Thanos' mouth is pressed against Loki's, the taste of cinnamon and apples rushing down into the back of his throat as their tongues run together. Loki grinds his crotch up against Thanos' in a desperate attempt at turning himself on—because honestly, he should be feeling something, right, this is sex, after all—but all he gets is the friction of denim on denim, and a slightly unpleasant burning ache in his lower thighs from having to move. Thanos moves his hands lower, nearer to Loki's hips, and Loki shifts, a flash of panic filling his chest.

"Wait," he stumbles, while Thanos trails hot kisses down from his lips to his throat. "Wait, fuck, I can't—"

"You will do whatever I fucking tell you to," Thanos hisses, biting him roughly enough to draw blood, jerking his pants off with movements that are almost clumsy. "You got that?"

Loki just turns his head away, and Thanos gets a satisfied little smirk on his face. "Very good," he snarls, and there isn't anything Loki can do after that but wait.

The shrill ringing of the alarm clock jolts Loki awake from this latest nightmare—just one in a long line of many that have been coming and going for the past two years, ever since Thanos nearly killed Tony Stark before leaving Manhattan, dropping off everyone's radar. Automatically, he reaches behind him, feeling around for Tony's hand. He finds it immediately—draped loosely over his thin hip, fingers twitching equations in his sleep—and squeezes it. Tony shifts but does not wake up, and Loki is suddenly hyperaware of the smooth edges of the electromagnet pressing lightly against his back, of Tony's lips on his shoulder.

Sometimes he is shocked that they are still together, in the second half of their senior year at Berkeley; that they haven't been driven apart by their own arrogant attitudes or the frequent, often hair-raising, arguments they have. It isn't as if he hasn't thought of leaving—several times, he's contemplated how much easier it would be to just go back to living in the dorms, instead of in this apartment he and Tony are renting out now (courtesy of Howard Stark, who supplies the money every month in what both Loki and Tony view as an almost desperate attempt to buy his way back into his son's heart). There are moments when he hates Tony, when he's being sarcastic or snarky, still acting like feelings are a thing that everyone else has except him. There are moments when both of them push too far, and one of them ends up storming out, leaving the other to slam cabinet drawers and punch holes in the walls and, occasionally, smash entire bottles of whiskey.

But then there are moments when Loki looks over at Tony, when they're watching television or finishing up assignments or eating dinner, and he knows, he just knows, that this is the man he wants to spend the rest of his life with. It isn't like he says it very often, because he's no better at talking about his feelings than Stark is, but there is no mistaking that swell in his chest, that feeling like he'd lay his life down for Tony, like he can't fully control himself around the older man.

It's terrifying, really, to have his heart open so bare in Tony's hands, but mostly, Loki doesn't mind.

His alarm clock goes off again, and this time it wakes Tony as well. He shifts and groans, moving his hand from Loki's grasp so he can rub his eyes. "Morning already?" he asks, voice thick with sleep, yawning. "Did I even ever actually sleep, because I don't remember it."

"You slept," Loki assures him, half-smiling in the dim light coming in through their curtained window. He shifts too, moving closer to Tony, feeling the contact of their bare skin under the blankets. Tony lifts a hand to cup Loki's jaw, then frowns slightly. The filtered sunlight, combined with the glow of the electromagnet, is enough to make visible the swollen redness of Loki's eyes, the faint sheen of sweat still standing out on his forehead, the slowly fading light of panic leaving his irises.

"What?" Loki murmurs.

"You dreamed about him again, didn't you." It's a statement, not a question, unavoidable, and Loki sighs.

"I have not had a memory of Thanos for months now," he says, which is only half-true—he's not sleeping as well as he should be, and sometimes when he dozes off in class he has mini-dreams that are so realistic he wakes up gasping for air, everyone staring at him, pens poised over their papers.

Tony continues frowning, but doesn't press the issue. After a little while he gets up, swinging his legs over Loki's body and walking to the door.

"I'm going to take a shower," he says, and the smile is back, because he's venturing into territory with which he's a little more comfortable now. "You can join me if you want, Silvertongue." It's a nickname he gave Loki midway through their junior year, after the younger man got shitfaced at a frat party and starting bragging about the 'amazing fellatio' he could perform.

