Loki has been on Midgard for three days now, and he is beginning to think that Thor will not come. Even if he were to employ his old methods and cloak himself from Heimdall's sight, his spear and the Tesseract itself glow like beacons across the worlds, calling to his army, shining with his power, and this cannot possibly escape Heimdall's notice. Three days, and Thor is not here, so Heimdall did not tell him, or Odin refused to send him. Not for a moment does Loki imagine that Thor would leave his precious Midgard to Loki's mercies.
Still, there is time. In a few hours Loki will set out with Barton and a handful of mercenaries to retrieve the iridium Selvig requires. Once that is done and Barton is safely away, Loki supposes that any force SHIELD sends to intercept him will not allow Loki to keep his spear. If Thor does not appear soon, Loki will have no opportunity to use the spear's magic upon him.
Around Loki all is hurried activity, between Selvig's adjustments to the Tesseract in preparation for the iridium, and Barton's briefing of his team for their mission. Loki sits in the midst of it, very still, contemplating possibilities. Everything has become so wonderfully clear since Loki made his alliance with the Other and gained his great purpose -- everything but one thing: Loki does not know if he wants Thor to come. Oh, he has plans; he knows what to do if Thor should arrive before his visit to Stuttgart, what to do if Thor inconveniently arrives sometime after, whether en route to SHIELD, or in whatever prison they find for him aboard their Helicarrier, or during the invasion by Loki's army, what to do if Thor never appears at all. What Loki does not know is how he will react. He thinks of Thor, and his thoughts pendulum wildly between rage and longing.
He hopes rage will win. That particular fire sustains him.
Loki rises and for a little while, with satisfaction, he watches Selvig work. He can see the hollows beneath Selvig's eyes, the stubble on his cheeks where his face is beginning to sag with exhaustion. Loki thinks that another few days like this will kill him. He will allow Selvig rest, then, when the iridium is in place. No sense in letting Selvig die when he might still --
Overhead there is a rumble of thunder.
Loki freezes, and finds that he is smiling. Something like hot excitement is blooming inside him. Thor has come after all, and with the best possible timing. Loki melts away his outer layers of armor, hiding the spear from sight. Let Thor think him unarmed and vulnerable.
Thus arrayed, Loki strides from the compound. Out in the open it is beginning to rain, the sky a roil of thunderclouds. Loki waits patiently, and a moment later he is rewarded by Thor, crashing down from the sky in a blaze of lightning. To Loki's mild surprise, Thor too is in less armor than is his wont; Loki is unsure quite what to make of this, but it will certainly make his job easier: there is a diamond-shaped gap in the armor just over Thor's heart.
"Loki," Thor booms, striding to him. "Where is the Tesseract?"
Loki cannot help the laughter that rises in his throat. "I've missed you too." Thor is close enough now for Loki to see the righteous anger in his face through the sheeting rain. Loki grins sharply. "You should thank me," he says. "With the Bifrost gone, how much dark energy did the Allfather have to muster to conjure you here?"
As expected, Thor drops Mjolnir to the ground with a clang in order to reach out and seize Loki, one hand bruisingly tight on Loki's upper arm, the other gentle where it cups the back of his neck, automatic and familiar. Loki is expecting Thor to snarl some admonishment, but Thor says, voice cracking, "I thought you dead."
It brings Loki up short. He blinks. "Did you mourn?"
Thor looks taken aback. "We all did," he says. "Our father --"
Until that moment he might have saved himself. But Thor is a terrible liar, and that lie is too big. Between one breath and the next, the spear is in Loki's hands, and before Thor can even finish speaking his laughable untruth, Loki has pressed the spear's glowing point to Thor's chest, just above his heart.
