Bruce tried to join his friends in the moment. Another great Avenger’s victory. Another dive bar. He enjoyed celebrating with his friends, but he missed Loki like a phantom limb. He sat at the bar beside Tony and wished Loki could join them. He wondered what his lover might be doing right now—something mischievous no doubt. Maybe filling the DVR up with Mexican soap operas and painting their kitchen cabinets bright green.
Bruce frowned as Thor set a tall blue drink adorned with fruit in front of him. “That’s not mine.”
Tony leaned over Bruce’s elbow. “What the fuck is that?”
“It looks like a blue Hawaiian,” said Bruce, “but I didn’t order it.”
“I thought you liked to put blue things in your mouth,” said Thor.
Bruce looked him askance. Tony laughed. “Fuck. That’s right. It must be like Pandora in your bedroom, Bruce. Or is it more like the Smurfs?”
“Should I be checking your pupils? What are you talking about?”
Thor laughed as if Bruce were playing dumb. “Loki. He’s Jotun. His skin is blue.” He helped himself to a swig of the blue drink. He smacked his lips in approval. “This is good.”
Tony fished out a cherry and cocked his head at Bruce. “Doesn’t he take off his mask when you’re alone?”
“He doesn’t wear a mask,” said Bruce, feeling defensive suddenly.
Tony patted his shoulder. “You need another drink.” He signaled the bartender.
“So you have yet to see his true face?” Thor had turned serious, something that made Bruce even more uneasy. “What you see when you look at him—it isn’t him. It’s an illusion—a disguise he wears. He keeps his true self hidden. Even from you, it seems.”
Bruce held his silence with a belt of the scotch the bartender set before him. Thor’s words, however, raised questions that wouldn’t be calmed by drink.
Bruce threw his keys in the basket by the door and removed his shoes. The Magnetic Field’s version of “The Book of Love” greeted him. Sandalwood incense hung thick in the air. He wondered what Loki had been doing. “Loki? I’m home.”
Loki blocked the entryway. “Finally. The laundry’s piling up, and I’m sick of take out. What are you making for dinner?”
“I missed you, too.” Bruce felt very tired suddenly.
Loki wrapped around him like a giant squid. He thudded into Bruce, knocking him back against the door. Bruce closed his eyes and let himself enjoy the fervent stabbings of Loki’s tongue in his mouth. When Bruce kissed back, Loki’s body crushed closer with a small sweet whimper of longing.
With a shudder, Loki pulled free, dancing back a step. “Fuck,” he swore a little breathlessly, grinning as he stared at Bruce. He shook his head, struggling. “You need to see the wheatgrass. It’s…looking anemic.” He took both of Bruce’s hands and pulled him toward the kitchen.
“Goddamnit, Loki. Tell me you didn’t piss in it again.”
Loki scowled and stopped in front of the stove where a baking dish of something green cooled. “The wheatgrass is fine. That was a ruse.” He presented the dish with a spokesmodel’s gesture. “That, however, is spinach lasagna with feta and pesto.” He beamed. “See? It’s green.”
“I did,” said Loki proudly. “I even cleaned up after myself.”
And then Bruce noticed, not only was the kitchen spotless, the living area was free of its usual collection of Loki socks and Loki underwear. “You cleaned the living area, too,” said Bruce, impressed.
“And the bedroom. And the bathroom.” He pulled Bruce into the living area as he spoke. He set Bruce’s hands free. With a flourish of Loki’s arms, the lights dimmed, candles all around the room blazed to life, and Chopin’s “Prelude in E-Minor” began to pour from the speakers. “Ta dah,” he whispered.
On the way home, Bruce’s mind had been aswirl with so many questions. If Loki’s appearance was a lie, what else was he lying about? Was his love a deception as well? Was everything an illusion?
