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Masked Yearnings

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Loki was a child. Much younger than Thor and without many friends to call his own. His older brother had been bragging about getting his first kiss with a pretty maiden.

All too soon, all the other Aesir he spent time with had stolen or gained their own kiss from a girl. Loki was the only one who hadn’t. He’d scrunched his nose originally, not seeing the point. He’d turned back to his books.

But quickly, it had become one more thing to tease him about. One more thing to laugh at him over. It had quickly found him brooding until the one boy whom he called a friend had found him.

Anthony was the son of a lesser Lord and it made him uninteresting to Thor or the other higher-ranking noble's children. But Loki liked him because he laughed at Loki’s tricks and asked about his books.

“What is wrong, Loki?” Anthony had asked, dropping down beside him. “Has Prince Thor been mean again?”

A scowl had crossed his face as if he’d wanted to find the prince and protect Loki’s honour, it was an act that had always caused Loki to smile. But, today it hadn’t.

“They are teasing me because I have not kissed anyone,” Loki had admitted, willing to tell Anthony anything.

Anthony had blinked before he’d laughed and shook his head.

“Well, that’s a silly thing to tease over!”

He’d ducked his head and before Loki could react, Anthony’s lips had pressed against his own. He’d pulled back, still smiling.

“See! Now they can’t tease you over that anymore!”

Anthony had been bright with triumph, having solved the problem. Loki’s fingers had come up to brush his lips that still tingled. His eyes were wide and his stomach had… flipped. He hadn’t understood it at the time.

Decades – centuries later, Loki was not so oblivious.

He’d kissed dozens of men and women over the years, but none were so precious to him as that first kiss. That… only kiss with Anthony Howardson.

The man whom he, well, loved. Yet, the word did not seem strong enough for what he felt. The pure dedication, unwavering loyalty, deep yearning and constant desiring.

Oh, Loki was well and truly devoted to Anthony and if that friendly, absent kiss had proven anything, it was that no matter how many years had passed, no matter the men they’d grown into, to Anthony, he would always be a friend.

And Loki did not regret his friendship with Anthony. He adored his support and trust. He knew he would feel incredibly alone without the man in his life.

And that was why he had never voiced his realisation. His love was… encompassing. Loki wasn’t oblivious to the different way he expressed his feelings. He loved with everything. His adoration could be obsessive and possessive. He also knew, if Anthony rejected him, no matter how kindly, it would break him.

And he did not… trust himself with how he would react. He would lash out at Anthony; he didn’t think he could help it. Like a wounded animal, he would want to feel as if he had some control.

And that would damage their friendship. Something he couldn’t risk.

But Loki equally knew he would never love another for as long as he loved Anthony, and he had no interest in a relationship that did not contain his heart.

Loki knew his thoughts and actions put him at odds with the Aesir. They didn’t know half of what he felt and even if they did, Loki knew it would be one more peculiarity between him and the other Aesir. They might even find his feelings abhorrent.

It was safer to take lovers in secrecy. To find people whom did not know his name or face and merely sought a body to give something of what they were lacking.

Loki had stumbled upon the inn by accident. It was run by a man who was half Aesir, half Vanir. The concept was simple yet deeply strange on Asgard. Despite this, it was a popular spot. Whomever entered must wear a mask and had no obligation to give a name. Most people lied.

It was a place to release the burdens of one’s life and indulge in mindless, simple intimacy without the consequences or courtship of everyday life.

To Loki, it was a place to get what his body sought without having to know the one whom he laid with – and if he specifically chose shorter, tanned men. Well, that was his business.

Whenever he entered the inn, he always masked his voice with seidr. He also altered his appearance on occasion along with the mask he wore. He did not want anyone to gain even an inkling of whom he was or what his preferences might indicate.

Tonight, he came as himself. Or, as much of himself as he ever dared to show. He knew his body type and build would be too obvious. It was why his current mask obscured his face and hair. He had also darkened his skin tone and chosen simple clothing with minimal colour. He knew without his distinct paleness and dark hair; he could pass as an average Aesir.

The inn was fairly busy this evening, he had already gained interest from a few men and women, but he had so far declined them. He had a specific type and none of them had fit the profile that he sought. More than once, Loki had come to the inn only to leave without taking a lover. He had returned to his rooms and sought pleasure alone.

Once, many decades ago, he had been embarrassed to see Anthony after such nights. But he grew to accept that his… unorthodox methods protected their friendship. What Anthony did not know, would not harm him.