The heart-magic of the spear is not that of blunt force. It changes almost nothing in the person against whom it is wielded -- their intellect, their skills, their interests and passions, all remain. The only difference is that they will live for Loki, die for him, do anything he asks of them not out of mindless obedience but out of devotion. Barton is still a soldier, a marksman, a tactician, but his unswerving loyalty to SHIELD is now to Loki alone. Selvig is still a brilliant physicist with a passion for understanding the world around him, and now that Loki has thrown open the horizons of that world, he will not stop until he has all the answers Loki needs. Devotion is far better than mere obedience. Their devotion means that Loki can talk with them, can trust them with complex projects and missions, can take a true and personal delight in breaking them when they have outworn their uses.
Loki does not know what form Thor's devotion will take, but in the moment that the blue light races up Thor's chest and fills his eyes with momentary darkness, Loki realizes he is looking forward to it nearly as much as he is looking forward to Midgard under his rule.
The blue has faded until it looks like nothing but a rime of frost. Thor's grip on Loki relaxes, though he doesn't let go for a long moment; instead he smiles, a true, happy smile, and his gaze flickers for a moment to Loki's mouth. Then he is retrieving Mjolnir from where it lies, and turning back to Loki with a look of purpose. "Lead on," he says cheerfully.
Loki does so, his mind a sudden whirl of possibility and his heart pounding hard. He has plans for Thor, of course, just as he had plans for Selvig before he arrived, just as he had plans for the sort of SHIELD agent that Barton is, but there is always room to improvise. And that Thor's first reaction under a spell of devotion was not to make sure Loki was protected, as a good warrior would, indeed even as a good brother would, but instead to hold Loki and look upon him as one might a long-parted love --
Loki does not know what to make of that, but he is beginning to have several ideas.
Terrible enough, Loki thinks with rising excitement as he brings Thor inside the compound, to release him from the heart-magic once their work is done and allow Thor to realize that he has killed Midgardians in Loki's service; how much worse might it be to add physical subjugation to that? Horror and grief are all very well, but humiliation is its own kind of torment.
By the time they reach the central room, Loki is shaking a little with anticipation. Barton, seeing their approach, snaps to attention. "Sir," he says. "Two hours to departure." His eyes flicker to Thor. "Don't I know him?"
Selvig looks around the grating of his makeshift lab and lights up. "Thor!"
"Erik!" Thor goes to embrace him, and there is much mutual back-clapping. Loki tolerates it, and thinks with a flash of idle viciousness that it would be pleasing if Thor were the one to kill Selvig, once Selvig's use has run its course. Thor turns to Loki, beaming. "I see you have worthy mortals indeed for your cause, brother."
Don't call me brother, Loki nearly snaps, but he swallows the words and smiles. "Yes. Walk with me now. As Barton says, we have but a few hours until I must go, and there is much for us to plan."
Thor nods and follows him without question. It is strange, Loki thinks, it is wholly new to walk with purpose, Thor quiet and expectant in his wake. There was perhaps a time when Loki followed Thor thus and did so without resentment, but if there was, he cannot remember it now.
Loki leads Thor to his quarters. They are nothing much to speak of: a cot, which Loki has been using not for sleep but as a place to sit quietly when he needs to mind-walk in far places; a lamp; a small window. Loki shuts the door behind them. When he turns to speak, he finds himself enveloped in a sudden hug. "I've missed you so much," Thor rumbles into his hair.
"Stop that," Loki says reflexively. Thor pulls back at once, and something like pain flares in Loki's chest at the loss of contact, followed by fury, at himself for this damnable weakness and at Thor for calling it forth. Loki clenches his jaw. "Kneel," he snarls.
Thor drops to his knees without hesitation, an easy, economical movement, as though he's been doing so every day for years. He gazes up at Loki with a look that Loki cannot at first decipher; Thor's face is serious, his eyes shining. Then Loki's heart begins to pound too hard again, because this -- this is what devotion looks like on Thor, this absolute assurance. Loki takes an unsteady breath. "Tell me what you would do for me," he whispers.
