((Fic based off the above picture… and, okay, it’s very AU, like an AU where stuff like Fear Itself and Journey Into Mystery probably didn’t happen. And… yeah, tags, what are those, i don’t even know. And I can’t figure out how to put in the Read More right now, so here, it’s all in a quote.)
The first time, the dream descends upon him while he is still walking the streets of Paris, homeless and friendless and barely making enough money to survive. His name is Serrure and he is still small and powerless, still barely fending off the older, stronger teens and men in the backstreets and alleys. He curls up in a nook, high in an old wall, and sleeps easily, knowing that his little spot is hard to find and takes a bit of climbing to reach.
He opens his eyes and sees a room like a dungeon from one of the old films he’s seen, a cloaked man in an iron mask standing over him. He is tied down, and he hears his voice- his own, yes, but deeper, older, and strangely hoarse.
“Victor…?” he asks, somehow sure of the man’s name. “Wh-what… is this? What are you doing?” The masked man ignores his questions, lowering something that glints in the harsh light. Serrure hears himself whimper, hears the masked man mutter to himself in a language that is both familiar and unfamiliar, and for one excruciating moment he feels something sharp, it’s cutting into the flesh of his arm and he screams and struggles and his vision goes white with the pain of it-
Serrure opens his eyes to comforting darkness, shoves the knuckles of his dirty little fist against his mouth and sobs, small and alone but whole and unbroken. After that night, his dreams are filled with atrocity and guilt, and he learns to survive off coffee and to put sleep off until he is simply too exhausted to dream.
~ ~ ~
Things change. His name is Loki now, and he is no longer alone- Thor is with him, the best big brother he could ever imagine. He doesn’t understand how he could have forgotten that someone like Thor loved him and cared for him, and he is overjoyed to discover that he loves and cares for Thor, too.
Loki sleeps easily nowadays, as if discovering his place in the world was enough to make the nightmares about that dark, hidden past evaporate. Loki begins to think that there is a bright, wonderful future for him somewhere in that bright, wonderful new world he’s found.
Loki opens his eyes and sees the room that is also a dungeon, also a laboratory, also a surgery. He sees himself in ragged pieces around him- hands in a jar, a heart in another. He sees, to one side, an entire head, looking as if it were torn roughly from his shoulders, a meaty spinal column protruding from the mess of a neck. His own face, looking haggard, eyes closed as if in sleep, hair and eyebrows missing. There are… markings? Tattoos? They curl across his scalp, and he wonders if they’re under his hair now, wonders why he never looked.
The masked man- Victor, Loki knows, even if he doesn’t remember why- stands over him, adjusting a strap on his left wrist. Loki realizes that he doesn’t quite feel his right arm, not at all, and he sees tools- saws, hooks, blades- all covered in blood, his blood, and Loki knows a moment of perfect, utter terror.
“Please,” he says softly, even though it’s never made a difference in any of these nightmares, even though none of his sobbing or begging has ever stayed Victor’s hand. “Please don’t- please, please don’t…”
It is not enough to stop Victor from using a scalpel, delicate and tiny in his huge, gauntleted hands, to deftly slice into the flesh under his eye. Loki sees him put the eye in a jar of some kind of liquid, sees the scalpel grow huge in the sight of his remaining eye before it all goes dark, not black but a burning, screaming red-
Thor is awake when Loki sneaks into his room and crawls into his bed, but he says nothing, merely makes room for his little brother. Loki presses his face into Thor’s side and tries not to cry, the soothing weight and heat of Thor’s hand against his back. Loki doesn’t have any unpleasant dreams the rest of that night, and Thor never says anything about his brother being a baby, being a coward. When it happens again, and again, and again, Thor simply starts going to bed with an extra pillow for Loki.
~ ~ ~
Thor is grumbling because he is being made to attend some sort of Midgardian political function, grumbling because he will be made to interact civilly with people he has faced off against in battle, grumbling because he is being made to wear a fashionable Midgardian tuxedo for the event. To make it a little more bearable, Thor has asked to bring his friends and his brother along as well, and when Loki steps out wearing a little tux, the smaller match to Thor’s, the Warriors Three can’t help but congratulate him on wearing it well, Sif herself cracks the tiniest of smiles, and Thor picks him up, swinging him into the air and laughing at his charming little brother.
Loki laughs, because it’s hard not to be sucked into the beaming grin on Thor’s face, and makes half-hearted threats that (almost) no-one believes anymore.
The event is supremely boring, because Thor, his friend Tony (who Loki likes but does not trust), his friend Steve (who Loki trusts but isn’t sure if he likes), and his friend Peter (who Loki adores) have all made Loki swear not to cause any mischief. But that is like asking the wind not to blow, or asking the tide not to rise, and Loki sneaks off the first chance he gets. There is a buffet table, and Loki wants the petit fors, and he knows Tony will try to eat them all if Loki doesn’t get there first. That doesn’t even take the force of food-consumption that is Volstagg into account.