But now, with Loki close and his eagerness to please in evidence all around, Bruce’s paranoid thoughts dispersed. In their wake, they left only the fact that Loki was Jotun and his appearance was a fraud. A fact that hung in Bruce’s mind like a splinter, bright as a bone picked clean.
Bruce stood still as Loki snuggled against him. As if drawn there by magic, his fingers caressed Loki’s cheek. Loki tossed his head and threw his nose against Bruce’s hand, bumping it slightly like a cat inviting pets. Bruce stroked his lover’s face as if touching it for the first time. He had fallen in love with this face--the high forehead, the refined nose, the smooth skin pale as moonlight on fresh snow. But he had fallen in love with a lie.
Loki caught Bruce’s hand and kissed his palm then cradled it against his chest. “I love reunions.” His voice was a whisper, but its vehemence was echoed in the lithe tension of his body. “It’s like getting to know each other all over again.” He licked the fingertip of Bruce’s index finger, sucked it into his mouth and nipped it lightly. “All of the scents and flavors. Everything old, everything new.” He closed his eyes, undulating with passion as Bruce’s free hand traced his spine.
People always fell in love with lies. With facades. In reality people were nothing more than gristle and bone, motes of dust swirling around electrical impulses, a superficial collection of atoms, of quarks. But there was more than that. The bass note underneath it all. That spark—the universe straining to understand itself.
Bruce loved so much more than Loki’s flesh. He loved all of those noncarnal bits, even the trying ones—Loki’s determination, his pride, his whimsy, his vulnerability.
“I love your consciousness,” Bruce said, his words stark against the quiet background of the piano music.
Loki’s eyelids fluttered open. He grinned, eyes alight with mischief. “I love your ass.” He gave it a playful squeeze.
Everything was a game to Loki. Bruce indulged his trickster, but tried to think of something that wasn’t an illusion. “I love your shadow.”
Loki’s grin grew wicked. “I love the freckle at the base of your glans.” His short nails rode the tracks of Bruce’s fly.
Bruce had an idea. “Do you want to play before dinner?”
Loki gave Bruce’s cock a hard squeeze, then removed a couch pillow to reveal a stash of his favorite toys. “That’s exactly what I was thinking!”
Bruce felt a twinge of conscience. But he wasn’t trying to punish Loki; he was trying to help him. Loki stood before him proudly, a king allowing himself to be disrobed. Bruce undressed him slowly, forcing Loki to be patient.
When, at last, the sorcerer was nude, Bruce’s gaze lifted, grim and savoring, from Loki’s bare feet to Loki’s uncertain eyes. “Bruce? Is something wrong?”
Bruce took up the posture bar, warming the black metal between his hands. “No.” He buckled the leather collar around Loki’s neck, pausing to kiss his adam’s apple. “Nothing’s wrong, baby.” Gently, he aligned the bar with Loki’s spine. “Remember, our word this week is amygdala.” He kissed Loki’s shoulder and tightened the cuffs attached to the posture bar around Loki’s wrists. “Now,” he said softly. “You are wearing my magic slave collar. You must meet my every demand, and you must answer all questions truthfully.”
“Yes, of course!” Loki chirped.
Bruce switched the music. Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” began lifting from the speakers like smoke. “Kneel.”
Loki glared at him. “Is this a joke?”
“Remember your collar.”
Grudgingly, Loki knelt beside the cocktail table. Bruce picked up the spreader bar and cuffed Loki’s ankles at a wide angle. He stepped away to admire his work. Loki watched him. Bruce sighed. “Loki. Show me your true face.”
Loki blinked in dismay. “You’re seeing it.”
“Remember the collar,” said Bruce.
“This IS my true face. Where’s the candle wax?”
“Show me the face you were born with.”
Recognition dawned in Loki’s eyes. “Amygdala.”
“You can’t use a safe word for something like that. Play the game, Loki. Show me.”
