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Larks Who Only Dream

Chapter Text

 

...Outside the sky waits,
Beckoning, beckoning,
Just beyond the bars.
How can you remain
Staring at the rain,
Maddened by the stars?
How is it you sing
Anything?

Ringdove and robinet,
Is it for wages,
Singing to be sold?
Have you decided it's
Safer in cages,
Singing when you're told?
My cage has many rooms,
Damask and dark;
Nothing there sings,
Not even my lark.
Larks never will, you know,
When they're captive
Teach me to be more adaptive.

Green Finch and Linnet Bird

-Stephen Sondheim

 

* * *

 

Carina hated slave fairs, having been sold at one herself.

It was true that the quality and general ambience differed from event to event. And this one was doubtless a much finer affair than the humble block off which she had been auctioned: in place of a ramshackle makeshift dais was a broad pedestal made of polished hardwood, overhung by a tent of rich fabric. Had she been displayed in such a manner, she would surely have fetched a higher price…

But there was no use in looking back. She was here now, in a vastly improved position compared to the one fate had left her in. Once a nameless drudge, now the leading Acquisition Agent to the man known to most only as The Collector.

She was also here because of a rumour. Insider information about a slave of particular beauty, alabaster-skinned and ink-haired, with eyes that lit like firegems in the dark.

The first shipment arrived; the sparse audience quickly thickened in response. But their enthusiasm quickly plateaued. Only a few slaves were worth looking at, and even fewer whose skills were of much practical use. A disappointment, considering the outward appearance that had advertised what it was failing to deliver. The heat was growing. Carina fanned herself impatiently and answered her master’s impatient holo-message with two words: Not yet.

By the time the next round of auctioning began, the sun was at its peak and the crowd around Carina was shifting impatiently. Her ears perked up at the sound of a tussle. It took a few seconds to register that the sounds were coming from the slave wagon. There was the furious tugging of chains, metallic clanking interwoven with the shouts of slavers barely restraining themselves from bruising the merchandise.

When he finally emerged, Carina knew she had been right to wait.

The silken spill of ink-dark hair was captivating against his fair shoulders and fairer face, whose beauty was only slightly marred by the standard issue steel gag for slaves who were prone to misbehaving (and biting). His lines were taut, his limbs slender and perfectly formed. And when he glared at the gawking crowd, his eyes were full of green fire.

This second batch of merchandise was led in by a different auctioneer than the last, and carried himself like a man who took pride in his curation. Tall and greying with a glacial gaze, he began his spiel without fanfare, enunciating each word like a scholar.

“Slave 206 hails from the fallen kingdom of Asgardur, home to some of the most skilled magic-workers and spellcasters you have ever witnessed. You see before you one of the best the realm has to offer. In fact, these cuffs” – he tapped the silvery wood encircling the slave’s wrists – “are specially made of elvenwood to keep him from breaking free. But freed of them, he can weave all manner of spells as well as very fine illusions. And his looks do not hurt either.”

The Asgardian growled. Unruffled, the auctioneer continued: “He is somewhat spirited, no doubt; but those who enjoy breaking in and training a servant will gain much pleasure from him. Come up and inspect him if you wish!”

Despite the keen hum surrounding her, most of the prospective buyers chose to hang back, discouraged by the clearly hostile Asgardian. Carina was one of a mere five who stepped up. It was not often you were allowed to check the quality of your purchase until after currency changed hands.

“Feel the smoothness of his skin; marble-hard yet pliant beneath. The softness and dark hue of his hair. Qualities most rare in the land he hails from, which makes him a great prize indeed. An asset to any household of rank, to any family of repute!”

The slave did not take well to having the fingers of an oily-looking merchant comb through his lustrous locks, but the magic-dampening cuffs kept him restrained. “And what are his skills?” the merchant enquired.

The auctioneer smiled and replied, loud enough for the crowd to hear: “Advanced spellcasting, kept under control by means of runes.” He indicated the tattooed sigils running down the slave’s bared back. “But what gives him true value is his training in the art of pleasure.”

The audience’s hum of interest grew. The auctioneer clapped twice loudly to ensure all attention was on him and the merchandise. “Attention, fine folk! You may say that skilled pleasure slaves are no rare thing (although you’d be wrong, as experienced traders will know); but what truly makes him magnificent is this…” He gestured to his assistants, who held the Asgardian in place and parted his short kilt to reveal a striking pair of genitalia. One male – finely shaped, with a slight curve – and one female, hidden until the cock was lifted to reveal the secret folds beneath.

“Marvellous,” the merchant muttered, one hand already stroking his credits transfer device.

Carina tapped her holo messenger. “Found him.” She captured a visual and sent it over.

The keenness in her master’s voice was palpable. “How much is he worth?”

“At least forty thousand.”

“He is beautiful.”

“The visual does not do him justice. He is just as you described.”

Her master all but sighed with lust. “A lost prince…a crown jewel.” His next words were sharper. “Do not let him go.”

Tears of outrage were building in the slave’s fiery eyes as his legs were forcefully parted and his nether regions displayed before the ever-growing crowd. It only made him lovelier.

The bidding began at ten thousand credits. It crept steadily to twelve, fifteen, thirty.

“Forty!” called a large bejewelled woman.

“Forty-five!”

“Fifty!” That was the oily-voiced merchant.

“Fifty-four!” said Carina.

“Give up, young lady. Sixty!”

Carina spoke into her holo. “Should I go above sixty-five?”

There was barely a moment’s pause. “Do it.”

“Seventy!” she hollered. To the merchant, she added, “Take a nap, old man.” He scowled.

Over the few seconds of silence, the auctioneer called: “Seventy thousand credits for the Asgardian sorcerer and pleasure-slave. Any other bidders?”

Her remaining rival seemed to be doing battle with himself as he choked out: “Seventy-one!”

“Seventy-two.” Carina’s voice was cool, but it cut him down like a reed. He fumed and slinked away.

The auctioneer smiled beatifically like a saint bestowing gifts. “Seventy-two thousand credits to this lady of taste!” He gestured to the slavers to prepare the Asgardian for transport. They slid a needle into his neck to deliver a sedating dose, waiting till the fire left his eyes and he swayed dizzily before removing the chains and gag.

She transferred the amount and gave the head slaver the address of delivery. “Make sure he arrives in excellent condition.”

“Of course, my lady.”

The slave’s eyelids fluttered prettily as he sank to his knees, the very picture of subservience. She bent down to meet his lovely visage. “What is your name?”

He would have defied her with silence, but the drug melted away his resistance. “Loki. Son of Odin.”

More words were forming on his tongue, but he fell unconscious before he could utter them, collapsing into the arms of the slaver who picked him up as if he weighed nothing. Carina felt a strange weight in her chest. She ignored it and turned her head, and walked away until the sounds of the slave auction faded from her ears.

 

~

 

He had been a prince, and the highest-ranking sorcerer in the kingdom. Feared by many, beloved by a few. One of those few was Thor Odinson: his brother-lover, the king in waiting and most glorious of Asgardur’s warriors . As different in appearance as the sun was to the moon, Thor was broad of shoulder and golden-haired; a lion of a man whose booming voice was music to Loki’s ears. Only Thor the Thunderer, it was said, could tame the royal sorcerer. Only when Thor’s arms were around him, buried to the hilt inside him, was his magic rendered useless as spells died on his tongue, killed by the haze of bliss and surrender.

They had grown up side by side in a world where their every need was met, growing ever closer as two blossoming flowers whose stems were intertwined. They needed nothing from any other, for in each other’s arms and lips they found pleasure that none could match.

The time would come eventually when Thor was made to choose a mate not of his own blood, to sire the future royal progeny of Asgardur. In rebellion he marched off to war instead. The crown prince turned warlord left his brother only a letter of lovelorn apology and a lock of his hair before leading the charge against the invading forces of Nidavellir, whose dwarven race was rising up against the oppression of Asgardian rule.

He never returned from the battle. But the battle came to the golden gates of the high castle, slaying the watch and the guards, storming every chamber worth pillaging. Loki was one of the few left standing. Surrounded by fallen sorcerers, he fought with every ounce of wile and wit and force until he was all but drained. By the time the last spark left his fingertips, he had slain a small army’s worth of dwarves. But it would not save him from the wrath of the ones who remained.

“Surrender, sorcerer,” said General Eitri, pressing a spear to his throat.

