“I still don’t see why you wanted to bring this back home with you,” Bruce said with a sigh. “It’s not exactly what I would have chosen as a…souvenir.”
Loki’s scepter shone under the harsh fluorescent lighting of Tony’s laboratory. Tony’s eyes traced the elegant curve of the metal. The staff was segmented like an arachnid’s leg, ending in alien pincers sharp enough to impale and strong enough to withstand a blow from Mjölnir itself. He reached out to the blue jewel mounted at the top; though it lay inert and lifelessly dull, it still had a hypnotic pull that begged for it to be touched.
“Stop that!” Bruce said, slapping his hand away. “You have no idea what it does.”
Tony shook his head to clear it and leveled a stare at Bruce. “Would you rather this stayed with SHIELD?” he asked. He leaned against the worktable, his back to the scepter to prove that yes, he could turn away from it, and crossed his arms. “Or maybe we should turn it over to the military, since, you know, they take such awesome care of their property.”
Bruce’s eyes narrowed and his lips pursed, but he didn't reply. Instead, he picked up the hand-held spectrum scanner and elbowed Tony away from the table so he could take a reading. Tony pushed back for a second, but gave up and moved to the other end.
“It’s not picking up anything,” Bruce said after a minute. “No gamma signature, no infrared, no heat, no radiation, period.”
“So can I touch it?”
Bruce pushed his glasses up to pinch the bridge of his nose. “You can touch it.”
So Tony did, running his hand over the smooth, strange metal. He could feel the place where Loki’s fingers had closed around it—not quite an indentation as much as a feeling that this is where his hand belonged. He tested the weight of it, holding it parallel to the table before slowly turning it upright. The balance was good, good enough that it felt much lighter than it actually was.
Tony banged the end down on lab floor, and the metallic sound reverberated around the room with a curiously musical resonance.
“Kneel before me!” Tony commanded, deepening his voice and leaning on the vowels in a horrendous impression of an Asgardian accent.
Bruce snorted. The scepter was meant for an Asgardian prince, far too tall for Tony, which made him look a bit like a hobbit impersonating Gandalf.
“I said kneel!”Tony repeated, louder.
Bruce chuckled again. He hadn’t been in Stuttgart, but he had heard the story enough times from Tony, Steve, and Natasha.
But not Clint.They didn’t speak of such things where Clint could hear.
But Tony’s eyes were sparkling, and his lips twitched in the way they did when he was trying to keep a secret or tell a joke with a straight face.
“You want me to kneel?” Bruce asked.
Tony’s lips parted in a dopey smile. “Want to play, Doctor?”
“Is that ‘want to play, Doctor’ or is it ‘want to play doctor’?” Bruce said. “I could get my lab coat…”
Tony carefully set the scepter back on its mounting. He stepped up to Bruce and took the scanner out of his hands to place it on the worktable beside the scepter.
“For the games I’m thinking of,” he said, “you’re going to need less clothing, not more.”
Bruce hummed happily. They had just disappeared into the lab half an hour ago—no one would be coming to disturb them for at least a few hours. For one, none of the other team members wanted to come anywhere near the staff. For another, they all knew better than to interrupt Tony and Bruce when they had a new toy to play with.
“JARVIS, lock the door,” Bruce said.
“As you wish, Doctor Banner. Shall I turn off the security camera feed as well?”
“Yes,” Tony answered. “If Steve wants to see our sex tapes, he’s going to have to buy them like everyone else.”
Bruce huffed a laugh, but it turned into a sigh when Tony took his face in his hands and kissed him. The scrape of Tony’s goatee against Bruce’s own day-old stubble was like sandpaper, but the sensation was familiar and safe and strong. Then there was Tony’s tongue, pushing his lips apart to run along the edge of his teeth, seeking entrance. And Bruce let him in, running his own tongue alongside Tony’s, lapping and tasting his mouth.
“Mmm,” Bruce said when they pulled apart to breathe, “coconut.”
Tony kissed him again, harder, crushing their lips together while he pulled Bruce’s shirt out of the waistband of his pants. When they parted again, Tony tugged the shirt up and over Bruce’s head, balled it up, and threw it across the lab.
Tony wrapped one strong hand around the back of Bruce’s neck, keeping him from pulling back and away.
“I said kneel,” he repeated, but this time Tony used his own voice, soft and husky and needy and gentle in its demands.
So Bruce sank to his knees, kissing his way down the front of Tony’s shirt, one kiss between each button. He rubbed his face against Tony’s crotch and was rewarded with the heady scent of denim and musk. Slowly, Bruce reached up to undo the fly.
“No,” Tony said. “Wait.”
So Bruce did, sinking back on his heels as Tony walked away to rummage through a drawer. He came back with a thick black cable tie and a bottle of lube, because, well, after this long they had both learned to keep the essentials in easy reach.
“Hands behind your back,” he said.
Bruce obeyed, crossing his wrists at the small of his back.
“Bend over,” Tony said.
He did, bending forward until his forehead touched the floor. Tony wrapped the zip tie around both wrists and slid it tight. It wasn’t tight enough to cut off his circulation—they were far too practiced for that—but Bruce could still feel the edges cut into his skin if he struggled.
A touch on his shoulder guided him back up kneeling.
“Ok, keep going,” Tony said.
Bruce glanced up to see a wicked gleam on Tony’s face. He wanted Bruce to be challenged, then. Often, Tony liked to see how Bruce coped with awkward situations. It was, as the engineer explained, when Bruce was at his most graceful.
So Bruce accepted the challenge. He leaned forward again and grabbed the button of Tony’s jeans with his teeth. Using lips and tongue, he felt for where he could angle the button through the hole. He grunted with the effort, and Tony shivered as the sound waves vibrated against his cock. It took Bruce a few minutes of making the denim soft and pliable with saliva, but eventually he forced the button through the hole with his tongue. Then he grasped the zipper with his teeth and slowly pulled it down.
“Good boy,” Tony said. “That’s my good boy.”
He put one hand against Bruce’s head and used the other to free his hardening cock.
“Now show me how good you are.”
And Bruce did, kissing the tip before sucking the length into his mouth. Tony was already sticky and salty from precum, so it wasn’t long before Tony was rock hard. He thrust twice into Bruce’s throat, then pushed him back.
“Oh, Snowflake. You’re going to make me explode.”
“Thank you, Tony,” Bruce said softly.
Bruce’s pupils were blown wide with desire, and his lips were glistening and swollen. Tony obviously had to swallow down his lust before he came all over Bruce’s face at the sight.
“Now, bow before me,” Tony said, his voice soft with reverence.
Bruce obeyed, pressing his shoulders to the floor and raising his hips in the air. Tony reached around him to undo his slacks, rubbing against Bruce’s erection as he pulled them down and off. Those, too, were kicked away as Tony walked slowly around Bruce, admiring the body on display before him. He adjusted Bruce’s stance minutely, widening his knees, raising his hips a bit higher, reaching down to tousle his curls in just the right way.
The cool lab air made goose bumps blossom up and down Bruce’s arms, and Tony traced them up to his shoulders, then drew a line down his back with feather-light fingers.
“Snowflake. My Snowflake,” Tony repeated over and over, and Bruce moaned in response.
Yes, he was his. He was Tony’s, and Tony was his. He knew that, but it felt so good and right to be reminded.
Tony knelt behind Bruce, parting his cheeks so he could rub a finger against his hole. Bruce’s moan turned into a whimper as it was pushed inside, forcing the muscles apart. Then, too soon and not soon enough all at once, there was another finger beside the first, curling and exploring him as deep as Tony could go.
“What do you think, Snowflake? Do you think that scepter has some sort of magical mind-fuck properties? Do you think I could make you do whatever I want you to do? Tell me.”
Tony shoved in a third finger, twisting mercilessly.
“Ah!” Bruce cried out as he found his voice. “Ah! I’d already do whatever you want me to do.” He gasped as Tony pressed in towards the front of his pelvic wall, rubbing hard over his prostate. “What would you ask of me that I wouldn't do?”
And then the fingers were gone and Bruce moaned with the loss. Tony grasped his hips and thrust into him all at once, and Bruce choked on his moan and let out a keening whimper. The whimpers melded into each other into a constant, steady whine as Tony pumped into him.
“Ah, fuck, Bruce, I’m gonna come,” Tony said raggedly. He reached around and grabbed Bruce’s cock, all iron hardness under slick velvet skin. “Come with me, Bruce.”
And Bruce did.
The world exploded in prismatic stars, so white that they reflected every color of the rainbow behind their eyelids. Blood rushed in their ears like the roar of a waterfall, and it felt like they were moving so fast that the lab and the Tower and the rest of the earth was left behind before they collapsed and everything was swallowed in darkness.
Clint woke up to the feeling of long fingers trailing across his hair. The sheets were soft under his stomach. He took a deep breath, then pulled on the restraints tying him up to the bed, as if to check they would hold. The bonds slightly dug in his wrists and sent a shiver down his spine. Of course they would hold.
The hand gripped his hair and tugged just hard enough to jolt him with a single sting of pain. The covers had slightly slid down during the night, and locks of hair tickled his bare shoulders when Loki leaned forward.
“Did you sleep well?” he whispered.
Clint shivered. In anyone else's mouth, those words would have been nice and kind and maybe a bit boring. Falling out of Loki's lips, they sounded like a death threat and a delighted purr all in once.
“Yes, sir,” he mumbled.
Loki hummed above him, and even that managed to sound both gleeful and menacing. His other hand pulled the covers down, then brushed the inside of Clint's right knee, before going up his thigh like it was searching for the best spot to break the bone, thumb rubbing circles in the hard muscle as it went. He was usually kinder in the mornings after Clint had been made to sleep on the floor, in a cage, or in any fucked-up device Loki had deemed fit to lock him. But tonight, Clint had slept on the soft mattress of Loki's bed, drifting off to the sound of the demi-god flipping through the pages of an old book and muttering nonsense under his breath. The enhanced archer still liked his six hours of sleep when he could get them, and Loki still liked to have his slave tied up and ready for him while he was actually busying himself with other things.
He was unpredictable but Clint was still pretty sure he wouldn't get to stay sleepy for long today.
“Good,” the demi-god approved.
His other hand stopped right before it could cup Clint's ass and gripped his inner thigh hard,thumb sliding between the cheeks. Loki leaned even closer and said right in his ear, “Because there is something new I want to try.”
Clint's breath hitched; the next second, his restraints untied themselves and Loki tugged on his hair to pull him up on his knees, making him swallow down a hiss of pain. He was made to twist his neck so their gazes could meet, and the smug little smile on Loki's lips made a brief pang of anger flare in Clint's chest, no matter how deep his submission, his devotion and—alright—his love. He knew he would never stop hating Loki and he knew Loki would never stop loving it.
The demi-god let him go and stood up; Clint obediently faced him and just waited there, hands clasped in his back, looking down at the ground. His heart was already picking up speed. Not knowing what would come next was always the most unbearable part, and Loki did love making him wait.
Then the demi-god hummed a satisfied sound and raised his hands in the air, gold trailing after his fingers like he was drawing folds in shimmering fabric. Clint tensed when tendrils of magic wrapped around him; Loki usually did this when he hadn't even the patience to rip off his slave's clothes, but right now Clint was already naked. The energy died out and he was surprised to realize that he was now actually dressed—in light battle gear no less, a black tank top on black combat pants. His feet were still bare though; and his bow was nowhere in sight.
And he was pretty sure Loki wanted to fuck him. So what was that all about?
Loki smirked at his uncertain look, then twirled his fingers in the air again and invoked several long, narrow strips of black cloth.
“Give me your left hand.”
Clint turned it palm up and let Loki wrap the band around his wrist and knuckles.
“Now the right.”
The demi-god did the same there and by the time he was done, Clint thought he could see where this was going. Believing it was another story, though. But when Loki took a step back and shifted his feet in a fighting stance, there could be no doubts left.
“Spar with me.”
Clint blinked, then snorted. “Seriously?”
Loki's dangerous, eerie grin was enough of an answer. Clint swallowed. That was honestly nothing they'd ever done before, and it made him even more nervous than the wait; but the idea was actually oddly... enthralling. He licked his lips and shifted his feet as well, clenching his fists under the protections. Loki wasn't wearing any, but they were more decorative than anything, anyway.
Clint's pulse was throbbing in his ears now. Fighting Loki? The one time he'd tried, there had been an iron grip around his arm and an iron spear through his heart and mind. The memory was still painful to him, and once or twice since Loki had brought him into his home, he had woken up in panic before remembering that all was well; that he was where he wanted to be.
But he was changed now—stronger, faster, deadlier. Loki himself had made sure of it. Had he been planning this from the start? Clint knew for sure Asgardian slaves weren't even allowed to think of hitting their masters—but he knew this wasn't what Loki wanted from him. The demi-god would be disappointed, to say the least, if Clint pulled his punches. Not that he had any reason to, anyway. Loki was nearly indestructible, his smug smile was still there, and the archer would reallylove to punch it away.
He steadied himself and felt his pupils dilate as he started breathing faster. Loki smirked in approval and looked at him in the eyes for a tense second of throbbing silence.
“Now,” Loki said under his breath—and Clint lashed out at him.
It was Loki, so he had to play dirty. He feinted a jab on his left and aimed for the plexus—but then there was a twirl of leather and he found himself having to block a vicious blow from the right; they exchanged a few hits—none of them landing—before withdrawing. Loki was grinning; Clint was panting. They were just warming up, though. Now that it had started, he had to admit to himself that he'd been a lot more frightened than he'd admitted to himself—but it was alright; Loki did want him to fight for good.
His blood started to simmer in his veins. He waited for a heartbeat, assessing his adversary with lightning-quick glances, then aimed for his right leg with a sweeping kick. Loki easily dodged it and tried to hit him in the throat—okay—but Clint grabbed his wrist and spun on himself to twist the arm over his shoulder and break it. The demi-god was strong enough to break free and step back again; Clint pursued him with a series of kicks and punches until Loki blocked his arm in a vicious grip and brutally elbowed him in the face. Clint doubled over with a cry, but quickly threw himself back into his fighting stance, blood trickling from his nose, pain clear and tingling in the middle of his face. Loki gave him a shit-eating grin; and Clint noticed then that the demi-god was a bit too breathless—and oh so very hard.
Oh. Okay. So this was about fucking him after all. Loki loved when he put up a fight, and this time he had to put up a literal one—only so he could be fought down, and defeated, and forcefully taken. The thought made his breath hitch in his throat—but no, no, no, he couldn't let himself want this, because hell if he was going to make this easy for Loki.
If the demi-god's grin widened even more, it was going to split his face in half.