With as bitter a glower as Bruce had ever seen, Loki shifted. He looked at Bruce with eyes bright as rubies. Glacier blue skin replaced the cream Bruce had kissed so often. Awed, Bruce stepped close and traced one of the exotic markings on Loki’s cheek. “You’re beautiful,” he whispered, cupping Loki’s narrow chin and tilting his face up.
“Of course I’m beautiful. What did you expect? I’m Loki,” Loki snapped.
Bruce smiled at him. “You’re the most beautiful frost giant I’ve ever seen.”
“I’m so glad you approve of my Jotun aspect.” Loki’s voice dripped venom.
Bruce, still holding Loki’s chin, gave it a slight squeeze as Loki started to shift. “Don’t,” he ordered. “Stay. I want to make love to the real you.”
“I like physical pain.” A tremor ran through Loki’s body. “But I’m not into humiliation. I’ve had enough of that already.”
Bruce knelt and took Loki’s shoulders. “I’m not punishing you, baby. I’m freeing you. I can see why you might want to keep your guise around Midgardians, but you don’t have to hide with me. Ever.”
“This isn’t me,” Loki growled. He shifted to his Asgardian form. The collar and cuffs popped open. He stood as the posture bar hit the carpet with a thud. “Playtime’s over.”
Bruce remained kneeling. He rubbed Loki’s thighs. “It’s okay. Don’t you see? You don’t need to be afraid. You don’t need to pretend.”
“This isn’t Asgard. This is us.” He gripped Loki’s hips. “We can be honest with each other. We can be ourselves. Naked as babes.”
Loki pushed Bruce away and slipped free. “I missed you!” An accusation. His shoulders fell. “Everything was so perfect. You ruined it. Why did you have to ruin it?”
Bruce rose. “Loki, baby, I’m sorry. I love you.”
Loki blinked away tears. “I love you, too.”
“Let me love the real you.”
“Fuck you!” All of the candles went out. Pottery exploded around the living area.
“Don’t break shit, Loki.”
“Right, because you never break anything when you’re angry.” Loki stormed into the bedroom, slamming the door behind him. Bruce followed. Loki pulled on his black silk robe and ignored him.
“I don’t understand. Isn’t it tiresome wearing a mask all of the time?”
“It’s not a mask! It’s real! It’s me! This is me. ME!”
“But it isn’t the real you. It’s an illusion. It’s a disguise.”
“It’s NOT a disguise! IT’S ME!!!”
“Baby, sweet Loki baby,” Bruce soothed, pouring all of the solid stability he had found over the years into the words. “I’m trying to help you. Let me help you with this.”
Loki made no reply. His chest heaved. His eyes smoldered with rage. But he stood still while Bruce rubbed both hands down his trembling arms.
Bruce took a deep breath and squeezed Loki’s wrists. “They made you feel like you had to look like them to be accepted. And they made you hate your people.” Bruce paused.
Loki had already started shaking his head, negating everything Bruce said. Bruce continued. “They did. And they made you hate who you are. You don’t have to wear a mask with me. You shouldn’t have to wear a mask with anyone. You don’t have to hide anymore, Loki.”
Loki broke free. “I’m NOT hiding! Why aren’t you listening? This IS the real me. This IS my true self.”
“But it’s not.”
“Nature isn’t always right!” cried Loki. “How can you say the face I created is any less real than the face birth imposed on me? Don’t I know my own face? Don’t I know myself better than Nature?” The wind seemed to go out of him. He fell back against the bed with a blank stare.
Bruce moved toward him. “Loki,” he said softly. “I only want to help you.”
A frost giant looked up at him. “This is the lie. This is the falsehood.” The Loki he knew took its place. “This might seem mere craft, but it’s me—the real me.”
Bruce let Loki’s words sink in.
In the silence, Loki watched him and then curled up on his side on the bed, shriveling. “You don’t understand,” he said. “No one understands.” He sobbed into his knees.
