Loki doesn’t understand why everyone at the TVA is so damn touchy . And when he says touchy, he doesn’t just mean clingy, hugging friends — or in his case, brother — and your mom being embarrassingly affectionate. When he’s first arrested, the Hunters manhandle him in and out of the courtroom, gripping his upper arms tightly despite the fact that he has the damned Time Twister collar on. They can walk themself around the TVA, thank you very much.
Yet, that kind of touch is what Loki is used to. They used to flinch from it, but have learned over time how to duck and dodge and slip their way out of a too-tight grip or a punishing hand.
But then there’s a different kind of ‘touchy’ at the TVA. There’s Agent Mobius putting a gentle hand on Loki’s back in order to guide him through the halls, extending a cheerful hand out to shake, helping him back on his feet. Loki is suspicious at first. They look down at Mobius’ hand when it’s offered, eyes narrowing as if to gauge whether it is a trap or not. Mobius’ body language is lax and friendly though. He angles his body towards Loki and makes steady eye contact, almost as if he’s entirely unfazed by meeting a god.
Then again, Loki supposes Mobius probably is entirely unfazed if this damned TVA place is telling the truth.
Everything about Mobius is warm and hospitable, from his conspiratorial drawl to his lazy grins, that Loki feels oddly obliged to believe his words. He’s not sure if it’s a clever move from the TVA or a stupid one.
For one thing, Mobius is far too trusting. Loki immediately notices his genuine desire to pick at their brain. He watches Loki with an almost childlike curiosity, eyes twinkling.
Loki almost feels bad for using the offered hand up as a way to pick his pocket.
Even as Loki makes his break for a way out of this awful place, he thinks about Mobius’ genuinely apologetic grimace and instant offer for a helping hand. His grip was warm and his hand felt large and rough, almost surprisingly so for an analyst with a desk-job.
Loki had used the momentum to swing themself up and against Mobius’ side, pretending to still be a little off-balance. But the man hadn’t even blinked, just leaned into Loki, helping prop them up, and settled a hand on his forearm.
For a strange moment, Loki almost forgot why they had accepted the hand in the first place, suddenly shocked into stillness by the points of contact against Mobius. It was an unusual sensation, one that Loki wasn’t sure how to explain.
Even after the incident with Casey, and the Infinity Stones, and learning about his variant, Loki’s mind wandered back to that little moment. Barely two seconds in space and time, yet Loki felt as if some of Mobius’ sunny warmth had leached into themself, settling deep in his chest.
Was this another trick of the TVA? Some sort of enchantment?
Loki refused to let it affect him. He was a god , for Odin’s sake. The petty persuasions and weak attempts at diversions could not control them.
Yet the attempts persisted nonetheless. After going through paperwork, Mobius took Loki to the cafeteria, settling the both of them down at a table with Caesar salads.
Loki personally felt the salad did not live up to the legacy of its name, but felt it an apt metaphor for the illusions of grandeur.
Disappointing salads or not, Mobius did not seem to be phased. He sat down at the table and went at his lunch with the gusto of a man enjoying a juicy burger and beer.
Loki couldn’t help but feel impressed.
Then, Loki’s mind was quickly otherwise occupied as Mobius casually stretched out, settling a foot between Loki’s and allowing his calf to rest against Loki’s.
Mobius did not seem to notice, and simply kept droning on about whatever inane mission the TVA was sending him on.
The entirety of Loki’s existence seemed to narrow down into a little pinpoint that involved their legs being intertwined together.
Mobius had a restless energy to him and Loki could feel his knee bouncing up and down, knocking against the side of Loki’s leg. His heel would occasionally slide along the top of Loki’s ankle, feeling suspiciously intimate.
Loki prided himself on being a seductive being, but rarely did he ever find himself in a situation where they were the one being seduced. And in this case, Loki truly could not tell if Mobius was attempting to flirt with them or was just the most touchy-feeling bumbling fool.
Rest assured, Loki was not going to fall victim to this simple human and his painfully obvious tactics.
