Loki was never supposed to be a pilot.
As a key developer of the third generation of Jaegers, he was well-acquainted with their inter-workings and mechanics. But he was never supposed to actually pilot one.
Thor was the one obviously destined to be a pilot. He's always been the star of the family, the one in the spotlight. But through some accident of fate, this time Loki ends up getting dragged into the spotlight too.
They both end up working at the Jaeger Program's Shatterdome facility in Los Angeles. Their reunion is awkward at first, stilted conversation about what each of them has been up to for the past year. But they quickly settle into a groove that's not exactly comfortable but not terrible either. Thor asks Loki a million questions about the Jaegers, and Loki finds himself getting swept up in Thor's child-like joy at finally seeing the massive machines in person. Thor tells Loki about the places he travelled to on his last tour of duty. Everything is fine. Loki doesn't think they'll ever be as close as they once were, but honestly it's better this way.
It's been a year since Loki found out he was adopted. And while he's started to mend his relationships with Odin and Frigga, he's kept his distance from Thor, and with good reason.
("You're still my brother," Thor always says, trying that much harder to make Loki feel like part of the family. He doesn't realize that every time he says it, he crushes Loki's stupid hope that his twisted feelings for Thor could ever be returned.)
The day finally comes for each pilot to spar with each other to determine compatibility. Loki has other more important things he could be doing, and yet he feels compelled to watch.
When it's Thor's turn, he catches Loki's eye before the first match begins. He smiles broadly, seeming pleased that Loki came. It reminds Loki of how Thor would always look for him in the stands before every one of his football games in high school, as if he needed that quick bit of reassurance. Loki gives Thor an encouraging nod, but he can't help feeling a little bitter. They've barely been reunited and yet here Loki is back in his old role, standing on the sidelines of Thor's life.
Thor is a big guy, but he doesn't just rely on his strength alone. He's also a smart fighter, using his staff to strike with speed and precision. This kind of thing has always come naturally to him. Thor's hair starts to come undone from its little ponytail and golden wisps fly in his face with every duck and dodge. He is one with his weapon and he moves with a graceful brutality that is uniquely Thor.
But with every bout, something is just... off. That isn't to say that there aren't promising candidates. In particular, there's another military guy named Steve and a woman named Sif and either one of them would be a good fit. Loki is sure Thor will find a good partner, just not a great one.
As he watches, there's a part of Loki that itches to get in the ring himself and spar with Thor like they used to, but he keeps himself in check. As a military man, Odin had always insisted his boys know how to fight. When they got older, Thor had followed in Odin's footsteps and joined the Marines, while Loki had gone off to MIT. But although his interests led him elsewhere, Loki had kept up with his fighting skills for all these years. Maybe it's because it centers him and helps him focus. Or maybe it's just the stupid part of him that still wants to make Odin proud.
After all the fighting is done, everyone starts to clear out of the practice area, Loki included.
"Wait," Thor says, and Loki turns around to face him. He tosses Loki a staff and Loki catches it easily. It seems that Thor had been watching Loki too and recognized the nostalgia in his eyes.
"For old times' sake?" Thor asks.
Loki chuckles. "For old times' sake."
Thor grins, and the brightness of his smile puts the sun to shame.
They nod at each other and then the sparring begins. Thor takes Loki down the first time, tripping him up so that he's flat on his back with Thor's staff at his throat. The second time, Thor ends up flat on his belly with Loki twisting his arm enough to keep him pinned down. They go on back and forth, give and take. It's like a dance that Loki's muscle memory never lets him forget.
Loki feels the sweat dripping down his brow, his blood racing, his heart hammering like a caged bird in his chest. Thor's hair has completely come undone now, his eyes bright, and his cheeks flushed. He looks like he's having the time of his life and damn, Loki hadn't even realized just how much he'd missed this.
It's all so easy to fall into it, his body twisting and turning in perfect accord with Thor's. They get so lost in it that they don't even realize someone is watching, let alone the director of the entire base.
They are both sitting on the mats laughing breathlessly, when Nick Fury's voice cuts through the room. "You two are partners," he says in a tone that brooks no argument.
"What?" they both say in unison.
"I..." Loki starts. "We can't possibly be partners. I'm not even a pilot!"
Loki looks to Thor for help, but Thor's expression of shock has now become a hopeful smile.
"It's a perfect idea," Thor says. "You know how well siblings can work together as pilots. We already have so many shared memories. I don't know why I didn't think of it before."
"I don't know, maybe because I'm not a pilot?" Loki says sarcastically.
"Come on, Loki," Thor grins. "We can do this. You know we can."
A million protests die on Loki's lips when he sees the earnestness in Thor's eyes. Loki has never been good at saying no to Thor.
They call their Jaeger Blue Lightning. It's a stupid name, but Thor looks so pleased with himself for choosing it that Loki just groans and goes along with it.
The name is an inside joke, a reminder of some Wonder Twins bullshit they cooked up when they were kids. They used to stay up all night reading comic books, imagining the super powers they would want to have.