Bruce climbed into bed with him. He folded his body around the sorcerer. He pressed against Loki’s shuddering back and drew a protective arm around him. “I think I do understand,” he said when Loki quieted. “When I was little, my father tried to make me hate who I was---”
“That’s not the same thing--”
“Shh. Baby, shh.” Bruce stroked Loki’s face as he whispered into Loki’s hair. “I know. Let me finish.” Loki sighed. Bruce rewarded his silence with a kiss behind his ear. “I was insecure in my sexuality and dated a girl named Betty. She was born Benedict. She was in transition, so she looked like the woman I believed society wanted me to love, but she had a cock instead of a vagina, which made me happy.”
“How is this supposed to make me feel better?”
Bruce squeezed him. “I’m getting there.” He kissed behind Loki’s ear again. “She wasn’t a gay man. She was a transgender woman—a woman trapped in a man’s body. She hated taking off her makeup and her clothes, because those were the symbols of her femininity—of her true self.”
Loki turned over to look at him with large, somber eyes. Bruce couldn’t resist kissing his forehead. He brushed a tear-dampened stray hair off Loki’s face. “What you’re saying reminds me of her. What she created with cosmetics, hormones, and surgery seemed like a costume to some, but they reflected who she truly was more than the appearance she was born with.”
“It was complicated.”
“The way your voice softens when you talk about her-- Do you still love her?”
He hesitated. Face to face, Loki was as adroit at recognizing lies as telling them. Bruce confessed. “My relationship with Betty didn’t last, but part of me will always love her. Nothing will ever change that. When I love someone, it’s forever.” He hated himself for the new tears that started in Loki’s eyes. “My love doesn’t flow from a faucet. I can’t turn it on and off. For years, I locked my feelings inside. I refuse to live that way anymore. I can’t.”
Loki’s tears overflowed and slid down his white marble face. Bruce’s heart ached. Loki was always beautiful, but when he cried he looked so ethereal, like an icon weeping.
“Oh, Loki,” Bruce whispered. “I’m not saying this to hurt you. But I won’t lie to you. And I can’t help how I feel.”
Loki’s jaw quivered. He lunged at Bruce and forced his lips apart with a thrust of strong trickster tongue. Bruce laughed in surprise. Loki sucked Bruce’s tongue with an ear-popping pressure. Baffled, Bruce surrendered, and they kissed for a long time.
When their lips finally parted, Loki sighed and said, voice choked with emotion, “That’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me.”
“I think I’ve said a number of romantic things to you. Somehow ‘I still love my trans ex-girlfriend’ doesn’t seem like the frontrunner.”
Loki sniffled. “Your love isn’t changeable. You’ll never punish me by taking it away.” Tears overwhelmed him.
Bruce pulled Loki’s face onto his chest. “No. I’m not Odin. I would never use love as a tool.” While his hands, calm and sure, smoothed his lover’s hair, inwardly he fought the thrill of rage aroused by Loki’s words. Hulk so wanted to smash, smash, SMASH. But there was no one to fight here, only Loki, who needed love. He huffed a bull snort and tamped the Hulk down. “No matter what, I will always, always love you.”
“Thank you,” Loki gasped against Bruce’s chest.
Bruce sighed. “Poor, sweet Loki.” He rubbed Loki’s back. Loki snuggled against him. Bruce flushed with love and desire. “Even if you wake up tomorrow and decide you want to be an aardvark, I will still love you.”
Loki drew back with a smirk. “You do realize that comment means you’re going to wake up next to an aardvark sometime soon, right?”
“Mmmm… I’ve never fucked an aardvark.”
Loki snickered, but tears clung to his lashes. He stroked Bruce’s chest. Trailed down his stomach. His eyes met Bruce’s as he caught Bruce’s hardening cock and squeezed up the shaft.
Sensations arced like static through Bruce’s being as his blood roared into his cock. With a groan he kissed Loki’s mouth. But he felt sick as his hands rubbed down Loki’s knotted muscles. The stress of the argument lay coiled in every fiber of the sorcerer’s frame. “Poor Loki,” he breathed. “Why don’t we go play with our toys?”