Right, Clint thought, memories of his fights with Natasha flashing through his head along with the usual pang of nostalgia, quickly wiped out with adrenaline. Right, right, right.
This time, he started by letting himself fall down to kick down both Loki's legs—and felt a jolt of excitement when it actually worked—he was strong enough, Loki wasn't made of stone anymore—the demi-god still only stumbled down and got up at once, but then Clint was pouncing on him again and grabbing that long, black hair to jerk his head back.
Loki's smile seemed to grow fangs and he kneed Clint in the stomach with a growl; the archer choked but didn't let it slow him down, and pulled on Loki's hair all the more, wrapped the locks around his fist and tugged, until the demi-god grabbed his throat—and Clint just punched him in the face out of sheer reflex. The blow landed hard and jerked Loki's head on the side.
Clint broke free and and took three steps back, eyes wide. When Loki looked up, he had a very slight bruise on his cheekbone—and a wide, insane grin on his lips. The kind of grin a white shark made when it spotted a baby seal alone in the open sea. Probably. Okay, Clint sucked at metaphors but—whoa—he dodged another swooshing kick to the face and took advantage of his crouch to send a kick of his own in Loki's general direction; it hit home, but then the demi-god grabbed his ankle and tugged violently to make Clint fall down hard on his back.
Shit—he scrambled to get up, but Loki twisted his calf like he was trying to break the bone, and Clint screamed, struggled some more and managed to kick Loki's knee with his free foot—the long fingers loosened their hold, and the archer scrambled backwards, propped himself up on his elbows—but then Loki's weight pinned him down on his back; knees pressed on his thighs, strong hands circled his wrists and an unforgiving mouth crashed on his. Clint moaned and arched against the stone floor; when the demi-god’s tongue forced its way past his lips, he hesitated for a split second—then bit.
Loki jerked back with eyes so wide Clint wasn't sure whether he was furious or overjoyed with his slave's scandalous rebellion. The truly maniacal grin told him it had to be both. The demi-god licked his lips with a bloodied tongue, then brought his left knee between Clint's legs and crushed him with all his weight.
The pain was so intense Clint was rendered mute for a second. Loki took advantage of his second of white-hot agony to grab the front of his tank top and spin him on his stomach, before twisting his arms behind his back and holding his crossed wrists with only one hand. The archer then managed to breathe again; he kicked out and gave furious spasms to break free from the demi-god now straddling his legs, but he only managed to get his tank top ripped. A hand tugged his pants down, exposed his ass; to feel cool air on his skin gave him a boost and he fought all the more, refusing to yield—until his ass cheeks were spread apart and Loki impaled him in one go.
Clint screamed and struggled so wildly he thought he'd actually manage to get Loki off him; but then the demi-god only crushed his face against the stone floor and rammed his cock inside him, once, twice, making him choke on pain and—pleasure—so much—Clint kept fighting, it was better if he kept fighting, because then he could feel exactly just how helpless he was, how hopelessly overpowered he was by the god fucking him in wicked punishment for a fight he had initiated himself. Clint cried out again, then choked on a sob as Loki took him more brutally than ever, one hand pinning his head down, the other still gripping Clint's crossed wrists; and only then did the archer yield, when he realized there was no hope left; he gave in to the implacable hold and went limp, whimpering in submission. Loki's only answer was a vibrant hum of cruel, regal power, and he kept taking his slave—harshly, almost vengefully, pushing inarticulate moans out of him, until he stilled with a sharp breath and came, deep inside Clint; and the archer clenched and panted and followed him over the edge with a strangled whine.
He went completely boneless under Loki's weight and let out a long, shaky breath. Still buried inside him, the demi-god just stayed panting for a few seconds, then leaned forward and kissed Clint's neck. The archer wanted to hate him for this, but there was no fight left inside him. Instead he only turned his face against the floor, and shivered as something powerful rippled through him from head to toe.
“Not bad, Barton,” Loki murmured in his ear, hoarse with pleasure.
Clint shivered again with the praise and relaxed even more. He was defeated and fucked into submission and still pinned down, and it was more than enough for the frightening serenity of surrender to silently seize him like an unexpected tide. He exhaled deeply and completely stopped moving.
Loki pulled out and let go of his wrists. Clint didn't move. He would stay there all day if he wasn't ordered otherwise. The demi-god hummed again, then began rubbing the archer's inner thigh, continuing the movement he'd initiated before their fight. Clint shivered, once, then started outright shaking, and Loki wasn't long to pull him up in his lap. The archer felt like a dismantled puppet; he was immensely grateful for a shoulder to rest his head on, and for the strong arms wrapping around him. Loki kissed his jaw, then his neck, before starting to suck a hickey in the flesh. Clint gave a small whine but nothing more; and he eagerly answered Loki's kiss when his mouth was claimed next.
Loki chuckled against his lips when they parted. Clint realized blood was still trickling out of his nose. He pressed his forehead against the demi-god's chest.
“That's not fair,” he groaned. “You caught me on an empty stomach.”
Loki laughed out loud. Clint's pants were still tugged down, and one of the demi-god's hands ran down his back to slip between his ass cheeks, rubbing at the abused rim and spreading around the come dripping out of it. Clint's hips jerked up and he slightly whimpered.
“Well,” Loki murmured. “Then we shall try again after breaking our fast.”
Clint swallowed. The demi-god smirked, then kissed him again, warm and deep, and Clint heatedly kissed back—and it looked like sparring was going to become a thing among the many things they already had.
Loki then stood up and let the archer kneel at his feet.
“Catch your breath,” he said, not unkindly. “Then join me in the dining room.”
Clint bowed his head and stayed there even after Loki walked out. He did do nothing but breathe deeply for five long minutes; everything settled down inside him, the violence and adrenaline, the shock and pain and pleasure, it all sank down his pool of serenity, until he was but a smooth surface. He felt hazy and spaced out and deeply content. Loki always seemed to know when to reassure him after a nearly traumatizing session—or in this case, when to leave him alone to let him gather himself together.
After a while, Clint pushed on his arms and got up, pulling up his pants as well. His top was hopelessly torn up. Loki could magic him a new one in less than a second, but Clint was pretty sure they had left some clothes in a heap on the floor of the torture chambers, something like two days ago; and like always in Loki's house, it was only a doorstep away. He opened the door, shift, door and walked inside the dark, windowless room, taking off his ripped tank top to wipe the blood off his face.
He was so blissfully lost inside himself, and so convinced nothing could ever enter this house, that at first he didn't even notice someone else was already there.
Thank you for reading! Please, tell us what you thought, we're both comments-eaters. ^^
Tony and Bruce awoke on a cold stone floor. Bruce groaned and shifted Tony’s weight off his back, which caused Tony to shake his head and sit up.
“What the holy fuck?” he said.
His voice wasn’t loud, but the absolute stillness in the room made it seem like he was shouting.
Bruce curled his legs up to his chest to try to cover his most sensitive parts. Whatever had happened to them, his clothes hadn’t come with him. And his hands were still bound with the zip-tie. Tony was more fortunate, and he pulled up his pants as he rose to his feet.
He laid a hand on Bruce’s bare shoulder in reassurance as he looked around the room for something to cut the zip-tie with. “It’s ok, Bruce. Just let me find something to cut you free, and then we’ll figure out what happened.”
Bruce didn’t answer, but he stared back with eyes like saucers.
It was dark, so dark that it took a moment for Tony’s eyes to adjust. But the room itself wasn’t particularly big—it was smaller than his lab, and the solid stone walls and low ceiling made it seem even more cramped and suffocating. But, once he could see clearly, it was apparent that they had been transported into the middle of a nightmare.
A four-poster bed made of some dark, sleek wood dominated the room.It was a mess, silk sheets tousled and spilling onto the floor as if someone had just slept there. But that wasn’t what caught Tony’s attention. There were chains bolted into each bedpost.
The shoulder beneath Tony’s hand started shaking. Tony glanced down; Bruce couldn’t see the chains from his angle on the floor, but he was staring at something across the room. Tony followed his line of sight to a massive table with thick leather straps. He tightened his grip on Bruce’s shoulder. The table was stained with blood, and the dark red trailed down the legs to pool on the floor. And there was another set of chains hanging from the ceiling, with similar stains on the wall and floor around them.
A silver knife was laying on the table, so Tony quickly fetched it and cut Bruce free.
“Tony,” Bruce mumbled as he rubbed his sore wrists, “is this real?”
“God, I hope not,” Tony said, but as soon as the words left his mouth, he knew it was not a hallucination.
Bruce was shaking in earnest now. The sight of the table must have reminded him of too many similar tables from his past. His face still had that wide-open, vulnerable look that he usually only had when he was on his knees in front of Tony. As nervous and frightened as Tony felt about this place, it must be a hundred times worse for Bruce, who had been ripped from the safety of their lab when he was at his most exposed. Tony looked hard into Bruce’s eyes, but they were brown without any sign of green. Still, there was no way that the Other Guy wasn’t taking notice of their situation.
“I’m…cold,” Bruce said. He got up to take a blanket from the bed, but he recoiled just as he reached out for one, his nose wrinkled in distaste.
“What’s wrong?” Tony said.
Bruce looked askance at him and well, alright, what wasn’t wrong about this situation?
“I don’t think I want to use that blanket,” he muttered.
Tony couldn’t see why not, but he still nodded. As he got closer, though, Bruce’s reason became obvious. The cloth smelled of blood—and heavily, headily,of sex.Tony cast another glance at the bloodied chains and felt like he’d swallowed an ice cube.
Bruce wrapped his hands around his shoulders and went in search of something to wear. Tony threw the knife back where he’d taken it and went to help, but he was distracted by the array of torture implements strewn on the table. A wicked prong collar was sitting on the edge, next to another, smaller prong collar. Tony picked it up to turn it around in his hands, but dropped it once he realized where that tiny collar with its needle-like spikes was supposed to go. It clattered to the floor. He reached down to pick it up and saw a bundle of cloth discarded there, next to—was that a fucking cage?
“Bruce!” he called, and again, his voice sounded unnaturally loud.
“Tony, are you ok?” Bruce shouted-whispered across the room.
“Yeah, yeah, fine.” He shook out the bundle. There was a leather tunic—far too big for Bruce, but hey, better than nothing—and suede pants. “Come put this on.”
Bruce came over obediently. He was pale, and the shaking in his limbs was so bad that Tony had to steady him by the arm so he could step into the pants. It looked like they were meant to be form-fitting on whoever the original owner was, but they sagged and bunched on Bruce’s skinny frame. Tony slipped the leather tunic over his head; he laced up the neck and turned back the sleeves so Bruce could use his hands.
“That’s better,” Bruce said. “I think.” The leather was stiff, and it looked difficult to move in the awkward clothes, but he was warmer now, and the chills started to subside.
Then Bruce focused on the table again, and the look on his face told Tony that it was too much for him. He looked like he wanted to scream, or run, or run away screaming. A cold sweat broke out on his forehead, and his breaths came in sharp, quick pants.
“Breathe, Bruce. You have to breathe,” Tony said as he pulled Bruce across the room. “Look, we’re here together. We’re fine.”
“There’s a door,” Bruce said, pointing to the far wall. “Let’s get out of here. I don’t care where we end up, but I have to get out of here!”
Tony followed Bruce’s hand to see that there was, indeed, a door. It was so dark in the room that it nearly blended in with the wall. He wrapped one arm under Bruce’s shoulder, more in comfort than because Bruce needed help moving, and headed towards it.
There was no lock or handle on the door, which was one reason why Tony had taken it for part of the wall. But Bruce reached out first and just pushed, and it swung open to reveal a solid wall of darkness beyond. They took one look at each other and stepped through…
…and entered the same dungeon they had just left.
“What is this?” Tony railed. He dropped Bruce’s arm and Bruce leaned against the wall, slowly sinking down. “What kind of Jareth the Goblin King bullshit is this?”
Head between his hands as if he was trying to keep himself in one piece, Bruce called out softly, “Tony. Look, Tony.”
He lifted one hand to point to Loki’s scepter, laying forgotten on the stone floor.The crystal orb was fading from brilliant, cold blue to a dull, lifeless white.
“You!” Tony said, addressing the inert scepter. “You piece of traitor magic!”
He sank down against the wall next to Bruce and the door. He put his arm around Bruce’s shoulders and pulled him close. “Ok,” he said, voice far calmer than he felt on the inside. “This is ok. If that thing brought us here, it can bring us back, right?”
But Bruce was still panting with the strain of keeping the Other Guy in check. He squeezed his eyes tight and brought his forehead to his folded knees.
“Do you think Loki did it?” he said. “Could he possibly still be controlling it? Maybe he brought us here on purpose. Tony, if he’s behind all this…”
“Then he’s going to be fucking sorry that he brought the Hulk into his little playpen, huh?” Tony said, but he could tell his bravado rang hollow.
Tony reached down to rub Bruce’s back in steady strokes. The strange leather of the tunic felt warm and incredibly smooth under his calloused hands, but he could feel the staccato beat of Bruce’s heart in his chest.
And then they both froze, holding their breath with the effort to stay still and hidden, as the door creaked open.
Clint frowned. He was pretty sure he'd left his clothes under the table, and although the torture rooms were dark, they weren't dark enough to hide the fact that there was nothing there.
Maybe Loki had made them disappear after their last session, but this theory presented two major flaws. First of all, he probably would have also cleaned up the implements left on the table. And second of all, he would have never left his scepter in the middle of the room.
When Clint saw it, his thoughts shifted, very calmly, into mission mode. Something was wrong. Breathing deep and measured, he walked inside and dropped his torn tank top on a chair before sliding a hand on the smooth surface of the table as he went, in a seemingly absent gesture, turning his back to the door. When he heard a hissing breath behind him, he was ready—he closed his fingers around a gleaming knife and spun on his feet.
He didn't know who or what he'd expected, but what he saw was so completely different from it anyway that he almost let the knife fall on the floor.
Tony Stark indeed, sitting on the floor and gaping at him in complete speechlessness for once. Next to him was Bruce Banner, who was paler than a ghost and staring at Clint's chest for some reason. They both looked terrified—terrified enough for Tony to be holding Bruce close in a solid one-armed embrace.
The archer hesitated for a second—was this real?—but he didn't see why anyone powerful enough to break into Loki's house would have bothered tricking a Midgardian slave with petty illusions. He stuck the knife in the wooden table and exhaled deeply to evacuate the tension of an aborted fight.
“Guys, what the fuck are you doing here?”
Banner was wearing his clothes. Why was Banner wearing his clothes?
“Fuck—Barton, he got you, too?” Tony cursed just as Bruce panted, “What happened to you?”
