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Tedium may have been the worst punishment the All-Father could have meted out.

It was exactly three days--seventy-two hours--before Loki had tired of his Midgard prison. Yes, he was unbound, literally, but the invisible thread that tied him to his loathsome minder was intact. The All-Father had punished him, not with the creative cruelties of Loki’s younger days, but with this tiresome confinement to a nonmagical world, always connected to the psychic oversight of his golden “brother.”

He’d spent the first two days exploring the planet--considering the needle-like rock spires in in the southwestern part of the American nation, the submerging, deteriorated cities in Europe, the near-endless rolling fields in Asia broken by low-roofed villages and polluted, gravity-defying metropolises. None of them were enough like home--whatever that was--to be worth residing in. The frozen places were too unpopulated to hold his interest beyond a few wistful moments, and the hot places … intolerable.

Home, then, was not to be found here.

He placed himself, now, at the crest of a great waterfall in the southern hemisphere, the continent the humans call Africa. In the humid afternoon light, the water churned over, carrying with it enormous, torn tree trunks, animal carcasses, and the occasional artifact of human ingenuity--sawed wood, a plastic tube. Even in this awesome location, humanity’s mangy presence intruded.

Father had sent him here--magic mostly intact, but leashed to his brother, constantly monitored--for an indeterminate amount of time. Three days in, and he was miserable. Not a good sign. He picked at the sleeve of his ivory cotton tunic, lamented his heavy canvas trousers in this heat.

He cursed Earth. Earth--Midgard--his home for an unknown duration.

Misery.

The dark god sighed, watching a mosquito attempt to land on his wrist and be silently repelled. If he wasn’t to go entirely mad, he would need something. A diversion. A plot, he supposed. A … well, some might term it a “partner,” though anything he’d find on this planet--beyond his dear, simpleton brother--would never fit that description.

A lover, then, he conceded. Someone to use to alleviate his boredom. Perhaps to groom into an ally, eventually. Without the scepter, and with limited use of his magic, he’d have to groom--manipulate--seduce in the traditional ways.

What fortune, that: He was very good at the traditional ways.

But where to begin ...

Fading into mist at the falls, he reemerged on the cold coast of a great northern nation, looking out over the sea, where a late-afternoon sun was already setting.

Where to begin …

In retrospect, he knew he’d be limited to one of the beings with whom he already was familiar. Not because he lacked imagination, but because, well, he liked the challenge. Persuading, enslaving any mere human would be a matter of a few chosen words, the right tone, the right answers--and what use would an average mortal human be, once the claim was made?

His options of nearly seven billion individuals narrowed dizzyingly to but a few--most of them part of the “Avengers Initiative,” as they’d labeled themselves. The super-humans. Loki smiled. The challenge intrigued him.

The one woman--Natasha Romanov--was an obvious choice, but just as obviously dismissed. He’d grudgingly respected her manipulation of him on the aircraft, but there were a number of problems with choosing a woman, and that woman in particular.

Natasha, of course, was her own kind of insane--able to trick the Trickster, able to work her own agenda while pretending to accede to his. Breaking her would bring him great pleasure, no doubt long after bedding her, but … The bedding would be a problem. He had no interest in leaving offspring on this world when--if--the All-Father deigned to allow his return. He had no intention of begetting additional children at all, while Odin lived. And most assuredly not in this realm, where no Aesir--or Jotunn--had left descendents, outside of legend.

Let his besotted brother enjoy that “privilege.”

He dismissed the foul rumors of his Jotunn heritage as well; it seemed laughably unlikely that any mere human male would be able to plant a seed, when Loki controlled his own form so thoroughly, and human men were so weak. Manipulable. Yes.

Next would be--

The name came too quickly: Tony Stark.

Ah, no. The god cringed and shook his head.

No.

Next.

The scientist--Banner--had intrigued him. Anything that could transform it shape--and into such a lovely one, at that--couldn’t help but intrigue. That he’d gotten an inkling Banner’s transformations could be controlled--intentional … Oh, even better. But they weren’t all intentional. He still hadn’t gotten full control over his rage, and, while Loki dreamed of a day he’d have the scientist’s mind and the rageful creature under his control, the day was not yet upon them. Today, Loki wondered if even his appearance would be enough to trigger the creature’s release, and that wasn’t worth considering.

Loki suddenly found himself across the great sea, the northern edge of the American coastline--the disappearing sun to his back. A puffin waddled by his foot, and he nudged it with his toe, watching it flap awkwardly away.

So, Tony--

No. No, no, no. Disaster.

The blue-and-red one--Captain, they called him, or Rogers. Physically a lovely being, he knew, but … “wholesome,” the god sneered. He could picture the eternal grimace of offended morality on the man’s face. One could only imagine the bird-like flutterings when thrown on his back on ill-used linens, the resistance he would give to his own thorough deflowering. And the corruption would eventually ruin the prize. He didn’t need an ally whose own hatred of his instincts--his pleasures--constantly clouded his mind.