Loki ground against him with a whimper. “I’ve needed you to play with me for days.”
Bruce sat up and pulled Loki with him. “You’re all I could think about.”
“I missed you,” said Loki, a trace of desperation in his voice. He bit Bruce’s lower lip as they kissed their way out of the bedroom.
Loki brought the candles back to life and knelt beside the couch. His breath threaded audibly through his lips as Bruce fastened the leather collar around his neck. Bruce kissed Loki’s elbows as he cuffed the trickster’s wrists. “The way you slipped free of your restraints was so fucking hot.” He fondled Loki’s ass before binding Loki’s ankles. “I always had a hard on for Houdini.”
Loki pushed his ass toward Bruce. “I could do it again.”
Bruce laughed. “Not now.” He tucked a hand between Loki’s thighs to cup his balls. They felt nearly as heavy as his own; Loki had been saving himself. “But it excites me to know that you can.” He pressed Loki down until his chest brushed the carpet. He gave Loki’s ballsack a firm tug. A small groan answered. Bruce squeezed. Hard. Loki’s chest hit the floor with a low, deep moan.
Bruce tongued Loki’s sweet warm hole and then fastened the ball stretcher around the neck of Loki’s scrotum. One by one, he attached three weights to the stretcher, giving each a farewell swing that sent them caroming off Loki’s stomach before dancing on the end of their chains.
He pulled Loki up by his collar. He kissed Loki’s mouth, then bent to kiss the pink blotch one of the weights had made on Loki’s pale stomach. His tongue couldn’t resist exploring Loki’s navel. His teeth couldn’t resist biting it.
Bruce sucked and teased Loki’s nipples until they were red as Jotun eyes. He picked up a nipple clamp and closed its jagged teeth on one of Loki’s juicy nipples. Loki winced. For the second nipple, Bruce held the clamp all the way open. When he released it, it latched onto Loki’s nipple with a brutal snap. Loki stifled a cry.
Chains dangled from the nipple clamps. Bruce gave them a sharp tug. Loki whimpered. Bruce leaned in and kissed him. He bent low to nurse Loki’s partial erection to full bloom. Loki’s soft, hungry breath made Bruce’s own cock jump.
Bruce stood and removed his clothes. He shoved his cock in Loki’s face. Loki mouthed it greedily. He spread his jaws wide and devoured it in awkward, slobbery gulps. Bruce couldn’t help himself and began to laugh. Glaring up at him, Loki wriggled free of cock. “That is NOT the intended effect.”
“I’m sorry.” Bruce stroked Loki’s jaw. “You just look so adorable.”
Loki’s forehead creased up. “I look sexy,” he coached.
“You look sexy,” Bruce amended. “You are sexy.” He ruffled the hair at Loki’s nape. “You are so sexy.”
“I’m also incredibly hot.”
Bruce laughed. “Yes. You’re incredibly hot.” He helped Loki bend over the couch. “So hot, in fact, this wax might not harden.” He pulled a candle from off the cocktail table and drizzled hot wax across Loki’s ass. Loki’s hands, still bound to the posture bar behind his back, tightened into fists. Bruce grabbed another candle. Drops of wet wax frosted Loki’s white ass like spooge. With a third candle, Bruce wrote “Belongs to Bruce Banner” in wobbly cursive over Loki’s crack. Loki writhed as pink flesh outlined the white letters.
Bruce spread Loki’s ass cheeks and anointed the god’s hole with hot wax. Loki cried pitifully and bucked in the air, swinging the weights attached to the ball stretcher wildly. The weights thudded against the couch. Loki shivered into motionlessness. He gave a low groan.
Bruce knelt to kiss Loki’s hole. He lifted off the wax with his tongue. Loki’s hole tasted so clean. The wax brought out the copper rawness of it.
