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A small flame

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Loki slammed the door behind him, hearing the noise echo through the empty building of the Maverick Dorm. Few others came here, and he was left on his own.

Which he took as a personal affront, but it was also something he liked, as well, especially today.

Thor had come, and Loki’s five minutes of exuberant relief to see him alive and well had crashed into the reality that Thor was exactly the same. Nothing had changed: Thor still lived in his own world, arranged to his delight, and Loki?

Loki still wanted to stab him with his scepter.

Instead, he hurled the scepter in a burst of rage. The point buried itself in the wall, before the haft's weight caused it to tip backward and land with an ignominous thunk on the floor.

He couldn’t even do that right.

He clenched his fists, gathering power to him, feeding his fury into it, stronger and hotter. More and more. Burn his room. Burn the dorm. Burn the entire Academy and show them he had power. Show them he was not just Thor’s weakling punching bag.

But then his eye fell on the cigarette lighter on the corner of his desk. It wasn’t his; it was Brian’s. Union Jack, Loki reminded himself to use his operative name to be less personal. Loki had taken it from his jacket pocket as a memento of their dance. It had a small butane tank to make a flame, but it was also a clever case for lockpicks and a recording device.

Thinking of Union Jack reminded him that there was more here at the Academy than Thor. Forcing himself to take calm breaths, he dispersed the energy again and uncurled his fingers. There was still a need to yell and rage and wreck things in his chest, too much to be rid of so easily. He should go work out his upset. Perhaps he could go swim, but no, the beach was a peaceful place for him, and he didn’t want to ruin it with thoughts of Thor. He could run the track. No, he couldn’t – that was closed for renovation (not that he would do it when anyone could see him looking like a mess and running in a circle like a donkey in a millhouse). The punching bag had a line out the door and would require interaction with people at the dorm. The gym had the treadmill, but Enchantress spent a lot of time there, and after he’d rolled his eyes at the idea of any Asgardian using their primitive machinery, he couldn’t use it where she might see.

That left the RoboDojo, if Falcon was done with it. It was good for exercise and destroying things when he was in this mood.

He held out his hand and summoned the scepter back to it, but there was a knock on his door. He started, not having heard anyone in the hall outside, but since the knock was clearly not Thor – who would have taken the door off – Loki called for the other to come in.

The door opened and something fluttered inside his chest at the sight of Brian entering. Loki made sure nothing of that reaction was in his expression, keeping it neutral and unwelcoming for entering his private space. He casually took a step left to block Brian’s view of the desk until he had a chance to sweep the lighter out of sight.

“Hey, mate, you busy?”

He means nothing by “mate” - it is a general expression of casual acquaintance, Loki reminded himself. “Depends, Flag Man. What do you want?”

Brian shut the door behind him, and Loki was suddenly aware of how small his room was. How close Brian was. How he could smell something - sandalwood cologne? - on him. And how that ridiculously small hat framed his face perfectly.

Loki’s heart was noticeably thumping in his chest, and he remembered going to the club together. It had been… pleasant.

“You rescued your brother today.”

Those pleasant feelings evaporated. Even Brian? Was there no peace from the buffoon, even here? “Yes, I noticed. I was there.”

Brian took a step nearer, cocking his head to watch Loki with a steady gaze. “You two did some brotherly bonding, I heard?”

Loki chuckled sourly. “Oh you heard. Everyone heard. And yes, he wanted to do the Midgardian sport with the pig-skin tossing. How fortunate the Spider-Pig was not present to hear.”

Brian snorted a laugh. “That lacked some tact, but he didn’t know about our visitor.”

“Thor knows nothing, and lacks tact all the time,” Loki informed him, not that he expected Brian to believe him. Everyone was always so in awe of Thor, they loved whatever he did. It didn’t matter what it was.

The humor faded out of Brian’s face, but the sober regard did not. “I saw him slam you into the tree. Are you alright?”