Loki thought of Thor lying somewhere far away, soaked in his own blood, and nearly wept even as he hardened his gaze. “Kill me.”

He stepped forward to drive himself into the spear’s edge, but someone pulled him back while another bound his wrists with enchanted chains. At their enervating effect he crumpled to the floor.

“You’re much more valuable alive, little concubine.”

“I am no concubine.”

“Are you not the pleasure servant of the mighty Thor, king in waiting?”

One of the dwarves spat on him. “He’s less than that. Merely a whore-prince who spreads his legs for his own brother.”

“Ahh, a brother fucker. We’ll show him what we with those in Nidavellir…”

He could barely rise to his feet, let alone fight, in his drained state while bound by their chains. So instead he stared with empty eyes at the ceiling as they pushed apart his thighs and took him by force, one by one, bruising and splitting him apart and defiling him vengefully. They had not been bad men by nature, but long years of war had made them cruel. They took special delight in the dual sex of his anatomy.

“Is it any wonder the elder Odinson was eager to taste this rare flower? Surely he should be forgiven for partaking of such a lovely cunt.”

“An abomination. But a fascinating one. Move aside, Brokk, it is my turn now…”

When the hurt and humiliation became too much to bear, he struggled to hold back tears. He did not cry out no matter how brutally they abused him – though they took care not to damage his face or break any bones, save one in the little finger of his left hand. He gasped when the finger was pulled back with a loud snap, and teared and shivered with pain, but still he kept his silence.

“Looks like he’s gone mute. Just as well. A mouthy slave is good for no one.”

With those words he realised where the dice of his fate would fall. Sold into servitude, likely at Knowhere’s infamous slave markets; a prince no longer. He remembered being thrown over a dwarf’s shoulder before a wave of blackness washed over him, and he allowed it to claim him, wishing all the time for death.

 

~

 

When he awoke, his eyes fell upon steel and glass walls. The woman who had bought him was talking to someone. Her voice was sweet, but laced with threats.

“Lord Tivan will be upset at the delay in the new chamber. I’ll have to tell him his new acquisition must be housed in this shoddy cage for two more weeks. Or perhaps you should be the one to break the news…”

A cowering voice replied. “My lady, please.”

“Please what?”

“The custom fittings…they take time – ”

“Excuses, excuses. Do you know what happened to the last person to displease Lord TIvan?”

“No.”

“Precisely. No one knows.” The sweetness disappeared.

“One week. One is all I need. You will have a completed chamber by then.”

“See to it.”

Their footsteps faded as his consciousness fully returned. Loki’s mouth felt dry. He would have killed for a glass of water. Slowly, he moved his limbs before rising to his knees. He breathed deeply, pressing his palms against the glass, and felt tingling traces of his magic return. It told him that the glass was thick but ordinary. Once his strength returned, he would find the weakest corners and work from there.

For now, it would pay to become familiar with his surroundings. He was in a cavernous room full of containments similar to the one caging him, vessels of varying sizes. Some distance away, something large and larval caught his eye with its pulsating glow. In the cage across his was what looked like a figure trapped in ice. To his left, a bird of some kind: a pheasant-like creature beating its long tail listlessly against the glass.

He felt rather sorry for it. “How long have you been here?”

The creature seemed to hear him, for it turned its head and studied him briefly before sinking back into lethargy. He remembered his mother’s gift for talking to animals: how she seemed to instinctively understand them, and they her. Then he remembered that his mother lay dead among Asgardur’s fallen and his heart seized up in sadness. Finally, after all that had happened, he allowed tears to stream down his face. He should be lying by her side, or by Thor’s side, dying together as they had vowed in secret.

The sobs escaped despite his attempts to hold them back. After a moment he no longer bothered and let them spill from deep inside. Ugly, guttural sounds that slowly softened into quiet weeping.

He wasn’t sure how long he had been crying when he heard a sharp, cynical voice say “You should stop before you dehydrate yourself.”

In a flash he leapt to his feet, defensive of his vulnerable state. “Oh, don’t get your underwear in a tangle,” the voice continued. “Nothing wrong with a bit of crying. I cried too when I found out the menu options here don’t include macaroni and cheese. Actually, all the options are shit. But I eat ‘em. To keep up my strength and good looks.”

Loki’s roving eyes came to rest on a small mammal – a rodent of some kind. One who wore clothes. He wiped his face. “I’ve always wanted to speak to animals, but I wasn’t expecting this.”

The creature grinned, baring a row of small sharp teeth. “No one does.” He held out five grubby fingers. “I’m Rocket. Pretend we’re shaking hands.”

“We don’t shake hands where I come from,” said Loki. “Unless it’s on a battlefield. A declaration of peace between two warring parties.” He didn’t know why he was volunteering such information, but it was comforting to talk to someone who wasn’t trying to kill, fuck or enslave him.

“Well, we should shake anyway. In case we ever battle. Even though I’d kick your ass.”

“With those little feet?” Loki sniffed. “Which you wouldn’t even have anymore, if I had my full powers back.”

Rocket’s ears perked. “What powers?”

“I’m a sorcerer. But my abilities are held in check by…these.” He turned around so Rocket could see the row of small tattoos down his back. “I cannot attack you or any living being with my magic.” He felt a fresh surge of bitterness at how much his body had been violated. The memory of being held down as a hot needle seared the marks into his skin still burned him from the inside. “Perhaps they can be removed. I don’t know.”

“Oh. Well…can you at least break some glass?”

Loki tested the edges of the cage where angled steel bars held the panes in place. His magic was still weak, but stronger than when he first woke. “I can feel the edges – and tiny spots where the flaws are. The tiniest cracks.” The realisation that he was not completely helpless gave him strength. “I think I can break us out.”

“Great! Now play dead. He’s coming.”

“What?”

Then he heard them too. The footsteps echoing down the corridor, past the empty cages, were both leisurely and deliberate. It was the stride of someone with more power than was reasonable for any one being.

The man who came to a stop in front of him was snowy-haired and richly dressed, with a greatly affected air that suggested he might casually order someone’s death for not being sufficiently entertaining. His eyes were artfully lined for a theatrical effect.

“Ahh…at last, he arrives. The sorcerer-prince of Asgardur.” The brows above the carefully painted eyes arched in delight. “My Acquisition Agent is finally earning her title.”

Loki was not yet sure how he should behave around this man whom he assumed was the Lord Tivan mentioned earlier, so he kept his face carefully blank and his demeanour cautiously subservient.

“Well, my prince? Do you speak, or were you rendered mute? I hope not; that would be a great disappointment.”

“I assure you I am not mute.” Loki met his eyes in a manner he hoped was not insolent. “How should I address you?”

The man smiled. “I have several names. You may simply address me as ‘sir’, or ‘my lord’ if it pleases you. Both of these please me enough.” His gaze swept over every inch of Loki’s all too bare body. “Yes…very pleasing.”

Loki hoped it was not too audacious a request as he said: “Perhaps you could give me some actual clothing, sir. And a drink of water…please.”

“Oh, but of course! I will make sure everything in my power is done to make your stay a comfortable one.” He made a moue of disdain as he ran a fussy finger over the edge of a steel bar. “This containment is ridiculous. Not at all worthy of royalty. And you do require some, ahh, custom fittings.” He clapped commandingly. Almost perfectly on cue, two manservants appeared from around the corner. One of them, Loki was relieved to see, bore a clear jug full of water along with some food.

“Please, have your fill. Be assured you’ll not go hungry while in my care.”

The door of the cage was unlocked, the tray placed before him. Loki gulped down some water, but was more cautious when it came to the perfectly crusted honeyed bread – which smelt freshly baked and looked absolutely delicious.

The man who must be Lord Tivan chuckled. “It’s not poisoned. Or in fact, tampered with in any way.” He snapped his fingers at one of the servants, who promptly tore off a chunk of bread and chewed on it with relish.

Loki knew he could not deny his hunger and thirst much longer. He finished the bread, ate the juicy pear that accompanied it, and drank until he felt his belly swell. All the while Lord Tivan watched him with something akin to satisfaction, even arousal. He wondered if he would have to get used to this with every mealtime.

Once the tray was cleared, another servant stepped forward. Alarm filled Loki’s every nerve as he saw what the man was carrying.