“The hell are you two talking ab…”
Clint followed Bruce’s gaze and realized that he was actually staring at the bite marks on his chest. He bristled and clenched his fists.
“You know what happened to me,” he said dryly. “We’re not having this conversation again. How did you get here?”
Tony’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline. “Again?”
“It was him,” Bruce suddenly said under his breath, shaking all over. “The bed smelled like him.”
He and Tony stared at Clint with wide, appalled eyes. The archer took a look around and winced. Yeah, alright—he was used to this room, but he guessed he could see how creepy it would look even to people who knew how he rolled on paper.
Banner looked very green, and Clint honestly couldn’t tell if he was about to transform or puke, or both.
“Hey,” he said, in a kinder tone. “How about we take this outside?”
Tony sneered at him. “We tried that already, Legolas. The door’s in a loop.”
Clint smirked back and opened the door on the most innocuous room he could think of—Loki’s library. “That’s because you’re not supposed to be here. C’mon.”
“And you are?” the billionaire called, getting up before helping a seemingly very shocked Bruce on his feet.
Clint stared at him in irritation. “Yes, Tony. Fuck, I thought we’d trashed this out!”
Oddly enough, Stark didn’t sound like he was continuing an old fight; he had this confused look on his face Clint thought belonged only to Captain America when he didn’t get the joke. But then, the billionaire caught sight of the peaceful library bathed in warm light; he closed his mouth and wrapped his arm around Banner again, murmuring reassurances in his ear as he gently made him step through the doorway.
Now that was maybe the weirdest thing about this situation. Clint frowned again and followed them, closing the door behind him.
Bruce wouldn’t have been able to step through that door if it wasn’t for Tony’s arm around his shoulder.
“We’re ok, Brucie,” Tony whispered low in his ear. “We’re together and we’re going to get Clint out of here, too.”
Bruce cast a glance back at Clint, who was closing the door softly behind them. He felt better now that they had left the suffocating dungeon, but he still couldn’t tear his eyes away from the scars on the archer’s chest. Some were fresh, but they were layered over scars so old that they must have healed over months—if not years—ago. How long had Clint been here, under Loki’s control? And who the hell was the person in the Tower that he had just seen that morning? An illusion—maybe ever since Manhattan?
Bruce swallowed down the rising guilt. They could deal with the imposter later; for now, they just had to get Clint out of here before Loki could hurt him anymore. Bruce thought again about the rumpled sheets with their obscene smell, the gleaming chains stained with blood, and his control nearly slipped because he had let this happen—they all had, they’d abandoned him to scream in the dark—but he had to calm down, because if he Hulked out, there would be only Tony and Clint around for him to smash.
Was this really Clint Barton, though? How could he look so calm—so unhurt? Bruce took a deep breath, both to calm the Other Guy and to catch Clint’s scent in the air. Yeah, it was definitely Barton, yet different at the same time. There was something sharper, more intoxicating about him—like honey aged and fermented into mead.
“Whoa,” Tony said. “There are more books here than the Library of Congress!”
He dropped his arm from around Bruce’s shoulders so he could reach out and take an old, dusty tome from the closest shelf, and Bruce couldn’t help the murmured whimper that escaped from him. Clint looked at him again, sharp eyes bright with curiosity, before reaching past his shoulder to take the book out of Tony’s hand.
“Uh, yeah, no,” Clint said to Tony. He slid the book carefully back into its place. “This is kind of a look-don’t-touch sort of place. You’re not supposed to even be here, so let’s not push it.”
Tony crossed his arms, probably so he could resist the urge to put his hands all over everything he saw, but his eyes narrowed at Clint. “You certainly know your way around here, Barton. Care to share with the class exactly where the fuck we are?”
Bruce wished Tony wouldn’t have been so flippantly aggressive—he was staring at Clint’s scars again and those were very obviously bitemarks. The vast amounts of pain, of helplessness, of humiliation they implied made him want to hide Clint away where his tormentor could never find him again. But the archer still didn’t look hurt, and was this really him? Wasn’t this all an elaborate trap? But then Clint scratched his head and squinted in a gesture that was so very Clint that Bruce’s heart started to pick up again. No, no, no, he thought to himself as tried to keep the Other Guy from rising to the surface in his confusion. Not yet, not until he knew if it wouldn’t cause more harm than good.
“Isn’t it kinda obvious?” Clint eventually said.
He sounded like the question was some sort of test. Tony frowned, then looked around. “You don’t mean—”
“You’re in Loki’s house.”
Ah, yes, that was the cue the Other Guy was waiting for, but Bruce pushed him back down again, because there was still no one else than his teammates here for him to hurt. Still, he could feel the blood drain from his face at the effort, and Tony’s hand was suddenly back around his shoulders and rubbing his back in an attempt to ground him.
“How are you feeling, Big Guy?”
“A little green,” Bruce admitted in a breath. “I’ll be ok. But Clint—he can’t be. Everything in that room over there…”
Obviously, he hadn’t spoken as softly as he thought since Clint threw his hands up in front of him, palms out in a non-threatening gesture. “Hey—okay, no, something’s definitely off here."
Bruce looked up at him—he hadn’t realized he’d started staring at the floor and breathing deep again. This was bad. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t seem to calm down this time. Tony and Clint were too frail—too human—and the dungeon was still too close, and Bruce only realized now that everything reeked of Loki’s cold smell. He had to get them out. He had to get them all out of here—
“Just, tell me one thing—when was the last time you saw me?” Clint asked.
Bruce swallowed and held onto Tony, digging his fingers in his shirt. “This morning for breakfast.”
Clint stared at them for a second.
“Guys, how did you get here?” he asked again.
“We don’t know,” Tony said irritatedly. “We were studying Loki’s glow stick of doom and it just dropped us here.”
“What year?” Clint asked.
“What year?” Tony repeated, raising his eyebrows.
“What year was it when you left?”
There was a silence as they understood what Clint implied. Bruce stared at him in renewed fascination. He did look older, but younger at the same time—and now that Bruce forced himself to focus past the scars, he saw that Clint was taller, leaner, more defined than the man whom he trained with nearly every morning. The age of the scars, the change of his scent… Could this be a glimpse from the future—but what future was this, where Clint Barton had apparently just been left behind by his friends to be raped and tortured by an insane alien?
And then Tony told him the date and Clint shook his head, saying, “No, you’re six months early.”
“Early?” Bruce said feebly.
“Maybe this isn’t about time,” Tony began with the voice he had when he was on to something in the lab. “Bruce, remember Richards’ theory—multiple dimensions…”
The hint of excitement in his tone was what made Bruce snap. “I don’t care!” he blurted. “Tony—it doesn’t matter why he’s not the same, this is still Clint and we’ve got to get him out of here!”
“Whoa,” the archer said, “no, you guys have the wrong idea—shit, I can’t believe I’m doing this again.” He winced. “Listen, I know this looks bad, but I swear I chose to be here.”
Bruce and Tony looked at each other for a few heartbeats.
“Do you think?” Tony said.
“The scepter?” Bruce said at the same time.
They looked at Clint again. His eyes weren’t a sickly blue, but there was more than one way to brainwash someone, Bruce knew. The scepter’s grasp was complete and instantaneous; however, it was relatively easy to break. What if Loki had taken the longer route this time? Bruce remembered what the demi-god had told Natasha from his glass prison, that cold, syrupy whisper—slowly, intimately, in every way I know you fear… He remembered the torture implements, the table, the cage, and that was it—Loki had taken his time. All those scars and marks… He had worked Barton over, deep and thorough, destroyed all hope in him, so there would be no going back for him this time. This was why the archer looked so placid. So accepting.
Bruce felt sick with horror. He started shuddering like a leaf in the wind, and Tony was murmuring anguished reassurances but none of them came through.
That was when the door swung open—and all of Bruce’s frustration, his guilt over Clint’s wounds, his fear for Tony, it all bubbled to the surface and his sight flooded with green when Loki walked into the library.
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The second Banner mentioned the scepter, he started shaking for good and Clint didn't really need his heightened senses to realize that this was really bad. He had no idea how to convince the scientist that there was no need to panic. At this precise second, the shard of winter in Clint's stomach gave a painful pulse, and he knew Loki was about to walk in. Of course—he must be wondering what the hell his slave was doing.
He closed his eyes and pulled on the link to signal that something was wrong; Loki sent back a wordless questioning, allowing him to use actual words.
We've got visitors, he emitted. From another dimension.
Oh, Loki said through his auditory nerves.That isn't much of a surprise.
The Nine Realms are aligning for the first time in five thousand years. Because of the Conjunction, the fabric between worlds will be thinning for a little while. Who are they?
...Stark and Banner. Sir, it might be better not to—
Clint wasn't sure how to tell Loki to stay away in a way that wouldn't piss him off, but he was freed from this conundrum when the demi-god just walked inside the room.
Everything happened in a flash. Banner snapped round at him and blanched so much he looked green already; Loki's eyes flicked at Stark's arm around Banner's shoulders, then up at Clint.
Fuck,Clint chanted to himself,fuck fuckity fuck—but he couldn't really think of another way to coerce Banner into not Hulking out. He pounced on Tony and slammed him against the floor, drawing an indignant yowl out of him when he twisted his arm in his back.
“Barton, what the f—”
In the blink of an eye, Loki was standing before Banner. He raised a hand to grab his throat—but didn't.
His fingers hovered above the skin, brushing Bruce's pulse point, holding everyone still in a suspended breath.
The doctor's eyes were flashing green and he was shuddering like mad, but he looked acutely, painfully aware of Tony writhing in Clint's hold.
“Clever man,” Loki murmured, inches from Banner's face, hand opened around his throat. “Push it down. No one needs to get hurt. Simply push it back down.”
Bruce swallowed. He was breathing too fast, a ragged panting which echoed in the entire library, as though he was in the middle of drowning and gasping for air; a vein was throbbing in his temple and beads of sweat were forming on his skin.
“Oh, you can do better,” Loki said in that low, threatening voice which always raised goosebumps on Clint's skin. “You have ten seconds to silence your breath.”
He still wasn't touching Banner. They looked like they were frozen in time.
“The monster might certainly kill me,” the demi-god murmured. “But then Stark will be dead as well. Ten seconds, Banner. The choice is yours.”
“Bruce,” Tony called desperately from the floor, jerking in Clint's grasp. “Bruce—”
Clint crushed him against the floor so he could discreetly bring his mouth near Tony's ear. “Hey—stop that,” he murmured. “I'm not going to hurt you.”
Tony stiffened under his weight.
“But we really need the Doc to believe it right now,” Clint went on. “Or else we're all dead. So it could really help if you calmed down too. Loki's not going to hurt him, either.”
“How can you know that?” Tony said in a frantic breath.
“Tony, I've lived with him for three years now. Calm the fuck down.”
Tony stilled and Clint loosened his grip ever so slightly. They both stared at Loki and Bruce, still face to face in the middle of the room.
“This is my library,” Loki said, tilting his head on the side. “Do you like it? It must be quite enticing to a man of science like you.”
Bruce's lips trembled, but he didn't actually speak.
“Do you like it?” Loki repeated.
The doctor swallowed and managed to calm his breath. “Y—Yes.”
Loki's eyes flicked to Clint who loosened his hold even more; the demi-god glanced back at Banner with a pleasant smile. “See?” he said. “That was quite easy. All you have to do is be good.”
He brushed Banner's throat, but still didn't close his hand.
“Keep breathing, Banner. Each of your breaths goes through Stark's lungs.”
Bruce took a deeper breath and swallowed again. He wasn't making those gasping noises anymore, but he still looked very panicked—except that now he was hanging onto Loki's eyes. It made sense. In this split second, Loki controlled them all.
“Good,” the demi-god murmured again.
Clint noticed his pupils were dilated. He also noticed—belatedly—that Loki was bringing Banner down as though he was his slave. He knew that feeling well, of being utterly entranced with his master, being bent and shaped to his will like a piece of clay under the sculptor’s hands.
And Banner was responding.
In a flash of memories, Clint remembered Tony's protective attitude—Banner wearing someone else's clothes, not unusual but why would have he been naked in the lab, alone with Tony?—and the other Tony's kiss on roof three years ago, his possessive kiss, his will to control, so similar to Loki's—of course, this wasn’t the same Tony, but obviously they weren't all that different.
So this meant...
Loki gave Clint a quick, excited glance from across the room. Yes, he said through the neural link. I think so. He focused on Banner again.
“Now,” he whispered. “Brace yourself...”
He was moving his hand forward, looking absolutely fascinated, as though he was trying to pet a tiger. Banner swallowed again, licked his lips, but he didn't inch back. Loki's fingers closed around his throat; his thumb trailed across the doctor's jaw. Bruce blinked rapidly and let out a shaky breath.
“Excellent,” Loki said in a hoarse breath. “Look. Here's your reward.”
He glanced at Clint again. The archer hadn't been holding Tony for a while now; he stopped straddling him altogether, and the billionaire propped himself up on an elbow, eyes wide.
“You see,” Loki purred, rubbing Banner's jaw in a steady motion. “All it took was an ounce of trust.”
Banner looked dazed with shock. His breathing was now slow and heavy. Loki's hand slid down to his shoulder and started pressing down; Bruce didn't resist and, stiffly, automatically, he began to sink to his knees.
“Hey!” Tony yelled.
He scrambled up and ran to Loki to shovehim back. Clint was a little gobsmacked—alternate Tony or not, the billionaire still had the self-preservation instincts of the common mosquito. Banner blinked as though he was snapping out of hypnosis.
“Bruce,” the billionaire murmured feverishly, grabbing him by the shoulders to help him get back up. “Snowflake—look at me. Are you alright?”
“I’m... fine,” Banner said in a faraway, hazy voice.
He pressed his forehead against Tony's chest. “You're fine,” he mumbled, closing his eyes. “You're okay.”
“How moving,” Loki commented.
Stark snapped at him like an angry hyena. “You,” he hissed. “You'll never touch him again.”
“I saved all our lives,” the demi-god smirked, brushing imaginary dust off the lapels of his coat. “And you broke into my house, Stark. Try not to be so rude.”
Tony's nostrils flared; he was obviously dying to wrap his arms around Bruce and hold him close, but he seemed reluctant to do so in front of Loki. Banner still looked abnormally calm and trusting, but his brown eyes were clearing fast.
“So. I believe we have muchto discuss,” Loki smiled. “And we never did get to share this drink.” He waved in the air and a wine glass appeared in his hand. “What do you say? Shall we have a chat while the doctor gathers his spirits?”
Tony sneered. “Uh, yeah, no, I’ve seen enough horror movies to know where this splitting up thing is going.”
