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“I’m beginning to think that thawing out you monkeys was a mistake,” the god says, narrowing his eyes at Tony. They’re the color of blood, or rubies, Tony supposes—pick your poison and all that. Everything is cold—cold is all that Tony’s ever known, he’s never known the warmth of the sun on his back, the cold are forever daggers of jagged ice pumping through his blood—but this god radiates frost, like standing in the middle of Antarctica in his birthday suit. The foot on his back twists, grinding him into the ground. His knees burn. His breath fogs the air. Frostbite eats away at the skin of his back, the cold devouring him alive.

Tony grins crookedly, his cheek pressed to the icy ground and purrs, “But then where would your entertainment come from?”

.

Once, mankind accepted a simple truth: that they were not alone in this universe. Some worlds man believed home to their Gods. Others they knew to fear. From around the cold and darkness came the Frost Giants, threatening to plunge the mortal world into a new ice age. But humanity would not face this threat alone.

Asgard’s armies attempted to drive the Frost Giants back into the heart of their own world. The cost was too great. In the end, Asgard’s king fell, and the source of their power was taken from them. With the last great war ended, Asgard’s armies withdrew from the other worlds and returned home in shame to the Realm Eternal, Asgard. There they remain, a warning in the form of a great broken city, shining out across the stars. Mankind remained, encased in ice, for millennia, until the heir apparent, Loki Laufeyson, stepped forward and breathed life into them once more.

Little more than slaves and playthings to the creatures who ruled their world, they became docile, frightened creatures who cowered from the cold and huddled before what little fire they could bring into being on their icy world.

Then, as if rising from the ashes, a resistance formed.

The Avengers, they called themselves. They vowed to either return peace to their planet or avenge it, even at the cost of their deaths.

At the heart of the group: a would-be hero returned from the bowels of the deep, a monster in the guise of a man, two assassins, a disgraced prince of Asgard, and a genius.

Their tale is that of bravery, courage, and in a way, failure.

But one wouldn’t want to give away the ending, would they?

.

Tony likes to wonder how his life could have been different, had the Frost Giants never come to Earth. They’re idle fantasies that he entertains when he’s shivering beneath his thin, scratchy blankets.

Would he have been someone important? Someone loved? Would he have been a prince or a pauper? Or maybe he would have died at birth, unsuited for a world where every day wasn’t a fight for his life.

He wasn’t born into wealth. He was born to a relatively healthy palace courtesan and one of the very few human inventors. Frost Giants weren’t very fond of human inventions and they were less fond of things that had no place in war. Howard Stark was special though, because he introduced the Frost Giants to new and improved weapons.

So for a human, Tony had it good enough. He got to eat at least one meal a day and though the palace was always colder than other parts of their glacial world, he got thin blankets to keep him warm.

He won’t remember it for some time, but when he was a child, he met the crowned prince.

Tony was crying, lost in hallways sculpted from ice. He wandered from room to room, sobbing softly, until he ended up in the library. It was so large, books stretching to the ceiling, that for a moment, he forgot his tears. He stared around him in awe, until a voice sounded from further within.

“Are you lost, little human?” the voice had said. It had taken Tony a moment to locate the source of the voice, but when he did, fear curled up in his throat and stayed there. The Jotunn prince was clad in little more than a white loincloth and various gems and jewelry, long blue legs stretched out over the arm of the chair. He was holding a book in his lap, a thumb tucked into the pages, and was regarding Tony with amusement.

“Well?” he prompted. “Speak. Or are you so addled by your own fear that you have no voice?”

Tony opened his mouth, but no sound came out. Finally, the prince sighed and marked his spot before rolling smoothly from the chair. He didn’t offer a hand to Tony when he reached him, to do so would guarantee a lost limb or require healing magic, but he did throw a thick furred pelt at the boy, smirking at him until Tony wrapped it around himself. The boy had no way of knowing that the pelt cloak was woven with magic to protect him from the cold. He only knew that it was warm.