“I need no restrains,” he heard himself pleading. “I promise to behave – always – ”

“I have no doubt that you will,” said Lord Tivan benignly as one servant bound his wrists behind his back, while the other fastened his ankles to a heavy metal bar that kept his legs spread. “Unfortunately, I simply cannot risk my any inappropriate – or rather, unsupervised – fraternizing.”

A collar was fastened around his neck, and at its cold touch he felt his limbs suddenly weaken, his senses dulled save for the nausea accosting him. Please, no. Not this again. A panic attack made the room start to spin. Were they going to do to him what the dwarf invaders had? “You wouldn’t – you can’t damage me – not after what I cost you…”

“Silly little prince,” came Tivan’s admonishment. “No damage will befall you. I simply wish to fully appreciate what I acquired.”

He gestured with an upward flick of his wrist, and one of the servants lifted the metal bar so that Loki’s legs were lifted and his kilt flung back, putting him on full display. Tivan made a soft purring sound. “I have been waiting for this.”

Despite all he had been through, Loki’s face still burned when he felt the gloved fingers spread the folds of his female sex and penetrate him. Tears blurred his vision at the memory of rape. He barely bit back a whimper.

“Very nice,” Tivan murmured. “Very nice indeed.” He continued inspecting the shapely genitalia at leisure, stroking the cock till it began, against the will of its owner, to harden. “One can imagine what you look like when you’re, shall we say, properly stimulated.” His eyes gleamed as he rose. “We will have to do something about that.”

Loki’s heart quickened in fear at the unnamed ominous prospect. His chest heaved and his cheeks and neck continued burning as Tivan and the servants left, locking the cage behind them.

The nausea returned in full force. Loki’s upper body jerked forward as he retched, just managing to keep his food down. Twice more he heaved and swallowed the bile building up in his mouth. Cold sweat pricked his skin as his head slowly cleared and he was left with a terrible, overwhelming weakness.

He slumped against the glass, kicked feebly at the bar that kept his legs forcibly parted. Misery filled his every nerve and blackened his very core.

“Hey,” came Rocket’s voice at last. “You uh, alright in there?”

Loki did not know how to respond. Instead he turned away, pressed his forehead to the cool glass and waited on the next roll of fate’s dice, if ever it came.

 

~

 

Despite the abundance of rumours and bardic songs regarding the Heroic Fall of The Thunderer, Thor Odinson was not dead.

He had been captured with three arrows in him and two leg wounds, none of which stopped him from beheading one of his captors and disembowelling the rest. His army destroyed, the survivors scattered to the winds, the warlord prince found himself bereft of all purpose save one. To return home in defeat into the arms of his loved ones, and to hold his dear brother close once more.

Then the news arrived from Asgardur: the high castle had been breached, the last of the royals slain. Folded inside the letter was the small dagger he had given to Loki as a coming-of-age gift. The same one that never left Loki’s belt, the handle encrusted with gems the colour of his brother’s eyes, and stained with specks of blood.

He roared at the sky until it seemed a storm would split the clouds open as told by the legends of his might. He wept for the lover whom he had not so much as said farewell to, and would surely now haunt his dreams as a wraith.

Defeated, with nothing to his name, he wandered the lands as a mercenary and took a strange savage joy in belonging to no nation. In the strange cold comfort of killing for the weight of silvers in his purse (for he took no credits and used nothing that could be traced back to his face or presence). He took on the appearance of a wild man, wore a false name, and disavowed all connection with Asgardur and his lost kin. Even when the tables were turned and he was ambushed and defeated by his quarry one starless night, becoming another body to be auctioned off into servitude, he kept the identity of an insignificant sword for hire.

His actual sword was stripped from him, of course. A slave could not own anything of value save what was given him. As his master’s prizefighter, he was as good as his performance in the ring. His worth lay in how long and how inventively he outlasted an opponent – by any means necessary. There was no glory in the lawless blood-soaked pits where the highest stakes met the highest profits for those with the most skilled fighters.

He had nothing to his new name but blood and brutality. And the slim dagger, disguised as a humble eating knife, he kept on his person at all times. The one that never left his belt.

 

~

 

“Two years. Perhaps more.”

“And during that time, you were…trained…as a pleasure slave?”

Loki picked listlessly at the slice of fish on his dinner tray, which Rocket insisted was the best item on the ‘menu’ so far. “I’ve had no training in such arts. It was a lie told to increase my value. To ensure the cursed dual nature of my body titillated with the possibilities of what a skilled pleasure slave is capable of when equipped with such…gifts.”

“From what I heard, dwarves seldom keep anyone alive long enough to trade. They’re more of a take-no-prisoners type.”

“Yes. Well. I suppose death was too good for the sorcerer who had brutally slain their comrades, the way Asgardur has slain countless before in the name of imperial might.” The disorientation of the collar’s effect was wearing off, and his head was clear again for the first time in days. He was surprised to no longer feel the old rush of anger at his past violation. “They took their revenge on me, as one would expect them to.”

“By selling you to the nearest Knowhere slaver?”

“After using me as a fuck toy. Yes.”

“Aaaah.” Rocket was seldom lost for words, but the silence that ensued suggested he was struggling to formulate an appropriate reply to this new piece of information.

“You’ll have to let yourself out, I’m afraid,” Loki said flatly. “I’m of no use to you now.”

“What, because of one pissy collar?” The raccoon sneered. “Listen, buddy. I’ve been collared, chained, shot at, actually shot, almost died, and – ”

“ – and thrown in a glass cage?”

“And never let any of it keep me down. I shoulda died ten years ago. And instead I’m here, being an asshole.”

“I won’t disagree with that.”

“You’re damn right.” Rocket bared his teeth again, this time in a grin. “So unless that collar has made you stupid, I suggest you get off your butt and be an asshole with me. What d’ya say?”

Despite the constant dull misery haunting him, Loki had to crack a smile. The critter did make a point. For most of his life he had been far too reliant on his prodigious talents without exercising his other baser, more physical strengths. Yet he had all his limbs, and he had his wits.

He ran his hands along the cuffs that kept his ankles locked to the bar. His senses were dulled, but it did not take any special skill to find the small keyholes. Were they penetrable? There was only one way to find out.

When the next meal arrived, he dared to hide the fork away the moment his warden’s gaze strayed. It was fortunate that he did not need use of it to lift the slices of bread smeared with cheese and some unidentified vegetable.

“What are you up to?” asked Rocket when they were left alone and he began pulling at the prongs of the fork.

“Seeing if I can pick a lock,” said Loki.

A hiss of glee. “Ha!” Rocket pulled something from the depth of his overalls. It was a similarly bent fork. “Beat ya to it. Been working at a weak spot in my cage for a month now.”

“Congratulations,” Loki replied dryly. He prodded at one of the keyholes with the tip of his makeshift pick. “If I can free myself from this cursed pole, I can use it to smash the glass. That is, I can try.” He frowned. “My brother would’ve – ”

A pang shot through his heart, and he dropped the fork. Ridiculous, how he still ached for Thor. No. Don’t think of his name. Don’t…he’s gone, you can’t bring him back…

“You alright? You’re shaking all funny.”

Loki dragged a shuddering breath into his lungs and steadied his hand as he dug the bent prong into the lock hole. “I’ll be alright once we’re far away from this place.”

 

Chapter Text

Carina was having a good day. No, an excellent day.

The custom-made cage for the sorcerer was being completed three days earlier than previously stated, and would be delivered by daybreak tomorrow. This was not the only thing that raised her esteem in Lord Tivan’s eyes, which gleamed with promise of a raise in salary. (What a long way she had come from indentured servitude!) No, what had really delighted him was her latest find as Acquisition Agent.

The beast of a man towered over her, straining against the thick chains. He did not intimidate her. She kept a distance only to avoid the odour that pronounced him in need of a year’s worth of baths.

The slaver holding him in check looked equally unruffled. Tired of the auctions, she had used the clout of her connection to the House of Tivan to summon him personally with a brief message: Lord Tivan seeks a fighter. The finest you have. Do not waste my time with substandard goods.

“He is a champion fighter, you say?”

“Not just any champion,” replied the slaver. ““The finest to rise from the pits and the deadliest arenas. Has a commendation from the Grandmaster himself.”

Carina’s heart skipped a beat, though she maintained a cool façade. The man known only as the Grandmaster was the most powerful figure in Knowhere’s underworld. Beneath his smiling, charismatic exterior was a puppet master who held Knowhere’s richest mine tycoons, along with the elite from his native Sakaar, firmly in his palm. He apparently treated Tivan as his own brother, though Carina had never met him in all her years of servitude.

