He doesn’t bother kicking the door shut, taking into account that he’s in the privacy of his own home and that Thor won’t have a temper tantrum if he happens to see a little skin. He just pulls off his newly damp t-shirt and tosses it in the hamper, moves over to his dresser to dig up something dry.
To briefly explain why Loki has to change his shirt (it seems like he has to do that a whole lot, actually): Thor was getting a glass of water and the sink decided to turn into one of those turbo-charged sprinklers you only find in the front yards of wealthy corporations. He and Loki had to use their combined strength on the faucet knobs before they were able to actually shut the tap off. Naturally, they both got fucking soaked in the process.
So here Loki is, looking for a new top. He settles on a well-loved, kelly green t-shirt from high school and takes a few seconds to admire the faded white ram’s head printed on the front (not that he’s particularly nostalgic, because he isn’t). When he looks up, easily sliding his arms into the t-shirt’s sleeves, he catches his reflection in the mirror and freezes. The first thing his eyes land on is his hair, which is messy and damp and curling and ugh. The second is the long, pale scar stretching across the left of his abdomen, hypertrophic and almost unnoticeable in the darkness of his room.
Loki stares at the tiny ridge for a lengthy moment, slowly tugging his t-shirt down over his head but keeping it raised above his chest. He absently runs his index finger (the nail of which is painted electric cobalt, might I add) over the old wound, bites his lip against the odd, shivery sensation that shudders through him when he does. And then he scowls.
He fucking hates that scar.
Loki has about five permanent blemishes decorating his body: a small one just under and behind his ear from an accident when he was three (Thor was carrying him around the house and, in a moment of clumsiness, dropped him on his head); another at the base of his back from when he was seven and Thor had dragged him across the carpet (he ended up with rug burn); a dark one on the inside of his elbow from fumbling a hair straightener; another on his wrist from an intentional, self-inflicted cut. All of these Loki appreciates, because, in his opinion, they’re all symbolic of life experience and growth (which is always great, right?).
But the scar Loki’s gazing at now marks where his tenth rib broke and pierced straight through his skin from the force of a dashboard and an airbag crashing into his chest, all while a seatbelt nearly choked him to death. That doesn’t make him think of growth. That’s a reminder of the beginning of a backwards journey, of one misplaced step that transformed into about a thousand miles in the completely wrong direction.
Nobody aside from Thor and himself has ever seen this scar after it healed. Loki’s learned not to look at it, learned to ignore the way his whole body tingles whenever he touches it. But he’s just so wonderful right now, just so beautifully in touch with Thor that the universe had to focus his attention on the one physical reminder he has left of the accident. Of course.
Loki drags the pad of his thumb over the scar once, twice, lets his lips fall open to release a tiny gasp. It’s not painful, to touch it; it’s just very tender.
Thor used to go crazy every time he saw Loki after the accident. And how could he not? He was seeing a ghost of his brother; a pale, battered creature with purpled skin and black, sunken eyes. To make it worse, Loki didn’t speak. No. There was no time for talking when anything that threatened to escape his mouth was drenched in heartbreak and betrayal.
Thor would try to coax words out of him from the moment they got home from the hospital, but all he’d be rewarded with was Loki’s glaring, hateful eyes and Frigga softly telling him to Leave your brother alone, Thor, he’s sick. And Loki was sick, in the deepest, most soulful way to have disease.
As Loki’s physical injuries faded, Thor’s resolve to get to him boldened. Of course, that only made Loki even colder, and that only enraged Thor further. Once upon a time, Loki was hateful and icy in a way that would have his present self flinching away and averting his eyes if he ever encountered something like it again (he really was that horrible). It took over a year for him to lock that part of his soul away, and not without a generous amount of help from Frigga and Tony. Even still, the darkness comes out to play.
