He first becomes aware of him when he feels a charge shiver along the smooth skin at the apex of his spine. It’s light, little more than a prickling of the fine hairs there. But his head snaps up, a wolf scenting its prey with a certainty so unerring as to be innate.
The two guards react, but not to the same cue that has summoned Loki to arms. It is simply that they have become accustomed to his stillness, to his constant watchfulness. They do not like to see his vision go distant and his limbs languid even as he begins to move, to prowl the limited space of his cell.
The leftmost takes a step closer to the glass, fingers curling closer about the thick shaft of his automatic weapon. Loki’s eyes pass over him, over the other – then, he stares right though them. He always has. They are little more than insects, or the carrion upon which such miserable lifeforms feed. But often he had pretended that he has fallen even below the level upon which they exist. It is all part of the game.
There is no need for such pretence, now. Not when the hunt has been roused. The time has come to remind them of what they have forgotten, to let the fear bleed hot into their limbs in those final seconds before fright turns to flight. Only then can the prey at last understand that death is the shadow he has cast over them from the very beginning.
“What are you doing in there?” the one to the right asks, and Loki turns. His skin thrums with the distant static of the charging air, the signal yet faint. Every passing second strengthens it, a low hum resonant with the quickstep of his heart.
“Wouldn’t you like to know.” He purrs the words, hoarse and raw; he does not need to see the eyes behind the foolish mask to know they have widened. “Tell me, mortal, have you ever stood at the heart of a storm and felt it rip your flesh from your bones, rend your mind from your soul, and take everything that you are deep within its centre so that it might know you even as you move through every inch of its own writhing self?”
The first tilts uneasily towards the second. “He’s talking crazy again.”
“Doesn’t he always?” That voice is admirably steady. Loki can feel the tremor beneath it all the same, disturbed earth just waiting for the amplified aftershock. “Call it in.”
“Do so,” he says, careless. “Call your impotent words even to the sky, if you must. It’s not listening.” When he looks at them then, really looks, Loki shivers with the pleasured realisation that they wish he hadn’t. “At least, not to creatures like you.”
His head tilts back, quite of its own volition; the air feels thick, lanced with threads of potential energy that latch about his fingers his wrists his ankles his throat like the strings of a willing marionette. Laughter bubbles up from low in his roiling stomach. He keeps it to himself. It is twisting, it is building – but it is not yet ready to be borne first upon the wind and then across this world that reeks of mortality, stinks of death. Such a world has held Loki too long. Now it can wait upon his grace. It will wait until he is ready.
“For now I live again,” he whispers, lips curved. The sensation of the coming only grows with each second, and with it the mortals become ever more uneasy. Conversing amongst themselves, their low voices are little more than the uneasy shivering of dry grass in a rising wind.
Turning from them, his feet echo the slow step of a cruising stormfront: deliberate, inevitable, Loki moves across the floor without pause. This is a time of motion. Before he has always favoured stillness. It gives him time to think, to order the crawling chaos of his trickster’s mind. In perpetual motion thought must always come second and for that it can never be his preferred state; his mind is his weapon and contemplation is its whetstone. Blind action has always been the way of his born opposite, the other side of the coin his father had weighted against him.
But sometimes, he understands. Sometimes, he feels it too – the sharpening beat of a heart with each breath coming in rapid accompanying pulse, limbs suffused with a lazy strength that cannot help but build with each movement as if drawing upon the life of the very universe itself.
Loki feels it now in the charge of the air that tightens about him like a fitted glove. Raising a hand, his lips curve deeper, darker. Against the flickering light and shadow of the troubled fluorescence of his cell, it has begun. A faint spark gleams, catches alight: charged particles rise in twisting twining spiralled helices. Long fingers, pale in the gloom, first tighten and then loosen. The light dance between them, around them, within them: it is all green and gold and the faintest shot of silver.
And the silver is growing.
“What’s he doing? He’s not supposed to be able to do that.”
“Of course not,” he murmurs, and every step is only the beginning of the dance they will never know. “But some things, one is not meant to do alone.”
They make their calls, again. Loki takes note of their rising panic, takes simple pleasure in its tart taste. Their communicators seem to be failing them. Humans are fools, he thinks, to be so dependent upon mechanical thralls whose very nature dictates that they cannot help but be undependable. A moment later one device flares bright, overloaded with the rich charge of the thickening atmosphere. The mortal drops it with a cry. Loki stops dead, breathes deep; even with the glass standing sentinel, thick and impermeable to mortal eyes, he can taste the ozone. He can feel the heat. He knows the flow of this current, though he himself has never the path of least resistance.