Loki absolutely did not preen with pride when Mobius told him he looked ‘smart’ in a TVA agent jacket. When Mobius steered Loki around the TVA with a hand on their lower back, they certainly did not let it rest there, allowing themself to be pulled into Mobius’ magnetic orbit. And Loki staunchly refused to ever fall asleep near Mobius, never allowing his head to slump onto Mobius’ shoulder or his knee to press against Mobius’ thigh, feeling Mobius brush a strand of hair from their forehead before they dozed off.
Whatever it was that Mobius and the TVA were planning, it wasn’t working.
Loki confidently told Mobius as much after one mission, where Mobius had congratulated him with an arm slung around his shoulder.
“You know, just because you do away with physical boundaries as you please, it doesn’t mean I’m going to trust you any faster.” Loki rolls their eyes.
Mobius glances up from his TemPad, where he was tapping in the details from the mission.
“What are you talking about, Loki?”
“I’m talking about the little touchy-feely game you’re playing. Here’s some unsolicited advice from someone who has manipulated gods and heroes like they were innocent children: you’re awful at it.”
Mobius frowns, eyebrows drawing together. “I’m not trying to manipulate you.”
Which, of course, Loki knows is a textbook response for someone trying to manipulate him.
“Why would you admit it even if you were?” Loki counters.
“What’s gotten into you? One second we’re getting leads on variants and now you’re saying I’m manipulating you. Gonna need a little clarification here.” Mobius stands and moves over to Loki. As always, he stands closer than any other person at the TVA usually would. Loki refuses to get drawn into that and shifts backwards.
“You keep giving me praise and pets like I’m your lap dog. I’m no fool and I’m certainly not a dog .”
“Of course you aren’t!” Mobius drops his voice to an almost pleading whisper. Loki hates that it makes them lean in closer to catch all the words. “We’re partners, Loki, and if I’ve done anything— ah shit. Shit.”
Mobius shuffles back a few steps and rubs his temple. “I’m sorry. Oh my god. I’ve been making you uncomfortable. Have I been making you uncomfortable?”
Loki scoffs. “Well, that’s certainly one way to describe it.”
Mobius looks genuinely distraught, it almost strikes a sympathetic chord in Loki’s heart.
“I should’ve asked, I’m so sorry. Hey, hey. I promise, no more touching.”
Loki frowns. It feels suspiciously easy. “Okay.”
Mobius gives a corny thumbs up. “Okay. Good. We got it.”
He moves back to his desk to gather up the files and his TemPad.
“We’re back in action, then? Good to go?”
“Er. I suppose so.” Loki blinks. The conversation has gone drastically different from how he imagined in his head.
“Great! Look at us. Leaps and bounds, Loki, leaps and bounds!” The agent then bustles out of the office in a flurry of papers, flashing a mustached grin before he disappears.
“It’s futile to attempt to manipulate the God of Mischief!” Loki calls out behind him, but it echoes dully in the empty office.
They sit heavily against Mobius’ desk.
There’s a nagging sensation that Loki did not win that conversation at all.
What follows next appears to Loki as an advanced psychological torture technique. Mobius says good morning to him with a polite wave. They walk through the halls with a noticeable distance between the two of them. Their shoulders do not bump and Mobius’ hand does not rest at Loki’s elbow.
At lunch, Mobius does not entwine his legs with Loki’s and he doesn’t steal the tomatoes off of Loki’s salad when he thinks they aren’t looking.
They leave for a quick mission to prune an unsuspecting grocery store clerk variant and Mobius does not pat Loki on the back as a congratulations afterwards, nor does he rub absent circles into Loki’s shoulder blades while pretending to listen to B-15’s debrief.
It feels sterile and cold, a stark difference from before, when Mobius’ contagious warmth seeped beneath Loki’s skin.
All of it is entirely unacceptable and Loki plans an intervention.
He corners Mobius in his office later that evening.
“You are sorely mistaken if you think your shenanigans have gone unnoticed!” Loki announces as he enters without bothering to knock. Mobius always left his door open for Loki anyways.
In the office, Mobius has his legs sitting atop his desk, TemPad in hand. He’s sketching on it with his pointer finger, as Loki has observed him to do frequently rather than finish up paperwork.
Looking up at Loki’s arrival, he blinks slowly. Without even bothering to answer he just throws his hands up, eyebrows crookedly raising.