Like tectonic plates, Loki and Thor would alternate between grinding against one another and ripping apart from each other. One always pushed closer. The other always pulled away. And the world could only watch as they fought, as their words grew nastier and their hearts grew harder, and their vocal cords went raw with acid and their eyes became red with tears.
Loki lowers his shirt gradually, shielding his scar from his eyes. He can still feel phantom tremors shaking through his body, though, and dammit, here it comes: depression. Stress. The urge to get in bed and stay there, to curl up, close his eyes, and never move again. How can he move when all he sees is Thor and absence behind his eyes, when all he feels is perpetual soreness like an infection under his skin, when all he hears is clinical descriptions of his mind, his body, his soul?
If Loki learned one thing from the accident, it was hate. He’d never felt such horrid feelings towards anything before it happened. Loki already understood how to distrust and how to rage and how to cry, but he’d never known how to loathe or feel pain until his body was crushed by Thor’s car and his psyche was smashed to bits by Thor’s recklessness.
Loki hated Thor for possessing so little regard for his safety and wellbeing, for having the audacity to get drunk and pick him up, for destroying his life without the decency to realize just what he’d done. He hated Thor for lying in the comfort and luxury of his bed for hours on end while he died a hundred times a day just trying to graduate high school, trying to figure out what was wrong with him, trying to get away. He hated Thor for self-righteously thinking he was doing him a favor by trying to reach out to him, because every single time he did, he was only tearing Loki up even more on the inside. He hated Thor for being perfect and strong and mentally sound while he was dark and weak and going crazy. He hated Thor for continuing to love him even as Loki spit venom in his face, for claiming to care so much for him while he broke his bones over, and over, and over again.
Loki hated Frigga for thinking that forgiveness was going to heal him, because that’s bullshit; forgiveness will never erase the scar on his body and the wound on his heart, will never trash the past and cancel out all of Thor’s mistakes. He hated Frigga for loving Thor when Thor was so fucking horrible, when Thor was a demon living in his home, when Thor was the one who killed the son that was lying dead on Frigga’s kitchen floor, screaming Mommy, help me! Help me!. He hated Frigga for asking him to change when he had no control over what had happened to him and his misplaced soul.
Loki hated Odin for never changing, for favoring Thor even after the son of a bitch wrecked his car, went to jail, and nearly killed both of his sons; or, more like, his son and the other one that just happened to live in his house, breathe his air, share his DNA. He hated Odin for ignoring him so, for pretending not to hear every time he cried out in the night, for pretending not to see the tears in his eyes as he sat at the dining room table, his lips red and ripped from biting them too hard. He hated Odin for being his father, because it was like being the illegitimate son of the devil and the brother of Cain. He hated Odin for having a stroke and becoming the center of attention right along with Thor, while he still struggled, while he still burned. He hated Odin for raising him with what seemed to be the sole purpose of amplifying Thor, of being his brother’s stepping stone to something greater while he bows low, of watching Thor walk when he’s only allowed to crawl.
Loki hated Balder, his oldest cousin, for remaining quiet and on Thor’s side even as he watched both of his cousins get ripped apart by Thor’s actions, the younger of them destroyed in the process. He hated Balder for wishing everything would blow over and settle down after awhile, because it didn’t, goddammit, because that’s just ignorance and weakness, because disregarding a problem doesn’t fix it. He hated Balder for refusing to look at him just because he couldn’t stand the hate in his eyes; fucking coward.
Loki hated Freyr for being so independent, for refusing to take sides and remaining perfectly balanced while he watched the rest of his cousins get driven through the floor by the weight of their pain, their confusion, their anxiety. He hated Freyr for being able to look away and see light in the world, for never losing composure, for staying the carefree, life-loving child he’d always been since the times when all he would do was play with Freya, Thor, Loki, and Balder for whole eternities and they didn’t all loathe each other. He hated Freyr for turning his lustful eyes and flesh-seeking hands on others for comfort, on him.