Loki is popping the first (or fifth, who’s counting?) little pastry into his mouth when he feels, rather than sees, a man come up behind him, sees the shadow on the table, and he turns, ready to give Thor’s friend a cheeky little grin.
The man is taller and broader than he is in Loki’s nightmares, but he wears the same mask. Loki’s eyes widen, he backs against the table, he can feel the blood rushing to his face even as the dark eyes, barely visible in the shadows of the mask, fix him with the same cold, analyzing stare Loki remembers from the worst of his dreams.
“Who are you?” the man- Victor, his name is Victor and he’s real, he’s real- asks, taking a step forward, that hateful cloak billowing, and Loki knows, he knows Victor will touch him, and just as surely he knows that he will scream when he is touched, that he is only not-screaming because he is simply too terrified to breathe-
“Doom, you can’t just leave a peace conference when Latveria is the main-” Thor’s friend Steve bursts in, looking annoyed, but when he sees Loki he stops looking annoyed, he looks furious. Thor follows, and when he sees Loki he zeroes in on him, scooping him into his arms and giving Victor a calculating look, a look that could melt steel. Steve is speaking harshly to Victor now, standing between him and Loki, and Thor is asking him, in a completely unsubtle tone, if he’s alright, if that man said anything to him, if he’s touched him, if he’s hurt him.
Things become strange after that- the building rumbles, the foundations and walls crack, man-shaped robots start attacking Thor’s friends- and Thor has to leave Loki for a while, fighting the robots (Doombots, someone snarls, and Loki thinks the name is appropriate) but Loki is alright, because Thor left him with Volstagg and with Thor’s friend Peter, who is still in his tuxedo and is not wearing his mask. And Peter looks at him and seems to see something, because Peter reaches over and ruffles Loki’s hair and asks if Loki’s going to be okay.
“No,” Loki says softly, only it’s more of a strangled sob when it passes his lips, and Peter gives him an awkward little hug and Volstagg wraps the both of them in his arms and lifts them bodily from the ground. The fight ends and Victor flees and Thor takes Loki home, looking distant and thoughtful as he presses a kiss into the top of Loki’s head.
Later, when he is in his own clothes and he is in his own room and Sif has already stopped by to tell him, in soft tones he doesn’t remember ever hearing from her before, that if he needs someone to talk to that she might be willing to listen while she is training or practicing her swordsmanship, Loki sits in front of a mirror, eyes wide. He leans close and parts his hair with his fingertips until he finds the familiar curve of the black swirl he’d seen tattooed onto the skin of the decapitated Other Loki in his nightmares.
Loki hears someone shriek as if from far away, and Sif is back, suddenly, and her hair smells like fresh flowers and sunshine and promises never broken, and he finds that he is crying, and that she is doing what she can to soothe him but it isn’t until Thor takes him and tells him that he is safe that the shrieking stops and Loki, relieved, tucks his face against Thor’s neck. He hears Thor speaking in low tones to Sif, but he does not care to listen. He is with his brother and Thor wouldn’t let anything happen to Loki, not ever.
Loki opens his eyes and Victor is standing over him, not touching him or cutting him open, but staring down at him with the same calculating look he gave him before. Loki knows he is terrified, knows that he looks terrified, just as he knows that in tonight’s dream he is dying already, that his body from the waist down is simply gone, his torn insides exposed to the air.
Victor leans down and stares into Loki’s eyes and he whispers, slowly, “Loki?”
Loki cannot scream, cannot breathe properly, not with his diaphragm and part of one lung simply gone, but his mouth sags open and he makes an awful rasping sound and tears stream down the sides of his face. And Victor looks like he is about to say something awful, but instead he merely runs a cold metal hand over what’s left of Loki’s chest, his fingertips dancing across the hollow of Loki’s throat, his thumb trailing over Loki’s trembling lower lip, and Loki wants to cry out for Thor, because Thor would protect him, wouldn’t let this man touch him, wouldn’t let him do the things he’s done.
And the miracle that never happens in these nightmares comes true. The walls come tumbling down and people are rushing into the room and Victor is surrounded and Thor is there and he roars pure fury at Victor and there is a great clash of movement and sound and then Thor is back, he is cradling the broken Other Loki the way he cradled Loki earlier. And Loki buries his face against Thor’s neck again and he can’t speak but he mouths his brother’s name away, and Thor’s hand is warm against his back and it’s the last thing he knows.
Loki wakes up with a soft, mewling cry, and Sif is there, shushing him, tucking him back into bed.
“Where’s Thor?” Loki asks, half-asleep, and Sif runs her fingers through his hair and tells him that Thor is taking care of something on Midgard, but that he will be home and that right soon. Loki manages, somehow, to crawl into her lap, and Sif actually allows it, humming a song that Loki does not remember but thinks might be a lullabye.
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