But Bruce put his hand on his shoulder. He looked over to Clint, eyes following the twists and turns of his scars as if seeing them for the first time—again. He seemed more curious than horrified now, as though he started to understand that they might be more than met the eye.
And Clint’s throat felt strangely tight, because—for all his goodwill, the other Bruce had never looked at him like that after Loki happened.
“No, I don’t think this is like that, Tony,” the doctor said softly. “And I think I need to talk to Clint in, uh, private.” He looked over to Loki and added, “If that’s okay.”
Oh yeah, Banner was a fast learner.
“Why, of course,” Loki said affably. “You two can wait in the dungeon.”
Banner shuddered uncontrollably and Clint had to stop himself from rolling his eyes. Fucking God of Mischief just couldn't help himself.
The demi-god grinned widely and held his hands open in mock surrender. “No? Very well then. Stark—you will come with me, but Barton will stay here, with the good doctor. How about that?”
He had a daring look Stark probably wouldn't be able to resist. And indeed, the corner of his lip curled up and he took a step towards Loki; but then he turned back to Bruce with an anxious look.
"Brucie—are you sure?” he murmured.
“I’ll be with Clint,” Bruce reassured, before adding in a lower voice, “And we need to figure out what’s going on here.” He nodded at Loki. “I know you can take him.”
Tony seemed to puff up at that. He turned again to Loki, who smirked at him.
“Right this way,” he said, opening the door on the great dining room; and he invoked another wine glass which he gave to the billionaire as they crossed the threshold.
Thank you all for reading and leaving such wonderful comments! We are properly gobsmacked.
Bruce watched Tony follow the demi-god through the door into a wide, dim, grey room. He caught a glance of a huge wooden table, but not of much else before the door closed behind them with a decisive click. How interesting. There was only one door in the library, yet it seemed to open onto multiple rooms—Bruce wondered if it was a wormhole of some sort, or maybe some kind of miniature Einstein-Rosen bridge…
The equations running through his mind came to screeching halt when Clint sat on a cushioned leather chair with a heaving sigh, and Bruce remembered exactly why he was there to begin with. He turned to see the archer with his forearms braced on his knees, looking up at him with incredibly clear grey eyes. Again, he was reminded that this Clint wasn’t any different than the one he knew; but at the same time, he was a complete stranger.
“Sit down, Doc,” Clint said, gesturing to another seat.
Bruce didn’t remember seeing that chair there before, but the dark leather looked inviting, so he sank down as well.
“What happened?” Bruce asked.
Clint suddenly looked tired and a little self-conscious as he rubbed the scars on his shoulder.
“That story is going to take a lot longer than five minutes to tell,” he said.
“No, not to you. What just happened to me?” Bruce clarified.
Clint laughed, and some of the brightness returned to his eyes. “That’s a good fucking question, Banner. A really good question. Loki…I don’t know…he just does that. He takes control whether you want him to or not.”
“But…” Bruce looked around the vast library, with its dark wooden shelves and grey stone floors, ancient and alluring and intimidating all at once. “…you want him to, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I do,” Clint said. “But it’s not like I really have a choice anymore. I gave that up.”
Bruce’s eyebrows shot up a bit, but Clint was more amused than anything.
“You say that like you gave up bacon or coffee or something,” Bruce said.
Clint laughed. “That might be harder, actually. No bacon? Really? Why bother going on living?”
Bruce stared at him for a second, a bit puzzled.
“You look... happy,” he said hesitantly. “The Clint I know isn’t nearly as relaxed as you are. I always thought he looked like he had a bow in his hands, even when he didn’t.”
Clint leaned back in the chair and considered Bruce’s words. “I am happy,” he said at last, quietly.
Bruce licked his lips and looked down at the floor. “You know, I… What Loki did, I…I can get like that sometimes, with Tony.” He looked up. “But it doesn’t last.”
Clint looked at Bruce a little harder. “You mean like going into subspace?”
Bruce nodded, eyes downcast once again. “How long… how long does it last for you?”
Clint blew a breath out of pursed lips as he thought. “Weeks, sometimes.”
That really got Bruce’s attention. He'd expected hours at best. Not—weeks? How was that even possible?
“It takes a few refills,” Clint shrugged in answer to his gaping eyes, as though he was talking about staying up late with coffee. “What about you? You're Tony's sub. Right?”
Bruce didn't think they’d given themselves away, but the thought wasn't as embarrassing as it should be. He licked his lips and just said, “Yes. Yeah. I'm Tony's.”
Clint heard it and gave him his crooked smile. Bruce cleared his throat and said, “When—when Tony and I first started sleeping together, he told me that sometimes people can go down through pain and disassociation.” He gestured vaguely towards Clint’s scars. “Is that…?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Clint said. He rubbed his shoulder again as he thought. “I don’t know. It’s not like I don’t feel the pain, but after a while, it gets to the point that it just doesn’t matter anymore. And then nothing matters. Not my problems, not the world’s fucking problems… just nothing. It’s really peaceful.”
“But—Loki... isn't he—”
“Insane?” the archer said with a fatalistic smile, as though he'd held this argument a hundred times already, inside and outside his head. “Sadistic? Depraved?”
He shrugged. “I hated him for a very long time. Actually, I still do. What he did to me during the invasion—it's like that.” He tapped the scar. “Can't go away.”
Bruce stayed silent. Clint let his hand slide down. “But... there's more to him.”
The scientist felt a chill go down his spine as he looked at the dozen other marks yet again. He suddenly remembered something and rubbed his hands nervously together.
“Clint—in the other room... when your back was turned to us, I thought I saw a…like a design there.”
He paused anxiously, but Clint's features remained blank. Encouraged to go on, Bruce asked, “That was on purpose, wasn’t it?”
“Loki did it?”
“Yeah, of course.”
Bruce’s hands paused. “Could I…could I see it again?”
Clint froze for just a second long enough that Bruce knew that this was not something that he shared with anyone. This belonged to him as much as the books and the house and, well, Clint belonged to Loki.
But then Clint rose in one fluid movement and moved so he was standing in front of Bruce’s chair with his back towards him. Bruce took the opportunity offered to him and stared outright. The scars looked like they were made with something sharp and precise in an artist’s hand to form a huge tree. The trunk twisted and turned in on itself until it blossomed into gnarled branches and intricate leaves. At the base of the tree was a figure, looking longingly up at a high branch where there was perched a perfect tiny hawk.
Bruce reached out, wanting to feel for himself the tiny grooves in the branches, but he stopped himself short.
“Can I touch it?” he asked softly.
“Yeah, sure. Go for it,” Clint said, his easy words belied by the strained tone in his voice.
Bruce brushed light fingers across the top branches, tracing the leaves and the outline of the hawk’s wings. He wondered if Clint could even feel it, or if the thick scar tissue covered deadened nerves—but Clint shivered a little, so yes, he could feel it just fine. Bruce ran his fingers down to the base of the trunk and felt…something else there. It was a scar, too, but the skin was different in texture and consistency than the rest. After a second, his practiced fingers recognized it as a burn.
“He branded you,” Bruce breathed.
That broke the spell, and Clint stepped away and turned around so the artwork on his back was hidden again.
“Yeah,” he said with a defensive edge to his voice. “He did that one first, actually.”
“He owns you like a…like a…”
Clint’s demeanor softened. “You can say it, Bruce. A slave. That’s what I am.”
Bruce shook his head in mute denial. A shadow passed over Clint's face again at the sight, and the doctor blurted, “I'm sorry—Clint, I'm sorry. It's just... look, I don't mind a bit of pain. And giving up control—I understand. But not on this scale. What I saw in that room over there—what I smelt...” He swallowed. “I could smell your terror. Your agony. He's been torturing you.”
“Yes,” Clint simply said. “That's what he does. He's breaking me down, he's quartering me, he's nearly killing me sometimes. And just when I think I can never walk away from this—he pieces me back together. He shows me how strong I am.”
Bruce blinked. “And... do you have a safeword?”
Clint snorted with laughter. “What do you think?”
“But—” The scientist was appalled. “What do you do when you want out?”
“If I could opt out, it would do nothing for me,” Clint said. “I know, I've tried.”
Bruce stared at him for a long time.
“How can you be sure he didn't just brainwash you?” he asked softly.
Clint shrugged wearily—and there was definitely something weird about how he smelled. Not unpleasant, just... different. “Well,” he said. “First of all, it didn't happen overnight. Far from it.”
He stayed plunged in thought for a second, then added in a softer voice, “And second of all, I think I am brainwashed, at least a little. He trained me, you know.”
Bruce remembered the dungeon and felt his stomach twist with a sharp feeling which he couldn't quite identify.
Clint was staring at him with wary eyes, like he was preparing himself for the next rebuttal. Bruce suddenly felt a bit guilty. He sucked in a breath and held it for a second as he thought of something to say.
“Somehow, you still sound—” he said eventually. “Just like our Clint.”
Clint managed a tiny smile. “Oh yeah. How's he doing?”
“Pretty good,” Bruce murmured. “Falling off rooftops. Teaching me how to fight. He gave me his multi-tool.”
It was so weird to give him news of himself. Clint whistled slightly. “I don't know what you did to deserve it, but it must have been some pretty awesome shit. Don't you lose it.”
Bruce huffed a small laugh.
“You know,” he heard himself say out of the blue. “They’re beautiful. Your scars.”
And Clint’s small smile returned.
“Thank you,” he said earnestly.
He sat back in his chair and let a few seconds of silence settle in, lacing and unlacing his fingers.
“So,” he began eventually. “What’s your story, Bruce? You and Tony—what’s that all about?”
Bruce smiled shyly. After the show of extreme trust Clint had just gifted to him, he found the words came easy. “He... looks after me,” he said. “When I can’t be in control, he takes over for me. But he never hurts me.”
Clint’s head cocked to one side. “Do you think he wants to?”
Bruce shook his head, blushing.“No, I don’t. Maybe he’d like to be a little rougher, but he knows that I’m not comfortable with that. I don’t want to put him in any danger.”
Clint’s voice dropped lower. “Do you want him to try?”
Bruce didn’t know if he could get any redder. Tony had told him stories before, of times when he’d played sub and let a Dom tie him up, strap him with a belt, or work him over with a flogger or a riding crop. He told Bruce of how he’d been out of it for hours afterwards, sore and aching in the very best way as he floated through life on a cloud of endorphins. And, at the time, Bruce had grown hard listening to Tony and he had wondered… always wondered.
“Yes,” Bruce said, and he was surprised at how small his voice sounded to his own ears. “Sometimes.”
“Do you want to know what I think, Bruce?”
“I think,” Clint continued, “that you are stronger than you think you are. Far as I know, no matter which world, Bruce Banner is the strongest there is.”
Bruce didn't quite know how to answer that.
Loki’s footsteps echoed in the wide, unwelcoming hall as he walked to the far end of the formal dining table. Tony followed at a sedate pace, looking up at the mason work on the gray marble pillars and running his hand along the carvings on the table. This type of room was not entirely unfamiliar—it reminded him of the dining hall in Stark mansion, all cold formality and empty comfort. He had spent many meals in such a room that was built for dozens, yet usually served only a few. It always made him feel incredibly lonely, and the harsh, cold light falling from a large ceiling window seemed to emphasize that feeling.
Loki flicked his fingers as he went, and their glasses filled with a rich, dark wine.
“So,” he said. “Who am I?”
Tony frowned at him; he glanced at his glass, distracted by the heady scent—that was some quality stuff—then back up at Loki. “I'm—sorry, did I miss the first five minutes of this conversation? Because what you've just said makes no sense.”
“Who am I to you?” Loki developed with strange patience. “You seem to know me, but we do come from different worlds.”
Tony raised an eyebrow at him. “How can you possibly guess that? Do I smell different? Do I lack a mole on my nose?”
The demi-god just smiled at him and waited for an answer.
Okay—this Loki, while obviously still an asshole, looked a lot more… serene. When Tony had met him in the Tower, he'd been frantic underneath his smooth surface—desperate to win the meaningless war he'd started. This Loki looked slightly amused, like the other had; but his flicker of enjoyment was dancing over a background of quiet contentment, rather than feverish hopelessness.
“Uh,” Tony said when he realized he was still expected to speak. “Okay, wait, no whispering... Loki, God of Mismatched Socks.You're Thor's adopted brother, you attacked New York with an army of generic aliens for whatever reason... aaand we totally kicked your ass. Also, you threw me out of a window.”
Loki tilted his head on the side, still worryingly unoffended. “Yes, I did all those things. What about Barton?”
Tony gritted his teeth and took a sip from his glass. Sure, it might be poisoned, but he really needed to give out at least a remote impression of composure. “Clint,” he said, trying to stay calm. “You fucked with his mind and very nearly ruined his life. And you killed his handler, whom I think was also his best friend.” He looked up with a fake grin and said aggressively, “Still the same?”
Loki stared at him for a minute and Tony vaguely wondered if he wasn't going to kill him. Who knew with that guy. Bag of cats, Bruce had said.
Then the demi-god nodded. “Still the same, indeed. Except that on this side of reality, Coulson survived.” He shrugged. “I suppose the Norns could not allow such luck to happen twice.”
Tony stared at him. That Loki knew Coulson's name. And—he'd survived?
But then he shook his head and willed himself to stay firm. This was Loki. Tony should work on the assumption that everything the god was saying was bullshit.
“Okay,” he said. “Now that we're done with the bowing and scraping, what the fuck is going on?”
Loki grinned at him. “On what level?”
Tony's mouth worked silently for a few seconds; then he blurted, “On Bruce's level, for starters. What was that shit you pulled back there?”
“Oh,” Loki said in a falsely detached voice. “Did I step on your toes?”
Tony was speechless.
The demi-god grinned again, a sly grin Tony remembered only too well. “So Banner does kneel for you.” A sparkle lit up in his eye. “Tell me. Does he scream, too? Does he beg? Do you make him crawl?”
Tony clenched his fists. He’d never share the details of his and Bruce relationship with anyone. Well—except JARVIS but the AI knew how to keep a secret. And there was that time Steve walked in on them… and he was pretty sure Barton saw them through a window once or twice…oh, and nothing happened in the Tower that Natasha didn’t know about…well, fuck it. The point was, Loki wasn't entitled to ask. But it probably wasn’t very reasonable to voice out his thoughts without at least one layer of armor between him and the demi-god.
“Not your fucking business,” he growled—that was still awfully polite compared with what he had in mind.
“Oh, Stark,” Loki scolded mockingly. “There is no need for that. We are almost colleagues now.”