Loki hated Freya for insisting that everything was going to be okay, that things were going to go right back to the way they used to be, when all she had to do was look at him to see the irreversible change inside him. He hated Freya for remaining in his house like a piece of furniture long after he’d told her to get out and leave him alone, for clogging his cellphone memory with voicemails he’d grudgingly listen to and despise her even more for. He hated Freya for claiming she was all for him while still paying visits to Thor’s bedside, for not owning up to her neutrality as her brother did so well.
Loki hated Steve and Clint for stealing his brother so much, for leading the man even further astray, for blinding him from what was important with a cloth of glory and hedonism. He hated his psychiatrist for telling him the worst thing he’d ever heard in his life, for classifying him as bipolar II, possible anxiety disorder, for prescribing elephant tranquilizer in capsule form to fix him. He hated his physical therapist for telling him Just a little more, the pain’s going to get better when the pain didn’t get better, when he’d lose hours of sleep each night just because his body was aching so badly. He hated himself for every reason there was to do so: he was ugly because of the welts all over his body, a coward for how scared he’d become, horrible because he’d changed into something so hateful, thin because he’d refused to eat, disgusting because he’d go days without giving a damn, weak because of the strain of doing anything, stupid because he’d trusted Thor, unimportant because no one cared, pitiful because he didn’t care.
Loki couldn’t stop despising everything until Tony walked into his life, bringing with him his childish smile and easy arrogance and twinkling eyes. The man’s a lot like Thor, actually, only softer, more sensual, darker, closer. And if Tony, who has every reason in the world to hate, can love someone as bitter and vindictive and broken as Loki so much, why can’t Loki love as well?
Loki moves over to his bed and sits down on the edge, momentarily forgetting about reality and letting his thoughts leisurely revolve around the scar burning on his ribs, the line of dominoes that is his life. He reaches behind his head and pulls his dark, unruly hair into a ponytail without really thinking about it. It vaguely occurs to him that Thor is waiting for him in the front, but it’s unfortunately very difficult to care about that when he’s just been assaulted with some of the worst thoughts possible, the majority of which are about his brother.
Loki fists a hand in his comforter and closes his eyes, breathing a deep sigh and trying to physically force the negativity out of him. When he and Thor were little, Frigga would read them this book called The Little Me and the Great Me. The Little Me was everything dark and spiteful inside of you, and the Great Me was your positivity, your strength. The book encouraged you to blow out your Little Me like a candle and to breathe your Great Me in. Loki supposes that’s what he’s trying to do now, in a weird, miserable sort of way.
He’s considering just crawling under the covers and going to bed early (that’s kind of a waste of what could have been a perfectly great Saturday, but Loki honestly can’t find one fuck to give right now) when his phone starts to vibrate, noisily (it sounds a little like a goddamn jackhammer, really). Loki wills his eyes open and extends an arm to grab his cell from the nightstand beside him, sniffs quietly as he flicks the Pantech open. He glances at the bright green dialogue box that says 1 new message from: Tony.
Spirits just a bit lifted, Loki opens the text and reads it:
you wanna come see me tomrrow?
Loki slides his cellphone’s keyboard out and rapidly types a reply:
Of course. But I might come late; I’m going to be out tomorrow.
The next few moments are crazily tense as Loki waits for Tony to answer. He slides further onto his bed and folds his legs Indian-style, stares at the shadows throwing themselves across the carpet like ballet dancers. Stupidly, he slips a hand underneath his t-shirt to rub at his scar again. Loki wonders what it would feel like if Tony touched it, and he laughs out loud at the silliness of the thought (because that was kind of ridiculous, but when is he not thinking about things that are wild to some degree?).
Then his phone vibrates again, and Loki quickly clicks open the message:
what are you gonna be doing?
Loki chuckles quietly and punches in:
Maybe not. We have class Monday morning, remember? And I can’t risk letting Thor oversleep.
I’m going shopping.