Loki’s hand tightened on the scepter, wishing the fucking ground would open beneath him. Brian hadn’t only heard, he’d seen it? He'd watched Loki get so humiliated? How many others had seen, too? That meant everyone knew by now. Every little bit of respect he’d garnered in this cursed place had evaporated in one minute of playing that stupid Midgardian game. He should have left Thor gone.

But he could show no more weakness. He raised his chin and forced a sardonic laugh. “Of course I am alright. I am invulnerable, Flag Man. A god. I took no harm, not that time, nor the thousand before it.”

He winced inwardly, wishing he’d kept his mouth shut, as Brian nodded to himself knowingly. “He’s thrown you into a tree a thousand times?”

A thousand thousand, probably. Live long enough and numbers are meaningless. I stopped counting when I realized there was no point. But he could say none of that – he was clearly a fool to let it keep happening when the outcome was always certain. Loki shrugged tightly, trying to pass it off as nothing. “Brotherly bonding time.”

“Right,” Brian said, and just when Loki was growing uncomfortable with the silence and the heavy regard, Brian added, “Is he always like that?”

“Godlike? Impressed with himself? Hears only what he wants to hear?” Loki asked. “Yes, he is always like that.”

“Did you really get struck by lightning?”

Loki shut his eyes, remembering. “He thought it was uproarious, as I recall. He laughed while I lay there twitching like a fish on dry land. It must have been most amusing to see.” It had been much less amusing to experience; he had not been jesting about not wanting to do it again. He advised, “Do stay out of the quad when he is showing off. It is not something I wish on anyone,” he said, then reconsidered, “Save perhaps Amora.”

The dry jest got Brian’s lips to twitch in a smile, but he didn’t fall for the topic change. “It hurt you?”

Loki folded his arms. “Why would you ask that? Do you seek my weaknesses?” he accused and turned away. “Building a catalog for your spymasters? Well, I will tell you that there are none who can stand against Thor, and you are well-advised--”

Brian interrupted, “Have you never heard someone be concerned before?”

A bitter laugh erupted out of him. “Concern? Why should there be concern for a god? Death takes no notice-- why should anyone else?”

A strong hand on his shoulder halted his words, but it was the shove that put Loki’s back against the wall that startled Loki into silence. He reflexively brought up the scepter to cast a spell to escape, but Brian looked into his eyes. “I do.” The corners of his mouth curled upward to make his eyes shine, and he asked, “You know what you need? This.”

He leaned closer and planted his mouth on Loki.

The kiss so startled him, he didn’t close his eyes, just felt the touch of Brian’s lips against his own, and he gasped.

Brian pulled back a little ways to search Loki’s eyes with his own. “Well, you didn’t fling me across the room, so I’m gonna take that as a yes.”

Loki was still stuck on the fact that Brian kissed him. Brian had actually kissed him. Had touched him, seemed to want to do it again. Even though he’d seen Loki get hurled into a tree. Even though he knew that Loki never won against Thor, not ever. That had always gotten him mockery in Asgard, not kissing.

“Why?” he asked in confusion, not understanding how this could be happening. “Why did you do that?”

“Because I wanted to. And I want to do it again,” Brian said.

“But why? I’m not… I… You should be sighing over his godly powers, his arms, his luxurious hair. Everyone does,” he added sourly. 

Brian shook his head. “Nah, the huge ones aren’t my type.”

Loki scoffed. “Thor is everyone’s type, trust me, I’ve seen it before. If not now, later. You’ll want to bask in his glow, and even when it leaves you cold, you go back for more. You know it’s stupid, but you do it, because you can’t stop.” His voice spiraled upward, slipping his control.

“I think you might be talking about yourself?” Brian asked, his voice gentle.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Loki snapped, and pushed himself past Brian to stand more in the middle of the room again, folding his arms. “Anyway this is stupid. I’m going to save us both time, because I know how this ends, and I am tired of being told that who I am is enough, when that is so plainly false, sentimental drivel.”