“He doesn’t look to be worth much. But I suppose some scrubbing up will justify your price. We’ll need to do something about that abomination of a beard.”

“I can take care of all that, my lady. For a small additional sum…inconsequential really…”

“No need. We have all we need to make our acquisitions presentable. But you will lower your price by two thousand credits.”

“My lady! You slaughter me.” He clutched his chest. “Five hundred. That is all I can take off.”

“One thousand and five. Your merchandise lacks care – his hair is surely swarming with ticks. And he smells.”

They haggled for a bit more until he agreed to let the goods go for eight hundred less. She made sure to have no less than three burly, skilled servants at hand deal with the prisoner. A lack of fear did not mean she was stupid.

“What is your name?”

The deep blue eyes that had been blind with fury cleared like a lifting storm. He stared at her for a long moment. “You ask as if you care,” he rumbled.

“I do. I have to keep track of everyone and everything we acquire. And – ” she paused. “Look, I was once a slave. A lowly one. Be thankful you’re a fighter of repute; you will be treated better than a mine drudge or a cleaner.” Her fingers hovered over her tablet. “Now, your name.”

“Blake.”

“Is that all?”

“It’s all I’ve ever needed.”

“If you say so.” She keyed it in. “I apologize for the chains. They’ll be removed soon enough, so you can have a proper bath.”

As he was led away, he called over his shoulder: “I’m hungry. I’ll not be good in a fight unless you feed me. And I’m not pretty enough to be a bedmate.”

“Oh, I think Lord Tivan intends to use you for more than brawling. And as for bedmates…” Carina waved as he was pulled around the corner. “You’ll see.”

 

~

 

“You wish me to do what?”

“Lord Tivan wishes it,” the manservant corrected him stoically.

“Your lord wishes me to…to be a stud? To whom? A harem of concubines?”

The man’s face did not change. “Not a harem. Only to one. Do you not feel yourself up to the task?”

Blake did not know what to say. He had been sure, despite the unease in his belly, that the magenta-haired woman was jesting about the bedmates. Although… He looked at his reflection in the mirrored wall, barely recognizing himself. The dark matted hair shone gold as it had not shone in years, the beard framing his face now neatly shaped. There was even a plait running down each side. He had been given new clothes: deep red pants and a matching tunic belted with silver cord.

In short, he looked like a prince once more.

No. Looking like a prince did not make him one. He had been Blake the Butcher to those who paid to see him draw blood. And now he was Blake the Slave Stud. There were worse fates he could have chosen.

He steadied his breath and squared his shoulders. “So who am I to service?”

“You will be shown to your quarters and await further instructions.”

“And if I decide to ignore those instructions?”

The stony face cracked into a humourless smile. “Judging from my personal experience, I would advise against that.”

Blake smiled back. “Then lead the way, good man.”

He told himself there were few ordeals that could torment him. He was, after all, a nameless man with nothing to live for. And yet, unthinkingly, his hand crept to his waist where something slim and sharp was hidden beneath the fabric.

When he reached his appointed chamber, he found it somewhat lacking in privacy. Not that this surprised him greatly. The room was more of a glass box, albeit a large one. Inside was a decently sized bed, some simple furnishings, and washing facilities. There was even a closet in which hung several changes of clothing. He could only take it as a sign that he would be staying for quite some time.

While he was taking in his surroundings, he heard the door being sealed and locked behind him. He sighed, more resigned than upset. He wondered if being a bird in a gilded cage was better than fighting in arenas soaked with the stench of death. His last owner, for all she was a cold-blooded woman, had always given him a cut of the winnings. He doubted caged slaves were given anything but what their masters saw fit. He would eat, drink and wear what he was given, and be grateful for it.

There was someone approaching. Several people, actually. The glass panels of his chamber only slightly muffled the sounds of a losing struggle.

“You are wasting your strength, my pet,” said an unctuous, affected voice. “When you wake, I expect you to perform to your full abilities. And you won’t be alone…I have brought you a mate.”

“Nngggh…mmmfff!”

Thor’s ears pricked. His heart leapt almost painfully.

“Shhh. Don’t fight it…”

That voice – no. Impossible.

“I will not…nnggffh…”

The champion fighter formerly known as Blake The Butcher turned around with blood rushing between his ears as his eyes came to rest on a sylph of a man with ink-dark hair and eyes like green firegems. The rest of the pale, slender face was obscured by the drug-dampened cloth being clamped over his mouth and nose. Pale, sinewy limbs struggled in the grip of ruthless men before weakening and drooping like wilted stems as the light left the blazing eyes. Thor would know that body anywhere, having spent years memorizing it every angle and curve.

LOKI.

Was he crying his brother’s name over and over, or was the cry only in his head? Was it his fist pounding on the glass at the sight of one he had thought dead?

“LOKI.” His senses returned in a sudden roaring stream. Shock mingled with joy that mingled with anger. “Lokiiii!” The pounding in his head had turned to that of rage. “Don’t touch him! By the gods, I will have your heads!”

The men who had subdued Loki were now binding his wrists and pushing up his ankles – which were held apart by a metal bar to expose every intimate detail of what lay between the coltish thighs. They were, in other words, bending him into a position that reduced his purpose to one alone.

The commanding personage with the gloved hands and affected voice turned to regard his outburst with amusement. “Blake the Butcher, is it not? Slayer of giants? A fine acquisition indeed.”

“That is no longer my name!” He felt the years of anonymity wash off him like a layer of stifling dust. “I am Thor, son of Odin, of the fallen Asgardur. But as long as I still stand – ”

“Yes…! Good. Very good.” A palm pressed against the spot where Thor had slammed his fist against. “All that rage, that pent-up virility. My raging bullock.” Beneath the painted eyes, the imperious lips curved upward. “The drug will be taking effect any second now. And then…”

Thor felt the floor move beneath him, swaying momentarily. His glass cage was being pushed as if on rails, sliding smoothly as a whole until it was pressing against Loki’s. The latter was just coming to his senses, eyelids fluttering, mumbling senselessly. Then from the string of formless murmurs came one word, a clear, rasping plea:

“Thor.”

Through the anger and confusion, Thor felt his loins stir.

Loki appeared suspended in a haze of drugged languor, moving in slow motion as he exhaled keening sounds of want. Thor could not help noticing, with vague alarm, that the cunt he had tasted countless times fairly glistened with need. And now his brother’s breaths were quickening, the alabaster cheeks flushed, lips parted and panting. It seemed his body had been manipulated into a state of arousal. And the leering gloved man whom he surmised must be Lord Tivan – his new master – held up a slim jet-black device with the air of a man conducting an orchestra.

“Let the games begin!”

The panes of glass separating him from his brother were lifted. Thor walked in a half-daze towards the obscene, terrible, inviting feast spread out before him. Loki stretched and writhed in his restraints.

“Thor. I need you…need your…”

“Loki. Love. I will not have you like this – I can’t…”

“I need your cock, Thor. Please. Give me your cock.”

Shush. Loki, do not give this…this cretin the pleasure of – ”

“In my mouth, if you must. Let me. Let me…I need it, Thor, please.” The whites of Loki’s eyes were starting to show. His cunt was flushed; dripping. If he could spread his legs wider than the bar already held them, he would have.

“If you do not relieve him,” said Lord Tivan with maddening calm, “he will perish.”

Thor whirled around to face him. “You don’t mean that!”

The languid shrug made him want to tear the man’s shoulders from his body. “I only ask that you do what is best for him. For both of you.”

Loki’s breaths were uneven now, ragged. His head lolled around as he begged repeatedly for his brother to fuck him. In the end, with a sick feeling staining his insides dark – a feeling that he would surely never lose – Thor gave Loki what he needed, fucking him mechanically and methodically. Loki sobbed in pathetic gratitude as his cunt clenched around Thor’s sex. It all but killed him to see his devious and proud little sprite reduced to such a state.

“You must spill into him,” came their master’s hateful voice, “or he will continue to beg for it.”

Thor growled his rage, but obeyed. His fingers left bruises from where they gripped the raised calves, but Loki appeared to feel nothing beyond the immediate lust that was not even his own. The burning need sated, he slipped into an unconscious state, looking with his bound lifeless limbs like a marionette awaiting its next show.