“But still, you come.”
Again Loki tilts his head, eyes closed this time. Though his whisper has already been loosed his mouth stays open, rounded and waiting. A moment later a single breath escapes, the low rumble of brontide. Too indistinct to be a word, too unformed to be a name, it is nothing more than the deepest foreshadowing of pure keening need.
When he opens his eyes the mortals are gone. He smiles again, his hum just the faintest hint of the laughter that still builds in him. It twists about his vocal chords, drugging them with the warm depths of his desire. He moves, again – because he can feel the other moving. In every inch of him, the very molecules of his body vibrate faster with closing proximity.
“Not close enough,” he whispers. “Not nearly close enough yet.”
But waiting is half the pleasure. And he has waited what feels a very long time.
In the darkness granted by his closed eyes, a mock sky hung low with deepening cloud, Loki moves with the rhythm of the oncoming storm, the reawakened whispers of his own magic. Sorcery has always felt to him to have the elements of music, of song. In its power he has often felt the promise of a swelling crescendo, the soft fading sigh of the diminuendo.
Now, he feels the hanging promise of a chosen fermata: he is poised on the very edge of his pleasure, a thrumming instrument waiting to be taken higher at the will and whim of its musician. The coiling, building pressure system has long been set in its course, upon its song. Nothing can divert a hurricane on the very edge of landfall.
“What have you done?” comes a new voice, and he lets only the briefest of chuckles shiver past his lips.
“It is your own doing.” Again, he wishes only to tilt his face upwards; he cannot see the sky here, and even if he could it would never be the golden star-edged canvas of his immortal life. But it is not colour he dreams of with his eyes wide open. Instead, it is sensation: the memory of rain, of standing beneath an opened sky so that he might feel its legion fingers all over his skin. Such a touch could drift across cheekbone, or tremble upon a jaw – then drop, down into his collar to trace a shivering unseen path beneath the deepening weight of leather and worked metal. Or perhaps he might raise his own hand, to catch a shimmering drop upon one long finger: fresh water, but in a roused storm it would come with the taste of current and charge, almost a living creature in its own right.
Even without Asgardian rain shivering upon his skin Loki raises his own hands now, to the level of his wondering face; they are not motionless, and he twists them with a low pulsing chuckle. They split the air with the rich glow of returned magic. Yet it is not quite his own. There’s something of him in it, of course; even in this place they could never suppress his magics, not truly, not without ending him with them. Sorcery is a master, but it must also be mastered in turn. Without such sacrifice, without such surrender, the symbiotic relationship would have no purpose, no meaning.
“And no pleasure.”
The building energy is not his own though the silver summons it, overriding the dampeners of this mortal cage, this dismal mortal world. As Loki watches it only grows stronger: the storm is descending, and its power is rising. The mortal man looks around, uneasy; the lights flicker still in endless cycle, running too bright with the unnatural drive of alien current.
“Are you scared of a little thunder, Man of Iron?”
The flicker in those dark eyes tells Loki that there has been recognition enough. But he cannot stop, he cannot care. He wants to speak of the storm, as if it might summon it faster. Yet he does not move closer to the mortal creature. Rather he leans forward from the waist, shoulders sliding, the sinuous movement of a snake that does the charming for itself.
“You shouldn’t stand so tall if you don’t wish to be struck down,” he says, mockery rising and falling over consecutive syllables.
Even in the strange gloaming of the unnatural light the mortal’s tongue cannot help but run away with him. “Hate to say it, but you’re the taller one here.”
“But maybe I want to burn.”
When he closes his eyes, he hears it better in the enshrouding darkness: the quickening panicked carol of a world wakened to turmoil it cannot hope to stand against. Nothing remains untouched by the path of such a storm. The sharp sound of breaking glass is echoed by the distant rumble of approaching thunder. A low curse curls through the air, and Loki lets loose the low chuckle. The sound is still little more than a promise, but it is one he intends to keep.
A moment later the first great tremor rocks the foundation upon which they stand. The static upon his skin prickles more sharply, fine needles moving deeper with a pain that is far closer to pleasure. Opening his eyes he finds the iron-clad creature is gone. In his place remains only the potential of darkened corridors, the motionless vortex leading to the cell that has centred Loki’s life since his fall. Everything swirls about it, unordered and chaotic. But now Loki is still. Now Loki waits.
