Author's notes: I re-watched Thor (the first one) recently. It has been several years since I last saw it, and after watching Loki (the TV-show), I focused a lot on, well, Loki. His actions, and the way the others treat him. And it really is not fair, a lot of their treatment of him. Yes, he makes bad choices, lies, and manipulates the situation, but to be honest, the outcome of the movie, with a Thor that is a much more pleasant and likable man who could make a good king, is a good thing for Asgard. And since everyone seemed to assume Loki was a bad seed from the start, it was never really that strange that he would turn bad. So, I wrote this. Set somewhere before Roxxcart and Sylvie, when Loki and Mobius were still in research mode and staying in the TVA.

Theatre 23

by bananacosmicgirl

Mobius found Loki in Time Theater 23. 

Waking up in the midst of the night, the clock showing 02.12, he’d gotten the sudden urge to go check on Loki. It wasn’t the first time that impulse hit Mobius—Loki-watching had become his favorite pastime, regardless of the time of day or night. There was just so much to see—during the days, Mobius studied the way Loki’s feelings manifested themselves on his face, from the way his eyebrows drew together as he contemplated a problem, to the brilliance of one of his genuine smiles. It always made Mobius want to jump in the air and give a loud “whoop!” whenever he brought forth one of those smiles.

At night, when Mobius snuck out of his bedroom to the living room under the pretense of getting some water, he watched Loki’s stillness in sleep. The lines on Loki’s face evened out, and he looked younger and more innocent than his awake self. Mobius always had to fight the urge to sit down next to the couch and pet Loki’s dark hair, locks spilling all over the pillow. Once he forced himself to return to bed, he would lay there for an hour before falling back asleep, wondering what it would feel like to have Loki’s head resting on his shoulder, what it would be like for Loki to drape an arm around Mobius’ middle.

But tonight, Mobius found the couch empty when he came out to pretend to get his glass of water. The dim light from the window illuminated the abandoned blanket in a heap at the bottom of the couch. Though the indentation in the pillow suggested Loki hadn’t been gone too long, the god was nowhere to be seen.

Did he flee? Loki had only been in the TVA a couple of weeks, but it was clear that he would rather do other things, instead of studying old case files from early dawn till late evening. But Loki must’ve realized by now that he didn’t have anywhere to go, right? 

Mobius dressed quickly, and that was when he realized that his keycard was missing. He sighed, but still couldn’t find it in himself to panic. Somewhere deep inside, he knew Loki was still on the premises and hadn’t left.

Grabbing his second keycard—the one he got once when his regular one was malfunctioning, and which he later “forgot” to return—he left his apartment. He walked along the empty corridor and rode alone in the elevator. 

He searched the cafeteria, and their usual spot in the archives, hoping Loki might’ve had an epiphany in the darkness that he just had to check out—but Loki wasn’t there either.

In the end, he found Loki in Theater 23, staring at a much larger version of himself on the screen. But though Loki’s gaze was on the screen, Mobius could tell that Loki wasn’t actually seeing it, his mind somewhere far away. He didn’t even stir when Mobius came into the room.

“I could have done it, father! I could have done it! For you! For all of us!”

The Loki on the screen hung over an abyss, an endless universe spreading out. He held on desperately to Gungnir, held in turn by his brother and, above them, Odin. Mobius had seen the footage before—after all, he’d seen pretty much every important moment of Loki’s life—and he knew how it ended. Knew what Odin would say, what Loki would do, knew the path the tears tracked down Loki’s cheeks. Knew the way Odin’s words would completely disintegrate Loki, how his expression would crumble, and how he would let the staff go.

He knew it all.

So he studied his Loki instead. Loki kept himself perfectly still, his back straight as he sat on the stairs, hands hanging still. On his cheeks, tears fell in a slow and steady stream.

Mobius sat next to him, but only as his arm brushed Loki’s did the other man react. He jumped, turned, and pinned Mobius to the floor with a hand wrapped around Mobius’ throat. Mobius saw fury in his eyes, rage and anguish. 

“Loki,” Mobius choked.

Loki blinked, took in his would-be attacker, and released his grip.

“Mobius.” His voice was rough, thick with the tears that still spilled across his cheeks.

“No, Loki.”

Behind them, the scene replayed, and Odin’s words echoed in the room. Loki closed his eyes, and a shudder passed through him.

Mobius sat up again, stood, and stopped the replay of what must be one of the worst moments of Loki’s life. Before the screen went blank, the last image was of Loki falling. Though Mobius knew it turned out all right—Loki sat here with him, after all—his intestines still twisted around themselves at the sight.

“Why are you watching that?” Mobius asked. He’d already shown Loki a quick version of his life until he became a variant, and what happened after that on the Sacred Timeline—it had been necessary to make Loki believe in the TVA and the Sacred Timeline—and one would assume that would be enough.

Loki looked up, and Mobius noted him attempting to wipe away the tears, though his puffy, red eyes told the truth. 