Loki always liked the idea of having ice powers. Even then, there was something inside him that just wanted everything to stop and be still. The part of him that feared he could never keep up with Thor, that desperately just needed more time.
And Thor had always loved lightning. He was the kind of kid who loved the rattle and shake of thunderstorms and would go out into the rain, his golden hair whipping in the wind as he ran. He could never stand to be still for one moment, a force of nature that lit up everything it touched.
When their powers combined they became Blue Lightning, a superhero who could beat any foe. As Thor always told Loki, they were stronger together.
Loki doesn't know if he believes that anymore.
Loki dreads their first drift, but he knows it's too late to back out now. When their minds touch, Thor will see everything. They will both be forced to confront the nature of Loki's feelings toward Thor, and just the thought of it makes Loki feel ill.
He feels powerless to stop it, so instead he just tries to concentrate on other things. Loki focuses on putting on his suit and then being strapped into the Jaeger alongside Thor, his ears ringing with the clank of machinery he helped design.
Right before their minds link up, Thor looks over at him and smiles, his eyes bright with affection and encouragement. Loki smiles back, trying his best to make it reach his eyes. He knows this will likely be the last time Thor looks at him like that.
Loki takes a deep breath and fervently hopes that his fears are unfounded. He tells himself that he will be strong enough to go through with the neural link and yet somehow keep his secret safe.
It starts off fine, with benign memories of childhood; their mother's smile, their father's gruff affection, and Loki and Thor with pillowcases pinned to their shoulders, pretending to be superheroes.
The memories shift and change and though Loki fights it, things unfold just as he feared they would. The memories reach high school and then the emotions all come pouring out. Loki staring at Thor in the locker room, his eyes raking over his brother's developing muscles. Loki's painful jealousy toward any girl that Thor looked twice at. Loki's longing to be closest to Thor, to hoard Thor's smiles for himself alone. And worst of all, the fact that Loki had these feelings even before he knew the two of them weren't blood relatives.
There's nowhere to hide. There's nothing Loki can do to stop Thor from seeing himself through Loki's eyes and Loki knows the exact moment that Thor gets it. He can hear Thor's gasp of surprise.
Loki tries his best to just not react and let himself get lost in the drift, but he can't, it's just not-
"Stop!" Loki shouts. "Break it. Break the link."
"What?" Loki hears the tech on the other end of his comm say.
"Just fucking do it," Loki demands, trying to keep the desperation from his voice. As soon as the link is broken, Loki gets out of the harness as quickly as he can.
"Loki," Fury yells after him when Loki passes through the command area, but Loki ignores him. Fury doesn't follow him. Loki knows the man will have strong words for him later, but at least he's willing to give Loki a moment to pull himself together.
Thor, on the other hand, never knows when to leave well enough alone.
"Loki, wait!" Thor calls out as he grips Loki hard on the shoulder.
"Go away," Loki says, shaking him off and continuing to walk down the hall.
"Damn it, Loki," Thor says, and when he grips Loki's shoulder again, his hold is too strong for Loki to get away. Thor pulls Loki off to a side corridor and then he finally lets go. Loki turns around and forces himself to meet Thor's gaze even though he's afraid of what he'll find there.
Thor's expression is unreadable and Loki hates it. He's never seen his brother look at him like this before and he doesn't know what it means. "Is it... is this why you've been so distant toward me recently?"
"You were inside my head, Thor," Loki spits out. "Why are you asking me stupid questions that you already know the answer to?"
Thor looks agitated. "We need to talk about this, Loki. You know that I care about you, but you don't understand-"
"Don't," Loki says because he hates this. He doesn't need to stand here and be let down easy like the freshmen girls who had crushes on Thor in high school.
Loki clenches his fists, struggling for a sense of composure that just won't come. "I told you this was a bad idea, Thor. But you just never fucking listen," he says as he glares at Thor.
A look of deep hurt crosses Thor's face and Loki hates himself for putting it there because he knows this is not really Thor's fault. Loki is the one with these feelings, the one who wants more than Thor is able to give. More than is fair for Loki to even ask for.
"There's nothing else to say, Thor. Let's just pretend that this never happened," Loki says and then he turns his back on Thor and stalks back to his own room.
He lays in bed for hours but he can't sleep. All he can do is stare blankly up at the ceiling and try to put the broken pieces of himself back together again.
As far as Loki is concerned, his partnership with Thor is over. He spends the next two days refusing to speak to Thor and is already working on his transfer papers to another facility when word of a Kaiju sighting comes.
Fury sends out Deadly Assassin first, a Jaeger piloted by Clint Barton and Natasha Romanov. They're old pros from the first generation of the program and should have no problem taking the Kaiju down. Unfortunately, the beast ends up being a vicious category 3 and they need backup.
The other Jaegers still need work done on them, but Blue Lightning is fully functional and ready to go. Fury tells Thor and Loki to suit up. He could always just put another team in their Jaeger, but for whatever reason, he's not ready to give up on them just yet. He gives them a little speech that's oddly inspiring in its own way; it manages to simultaneously convey that he truly believes in them but also has zero patience for their bullshit.
