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The first time it happened Loki jerked his head with rapid blinks so he was somewhat proper awake in time before sleep could take him. He looked at the man opposite the table from him; Mobius still had his nose buried in those piles of files, he didn't notice him... dozing off.

Loki pressed his lips into a thin line as he picked up some random file, one of the many scattering in front of him, to pretend to be invested in. His head was killing him, his eyelids never felt so heavy, and his vision was blurry that all the letters seemed to melt together, making it almost impossible for him to focus and read. (And when he tried to focus and read, it resulted in the doubling of his headache, which led to him failing to understand a sentence he'd just read) Loki suppressed a yawn, then, and slightly shook the file in his hands once, like that would make him more awake, more alert and less like what the people of earth called a zombie.

Though the fact the task at hands being oh-so boring hadn't helped boost his energy up. He had always been better than Thor at paperwork, true, but those were the time when he, still as a prince, actually got decent sleep schedule where he didn't have to worry if his closing his eyes and letting his guard down meant someone would take advantage of that and kill him on the spot or worse.

He hadn't had any proper sleep in so long, ever since Thanos...

(Loki gulped as the memories stubbornly crawled its way up the back of his mind, tried as he might to bury it deep and never think of it again)

He was... exhausted, the bags under his eyes proved that, but sleep was not an option. To sleep, to rest, meant lowering his guard to nonexistent. There were people who meant him harm, everywhere he went there were enemies lurking in the corners, waiting for a perfect opportunity when he was weak, and he couldn't give them that. Wouldn't.

Loki took another glance at Mobius, like he was trying to tell if the man was waiting for him to doze off, to let his guard down. Although it seemed his company was genuinely interested in what he was reading and nothing else, Loki was never the one to trust. To trust was to make oneself vulnerable.

He made a low growl in his throat, flipping through the pages of the file in his hands like he was still here, like he hadn't lost his focus long ago and his very consciousness was on the verge of shutting down on its own.

His vision kept narrowing down. During the first couple times he fought them, but he could only fight so much. The next time it happened Loki felt his head loll downward, and he knew he should be snapping himself out of it, he knew he was losing the battle.

Part of him wanted to close his eyes and just let go. Whatever were to happen, he wouldn't care anymore. He just wanted... this, this rest, no matter how short, no matter how little. He was so tired, so exhausted. His body felt like it'd been drained out of energy.

He just wanted to let go.

If Mobius were to kill him in his sleep. But Mobius wouldn't... Mobius was... different. Although Loki had only known the man for a short period of time, there was something different about him.

Don't tell me you're starting to trust him. After all that has happened to you, haven't you learned a single thing about trust? How stupid it is to trust. They all want to hurt you, Loki.

You can trust no one.

He was tired of it all, tired of running, tired of fighting. Tired of knowing he truly had no one he could turn to.

Just a little, Loki told himself. Just for five minutes, that was all he asked.

He closed his eyes eventually, letting darkness swallow him whole, letting consciousness slip away.

Just for five minutes. That's all.

"I thought I didn't say you could sleep?"

Loki jerked his head upward, blinking. Mobius was looking at him from across the table, and he looked pissed, which was.... understandable, he supposed.

Loki rolled his eyes, though he already felt the heat on his face as the feeling of being caught rose up somewhere within him, the hint of embarrassment that he, himself, didn't understand.

I didn't mean to, he would say, but that would be an excuse, and he didn't need one, simply because he didn't need to explain himself to a mortal like Mobius.

So he murmured something under his breath instead and went to pretend to be looking at whatever it was they were searching for.

He stopped, however, when he heard something. "What did you just say?" Loki lifted up his gaze to fully look at Mobius.

"I said you're pathetic, Loki. A weakling. No wonder why everybody abandoned you,"

Loki's face was itches away from Mobius' in a blink of an eye, his hands in tight fists around Mobius' collar. And if look could kill. "Do not cross me," he said, hissed, his breathing hot on his lips and he knew Mobius felt that on his, too.

Although Mobius simply chuckled, something about that sounded disturbing in Loki's ears, it made him want to crawl away and hide somewhere.

Pathetic. A weakling.

He snarled instead. Although fear displayed vividly in his eyes, and he hated himself for showing that, for proving Mobius right.

Mobius laughed. Loki felt goosebumps creeping down his skin, he tried to ignore that, to stay intimidating, but the defiant look Mobius was giving him was making him uneasy.

"Wow," he said. "You really are a failure, huh?"

"Stop it," Loki hissed, his hands on Mobius' collar were starting to shake uncontrollably.

"Laufey left you do die. Odin stole you because you're a relic to him, not a son, never was."

"Stop that. Stop." Loki let go of his collar. His voice shook, cracked.

"You are nothing. I bet Thor's over the moon right now that you're out of his life."

"No. You lied, you lied." Loki took a step backward as Mobius stood up from his seat. Suddenly he felt small, trapped, weak.

