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wearing my heart on a noose

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(oh, love)

(oh, love)
(won't you rain on me tonight?)


His victory had been thrilling, exhilarating. Nothing brought him the same amount of delight as the sight of the Avengers crushed, broken, did. Nothing makes Loki swell bigger with pride than knowing the Earth's so-called mightiest heroes now wander the tower, all blue-eyed and under his control. And nothing -nothing- makes Loki feel more triumphant than knowing that that included Thor.

But sometimes, there is also nothing else that makes him so empty than knowing that Thor is only with him because Loki wills him to be.

If not for the power of his scepter, Loki is sure his not-brother would have left him a long, long time ago.

Barton is the one who makes breakfast every morning. Loki wakes early every day, but he seldom sees any of the Avengers actually gather in the dining room to eat. Not that he wants such a scenario. If he did, he would have snapped his fingers and given the orders a long time ago.

Loki normally eats by himself at the table. Usually the solitude is something he welcomes, but today the tower is a little too quiet. He has sent the beast and the soldier out to maintain some riots that had broken out in parts of the city. Stark is in the workshop, toiling away at the armor Loki had requested he make. The two spies, he figures, are most likely together somewhere. They seldom leave each other's sides now.

It's a little amusing. Sometimes he sees them together in the kitchen, Barton cooking and the woman humming softly at his side. The spell has not directly altered their personalities, only widened the scopes of their minds and reduced a large portion of their worries. Because, after all, when someone ruled you, what worries could you possibly have?

That leaves Thor. He often wanders the tower, aimless in direction and thoughtful in gaze. Sometimes Loki wonders what runs through his mind.

And sometimes Loki thinks in reply: He probably misses that woman.

And sometimes that dredges up this nasty sort of feeling within him, one that he refuses to acknowledge as envy. Loki, Trickster and Ruler of Midgard, did not covet anything that a worthless Midgardian had.

This morning, breakfast consists of something the Midgardians call "bacon," with a side of a tall glass of something orange. Barton calls it orange juice. Loki sits down at his usual place, utensils in hand and picking at the food on the plate.

"You should eat, Loki," comes a voice, and Loki glances up sharply to see Thor idling in the doorway.

When Thor is not wandering the tower, he is often in Loki's presence.

"Who are you to tell me what to do?" Loki snaps. He puts down his fork as if to make a point.

"Your brother," his not-brother replies, and Loki sighs in aggravation.

There are two things that the Tesseract's spell hasn't been able to do for Loki. This is one of them.

"How many times must I tell you not to call me that, you dim-witted boor?" Loki snarls, rising up from his seat.

"For eternity, yet I will never stop," answers Thor with a raw honesty.

Loki kicks at the table, and it slides several feet. He casts one more frustrated look at the brainwashed god before leaving to find something else to do. His appetite has been effectively diminished.

. . .

Here in his room, Loki steps out of heavy leather and straps and buckles and leaves the skin of a madman by his chamber doors. He steps in front of the mirror as a Jotun.

A pair of crimson eyes stare at him. They judge him.

Loki wills the blue to fade. He turns his head away.

This is a vicious cycle.

. . .

"Let me fix you."

This is the second thing.

"You're supposed to be out there, helping," Loki hisses, because he's sporting a dislocated shoulder, cut lip, aching-maybe-sprained wrist, and there is a riot taking place in the streets. He has no time for Thor's incompetence. "And don't speak to me as if I am some damaged object, you brainless-"

"I am helping," Thor says with indifference - always with indifference, unaware of how fast he makes Loki's heart beat, how quickly he can draw irrational tears from the trickster's eyes, how he sometimes makes Loki wish that he had spared the thunderer from the spell-

Thor puts a hand on his shoulder - Loki's undamaged one - to hold him still, the other cupping Loki's chin.

His hold is gentle, perhaps even affectionate.

Loki would really smack him, if he could.

"Let me help," Thor says. The hand on Loki's chin slides down to hold the forearm of his other arm, the one that hangs limply at his side. The pain is exquisite. "Numb yourself."

"I can't," Loki spits. No, his mind is too addled with shock from the prospect of his injuries. So long did he think himself immortal, that he has forgotten he is not. A god is not ephemeral but not everlasting, either.

"Then hold me."

Against his wishes, Thor pulls Loki flush against his chest, forcing his head down into the crook of his shoulder. The fingers around his forearm tighten, then his arm is jerked forward - and pain shrieks up Loki's back and echoes in his mind, nearly spilling from his mouth in the form of a scream. Loki bites into the flesh of Thor's collar, an instinctive reaction. The scream is stopped, but Loki still lets out a pathetic whimper.

He tries to concentrate on the healing spells but fails.