“Let’s get you to your quarters then. It wouldn’t do to have a human child wandering these halls. You’re lucky that I’m the one who found you—my father would have been far less forgiving.”

They’d walked the halls together, side by side, Tony’s teeth still chattering so badly he thought that they would turn to ice and shatter.

His mother had not been pleased when he’d returned in the company of the heir to the throne, but Loki had just given her a stilted little smile and took his leave once Tony was safely clinging to his mother’s skirts.

Tony was three. Loki was thousands of years old.

.

“Who are you?” Tony asks the woman with the fire-kissed hair in his room. He is forty years old and is the lead engineer for the Jotunn royal family.

She blinks at him, slowly, and says, “I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger’s Initiative.”

.

When he was young, he used to wonder about the burns on his mother’s skin. They licked down her hips, thighs, arms, and though they looked painful, he never saw them when they were new. They were always shiny scars by the time he set eyes on them.

He doesn’t know about the prince, how Loki Laufeyson takes his father’s courtesan’s into his chambers after, how he will soothe their fear with gentle words and touch their skin with cool green healing magic. They will cower in fear, delirious from fever, the frostbite black and ugly, and he will heal them with a murmured word, and send them on their way again.

He will do the same the next time they are called upon and the next and the next.

If his father has ever stopped to wonder why the human whores are not dying from his very touch, he has never brought it up to Loki.

.

The man wears his eyepatch and his war-torn skin like jewelry, his thin body pockmarked with scars of various sizes, but he shows them proudly despite the constant chill of the air. Fury, he introduces himself as, and Tony stops and thinks that he’s never met a man with a more suitable name.

The woman who had gotten him out of the palace and to this twisted, broken camp paces behind them, keeping an eye out for dangers. There are more—men and women who mill around the camp with their own collection of war wounds, who eye him in his old frostweave cloak and his tinkling jewelry like he’s an abomination.

“You are in a unique position to help us,” Fury says, his eyes narrowed. “Natasha tells me that you make their weapons—that you live side by side with the monsters—that you even know some of them by name. Will you help us, Tony Stark?”

“Help with what,” he says, blinking slowly at a sheet of snow falling from a tree over Fury’s shoulder. He isn’t stupid. He knows what they want—but he wants to make him say it.

Fury’s smirk is hateful and ugly. “Help us take back our planet, Stark.”

.

He was fifteen the next time that he met Loki Laufeyson.

Fifteen years old and none of them believed yet, that he was his father’s son. They had no reason to believe that he could tinker with his dead father’s weaponry, so he was thrown into the other family business.

He was equally numb and hurting when a blue hand darted out from behind a curtain and dragged him inside the room by his cloak. He was in pain—so much pain—mentally and physically exhausted; he could not fight even if he wanted to.

Resigning himself to being passed around by the guards, he’d collapsed forward, felt the familiar burn of an icy chest against his cheek.

The creature who held him hissed, wrenching Tony away from his quickly, but the damage had already been done.

It seemed, that when Tony focused his bleary eyes on the Frost Giant, the god’s red eyes went wide with recognition. A moment, and the look was gone, replaced by something inexplicably angry.

“What has he done to you?” the creature hissed, inspecting his body carefully. Tony whimpered a bit when Loki pulled his cloak from his shoulders, but otherwise made no sound as the icy air nipped at his flesh, unforgiving.

He may have been in shock, his head lolling alarmingly forward, but the green glow of the prince’s magic woke him from the haze.

“What are you doing?” he’d slurred, watching blearily as Loki’s hands hovered just above his skin, never touching.

“Healing you,” the prince answered, shrugging his huge shoulders.

Tony could see that. That wasn’t why he’d asked. “Yes, but why?”

Loki looked at him sharply, red eyes gleaming. Tony would bet his share of rations that nobody had ever asked him that before.

