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Tony left the Tower right after the two assholes did.

Retreated to a warehouse space he kept nearby--the place he saved for his most dangerous work, projects he didn’t want to expose the Tower’s inhabitants to.

That’s what he told Pepper, anyway, who gave him her best what-the-hell-Tony face. But the warehouse served a different purpose. It was where Tony went to hide when he was really pissed off and didn’t want to be found.

His DMZ.

He couldn’t believe Loki had gone out with that a-hole. Thought when he’d watched the flirting, the obvious come-ons, the cheesy one-liners (cheesier than his own!) ... thought Loki would see right through it and kick the guy onto his ass or punch a hole through his face.

But when he heard that low chuckle, that little pleased sound Loki had made--

Holy fuck: Lex Luthor was making a move on the God of Mischief.

And right under Tony’s nose. Were they fucking kidding?!

Tony had been kind of baffled when Luthor had reached out earlier that week, ostensibly to talk to Tony about the water-purification system Tony was developing, yet another Stark-patented “for the greater good” refinement that had the NGOs salivating and the corrupt rabidly slavering. Tony knew which one Lex represented, but since Luthor hardly ever reached across the demarcation of their interests, his call had gotten Tony’s attention.

And, yeah, Tony had given in to the broad hint that Luthor wanted to come see what Tony was doing himself. It was stupid to be proprietary about tech he planned on giving away, and if Lex wanted to steal an idea, slap a posh logo on it, and try to turn it into profit with a radically different audience?

Whatever.

Tony was out of that game, mostly. Even if the thought of the rubber-domed idiot who had the nerve to be almost a decade younger than him kind of pissed Tony off. Tony knew Lex--knew how he’d been brought up. Knew Lionel Luthor’s near-worship of Howard Stark and likely imitation of Howard’s A-plus parenting techniques.

Felt bad for Lex, but still kind of hated him, just as he’d hated his own reflection for awhile there.

He also doubted Lex would ever have an epiphany in a cave. And Tony wasn't quite enough of a dick to wish one on him anyway.

But Lex ... fucking Luthor hadn’t really wanted to see Tony’s clean-water revolution for the rural and emerging-economy poor. That was just a ruse, which was now obvious: He’d only wanted to get up close and personal with the God of Mischief.

Tony’s God of Mischief--or whatever the hell he was. To Tony. Or they were, to each other.

Whatever.

It had taken two hours for Loki to weave his way into the workshop--ever-curious about new guests, and especially ones who obviously spiked Tony’s temper. Tony had waved absently between the two of them (“Lex Luthor, Loki. Loki, Luthor. Lex is about to leave, so nobody get too comfortable, okay?” as he turned back to the viewscreen to show some final revisions).

Only ... yeah. Miscalculation. Because Luthor, as everyone knew, was crazy-obsessed with aliens who had magical superpowers. And Loki? Apparently liked rich douchebags whose greyhound-fast mouths could keep up with their overpowered brains. And while Tony’s arm hung frozen in the air, he watched through glass as Luthor circled Loki, wondering about his experiences in Manhattan, how the skyscrapers compared to where he’d grown up (Lex smartly didn’t say “home”).

Asked what he’d liked, what he hadn’t. Listened.

Oh, how Lex listened.

And how he was downright appalled--appalled!--that Loki hadn’t been out much.

Tony inserted a pointed laugh. “Yep, he’s been pretty sheltered while he’s been tearing up Midtown with living statues. And maybe you missed that Cthulhu thing he pulled in the Hudson?” He’d started closing files quickly as Lex’s mouth turned up, as he gave Loki a very specific look. Tony knew that look. He’d given that look. He’d given Loki that look.

Fuck.

And sure enough: “Well, of course you’re getting restless--you’re bored. Join me for dinner on Thursday and maybe I can find something new to occupy you?”

Oh, “new.” Subtle as Thor’s big-ol’ phallic weapon, there. The hair at the base of Tony’s skull prickled.

“I’m sure you’re needed back in Metropolis, Lex,” Tony said, definitely without a single hint of irritation. He’d practically skimmed it off the top like a layer of grease. “Gotta keep down the one-man alien invasion you guys have going on, hm?”

And Lex gave Tony his full attention for the first time since Loki had glided into the room. “I don’t know, Tony--perhaps I should rethink my approach.” Turned back to Loki with a little cock of that stupid cue-ball head. “I’m starting to better see the value of interplanetary relations.”

And that earned Lex a look that Loki had--fuck--had only ever given Tony.

Just ... to hell with those guys.

Tony hadn’t henpecked Loki about his outing--not a date--in the two days between the scene in the workshop and Lex Luthor pulling his car around to pick Loki up. Hadn’t henpecked him, no, but couldn’t resist telling every bad Luthor story he had ever heard, with embellishment. And there were a lot of bad Luthor stories to tell. Lex had been a naughty boy and--okay, in every way Tony had, for quite a few years there, but Tony had cleaned up, and Lex was still screwing around as if everyone didn’t know his long-term goals. As if everyone didn’t know he had some kind of weird-ass obsession with Super--

Loki had shut him up the morning of with a look and a sharp gesture. “I will engage with whom I wish, Stark,” he hissed. “This Luthor is intriguing, and I should like to see more of this city that you seem so fond of. If you cannot cease this hectoring, I will find another place to make my home.”

