“I should like to throw you a birthday gala.”
Tom looked up from his tablet to look at his husband across the breakfast table. “It's October, Loki.”
“Hrmmm, perhaps I've left it a bit late.”
Tom rolled his eyes. “Does it really take four months to plan a party?”
The god set down his own tablet and leaned forward. “My dearest, have you any notion how long it took to plan our wedding? Let alone the coronation?”
Tom shrugged. “I suppose. But why a birthday party? You've never had the urge before.”
“Fifty is a most significant age.”
“Oh I agree, but so is forty, and if I recall correctly, we had cake with supper on my fortieth, and that was all.”
“You're forgetting the spell that did away with your refractory period.”
Tom blushed. “Yes, I had forgotten, but that's rather become a birthday tradition since then.”
Loki grinned. “A fine tradition.”
“An excellent one. And I suppose we were dealing with the Russians that year.”
“Indeed. Besides, fifty is when one is first able to attempt the Rites of Passage.”
Tom raised an eyebrow. “‘Rites of Passage’?”
“Yes, my dearest. When a boy is first able to become a man.”
“What's the human age equivalent to that?”
Loki purses his lips and frowned. “Perhaps twelve?”
“So by Asgardian standards, I'm not old enough to be considered a man?”
The god grinned. “No.”
Tom leaned back in his chair and laughed. “Cradle robber.”
Loki chuckled. “As you say.”
“I think I'll pass on the manhood rites, thanks. We can have a party.”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to undergo all the tests of strength and dexterity?”
“No darling, I really don’t think so.”
Loki grinned. “I’m quite certain you could master them.”
“Do you really want to imply that you’re married to a child?”
“Hmmmm, perhaps not.” Loki chuckled and kissed him. “I quite prefer you to a be a full adult.”
“I would hope so. Although as age gaps go, ours is fairly spectacular.”
“I’ve taken lovers who were far older than myself than I am from you, my love.”
Tom chuckled. “What’s a few thousand years between friends?”
“One must account for scale. It’s hardly fair to compare a human lifespan to that of a god. Or a god to a celestial or an elder.”
“Don’t tell me you’ve had sex with a celestial.”
“Not to the best of my knowledge.”
“Wouldn’t you be able to tell?”
The god shrugged. “One humanoid form is much like another. Species ceases to be relevant after a while, especially when one is a shapeshifter.”
“Mmm, I’m detecting a story in there.”
“Perhaps one or three.”
Loki kissed him again. “If we are to prepare for your party, I would prefer to focus on you.”
“Fair enough. I’ll ask again later.”
The god chuckled and they started on a guest list.
Tom could probably be pardoned for not realizing something was odd before the party. He rarely interacted with other humans anymore, at least not the same ones for any length of time. Loki was the only constant in his life. The servants at the palace had all become a bit... interchangeable. For a long time, he’d tried to keep up with their names, but after a while, it hardly seemed worth it. There were hundreds of them, and they changed so frequently that they blended together, even with his superlative memory. The same was true for the various ambassadors to their court; no one lasted for more than a few years at most.
The party would be truly spectacular; Loki insisted on that. This was an important occasion, one worthy of celebration. They invited all of Tom's old friends, some of whom he hadn’t seen in over a decade. Not since before they took ov… Since before Loki arrived.
Perhaps it was just that perspective of time. Thirteen years could change someone a lot. Physically, mentally, and emotionally; but it was the physical that struck him. Ben was still dying his hair consistently, but Tom was certain that there would be silver intermixed with the ginger, to go with the deep crows feet in the corners of his eyes. Chris was proudly sporting white hairs mixed with the blond. RDJ was in his mid sixties and well… looked it.
He was fifty and still looked like he was in his thirties. No one remarked on it - other than a sly comment or two about “getting work done” - but Tom saw it in people’s eyes.
The party was a huge success - it was literally the best money could buy - and he had a wonderful time, even though…
There was a distance. Not just because of the years that divided him from his old acting mates, but because of his station. Tom was the most powerful human on the planet, and it was clear that everyone knew it. People he'd been friendly with, men he'd once considered his best mates - even brothers - now looked at him like they didn't know who he was. They were frightened, not just distant. Tom tried to play it off, pretend - just for himself - that he was on hiatus rather than having made the major career change from actor to literal king of the world.