"You were born to cause pain and suffering and death. That's how it is, that's how it was, that's how it will be. Everybody knows that. Thor knows that,"

"Shut up," Loki wanted to shout, to yell, his voice came out small and pathetic. Like a child.

Mobius took his steps forward, Loki backed away.

"Can you name just one time where you didn't fuck things up, hmm? Just one,"

Loki gulped. He felt tears well up in his eyes, and he hated that. He was struggling so hard not to let it show on his face, not to let his hands tremble, but Mobius' words burnt right through his chest. A failure. Pathetic. Weak.

I bet Thor's over the moon right now that you're out of his life.

He looked the other way when a tear roll down his face, hot and burning. And he thought he'd never felt so ashamed.

When Mobius charged at him it was sudden, unexpectedly. Loki only had half a second to process what was happening before he found himself pinned between the wall behind and Mobius' face so close to his. The impact and the unexpected of it all knocked the breath out of him for a moment.

The eyes that were boring hole through his skull, murderous and nothing like the man who, just for a short moment, Loki was stupid enough to even consider he might be a friend, his first friend who wasn't Thor.

But was Thor ever his friend? Were they even brothers?

I'm not your brother. I never was, those were Loki's own words.

"You are a burden. A failure. Unwanted. Unloved. A monster." Mobius said, and it was true. Loki knew it was true.

"Please," before he knew it he was choking on his tears, feeling like he couldn't breathe.

"You are nothing but a monster, Loki. A murderer." Mobius wasn't yelling, but his words cut deeper than any knife could.

"A disgusting beast,"

"Please, stop."

"Better off dead,"

"No, don't,"

"Loki,"

"Please!"

"Loki,"

"I'm sorry, I --"

"Loki..."

"Loki!"

Loki woke with a start, jerking his head up from the desk with his tear-stained face. He blinked, trying to process what was happening. When he looked around his eyes were wide still, and he was still shaking. He was... confused. Because suddenly Mobius wasn't in his face and he didn't have his back against a wall but still seated on the same spot, piles of files on the desk in front of him.

And Mobius, Mobius was standing next to him, his hand still on Loki's shoulder. But he looked... different, for he didn't look murderous or intimidating, but... Loki looked at him now, still a bit lost, Mobius looked... worried.

"I can tell you could use some rest," he was saying now. "That's why I didn't wake you up when you dozed off, but you... uhh... you were crying in your sleep."

He was still crying, tears kept falling, but at least he was beginning to cool down. Or, he wasn't shaking, not anymore.

How pathetic, Loki thought. Whatever he expected to happen next -- and Loki expected a lot of things; Mobius mocking him being one of the highest possibilities -- it wasn't Mobius kneeling down so they were somewhat eye level, although Mobius now had to tile his head upward a bit, and looking at him with that look, that look of kind and concern and understanding. Anything but the mockery which Loki had expected.

"Do you wanna talk about it?" He asked, and his voice was soft, sincere, comforting even. His hand moved down to rest on Loki's knee and that, too, was comforting.

"I don't... I don't..." Loki said, or he heard himself say. He was still tired. He didn't really know what was happening, what Mobius was trying to get out of him, but it had to be something, right? Something he wanted from Loki, which was why he was nice.

Do you wanna talk about it, the question was simple.

But there were so many, so many things left unsaid that Loki was afraid it'd shatter him, if he were to start addressing them aloud.

He never talked about it to anybody. Not Thor, and, Loki supposed, not Mobius, not when he'd only just known the man.

Even if there was something about the man that reminded him of Thor, the unexplainably feeling that made Loki feel like he could trust him, that Mobius wasn't going to hurt him the way everybody else was.

And a sob escaped his lips once, but it was embarrassing, pathetic.

"Hey," Mobius said, grabbing Loki's attention so their eyes locked. "It's okay. You don't have to talk about it, that's okay, too."

Why, Loki wanted to ask. Because he thought Mobius wanted to hear them, those stories, so he could gather what information he wanted from Loki, from his trauma.

He was wordless now, or he was afraid of how his voice might break, the more he spoke.

There was another moment before Mobius stood back up. Loki thought he was going back to his seat to resume his work, but the man simply said, "Follow me, come on," with a beckoning of his hand.

Loki was confused now, more confused than he was during the first five seconds after he woke up. But he stood, wiped away his tears and followed Mobius behind, wherever he'd lead him.

 

______________________________

 

"Where are you taking me this time?" He asked, walking down the hallway with the other man.

"Just follow me," was all Mobius said.

If it was anyone else, Loki knew, he would have fled. He should be running now, the rational part of him voiced. But he, as crazy as it was, didn't think Mobius was going to hurt him. Why, Loki wouldn't know.

He stopped when Mobius did. There was a room at the end of the corridor, the door was closed. Locked, Loki inspected as he watched Mobius open it with his keycard.

"Is this where you kill me?" He asked again.