Loki wants to say no, but there's no time to protest or argue about it. Nothing else matters in the face of such danger.
It all happens so fast. They suit up, strap in, connect via neural handshake and then they're being lifted out of the Shatterdome and dropped down in the ocean. Loki can feel Thor in his mind and it's unnerving at first. But he doesn't feel any disgust coming from Thor and he doesn't see any anger in Thor's eyes when they look at each other.
"There's nothing to be afraid of," Thor says, as if there's something more that he desperately wants Loki to understand. But there's no time for it now. There's no room for fear or worrying about Loki's feelings; it's just Loki and Thor and the task at hand.
They each take a deep breath and then their Jaeger is stomping across the ocean to where the damaged Deadly Assassin is still going toe to toe against the monster.
"Ready?" Thor asks.
"Let's do this," Loki nods.
They charge into the fight, using a mixture of shooting missiles and the moves their father taught them when they were young. The Kaiju strikes out at them, but they duck out of the way and then hit it with a back fist to the face that sends it flying. Deadly Assassin helps out with a well-timed missile and then Blue Lightning moves in, shooting the beast with a few missiles of its own. The beast lands a powerful that knocks Blue Lightning backwards, but they use the momentum of the fall to land a kick back at the Kaiju. The fight rages on for several minutes and all the while, Thor and Loki barely speak. They don't need to.
The monster falls down and Blue Lightning delivers the final blow, two arms smashing down on the beast's head like a giant hammer. They shoot it with an electrical pulse for good measure, but it doesn't get up.
Thor and Loki are both silent for a moment and when they finally look at each other they both start whooping and hollering. Their shouts and breathless laughter fill the cockpit. Loki feels his heart pounding with the rush of adrenaline. It reminds him of when he and Thor sparred together, but this time it's so much more.
"We did it," Loki says, wide-eyed with disbelief. "We actually fucking did it."
Thor grins. "I told you we could do this, Loki," he says. "Didn't I tell you?"
"Oh, get off your high horse," Loki says, but there's no heat in it.
Now that the fight is over, Loki can focus on other things and he's struck by the depth of Thor's consciousness woven through with his own. He falls into the fragments of Thor's memories and what he sees makes him gasp out loud. He'd been so focused on keeping his own perverted feelings to himself that he had missed what Thor was telling him.
The desire Thor feels every time the two of them spar, the lingering looks, the sense of longing... Loki can tell that these feelings have been buried below the surface for a long time, but they're there, and they're real.
If Loki had just waited a little longer before demanding their first link be broken, maybe he would have realized it sooner.
When they get back to base, there are congratulations all around. There are affectionate slaps on the back from the crew, grateful nods from Romanov and Barton, and an "I told you so" from Fury.
Loki barely hears any of it, all he can think about is Thor and what he saw in Thor's mind. His whole body feels tight like something is aching, itching to claw its way out of him.
Loki and Thor's eyes meet across the crowd and as soon as they're able, they both excuse themselves from the celebrations. They don't speak. They just walk side by side down the corridors until they reach Thor's room.
They are both silent for long moments, the air thick with tension. In the drift, they saw each other laid bare and now Loki has no idea what to say.
"We're not brothers," Loki chokes out, because he still desperately wants to find some way to make this all okay.
"We are," Thor says simply.
Loki clenches his fist and glares at Thor. "Why do you have to make this more fucked up than it already is?"
"It was always going to be fucked up, Loki," Thor says. And he's right because they are brothers, but they're also in love with each other. Somehow, these two things have to co-exist. There is no other option.
Thor has accepted it. He's never been the kind of person to spend a lot of time dwelling on things he can't change. Loki is trailing behind Thor like always, but for the first time he doesn't feel bad about it. This isn't a competition.
When they finally kiss, Loki feels his pulse race with both desire and a sweet familiarity. It feels like they've been here before. As if they already had their first time out there on the water and this is the second round.
Loki pushes Thor away, just long enough for them to get the armor off. He's had enough of machines for the day. He wants skin. He wants strength and warmth and muscle pressed up against him.
Thor doesn't disappoint. He kisses Loki again and walks them backwards, pushes Loki down on the bed.
The weight of Thor on top of him is delicious and Loki runs his hands up and down the broad expanse of Thor's back. It feels like their synapses are still firing together and he knows everything Thor is going to do before he does it, but that doesn't make it any less satisfying. There's a rhythm in the slide of their lips and the movement of their hands as they stroke each others' cocks.
Loki throws his head back and moans when Thor opens him up and finally pushes his cock inside. Thor grinds into him and Loki meets his every thrust, giving Thor every he has and taking everything Thor has to offer in return. He shudders at the feeling of Thor surrounding him inside and out, and he knows he could never let Thor go now, even if he wanted to.
Loki calls out Thor's name and Thor picks up the pace, fucks Loki so hard that the bed frame shakes. Thor presses his forehead against Loki's as if the neural link is still there, as if they're still connected. And as the pleasure overtakes him, Loki finally understands that they always have been and always will be.