The prince took his time answering, nudging Tony’s thighs apart so he could concentrate the magic on more sensitive areas. Finally, when Tony’s burns were nothing more than scar tissue, the prince had cocked his head at him, and said, “I am not fond of needless violence. My father, unfortunately, is. I do my part to make things right.”

Only then did Tony realize who his healer was.

.

“What do I have to do?” he’d asked Fury.

The man’s answer follows him all the way back to the palace, haunts his dreams and waking thoughts alike.

“The heir apparent is the weak link,” Fury had told him, smirk unfolding across his lips. “Get to him and we’ll do the rest.”

.

Years fifteen through twenty were spent mostly on his back, his thighs spread for the Jotunn king. After, Loki would pull him gently into his chambers, and heal him with a touch and a murmur.

“You’re clever though,” Loki had told him, puzzled. They were still in his room, the cool healing magic still tingling like mint on his skin, and Tony’s eyes were on a book that he could not read a week before. He read the book now, rarely faltering over unfamiliar words. Loki watched him like he was something new and fascinating.

“I am,” he’d answered, amused.

“Then why—” Loki had started, cutting himself off with a frustrated look when he failed at finding a polite way of asking why Tony was a whore. Tony, for his part, chuckled.

“Why would your father believe me? The only thing he has to go off of is that I’m my father’s son. Why use me for my brain when he can just use me for my body?” he’d scoffed, a bitter smile stealing over his features. Loki’s eyes flashed and for precious seconds, Tony thought that maybe he’d gone too far.

“He is a brute,” Loki hissed, brows pulled together. “He is not worthy of being king. He tromps around, smashing everything in sight. He does away with the ancient teachings of our culture to make room for more war and conquering. It’s despicable.”

“I take it you aren’t much of a daddy’s boy,” Tony laughed. The sound was only slightly nervous.

“I am not,” Loki sighed gravely, the fight going out of him like a gust of snow—there and gone again. He climbed to his feet, smiling over his shoulder at Tony.

“Stay here for as long as you’d like,” he said, hands curling around the doorframe as he regarded Tony sitting on his bed with something akin to affection. “Finish the book. The next volume is the red one there—see it?”

Tony nodded, unsure of what to make of this. Loki gave him one last whiplash of a smile and was gone.

.

What Fury hadn’t known—what Natasha, the spy in the palace hadn’t been able to discover—was that Tony was already close to the heir apparent. In fact, he was about as close to him as he could possibly be.

.

The first time that Tony kissed Loki, it was an hour after it had been announced that he would be taking over as head engineer.

Loki’s lips burned, but Tony kissed him anyway, and when he pulled back, he was grinning wide enough to split his cracked lips. “What did you do?” he murmured, kissing him again, quick as a flash.

“I had a conversation with my father,” Loki told him, returning the smile with ease. He leaned in, kissing him again—this time, the soothing chill of his magic seeping into Tony’s lips, healing them.

Tony laughed, giddily, and drew him down into the sheets.

.

“I was approached by a resistance today,” he tells Loki, later that night.

Loki looks at him curiously. “Is that so?”

“They think that you’re the weakest link—that if I get to you, they’ll be able to take out your father.”

The smile that blooms across Loki’s face is liquid cool and wicked.

“Well then,” Loki whispers, his lips pressed to Tony’s skin; a plan begins to form between them.

.

The first time that Tony laid with him, that night, he’d been enthusiastic, more than willing, but still shied away from the coldness of Loki’s body. Accepting the frostbite was one thing when it was Laufey holding him down—accepting it willingly, from Loki, who he’d only ever associated with healing and the slow erasure of pain was another.

“Hush, pet,” Loki whispered, stilling his hips as Tony whimpered. “I’m going to try something. Close your eyes.”

If it were another, Tony would not have done it. Closed eyes meant that you didn’t see the next hit, you didn’t know where they would next attack. But it was Loki, so Tony let his eyes slide closed obediently.

He felt the change, rather than saw it. The skin pressed against his warmed slowly, like the rare midsummer days where the clouds would part and the snow would melt, if only for an hour. He gasped as the pain faded, as Loki’s loincloth rode up his thighs and a hot cock nudged against his.