"Anything," Thor says, of course, because the enchantment has made this the only answer. But Thor must see something in Loki's face; he goes on, quiet and fervent, "I would destroy any who sought to harm you. I would accept exile gladly to be at your side. I would forsake Midgard -- would forsake any realm --"
"Enough," Loki tells him gently. "One thing at a time." He reaches out, cupping Thor's jaw with thoughtful fingers, and Thor leans into it as though he is the one who has always been desperate for contact and acknowledgement and regard. Loki savors it, riding on rising feverish heat. "There are those here who would harm me, and in time you will destroy them for me -- but not yet. For now I need you to stay here and guard Dr. Selvig. Tonight I am going into danger, but I must go alone; I must see the faces of those who would oppose me, and know their minds."
Thor nods. "You do not rush in," he says, and for the first time it does not sound like mockery, but like admiration. He is leaning hard into Loki's hands, which are wrapped in Thor's hair, Loki sees; somehow during his speech they have drifted closer together, unstoppably pulled into orbit, and Loki, who has until now been only idly aroused, no longer feels at all idle.
"Now undress me," Loki says, because devotion is devotion, and when Thor makes to rise and obey Loki pushes him inexorably back to his knees. Thor shudders, and for the briefest of moments Loki wonders if somehow this demand was too great; but Thor is undoing Loki's trousers, fumbling in his haste, and when he gazes back up Loki's knees go weak, because the look in Thor's eyes is blazing.
Loki nearly breaks away from that look; instead he grips Thor's hair tight enough that Thor makes a soft strangled noise that doesn't sound at all like a protest, eyelids fluttering closed, and sways towards Loki. "Yes," Loki tells him, but still he nearly laughs with dizzy astonishment when Thor's mouth slides hot over his cock. Without meaning to, Loki half curls over him, trying to breathe, not because Thor is particularly good at it, but because Thor is setting his big warm hands on the angles of Loki's hips to keep himself upright, his eyes still shut and a kind of transported joy on his face, as though this is all he has ever wanted.
For a suspended moment Loki is in danger of making some uncalculated noise, a moan or a whimper or Thor's name, but he breathes in gasps and twists his hands in Thor's hair until at last he can trust that he'll give away nothing more than that. "Now listen," he murmurs down at Thor. "Don't stop, but listen. I'll have need of you when my army comes. Barton's team is to extract me from the enemy stronghold; you'll be with Dr. Selvig then."
He feels lightheaded. The words are all quite clear in his mind, but he isn't breathing as steadily as he might, and by now Thor has more or less figured out what he's doing, sloppily enthusiastic as it is; Loki's vision blurs a little. He says, more breathily than he means to, "By then I'll have sown discord among our opponents, and if all is well they will turn on one another. But you'll go to the place where the portal is opening, and if anyone attempts to close it, you will destroy them." He's trembling as he adds, in barely more than a whisper, "Will you do this for me, Thor?"
Thor hums agreement, and it feels so good that Loki bites back a soft scream, dragging Thor closer less out of punishment than pure reflex. Thor chokes a little but makes no attempt to pull away, and that is so lovely that Loki's knees really do nearly buckle. Instead he braces his hands on Thor's solid shoulders and thrusts into Thor's mouth, short, helpless thrusts. High color is rising on Thor's cheeks, Loki sees with dazed fascination. Either the spear's heart-magic is very good, or -- even far gone with lust, Loki finds this difficult to believe -- Thor genuinely enjoys being used thus.
"You're mine," Loki breathes, entirely uncalculated, and whether it is something native to Thor or simply the enchantment, Thor actually trembles under his hands at that. It knocks Loki without warning into orgasm; he shakes through it for a long suspended moment, and collapses in Thor's arms in a heap of limbs and stunned laughter.
Thor leans in with unmistakable intent. Even through lassitude and satisfaction Loki still has the presence of mind to turn his face away, so Thor's kiss lands on his jaw. "Don't overstep your bounds," Loki tells him.