Brian listened to the words spilling out of Loki, and though Loki wished he could take them back afterward, or cast a spell to make him forget, it was too late.

“Norns, I am a piteous creature,” he muttered in disgust, scrubbing a hand through his hair, looking anywhere but at his guest. “I don’t need Thor’s help for that. I do well enough on my own.” He grabbed the door knob in his hand, knowing he’d spoiled everything, as he always did, and he wanted it done. “You should just go. We can pretend nothing happened.”

Brian didn’t move. “What if I don’t want to?” There was a strange metallic clicking sound behind him, so Loki turned back around. Brian was holding the lighter, with the small flame shining above it, and he lifted a brow at Loki, smiling. “So this is what happened to it.”

Too weary and resigned to be embarrassed or think of a good story, Loki shrugged, “It fell into my hand.”

“I bet.” Brian clicked it off and put it back on the desk, not his pocket. “It’s good to have a souvenir of good times.”

“Yeah. I guess.” He was going to get rid of it, later, because now it would remind him of the kiss and how Thor had ruined it without even being in the room.

“You want to go back to the club?” Brian asked. Loki’s head snapped up, heart thumping again with surprise at the invitation, then his eyes went wide as Brian smirked and teased, “I think we’d both enjoy you putting your hand in my trouser pocket this time. See what you can find.”

Was he flirting? He was flirting.

A strange feeling swelled up inside, and Loki stepped back. “No.” He shook his head in denial and had to swallow down the lump in his throat. “You saw what he did. You saw how …” he swallowed and admitted, looking down, unable to meet his eyes, “pathetic I am. And that’s the truth. All the rest," he made a circle with the scepter, "it's illusion. Wishful thinking that I could come here and be someone else, but now Thor's here, it's all back as it was." 

“Hey, no.” Brian shook his head. “That's not the truth I saw. I saw that he didn’t listen to you. I saw that he lacked compassion. There was no need to throw the ball so forcefully, yet he did. That’s not pathetic of you, that’s pathetic of him.”

Hearing those words was like being in an alternate dimension; they couldn’t be real. He looked up to check that Brian was actually saying those things, and his eyes met a more sympathetic look.

His voice hoarsened as he tried to joke, “I think you’re the first person ever to call Thor pathetic.”

“Surely the second?” Brian returned lightly, “Haven’t you said it?”

“Well, yes, but I scarcely count.”

“You count.” Brian’s hand reached toward him slowly, letting him avoid it if he chose, but Loki remained still. “I think we need to show you that you count. That I still see you, even with him here.”

His fingers, so warm, touched Loki’s neck, and Loki shivered. He couldn’t stop looking into Brian’s eyes, and had to lick his suddenly dry lips as that touch tangled in his hair and feathered across his cheek.

Loki held very still, holding his breath, as if he might wake from this amazing dream. “You count,” Brian whispered. “You count to me. To Natasha.” Loki opened his mouth, wanting to protest, but Brian silenced him with a thumb brushing his lips. “It’s okay. You like her, too, I know. I’m not jealous, and you need to be wanted. You deserve to be wanted.”

Loki shook his head and swallowed, admitting in a whisper, “I don’t know what to say.”

“Then don’t say anything.” Fingers still on Loki’s face to keep him still, Brian kissed him again, his lips soft against Loki’s.

This time, Loki closed his eyes and leaned into it. The scepter slipped from his hand to the floor, with a heavy thunk, but he didn’t care; his left hand found Brian’s waist, tugging him closer, and his right took the hat off Brian's head and tossed it onto the desk. At Brian's curious look, Loki explanied, "It looks good on you, but it's a stupid hat." 

"I think I'll take that as a compliment from the king of stupid hats," Brian teased and chuckled lowly as he moved in for another kiss. 

Loki would have objected but with that mouth on his and fingers finding their way beneath his surcoat, he forgot all about it for the feel of this new warmth against his.