Loki gave an appreciative moan. Bruce found the bottle of lube on the floor and pumped some into his hand. He fingered and stretched Loki’s hole gently. Loki cooed like a dove.
Bruce stood and lifted Loki’s hips slightly. Cold wax cracked across Loki’s skin. Bruce reached beneath Loki to fondle his glans. He wrung a little precum and a few moans from Loki, then slipped inside. He entered a little at a time, giving Loki’s hole time to adjust. Once he was all the way in, he stayed there for a moment, basking in the heat. And then he had to move. He pounded Loki’s ass madly, pushing deeper into him with each thrust, wild with friction and movement and the molten ecstasy of Loki’s body. The weights hanging from the ball stretcher attacked the couch like miniature wrecking balls.
The onslaught finally wedged Loki’s head between the couch cushions. Bruce stopped to haul Loki backward by his hips. He smacked Loki’s ass and drove into him. In a frenzy, he pumped Loki between the cushions again. This time, he was so close to cumming, he left Loki there. The final two thrusts thudded Loki’s head against the back of the couch. Bruce came and felt wonderful. Then he saw Loki stuffed beneath the cushions and felt kind of bad.
He rescued Loki from the couch and freed him from the collar and cuffs. He tossed the bars aside and helped Loki sit up. Bruce removed the nipple clamps, kissing each nipple as he released it. He paused to kiss Loki’s mouth, then unbuckled the ball stretcher. Loki gasped as Bruce removed it. “Poor Loki,” Bruce said softly, utterly sincere. He soothed Loki’s swollen balls with his tongue and massaged Loki’s lower abdomen.
Loki sank backward into the pillows with a blissful sigh. Bruce nurtured him for a moment, then kissed up his shaft. He nibbled up and down the sides, enjoying the way it stretched and heaved beneath his lips. He stroked Loki’s thighs up as he nuzzled the glans. Wetting a finger with spit, Bruce pushed it into Loki’s hole. He probed as he sucked Loki’s glans. When he found the precious jewel of Loki’s prostate, he took Loki’s cock deep into his throat. The sound Loki made brought tears to Bruce’s eyes. He played Loki’s prostate like a violin, all the while sucking him hard and deep.
At last, Loki shivered and sprayed into Bruce’s throat. Bruce gulped down Loki’s sweet cum, sucking his cock to get every precious drop. Loki pulled Bruce up by his hair. “That’s enough,” he giggled. “You’re tickling.”
Bruce, still on his knees, hugged Loki’s waist. “I love you, you silly creature.” He sighed as Loki’s fingers ran through his hair. “I can’t believe you broke all of those pots.”
“I only broke the ugly ones.”
Bruce kissed Loki’s tummy. “Are you hungry? I think we have some yummy green lasagna.” He kissed Loki again. “I’ll get us some. We can eat and take a hot bath. I’ll peel all of your wax off.”
Loki caught Bruce’s arms. “Thank you.” He paused, his eyes huge and soulful. “For saying you would still love me if I were blue.”
Bruce smiled. “Always, Loki. Remember that.”
“No one has ever loved me like that. I guess I’m still getting used to it.”
His earnestness stung Bruce’s eyes. “Loki,” he began, but couldn’t get any further.
“I love you like that. Always. Like tonight, I was furious. I could have broken all of your stupid pots. But I didn’t. And I could have left. But I didn’t. And although I thought you were a Hulk-sized asshole, I never hated you. Not for an instant.” He frowned. “I was just pissed that you didn’t understand.” He smiled ruefully. “I expect you to understand everything. Especially all things Loki.”
“I’ll try to do better.”
Loki laid a hand aside Bruce’s face. “Don’t ever think my love for you is an illusion. It’s more real than anything I know.”
Bruce pulled Loki close and kissed his lips. Somehow, he felt more secure in the assurances whispered by the god of lies than in any other truth in his life. Perhaps that, he thought, is something like the sound of one hand clapping.