"Hush," Thor is murmuring. He runs a hand through Loki's sweat-dampened hair, comforting.

Infuriating.

"I hate you," Loki croaks; his voice cracks, and he wonders when he has ever struggled this much to tell a silly little lie.

. . .

"Eat with me."

The request is odd. It casts a sudden hush of silence over everyone in the room.

Loki is sans his armor, wearing a simple gray shirt and loose fitting pants. He glares at the Avengers. "I'm sorry, did I stutter?"

As expected, they all shrug and comply. Loki remembers once upon a time, when they would have been at his throat before he even finished speaking. But here they are now, in the bright afternoon, filling into their respective seats at the dining table.

The table is already set. Loki sits between Rogers and Thor.

"This is awesome," Tony is saying through a mouthful.

"Classy," the Captain comments with a roll of his eyes, but Loki thinks he catches a hint of affection woven between his words.

Barton is busy stuffing his mouth and the other spy is admonishing him. Banner watches this exchange with some amusement.

Under the table, Thor catches Loki's hand in his, and when the latter gives a sideways glance, he sees the ghost of a smile running across his not-brother's lips.

And Loki almost laughs. What a big

happy

family.

. . .

"This is wrong. You are wrong." Thor is glaring at him. "I love Jane, not you."

Loki baits his breath.

"How could I ever love you?"

Exhales.

He shudders, waves a hand. The clone dissipates into air, having done its job. Loki is trembling just slightly as he slides down the wall, the fake's words ringing in his thoughts.

It is not that he enjoys the pain of feeling his own heart split in two - no, sometimes he just needs to remind himself of the truth.

. . .

But sometimes he simply doesn't learn.

"Tell me I'm beautiful," he murmurs, trailing a finger down the cool surface. The Jotun on the other side of the mirror does the same. He swallows. "Tell me I'm valued."

Thor presses a kiss on his shoulder. "I would die for you."

Loki forces out a laugh. "I said to tell me I'm valued, not worthless, you oaf."

He feels Thor smile into his skin, and he thinks he's been caught on this lie.

. . .

"Eat with me."

Night has fallen and it is dark in the hall. Loki, despite having been the one to make the command, watches warily as Thor emerges from the darkness, stepping into the dining room.

"I've already eaten," he says.

"Then sit with me," Loki tells him.

As expected, Thor complies.

Loki eats with his not-brother at his side. He rests his hand on the arm of the chair, as if hoping that Thor would again interlace their fingers, but Loki is not so fortunate. Not another word is spoken until Loki has risen to leave and Thor moves after him, leaning in close so that his lips brush against Loki's cheeks.

"Good night," he will whisper, and Loki will pull away for his chambers.

He will never admit that, for a fraction of a moment of his forever, he did not feel so alone.

. . .

He feels safe like this, hidden away from the rest of the world's prying eyes. Loki peels away layer after layer: First the armor, then the leather, and afterwards, his madness.

And when he is bare with blue slowly encroaching his skin, he breathes out and feels the burden slipping slowly but surely off of his shoulders.

A monster stares at him, red-eyed and blue-skinned and hideous and questioning.

"Because you are a wretched thing," Loki tells it. "Doomed to suffer alone for the rest of your life, to die without a beloved to carry you through the pain."

"But I am here, am I not?" speaks a voice, and Loki whirls with a hand poised to weave a spell.

Ah.

Thor stands by the half-opened door, bright and blue eyed with this unsettling expression on his face. He takes a step, and sparks flit around Loki's fingers in warning.

"Why do you do this to yourself, Loki?" Thor says, and he has the gall to sound sympathetic.

"If you were you, you would have struck me dead," Loki laughs out when Thor pulls him close. The trickster reaches up, cradles the side of his face.

"I am me," Thor returns.

"No, you are not." Loki's fingers curl into a fist, and he pounds once, twice, against Thor's chest. "Release me."

"How?" Thor persists, and Loki doesn't understand what the Tesseract's power has done to his not-brother that's turned him like this. "How do I convince you that you are still loved?" Thor leans in and peppers small kisses down Loki's neck, his thumbs rubbing soothing circles into the small of Loki's back. "How do I convince you that it is not too late for redemption? That I still have not given up on you?"

"Kiss me," Loki breathes, "love me, when you are no longer under the Tesseract's power." His fingers dig into the back of Thor's neck, and he's past the consequences, the million possible ways that this can go wrong, the million possible ways that he can lose Thor. "Tell me these same things when you are no longer under the spell."

Loki closes his eyes and searches for the essence of the spell to pull out.

He does not find any.

Realization dawns at the same time he feels Thor smile into his neck, those arms around him only holding him tighter. "What spell?" he queries, almost teasing.

And then Loki's breath hitches as he finally understands why Thor's eyes have always been so blue.