Sighing softly over thoughts of the other man, Loki tried to push his longing aside. It would do him no good here. From his place against the wall, Loki scanned the room again, feeling disappointed that he would be retiring to his chambers alone.

He decided to give it another few minutes. It had not yet passed the point where most regulars entered the inn.

Although it was a place with minimal security, an Aesir did stand at the door refusing people without a mask entry. It was what had made Loki curious to step inside. It had been a surprise for him until he had understood the nature of the place.

The room was dark to add to the illusion of intimacy and to aid with anonymity. There were tables but they lacked food or drinks. They were rarely occupied for long as once partners were selected, they immediately left for one of the many rooms down the halls or on the upper levels, stopping only long enough to grab a key from the innkeeper.

The price for entrance was the standard fare for a night in any inn. It was, perhaps, a steep price when one could leave empty-handed or after only spending a few hours inside. But to the patrons, the many benefits far outweighed the price of gold.

When the door opened but only three women entered, Loki refrained from another sigh. He shifted, planning to leave when the door opened a second time. He glanced at the newcomer with initial disinterest but it quickly changed.

The man was… perfect.

Loki had made allowances with the many lovers he had taken, knowing none could truly match the one he wanted. This man came the closest. He was muscled without being obscene. His skin was a dark tan and he wore a vest and leather pants, showcasing his muscles. He had brunet hair, but where Anthony’s was artfully styled, these locks fell softly around the man’s head. His mask was one of the painted wooden ones often exported from Alfheim for the purpose of this inn. They were tied with white ribbon behind the head and this mask was done with a painted forest design.

Loki’s mask was of a similar nature but had a headdress in navy for hiding one’s hair. His mask was also wooden but painted with blues and white to mimic the sky. His gaze was locked on the newcomer and it did not take long for the man to sense his attention. He looked over at Loki and he watched as the man looked him up and down. Loki’s breath held, wondering if he would be of interest.

He seemed he was as the man barely hesitated to cross the room and stand before him. Loki licked his lips behind the mask. The man was a little taller than he liked, but for a man so close to the one he coveted, Loki did not care.

They stood quietly for a long moment, and Loki realised that he would need to be the one to speak. He’d met a few men who did not want to talk for fear of being recognised. Tonight, his seidr gave him a deep, rough voice without his usual refinement.

“Do I interest you?” he questioned.

The man nodded. He also very slowly tilted his head to the side. Loki felt a surge of delight. The man was a regular. He knew some of the coded languages for those who preferred to keep silent. He had just given his request to be the taken partner.

“Good,” Loki said. “That matches my preference.”

The man held out his hand and Loki’s lips quirked from behind his mask. He had not held many hands in his time, but he found himself willing to indulge it. He grasped the man’s palm, feeling a fresh delight at noticing they were roughened by labour. It was another tantalising hint of Anthony.

He knew it was folly, of course. Loki had long since given up searching for hints of the weaponsmith under the masks of patrons. He’d also admitted long ago, that should his friend enter the establishment he would never be able to have him in secret.

It would be a betrayal too far and Loki could never lie to Anthony in that way.

But, a handsome stranger with a few lucky similarities? Loki would happily take his fill.

The shorter Aesir led him over to the innkeeper. He was the only one unmasked and he nodded to them before discreetly passing the shorter man a key. He looked at the item before leading him towards the stairs. Loki was pleased, he preferred the upper rooms as they gave an additional sense of privacy.

They were silent as they slipped deeper into the building. Their door was only the third from the landing and the man unlocked it and pulled it open. The room was spartan but clean and lit by the glow of candles. It had a bed, a small chest at the foot and a bathing station atop a wooden table. Loki knew from experience that all the necessary items for coupling would be within the chest.

The man tugged him further into the room and Loki shut and locked the door before complying. They stopped beside the bed and Loki looked at the man whom would soon be his lover. He really did look perfect. Loki could not believe his luck and he was glad he had not left early tonight.

Pulling his hand from the man’s grip, Loki slid it up the man’s muscled arm. He smiled beneath his mask, feeling a little saddened the way he always did before these encounters started. For a moment, it would remind him of everything he couldn’t have – of the futility of his actions.

His longing and love would never amount to anything. His encounters with men of similar bodies would never sate him. His obsessive affections were being managed, yes, but it was nothing but a temporary act.