"How is this overstepping my bounds?" Thor asks, nuzzling at Loki's neck. His voice is wrecked, spiking an aftershock of pleasure through Loki. He can't quite summon the energy to push Thor away. "You don't know how long I have wanted to do that," Thor adds, unbidden, and Loki goes very still, Thor's lips on his pulse. Of course; Barton remains a marksman, Selvig a scientist, and Thor ...
Loki didn't know this.
He's sure that anyone touched by the heart-magic would have knelt as Thor did and given Loki pleasure, because they would do anything he asked of them; but he cannot imagine that anyone else would speak afterward of wanting it. Loki turns his head, needing to see Thor, needing to know what exactly made Thor say such a thing; but he has no chance to study Thor’s face, because Thor has followed his movement and is kissing him, tongue sliding easily into Loki’s mouth and one hand cradling Loki’s cheek. He shifts, rutting against Loki helplessly. Loki clutches at him with the intent to bruise, kissing Thor in return, and is afraid.
"How long?" he murmurs against Thor's lips when they come up for air. "Tell me."
"Summer in Vanaheim," Thor says at once. He's still rubbing up against Loki, perhaps unconsciously, and he presses sucking kisses to Loki's neck between words. "We went to pick apples -- not so good as Idunn's -- you and Freya were making a sport of flirting, and I --" Thor shivers. "I wanted. But I would never -- not unless ..."
Loki cannot tell if his strange answering shiver is of joy or despair. The last few minutes seem very different now. If this is about power, about subjugating Thor, then Loki is taking something back, and leveling what can be leveled between them. But if it is about how he wants Thor so much his insides hurt with it, and Thor, bewilderingly, wants him also -- if it is about not forcing pleasure but giving it -- why then, it is not an act of power at all.
No enchantment in the worlds could make Thor confess something so specific.
For a moment Loki wants to leech the heart-magic out of him, leaving Thor still aroused and wrapped around Loki, and to whisper I know your secret now. But he knows he can't. Desire does not erase enmity. Loki no longer knows whether Thor would react with horrified shame or with the idiotic notion that, having coupled, he could coax Loki away from his ambitions with promises of love; but either way Thor would try to stop him. If the enchantment remains, Loki can keep Thor and Midgard.
"All is well," he tells Thor softly. "You have not overstepped your bounds after all."
Thor laughs against him in what may be relief. Loki reaches for Thor, motivated by ... the need to wring Thor out and prove to both of them that Thor wants this, yes, because it cannot be anything so tender as affection. He undoes what clothing he can reach and wraps a hand around Thor's cock. Thor groans unashamedly, burying his face against Loki's shoulder, golden head heavy. He is one of the most satisfying things Loki has ever seen: here is the God of Thunder, completely at Loki's mercy.
There is nothing now to distract Loki from the way Thor shivers helplessly under him, barely staying steady on his knees, taking what Loki gives but demanding nothing more. That is unfamiliar too, and so compelling that Loki thinks for a moment, absurdly, that it would be pleasant to forsake the quest for iridium entirely, and to have his way with his brother for hours yet before he returns to the business of conquering Midgard. But hardly has he thought this when Thor gasps "Loki," muffled against his skin, and comes all over Loki's hand.
Loki, with some disdain, wipes his hand on Thor's trousers and disentangles himself from Thor to stand before Thor can do anything like attempt to hug him again. Thor sways in place, but when he regains his balance he looks up at Loki with expectation. Loki almost reaches out to touch his head in reassurance, but he remembers himself and does nothing of the kind.
He adjusts his clothing, everything restored to its proper place, and conjures his outer layers of armor. "I have business with my foes now," he tells Thor.
Thor nods. "I know. I'm to stay and guard Erik Selvig, and when he goes to open the portal, I'm to accompany him. I remember well enough."