Just as Loki is hitting the Send button, Thor’s voice comes calling down the hall, “Loki? Are you okay?”
“I’ll be there in a second, Thor!” Loki says loudly, but his volume soon becomes obsolete when the man appears in the doorway. Loki watches passively as his brother gazes at him, fails to feel embarrassment or discomfort in his current position. Thor frowns.
“Did I do something wrong?” Thor asks with a touch of paranoia that’s slightly unusual for him (Loki has been getting used to it, though; ever since he and Thor had that angst-fest after football practice, Thor’s been extra sensitive to his feelings), moving further into Loki’s room. He pauses to flip the light on as he enters, and Loki blinks a couple of times at the sudden explosion of brightness in his eyes. He hates it when that happens.
“No,” Loki replies, fiddling with his phone, “It’s just that Tony texted me, and I got distracted. I’m sorry.” He purposefully omits the part where he had a total freak-out because he just happened to glimpse the nearly-invisible, completely unsettling scar on his ribs, even though he knows he should probably tell Thor about that.
Oh, well. It shouldn’t haunt him long enough for a problem to arise (but you never know with him).
Thor’s frown deepens a bit, and Loki’s not sure whether it’s because he detects a lack of information or because Tony was mentioned. His uncertainty is dispelled when Thor asks, “Are you still not dating?”
Loki’s phone vibrates as he hums contentedly and answers, “Yes, we’re still not dating. Does that bother you?”
“No,” Thor says a bit brusquely, crossing his thick, muscular arms over his chest. Loki takes a moment to read the message Tony has sent him:
my heart aches for you, loki. srsly. come get in my bed.
and i wonder what for? ;]
Loki lets out a pleased, purring laugh that Thor looks thoroughly disgusted with. He types:
I’d be delighted to get in your bed, Tony. But that doesn’t mean I can ignore responsibility.
Oh, Romeo, how will you get by without Juliet?
It’s none of your business.
“Thor, I’m getting awfully negative vibes from you,” Loki says once he’s sent his text. He looks up to give Thor a wry quirk of the lips, pats the bed next to him and offers, “Come talk to me.”
Thor scowls and relocates his gaze to the floor. Ooohhh, now he’s getting emotionally constipated. Delightful. Nothing Loki hasn’t dealt with before.
“Thooorr, come here,” Loki drones, using very best persuasive voice (which is feline and velvety-smooth and irresistible) and elegantly crooking a finger at his brother. When Thor glances up at him once more, he smiles, welcoming and trustworthy (everything he usually isn’t).
After about five (just five) seconds of stubborn defiance, Thor moves to sit on the bed beside Loki, and damn, that actually wasn’t very hard at all. Loki’s smile grows a bit, and he tilts his head at Thor in a way that’s both empathetic and genuine. Thor only glowers at him in response.
“What’s your problem with Tony, Thor?” Loki asks, keeping his tone carefully even and neutral. He’s aware of a ton of reasons why his brother could be so intolerable of his best friend, but he’s anybody but one to make assumptions.
Thor does this thing where everything in the world besides Loki is suddenly so much more fascinating than it was mere seconds ago. Uhm, no, Thor. Do you know who Loki is? That’s not going to work.
“Thor,” Loki insists, firm and quiet. His phone vibrates, but he refrains from checking the message there (which is like absolute torture) out of politeness and to appear as open as possible.
Thor doesn’t look directly at Loki, instead focusing on the plastic bracelets adorning the man’s wrist as he says, with an edge of reluctance, “He’s a predator.”
And Loki nearly bursts into laughter when he hears that (oh my God), but he bites down hard on the inside of his mouth and settles for a minute, elusive smile instead of outright rudeness. He questions, “What makes you think that?”
“Well, have you seen the way he is with the people he dates?” Thor points out, and he actually looks at Loki’s face when he says this, almost as if that’ll emphasize how obviously right he is. His eyes are stony and defensive, and ooohh, it’s almost too sweet that he’s getting protective like this. Especially since he has no idea about who Tony really is.