Loki rolls his eyes, but he's smiling too, the dream starting to fade as he climbs out of bed and walks out after his boyfriend, all lean sinew and catlike grace. It amazes him, still, how Tony's managed to make him get over what happened to him back in their sophomore year—although, admittedly, he's not as 'over it' as he'd like to be. There are times, even now, even two years later, when he smells a certain scent, or hears a certain noise, and flinches, expecting Thanos to appear out of nowhere with that wicked smile on his face, those dead eyes staring him down.

In the bathroom, with steam from the shower rising up around them and hot water sliding between their sweat-slick bodies, he fucks Tony against the slippery wall and focuses on the sounds coming from the physicist's throat, all pained and deep and wanting, and thinks, I am not weak, I can still do this, and this, and this; I can still control it here.


Five hundred miles away, in a town so small it doesn't even appear on a map, doesn't even have ownership of a proper name, a man sits on the edge of a tattered sofa in a rickety old shack about two blocks from the town's only store, a run-down Wal-Mart. His face is thin, his cheekbones casting shadows under their sharp arches. His hair is a tangled, greasy mess, and there is a constant smell about him of something like rotten fruit and gasoline. In the room opposite where he is, a small television blares static over some soap opera—Days of Our Lives, or maybe The Young and the Restless. His hangover pounds in time with the couples on the show arguing.

"Amora," he calls, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Turn that shit down, okay?"

The volume decreases by maybe two points. "Better?" Amora calls back.

"Not really."

"Well, fuck you, then," she says, but she's smiling, he can hear it, and he's smiling too, a painful stretching of underworked facial muscles. He throws back the last few sips of his leftover alcohol—some cheap brand he got ten miles away from here, with a label that's already been rubbed off by his sweat—and stands, walks into the other room. His girlfriend is lounging on the loveseat, her feet sticking up in the air. She's watching her show between her legs, and the man pauses for maybe half a second to contemplate all the possibilities with this scenario before reaching over and switching off the set.

"Hey!" yelps Amora.

"I'm hungry," he says, and sits down. She rolls her eyes, pinches his arm.

"I'm not your slave," she says, but she gets up and walks into the kitchen. He hears her rustling around in their battered old refrigerator for a few seconds, then she calls:

"What do you want, beans or burgers or week-old sushi?"

He starts to say nothing, just to rile her up, but his stomach growls, echoing in the silence of their shack, and he clenches his teeth against the tugging pain of an empty gut.

"Hamburger would be okay."

She clangs around with a few pots before he hears the gas burner clicking, struggling against all forms of nature to turn itself on. Then there's the sound of oil splashing on metal, and the sizzling of meat. He smells animal fat and that spice she always uses, and his mouth starts watering.

"Hurry the fuck up," he says, only half joking.

"It'll get done when it gets done, Skurge," she replies.

That's not my name, he thinks, for maybe the millionth time since he's moved in with her, but he doesn't call her out on it. He can't really fault her for thinking what she thinks about him—'Skurge' is what he introduced himself as when they first met; it's what she's been calling him for over a year now.

He hears the newspaper hit their screen door and forces himself up on unsteady feet.

"You get that," Amora calls, without noticing he's already halfway to the door, and he has to steel himself against a surge of anger, his fists and jaw clenching. He opens the door and picks up the paper, flipping through it with his long, greasy fingers, not really reading, just scanning. He's about to throw it back out when an article catches his eye—at the bottom of the front page of the 'People' section, there's a name, unusual, one he thought he'd never see again. Directly above it is the picture of its owner—also someone he thought he'd never see again. He can feel his lips curling into a smile—actually more of a grimace—and he doesn't have to read the accompanying article to know it's about Berkeley.

He walks back into the kitchen, clutching the paper in his sweaty palm, and touches Amora on her forearm. She turns, surprised, and allows him a half-second glimpse of her pale, exposed shoulder; her round, firm breast, before she buttons her shirt the rest of the way back up. "Skurge," she says, one hand still resting lightly on the skillet handle. "What is it?"

He reaches around her and switches off the gas burner. "Change of plans," he says. "Pack your shit up, Amora; we can pick up lunch off the Interstate if we see a good place."

Her eyebrows come together, and she frowns slightly, making eye contact with him for the first time all day. They share the same color of iris—though hers are more gray than blue—but she doesn't like looking directly at him if she can help it. There are moments, sometimes, when she thinks he looks almost dead.

"Where are we going?" she asks, one hand on her hip.

He grins, wild and wicked and, she thinks, a little bit demonic. "Manhattan," he says, before walking out, the paper still clutched tightly in his hand.