"Good," Loki murmurs. His hand trembles with how much he wants to reach out and touch Thor in farewell, so he clenches it into a fist and sweeps from the room, to meet Barton and his team, and go onward to his destiny.
On the dying afternoon of the following day, Loki stands atop the spire of Stark Tower, watching the Tesseract near completion. He should leave Selvig to his work, and leave Thor to guard Selvig, just as he planned; but Loki lingers, uncertain.
You lack conviction.
No. An unimportant man died at Loki's hands, and impeded Loki's plans not at all. He went to the SHIELD base; he sowed his enemies' destruction. The Hulk demolished half the Helicarrier, and all the other would-be heroes are in chaos. Loki knows them. He did what he came to do. In a minute the sky overhead will rend asunder and his army will pour in from on high to rain down destruction, and Loki has nothing at all to fear.
He tears his gaze from the heating glow of the Tesseract and turns to Thor. Thor is watching the air around them for any sign of a potential threat, but he must feel Loki's attention on him; he meets Loki's eyes and smiles, bright and confident and admiring, before the smile falls away. "What troubles you, brother?"
Loki shakes his head. "Nothing of import." In his mind he hears again, you lack conviction, and a single worry sings out: Barton. Barton did not come to the rendezvous point, and Barton has not contacted him, and Barton is so terribly, abhorrently important to the woman Romanoff, who is much more clever than Loki would like. He knows well enough that Barton is lost to him now; he knows that there is a way to break the heart-magic, though he doesn't know the means. If Romanoff, too perceptive to be drawn into Loki's manipulations, knows how to break the spear's control, she may come to take Thor and Selvig from him. But he's come too far to stop now.
Thor is still watching him, a strange look on his face -- almost like understanding, though he cannot possibly know Loki's thoughts. "It is difficult," he says quietly, "to rule."
Loki chokes on a laugh. How Thor tangles up arrogance and empathy even now. He grabs Thor’s shoulder, but any intent to violence fades at the shining look on Thor’s face and the sudden realization of what Thor has said; Thor has never before acknowledged him thus. "I am rightfully king," Loki breathes, half-demanding.
"Yes," Thor tells him, touching Loki's face gently. That feels far too much like the bestowing of a blessing, and Loki hisses, jerking back from Thor's fingertips. Thor seems not to notice; he adds, urgent, "Let me stay with you."
The Tesseract begins to hum and whir. Selvig mutters over it, but Loki has no attention to spare. Thor is watching him earnestly, and Loki wants -- Loki wants to knock Thor's hand aside, wants to shove Thor to the ground again, wants no one's devotion the way he wants to keep Thor's now.
"Loki," Thor says, low.
Loki turns to look. It takes him a moment to see it, but there: out of the east, a glint in the air that resolves into Iron Man, fast approaching. Loki smiles, all teeth. A bloodless conquest would mean nothing.
"Loki, please," Thor says.
He is watching Loki wide-eyed, and Loki's mind is so full of plans that it takes him a long moment to realize that Thor is still awaiting an answer. Let me stay with you, Thor said, and you lack conviction, the dead agent said, and love is for children, Romanoff said. In seconds Iron Man will be upon them, and when he arrives the choice will be out of Loki's hands. If Loki leaves Thor, if Romanoff told Stark how to break the heart-magic, if she is coming herself, Loki will lose him, and there is still so much he wants to do. But Thor is either his brother or his weapon.
Loki lunges for Thor, kissing him open-mouthed and messy, Thor returning his embrace with bruising force. When Loki pulls away he sees Thor's lip has split, and the whole world glitters with the light of the Tesseract through Loki's unshed tears before he blinks them away.
"I would have words with Stark," Loki tells Thor. "Stay with Selvig."
He turns to meet Iron Man. Behind him the Tesseract prepares to rend the sky, and the world is already rending, and if Thor reaches for him he does not see, because Loki knows exactly what he is doing, and Loki is going to win.