Lord Tivan clapped slowly. “You did well, Butcher.”

“Do not call me that ever again.”

“I will call you whatever I wish,” came the calm reply as the glass walls fell back down unceremoniously. Thor felt cold inside, cut off so abruptly from his beloved seconds after their forced copulation. He bit back a hiss of rage when a servant came in with a damp cloth to clean Loki’s seed-stained folds and thighs and the remnants of their all too brief contact. It should be him cleaning his little brother. It should be him beside Loki, stroking his hair, kissing him, tenderness in place of the dutiful unfeeling ministrations of Tivan’s lackeys. Him, and no one else.

“Loki,” he whispered when they were finally alone. The servant had left the restraints in place but arranged Loki’s limbs in a slightly more dignified fashion.

“My Loki. My dearest; my love.” His words met only silence, but he did not care. “The sun will shine on us again.”

With nothing left to do, he pulled the blankets from the bed that had been accorded him, feeling unworthy of its comfort, and wrapped it around himself as he curled up on the floor. Eventually the turmoil of his thoughts, and the misery of being so close yet so separated from his brother, turned into a stone-heavy fatigue that dragged him into reluctant slumber.

 

~

 

He had been so close. Or at least, he had managed to get one lock loose, with three to go. But then that cursed cage had arrived early. He had known it only when the three servants came for him, accompanied by Carina, to carry him to his new home. To fight would have been a waste of energy and dignity. Still, he felt as if he was nothing but twigs held together by string. Disgustingly weak.

From the corner of his eye he saw Rocket reap the fruit of his long and patient lock-picking. The racoon took advantage of the fuss he was causing to furtively slip out of his cage and scamper off. Good luck to you, Loki thought bitterly.

Only when he was safely ensconced in his larger, well-furnished new prison did the collar come off. But the surge of strength returning to his blood gave him only a moment of joy. He knew upon testing his magic against the glass that it was enforced to hold a sorcerer of power.

Carina left; Tivan took her place, and watched with gleaming eyes as he was forced to strip what little he was wearing. He was outfitted with new, finer garments, even if they did not offer much in terms of coverage. An embroidered silk kilt, ornaments braided into his hair, bracelets that looked more like handcuffs – or perhaps it was the other way around. They broke one of his ribs when he refused to cooperate. They stood and watched as he healed himself with tears on his anger-warmed face.

Then, from a distance, he saw what he thought was a ghost. Broad shoulders and golden hair and a voice like the coming of storms. His heart stopped, and then soared. If only for a second.

Before he could call out for his lost brother, he was being suffocated by the sweet smell of musk and death. The life left his limbs; the walls came melting down. Everything fell into a haze after that. He heard Thor call his name but could not reach out through the haze. He fell into the sleep of the dead.

At least, for a while. And then he dreamt.

In the dream state, Thor laid claim to him and fucked him thoroughly – but not as they had fucked before. His brother’s movements were cold, almost unfeeling. As if it was an act of punishment rather than love. He cried out Thor’s name repeatedly, longingly, shamelessly. There was no answer. Yet his body was sated if his spirit was not, and it spent itself greedily taking all it could from Thor before giving out.

He awoke still half-believing his brother was dead. Until he saw the familiar broad shoulders, clad in a deep red that brought out the warm gold hues in that leonine mane.

“Thor?”

In a breath Thor was pressed against the glass as if longing to melt right through it. “Brother. Are you alright?”

“I’m in one piece. With working bodily functions. I think.” At least he was no longer tied up and spread out like a bird ready for roasting.

“Good. That’s…that’s good.”

There was an odd silence between them before he continued, “So you’re not dead.”

Thor broke into a lopsided smile. “It seems so long ago that I got news of Asgardur’s fall and the – the death of everyone I knew and loved. And…” He drew a shaking breath. “And knowing I had to count you among them. I don’t know what to feel now. But it’s enough to know you’re not an illusion.”

“I need to touch you with my own hands to know you’re not one.” He needed more than a touch; he ached to be held, to be consumed.

The smile faded. “You did. That is, I…”

Loki frowned. “What is it, Thor?”

“I didn’t want it to be that way. I had no choice. I was afraid you might die.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You were drugged. You weren’t yourself, and you were begging me to – I didn’t have a choice. I would not risk losing you. Never again.”

“So it was real. It felt like a dream.” Loki closed his eyes and immediately felt the plunge of his brother’s sex deep inside him. It was enough to make him shudder. “I would have you do the same now, but for this damned cage.” His words tumbled out rough with want.

“What if we can only fuck when there is an audience?”

“Hmm. Better than not being able to fuck at all.”

“Do you mean that?”

“You know I do.” Loki smiled wistfully. “I was always the more shameless of us two.”

Despite the situation, Thor laughed. “I will never forget what you wore at your coming-of-age dance. Which is to say, not much at all.”

“I knew you would appreciate it.”

“Appreciate? I could barely hide what was happening between my thighs. Not even with both hands.”

“Damn it, Thor.” He leaned his face against the glass. “If you could touch me now, you’d find me wet and ready.”

Thor’s palms and forehead were pressed against the wall of his own cage. “Don’t, Loki.”

“I can’t help it. I’ve always been a helpless idiot around you, even at my most powerful.”

“I’m glad you’re finally admitting it.”

“You’re a smug bastard. Break us out of here with your terrible strength, Thor. Imagine me a swooning fool of a maiden in one of those dumb stories. Shatter the glass and throw me over your shoulder and then lay claim to your prize once we’re safe. Ravish me thoroughly – make me your property. Your slave in marriage.” Loki needed no drug to fuel his lust, so strong it was making him giddy. It seemed Thor was also in thrall of his raw outpouring, knees weakening as one hand crept unconsciously to his loins.

“Yes. Let me see you, Thor. Damn it.”

“You too, Loki. Mine…my Loki.” Thor’s swollen cock was already glistening by the time he pulled it out. Loki would have given anything to lick its tip. To take it into his mouth and milk it as if his life depended on it. “Will you touch yourself for me?”

In response, Loki lay down, pushed up his kilt and spread his legs so Thor could see his own hard cock and the eager cunt below it. “Imagine your weight on me, brother. Imagine me struggling. Crying that I am about to be ruined. That I will never make a good marriage after being fucked by my own kin.”

Thor groaned and used his hand the same way Loki was using his. They both knew this game; it was Loki’s favourite. Play-acting at rape until they were gasping and giddy at their secret shared fantasy. “Shush. You can take it, I know you can.”

“No, Thor. Please. You can’t do this.”

“I’m going to make you feel good, Loki. It’ll feel good, I promise.” He stroked himself with a steady rhythm.

“I’m going to tell. You’ll be as ruined as I am. I’ll scream till the guards come – ”

At this point, Thor would have clamped his hand down on Loki’s mouth. All he could do now was increase the pace of his hand. “No, you won’t. You’ll be a good little brother and know your place."

Loki’s voice was becoming fainter, smaller, more submissive. “I’ll do anything. Please. Let me suck you off. Anytime you wish, Thor. Just not this.”

“I will have use of your mouth, brother. But later.”

“Stop it, Thor, I beg you – ”

“No.” The single word came out as a growl. Loki plunged his fingers inside his cunt and cried out at the same time Thor climaxed with a spasm. He watched through a fog of weak-kneed desire as those wet fingers plunged in and out until Loki came with a long shudder and a delicious sound that was music to Thor’s ears.

For a long time, the air was filled with nothing but heavy breathing. They both half-sat, half-sprawled in a panting heap of limbs, stunned at their own pent-up hunger for each other.

“The next time they make us fuck,” said Loki, “I hope I get to be awake for the full thing.”

 

~

 

“Marvellous,” said the Grandmaster with a slow clap. “An absolutely astounding find. Did you…uh, arrange that, Taneleer? And how, if I may know?”

Taneleer Tivan’s face was composed as it always was, but he practically radiated glee. “I promise it was completely unplanned. They must be simply thirsting for contact.”

“Astonishing. And are they really, ahh, related? Or is that just part of their, you know…” The Grandmaster grinned broadly.

“Perhaps. Or perhaps they were adopted, if one is to go by their lack of resemblance to each other. Does it matter, though?”

“Not at all! Not at all. It’s the show that matters, my man. Topaz, how much would you say they’re worth?” He turned to his faithful right-hand woman. She had a face like an immovable boulder.