“Colleagues,” Tony scoffed, feeling his rage spike up freely now that he didn't have Bruce to reassure. Of all the things that had happened so far today, being compared to this fuck-up rattled him the most. “Are you trying to tell me Barton just followed you here willingly to be tortured for three years?”
Loki looked like he found the whole thing endlessly funny. “As a matter of fact, this is precisely what happened.”
“Does Banner scream?” Loki suddenly repeated.
Tony snarled at him. “If you think—”
Loki dropped his glass—and before it even crashed on the floor he slammed Tony him against the wall and pressed a dagger against his throat. Tony choked on his breath and stayed very still, eyes wide.
The demi-god closed in until he was inches from him.
“Let me ask again,” he murmured, lips brushing his ear. “Does. Banner. Scream.”
“Fuck you,” he spat. And then, low and angry, “Besides, no.”
“Hmm,” Loki said. “You're lying. Does he crawl?”
Tony didn't answer and he saw, in the corner of his eye, Loki's smirk widen. “Oh, he does.”
“Fuck you,” Tony repeated and yeah, he wasn't really at his best, but give him a break, he'd had a rough day. But then Loki grabbed the front of his shirt and pressed the dagger harder against his jugular; Tony felt it cut ever so slightly into the skin.
“Try not to be so rude,” the demi-god breathed again in that smooth, cold voice.
Tony took a sharp intake of breath and shut up, but his fists were still clenched and his body taut against the demi-god's hold.
“You like to humiliate him,” Loki murmured. “You like to dominate him. We are the same. And the other you was the same, too. He tried to take Barton from me.”
Tony swallowed again. Loki heard his unspoken question and grinned, slightly drawing back. He was still very close, their noses almost touching. “No, I let him live. Barton came back to me; what did the rest matter, then?”
The billionaire eyed him and uttered, “You sound like you're in love with him or something.”
Loki smiled. “He is the single most precious thing I own.”
Tony stared at him for a split second of bafflement. The demi-god grinned, then suddenly pulled him close and kissed him full on the lips.
Tony’s surprise turned into petrifying stupor; Loki stayed there for a few seconds, then released him altogether with a slight smirk, like he’d made a point. The billionaire still didn't know what shocked him the most—that, or what Loki had just said.
He stayed against the wall and unsuccessfully tried to reboot his brain while the demi-god stepped back. The latter juggled with his dagger, then spun round and threw it into the side of one of the stiff wooden chairs. Then he turned towards Tony again.
“Well,” he grinned. “It seems our five minutes are up.”
The blade was still vibrating into the wood.
“I do believe this will be a very peculiar day.”
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Clint's shard of winter gave a low pulse in his stomach.
“They're coming back,” he said before Bruce could add anything.
The scientist frowned at him and began to ask, “How do you know—”
But then the door opened on Loki and Stark, and Clint rose instantly, clasping his hands between his back. After a hesitant second, Bruce got up as well, scanning Tony with quick glances for a few seconds before his shoulders relaxed a little. Clint understood—he would have never let the person he loved alone with Loki Laufeyson, had this person not been Loki himself.
His sharp eyes caught a very faint scratch on Stark's throat, just over his pulse point; he'd seen the same on his own skin often enough to recognize, without a doubt, the mark of Loki's dagger. The billionaire hadn't lost his bravado, but he still looked a bit paler than usual, and for some reason he kept licking his lips. Clint glanced up at Loki; the demi-god's pupils were very slightly dilated and there was a sharper edge to his smirk than usual.
“So,” Loki grinned at Banner. “Doctor. I trust you recovered your composure?”
“Ah—yes,” Bruce said. He gave Clint a brief, askance look. “The conversation was... compelling enough. Thank you.”
The archer saw him and Stark exchange wordless glances of are you okay? and relax a bit more when it appeared they both were. Clint, though, was feeling more and more unsettled, himself. He knew the look in Loki's eyes only too well. He was positive the demi-god would not hurt a friend of his—or any alternate versions of a friend of his. But Loki's definition of ‘hurt’was sometimes a bit... deviant.
“Excellent,” Loki said. “Have a seat.”
Bruce was about to sit down again when Tony caught his arm. “That's really surprisingly civil of you and all, but we'd hate to impose. In other words, Glenda the Good Witch, how do we get home?”
Loki smirked at him. “Well, you can always try clicking the heels of your shoes.”
Tony and Bruce gaped at him, but Clint wasn't surprised—he could see it from here, the red cover of Loki's ancient edition of The Wizard of Oz, third shelf to the right. With all the commotion from earlier, their unexpected visitors probably hadn't had the time to realize Loki's library included a Midgardian section.
“Worry not—I will certainly not have you freeloading me,” Loki went on. “Surely, between the four of us, we can figure out a way to send you back home.”
He stared Stark in the eyes and repeated with deceiving politeness, “Please—do have a seat.”
This time, Tony sat down slowly, his eyes never leaving the demi-god. Clint waited for Loki's quick glance to do the same, and soon they were all seated together around a low table, as though they were good friends having a drink in the library before dinner. The atmosphere was more than uneasy, though, and Loki looked more than delighted with it—the bastard. Clint had no idea what he was planning, but he knew he wasn't going to let Tony and Bruce go so easily. They'd caught his attention in what might be a very bad way.
Clint took a deeper breath to calm his nerves and Loki cast him an amused glance—as always, he was reading him like an open book. Then he focused his attention on his guests again.
“Very well,” he said, crossing his legs. “First of all, you should probably tell me the exact circumstances of your arrival.”
Tony pursed his lips, then glanced at Bruce who smiled at him with a strange, somehow weary kindness. “It's okay,” he said, straightening his borrowed, loose clothes. “I think they already figured out that part.”
Tony huffed through his nose. “Okay, so we were getting it on in the lab—not that there's anything wrong with that...”
“You will not hear it from my mouth indeed,” Loki smirked.
Tony raised an eyebrow at him, but the corned of his lips quivered. “Yeah—so, your mindfuck staff was in a corner. And when he woke up, he'd brought us in that charming dungeon over there.”
“Ah,” Loki said like a man savoring a fine meal. “You passed out? Did you come together?”
“Yeah, we both got here at the same time—“
“Oh, well, yeah, that too.”
Loki showed his teeth in a wide, gleaming grin. “Then I believe you have your answer.”
Tony stared at him.
“You cannot possibly mean what I think you mean,” he said after a while.
“Oh, but I do. The scepter is a tool of the mind, after all. Your connection must have been truly meaningful for it to activate the spear; there was a syncopathic reaction—synergistic amplification, if you will—strong enough to rip a hole in the barrier between our two dimensions.”
Clint frowned a little, but Loki wouldn’t look at him.
“So why did we end up here instead of some other version of my workshop?” Tony asked.
Loki sighed dramatically as if to say, mortals. “Well, as much as you would like to think otherwise, you simply did not have the magical capacity or skill to direct the scepter. So, when it became lost between worlds, it simply came home.”
“But—if we do have sex again, we'll need an anchor from our world to get back, then,” Bruce intervened.
Tony gaped at him as though he couldn't believe Banner could utter the word 'sex' without blushing. But obviously, this had become but another scientific mystery for the doctor to solve. He was doing a pretty good job of deducing reasonable, logical things from Loki's mystical shit.
Clint wondered if he should speak up. On one hand, it would be pretty shitty of him to let his friends—or alternate friends, whatever—be coerced into having sex in this uncomfortable situation. On the other hand, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know what Loki would to do him if Clint ruined his fun.
“Oh, I don't think it will be a problem,” the demi-god was saying. “On the contrary—the scepter already got home, there is nothing otherworldly here but you. You will be your own anchor. Yes—with enough energy, I think this can work.”
“Dude, if it was possible to cross worlds by the sheer power of sex, I'd be on Pluto by now,” Tony observed.
Clint snorted but Loki didn't lose his elegant, faintly amused composure. “Had my scepter been in the room every time, you might be.”
“So that's seriously all it's gonna take? A pretty night light and we fuck our way out like we fucked our way in?”
“Pretty much,” Loki said, smoothing his leather tunic over his knees.
“O-kay then,” Tony said, getting up on his feet. “Thank you for the good wine and great help, that's much appreciated and could you direct us to the nearest guest room, please?”
“Only a door away,” Loki smiled. “Although...”
Clint sucked in a breath and thought, Here we go.
“Although?” Tony frowned.
“I can only suppose what you were doing exactly, but to repeat it will probably not be nearly enough to go back,” Loki said. “The scepter is the vessel, but it's also the magnet. To get away from it will prove harder than the other way around. This bond—this trust—between you is the key, but you must delve deeper into it. You must make it so implacable, so doubtless, so intense, that the scepter will have no choice but to read you as one.”
“Of course,” Tony snorted. “And you just happen to be the master of intensity, don't you?”
Loki just smiled. “As a matter of fact,” he said, “I am.”
Tony opened his mouth to deliver what promised to be such a scathing refusal it was probably going to get him killed, but Banner's hesitant inflexions cut him off. “Um—and you'd be okay to help?”
This time, Clint was maybe even more gobsmacked than Stark. Everyone stared at the flustered scientist—Loki with a big, predatory smile he tried to hide.
Clint frowned. Wait—was that it? Did he want—Banner?
If that was the case, the archer definitely had to speak up, no matter what could happen to him. Because it was one thing to let people be coerced into having sex with their own partner, but to push them in bed with a dreaded enemy wasn't something Clint would recommend to anyone. He couldn't disobey Loki, though.
But he couldn't let him do this either.
But he must do something.
But he mustn't—
Barton, Loki said in his ear. Barton.
Clint breathed out and his corded muscles relaxed a little. No, he should trust Loki to draw the line. It would be okay. They'd had this talk before during his training, after the incident with Natasha's red hair, after the cage and the starvation. It would be okay.
I’m sorry, sir.
It's quite alright, Loki answered lightly.
Clint startled when he realized Banner had been asking him something. The scientist was redder than the Mark V armor. “So could you—would you... show me?” he repeated. “What we talked about?”
Clint stared at him.
“Bruce,” he said cautiously after a long while. “Are you sure that’s what you want?”
“I—,” Bruce murmured, flushing hot. “I—I know it sounds crazy. But I really... when I look at you, I really feel there's... something I could learn here. Something I should learn.”
Clint remembered what he'd told him, in a shy, small voice. You look happy.
Something twisted in his chest.
“Bruce…” he winced. “Look, buddy, it's not that I don't want to... uh, help, but what are you asking for exactly?”
“Yeah, Doc, what are you asking for?” Tony said in a deceptively flippant voice.
“I don't know. I just... want to see how you're doing it. How you're both doing it,” the scientist said, glancing at Loki before turning to Tony with an anxious look. “If that's okay with you.”
“Well now, Brucie.Never pegged you for someone who likes to watch,” the billionaire said, raising an eyebrow at him.
“That's not—no,”Bruce choked, redder than ever, “I'm not talking about sex, I only mean—”
“Taking power,” Loki murmured.
Everyone startled and fell silent. The demi-god was leaning back in his chair and oh, he'd gotten them exactly where he wanted them, although Clint still couldn't figure it out where that was exactly...
“I can demonstrate that,” Loki said elegantly.
His hand came to rest on Clint's nape and the archer felt the hackles there stand on end as he suddenly,finally understood where Loki was going with all this.
He tried to analyze whether the eventuality horrified him or enticed him breathless; but as often, he was unsuccessful. In such moments as this, he could never sort out his feelings until Loki did it for him.
Tony and Bruce looked equally compelled and hesitant.
“Clint… are you okay with that?” Stark asked in a low voice.
The archer blinked at him. This question made no sense to him anymore.
Yes, Loki said calmly through the link.
“Yes,” Clint repeated.
There was a silence.
Then Loki smirked again. “Well, then,” he said. “Shall we?”
My, my, but shit seems to be getting serious.
Bruce had never thought he'd re-enter the dark torture chambers in such a different state of mind. Although he was still mildly horrified by the powerful smell which seized him as soon as he entered the room, his heart wasn't pounding with disgust. He was simply disbelieving and a little curious as his gaze trailed over the dark table, the chains, and the torture implements strewn on the table. Could anyone endure this? Could anyone, willingly, endure this?
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Tony murmured in his ear.
“No,” Bruce answered under his breath. “But I'm not the one you should be asking.”
Tony followed his gaze. Clint was standing very straight, eyes only slightly wider than usual, as though he was trying to concentrate on something. Bruce tried to read the emotions on the archer's face, but they were so numerous and tangled and unfathomable that he was quite unsuccessful. In no way did Clint look as though he was looking for a way out, though; but Bruce couldn’t tell whether the archer was anticipating pleasure or pain. He could only imagine the pressure weighing down on his shoulders. Bruce’s own stomach was already tied in knots andhe was only an observer. Tony’s hand came to rest against the small of his back, and Bruce wasn’t sure which one of them he meant to comfort.
“Hey,” the billionaire called out to Loki. “What are you going to do to him?”
Bruce was grateful he asked, because—he needed to be sure. To think that Clint might be merely resigned to be tortured in front of an audience made him nauseous. This was not what he wanted. It had sounded like a good, exciting idea at the time, in the warm lights of the library, when Clint had made it sound so evident that what was going on between him and Loki was consensual. Now, Bruce didn’t know what to think anymore, and it scared him.
The demi-god turned to Tony with a slight smirk, but didn't answer; instead, he snapped his fingers and two comfortable chairs appeared behind his guests. Bruce was reluctant to sit. Somehow, he felt it would be wrong to just lean back and watch—as though the fact that he was standing was going to change anything for Clint.
He looked to the archer, searching for some clue, some sign of what was to come, but it was as though he didn’t even exist for him. Clint wasn't just avoiding their gazes; he wasn't seeing them altogether.
Loki had left him standing by the door; he walked to the middle of the room, where there was no furniture, then simply said, “Come here.”
Clint obediently walked to him and stood at attention again. Bruce felt Tony tense next to him when the tree-shaped scar came into view—the proof of exactly how implacable Loki was when it came to assert his dominance.
Tony leaned in to whisper, “At least this explains his fashion choices.”.
Bruce swallowed thickly, but smiled a little, nervously. He knew that Tony was just trying to get him to relax, but the strain in Tony’s voice betrayed how he really felt about seeing more evidence of what Clint had suffered at Loki’s hands.
Loki cupped his jaw with that slight smile, and looked into Clint’s eyes for a long moment. It almost looked like they were communicating through telepathy.
“Strip,” Loki said eventually, lowering his hand.
The archer took a deep breath, then unbuckled his pants.
“But keep your undergarments on,” Loki instructed lightly. “I wouldn't want to hurt our spectators'...” He glanced at his guests and the corner of his mouth twitched. “...sensibility.”