He tried - and it almost seemed to be working - but a botched assassination attempt during the party rather ruined the plan.
It certainly didn’t help that Loki decided that he’d take care of the assassin himself rather than let the guards deal with it. The god tended to take attempts on their lives… personally. Especially those on Tom’s.
More than a decade into their reign, assassination attempts weren’t that frequent anymore, but the party must have been too much of a temptation. Most of humanity had grown - if not fond of - then used to their rulers. Some still railed against the “alien overlord” who’d taken over the planet, despite there being world-wide peace for nine years and counting, an end to world hunger, an end to climate change (thanks in large part to the Tesseract), an advanced unified space program, and any number of other advances that Loki - with Tom’s guidance - had put in place. Yes, some of the measures had been harsh, but tough choices had to be made.
This particular assassin was not sent by a government - poorly prepared as he was - but one of the militant insurgent groups that had sprung up in the more conservative areas of the world. One of those who felt that who Loki had chosen as his consort was more relevant than his policies or species. These groups tended to target him rather than the god. As though killing the human in the king’s bed would mollify their God.
Apparently for some, being queer was worse than alien.
Or maybe they just thought Tom was an easier target.
But when Loki’s eyes fell on the blade at Tom’s throat, he had no mercy. It wasn’t messy, but it was instantaneous; one of the god’s favorite moves, a quick twist to the head that severed the spinal column of any human.
The king was merciful that day, though few who saw realized it.
Tom was grateful. For Loki saving him - which the god had done hundreds of times - and for the quick, clean death. Unfortunately, a broken neck still brought up bad memories. Fourteen years after filming Infinity War , Tom still hated the sight of a hand around a human throat, even that hand was Loki’s. But the sound was so much worse; that sickening crack of a broken spine. All forms of death were unpleasant, but this one still struck him in the most visceral way. It was unfortunate that Loki seemed to like it. The god had explained it was the most efficient means of death, and one of the cleanest.
Tom still hated it.
The party ended shortly after the assassin stopped twitching.
Once they were alone in their chambers, Loki undressed him with reverent hands. “Are you certain that you’re well, my dearest?”
“Of course. Not even a scratch.” Tom ran a hand over his throat and watched as Loki’s eyes followed his fingers with interest. Loki mouth quickly followed his gaze, as though his tongue was a better judge that Tom was still intact than his vision. He examined every inch of Tom’s skin with hands, mouth, and magic. After all this time, nothing was more likely to gain Loki’s amorous attentions than an attempt on Tom’s life. Not that their sex life was lacking in any way, the god just tended to be more… focused. Grateful.
As though Tom was the god, not Loki.
He welcomed it. Embraced his king, his lover, his husband, his god. Showed Loki his own appreciation. Let him know that Tom was thankful for his life, with actions as well as words. He worshiped the god in return as they made love in their palace bedroom for the thousandth upon thousandth time.
But as they lay entwined, falling asleep in the wee hours, Tom wondered.
The following day, they took breakfast together in the bright morning room adjacent to the conservatory, weak February sun filtering through the huge windows. There would be no business until they were done eating, so they both lingered over their coffee and toast.
“Mmmmm?” The god looked up from his tablet. Tom suspected he was doing a crossword. “Yes my love?”
“Have you… did you... do… something to me?”
Loki blinked. “Whatever do you mean?”
“I… I haven’t really aged since we met.”
“Oh. That.” He set the tablet down and rubbed his hands together, fingertips of one hand brushing against the palm of the other. “Yes.”
“Not as obvious as one might think. I did look into mortal sciences before I…” Loki stopped talking. “Are you cross?”
“I’d prefer to be asked before you meddle with my body.”
Loki quirked a small smile. “Many crude jokes come to mind.”
Tom rolled his eyes. “You’ve been spending too much time with the American ambassador.”
The god snickered.
“Apologies. It was a long time ago, and it had slipped my mind. To my eyes, you age perfectly normally.”
Tom rubbed his forehead. “What did you do?”
“Ah… well.” Loki looked down at his hands. “When you were injured right before we took the throne, the damage was… most severe. In order to insure your safety, I... well… I used the Tesseract to enhance your physical form.”
“You did what? How is that even possible?”
Loki shrugged. “It's quite complicated. I shall explain is you wish, but I imagine it would be quite tedious for you.