“You can open them now,” Loki whispered, amused, and Tony did.

The only thing unchanged was the dark hair atop Loki’s head and the framework of his body—an off color pictograph where the blue had become pink, the red turned to green. Loki looked—and felt—human.

“How did you do that?” Tony asked, his eyes rolling back into his head as Loki rocked their hips together.

“Magic,” Loki had whispered, eyes the color of evergreens.

.

When the red headed woman returns to him to take him to Fury for a second time, Tony goes, lovebites displayed proudly on his throat.

Fury looks at him, an eyebrow raised, and just says, “That wasn’t what I meant by getting close to him, but if it works, fuck it.”

“Literally,” Tony purrs, waggling his eyebrows.

.

Over time, attraction deepened, became something else altogether. Tony sat with Loki in the library when he wasn’t working and slowly, absorbed the knowledge that Loki had collected over the years.

“You’re like a magpie,” Tony told him once, a book propped in his lap written in some new ancient language that he was slowly teaching himself.

“I know not what that is,” Loki replied, turning a page in his book.

“It’s a type of bird that collects shiny things for their nests,” Tony said, flapping a hand in Loki’s direction. Loki raised one eyebrow, eyes dragging down Tony’s body, and slowly, Tony watched as his form changed.

“I would have you over this desk,” Loki told him once the change was complete. “I do appreciate bringing new and beautiful things to my nest, after all.”

.

He meets the other members of the Avengers over a six month period. First is Clint, dressed in furs and clutching a bow in his hands. He is distrustful at first, like he can smell the Jotunn on Tony, but after several weeks of Tony trading palace secrets, he warms up easily enough.

The Captain, he meets next—a tired looking man who, according to Fury, was the product of an experiment to defeat the Frost Giants, years and years ago. He’d been lost under some ice before he could fulfill his destiny, and all had thought him dead until he’d been unearthed the year before.

Then comes Banner, also a product of an experiment, though this one was a failure. He turned into a monster when he felt any intense emotion, apparently. The man though, was a scientist, a doctor in an age where there were none. Tony takes a liking to him immediately and spends his time trying to provoke him into a change.

The last one that he meets is Thor. Once he may have been a great prince—once he may even have called someone brother, but this world of theirs had not been kind to Thor Odinson. His hair hung lank and matted down his back, his face dirty, his speaking ability barely existent, and his manner feral.

As a child, he’d been cast out of Asgard when his father had been killed, doomed to wander the Earth so that his people had no hope of ever seeing their prince again.

Tony watches them all—his team—and thinks of Loki back home, the puppet master behind the scenes, whispering the secrets that Tony is to tell them into his ear.

“If they want my father’s head, that’s what we’ll give them,” he purrs.

.

Loki once showed him the universe. They’d walked the winding branches of Yggdrasil, stepping on shadows, stardust in their hair. He’d showed Tony the distant glimmer of Asgard, had him feel the flames of Muspelheim and the ice of Niflheim. They explored the roots and the uppermost branches, where Ratatosk scurried along the branches

Loki looked at him, starlight in his hair, and kissed Tony, there in the heavens, and from that moment, Tony would never need to hear the word ‘love’ from him, because it was woven into his very marrow.

.

The Captain falls. He’d wandered too close and gotten caught by the guards. Tony watched him kneel before Laufey, his shoulders straight and proud, the slant of his mouth defiant.

He’d watched the man’s head bounce down the steps and though Loki was not standing beside him, he felt the prince’s hand curl around his anyway.

“It will be okay,” Loki tells him after. “A foolish mistake, but the plan will still work.”

“Can you revive him?” Tony asks, staring at the man’s head, still sitting on the floor.

Loki hesitates, and that is all the answer Tony needs.

.

Laufey never once caught them, but sometimes, Tony thought that he might suspect. There were war meetings, talk of taking Muspelheim, and Laufey would look at him and Loki, his gaze thoughtful.