“Just trying to…” Loki trailed off.

“Trying to re-watch some seriously bad parts of your life?”

“Not like you didn’t want me to see it,” Loki said, and Mobius heard the defensiveness. “You showed me this on my first day here.” His hands came up to wrap around himself.

“I showed you to make you understand. Not for you to keep hurting yourself over and over with it.”

“But I deserve it, don’t I?” Loki’s hoarse voice cut straight through to Mobius’ heart and he longed to gather Loki up in his arms, hold him close, and offer him the comfort he had so rarely received in his life. “I tried to kill Thor. I nearly succeeded.”

Mobius moved toward him again, moving slowly as though nearing a wild animal. 

“Your brother is difficult to kill,” Mobius said. “Not like it was the first time, even. You guys had a pretty rough childhood despite the whole living-in-a-palace thing.”

Loki looked up at him with red-rimmed eyes, with so much naked pain in his expression that it hurt to see.

“Sibling rivalry,” he whispered.

Mobius raised an eyebrow. “Sibling rivalry is fighting over toys. Not trying to stab each other or rip each other’s body parts off.”

Loki closed his eyes, silence spreading. His chest heaved as though he was trying to keep more tears at bay. 

“It wasn’t your fault that you and Thor didn’t have a great relationship,” Mobius said, sitting down once more next to Loki. 

“So it was Thor’s?” asked Loki, disbelief coloring his voice, and then came bitterness. “I think the golden boy would disagree.”

Mobius shook his head. “No, it wasn’t Thors either. It was Odin’s. Your father pitted the two of you against each other since you were tiny. Saying you were both born to rule, yet always favoring Thor over you? Pretending to love you both equally, though he didn’t? Keeping the truth of your heritage from you?” Mobius tried to keep his voice level, but Odin’s parenting always made him see red.

“He was trying to protect me,” Loki said, though it didn’t sound as though he believed the words. He studied his fists, knuckles white.

“He was trying to protect himself,” Mobius countered. “If I’m generous, I can say he was trying to protect Asgard—but not you. He used you from start to finish, and he made you feel you were at fault, that you didn’t live up to his expectations.”

“I let the Frost Giants into Asgard.”

“Yeah,” Mobius said. “I won’t say that what you did was good. Some of it was pretty awful. You manipulated your brother, you let the Frost Giants in, tried to kill Thor, and you lied a lot. But to be honest, you had good reason to do it. Thor wasn’t ready to become king, you were right about that, even though the rest of your reasoning was more driven by anger and jealousy. I’ve seen the start of alternate realities—where you didn’t ruin the first coronation attempt—and they never end well for Asgard.”

Loki looked up at him then, and new tears fell. “He changed.”

“He did. And if your father had given you the chance to change, had believed that you could, you might’ve too. You’ve changed here.”

He’d changed more than anyone would have expected. The man they’d brought in a few weeks ago wouldn’t have been this honest, wouldn’t have trusted Mobius enough to be vulnerable. Loki was so open to positive feedback, lapped it up with a disbelieving look, like a child starved for attention. Mobius had tried it here and there, telling him “good boy”, or “great job”, and Loki always stared at him with incredulity. Did Odin ever say nice things to his youngest? Or had Odin’s words always been condescending? He had compared Loki and Thor on more occasions than Mobius could count, and Loki had seldom, if ever, come out on top.

“He was a good father.” Loki sounded more like he was trying to convince himself.

Mobius raised his hand to Loki’s back, resting it gently there, trying to gauge Loki’s reaction. When Loki leaned against him, Mobius let his arm slide all the way around him.

“He was a decent father to Thor,” Mobius said. 

Another shudder passed through Loki, and Mobius’ hold tightened. He would never consider himself a violent man, but had it been possible, he would certainly have liked to do a number on the Allfather. Allfather . Mobius scoffed. Odin hadn’t even been a father to the children he’d claimed as his own.

“You could’ve done it,” Mobius said. “If you’d had a supportive, loving father. Someone who believed in you.” A part of him wanted to add, the way I do, but he didn’t dare. “He didn’t give you the same chance as Thor, and it’s no wonder you ended up with Thanos. Another one who used you and your insecurities.”

“If I’d been better, a better person, I would’ve—”

“Loki,” Mobius said sharply. “We’re all the result of the people we have around us. You weren’t a bad kid, you aren’t an evil person. You just had a sucky role model.”

Loki made a sound, somewhere between a snort and a sob, and leaned his head against Mobius’ shoulder. It was exactly what Mobius had wanted for weeks, and though he wished it was under happier circumstances, he couldn’t help but enjoy the closeness.

“You are a wonderful person,” Mobius said, voice soft. “You can be whatever you set your mind to, you’ve shown that much. And if you want to be good, I’ll be beside you every step.” 