Because Anthony Howardson might as well be a realm away from him.

And that was why he scavenged his illusionary nights with make-believe weaponsmiths. At least, unlike illusions or clones, he could never fully forget that he was without his love. The faceless mask would always make him remember.

A touch to his wrist drew him from his dark thoughts. The man’s head was tilted in obvious question. Loki scowled at himself. He did not usually get so drawn into his thoughts as to forget his surroundings.

But this man… well, he was by far the most accurate lover he had ever found. Perhaps it made sense for his mind to wander. It always did lock so entirely on Anthony whenever he was in the man’s presence. Anthony was all he saw, and while this man was not whom he wanted, it brought his friend more readily to mind.

Enough. You are not here to think woefully of Anthony. You are here to gain some manner of release.

Choosing not to answer the man’s unasked question, Loki touched the laces of the man’s vest before beginning to unlace them. His lover grasped Loki’s own clothes. The man’s fingers were deft and Loki had a flash of memory, seeing Anthony use twine to wrap the brown paper which packaged his completed commissions.

But Loki shook off the memory.

As was common with regulars, they had both worn clothing easy to remove off one’s shoulders so as not to disrupt their masks. Their clothing fell to the ground and Loki admired the man’s well-defined chest. He skimmed his fingers along the muscle. It had not seen many battles; he couldn’t help but note. There were very few scars.

Loki knew Anthony was lucky to not carry many thanks, in many parts, to Loki’s quick healing. The smallest graze had Loki immediately at his side, using seidr to remove even the smallest blemish. Once, Loki had all but bled himself dry saving Anthony from a chest wound. It had healed without a scratch, but Loki has been… ferocious in his devastation of the enemy.

He was glad Anthony was unconscious for most of it and had not seen the extent of what his seidr would do when Loki believed someone had killed his love.

A curious touch to his chest jerked Loki from his thoughts. They had wandered again and he was furious with himself. He was not usually so distractable. He firmed his thoughts and went back to caressing the man’s chest. His lover copied and slowly, Loki felt the heat of desire beginning to form.

Choosing a masked lover was not for everyone. Some enjoyed the mystery and that in itself was amorous enough. Loki kept his gaze averted to the body beneath him. Slowly, their chests both began to colour as their breathing got heavier.

Loki ran his hand down to cup the man between his legs. His lover gasped and gripped Loki’s arms. He rocked into Loki’s touch and Loki smirked and began to massage the man’s cock in earnest. The soft panting and small sounds were enough to deepen Loki’s own desire. When he pressed his palm flat against the growing arousal, it prompted a low groan from the man.

Loki stilled. A small frown forming as something caught at his mind. The sound… it had been so close.

No, you are hearing things.

Loki swallowed, feeling a little off-kilter. He hoped it did not show as he pulled back his hand if only to begin unlacing the man’s pants. The hands on his arms stroked his skin. His lover’s fingers making small circular patterns.

Loki paused again.

He remembered a time a century ago when he’d been unwell and laying sick in bed. Anthony had snuck into his rooms and sat beside him. He’d read stories to him and rubbed his fingers in small, comforting circles over Loki’s back until he’d fallen asleep.

Circles are common. Do not seek out things that are not there.

Loki tried to push aside his strange discomfort, but even as he brought his hand back to the man’s clothed cock, Loki’s gaze was flicking over the man in front of him, feeling a growing sense of dread.

He couldn’t bring himself to pull the man’s erection free, he massaged it instead, squeezing the head and then – then the man groaned.

And Loki froze.

His heart dropped down to his stomach and he knew. He knew.

“Anthony,” he whispered.

It was the man’s turn to go stiff. He let Loki go as if he was burned and stepped backwards. The actions proved it and before Loki could think it through. He was reaching for his mask and pushing it up. The man - Anthony stilled.

Loki?” he asked, shocked. He also pushed up his mask.

Realising his seidr was still cloaking his voice, he finished the spell and answered, “Yes. I-yes.”

Loki didn’t know what else to say. He had been… he was touching Anthony. They were each half-naked and they were aroused. Loki’s chest ached with yearning. He wanted to pull Anthony into his arms, finish what they started – kiss him. Oh, he wanted to kiss him.

“You’re a regular here,” Anthony whispered.

“So are you,” Loki replied, feeling defensive.

And by the Norns, how many times had Loki missed him? How many years had he been within touching distance?