He never said anything, but Tony suspected that he must have known.

.

“I have the Casket of Winters,” Loki whispers to him in the night.

“Come with me,” Tony says, curling his fist in Loki’s damp hair. He smells of sweat, mint, and distantly, of frost. “To their camp. It would be easier, with you.”

Loki shakes his head. “They would not accept help from Loki Laufeyson, nor any of my kind. It must be kept secret. Tell them to ready their army.”

.

The day before Fury first summoned him with a woman and a curse, Loki had showed him what his kind had done to Tony’s planet. He showed him the frozen oceans and the icy tundras that once were lush rainforests, and told Tony: “This is what my people are good at. Destroying beautiful things.”

“But you’re different,” Tony had said, looking out over the peak of what might have once been called Mt. Everest.

Loki looked at him, green eyes bleeding red, and asked, “Am I really?”

.

“I’m beginning to think that thawing out you monkeys was a mistake,” Loki says, a mask of boredom on his face. His foot shifts against Tony’s back in a gesture that may appear as if he’s grinding him into the ground. There’s a whisper of soothing mint on his skin, and the pain of frostbite fades away.

Tony’s team watches in horror, held back by smirking guards. They watch as he’s ground down until his cheek is pressed to the icy ground. Thor fights the hardest to reach him, savage face twisted with rage.

“But then where would your entertainment come from?” he laughs, glancing up to see the ghost of a smirk on Loki’s lips.

“Kneel,” Loki tells him, and Tony laughs, because he’s already kneeling.

Laufey is a looming shadow over them, coming closer and closer, until he’s not five feet away. “This mortal plotted against us,” he tells Loki. “His insolence must be punished. Take his head, my son.”

Thor cries out, the raspy edge of a roar as a spear slices through his shoulder. Tony isn’t worried—it would take far more than that to kill him. Natasha and Clint are both silent and Hulk is nowhere to be seen.

“With pleasure, father,” Loki purrs, accepting his bladed staff from one of the guards. “Any last words?”

Tony smirks up at him and then, his eyes cut to Laufey’s, just over Loki’s shoulder. It’s him Tony directs his next statement to.

“Yeah. See you in hell, you fucker,” he hisses, feeling the hiss of displaced air as Loki’s blade comes down.

Laufey’s face is set in a permanent mask of surprise when his head slides from his neck. It bounces, just like the Captain’s—just like Steve’s—did.

The whole room goes silent as Loki straightens up, eyes cold and burning at once, his father’s blood dripping from the wicked end of his staff.

“I, Loki Laufeyson, am your new King,” he hisses to the crowd of Frost Giants around him. His lips are twisted into a feral smirk. “Kneel before me or feel my wrath.”

.

“That could have gone better,” Tony tells him later. The blood has been washed from Loki’s hair, but it’s still a bit damp, leaving wet trails on the armchair he’s reclining in.

“How so?” he asks lazily, tilting his head in Tony’s direction.

Tony snorts. “Less bloodshed, for one.”

“There will always be bloodshed among my kind. They hunger for it like a newborn at the teat.”

There’s silence between them for a moment, long enough that Tony’s tempted to pull one of the books from a shelf at random. Instead, he rounds the armchair and slides into Loki’s lap. He kisses him, hot and wet, and rocks their hips together. They've always had ways of dealing with boredom. This is his favorite.

Loki chuckles and surges up to whisper against his lips, “So insatiable, pet.”

Tony’s breath hitches as Loki’s lips drag across his jawline. “I want you inside me five minutes ago,” he gasps. This time, Loki’s laughter is breathless.

“I think that can be arranged.”

.

“So what now?” Tony asks, after, when the sweat is cooling on their skin. Loki hums, his lashes fluttering against his cheeks. He opens his eyes, running an affectionate hand through Tony’s hair.

“I believe,” he starts, slowly, licking his lips. “That we have a prince to return to Asgard. Perhaps you would like to join me?”