“Your darling Emma Frost is the same if not worse, brother,” Loki argues gently, and he hints a smirk when Thor scowls, “And I’m not simply a piece of meat to him. Has he ever fawned over anyone else he’s been interested in like he does over me?”
Thor hesitates, doesn’t answer. Exactly.
“I rest my case,” Loki quips, sliding his keyboard in and out several times in slight agitation. God, he just wants to read this text so much.
“Okay, I get your point there,” Thor grumbles, makes a dismissive gesture with his hand that actually bothers the fuck out of Loki (do you know how many times people have shrugged his words off in the exact same way before?), “But he’s crazy, Loki. Do you remember what he did to Headmaster Lehnsherr’s office last year?”
Loki does. After one referral too many, Lehnsherr threatened to expel Tony, and in revenge, Tony totally ransacked the guy’s office. That might sound like the stupidest possible thing to do in response to possible expulsion, but Lehnsherr interpreted the act as one of extreme determination; determination he relentlessly searches for in his students. Tony remained in school and out of trouble for the rest of the year, and, as something of a bonus, everybody discovered the details of his stunt and hailed him as a hero among the freshman. That was the magnum opus of Tony’s ever-growing career in troublemaking.
Loki nods a bit, unfazed, and asks, “If I minded his craziness, do you think I’d be such close friends with him?”
Thor shuts his mouth again, and this time he levels a heavy, resentful look at his brother. It almost makes Loki laugh, again.
“Clint’s just as psycho as Tony, Thor,” Loki adds. He keeps messing with his keyboard, irritation getting the best of him.
“Clint’s not an asshole,” Thor persists.
Loki glares a bit, challenges, “You’re saying that Tony is?” And of course Tony’s an asshole. That doesn’t mean Loki’s going to admit that he is (nor does it imply that he doesn’t absolutely adore him because of it).
“Yeah. The guy’s a dick,” Thor asserts, setting his jaw and hardening his gaze.
“You don’t know Tony,” Loki snaps, his tone an octave higher. They’re slipping into legitimate argument territory now (because you don’t insult Tony without hitting some of Loki’s more critical nerves), but that doesn’t signal the end of the world like it would have a week ago.
Thor’s face takes on an all-out pissed expression, and even though Loki keeps reminding himself that his brother is so angry on his behalf, his tolerance is still being worked to the brink, what with Tony’s honor on the line and this fucking text he has to read.
“Nobody knows Tony,” Thor says. Loki’s patience sort of-kind of really flies out the window at that.
“I know Tony!” he shrieks, sitting up straight and spreading his arms in an involuntarily intimidating display. His eyes are round and piercing as he insists, “I know Tony better than anybody in the world, so why don’t you think I’m allowed to love him?”
Loki realizes the significance of what he just said when Thor’s eyes snap wide open and his eyebrows shoot towards his hairline. His mouth hangs open for a second, and he and Thor stare, a bit overwhelmed, at each other.
He’s never really told anybody that he feels like that about Tony.
“You care about him that much?” Thor asks, and his voice is a lot quieter than it was moments ago.
Loki is thinking about not answering his brother at all, but he quickly reminds himself that he’s not at all embarrassed about how he feels. There’s a difference between being scared of your emotions and being ashamed of them. So he says, “More than anything.”
Oh, shit. Things just got serious, because Loki’s only been meditating on just how gargantuan his love for Tony has so rapidly become for about a week. He hasn’t put those feelings to words ever before this.
Thor’s eyes get tight around the corners, and he looks to the floor, his mouth setting into a grim, thin line. It suddenly occurs to Loki that not only is Thor concerned for his emotional wellbeing, but he’s threatened. He feels exactly the same way Loki felt when Steve Rogers entered their lives; afraid of losing his brother.