“You’ve been acting oh so innocent all day, when we both know you are, in fact, the exact opposite!” Loki jabs an accusatory finger at Mobius who just hikes his hands up higher, pantomiming defense.
“Woah, woah. You’re the God of Mischief here, and unless we got a mix-up on our hands, I do believe I haven’t done a thing to wrong you.”
Scoffing, Loki positions themself intimidatingly above where Mobius sits at the desk. “First you make a clumsy attempt at seducing me and then, at the failure of that, you think ignoring me with a cold shoulder will get my attention!”
Mobius chews his lower lip and squints up at Loki. “If we’re being entirely honest,” he drawls. “I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.”
He swings his legs off the desk and stands up, turning to face Loki fully.
“You told me that I was bein’ too touchy-feeling with you, so we agreed that I won’t do it anymore. It was my bad, Loki, for not asking what your boundaries were. But now, I stop with the touching, and it’s ‘shenanigans’?”
“Well,” Loki thinks about it. “Yes.”
Mobius just stares at him.
“Okay. Explain that to me, Loki.”
“Well—“ Loki starts again and then stops. What exactly was the point of Mobius’ shenanigans? “For one thing, you've done what I said without complaining. It’s suspicious and you’re clearly planning something.”
“It’s suspicious that I’ve…respected your boundaries?”
“Yes! Well— no, it wasn’t exactly my boundaries that was the problem, but rather the nature of your seduction techniques.”
“Loki, I wasn’t trying to seduce you.” Mobius throws his hands out, gesturing wildly at himself and then at Loki.
Wait. He wasn’t—? That didn’t make sense.
“You weren’t trying to seduce me?” Loki said, betrayed, suddenly forgetting how this argument even started in the first place.
“It’s called being a friend who shows affection,” Mobius exaggerated the vowels, tone dry. “Look, between you thinking I’m going to disrespect your boundaries and thinking that me being nice is seduction, your perception of social relationships is kinda fucked up.”
“Well,” Loki said, annoyed. “I haven’t exactly had a normal upbringing.”
“I can tell.”
“Whatever. Good for you, I suppose.”
The two of them stood in the office as the conversation died pathetically. Mobius has a funny expression on his face and Loki suddenly found the brown and orange wallpaper very interesting.
“So-o, take two?” Mobius offers after a few more agonizing seconds.
“I suppose.” Loki sighs.
“Okay. Are you okay with me being touchy? No seduction involved, pinky promise.” He waves his pinky in front of Loki as if he was dangling a worm in front of a fish.
Frankly, Loki was getting tired of fish metaphors.
“You may do as you please I suppose, so long as it’s not underhand seduction techniques. Amateur, by the way.” Loki grumbles.
“Nuh-uh,” Mobius shook his head. “I need clear consent here. Not gonna have another mix-up on my very busy hands.”
“This is childish and humiliating,” Loki sighs again, looking down at their nails and inspecting them intently. “But, I understand you’ll be frustratingly insistent.”
Mobius nods and waves his hands in the ubiquitous ‘ carry on ’ signal.
“Fine. Yes, you, Mobius M. Mobius, may touch me, Loki Laufeyson, in your so-called friendly and affectionate ways.”
“Wo-ow,” Mobius says, drawing out the ‘o’. “That almost felt like wedding vows. Romantic. More than enough, Loki, but I appreciate your thoroughness.”
“I’m glad someone does,” Loki says dryly.
Mobius clapps his hands together and stands back from Loki, going back to his desk and grabbing a stack of papers to straighten.
“Well, I’m pleased we got that all fixed. Thanks for being open with me.” Mobius gives Loki a quick smile and returns to his seat.
Loki feels as if he had just been dismissed and that wouldn’t do.
“What, you aren’t going to slap me on the back? No companionable handshake? Or a congratulatory hug?” Loki scoffs. They shift over to the side of the desk, moving in Mobius’ way obnoxiously.
Mobius does not do so much as blink, just stares at Loki. He leans back in his wheeled desk chair, crossing his arms.
“What, did you want one?” Mobius cocks his head to the side.
From where they were positioned now, Mobius is sprawled comfortably in his chair, legs casually spread, and Loki finds himself standing right between them.
