The new contender Scrapper-142 had brought in was shouting his name. Loki smiled at his companions apologetically and excused himself, rising to walk over to the Grandmaster. “Hey, sweetheart,” he said. “Do you know him? Calls himself Thor, Lord of Thunder.”
“God of Thunder,” the contender growled.
Loki glanced at him, scanning his face, and then shrugged. “I’ve never seen this man before in my life.”
His eyes bugged out of his head. “I’m your brother,” he said, and Loki had to laugh.
“That’s absurd,” he said, mostly to the Grandmaster. “I’ve never had a brother.”
The Grandmaster patted him on the shoulder. “I didn’t think so,” he said. “But, well, thought I’d check-”
“Loki,” the contender hissed. He looked both enraged and alarmed and Loki took a step back in spite of himself. “Stop - you know very well who I am-”
Loki glanced at the Grandmaster. “Is he quite sane?”
“I have no idea,” the Grandmaster said. “Are you?”
“Am I sane? Of course I’m sane.” The contender’s expression flickered, looking back and forth between them. Unconsciously, Loki drew a little closer to the Grandmaster. Something prickled uneasily at the back of his mind.
“Ah, well then,” the Grandmaster said. “What do you think, Lo? Should we keep him?”
Loki gave him a little smile. “You’re asking my opinion?”
“Well, not really.” The Grandmaster beamed at him, tilting Loki’s chin up to plant a kiss on his mouth. Loki heard the contender make a strangled noise. “Go on, then. We’ll see how you do at tomorrow’s games, eh?”
“Loki!” This Thor shouted again, and he was startled enough to glance over at him. “Listen to me! You are-”
“That’s enough of that,” the Grandmaster said dismissively, and Thor’s voice cut off as the obedience disk triggered.
Even after he was gone, Loki felt…unsettled by the whole thing. That lingering feeling of something nagging at him. But the Grandmaster stroked his cheek and the thought vanished.
“Come on, sweetheart,” he said. “Relax. Don’t tell me you’re letting that silly Lord of Thunder’s nonsense get to you.”
“No,” Loki said, smiling. “No, of course not.”
Lying on his back in a post-coital haze, Loki stared up at the ceiling.
“What’s got you looking so unhappy, Lo-lo?” The Grandmaster asked. “You know how I hate seeing a frown on that pretty face.”
“Why would he call me his brother?” Loki asked.
“He was trying to use you, obviously,” the Grandmaster said. “Everyone knows you’re my favorite.”
Loki felt himself flush with pleasure, a warm little tingle going down his spine. “But it’s such a strange lie,” he said, after a moment. “And wouldn’t it - wouldn’t it make more sense to try to act like he was happy to see me?”
The Grandmaster shrugged. “People are funny,” he said. “They say funny things.” He tapped Loki’s nose with a finger. “Put it out of your mind, sweet thing.”
The Grandmaster’s finger paused, still resting on his nose. “Oh, dear. You’re not…you know I don’t like ‘but’s.”
Loki glanced sidelong at the Grandmaster, a nervous little thrill tingling in his chest for a moment before it faded. He knew the Grandmaster wouldn’t hurt him. He was his favorite. “It just seems strange,” he said. “That’s all. And something about him…”
The Grandmaster frowned. “You’re really - worked up about this, aren’t you?” He didn’t sound pleased. “Lo. Don’t worry about it.” He shifted, reaching out and trailing his fingers along Loki’s jaw. “Besides, even if he was…what does it matter? The past is the past. Life starts fresh on Sakaar - and you’ve got it made, don’t you? I give you - everything your little heart desires.”
“You do,” Loki said, and just bit back the but.
The Grandmaster pressed two fingers to Loki’s lips. “Forget about him,” he said. “You’re going to give yourself some frown lines. Nobody wants that. He’ll be gone in a few days, besides.”
Loki frowned, some part of him deep down murmuring no, I don’t want…
But why not?
The Grandmaster rolled over and drew Loki into a slow, lazy kiss, tongue sliding into his mouth. Loki sank into it, thoughts of Thor slipping out of his mind along with the distant sense of unease. He pushed up toward him with a soft sound, body warming, only for the Grandmaster to pull away suddenly.
“I gotta go, honeybunch,” the Grandmaster said, patting his chest. “You rest up. I want you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed tomorrow morning.”
Loki gave him a plaintive look. “Really?”
“Really really,” the Grandmaster said, smiling at him. “I have other things to do than - well, you, you know. “You just…take it easy, get comfortable…see you soon, sweetheart.”
