Lex Luthor grew up steeped in myth both modern and ancient. As a child, he turned from Homer's prose to Warrior Angel's collected exploits without batting an eyelash, read up on Alexander the Great and the Phantom Lady with the same serious interest. As an adult, he should believe in science, but myth is not legend if there is proof, and if there are god-like aliens walking on Earth, why shouldn't there be alien gods?
At times, he feels mythological himself. Especially when he's fighting Superman, because the twelve labours of Hercules are child's play compared to the quest Lex has set himself.
Norse mythology was never his chief field of interest, but he reads up on it as soon as he hears the first rumour about Asgardians. Never let it be said that Lex doesn't do his homework.
The first time he meets Loki, he's on a visit to Latveria, negotiating business with Victor von Doom. There's an official embargo on Doom's country, and Victor is running short of supplies, food, everything really. Lex is willing to help out for a price – and because Doom might make a useful ally one day.
The god of mischief, it seems, feels quite at home in Doom's palace. He lounges about the throne, toys with his drink at dinner, whispers in Doom's ear with a familiarity that few others would dare around the good doctor. He earns himself a warning glare or two, but he seems to know how to toe the line between Doom’s indulgence and Doom’s wrath.
Lex has always been curious. Some people have said that he doesn't respect privacy, but that is a lie. Some things are not meant to be private.
"I've read about you," he says on the third evening, "Is it true about the horse?"
Loki stares at him, cool green eyes like a snake, then breaks into soft laughter. "I see mortals still read the words of Sturluson. He was one of my particular favourites, you know. I did not have as many followers as my dear brother, but the few I had fared well."
"Until they got their heads bashed in by hired assassins?" Lex asks politely.
"He did insist on making powerful enemies."
"As do I," Lex said.
Loki nodded. "So I've heard. But I am not, nor was I ever, a god of victory and protection."
Lex has the sudden feeling that he has entered a different kind of negotiation, one that has nothing to do with trade embargos. Doom is following every word with great attention, but it's hard to discern an expression behind his metal mask. Lex is about to tell Loki that he's not in the market for a new religion (or a very old one) when Loki adds, "It is true about the horse, though," with a most deviously pious smile.
There is a pregnant pause, but Lex recovers quickly enough. He should have known that Loki isn’t the kind of god who tries to convert people. He raises his glass and makes a toast that is also a challenge, "To truth, then."
"To truth," Loki nods and sips, "for there is truth in every great lie."
Lex has to remind himself that he isn't supposed to like dangerous alien sorcerers.
It doesn't surprise Lex when Loki shows up in his bedroom later that night, using the shadows as a doorway. He's less sure whether he wants him to stay. The combination of dark hair, bright eyes and charming smiles is alluring enough, but Lex has a history of sleeping with people who try to kill him, and he's trying to rid himself of his destructive habits these days. He closes his laptop, adjusts his silk bathrobe and points out, "You rarely do anything without a purpose in the myths. I assume you have some reason for this visit other than pleasure?"
"Sometimes pleasure is a purpose," Loki replies and undresses before him.
Lex watches the leather and fur slip to the floor. Loki's skin is pale and flawless, it seems to glow from the inside like ice under moonlight.
"I find that hard to believe," Lex tells him.
Loki smiles like the crack of a whip. "I've always liked doubt better than faith." He sits down on the edge of the bed, and runs the tips of his fingers up the length of Lex's calf. Before he gets to the hem of Lex's robe, Lex seizes his wrist. It's thin, bony, almost girlish, but he doesn't seem to feel pain, even when Lex twists his arm with the intention to hurt him.
Loki merely looks amused. "If you must have a reason... there is a god - a number of gods in fact - whom I hope to irritate a great deal. And defeat, eventually, although that will take time."
Lex understands. An enemy is as good a purpose as any, and the greater the enemy, the greater the cause.
"I can alter my appearance." Loki turns, in quick succession, into an attractive female version of himself, then grows shorter, into the familiar features of the Daily Planet's star reporter, then changes gender again and grows in size, and Lex tenses because suddenly there's Superman, sitting on his bed and looking at Lex as if he wants to ravish him. It's too close to home.
"No," he says. But not too vehemently, because that would give away a weakness. "Another time perhaps."
"Interesting," Loki comments, but obeys and turns back into himself. "Doom has no such compunctions."
Lex puts the pieces together quickly. "Mr or Mrs Richards?" he asks. The obsessive grudge Doom bears for Reed Richards is well documented, but Lex has met the Richardses, and Sue is as impressive as her husband. It’d be useful to know which one Doom is really obsessed with.
Loki grins, and suddenly, there are two of him sitting on the bed, one to Lex's left, one to his right. "Who says it can't be both?"
Mining Loki for information is apparently not going to work. Here is a wit to match his own, and Lex acknowledges it without frustration – there’s no shame in being equal to a god. Lex never wanted anything more than equality. So he gives up on strategy, and takes what is on offer.
The actual sex does not disappoint. Loki's kisses are sweet and his hands are quick, and he doesn't protest when Lex uses the belt of his robe to tie his wrists to one of the ornate wooden bedposts.
"Many people feel safer when I'm tied up," he informs Lex, and Lex, who is never afraid of challenging people who are vastly more powerful than he, slaps him for his impertinence.
"I don't like being mocked."
No flash of magical lightning hits him for slapping Loki, because apparently Loki likes a little rough treatment. "Duly noted, Mr Luthor," he says, and keeps up a stream of soft taunts until Lex fucks him hard enough to shut him up.
Afterwards, Loki makes the belt disappear with a whispered word, and Lex peruses the excellent Latverian brandy Doom has supplied. Lex expects his visitor to leave as quietly as he came, but Loki doesn't seem to be in a hurry. He’s curled up on his side quite comfortably, watching Lex drink.
So Lex asks another question. "Why do you want to defy your family?"
"My father lied to me," Loki replies. "I trusted him and I loved him and he was using me. I was never more than a pawn in his schemes. As for my brother... the simple fact of his existence is sometimes offensive. Is that a good enough reason, Mr Luthor?" His question is silky smooth, but beneath it lies coiled up anger.
It would seem ironic, the trickster wanting revenge for a lie, but Lex understands perfectly. Some crimes are unforgivable between father and son. And some beings offend merely by existing.
"And I have been told," Loki adds in a more amused tone, "that it is in my nature to defy."
Yes, Lex thinks as he settles down next to him, I know what you mean.