Tony snorted, but kept his sarcasm to himself for once. Bruce was relieved. The last thing he wanted to do was to make this harder on Clint.
Oddly enough, the archer was wearing black boxers briefs underneath, which didn't look Asgardian in the slightest. Loki evidently made all his clothes; had he made those, too?
“Kneel,” Loki said sharply.
Clint sank down to his knees and bowed his head with a deep breath. Loki started walking in circles around him, hands folded behind his back. Suddenly, Bruce remembered those last few minutes in the lab before they were transported here: bowing his head against the cold floor as Tony walked behind him to tighten the zip-tie around his wrists. At the time, he had felt so relaxed, so sure of his trust in Tony, so sure that Tony would be worthy of that trust.
The demi-god stopped behind Clint and his leather-clad legs, feet firmly planted on the marble floor, were an excruciating background to the archer's half-naked, kneeling figure.
“You asked what I was going to do to him, Stark.”
He started walking around Clint again, his steps soundless and graceful, like a panther. “I could do anything,” he said in that smart, conversational tone. “Every single horror this room made you think of, and worse.”
Clint looked like he was trying extremely hard not to react to those words. Let them slide off him, like water off a bird's feathers.
“He has no choice,” Loki said. “No safewords. No way out. He takes what I deem him fit to take.”
He stopped again. “And that is all the subtlety of my charge,” he said in a lower voice. “If something breaks I did not mean to break, I am the only one at fault. Absolute control means absolute responsibility.”
Bruce remembered what Tony had told him, ages ago, proposing the idea of bondage for the first time.
“So you’re the responsible one around here?” Bruce had asked.
“I can be. When I have to be,” Tony had replied.
But was this the same, though? Loki put his right hand of the top of Clint's head, simply letting it rest there; and it was the most possessive, threatening gesture Bruce had even seen.
“He has to trust me to know his limits,” Loki said in what was now a low murmur.
His sharp eyes, which had been settled on Clint with a distant, thoughtful look, were suddenly fixed on Bruce. “Can you achieve that kind of trust?”
The doctor realized his own breath had grown shallow and disordered. Loki smiled at him and folded his hands behind his back again. “Perhaps you should have a seat, Doctor.”
Tony’s arm was on his shoulder then, guiding him backwards and down to sink into the plush cushions. Bruce grabbed hold of Tony’s sleeve before he could get too far away, and Tony looked at Bruce for a silent second before sitting down on the armrest of the chair so he could press his side against Bruce’s. That was better. It was easier to keep his mind in the present and breathe with Tony’s solid presence grounding him.
“Now,” Loki said. “We can begin. But first...” His voice took an implacable, commanding tone. “...look at them.”
Clint took another deep breath, then looked up at Bruce and Tony. Above all, the doctor had been afraid to find resentment in his eyes for getting him in this position. But there was nothing of the sort to be read in the archer's gaze. He was nothing but intensity. Focus. Without any stray feeling to parasite it.
“Good,” Loki said. “Look down.”
Clint instantly did, and a brief shiver shook his shoulders. Loki then twirled his fingers and ropes started falling in coils onto the floor, close enough so the archer could see them in the corner of his eye. They seemed unusually thin to Bruce, but then again, he wasn't an expert.
Loki crouched next to Clint and grabbed his hair to briskly tug him upwards, getting him to kneel up. The archer briefly clenched his jaw with pain, but said nothing. Loki let him go and picked up a long rope he folded in two, letting it slide between his fingers. He wrapped it around Clint's chest, around his left shoulder, then his right, until the archer was caught in a triangular upper harness, which left his arms free.
The look on Loki's face was unsettling. He seemed to feed off Clint's rising tension; there was no smile on his lips, but a sense of sharpness in his eyes, something cruelly delighted, something predatory as he tugged the ropes tighter. In comparison with that fire simmering beneath, the blankness of his features was somehow ironic. And deeply scary.
He got up again, then walked around Clint who'd stayed up on his knees, eyes now closed, breathing still abnormally deep but not deep enough that he was in danger of hyperventilating.
“Spread your legs,” Loki said.
Clint opened his eyes instead—and the demi-god backhanded him across the face. It was a neat, harsh slap which echoed loudly across the room and jerked Clint's head on the side.
The snap made Bruce jump, but Tony’s hand was on his back, rubbing up and down.
“—Sorry,” Clint let out after the split second of shock.
He spread his knees open.
Loki didn't answer and crouched down again to slip the ropes under and around Clint's inner thighs, then around his waist, and up in neat diamonds until he'd reached the upper ropes. By the time he was done, Clint was secured in a full-body harness, but his arms and legs remained free.
Something different trembled deep inside of Bruce as he watched Loki test the ropes, so careful to tighten them just until the flesh dimpled, but no more. Bruce imagined being submitted to this—Tony taking the time to wrap and knot the ropes just right, the pressure a constant reminder of where his hands had been. The doctor was a bit surprised to feel his cock swell a little inside his pants and he shifted to relieve the pressure. Tony noticed and looked gave him a questioning look.
“It’s ok,” Bruce whispered. “I’m ok.”
Loki gave him a slightly amused gaze, just a hint of acknowledgment; Bruce flushed a little, but the demi-god had already turned his attention back to Clint.The archer had closed his eyes again. Loki let his hand trail across his hair, then down his jaw; his thumb pressed against the full lower lip. The archer sucked the digit in, then the other two Loki pushed into his mouth.
“Do not let yourself be fooled by our guests' presence,” the demi-god said in that cold, detached voice. “You're in for a lot of pain, Barton.”
He slid out his fingers and Clint breathed, “Yes, sir.”
Loki looked up at the ceiling which suddenly opened itself. A steel cross held up by chains came clicking down and stopped about halfway between the ceiling and the floor, about level with Loki's shoulders. It was horizontal, parallel to the ground, rigged with shackles at four ends and rings along the branches.
Clint’s head was still bowed down, but he had reopened his eyes which looked a bit too wide.
“Lie down on your stomach,” Loki told him. “Spread your legs and arms.”
This time, the archer complied without missing a beat and was spread-eagled on the cold marble quickly enough. Obviously, though, cold wasn't what made him shiver. Loki lowered the cross further and further down until it was pressing against the archer's back, almost pinning him down.
The demi-god crouched down again and shackled Clint's right wrist, then his left. He walked around the cross to secure his ankles. He then took the remaining rope and looped it across the rings to connect Clint's harness to the middle of the steel X.
The archer let out a stifled gasp when the cross went back up and he found himself suspended above the floor, his body weighing down in the shackles and the full-body harness. It didn't look exactly like torture—his features were still fairly composed, although he was breathing deeper and more raggedly—but to be hanging down like this, without any leverage, completely helpless, looked panicking enough already. His spine was spared from too much strain thanks to the harness, but his arms and legs still bulged in the restraints as he struggled not to let himself sag completely.
His efforts brought a smirk on Loki's lips. He brushed the back of his hand against Clint's abs, which fluttered all the more in strain. His fingers went up to his chest and cruelly twisted an erect nipple.
“Hmm,” he said, grinning all the more. “We'll play with weights some other day. See how much you can take above and below the belt.”
Clint shivered violently, once. Loki brutally grabbed his throat and forced his head up, fingers digging in his trachea.
“What was that, Barton?” he asked in a sickly sweet voice.
“Yes, sir,” Clint panted. “Sorry, sir.”
Loki's vice-like grip loosened and he turned to Bruce and Tony, with a shit-eating grin. “I think you’re distracting him.”
He released him altogether and walked away, letting him hang there in the restraints, chest heaving, head bowing low again. Bruce had to tear his eyes away from Clint to notice that Loki had gone to pick up something on the table, a gleaming, thin stick he twirled around playfully between his long fingers as he came back into the circle of light—only then did the doctor notice that at some point, the entire room had grown completely dark, only to let a cone of merciless white light fall upon Clint. It made the sweat on his body gleam; he was still struggling to keep his core muscles at work.
Loki let the thin rod twirl one last time, then gripped it tight and showed it to Clint, who fought to keep his head upright and look. The stick looked really thin and harmless, and it was too big to be a needle. A sound, maybe? But the demi-god had insisted he wouldn't remove Clint's last piece of clothing.
Then the tip of the steel stick began to smoke. Very faintly, at first; then more decidedly until the metal turned silver, then red, then white with heat.
Clint started trembling and let his head fall down again with a murmured breath which sounded like, oh God.
“No,” Tony blurted, getting up—and once again, Bruce was relieved he’d spoken up, because he felt like he couldn’t have, whatever Loki choose to do. “Stop. Don't do that.”
Loki gave him a patronizing smirk, then gripped Clint's hair with his free hand and forced his head up. “What do you think, Barton,” he whispered in his ear. “Should I do it?”
Clint took a deep breath which was brutally cut off when Loki tugged harder. “Yes,” he panted hurriedly, jaws clenched. “It's alright, Tony. It's all consensual.”
Out of the blue, Bruce got the absolute certitude that Loki was somehow telling him what to say. Clint didn't look like he was able to form complete sentences by himself. Tony mustn't have gotten the same impression, though, since he sat back in mulish silence with his fists clenched.
“Well then,” Loki smirked—and he pressed the steaming hot tip against the middle of Clint's chest.
The noise it made—that sizzling noise made Bruce feel like his blood had turned to fire. The archer convulsed in his restraints and shouted before he managed to get a hold of himself, teeth gritted, eyes screwed tightly shut. The chains clicked when the cross began slowly turning on itself with the impulsion he'd given it. Loki steadied it with his hand, then slowly heated up the rod again by sheer will, his smile wide and feral.
He pressed it against Clint's ribs, then again and again to draw a dotted line of tiny round burns—the hissing sound of scorched flesh made Bruce flinch each time. Clint shook brutally with every mark, and now gasped with each breath out, so harsh and ragged it sounded like he was drowning.
“I could gag him,” Loki commented. “Sometimes I do.”
He pressed the branding tip against Clint's other side and the archer struggled so violently he rattled the chains of the cross he was tied to. Loki smirked and paused to let his guests hear Clint's moaning, gasping breaths.
“Most of the time, I don't,” he concluded with a dark satisfaction.
The contrast between his cold, syrupy voice and Clint’s disordered breathing made Bruce feel ice cold and burning hot at the same time. Loki rolled the still red-hot tip over Clint's left nipple, eliciting a broken yell. He went further down then and drew a small triangle pointing down, just above the waistband of his boxers; Clint gasped and shook with each application of the branding stick. He was tensing and pulling at his shackles every time the pain jolted him, but he now sagged completely in between, no matter how uncomfortable it looked.
The shadows combined with the black fabric of his boxers gave him a bit of privacy, but it was still obvious that he was extremely hard.
The look on his face wasn’t one of pleasure, though—not by a long shot. Loki, on the other hand, looked cold and composed, eyes dark and heavy-lidded; but the corner of his lips quivered uncontrollably whenever he pressed the branding stick against Clint’s skin again and got a frantic whimper in return. He drew small patterns on his shoulders, careful and assiduous like a pointillist painter, indifferent to his victim’s uncontrollable sounds of pain—it was this, this indifference, which shocked Bruce the most even though he couldn’t tell whether he was horrified or insanely aroused.
Loki then stilled the slightly swaying cross, and made it turn around so Clint was facing away from Bruce and Tony.
“Let them hear it,” he murmured, so low Bruce wondered how he'd heard him.
The demi-god heated the stick again and burned the soles of Clint's feet, stopping each time to let him writhe and scream—oh, he was screaming now, and Bruce should have stopped this, should have spoken up, but he couldn't, he couldn't—before going at it again. He marked his thighs as well, focusing on the areas where the corded muscles quivered and flinched the most; and Clint screamed indeed, screamed, and sobbed frantically, and thrashed in his unforgiving restraints.
When Loki was done, he grabbed Clint's ankle and turned him around so his studded body would face the audience again. The archer looked completely dazed with agony, drenched in sweat, breathing deep and pained as though he had to push the air out of his lungs. His suspended position must not be helping with that. Violent shivers regularly rippled through him.
Loki heated the stick again, but something in his gaze was different, like a conductor preparing for the last crescendo. What would he burn this time? Bruce’s hypnotized thoughts were running wild—throat, cheek, forehead?
But what Loki said, in a very low voice, was: “Open your mouth.”
Everyone went absolutely still, save for Clint's uncontrollable shivers.
Tony’s arm moved to Bruce’s shoulder and he squeezed so hard that Bruce almost glanced up to make sure he wasn’t about to pass out, but he couldn’t—couldn’t take his eyes off what was happening in front of him.
After he swallowed, the archer opened his mouth and let Loki insert the branding stick. The demi-god kept it hovering above the archer's tongue.
And waited, for maybe three long minutes, during which Clint shook and trembled and started drooling, but kept his mouth obediently open.
Then Loki put the tip of the stick on his tongue, very lightly; but it was now too cold and didn't burn him.
Clint sagged completely in the shackles and started taking huge lungfuls of air which sounded like sobs on their way out. Loki removed the branding stick with a smile and tapped it against Clint's cheek before letting it vanish into thin air.
He lowered the cross and untied Clint's ankles, then his harness and eventually, his wrists, letting the archer slowly kneel down on the floor until he ended up curled up on himself and wildly shaking.
There was another chair just outside the circle of light—which started to dim now that the normal lighting came back; Loki got up and left Clint there to go take his seat.
He leaned back and ordered, calm and cold, “Crawl.”
Clint was shaking so hard it took him almost a minute to uncurl himself and crawl to Loki with stiff limbs. But after this last effort, he was allowed to snug between Loki's legs, resting his forehead against the leather-clad thigh; and he exhaled a deep, shaky breath which didn't sound like a sob this time. As the air left his body, it looked like his bones were turning to water, leaving him as limp as he’d been tense, which was saying a lot. His eyes looked almost glazed over before he closed them.
Loki leaned forward and whispered in his ear things Bruce couldn't hear, slow murmurs which had the archer shuddering with each word.
Then he leaned back again, and his fingers were now gentle in Clint's hair, and his voice even gentler when he asked, “Will you stay on the floor?”
“Yes, please, sir,” Clint muttered, eyes closed. “It's fresh. Feels good.”
He was utterly boneless now and he looked absolutely blissed out, breathing still increasingly deep, but very measured. Loki started rubbing his shoulders, his neck, his arms, and his fingers must be very cold since Clint sighed in pleasure every time they brushed over a burn. He was completely submitted to his touch; his eyes were ajar again, heavy-lidded, but obviously, he wasn't seeing anything, save for the golden haze of his own ecstasy. When Loki's thumb rubbed against his cheekbone, Clint turned his head and pressed trembling, reverent kisses to his palm. “Thank you,” he exhaled. “Thank you, sir. Christ. Thank you.”
