lip. “Spoils of war, Thor. The ‘benevolent’ Asgardians taking in a monstrous Jotun without even knowing it. Simply because the Allfather was greedy, mercenary.”
Thor says, “Merciful,” but the word sounds weak and Loki scoffs.
“Merciless. He took a weapon, not a child.”
“You are my brother,” Thor says, ignoring the stinging remark about their father because he doesn’t care, this is still Loki, always Loki, in light or shadow, so he grabs Loki’s arm, sheer painful cold lashing fast onto his veins, his skin shading blue to match Loki and Thor forces himself to watch through the heart-needling pain before Loki snarls and jerks away.
“I knew your intelligence was in question, but not exactly how much until now,” Loki says, “it’s non-existent, apparently,” shifting back into his Aesir paleness, his palms glowing on Thor where his hand is an angry red, frostburn.
The pain is disappearing as Loki touches him, but he needs this wound just like the others, another symbol of their brotherhood.
Loki contemptuously calls him stupid again, then kisses him and Thor bites his brother.
It’s Monday and Thor goes to the gym and Loki goes to the lab. Thor needs to be around other warriors with the noises of battle preparation and Loki needs to stare at the eight realms, he has to find them, gone somewhere out there in the dark.
But they’re both distracted.
Thor thinks about old battles and vanished wars and the clang of weapons and armor. His fingers twitch, waiting for Mjölnir and his palm itches, empty.
Loki can feel more of his magic trickling back into him, snapping his fingers to create tiny windstorms.
That afternoon at Loki’s apartment, they sprawl together, skin to skin and Thor remembers something new.
“We aren’t here because of battle,” he says, “we weren’t at death’s door.”
“You most likely did something foolhardy and I followed you here to make sure you didn’t die,” Loki says sardonically.
“That makes you the foolhardy one, Loki.”
Whatever the reason, they know it wasn’t a mistake. It was deliberate.
The gap in their memory is huge, swallowing anything they know about how or why they’re on Midgard.
Thor scowls and punches a hole in the wall. Loki doesn’t talk for the rest of the day.
It’s Tuesday and the air feels different, as if something’s closing in on them.
Thor keeps a hand on his brother, touching as much as he can, coming back when Loki shakes him off in annoyance.
They don’t separate for the day because Loki admits it’s like they’re walking in smoke.
There’s a time hurtling towards them, like a cataclysm. It feels unavoidable.
Loki says, “The Norns,” frowning, and Thor says, “We need to go home, Loki.”
“Home? Whose home. Where do I belong.”
“Our home. And you belong with me.”
A palm on Loki’s spine, Thor presses down, feeling his brother breathe and Loki rolls his eyes, struggling, fingers crackling with a spell.
“Maybe you belong with me,” Loki says, that half-smile Thor thinks makes him look like a supervillain.
It’s Wednesday and they remember at the same time all in a rush and the mirror in the bathroom shatters.
Naked in Thor’s bed at home in Asgard, lost tangled together after a battle celebration, then the door exploded into splinters and their father was staring down at them, utter disgust and fury on his face and his eye shone with something akin to hate.
‘Oh my sons, you will learn,’ was all he said.
Pain, separation, far-flung blackness.
Loki is shaking even though he seems to be sitting statue-still and Thor closes his eyes, rests his head on his arms.
“Do you still want to go home, Thor?”
“Yes. To tell Father he was wrong.”
“The only way to do that might be with fire,” Loki says. “And Mjölnir.”
Thor sighs. “If that’s what it takes.”
Loki wants to punish him again, over and over, for his faith, his loyalty, his love and Thor smiles like he knows, like he can read it on Loki.
“Brother,” Thor says with a challenging smirk and Loki strikes out at him.
He wants to see Thor swinging Mjölnir against the golden walls of Asgard.
☈ ☈ ☈
It’s Thursday and everything is almost finished.
There’s a time hurtling towards them, like a cataclysm. And they’re going to meet it.
Thor kisses Loki, not letting him go or breathe, and Loki laughs into his mouth as if he’s dying, the noises like his last words.
They break Loki’s bed.
Then they work on breaking most of Loki’s apartment. They could continue breaking things, bigger and bigger, but they’re burning daylight.
The two of them stand under the gathering clouds, battered and sated, and Loki draws magic around them, every inch the sorcerer-brother Thor remembers and prizes beyond anything; Thor straightens his shoulders, every line of him the brother-warrior Loki remembers and idolizes to the edge of hate.
The Bifröst will appear here where the desert shakes and Loki’s staring up at the sky. Thor holds his brother’s wrist, his fingers curling against Loki’s palm; thunder rumbles in the distance and all along his bones.
☈ ☈ ☈
A white flare of pain turns into an explosion in his head; he hears his name and loses his grip on his brother and then he blacks out.
☈ ☈ ☈
It’s Thursday and the desert shimmers; he squints to look at it, that unusual shake to the air, but it’s probably just a trick of his headache.
Theo’s supposed to be going to a party even though he doesn’t want to; he has this merciless headache and he’s exhausted, though he’s not sure why. He usually likes parties, drinking and sharing stories with friends and watching as everyone and everything gets louder and louder.
He’s debating on whether he’s still going to go; Syl says she has someone she wants him to meet, a new guy at the lab. Just your type, she says, and he says, Oh really, what type is that.
The type that will talk you into submission, she laughs over the phone.
He dreamt last night he was being split in half and he was searching.
He feels like he’s lost something and the desert shimmers out on the horizon.