Loki sighed and settled back into the bed. “You’d better make it up to me later.”
“Ooh,” the Grandmaster said. “Demanding, eh? Very…bold. Keep that attitude. We’ll have some fun with it later.”
Loki watched him go and let his eyes drift closed, suddenly very tired. He hadn’t been planning to sleep, but…maybe just a little nap.
He woke up with someone’s hand over his mouth. He jerked immediately upright, lashing out, but they caught his arm and twisted it behind his back.
“If you’re play-acting,” growled a half familiar voice, “you had better stop now, Loki.”
Loki bit down, hard, on the hand covering his mouth, and screamed when it jerked back, thrashing wildly. His foot connected with something solid and he heard his attacker grunt.
“Dammit,” he said. He slapped something against Loki’s neck and-
Oh, that hurt. The Grandmaster had played with something like this…once. Loki hadn’t particularly enjoyed it then, either, and the setting on that one must have been quite a bit lower. When he could think again, he was slung upside down over someone’s shoulder as they jogged down a hallway. His kidnapper had put a robe on him in a bizarre demonstration of modesty.
He started fighting immediately. Pulling one of his knives, he slammed it into his kidnapper’s back somewhere in the region of his kidneys, trying to fling himself free. He shouted as Loki dropped off his shoulder and rolled to his feet.
It was Thor, the new contender. The one who had called Loki his brother.
“I don’t want to fight you,” he said, “but we are getting out of here.”
Loki bared his teeth. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“I’m sorry,” Thor said, sounding genuinely apologetic. The obedience disc he’d attached to Loki’s neck went off again. Thor caught him before he dropped, pulling Loki’s knife out of his back and dropping it on the floor. “Whatever that madman’s done to you-”
“Let me go,” Loki forced out, muscles spasming. “The Grandmaster will hunt you down, he’ll find me-”
“I almost hope he does,” Thor growled. “I’ll rip his head off.”
Loki sucked air into his lungs and screamed again. No, he thought. No, you can’t-
He threw Loki back over his shoulder and started running. He made it maybe ten more steps before letting out a strangled sound and collapsing, sending Loki sprawling to the floor. He scrambled to his feet.
Loki stared down at Thor for a moment, twitching on the ground, and then stumbled back. The Grandmaster caught him as he tripped, almost falling. “Hey,” he said, “hey, now, it’s all right.”
“He was trying to kidnap me,” Loki said, feeling vaguely hysterical. “He was going to take me away-”
“Shh,” the Grandmaster said. “He didn’t get far, did he? You’re not going anywhere, pet.”
Loki took another heaving breath. It came out shaky, too close to tears. He turned toward the Grandmaster and accepted being pulled close, his face in his shoulder as the Grandmaster petted his hair.
“I’ll make sure this…ah, miscreant is taken care of. We’ll see what he thinks of our champion, how about that? That’s it, sweetheart. Deep breaths.”
Loki nodded weakly, leaning into him.
“Take your hands off him,” he heard Thor say, and flinched, pressing closer.
“I will most certainly not,” the Grandmaster said. “Why, look what you’ve done. He’s gone all to pieces.” Loki felt a distant twinge of embarrassment, but he was so - unsteady that mostly he was just grateful for the solidity of the Grandmaster shielding him.
“Whatever you’ve done to him,” Thor said, voice harsh, “it won’t last. Loki’s too strong to remain so bewildered for long.”
“Such nonsense,” the Grandmaster said.
“You did this,” Thor said. “You - let me go, didn’t you, so you could pretend to rescue Loki-”
“I think you’ve caused poor Lo-lo enough upset for one night,” the Grandmaster said smoothly. He heard Thor cry out in pain and squeezed his eyes closed.
His head hurt and his stomach twisted. His heart was still racing. Something felt wrong, still, even though it was over.
The Grandmaster patted his back. “Let’s go back to my room, huh? Lie down, have a bit of a constitutional…it’s all okay now. You’ve got nothing to worry about, sweet thing.” He tucked some of Loki’s hair behind his ear. Something tingled and the headache faded a little, the sense of wrongness with it.
“Nothing to worry about,” he echoed.
“That’s right.” The Grandmaster squeezed the back of his neck. “Because you’re safe here, hmm-mm? You’re safe with me.”
“Yes,” Loki said faintly.
The Grandmaster tangled his fingers in Loki’s hair and pulled his head back so he was looking him in the eyes. “You know I’ll always be there to save you,” he said soothingly, and Loki smiled, feeling oddly dazed.