"A hundred thousand, at the most.”

“Aaaah, Topaz. Don’t make us look tight.”

She shrugged. “A hundred thousand for rent. Hundred fifty for something more permanent.”

Taneleer gestured magnanimously. “En Dwi, I’m happy to let you have them for…reasonable terms. But they are too valuable to me to let them go indefinitely. You understand.”

“Of course! Of course I understand. Tan, you’re like a brother to me. Well, not in that way.” He chuckled, gesturing to the large screen in front of them. “Although, looking at them – the dark-haired one, specifically…hmm.”

Taneleer studied the Grandmaster’s face. “Did you have something special in mind?”

“Is he capable of, you know, uh, spawning?”

Taneleer’s eyes widened slightly. “To be frank, I hadn’t considered the possibility. I assumed he was a standard Asgardian with a rare mutation. He is a sorcerer of repute, by the way. A prime acquisition.”

“So you’ve said about fifty times since we began. Oh, I’m joking, Tan. But I am serious about the question of uhh, spawning.” The Grandmaster steepled his hands in thought. “If I were to borrow them for, say, a bit of…experimentation, what would your price be?”

“I don’t know, En Dwi.” Much as he was loathe to refuse the Grandmaster a boon, and affect his most valued of connections (for all the credits at his command could not buy such power), his first instinct as a collector was concern for potential damage to his prized possessions.

“You don’t…know?” The Grandmaster arched one perfectly manicured brow.

“That is, I don’t know what the price would be. The dark-haired mutant sorcerer is immensely precious to me. But I trust you will take the utmost care to – ”

“Oh, please. Don’t you trust me?”

“Of course I do.”

“I will personally ensure no harm comes to him. He’ll be returned to you exactly as he is now. And besides, you’re free to visit anytime to inspect his condition. My doors are always open to you, Tan. You know that.” The man looked extremely pleased with himself, as if the deal had been sealed and signed. As he knew it would be.

The handover and its terms were agreed upon in under ten minutes. Taneleer watched him and Topaz leave, enduring the ringed fingers waving daintily, almost mockingly, before they left his sight. His smile disappeared as soon as the doors closed.

He hated being called Tan.

 

~

 

Loki did not get his wish. At least, not immediately. He did get to remain mostly conscious the next time he was being fucked, albeit pumped full of manufactured lust fuelling his body to give every inch of itself to the five men surrounding him – none of whom were Thor. In fact, Thor was nowhere in the picture. For this particular performance, opaque blinds were drawn around his glass cell from a ceiling contraption he finally knew the function of. They shielded his brother’s eyes from what was about to be done to him. He heard vaguely the roars echoing from the other cell.

And then the drug overtook him completely, and everything else faded away.

He found himself on his knees with mouth open to receive the first cock that would have use of it. Cock, sex, a mad hunger for another man’s seed – it was all he could think of. He begged for it, dripped and slavered for it. Relief was withheld until he was breathless and pleading. A plaything eager to obey lest it be made to suffer.

As Lord Tivan and his small exclusive audience watched, he was spread out and slapped and spilled on and degraded in every way possible that did not cause lasting damage, except for small bruises on his thighs and throat and a slight redness on his bottom where one of the men had taken to spanking him for being naughty. Except that he was being very, very good. And all of them knew it.

They made him count as the blows were dealt, and thank the dealer for each tenth blow.

“Thank you, sir.”

“Good boy. Now spread ‘em wider.”  

After the last cock left his mouth, a large leather phallus took it place, gagging him thoroughly enough to make him choke. He dragged a deep breath through his nose to calm his throat’s reflex until the urge to throw up faded away. His ass and cunt were plugged as if to keep the combined spill of several men inside him. With his wrists tied together and suspended from the ceiling, he was bent over in such a position as to display the decorative plugs (each set with a deep green and blue gemstone respectively) in both his openings.

The audience broke out in applause. The blinds lifted.

In the opposite cell, Thor dropped to his knees at the sight of his baby brother being displayed so, feeling as if he had been punched in the stomach. He felt a sick rage building at the back of his throat, his eyeballs. Knowing that his worst outpouring of rage would only entertain Tivan and his loathsome guests further, yet unable to stop himself from burning with vengeful hatred.

“Loki…are you alright?” he choked out after what seemed like a century.

In response, his brother lifted his head in Thor’s direction and moaned helplessly around the phallic gag.

And to his shock and dismay, Thor felt a sudden hardness in his loins. Inadvertently, his eyes slid over to where Tivan sat. The man gazed back at him with the smallest knowing smile. He knew, without a doubt, that without an audience present Thor would gladly remove those plugs and take what was readily given as Loki drooled and whimpered around the leather cock that should be his brother’s.

 

Chapter Text

He had spent the rest of the day (and night, perhaps – time moved dreadfully in this godforsaken chamber) with his back to the world. To reality. Loki was dreadfully silent, long after the gag and restraints were removed. They cleaned him up nicely, of course. Tivan would have his precious toys restored to pristine condition no matter how thoroughly they were played with. When Thor finally snuck a peek, his brother was lying on the bed, seemingly asleep. Loki’s smooth dark hair obscured most of his face.

“Loki?” he called out.

“Go to sleep, Thor.”

“You know I can’t.” The rage had ebbed into a small burning ember in the pit of his stomach, and there it stubbornly stayed. “I would murder them all. Every last one.”

“Good. You can do that when we get out of here.”

If we get out. Thor had always the optimist between them, but something inside him must have cracked; he felt shattered, exhausted. He could only imagine how Loki must feel.

Despite his exhaustion, he could not sleep. It seemed an eternity before he fell into a sort of limbo of dozing half-dreams where he was startled to wakefulness by an imaginary noise. Once he opened his eyes to hear Loki humming: a sad, sweet song from their childhood. But when he looked over to the other cell, his brother appeared to be asleep.

Another time he was roused from his deepest slumber yet by sounds of distress. Loki was mewling with eyes closed, trapped in a nightmare. Thor called out and pounded the walls repeatedly until his brother finally stirred. After some internal struggle and tossing of his head, Loki’s breathing slowed and he sank back into sleep.

After that, Thor spent the night pacing the length of his cell, so engrossed in the comfort of his repetitive action that he didn’t see the thin, severe-looking woman who had silently entered. He nearly ran smack into her.

“The Grandmaster wishes to loan your services,” she said.

“What – ?”

Too late he saw the needle she wielded. His last memory was a needle shooting a searing substance into his veins. The yell of outrage never made it past his throat before he collapsed with an utter lack of dignity, knees crooked and ass in the air.

Thor awoke in a fever, with an erection that hurt in its intensity. He was naked, sweating and mindlessly aroused. He groaned and pushed himself up from the floor. He felt with absolute certainty that if his aching loins did not find relief, he would die.

When his head cleared just enough to see straight, his eyes fell on an inviting sight: Loki lying before him with legs spread, writhing and aching for his touch. His senses lit up like an animal in heat. He knew without knowing how that he would have smelt Loki from a mile away. The scent of sex that sang to him and set his loins on fire.

“Brother.” His tongue felt thick in his mouth even as his every nerve surged with anticipation. Somewhere in the back of his mind, words were forming, but he could not recognise their shape. He felt reduced to a stupid creature of base urges, and yet it was not an unpleasant feeling. He lumbered forward with his ridiculously hard cock out.

Loki was murmuring something frantically, but his fogged head could not process a word. He knew only what his raging, terrible need told him. He knew that nothing could stop him from doing what he must.


*

 

Loki awoke with his legs once more forcibly spread, his arms and wrists strapped down. There was a strange, sharp discomfort in his belly. Something had been done to him. He felt violated in a way he had no words for.

“What do you want now?” he groaned.

As if in response, a cool disembodied voice announced: “Subject successfully prepared for fertilisation.”

“What…?” Gods. No.

Nausea assaulted him as soon as he began to move. “What did you to me?” But the robotic voice had fallen silent for now. After a few seconds, he slowly turned his head to take in the unfamiliar surroundings. It was a sterile, intimidating sort of place, where the ceilings seemed a little too high and harsh lights cut deep shadows into the corners of the chamber.

From these shadows a tall, well-built figure emerged.

“Thor!” Relief bloomed in his gut, only to turn to anxiety at his brother’s unnatural gait. “Thor. Are you alright? What did they do to you?”