To press a kiss to Loki’s temple was no more of an effort than a slight turn of his head, his lips gracing Loki’s skin ever so briefly. Oh, how much he wanted to convey his own feelings to Loki, to make him understand. Loki deserved so much more than life had served him so far. 

Loki pulled away from him, lifting his head to look at Mobius. “You’re being so nice.”

“Yeah. Don’t get too used to it,” Mobius said, but hoped the gentleness of his voice and caresses were enough to soften the words. “I’m sure your head will get too big for the doors around here if I continue.”

But Loki didn’t look like someone whose ego was getting too big for the room. He looked more like a lost child, like the younger version of himself that had played on the screen as he fell to what he must have assumed was his death. What had the younger Loki thought as he let go? Had he been frightened? Or had he simply given up, believing that his life wasn’t worth continuing? Mobius hated thinking that Loki considered himself so worthless, used up, as though he was rotten goods.

He ran his fingers through Loki’s black tresses, so soft to touch, and gently massaged Loki’s scalp. Loki closed his eyes again and seemed to give in, head coming back to Mobius’ shoulder.

“Why are you here in the middle of the night, watching that?” Mobius asked, quieter, and nodded toward the dark screen.

Loki shrugged. “I—I couldn’t sleep.”

“So you figured stealing my keycard and leaving the apartment without a word, all to go watch yourself fall to your death, was a great idea?” Mobius asked, one eyebrow raised.

“I didn’t fall to my death.”

“Did you think you were?” 

Loki hesitated. “Yes. I hoped for it.”

Mobius’ heart clenched again, and he squeezed Loki closer. “God, Loki.”

“That’s me. Loki, the god of death and destruction and chaos.” He didn’t sound the least bit proud. “Why are you here?”

“Believe it or not, if Judge Renslayer found out you were out and about on your own in the middle of the night, she’d be unhappy,” Mobius said. “I figured I ought to find you first.”

Loki’s expression was one of disappointment, though he didn’t say anything.

Mobius sighed. “That, and I was worried about you.”

Loki looked down at his hands, the long fingers twisting and turning around each other. “But I was quiet when I left. I didn’t wake you up, you were snoring when I left.”

“I don’t snore,” Mobius said. “And I just happened to wake up. Went to get a glass of water and found you gone.”

“Did you assume I’d left the TVA?” 

“No,” Mobius said, glad that he was able to say it with complete honesty. The notion had crossed his mind, and he’d discarded it just as quickly. He trusted Loki, though he wasn’t sure when exactly that had started. The mischievous jokester that had first come to the TVA hadn’t been one to be trusted. But then, the Loki who had first arrived wouldn’t have trusted Mobius enough to lean on him either.

“It’s not like I have anywhere to go, anyway,” Loki said, voice soft.

“I want you to stay.”

Loki stilled beneath Mobius’ hand. A few moments passed, then came, “Why?”

“Oh, Loki,” Mobius breathed. “Haven’t you been listening to what I’ve been saying? I want you here. I want to stand beside you. I want to be there when you do good things, to be good. And I want to be there for you when you fall, so that I can help you up again.”

During Mobius’ brief speech, Loki turned his head to look at him. His green eyes looked even greener, almost glowing, when surrounded by redness. Loki’s gaze dropped to Mobius’ lips, and he hesitated for only a second before leaning forward and kissing Mobius.

Loki’s lips tasted of salty tears, but beneath that was the scent and taste of Loki, more difficult to define but no less delicious just because Mobius’ inability to find the right words. Mobius’ other hand came up to pull Loki closer, to make sure the other man knew he wanted this. He did, he’d wanted it for weeks, but hadn’t been able to find the courage to do something about it.

Loki breathed, exhalation warm against Mobius’ skin, and they leaned their foreheads against each other. Mobius rubbed his thumb over Loki’s cheek, wiping away the wetness of his tears. 

“I always want you with me,” Mobius said.

Loki made another sound, but this time not as much a sob as a sharp breath. “I…” but he didn’t continue, just closed his eyes, moving his head to Mobius’ shoulder. Mobius wrapped his arms around Loki in a slightly awkward hug, and what did it matter that his back protested the position when he got to hold Loki? He ran his hands in circles over Loki’s back.

“I really like this,” he mumbled, “but perhaps we should return to my apartment. A little more private, a little less risk of someone finding us and asking questions.”

Loki hummed in agreement but made no attempt to move.

“C’mon, up we go,” Mobius said. 

Despite hanging like a sack of potatoes when they sat, Loki did stand as Mobius stood up. As they made their way out of Theater 23, Mobius kept his arm around Loki’s waist. Whether for Loki’s sake or his own, he didn’t know. He just didn’t want to let go.

He wasn’t sure where this would lead—where would they wake up the next morning, would Loki pull back then and pretend the night’s conversation and kiss were merely a dream? But no, Mobius wouldn’t allow it. Not now, not ever. He wanted Loki, and he wouldn’t let him pull away. 

He found Loki in Theater 23, and he intended to keep him.

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