And that ... that wouldn’t fly. Because how would they keep an eye on Loki and make sure he wasn’t ... Oh, my God, what the hell was he doing? What were they doing? “Fine,” he said, and shut up, and didn’t say another damned word to Loki until JARVIS had announced Lex’s arrival, and then he’d flapped a hand at Loki and told him ... well. All the stupid lines fell flat in his mouth, so he just waved Loki away and gone back to work.

Then he’d relocated. Because to hell with those guys. With Loki and his total lack of loyalty, and with Lex and his slick, skeeving ways. Tony ignored the constriction in his chest. It was just screwing, between him and Loki. It had only ever been screwing, and not even that the last two days, as Loki had avoided him in his apparent anticipation of something “new.”

And who needed it? Loki had only ever been comfortable and easy. Available. Willing.

Nothing more. And Tony would find something else. Something “new,” himself.

Easy.

Loki had never known about the warehouse--hadn’t needed to--and Tony wasn’t up for whatever Loki would look like, smell like, when he finally came "home." For however long that would be. Long enough to gather his things, at least.

Tony got to work. He had some waterborne parasites to eradicate.

He definitely didn’t think of Luthor when he was imagining their horrible, microscopic deaths. Not much, anyway.

***

The slap woke him up.

He came to on the futon mattress he’d thrown into a corner of the warehouse’s smaller, walled-in workspace a couple of years before--the last resort for sleeping, which apparently he’d been in need of at some goddamned hour the day ... night ... (morning?) before.

Had no idea what time it was, actually. Only knew that he had been warm and mostly comfortable in his sleep, and now his face stung and he had a mildly violent god on top of him. One he hoped had actually bothered to bathe before tracking him down, because ... no. Just: no.

Ugh, what time was it?

“Stark--wake up now.” Got a second slap for his trouble. Light, yes, but still--not exactly the dulcet tones of his mother. Or JARVIS, for that matter.

Loki settled back on his knees. Took to shaking Tony’s shoulder instead. “Wake up. Now.” He sounded less angry. Like Tony gave a damn.

“Yeah, okay.” He pushed Loki’s arm out of the way as he moved to get up. Got blocked instead. Heard the “no” as Loki pressed him back to the mattress. “Wake, but remain where you are.” His eyes narrowed. “After all, it took me some time to find you.” Loki paused as he looked curiously around the industrial, moderately lit space. “Here.”

Oh, yeah--that. “Well, I wasn’t sure when you’d be coming back, so--” Tried to push up past Loki again, and got held down by the hand on his shoulder again. Noticed that Loki was wearing different clothes from the night before--or however long it had been. Shit, what time was it, anyway? Realized the grip to his shoulder wasn’t going to relent, so Tony turned away from the evaluative stare Loki was giving him and pointedly asked the wall, “Have fun?”

Heard Loki exhale. Yeah, that was annoyance. “Not so much. Seeing you behave like a child is not nearly as appealing as I’d have thought.” The last words, delivered louder, echoed back down from the building’s high ceiling.

Tony turned back and hit him with the glare that usually sent underlings’ knees to shaking. “I meant--”

“I know what you meant,” Loki said, and raised an eyebrow. Yeah, Tony should have known better to think the underling-glare would have an effect. “And I had a fine time. Lex was a thoughtful host.” A distracted smile slipped onto Loki’s face, and he continued, “They put an entire squid on my plate, from eyes to tentacles, and stuffed with some type of savory bread filling. It was amusing. And the wine was delightful. And then he showed me--”

“I can only imagine,” Tony grumbled, low but meant to be heard.

Loki continued cheerfully as if uninterrupted. “They kept the entire museum open late for him--for us--and he showed me his favorite works of art, described their history and meaning. Some were quite ... compelling.” Loki wasn’t even looking at Tony anymore, but at something distant over Tony’s shoulder. “I haven’t had halls such as those at my disposal since--,” and he trailed off.

Oh, to hell with Lex Luthor. Despite himself, Tony wondered what museum. Knowing that douchebag, it was the Guggenheim. But he wasn’t going to give either of them the satisfaction of asking. At that moment, Tony hated nothing more than he hated Lex Luthor. And, fuck, he’d been stupid. Had thought the soft, pink skin on the outside covered something different than a Trojan horse--one he’d willingly led into his own home.

He went to sit up again--Loki let him this time, but then pressed his shoulder down, hard, when Tony tried to stand. Even from his position, kneeling in front of the futon, Loki had implacable strength, and Tony’s momentum broke.

“So,” he snipped, giving into the pressure and staying on his ass, legs kicked out in front of him and weight propped on his outstretched arms behind. “You came here to tell me about your awesome date. Good for you.” Unleashed the shittiness from deep within his soul. “I hope he got a chance to show you, after going to so much trouble, if the bald goes all the way down.”