Anthony’s brow was furrowed as he looked at Loki.

“Your skin’s darker.”

“I-yes,” Loki let the illusion drop. “I did not want people to know me.” Loki looked at Anthony more critically. “Your shoes are higher.”

“I do not have seidr.” Anthony smiled wryly and mimicked his words, “And I did not want people to know me.”

They fell silent and Loki did not know what to say or do. What could he say or do? They had each sought anonymity but their guises had been discovered. The thought of going back out into the inn - of seeing Anthony go back out and choose another was enough to make his blood boil with possessiveness, jealousy and rage.

There was a reason he did not linger long at feasts when Anthony started dancing with others. He knew himself too well and he would not cause a scene that would only end in an angry row or a disclosure of what he felt.

“What do we do now?” Anthony asked.

Loki had many answers but he didn’t feel daring or safe enough to say any of them.

“I do not know,” Loki admitted instead.

Anthony glanced away. He bit his lip and Loki felt deeply afraid that something was about to be ruined.

It already is.

Because how could he return to the inn knowing Anthony came here? When the men and women beside him could be lovers of the man he wanted? When any moment now, Anthony could realise why Loki had chosen a man so like his friend.

But before he could truly begin to panic or feel the depth of his desolation, Anthony started to speak.

“Loki, I… I think I’m going to make a mistake. But this is… and we were…” He shook his head. “Norns, damn it.”

Anthony abruptly and fully yanked off his mask and tossed it onto the bed. He closed the distance between them. Loki’s eyes widened, but he barely had time to feel confused before Anthony’s hands were cupping his cheeks and he was being tugged down into a kiss.

A kiss from Anthony.

Loki moaned lowly and before he could curb his instincts, he was wrapping his arms around Anthony’s waist and hauling the shorter man closer. Anthony gave a startled sound but Loki just deepened the kiss. He all but growled into it as he tried to get them as close as possible. Anthony moaned against his mouth. His fingers tried to slip into Loki’s hair but when he couldn’t, he yanked at the mask. It pulled at Loki’s hair and he hissed as it was finally sent clattering to the floor – but he didn’t break their mouths apart.

He couldn’t. Oh, he couldn’t.

Since his childhood he’d craved another kiss from Anthony and finally, it was his.

Loki even used a burst of seidr, giving them air when they should have long parted, he just wanted it to last longer. But not even magic could keep them together forever. They broke apart with harsh pants. Anthony was all but leaning against him and Loki had locked his arms in a fiercely possessive hold.

There was a rumble that was building in his chest, something that made him want to claim Anthony in some primal show of possession. Loki had to fight desperately to push the urge back down so it wouldn’t discomfort his friend.

Breathing in deeply to try and calm himself down, he only ended up breathing in the scent of his friend’s bathing products. He closed his eyes and buried his nose in the man’s hair. Anthony let out a small, almost disbelieving laugh.

“Well,” he said, sounding almost giddy, “I believe this means you can find me attractive.”

Loki pulled back, feeling surprised.

“Anthony,” he murmured, staring at his friend.

There were so many things he could say, so many easy declarations to give, but after so many decades with the clawing need under his skin - the desperation to have and claim. It made the confession spill out with the pure honesty only this man had ever inspired.

“I have been in love with you for years,” he whispered. “Of course, I am attracted to you.”

Anthony’s eyes widened and Loki’s heart pounded. He also held Anthony tighter, instinctively fearing his love might be taken away, that after even gaining a glimmer of what he felt, the weaponsmith might run.

But instead, his Anthony smiled.

He laughed again and tangled his fingers further in Loki’s hair. He then brought their foreheads together.

“Oh good,” he said. “I’m glad I’m not the only one completely in love.”

And this time, it was Loki’s turn to grin. He also kissed Anthony again, needing to do it – to catch up on a lifetime of being unable to touch and have the one he loved. And Anthony kissed him back.

It was not the light-hearted, absent kisses of childhood. These were promises – driven by love and passion, and although Loki still did not feel ready to release the dark depths of his adoration to the light of day – this was… good.

For the first time in decades, the clawing, possessive part of him felt content. Anthony had accepted him and claimed him in return. Their time as regulars of the inn had come to a close - and if Loki had any say, Anthony would not be leaving his bed chambers or arms for a number of days.

There were centuries worth of intimacy for them to catch up on, and it would start with another very thorough kiss.