Tom shook his head and waved a hand. “Are there… are there side effects?”
“As you’ve noted, you age slowly. Comparable to an Aesir, though perhaps your life might not be quite so long. Centuries certainly. You are more difficult to damaged as well.”
“Yes my dearest, centuries.”
“That why you never brought up…” Tom paused. Loki never discussed Tom’s mortality. He’d assumed that the god was in denial, but apparently other factors were at work. “Anything else?”
“I am uncertain. It’s possible that you may have some kind of magic as well.”
Tom sat bolt upright in his chair. “Magic?”
“It is possible.”
“You needn’t use that latter effect unless you wish. It isn’t so strong as to come out on its own.”
“That can happen?”
Loki sipped his coffee. “It happened to me.”
“Really? You’ve never told me about that.”
“It was a very long time ago.”
“Darling, I want to hear everything about you, no matter how long ago it was.”
The god smiled. “I shall tell you if you wish, but we must attend to what questions you may have on this matter first.”
“Keeping us on task? Usually that’s my job.”
“How powerful would this magic be?”
“That is difficult to say without extensive testing.”
“But not as powerful as you.”
The god shrugged. “Most likely I could enhance your abilities with further use of the Tesseract, if you wish. I believe we have time now to adequately teach you the manipulation of seidr. In the early days we were far too busy.”
Tom nodded. “That’s true. Things are mostly fairly stable now.” Barring the occasional assassination attempt, things were moving along swimmingly.
“I admit that I would feel somewhat better about your safety knowing that you had your own magics to defend yourself, not just my humble self.”
Tom snorted and declined Loki’s conversational gambit. “If you’d like, we can do that.”
Loki smiled again. “Perhaps this afternoon we can test your current abilities and move forward from there?”
“After court, you mean?”
“Naturally.” Loki’s smile widened into a grin. “As much as I’d love to skip court in favor of magical pursuits, that would be an injudicious use of our time.”
Tom smiled back. “And to think anyone ever accused you of being an inept leader.”
The god chuckled and gave him a small bow. “I do my best.”
“I know you do.”
Their day progressed as usual. They held court, met with ambassadors, dealt with the day to day business of running the world. Certain things required Loki’s attention, others required Tom’s. Over the years, they’d discovered how best to work together. Tom learned a tremendous amount about governing from the god - who had been trained to be a king, after all - and by now, he finally felt like he understood what he was doing.
In the early days of their rule, it seemed like every day was full of putting out fires - mostly figurative, but occasionally literal - dealing with uprisings, and the damage that humanity had done to themselves and the planet for the last few millennia. These days, things were much easier. The infrastructure was set down, their rule established and barely questioned. So they had some time between court and supper to explore Tom’s magical potential.
Loki’s workroom was in the basement of the palace. Tom rarely came here - he had his own places for work and play - so he wasn’t intimately familiar with it. This was Loki's, not his. It had been a storage room when they’d taken the building, a large stone space that Loki had spent years layering protections onto. Tom knew that the god didn’t feel confident in anything that had been in place less than a decade. With a start, Tom recognized that this sort of perspective might be his own soon enough. The scale of his life was different now, and he had no idea how that would change things.
One wall of the workroom was covered in bookshelves, which held the magical texts Loki preferred to keep here rather than in the library. Another held tools, both conventional and magical. There was a comfortably cluttered desk and several spotless work benches. The middle of the workshop was completely clear save for a circular black rug placed in the exact center of the room. Loki lead him to that carpeted space and sat. Tom folded himself into a lotus position across from his husband and waited.
Loki held out a hand and the Tesseract appeared in his long fingers. The azure light filled the room in dancing shadow. It lit Loki’s face, glittered in his pale eyes as he cradled the cube. Loki set it on the carpet between them.
“Do you need the Stone out to just test me?”
The god shrugged. “It will be easier.”
“Don’t you always have it with you?”
“I do, but I cannot use its full potential while the Tesseract remains in a place outside the normal universe. Why?”
Tom’s gaze went from Loki’s face down to the cube. “It makes makes me nervous… No, that’s not quite right. It reminds me of things I’d rather not remember.”
“I am sorry, my love.” Loki reached across the space between them and put a comforting hand on Tom’s knee. “It shall never come to pass. I have no intention of ever setting foot in my home universe again, let alone showing myself to the Titan.”