Loki looked up at Tony and Bruce with a grin which widened when he saw the look on their faces.
“Now, my dear guests,” he said. “Seen anything you'd like to try?”
Bruce was still half in shock from what he’d just seen, and the sudden proposition startled them both. Until then, the plan had been to measure that intensity Loki had been bragging about, to evaluate it, to bottle it and label it to be reused later. But now, the scientific side of things had dissolved in heated lust and fascination. There had never been any question of their participating in this, but now it was obvious to Bruce that what Loki and Clint had offered them demanded a gift of equal value.
And he wanted to do this so bad.
He remembered Loki’s cold eyes as he meticulously broke Clint down, and imagined that same gaze weighing over him as Tony took care of him. He wanted to do this—not for Loki, but for Tony. To prove that their bond, their trust was strong enough to link them even in such circumstances.
As Bruce looked at the cross, a combination of desire and fear twisted his stomach. It took him a moment to realize that Tony was waiting for him to voice his thoughts, watching him expectantly with unfathomably dark eyes.
Bruce then tore his gaze from the wrought iron cross to Clint, sitting peacefully on the floor at Loki’s feet, head resting in his lap. Except for the small red burns dotting his body, he didn’t look particularly worse for wear—on the contrary, there was a placid glow around both him and Loki that reminded Bruce of the haloed aura of old Renaissance paintings. He licked his lips and took a deep breath before he answered.
“The cross. I could do that,” he said. “It’s not so different from the gantry at home.”
Tony looked around the dark dungeon. “Really now? Not so different?”
Bruce smiled a little sheepishly. “In theory,” he mumbled.
None of them mentioned getting out of Loki’s sight and it was a relief to Bruce, that they were on the same page—Loki himself seemed to consider it a given. Or maybe he was saying nothing so as not to scare them off. And Bruce could have been unsettled by his presence; but all he felt was enticement. Like before a challenge. Yes—Loki was necessary to this, as necessary as the crowd during the Olympics, giving meaning to the performance. He would be a part of Tony’s game on Bruce.
Tony stood and held out his hand to pull Bruce to his feet. Bruce was about to take a step towards the middle of the room, but Tony caught his face in both hands before he could.
“Brucie,” he murmured, “you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. We can find another way. I’m sure there’s another way.”
Bruce looked straight into Tony’s eyes in an attempt at reassurance. “I can do this,” he said. He looked again at the cross lowered nearly to the floor and the coils of rope beneath it. “I want to do this.” Then, suddenly, another thought crossed his mind. “Tony…do you want this? It isn’t just about me.”
Tony’s eyes darkened and he leaned closer. “Oh, yes, Brucie. To have you tied, helpless, just for me?”
But there were more people in the room other than them. His gaze flicked over to Loki, watching them with an intense gaze, and Clint, still recovering on the floor in front of him. “You’re not the only one here, Tony. It won’t be just for you.”
Then Tony drew his head in closer until their foreheads touched. “No, Snowflake. It’s always just for me.”
And Bruce felt his pride, his courage—and, well, his cock, too—swell at those words and he had no problem breaking away from Tony and kneeling next to the cross on the floor to wait for him.
“Ah,” Loki said appreciatively. “Someone is eager to get started.”
Tony glared at him, but followed Bruce.
Bruce willed himself to relax. The chill of the marble seeped in through the leather pants, and his knees protested against the hard stone floor. He shifted some of his weight to his heels and let his hands rest lightly on his thighs. Tony was there, then, standing between him and Loki’s chair so that he was effectively blocked from view. The engineer’s calculating stare swept over the metal cross and the various ropes. He looked at Bruce, too, and from the way his eyes appraised him, Bruce knew he was being measured.
“What are your safewords?” Tony asked.
This was part of their ritual when Tony asked him to try something he hadn’t done before. It had been a while since he had to use them, but it was a cue that they were going to start a session. Bruce could feel himself start to relax as his brain recognized the familiar territory.
“Green, yellow, red,” Bruce answered. He heard a chair creaking, but it was easy to ignore with Tony’s body shielding him from the demi-god’s eyes.
“Good boy,” Tony said, and Bruce felt a shiver run down his spine at those words. “That tunic looks ridiculous on you. Take it off,” he went on.
Bruce complied, shucking the leather up and over his head. He hoped that Tony would let him keep the pants—Clint hadn’t been stripped completely, and, unlike him, Bruce wasn’t wearing underwear. But Tony just kicked the tunic away and ran his hands lightly over Bruce’s shoulders, strong fingers tracing where muscle and bone met, outlining shoulder blades and pressing against his ribcage.
“Stay,” Tony commanded. “Be still and breathe.”
That was an easy command. He concentrated on his breath as he watched Tony gather the lengths of rope, twisting and turning them in his hands. When Tony found one he was satisfied with, he stood in front of Bruce once more.
“Close your eyes, Brucie. Don’t open them until I tell you to.”
Bruce nodded and shut his eyes. Tony’s hands were on his chest again, but this time there was also the drag of silk behind those fingers. The ropes were thick and soft on his skin, though Bruce knew that once they drew tight, the small surface area would make even the silkiest rope leave bruises.
Tony looped the rope around his chest, twisting in the middle so the strands went under his arms and up around the opposite shoulders. He felt Tony knot in in the back, right between his shoulder blades, then circle his waist. He did it several times, each time anchoring the rope with a knot against his spine before circling his chest again.
“Too tight?” Tony asked as he took up the slack.
Bruce shook his head. He could feel the pressure around his ribs, but he could still breathe just fine.
Then Tony pressed his shoulders forward, forcing his ass to rise up off the floor as his upper body lowered. Bruce was grateful that Tony told him to close his eyes because he wasn’t sure he wanted to see the look on Loki’s face as he was forced into such a vulnerable position; but to imagine it made his pulse quicken. There were more ropes, then, around each thigh and knotted to the length of rope down his back.
“You’ve done this before, Stark,” Loki’s appreciative voice floated down to Bruce.
“Oh, you’d be surprised,” Tony quipped, but Bruce could hear the strain in his voice.
“No, I don’t think I would,” was the low answer.
After wrapping the rope around Bruce’s thighs a few more times, Tony pressed on his hips to lay him flat on the floor. A familiar hand tangled and carded through his curls.
“Just lie there for a second,” Tony said. “Get used to how that feels.”
Actually, Bruce mused, it felt pretty good. The ropes were tight, but he wasn’t confined yet, so it just felt like pressure wrapped around and around him. In fact, it was comforting, to be held together on the outside like he always tried to hold himself together on the inside. Seconds later, his body relaxed into his bonds.
“That’s my good boy,” Tony soothed. Then, louder, “So, how does this place work? How do I get custom dungeon furniture on demand? Don’t tell me this is how Santa’s elves stay employed during the off-season.”
Bruce heard Loki’s amused voice. “What is it that you need, Stark?”
“More rope… like, uh… ten meters. Oh, cool, thanks. How about purple? Can you do purple rope?”
But Tony must have gotten his wish because he was quiet again. Then, he shackled Bruce’s wrists and ankles to the cross, just as Loki did to Clint. He was spread open wide, and Bruce could already feel his body shaking in anticipation of what would come next. His cock, too, was taking quite an interest and Bruce almost wanted Tony to hurry up and raise the device so his hard-on would be spared the pain of being trapped against the hard, cold marble.
That didn’t happen quite yet, though. Tony took the extra rope and started lacing Bruce’s arms and legs to the poles, immobilizing him even further—no, Bruce corrected himself, Tony was giving him more support, more points of contact to lessen the strain when the cross was raised.
Finally, Tony stepped back.
“Ok,” he said. “What’s the magic word to get this thing going?”
The chains creaked as the mechanism in the ceiling—or whatever Loki was using—came to life, and the cross was slowly raised. Bruce could feel as the slack was taken up, and then his weight pulled against the ropes as he was lifted off the floor. It was strange, at first, with the web of ropes keeping him both secure and yet so very vulnerable at the same time. Tony’s hand was on the bar just above his shoulder and next to his head, holding the entire contraption steady as he was lifted higher and higher. At last, the cross came to a smooth stop just as he was level with Tony’s shoulder.
“Ok, Brucie,” Tony said, his mouth right next to Bruce’s ear. “Open your eyes now.”
The ground was awfully far away, and Bruce had to fight a quick moment of vertigo. He couldn’t turn his head very far in either direction, so he couldn’t see Loki or Clint. Just for a second, his instincts took over and he strained and thrashed in his bonds, but he had no leverage. Tony watched him with dark eyes, keeping hold of the bar so his movements wouldn’t send him into a spin, but letting him ride out the moment of panic.
After that brief initial fight against the ropes, Bruce let himself sag a little. His heart was hammering in his chest, but after a second, he realized it was out of excitement rather than fear. His body felt hotly flushed all over, and, more than anything in that moment, Bruce wanted Tony to touch him, to reassure him that he was ok, held safe from gravity. But instead, he took a few deep breaths to calm his breathing while Tony watched him struggle within himself.
Once he was calm again, Tony stroked his cheek. “That’s my good boy,” he said softly, right into his ear again. “You like this?”
A hand ran down the ropes, tracing where they pressed into his skin, down his stomach and abdomen to lightly cup at his erection.
“Answer me out loud, Snowflake. Do you like this?”
“Yes…yes, Tony,” Bruce said.
“Good. I could leave you like this all day and just stare at you. You are beautiful on display for me. I could put you in an art museum and make a fortune on admission.”
“Thank you, Tony,” Bruce whispered.
Loki made a little humming sound, as though he was a visitor in that very same art museum, and pondering whether he should buy the painting on display. Tony turned around to face him, but Bruce had to strain his neck to turn his head enough to see, so he didn’t bother, keeping his eyes on Tony’s shoes and the polished marble floor instead.
“Well now,” Loki said—and Bruce heard a fluttering of leather as though he’d shifted into a more comfortable position. “Now that you have him where you want him, what are you going to do to him?”
Tony’s hand was back on the bar by Bruce’s shoulder, holding both of them steady.
“Would you like to whip him?” Loki continued as if he was asking Tony if he would like a cup of tea. “How about a cane? Or perhaps something a little less traditional?
Bruce could almost feel Tony’s grip tighten on the bar.
“The iron,” Bruce blurted out. “Do to me what he did to Clint.”
Tony snapped back at him.
It sounded like Loki was equally stunned into silence. Even from where he was, Bruce could see how much Tony paled. “Bruce, are you sure? You don’t have to do that.”
Bruce nodded. “It’ll cauterize the blood vessels so that my blood doesn’t contaminate anything here.”
Tony’s face fell. “That’s not what I’m worried about.”
“Then…please… I want to try. I want to know…” Bruce said, trying to see Clint.
The billionaire’s hand trembled on the cross. He turned to Loki; the doctor couldn’t see him, but he guessed the demi-god was raising his eyebrows in expectation.
“I’ve never used something like that,” Tony told him, and this blunt admission of his ignorance to Loki almost brought tears to Bruce’s eyes. He wanted to brush his lips over Tony’s skin, but he was firmly tied up.
“Is not experience the best way to learn?” Loki answered with a slight smile in his voice. “Try it on yourself. Once. And you will know exactly what to do next.”
There was a silence. A silver stick appeared in Tony’s hand and he stared at it, eyes dark with too many thoughts for Bruce to read.
Then he muttered, “Heat it up.”
He let go of the cross to clench his left fist as the stick in his right hand started reddening with heat. The suspension turned slightly on the side and Clint and Loki came into view. The archer was still relaxed, but his blissed out expression had morphed into something which was more like fuzzy hypnosis—just like Bruce before him, he couldn’t help watching. Loki looked absolutely fascinated—he was slightly leaning forward, eyes gleaming and lips parted. Bruce thought of how he must look, suspended and helpless, but all he felt was anticipation.
There was a hissing sound when the branding tip touched the inside of Tony’s wrist, and another one escaping through his teeth. He managed not to actually voice his pain, but he couldn’t help swallowing thickly when he removed the stick, leaving a neat round little burn.
“Bruce—this hurts,” he said in a strained voice. “A lot.”
“I want to do it,” Bruce repeated. “Please, Tony.”
He thought he’d caught approval on Loki’s face in the corner of his eye. To have him watching was definitely… Bruce couldn’t say for sure, but the power he’d felt, this absolute power was what enticed and terrified him.
The tip of the stick was heating up again. Tony stared into Bruce’s eyes, and for a second, the doctor thought the next thing he would feel would be the scorching heat burning his skin. He was breathless. He was scared to death. He was ready.
But then Tony straightened up—and shook his head.
“No, Brucie…I…I’ve always told you that I wouldn’t hurt you. I can’t do it. I can’t do that.”
His voice was pained, genuinely sorry, but Bruce could see it in his eyes—he wasn’t going to back down on this. He wasn’t going to do it.
“Well,” Loki said in a low voice. “What an unexpected turn of events.”
For some reason, this comment seemed to set Tony’s anger ablaze.
“Look here, you fucker,” he snarled, snapping round at him. “Not everyone’s a goddamn sadist like you! I didn’t tie Bruce up so I could fucking torture him, and if you think that makes me a wimp or—or a pussy, you can go straight to hell!”
“Calm down,” Loki said, raising an eyebrow.
He leaned back and smiled. “I never implied anything like it. If anything, taking pleasure in a man’s pain is precisely what I would call a weakness.”
That took Tony off guard. Loki’s amused, sharp eyes met Bruce’s and his grin widened. “But we can discuss the matter at length some other time. Do you want to give him what he wants, or not?”
“I do,” Tony said. “But I can’t, and I won’t.”
Loki’s long fingers opened to ask for the branding stick. “Let me, then.”
Everyone froze. Bruce’s breath hitched but he didn’t know whether he was thinking please no or please yes.
Tony settled it for him. “No,” he growled. “I wouldn’t let you near him with a butter knife.”
“With reason, too,” Loki smirked. “The things I could do with a butter knife.”
He tilted his head on the side. “Then tell me this. How about Barton?”
There was another startled pause. Clint looked a little surprised, but Loki’s hand was firm in his hair and the archer’s shoulders couldn’t seem to be able to tense again.
“Yes,” Bruce breathed. “Please, Tony.”
Tony looked straight into his eyes. And whatever he saw there made his features soften.
“Alright,” he murmured, cupping Bruce’s face. “Clint can do it. If you’re sure.”
“I’m sure,” Bruce said hurriedly. “I’m sure. Thank you, Tony.”