Turning a lip up at the gathered bird droppings and loose feathers littering the rocks nearby, Loki moved again--to the city of his last, painful defeat. A necessary evil, since this was where the Avengers most often resided. The sun gave a last orange pulse of direct light before disappearing below the horizon, leaving behind a slate-hued sky. He had landed on the tallest point of a monolithic glass building, within eyeline of Stark Tower.

Still, no. Not that … frustrating

He sighed.

From this angle, from this viewpoint, he thought of Clint Barton--the self-fashioned “Hawkeye.” Like Natasha, he knew it would take too long--be too all-encompassing--to break and remold him the traditional way. His violation of Barton’s mind was too recent, and the mortal’s psyche was already compromised by his own history of destruction and “sin,” he supposed the humans would call it. While he had carved a path into Barton’s mind, the way back would be a jagged, reinforced trap.

So, then--only one more--

He cursed.

No! Frustrating, insulting, stupid creature in that metal suit.

Unworthy.

He looked away from the tower, down to the streets below, where the mortals minced from one useless purpose to another, inconsequential. The pigeons were more interesting.

His eyes unfocused to study the patterns of movement. Then, for a moment, with no small amount of desperation, his thoughts wandered to Thor. His own brother--his own “brother”--was not entirely outside possibility. The Aesir practiced strategic incest as necessary, and Loki was beginning to suspect it was necessary. And the likelihood of Thor refusing was minimal. Loki didn’t need to close his eyes to picture the expression on Thor’s face every-single-time they saw each other--the hurt, the need, the want. Were Thor asked by his supposed beloved whether he craved his own brother, he would deny it, but it would just take the question to sow the seeds of doubt and confusion. If Loki asked the question, Thor would be in his thrall before the sunrise.

Still.

The thought of submitting to his brother carnally was distasteful, to put it mildly. Thor was too much the great, clumsy, bumbling oaf to appreciate the pleasures of being taken, being dominated by another male. Loki had occasionally looked for signs of it on Asgard, but when Thor claimed his male companions--he claimed them. He seemed to handle his cock as an extension of his Hammer, to be wielded and swung at any target, a weapon he used to satisfy himself (and, yes, also his partners--he’d seen more than one warrior return to the great hall at dawn with a dazed look and stiff joints).

While the idea of that sort of pleasure was intriguing, giving himself that way to his worshipful brother, his greatest enemy … was not.

His eyes returned to Stark Tower, now only indicated by a single letter, A, and more internal lighting than could possibly be necessary, even at night. The Avengers assembled here when needed, but most of the time, the tower had but one permanent resident--Tony Stark, their Iron Man. Their last confrontation teased through his mind--the Iron one’s fearlessness, disrespect … actual mockery, and errant charm.

Stark’s appealing amorality was recently damaged by the group called S.H.I.E.L.D. but was possibly salvageable.

He was ... malleable.

Yes, damn him--the obvious choice.

He knew Stark probably had a woman, but he also knew--could feel, smell, taste--that the Iron one was open to more. Other. Different. The appraising looks, even after the humiliation of Loki’s capture, hadn’t confused the god for a moment. He found, without the slightest attempt, that the images came easily: Stark, on his knees, skillfully giving pleasure with his mouth. On his back, covered by Loki’s taller frame, tense and writhing under him with his mouth again temporarily stoppered by Loki's own.

Loki shivered as the imaginings continued--himself, on his own belly, being taken like he hadn’t been in hundreds of years, being forced to listen to what passed for the Iron one’s erotic banter, teased about his unbidden reaction to the cock piercing him, his hands rending the linens.

Another curse.

Loki had his answer. He would take this Tony Stark, seduce him, appeal to his flexible morality, build an ally. He would play this game for as many years as it took, for Odin to forgive--or need him again, for whatever reason--and then Stark would sow his own dissent among Loki’s enemies on Midgard when the god’s true powers returned.

In the meantime, he would enjoy the pleasure of a good, marathon fuck with a particularly inventive human.

He materialized in Stark’s living room, unsurprised to find the man there, standing as he once was, by the bar. He’d correctly anticipated Stark’s reaction: surprised breath, then a half-smile, an appraising look. Weighing the odds of imminent death against--.

Something else.

Stark set his drink down on the bar’s surface, turned back, and folded his arms across his chest. The smile widened.

“Oh, I was hoping I’d see you again. I think ... I owe you a drink.”

A promising beginning to this … diversion.

After offering a calculated glance down, signaling submission, and his own tilted smile back, Loki took a single step across the room, waiting for Stark to mirror him, to meet him.

He wasn’t disappointed.