His storm is coming, and he has waited for so long.
The sounds beyond grow in frequency and franticness, the screams of the building and those inside it blending together into a chorus of bedlam and destruction. It doesn’t matter which is which. Energy is energy, and no matter its origin it will always be released into the air to be transformed into something else, something more. Loki again tilts his head back, and this time opens his arms wide. Pandemonium has come again, and he wants nothing more than to feel. When he looks to the unseen sky above he closes his eyes and stills his lips into patient potential of their own.
When he opens them, the storm has broken. And he smiles.
“I have been waiting for you.”
His storm steps forward, each step guided by the sure confidence of a force of nature that has strength of will enough to unleash itself. The air crackles between them despite the mockery of the glass barrier, and Loki feels hunger stir like a dervish of wind and ice. This approaching storm is rough about its edges, each one ragged and lightning-sharp with promise. Loki knows he might bleed, should he brush up against such threat. Already he can taste the metallic tang upon his tongue, the rich ambrosia of life held beneath the shimmering skin revealed by the leather that clings to all other curve and muscle.
Leonine grace drives his brother closer to his so-named prison, the relentless stalk of a hunter that knows its prey cannot help but dream of the release promised by the end of the chase. The broad shoulders are forward, head held low, the blue intensity of his stare now rich with silver song. Loki’s hands tighten, gold and green flicking from his skin in shards that dig deep into his own flesh, thorns of laughing threatened promise.
The golden hair of Odin’s golden child glints bright in the mercurial glint of Mjölnir, but is darkened still with exertion; his skin gleams with the perspiration of the war he has waged to come this far. But it has not been much more than a skirmish, brother mine, he whispers to himself. It is but a mere beginning, given the catastrophe we might together wring from the worlds.
“Temper, tempest,” he murmurs, tasting the words like salt and blood upon his lips. And his own body is drawn forward, the irresistible force between polar opposites unable to ever be ignored.
The weight at Thor’s side, immovable to all others, is but a feather in his great hand. For a moment it catches Loki’s attention: impossible element, wrought into impossible shape. It gleams and glows and glowers with the light of a thousand storms, yet it is but a mere extension of the deep vitality of the one who holds it. To a mortal, he might appear a dazzling god of thunder, sound and strength made flesh, To Loki, he is light: light made flesh, light made divine.
Light made his.
Mjölnir rises, its blunt head just kissing the glass. It moves no further; instead, Thor lays the other hand upon the clear surface. The glistening skin summons memory as fingers tighten in clear invitation, and Loki is enslaved to the remembered sensation of their curve about him, their curve within him. Again his lips curve upward to match.
In the guise of a shadow Loki raises the mirrored hand to press its palm to the glass. It is only mortal-wrought, it is but nothing in the grand scheme of their immortal games, and they stare right through it and deep into the void of one another. No reflection under glass can remain between them – they are both the reflection, and they are both the one who casts it.
Thor’s echoed smile is the endless hunger of one born to the pursuit; even as he devours his prey, he remains a slave to his hunt. His mouth could be filled with hot blood and yet still he would scent fresh blood, still he could be so easily summoned to make his next kill.
“I have come for you, brother.”
“Indeed you have.” Fingers move across the glass, each following in the path of the other. Loki mimics the motion with his tongue, the tip held just beneath the line of his teeth, close to the warm swell of his reddening lips. Loki is a shapeshifter; every hunt can be a new game, in his opened arena. “And I believe you shall come for me again.”
The rumble of his laughter is a warning, shivering squall through Loki’s chest. “Promises, promises.”
“And what else is a silver tongue for?”
“Oh,” Thor growls, forehead pressed to the glass with one eyebrow raised in mocking invitation, “and they say you’re the clever one. Shall I teach you of a thousand other ways, do you think?”
His own forehead is cool against the glass, eyes having long since stolen all the heat of his skin. And yet, he still burns. In Thor’s presence, he always burns. “You always have so much to learn, brother mine.”
“And I’m always such a slow study.”
Loki laughs, body arching against the space between, distant shadow seeking dawning light as Mjölnir rises, silver tempest searching for its place of landfall. “Do not be too slow, I pray you. I have waited such a very long time.”
The answering laugh is all thunder and storm.
Then, Thor lets the hammer fall.