Thor’s clouded gaze became alert at the sound of his voice – but not in a good way. The blue eyes gleamed with an unhealthy greed. Loki struggled anew when he saw the look on Thor’s face as the latter lumbered towards him like an inexorable force. The man he loved was nearly unrecognisable; a distorted doppelganger.

“Thor! Can you hear me? Thor!” His anxiety was growing into terror. “Answer me!”

“Brother.” The voice that emerged was guttural and devoid of affection. Of any feeling save mindless hunger. Surely those were not Thor’s hands bruising his flesh, holding his legs apart, pinning him down. This was not the playful game they were so fond of. No, this was a different, soulless creature.

He cried out as he was raped. It hurt infinitely more than what the eight dwarves had done to him years ago. It hurt because it was Thor – or someone who looked and felt like Thor. The cock slamming into him hard enough to make him bleed, the fingers choking his throat as a reaction to his thrashing, all of it was a nightmare. It had to be. This unfamiliar place was simply a dream. Any time now, he would wake up sweating and shivering and ache for Thor to curl up against in comfort. Thor lying in the next cell, his face gentle in slumber as it ever was.

Strangled to the point of blacking out, he was barely conscious of his brother spilling deep inside him. The next thing that brought him back to full awareness was Thor collapsing immediately after, the man’s full dead weight nearly crushing him. He gasped at the sharpness stabbing him in the side, knowing Thor had cracked one of his ribs.

Just as he was starting to long for death, the great weight was finally pulled off him. He caught a glimpse of Thor’s face – placid once more – as the latter was hauled away. Misery and confusion washed over him in waves.

A disembodied voice somewhere above his head was saying something soothing, patronizing. There was the whir of shifting machinery about him. Cold steel robotic fingers held his head in place as a mask was lowered over his mouth and nose, dulling his senses with cool bitter-sweet fumes. The platform he was bound to was beginning to move. The soothing voice informed him that he was being taken care of, that any damage would be undone. Everything was going to be alright.

Just before he succumbed to darkness, he remembered his reckless words: The next time they make us fuck, I hope I get to be awake for the full thing.

His heavy eyelids fell shut. It seemed he would live to regret his fool’s wish.

 

~

 

There were many perks to being promoted. Making difficult decisions about who was to be let go over an unfortunate incident was, Carina decided, not one of them. Not when it could so easily be her on the receiving end.

She read out the report again as if she had not memorized it word for word. “Acquisition 404, Rocket the Raccoon (Class B), escaped the facility on the 5th of New Ember, time unknown. Person held responsible: Gunt Ptero, Head Warden. Action taken: immediate termination.”

Lord Tivan waved a hand as a clear indication that the dismissal was of little consequence to him. Ptero was lucky that Lord Tivan was not in great need of entertainment. When that happened, ‘termination’ took on a more literal meaning.

Right now, Tivan was preoccupied with the state of his Asgardian sorcerer, who had returned from the Grandmaster’s after a mere fortnight in a state of accelerated pregnancy. He also, in Carina’s private opinion, did not look too good. The roundness of his belly, which appeared to be at least five months gravid, contrasted disturbingly with the fragile gauntness of the rest of him.

“I should never have agreed to the spawning,” her master was muttering as he left. “If this continues, I shall have him force-fed. It will be unpleasant – we may even risk losing the child, which may displease him…but…”

Carina knew that ‘him’ referred to the Grandmaster, the only being on the whole of Knowhere Tivan was obligated to. As far as she was concerned, he could go drown in a mine, the smarmy bastard.

She peeled her eyes away from the sorcerer and gazed instead at the opposite cage where his brother paced restlessly. It was no good getting attached to acquisitions, she reminded herself. The whole system is stacked against us. At least these two have claim to royalty. At least they have each other.

I have nothing, and no one.

She tapped the glass till the dark-haired prince showed signs of life. “I suggest you start eating properly,” she said. “If you lose that child, you lose your chance at freedom. Forever.”

The eyes that used to gleam like firegems were glazed, but their glare still had venom. “Fitting advice from the one who put me here in the first place.”

“We all have a job to do,” she replied flatly before turning away. Forget them, she thought. She had other things to do. Like brief the new Acquisition Agent, and hunt for a new Head Warden.

As she exited the museum sanctum and traversed the corridor leading to the outer chambers, she glanced habitually at the row of cam screens capturing crystalline views of every metre in Taneleer Tivan’s domain. A twitch in one of the screens caught her eye and made her stop.

She looked closer at the screen, then at the next one, and the next. Damn, they’re fast. As her finger hovered above her holo messenger to send an alert, she caught a clear glimpse of the intruder. Her eyes widened as she froze and whispered to no one:

“Finally.”

 

~

 

“You still won’t talk to me.”

“I just did.”

“You know what I mean, Loki.”

The painfully slender body curled away from him, and it hurt. It flayed him inside when every inch of Loki’s body language said Don’t hurt me. 

“I would apologize a thousand more times if it made any difference.”

A defeated sigh. “I didn’t ask for an apology.”

“Then why won’t you talk to m – ”

“Because I’m TIRED, Thor! Gods damn it, you can’t leave me alone for two minutes!” Loki’s face was twisted in fury, but Thor sensed that much of it was not directed at him. The outburst was as irrational as it was reactionary. A reaction to everything that had happened to them, and between them, the atrocity Thor had committed when his mind had been taken from him.

“Two minutes, then. If that’s what you need.” I’m not giving up on you.

Loki leaned back against the bedhead as if the brief outburst had left him drained. His listless, dead-eyed appearance was alarming. Thor wanted to rain down demands on him like a nagging parent, to keep up his strength, to not lose hope, to be the Loki he used to know and was now fading from his grasp. He seemed to have lost the will to live with every minute new life bloomed inside him. The irony frightened Thor.

After a long time, Loki said: “I thought to get rid of it, you know.”

“The baby?”

“I couldn’t.”

“Not even with your magic?”

“I mean, you dolt, I couldn’t. Not when it…” Loki paused as his shoulders went rigid and he hid his face behind a curtain of hair.

Thor allowed Loki his fit of pride, knowing full well there was a steady trickle of tears behind the curtain. After about a minute, Loki continued: “It’s part of you. Half yours as well as mine. It may have been forced on us, but the child is ours. Nothing will change that.”

“Ours. Our baby.” The realisation made him light-headed. “Loki. We have to find a way out. So we can raise our child, together.”

Loki’s downcast eyes lifted, red-rimmed and brimming anew. “I daren’t even think of the future. A future the child is unlikely to have.” He cradled his swollen belly. “It will be taken from me. Like everything else.”

Thor pounded the glass in front of him. “Not if I can help it.” He pounded it again, three times as hard, just to entertain a faint hope.

“Brute strength. How groundbreaking.” The sarcastic voice was not Loki’s – it came from the far end of the room.

Loki swung around, his defeated slump gone. “Rocket!”

Rocket’s grin turned into a bemused look. “I was barely gone for two weeks and you got yourself knocked up? Geez.”

Loki glared. “If you’d come sooner…”

“Yeah, yeah. You think it was easy for me to get this?” He dug into one of his mysteriously hidden pockets and produced a greyish blue glob of what looked like hardened glue. “The guy dragged his feet for ages until I gave him more money. Value of friendship ain’t what it used to be.”

“Fine. We’re grateful. What now?”

“I need you to tell me where the weakest hinges on these boxes are. I got a limited amount of this shit. Can’t stick it just anywhere, it’ll make more noise than damage.”

“I can’t project anything beyond this goddamned glass. Let me try…” Loki slowed his breathing until he felt his senses focus and project an invisible (except to him) mesh that covered the glass panes. He swept the surfaces carefully with his fingertips until he found a small break in the mesh. “There.”

Rocket slapped a small lump of the glue-like substance onto the spot. “Now for your buff boyfriend, who you can introduce to me later.”

“I can introduce myself, rabbit. My name is Thor.”

“Hey. I’m a raccoon. Rhymes with buffoon, which is what you are.”

“Quiet, two of you,” said Loki. He frowned as he held out his hands and projected the same mental net onto Thor’s cell, but the cage proved well-made: his force bounced repeatedly off the glass panes in an infuriating way. He growled with frustration. “Can’t you get me out first?”

“Listen, buddy, once these plastic bombs blow the alarms are gonna sound. When they go boom, we start running.”

“Plastic explosives?” Thor’s eyes lit up like a child’s. “I’ve heard of them; never seen them till now.”