“Thor…” Loki sighs, and instead of finishing whatever he might have said, he scoots over and wraps his arms around Thor’s neck, rests his forehead against the man’s temple. Thor flinches away from him, but Loki quickly places his palm against the man’s cheek and pulls him closer again. He forces Thor to look him in the eyes.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Loki says quietly.
“Loki–” Thor starts to protest, but Loki cuts him off with a sharp, brief glare.
“It’s okay,” Loki assures him, “I don’t always have to be the one who’s scared to death.”
Thor’s looking really hard at him now, and Loki knows he’s said the right thing, knows he’s completely on target this time (finally).
“Tony’s not going to change me or take me away,” Loki goes on (although Tony does have a possessive streak, Loki’s independent enough to hold his own), “I’ve loved him for over a year, Thor. Not that you’d know.”
Thor makes this dissatisfied noise, says, “I’m sorry.”
Loki smiles a bit, shakes his head and replies, “It’s okay. You know why?”
Thor doesn’t say anything, but the way his eyes change signals acknowledgment, asks for an answer.
“Tony’s why,” Loki says, “If he does anything for me, it’s a good thing. You don’t have to worry.”
Thor is silent and still, and he peers down into his lap. Loki watches him for a moment, wordless, and a rush of pride washes over him at the fact that he’s the confident one in this situation, that he’s the one who’s helping the other, that he just became a whole lot surer about what to do with Tony.
“Are you going to hug me back or what?” Loki asks when Thor doesn’t move for a solid minute, and he smirks when Thor looks up to meet his eyes.
Then Thor’s folding him into this slightly awkward (only physically, considering the way they’re sitting) embrace, and even though the hug is considerably gentler than what’s usual for Thor, it’s still pretty fucking tight. Loki laughs a bit and squeezes his arms around Thor’s neck in a rare display of candid affection (God, it’s been forever since he’s been this gentle with Thor), inciting his brother to do the same.
When they pull away from each other, Loki waves his cellphone a bit and says, “Now, I’m going to finish up this conversation with Tony, and you’re going to wait for me and quit fretting, okay?”
Thor rolls his eyes in airy exasperation, but he’s grinning as he does, and he stands to move towards the door. He scolds, obviously in jest, “Don’t take too long.”
“I’ll try,” Loki laughs, mimicking Thor’s expression.
“I still don’t trust Tony,” Thor informs him, stops for a moment to gauge Loki’s reaction to the statement.
“My life,” is all Loki says, and he quickly opens Tony’s text as Thor chuckles quietly and shoulders his way down the hall. He reads:
responsbility is for the weak. sex is for the strong.
does tht mean you’re juliet? i thought you hated shit like that.
and i bet it is my business.
Loki smiles and settles back down on his mattress, types his reply:
You’ll get what’s coming to you, Tony. I assure you that.
And I’m comparing myself to Juliet because of her relationship with Romeo, not because of her sex. Obviously.
When Tony texts back, the message says:
i hope i have something good coming to me. ;]
think about me when you go ~shopping~.
Loki hums softly, rubs his eyes and responds:
How could I not?
I’ll talk to you later, k? And I’ll see you tomorrow.
already missing you.
Fuck, Loki kind of wants to die from both guilt and happiness when he reads that, and it takes the will of God for him to turn his phone off and set it back on the nightstand. He closes his eyes for a moment and attempts to curb the boundless enthusiasm rising rapidly inside him, smiles in amusement at the thought of how intensely depressed he was just minutes ago. He was being truthful when he said Tony only does right by him; that is, if you count turning him into a ditzy schoolgirl as something good.
As Loki turns the light off and practically dances down the hallway, he starts to think about just what he’s going to buy tomorrow. It’s Tony’s birthday in a week. Something tells Loki that Tony wouldn’t be too terribly disappointed if he showed up at his house and simply offered himself.
That same something tells Loki that the feeling would be completely mutual.