There was a man in the kitchen, who had dark hair and wore an eerily familiar gray suit, the cut of it nipping at Loki's memory. The man turned, and Loki found himself face to face with himself, green eyes and slightly knowing smirk – wait, he didn't normally look quite that smug, did he32 - and one eyebrow quirking up as if to say, 'well isn't this fun.'
Even as his brain tried to process that particular impossibility, his gaze flicked around the kitchen, taking in the situation, the location of all the carving knives, the cabinet where he kept his gourmet coffee and teas half empty with its door hanging open, and--
"That," he said, very calmly and carefully, "is my waffle iron. I suggest you put it down, so that I can proceed to stab you without damaging it."
The fake Loki glanced down, eyebrows jumping a little as if to say, 'what waffle iron? oh, this one?' and then he smiled again, that little half quirk on his lips that Loki was beginning to realize might be the main reason people wanted to murder him even when he was at his most innocuous. "Negative. It is my waffle iron."
It was like looking in a mirror on his worst days, when he couldn't quite handle being himself, when all he saw in his own reflection was everything that he despised and none of the parts of himself that he considered worthwhile. Something white hot clawed at his brain, filling his eyes with smoke.
"That would only be possible if you were Loki. And considering that's who I happen to be, you're a fucking liar now put down my waffle iron you son of a bitch!"
He lunged, poker out to strike. The other Loki didn't move, didn't do anything but prick up an eyebrow and laugh and then the poker sank deep into his chest and kept sinking. There was no grate of bone or resistance of flesh; it was like stabbing a Jell-o mold33. Loki hastily lunged back, fighting to regain his balance.
The fake Loki grabbed the poker, wrenched it from his hand, and pulled it sideways from his chest, flesh and suit rippling like a liquid. It came free with a soft, squelching pop. The fake Loki inspected the poker, then dropped it on the floor. "You see, if I were an inadequate flesh bag like you, that might have really hurt," he remarked. "I believe that qualifies as rude." He set the waffle iron down on the counter.
But Loki was already backing out of the kitchen, one hand finding a table lamp and flinging it at the fake. He need a moment, to regroup, to think--
The fake disappeared.
Loki stopped, turned; he knew this game. He blocked the first blow as the fake popped back into existence, drove his knee into the thing's groin, but it didn't make a difference, it felt like he'd just driven his knee into a marshmallow, not a person--
Because it's not a person, you fucking idiot. So will this be how it ends, undone by your own stupidity? THINK!
There was no time to think.
The fake's arm flowed around him, gripped his throat with one hand, half-crushing his windpipe and he couldn't make more than a pathetic little mewl of dismay. It pushed its other hand against his forehead, flesh molding against his and for just a moment he thought he caught a whiff of oranges.
"You have something of mine," the fake said.
"Wrong," Loki choked out. Loki got a hand up to its face, pressing his thumb into one of its eyeballs, but there was no satisfying pop. As his finger sunk in, he felt just a spark of his magic, as if something was so close--
"I am superior in every way. I do not need your permission to take anything."
Loki tried to pull at the magic, call it back, but it was too late, the greater part already out of his grasp. His vision went white, he tasted electricity, his muscles locking as the fake tore the last of his magic from of his heart and soul and brain. A high, thin wail filled Loki's ears; his voice, the only sound he could make around the hand crushing his throat.
The wound on his shoulder burst open, a fresh wash of blood darkening his suit jacket, and the fake still didn't let go. Insubstantial fingers clawed at his mind, sucked at his memories, at his ability to even think, and the fake Loki whispered, "What are you hiding? It's still not enough. You will give it to me--!"
It touched that white hot rage that he kept locked away, the thing that made him hate his brother and, and the cool center that whispered you know, it would be absolutely hilarious if you just did
The fake dropped him, raising its hands to its head, and shrieked. "Override! Override! Override denied!"
In a crumpled heap on the floor, Loki gasped in a breath, and started laughed, crazy and aching as he dragged himself to his side, rolled to his feet as the fake continued to scream. "Bit off more than you could chew, huh? Huh?" He tried to kick the thing, but almost fell over and decided that could wait until later. "If you can't even eat my brain like a man, you're nothing! I've had better parasites than you try to crawl into my ears!"
In the distance, he thought he heard the rumble of thunder, setting the pictures that remained on the walls rattling. At least he hoped.
Loki half-stumbled, half-crawled to the door. It slammed shut, knob twisting and warping like wax as he reached it. He looked over his shoulder; the fake was starting to straighten, one hand still clutching its head.
"I didn't give you permission to leave. You will give me what I want!"
"You can't take it!" Loki shouted. He pressed one hand against the wall, a layer of ice running across the white paint and to the nearest window, turning into a crackling rime of frost on the glass. Reeling crazily, he lunged at the the dining set, grasping one of the metal and wood chairs. With the last of his strength, he flung it at the nearest window.
The window blew out; wind roared in, tearing at the curtains, scattering the few papers that lay on the floor.
The fake took a step toward him, another. "You will not win. You may as well come here and play... nicely. Think of it as the ultimate upgrade." And it tried to smile. Loki sincerely hoped that he had never, in his entire life, smiled quite like that.
He spared one glance at the horizon – dark clouds, had to hope, now or never because staying inside was simply no longer an option – and said, "Here's the secret: I don't have to win. I just have to not play, and you still lose."
He jumped out of the window, arms spread wide to take in the horizon.
32 – Yes.
33 – Christmas, 2009, the awful lime green Jell-o salad at Biffy's party after one two many Long Island Ice Teas that Loki was now certain hadn't ever involved tea of any sort.