The first thing that Loki thinks, when he sees the Doctor, is:
Ah. A liar.
The planet that the Doctor finds him on is not technically a planet; it’s more of a moon, bruised and battered from craters. The Doctor brushes a finger on the rocks, and a layer of dust smudges across his fingers. In fifty years, life will bloom, in the form of a species settling, spreading oxygen into the air by way of technology.
Fifty years later, the Doctor thinks. Or fifty years ago. He’s prone to getting timelines jumbled up -- sometimes it’s a simple mistake of his, easily rectified, sometimes the worst comes out of it.
His eyes catch on a flash of green on a boulder. “Hello?” he asks tentatively. He starts to walk forward, feet crunching on crumbling gravel. “Hello?”
Another wink of green, and then there’s a stranger standing in front of him.
“Are you a time traveler?” The Doctor blinks at the man. “This place is s’posed to be abandoned for quite a while. Time Agency, is that right?”
“I am no agent,” the man says, cocking his head to the side. “And you...you are a curious one. What are you?”
“Got yourself a hold of a vortex manipulator, did you?” the Doctor asks cheerily, shuffling a little closer to the man so he could get a good look. Huh. Funny clothes. No worse than the Doctor’s previous incarnations, though -- very medieval, but not medieval as in a proper Arthurian way. It’s some other age, some other era. But there’s no noticeable vortex manipulator on the man’s wrists.
He scans the planet with his sonic screwdriver. “No temporal rifts here, either,” he reports, putting it back into his pocket. “So. I’m out of guesses. Who might you be? I’m the Doctor.” He steps closer, eyes flitting up and down.
“A doctor?” the man says slowly. “I do not believe that you are a mere healer. You are--” he holds his hand out, almost touching the Doctor’s chest, but it’s not, it’s searching and probing in a way that doesn’t require contact. And then he breathes, and then he says: “Time Lord.”
“Um, yes, actually. That’s right, but who are--”
“I’m a god,” the man says, eyes glinting, narrowing into slits, and there’s something manic, something quivering about him that almost reminds the Doctor of the way he is, sometimes, but this. This is dangerous. “God of lies, god of tricks, god of fire.”
“I’ve been called that before,” the Doctor says, almost conversationally, and he takes a slow step backwards. “The last one, I mean.”
“Your war, little lord,” Loki Laufreyson says, as if the Doctor hasn’t spoken, “your war, what has become of it?”
The Doctor’s mouth tightens into a thin line. “It’s over. It’s been over for a long, long time.”
“Did it hurt?”
And rassilon rassilon rassilon, those eyes are very green and it’s like being helpless under the Master’s gaze, someone who knows him too much and someone who pries at him from the cracks, breaking apart every little thing but--
“No,” the Doctor says, and the tears are burning at his eyes. “What do you know about the Time War, Loki?”
“When the gods fight,” Loki says, “it is because of me, little lord. I create discord among the great and mighty. Your foolish Lord President. Your tin-can Daleks.” He laughs, a low chuckle. “It’s supposed to be all gone! All of it! But you. You’re what’s left of it.”
Loki spins to catch the Doctor, who’s about to take off, because he knows that he’s scared, really scared, for one of the first time in his lives. “Interesting,” he whispers into the Doctor’s ear. “I didn’t know you were a coward, Doctor.”
It’s the first time Loki has used his name. The Doctor shivers at the syllables, his two hearts tearing at his chest. “I’m not afraid of you,” he says petulantly.
Magic feels wrong.
It shouldn’t be real. He’s been raised to believe that it’s a fairy tale, and now he’s feeling the magic pricking at his skin. Magic is not like time or space. Magic is not like the Vortex or the Untempered Schism, or even like regeneration that reduces his own self to gold dust.
This is not science. This is not predictability, built of laws and principles and theorems and formulas, experiments laying bare possibilities.
There is nothing before time, but there is. (A monster grumbling a story in his ears and Rose is shaking in fear beside him.) There is nothing magic, but look.
“Will you bow for me?” Loki asks, but it’s a command more than anything. “That is, if you’re not afraid.”
Taunting. This god is teasing the Doctor, challenges him because he knows that the Doctor’s not one to refuse, and the Doctor grits his teeth, magic digging into his skin, and tries to say something that’s not a lie. Then something pushes into his hearts, and it hurts.
He subjugates, but in a way that’s defiant. He clenches his jaw tight and crushes his mouth against Loki’s, biting and cutting and angry, and the magic presses against his tongue. Magic that’s been there whenever he lies, whenever he causes discord wherever he goes, don’t you think she looks tired?
“You’re fighting,” Loki says, amused. When they pull apart, a laugh bubbles from his lips, and he says, “Do go on.”
The Doctor drags fingers into Loki’s shoulders, tearing off green fabric onto the grey below. He wants, and he doesn’t want, and he kisses Loki a second time. He can feel the lies that’s passed their lips, misery perfection misery, and why is it that it always has to be the beautiful ones who are broken like this?
(Was he beautiful once? Before eleventh, before tenth, before ninth? Before eighth, before seventh, before sixth, before fifth? Before fourth, before third, before second, before first, before before before?
Theta, maybe. Maybe Theta was happy.)
He grinds his hips against Loki’s, a low moan escaping from his lips, and he tries to make the warmth build into something real. But Loki’s skin is cold, colder than icicles and snowflakes and rain. The unreality of it makes him desperate; the unreality of it pushes him further.
“I hear names in your head, Doctor,” Loki murmurs, his quick fingers sliding into the Doctor’s trousers, more cold touches creeping through. “So many names. Are you thinking of them, when I do this? Your companions. Oh, if they were here, to see their great Doctor shivering under me, scared and lonely and so unheroic. They would see you, Doctor. They would see you giving in to chaos.”
The Doctor thinks, The Master would be pleased, to see me like him. For once.
He thinks, Maybe not once. I might not come back, after this. I might--I might--
And he shudders, and comes into Loki’s fingers, wintery mad iced fingers.
The Doctor whispers a name onto Loki’s palm -- the name of his brother, rather cheap and petty of him, isn’t it? -- and Loki glares, and snarls, and the Doctor presses and presses and presses, trying to coax heat into Loki, but it all melts away. He would have cared, once upon a time, at the mess and the rush and the intensity, but he can’t bring himself to leave or to run.
It’s his choice, and it isn’t, and he kisses Loki again.
He thinks, I might become.