Mobius didn't answer. Instead he opened the door and Loki looked inside, it was dark. But not for long, once Mobius walked in he turned on the light and Loki, still lingering outside, saw an actual decent room with three long couches, a minibar and a TV. The light, too, was dim enough it gave out relaxing vibes.

So it wasn't another office like any other of the rooms he'd been put into.

"Come on," Mobius' voice broke him out of his trance. Loki followed, closing the door behind.

There was no one here except for them. And frankly, Loki still hadn't figured why Mobius took him here.

Mobius, on the other hand, had already made himself comfortable on one of the couches while Loki stood awkwardly in the middle of the room.

"What is this, Mobius?" He asked. It'd be somewhat predictable, if Mobius were to start trying to kill him. This? Loki hadn't expected this, and he had no idea why they were here.

"Come here," Mobius beckoned.

"Pardon?"

"Just come here, Loki. Jeez, haven't you known already that I'm not going to bite?"

Loki fought an urge to roll his eyes and did as he was told. He sat on the couch next to Mobius, keeping a reasonable distance between them, waiting for Mobius to say something, why they were hear when last time Loki checked, they were supposed to be working.

"Tell me," Mobius said. "When was the last you had a proper sleep?"

"Why does it matter?" Loki furrowed his brows, trying to make sense of it all.

"Because you look half dead, Loki. Now, answer my question."

"A very long time ago," he said. A lifetime ago.

"Yeah, that's what I thought,"

And before Loki could ask Mobius what the hell he was doing, he was being pulled, not harshly, not in a way that felt like he was being attacked, but more like Mobius was trying to guide his body down on his lap.

"What are you doing?" Loki said, a hint of panic in his voice.

Which was Mobius' turn to roll his eyes, like it wasn't obvious, like Loki had asked such a stupid question. He retracted his hand from the god's shoulder, "You need sleep, Loki. You look half dead, I just told you,"

"No, I don't --"

"Don't argue with me on this," Mobius cut him off. "You can't sleep because you're afraid someone will hurt you in your sleep, isn't that right?"

Loki was... caught off guard. How did he know? How --

"How did I know?" Mobius chuckled slightly, like he could read his mind. "It's really not that hard to figure out, really. I told you I've been studied almost every moment of your entire life. I know you better than you know you," he said, like that was the most normal thing to say.

"You don't want to sleep alone, I get that." Mobius added when Loki remained silent. "Which is why I'll be here, making sure nothing can hurt you. Would that be cool?"

"But..." Loki tried searching for the right words. Mobius' hand returned to his shoulder, starting to ease him down and this time, Loki didn't protest. "But what about your... task, finding my variant,"

"It can wait. Right now, you need sleep," Mobius spoke in that voice again, that soft, soothing voice.

When Loki's head reached the man's lap he felt a sudden urge to close his eyes, to curl up into a ball and just let go.

But he couldn't. Couldn't make himself vulnerable.

"It's okay," Mobius said, again, like he could read his mind. "I'm not going to hurt you, alright? You really could use some sleep, Loki."

"Why?" Loki eventually asked, looking up to meet his eyes and feeling surprisingly small.

"I just told you why," Mobius chuckled, it was gentle, caring.

"No, why... why are you this... for me?" What do you want in return?

Mobius sighed. "You deserve a break. I know, you know, when I asked about the last time you had a proper sleep, it was when you still lived in Asgard palace, which was... a damn lifetime ago. A sleep where you didn't have to worry someone was going to kill you in your sleep or worse."

Loki gulped. He said nothing, and Mobius continued, "I know I can't give you that comfort your home gave, but the best I could offer is be here, guarding you so you don't have to worry about anyone coming in here and hurting you. I mean... no one is going to do that here, but I won't mind staying, if that makes you feel at least a little better. I know you don't trust me, and you don't have any reason to, but... I'm not gonna hurt you and I'm not gonna let anybody hurt you, so you can have your nice, proper sleep here."

Loki opened his mouth, nothing came out. He turned on his side, still using Mobius' lap as a pillow. When he felt Mobius' hand on his hair, running softly through it he closed his eyes.

"I don't understand," he said aloud, feeling like a child, but he was simply too tired to care.

Mobius was supposed to be cruel. He was supposed to be cruel just like everybody else.

But the hand that was playing with his hair felt nice, comforting, like what Frigga used to do when he was little. And it was the first non-violent touch Loki had ever since... it'd been so long, Loki felt that lump in his throat return now. It'd been so long since someone touched him without the intention to hurt, to draw blood, but with love and care.

"It's okay," Mobius said, his voice was soothing. "You can sleep, it's okay now,"

Maybe it is okay, the childish part of Loki thought. He curled up into a ball on the other man's lap, feeling his hand in his hair.

"I'll be here when you wake up," Mobius added as he began massaging Loki's scalp with just enough pressure. And it felt comforting. Loki never wanted that hand to go away.

He, in the end, allowed himself to let go. Mobius' humming softly and playing with his hair being the last thing he heard and felt before finally drifting off.

And he, for the first time in so long, felt safe.