Yeah, he had Loki’s attention again, and not in the good way. “You’re an idiot, Stark.” Finally letting go of Tony’s shoulder, Loki turned to sit next to him on the futon, legs stretched out in a mirror of Tony’s position, but body curved forward, elbows settling on his thighs. “He invited me back to his rooms, of course.”

Tony looked down at his sweats and, shifting his weight to one braced arm, took a pinch of fabric between finger and thumb and rubbed, hard, just for something to do. Ran a fingernail over the nap of the fabric. “Yeah, I figured.” Heard--or felt--Loki turn his head to regard him.

“Did you?”

Abandoned the fold of cloth and crumpled his hand into a fist. “I know those moves." Chuckled once, weakly. "It was pretty obvious what Lex was after.”

Loki was still, his profile barely turned toward Tony, and his voice quieted. “It was, indeed. That’s why I encouraged him to pursue it, at the end of the evening.”

So this was the end of--whatever the hell they had going on. Tony couldn’t be surprised. It had been a bad idea from the beginning. One that felt good, yeah--oh, God, it felt great. Hardly even believed it when he realized Loki was flirting back, when the a-hole closed the distance and let himself be kissed. Be touched. And then touched Tony in return, in delirious moments before they found Tony’s bed that first time.

Promising, yes, the first time, and the sixth, and the twentieth, but always doomed to end in a bad way. If the worst of it was having Loki stolen out from under Tony’s very nose by another rich, entitled shithead, well ... he guessed Loki had a type. And Tony had opened the door for the next one. One who'd actually had the balls to court Loki, not just--

Yeah, over--fine. No point in deconstructing that shit. Tony leaned forward, too, and brought his hands together to twist in his lap. At least he’d gotten there first, right, and--

Loki sighed with exasperation. “You really are the dullest-witted creature I have ever bedded.” He paused. “And that is saying something, given my experience.”

What? Tony finally turned to face him and saw--

Loki wore a tolerant smile. It was almost kind, and a look Tony had never seen on him before. One that made him ...

... wonder.

“I’m missing something,” he finally admitted with major reluctance.

Loki glanced down at Tony’s weaving fingers, and then back up, locking eyes with Tony for a quiet moment. “Lex Luthor was a perfect host--or he would have been, if he hadn’t continually talked of that Superman he knows.” His smile brightened at Tony’s snort. “And, of course, I was no better, for I had much to say about a similarly idiotic self-styled hero in a ridiculous costume.”

It was Tony’s cue: “Armor,” he insisted, even if his mouth was a little dry.

“You know nothing of armor,” Loki snipped, but it was genial. He leaned over, nudged Tony’s shoulder with his own. “At the end of the evening, Lex invited me to his rooms, and I suggested there was somewhere else he’d rather be. And someone else he’d rather be with.” Hummed. “And he suggested--”

Tony’s toes curled a little in his socks, and he pressed his lips to Loki’s own shoulder, over the fine, soft drape of his shirt. After a breath, Loki continued, “He suggested I had someone to return to.” At that, Tony just dropped his forehead to Loki’s shoulder and closed his eyes. He felt a cool hand curl around one of his own.

“Okay,” was all Tony managed, turning his head a little to the side to see their legs lined up perfectly over the edge of the meager futon mattress and onto the rough cement floor. Tony hated this warehouse--why had he come here, anyway?

Loki’s hand squeezed his. “Perhaps now you understand why you are so very, very stupid.”

And it was telling that Tony didn’t even defend himself, because, oh, my God, he so was.

After a little tsking sound, Loki continued. “Will you behave this way every time you have a rival?” Loki’s voice was all mock-concern, the lecture of a disappointed teacher, something Tony knew well. “If so, I may have to build a resistance to adolescent theatrics. I find I have so little.”

In one smooth movement--because, Christ, he had a reputation to rebuild--Tony leaned up and nipped at Loki’s jaw, a gentle bite followed by a kiss. He didn’t specifically answer Loki’s question. Didn’t really have an answer, because, really.

Instead, he carried through the movement and tumbled Loki back onto the mat. Climbed on hands and knees over him. “You want to date,” he said, only, and tried really hard to make it not sound like a question. Added “me” because it felt necessary, even after all that.

Loki chuckled. “For some foolish reason, yes.” Turned his face up for a kiss, which Tony quickly offered.

Dating? Loki? Oh, holy hell, he was in for a world of pain. Awesome pain. And that whole scheme, as far as Tony was concerned, would have to wait until tomorrow. Because, for right now, he was going to fuck the thought of any other--any stupid-ass, bald, and maybe not totally evil other--out of Loki’s mind.

And then? Then he was going to have to call in the big guns--Rhodey, maybe even Steve--to figure out how to top that dickwad Luthor’s perfect night.

Fuck the Guggenheim. Tony wondered what it would take to reserve the Louvre.

Or just Paris, he thought, as Loki's arms slipped around him. The whole goddamned thing.