“Shut up, Thor.” Focusing all his energy on getting the thinnest thread of magic through the weakest point where two glass panes met, he was just able to tickle the surface of his brother’s cell. Now he just needed to expand the thread into a network – not a full one, just enough to sense the most suitable spot for Rocket to place his bomb. Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead and shoulders.

A small part of him, the selfish little voice that never truly went away, told him to leave Thor behind. You can make it on your own – you’re strong enough. You were Asgardur’s greatest sorcerer. He pushed it away. Under other circumstances, he might have entertained it. But not now. They needed each other. And there was the child who needed them.

Besides, we’re twice as powerful together. We always were.

“Take your time, I’m sure my face is only on about half the cams in this place,” the raccoon muttered nervously.

Loki ignored him. He was starting to quiver from the effort of projecting his magic this far beyond the enchantment-proofed glass, which he realised was also draining him the more he pushed against it. “I can’t…wait…Wait. There.” He jabbed a finger. “Bottom left.” Rocket followed the trail of his finger. “Further…further. Yes.

Another glob of plastic went smack onto a hinge. At the same time, Thor called out in alarm. Loki felt a twinge of pain in his abdomen as he swayed and barely manage to break his fall.

“OK, you two wanna stand back for this.” Rocket positioned himself near the exit, whipped out a detonator and hit the button.

The sound was shockingly loud in the silent chamber – even if the result was underwhelming. But the few deep cracks in the glass was enough for Thor to shatter a whole pane with two whacks of a chair. Then the chair was swinging towards Loki’s cell. “Take cover!” Thor warned him before crashing the surface and raining shards of glass upon everything inside. “Hurry the fuck up!” Rocket yelled.

The next few moments passed in a blur. Loki felt Thor’s strong arms holding him up until he ceased wobbling on his feet. He decided to swallow his pride and allow it. The disorientation did not help his dizziness; the museum was a veritable maze. Rocket alone seemed impossibly familiar with the layout of the place until they realised he was navigating via a map on his tablet. “Where did you get that?” asked Thor.

“Insider connections.” Before he could explain further, they were stopped by the barrel of a gun pressed against Loki’s head.

“Alright. Hand over that tablet or I take him and the baby,” said Carina. Thor bristled protectively.

“Hey, easy there, Pink. I thought we were friends.” Rocket shoved the device at her. She took it, but didn’t lower the gun. “Attack me.”

Thor was confused. “What?”

She jabbed the barrel into Loki’s head. “One of you needs to attack,” she said through gritted teeth. “For the cams.”

“Right.” Loki raised his hand – a cold blast hit her in the face, and she went flying into the wall. “Sorry,” he said offhandedly.

She cradled her pounding head. “No you’re not.” To Rocket, she added: “You know where to go.”

He nodded. “Thanks, Pink.” He shoved the brothers along. “OK, let’s go, let’s go! No need for goodbyes, she’ll catch up later.”

“When did she switch sides?” asked Loki.

“Is anyone going to explain anything to me?” Thor added as they rounded a corner and met a locked door. Rocket punched in the security code; the entrance slid open and they made their way through a dim tunnel.

“Rocket and I have an arrangement,” said Loki. “He breaks me out, he gets to make use of my services for a...”

“A mission,” Rocket filled in with no small amount of glee. “Can’t tell you more, would have to kill you, et cetera.”

“What sort of services?” Thor could not help the disapproval creeping into his voice.

“Professional sorcery. What do you think, Thor?” Loki’s hiss was as venomous as it was hurt.

“I didn’t mean anything…”

“Oh, yes, I’m incredible at having cocks shoved inside me, why shouldn’t I get paid for – ”

“Loki, I didn’t mean that!”

Rocket cleared his throat. “Uhm, can I not hear about whatever happened while I was away – ”

“You watched, and you liked it!”

“I HATED EVERY SECOND and you KNOW IT – ”

“Guys! Keep it! The fuck. Down!” Rocket turned on them, eyes blazing. “Did you forget we’re in the process of trying not to get caught??” He hit the faintly glowing button in front of them, and dimness of the narrow corridor was replaced by a blinding spotlight and the sound of firearms. The museum’s security was flawed, but it seemed Tivan liked investing in artillery. What the guards lacked in vigilance they made up for by being loaded to the teeth.

“Okaaayy. Carina can’t break us out of this one.” Rocket bared his teeth and whipped out a pair of serrated blades.

“But we can.” Their clash forgotten for the moment, the brothers proceeded to tear a swathe through the armed guards, Loki deflecting bullets and projecting force-shields while Thor battered them down two by two. Within seconds the brutally brief battle was over. Rocket sheathed his still-clean knives in disbelief.

“You didn’t leave any for me,” he complained, barely holding back a grin.

“Maybe next time, rabbit.” Thor thumped him on the back. “Someone of your spirit is a treasured companion in battle.”

“I got more than spirit, muscle boy. You should meet me when I’m fully armed.”

“If we’re done congratulating ourselves, I suggest we move on.” Loki’s dry demeanour was betrayed by his strained gait. Thor caught him as he tripped. “You’re bleeding.”

“Only because I got sloppy.” Loki protested only mildly when Thor responded to the trail of blood running down his thigh from a bullet wound by sweeping him off his feet. Thor silenced his protest with a kiss.

“No one is going to touch you unless you want them to,” he whispered. “I’ll take care of you.”

“I can take care of myself,” Loki said half-heartedly before parting his lips for another kiss.

Rocket rolled his eyes and made puking sounds as he led them out. They ignored his disdain ardently.

 

~

 

It felt to Carina as if she had been passively planning this for the past two years, needing only someone to help push the button. The recurring fantasy of setting the place on fire – preferably with Tivan still in it – and never looking back. Sure, there was the issue of job security to consider, and all she had had to suffer just to be where she was. The raccoon didn’t exactly manage to convince her overnight.

It had, in fact, taken a day and a half to make up her mind.

She felt only a little sorry for having to give the Head Warden the boot when a scapegoat was needed for Rocket’s planned escape. (He had been a decent enough person, and she hoped his next career venture would be a more rewarding one.) What had seemed like an incident borne of negligence had in fact been orchestrated by a mishap that resulted in several key cams going off exactly half a minute before Rocket’s breakout. And then there was the sweat-inducing period after, waiting for him to return, checking the screens every hour like a habitual twitch.

But the anxiety and perpetual fear of being caught had been worth it in the end. When she stepped over the destroyed security force on her way out, she felt a twinge of sympathy for these dead grunts. The price for her freedom from tyranny. And from helping perpetuate it.

Carina slid a remote device from her pocket and squeezed the bright blue button. Behind her, the string of booms began as the carefully placed explosives went off, growing louder and louder like a tidal wave. Debris rained down upon her, dusting her hair, leaving fine cuts on her bared skin. She cherished every speck of it.

From a distance she saw two figures impatiently waiting. Well, three: Loki was in the warrior’s arms, looking quite content to be there despite his pale face and bleeding leg.

“Took you long enough,” said Rocket. They exchanged a wry smile that said what words would have less effectively. Two selfish, friendless people were bound by having played a part in each other’s liberation, and felt themselves a little bit richer for it.

“So. What next? Do Loki and Blake here have a plan?”

“It’s not Blake. It’s Thor, of Asgardur.” He smiled. “Loki and I…”

“…have a history,” Loki finished. His hand rested on his belly as if to say, And a future.

“Well, I have a ship. Tivan’s ship, but he can ride a dick from now on.” They followed her gaze to a handsome silver vessel parked a stone and a half’s throw from the wreckage they had left behind.

As they mounted the ship, Rocket’s ever-sharp eyes darted to the small bejewelled dagger hanging from Loki’s kilt. “Nice knife. Wedding gift?”

Thor fumbled for a suitably brief explanation. Loki cut him off decisively. “It is now.”

“Well, congratulations. Way to kick off the adventures of Rocket and the Rocketeers!”

There was a wave of objections to the name that he brushed aside with a wave. “We can argue about what to call ourselves later.”

“Loki needs medical attention,” Thor interjected.

“All the more reason to blow this joint fast. Move aside, muscle boy. I’m driving.”

By the time Taneleer Tivan and the Grandmaster arrived at the pile of rubble formerly known as the Collector’s Museum, all that was left of their trail was a fading silver streak in the sky.

 

*