“I know. It still makes me nervous.”
“I do understand.” Loki brought his hand down onto the top-most plane of the cube. “I comprehend the Tesseract far better now; how to use the power of the Stone. Were the Titan to arrive tomorrow, he could not take it from me.”
“Not even if he got to me first?”
The god’s fingers tightened into a fist. “I would kill him were he to touch one hair on your head.” He looked up at Tom, rage in his eyes. “I would do anything to protect you.”
The fury drained out of Loki’s gaze and he chuckled. “It would be a pity to have wasted all this time spent on bettering your realm, but yes, we would run first.”
Tom smiled. “I’m glad to hear it. I know you’re stronger now, but…”
“Indeed. I have no wish to tempt the fate I escaped.” Loki chuckled. “And all because Thor declined my favors.”
“His loss is my gain.”
“I cannot regret a second of our time together, no matter how painful the original cause.”
“Me neither, darling. And I’m sure you’d be happier if I were better able to take care of myself, so let’s get to work, yes?”
“You are quite correct. I would and we shall.” Loki straightened up and put his hands in his lap. “If you would assume your meditation posture and mindset, that would be most helpful.”
Tom nodded and straightened his spine, hands pressed together in his own lap. It took a moment to put his mind in the correct place, but once he did, it was nearly effortless to keep it there. For the most part, he felt nothing, but occasionally he could almost hear something at the edge of his perception. It sounded like Loki whispering inside his head. Tom had no idea how much time had passed when a light touch on his hand stirred him to conscious thought again.
“A foundation was laid, but little more than what I told you. You have the physical resilience of an Aesir, but not their strength, stamina, or agility. There is some ability to manipulate seidr, but not much. I can enhance these factors easily enough. Is this something you wish for me to do?”
Tom thought about it for a moment. “Yes. It would make everything easier, and I’m sure it would reduce your stress levels.”
Loki chuckled. “You are already excellent at reducing my stress, but yes, it would. I can begin now, if you’d like?”
He nodded. “Best to get to it.”
“Very well.” Loki picked up the Tesseract in one hand and took one of Tom’s in the other. “This will feel… a bit odd, I expect.”
Tom nodded and closed his eyes. Despite the darkness behind his eyelids, azure flooded his vision. Blinding blue light swept through his mind like a burning hurricane. It didn’t feel odd, it hurt. A cry escaped Tom’s lips as he brought his free hand up to his temple. Gas flames lit his brain, caustic and persistent pain raging through his synapses. He could feel the Tesseract rewriting the pathways of his very being, and it was agony.
Just as suddenly as it started, the inferno stopped. A wave of cool magic flowed through him, soothing the burn.
“Tom? Are you well?”
Tom opened his eyes. Loki’s gaze was pinched and the hand on Tom’s shook. Or perhaps he was shaking? Maybe they both were.
“I… I think so.” Tom brought both hands up to massage his temples, and Loki’s hands went to Tom’s knees, still pouring chill healing magic into his form.
“Do you feel anything different?”
“I… yes, but I can’t put it together.”
“You should rest. Come.” Loki got to his feet and pulled Tom with him. The human stumbled against the god’s chest. Tom leaned his forehead against Loki’s shoulder and breathed while a wave of dizziness passed through him. “Oh my dearest, I’m sorry. I had no idea this would affect you so poorly.” Loki laid a cool hand on the back of Tom’s neck. “Can you walk?”
Unable to speak, Tom shook his head.
“Very well.” Loki scooped Tom up into his arms. “I would teleport us, but that would only exacerbate your condition.”
Tom curled against his husband’s chest and nodded. He was barely aware of the passing corridors. He felt Loki open doors with tiny tugs of magic like whispers on his skin. He’d never experienced that before, though of course he’d seen it. Loki pull back the covers on their bed the same way, and again, Tom felt a brush of something against him. The god lay him down and vanished his clothing. The latter was something that Loki did all the time, but unlike the hundreds of times before, Tom felt a warm tingle along his skin as the cloth disappeared. The god pulled the duvet over his shoulders using perfectly normal means, again, a distinction he’d never been able to make before.
“Rest my love.” Loki kissed Tom’s forehead. “You’ll feel better soon.”
Tom allowed deep sapphire oblivion to take him and sank into sleep.