Mobius shakes his head and then laughs. “When we first met, you were the same way. So feisty, so accusatory. A little mongoose.”
Mobius suddenly gets to his feet, pushing the chair so it goes spinning backwards. The office felt so small, too small to fit the two of them. Mobius was so close to Loki, they could feel the warmth of his skin and breath.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Loki says tentatively, unsure of where Mobius was going with this.
“What was it I called you that day? Oh, yeah,” Mobius chuckles. “A pussycat.”
“I’m done playing your games, Mobius,” Loki started petulantly.
“Say it,” Mobius interrupts. “Tell me what you want.”
Loki sputters at that, for once at a loss for words. Mobius…was the analyst drunk? Loki peered at him, but Mobius’ gaze was focused and steady, eyes clear.
“What the hell do you want with me,” Loki whispers, unable to look away.
“I want you to admit what you’re denying yourself,” Mobius answers. He’s so quiet when he speaks, Loki has to lean forward to catch it. “I’ve studied you my whole life. I think we both know what you need.”
Mobius holds out his left hand and flips it over so it lies palm-up between the two of them. The gesture seems louder and more jarring than any words Mobius has spoken to Loki. The god studies the hand between them, palm wide and fingers calloused.
He knows that hand because it has frequently settled on his back and on their elbow. It has excitedly clasped their own and helped them to their feet. Loki could trust that hand.
Carefully, he reaches out and places his own, slender, pale hand on top.
Mobius smiles and that liquid warmth fills Loki all the way up to the crown of their head.
Gently, Mobius flips his hand around so their fingers both point upwards as if in prayer. Loki sucks in a breath. It makes him feel giddy.
Worship me, pray to me, cherish me.
“That’s not so hard now, is it?” Mobius breathes out.
Mobius’ thumb slips down and brushes against Loki’s pulse point at his wrist, smoothing circles on the soft skin there.
“I’m going to hug you now, Loki,” Mobius says quietly. His eyes are brilliant, dizzyingly deep. “Is that okay?”
Now that he has a taste of it, Loki can’t imagine a timeline where he’d ever say no.
He just nods frantically, needing more and more and more.
“Yes. Yes. Yes.” They chant, holding their prayer hands together. Maybe Mobius is praying to them or he is praying to Mobius, but he doesn’t care and doesn’t know.
The entire universe has narrowed down to their point of contact, burning like a star.
Then Mobius reaches out and pulls Loki in, resting his right hand on the back of Loki’s head, letting it settle on his shoulder.
And Loki breathes .
For the first time in thousands of years, they can breathe.
He takes in greedy gulps of air, feeling Mobius’ hand on his back, rubbing comfortingly. Everything feels hazy and warm, as if it’s been drenched in Mobius’ golden aura.
It’s home. It feels like Loki is home.
“Mobius,” Loki whispers.
“I’ve got you. I’ve got you, Loki.”
Loki buries their face in Mobius’ soft cotton collar, where it smells the most like him. It smells like warm skin and aftershave and cardamom.
Absently, Mobius is making little shushing noises and hums interjected with praises.
“You’re doing so good, darling. You’re safe now. I’m not letting go, my love.”
“What is this…magic?” Loki says in awe.
They feel gentle vibrations against their chest and know that Mobius is laughing.
“It’s called a hug, Loki. Pretty good, huh?”
Loki rolls their eyes even though they know Mobius can’t see, just pressing closer instead. Well, whatever this damned sorcery is, he doesn’t want Mobius to stop.
And maybe, reluctantly, Loki realizes that he had never wanted Mobius to stop in the first place, only too scared to wake up and find it had all been a lie.
Every other time affection found Loki, devastation only followed. With Thor, with Frigga, with their home. And maybe, stupidly, Loki thought they could prevent that devastation from happening again by pushing away the affection.
But now, they realized that pushing away Mobius was the devastation. And every single time something they loved had been torn away, they had the chance to prevent it and had failed.
This time, Loki would not fail Mobius.
Of course, if the sacrifice was glorious, soul-warming hugs like these, it would not be so difficult of a task. Loki could learn to live with it.
Hiding a grin into Mobius’ collar, Loki knew that things were going to be just fine.