Loki got up and Clint with him; the billionaire glared at them. “I’m staying with him,” he warned.
“I would be disappointed if you didn’t,” Loki smiled.
“And don’t you get any closer.”
The demi-god deliberately walked right to him and tilted his head, raising his eyebrows. As if to say, and how can you stop me?
And Bruce then felt a single, nauseating spike of fear, because Loki was stronger than any of them and insanely dangerous. For a second, Bruce saw the scene in clear, sober hindsight and nearly panicked because he was tied up to a fucking cross with Loki in the room, and exactly how had they gone that far as though it was normal?
But then Loki chuckled and Bruce’s panic hesitated.
“Let’s make a deal,” he said. “I can get as close as I want, but I will not lay a finger on him.”
Tony watched him with flaring nostrils and dark eyes. Loki sighed minutely. “Stark,” he said. “If I wanted to hurt any of you, it would be done by now.”
It was so blatantly true that even the fire in Tony’s eyes died out a little. “Alright,” he muttered. “Alright.”
Loki smiled at him, then plucked the branding stick from his hands.
“Are you okay with this?” Tony asked Clint in a low voice.
Loki suddenly jabbed the branding stick forward and Tony jerked back, holding very still with his chin up. The tip wasn’t heated but it could have pierced through his throat without much effort.
There was a very still, very breathless second.
“Stark,” Loki articulated. “Like you just said, very heatedly so—we are not the same. And offering a choice to my slave one more time would be extremely…” He pushed the stick under Tony’s chin. “...rude.”
They stayed like this for another split second. Bruce was almost sick with anxiety but then, to everyone’s astonishment, Tony slowly said, “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
At first, Bruce couldn’t understand, but he got it when he saw something in Loki’s and Tony’s eyes which oddly looked like mutual… maybe not respect, but acknowledgment. Clint was Loki’s, and Bruce was Tony’s, and they’d just both agreed not to step on each other’s toes.
But the surprises were not over—Loki grinned wider and got the stick out of Tony’s face, only to grab the front of his shirt and tug him very close. The billionaire stiffened abruptly when he was brought inches from Loki’s face; his eyes quickly scanned it as the demi-god kept grinning defiantly.
And then they both leaned in—and they kissed each other.
At the beginning of their relationship, Bruce hadn’t thought Iron Man would give up on the ladies for the sake of one scrawny scientist, and to imagine Tony kissing someone else had caused him a dull pain he’d unsuccessfully tried to chase away.
But this had nothing to do with what he’d imagined.
It was a rough, breathy affair which wasn’t just a kiss—a declaration of intent, a reciprocated challenge, and a manifesto of alliance all in once. It was also, without a doubt, the single hottest thing Bruce had ever seen. Loki was still holding Tony’s shirt in a firm grip, but Tony was the one pushing and claiming, and the demi-god’s eyes were crinkling with genuine enjoyment. When they parted, pupils blown to hell and breathing ragged, the same little smile appeared in the corner of their mouth, and Bruce could feel something had changed.
“Now,” Loki grinned.
“Yeah,” Tony answered.
He turned to Bruce. “Are you ready, Brucie?” he said. “I’ll stay with you. I’ll be right here with you.”
“I—yes,” Bruce stammered. “Yes. Yes. I’m ready.”
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In the corner of his eye, Bruce saw Loki step back and turn the wand over to Clint. The archer looked mostly focused again, with dark eyes and a slight crease between his eyebrows. Tony’s pupils were dilated and unmoving. It made Bruce dizzy, to have these three men so powerful and so dangerous each in their own way all so focused on him, on hurting him, and watching him being hurt. His cock hung even heavier between his legs and he squirmed a little in the restraints.
Bruce glanced up at Clint again, and cast his eyes over the iron with a strange mix of apprehension and relief, because—of all the people in this room, the archer was the one who knew the most about being on the receiving end of pain. Hell, the round burns were still an angry red against his skin.
“Touch him,” Loki said in a very low voice. “Introduce yourself.”
Bruce shivered when Clint's calloused hand helped him keep his head up for a second. Then the fingers trailed up and across his hair, and suddenly gripped hard—not exactly painful, but still Bruce was certain, once again, that Loki was somehow telling Clint what to do, even when he was not speaking out loud.
Clint let go and Bruce’s head dropped down again; but then Tony’s hand was cool on his burning cheek, bringing his attention to the other side.
“Use your safewords if you want to, Bruce,” Tony said. “He’ll listen. There’s nothing going on here that you can’t stop.”
“I’m ok,” Bruce reassured again. But the feeling of an alien hand on an exposed part of his back still made him jump in his bonds. It’s just Clint, Bruce reminded himself. Even if it was some strange inter-dimensional Clint, it was still Hawkeye holding the brand, and Tony was there to look after him.
“Now, be quick about it,” Loki instructed Clint. He was somewhere behind Bruce at that point and the echo of his voice kept changing as he walked in circles around him. “A good mark will have him thrashing and screaming. You have to hold it against the flesh for a full second no matter how hard he struggles.”
Bruce glanced up at him again. Clint looked like he was listening to the last check-list before a mission. His eyes had grown colder and sharper, looking with quick glances for the perfect place to land the iron. Bruce had turned into a target to be hit, and it was both horrifying and insanely arousing, as though he was a thing, as though nobody had to worry about what he was feeling inside.
Nobody; not even himself.
Bruce gulped in a huge breath of air as the cross lowered slowly until he was about level with Clint’s waist. His back, he realized. Clint was going to do it on the exposed part of his back. From this position, he couldn’t see anyone’s face, only their legs and feet, so he saw Clint move to his left side, by his shoulder.
Tony slid to the ground on his right side, sitting on his knees so that he could see Bruce face, but also look over his back to see what Clint and Loki were up to on the other side. He grabbed hold of the cross by Bruce’s wrist to hold it steady.
“I’m right here, Bruce. Just look at me.”
Bruce’s heart was hammering so loudly that he couldn’t believe that it didn’t echo off the stone walls of the chamber. Tony looked up, above him, then quickly back down to Bruce.
“Okay, take a deep breath,” Tony said. “Don’t let it out until I tell you to.”
Bruce sucked in as much air as he could hold.
Then his entire world focused to one narrow point of scorching pain on his left shoulder, and it was good that Tony had tied him so tightly to the cross because his entire body tried to jerk away from the blistering heat and a shout bubbled behind his lips he tried to push it back down but it hurt oh it hurt it hurt! He couldn’t tell if Clint had moved the brand away or not, because it kept burning and burning, and his whole body was tense and pulling against the ropes like he was trying to bend the cross—
“Breathe out,” Tony said.
He let his breath out in one big whoosh, and he couldn’t help the small cry that escaped him at the end and he shut his eyes tight and balled his fists, as if that could shut out the pain.
“Good boy,” Tony said. “Snowflake, give me a color.”
Bruce stammered, “Green, it's green, I just—”
He just didn't think it would hurt so much.
It was a ridiculous, ridiculous thought, because what did he expect? Of course it was going to hurt. But he'd thought... he hadn't thought it would hurt like this.He didn't know. He remembered Clint's dazed look, remembered his own bliss every time Tony took care of him, and he couldn't see how he could ever achieve such a state by taking such a road.
But he had to take it. He had to take it. He wasn't going to chicken out now. And the more it hurt, the better he would feel afterwards. Right?
“I'm okay,” he gasped. “I'm okay. Again, please, again.”
“Again,” Loki said. “I want a full circle.”
Tony pried Bruce’s right hand open and laced his fingers with his. Bruce grabbed him in a crushing grip.
“Open your eyes,” Tony said softly. “Look at me.”
Bruce did, and Tony was closer, crouching underneath the cross so that his face was very close. Tony placed his hand on Bruce’s cheek, keeping his face turned away.
“Breathe,” Tony said. “Deep breath again.”
And then, quicker, there was a series of three more burns, moving in a small arc on his shoulder blade—and Bruce thought he was going to die every time the iron hissed against his skin. He rattled the chains and screamed so loud he couldn't hear his own thoughts.
“Give him a moment, Barton,” Loki’s honeyed voice said.
“No—no—green!” Bruce gasped, tears rolling down his cheeks. “Green, it’s fine, it’s fine!”
“Brucie… Brucie…” Tony soothed, sounding desperate. He fell back so that he was sitting on the ground, his head tucked into the crook of Bruce’s right shoulder. Cool fingers traced Bruce’s cheek, but he didn’t let go of his hand. “You’re doing so well,” he mumbled. “You’re doing so well.”
After a minute, Bruce got his breath back, though his shoulder was still on fire, and he wished it didn’t hurt so damn much—how did Barton do it? He thought he had a high pain threshold, but these needle points of agony were already pushing him beyond what he could endure.
“Go on,” Loki said, and Bruce screwed his eyes shut and thought, oh please, oh please oh please oh please… then he choked on a scream or a shout or a sob when he was burned again.
Tony coached him into breathing through the red-hot bursts of pain as the iron was pressed again and again into his skin, but he was panting brokenly by the time Clint finished with the small circle. Bruce had counted twelve burns, but he wasn’t quite sure if it was accurate because they started to blur together. He didn’t know how long he had been suspended face-down on the cross, but the ropes mattered less and less as the branding went on.
More than once, his safe word was on his lips, but each time Loki would make Clint back off for a few minutes, and Bruce could find the strength to go on. Still, this was nothing like he imagined it would be. He thought that, eventually, the pain would break through some barrier he had inside himself, and he could transcend it, disassociate, and find some peace as he left it all behind. Just a little more. If he could get through this, maybe he would find that level of subspace that Clint told him about. Just once more. Just one at a time.
“Now, here, inside the circle,” Loki instructed.
There was the dull sound of boots on stone, and Bruce turned his head to see what they were doing on the other side, but Tony caught his head with a gentle hand on his cheek.
“No, don’t look at them. Look at me,” he said.
Bruce turned his head back and hissed as the skin on his shoulder pulled tight. Then he realized that Tony was keeping his head turned to the side so that the skin on his shoulder was taut—to give Clint a better canvas.
Before he fully worked through that thought, there were another two points of pain on his shoulder, and his wasn’t prepared. He screamed brokenly and convulsed hard against the ropes, and it was good that Tony was still holding his hand, or else he would’ve sent himself into a spin. He felt Clint grab for the other side of the cross, too, but he pulled against the ropes, fighting them. He wanted down, right now, out of here, away from the pain and this fucked-up place, he wanted it to stop, it hurt, it hurt too fucking much!
“Brucie,” Tony said desperately. “Brucie, be still.”
And he did, because he could hear the panic in Tony’s voice, and he knew that something must be wrong if Tony was so worried.
“Sir,” Clint said hesitantly.
Loki sounded like a teacher encouraging a shy student to speak up.“Yes?”
“It’s not working out,” Clint said. “It’s not… He’s getting nowhere with this.”
“Good,” Loki said under his breath, like he was only waiting for someone to point out what, Bruce understood in despair, was obvious to everyone in the room.
“It didn’t look like you were enjoying it, either, Barton!” Tony snapped, and Bruce was glad, glad he was defending him because it wasn’t his fault, he was trying, he was really trying—
“Stark,” Loki sighed, but his voice was gentle. “Obviously, the only one forcing Banner to do this is himself. But Barton is never forcing himself; I am forcing him. And this is a great difference.”
A warm, calloused hand, the one that wasn’t holding the iron, rubbed Bruce’s shaking shoulder.
“Hey, Bruce,” Clint said. “I know what we talked about in the library, but you don’t have to prove you’re strong. It's not... some kind of dick contest.”
“Which I'd totally win anyway,” Tony muttered, probably for the sole goal of bringing a smile to Bruce's lips.
But Bruce was too mortified for that. He let his head fall forward and his eyes screw shut, and fat tears escaped him to plop onto the marble floor below.
And suddenly Loki was the one in his ear, whispering so low that no one else could hear.
“Banner, you know that you could end this at any time, yet you don't. How pleasantly absurd.”
Loki’s voice was soft, almost playful, so unlike what Bruce expected that he was surprised into opening his eyes and looking at the demi-god. Clear, cold blue eyes locked with his.
“You should see how Stark looks at you,” Loki continued in that bewitching whisper. “The pride in his eyes. And it hurts him so much, to see you in such pain. You would think he himself was enduring it for you.”
Tony was still on his other side, hand clasped in his, but Bruce felt too embarrassed to turn and look at him, to see if what Loki said was true.
“What is it I am supposed to ask?” Loki mused out loud. “Ah—yes. Give us a color.”
Bruce was trembling so much he almost didn’t manage to spit the word out. “G—green.”
“Barton,” Loki said calmly, opening his hand.
Clint gave him the branding iron and Tony didn't even flinch. He was staring at Bruce in earnest.
“Now, Doctor,” Loki said, heating the silver stick until it was white-hot.
Tony still didn't do anything. Bruce couldn't help shuddering violently at the sight. Loki looked at the heated metal for a second, then his cold eyes fell upon him again.
“I am going to ask you this ridiculous question once more. And if the answer is green, I will personally mark you two hundred times from head to toe.”
Bruce's breath hitched in his throat. The mere thought of it made his skin crawl in horror.
“Give. Us.” Loki articulated. “A. Color.”
Bruce swallowed. “Red,” he muttered miserably.
“Say it louder.”
“Red!” Bruce cried, voice breaking. “Red! Red, stop, red, please, stop...”
Tony’s sigh of relief was audible across the room.
Loki clicked his tongue as he straightened up. “Better,” he said. “But it is a pity that our design should be left unfinished.” He looked up, across to Tony. “May I? It will be painless.”
Tony stared at him, but only said, “Just don’t hurt him.”
Loki nodded with a smile; and then fingertips, so cold that they might have been carved from pure ice, rubbed slowly over the burn. Bruce could have cried again, in relief this time, when the persistent searing pain eased and disappeared as the skin—his entire shoulder, really—went numb.
“Finish it,” Loki said, handing the iron back to Clint and backing away again to give him room.
This time, Bruce knew the branding iron was pressed into his skin, but he felt nothing more than a brief pressure. He would feel it in a little while, he knew, as burns were always painful as they healed, but at the moment he was thankful for the small reprieve.
In less than a minute, Clint stepped back.
“It’s done, Brucie,” Tony said softly. “It’s over. God, I don’t know how you did it, Snowflake. You were so good.”
Bruce felt his heart flutter a little at Tony’s words.
“He was,” Loki said appreciatively, and Bruce heard a rough, lustful undertone which made him shiver in a different way. “Stark. May I?”
They all knew what he meant this time.
Tony’s hand tightened in Bruce’s grasp. “Think you can do that, Brucie?” he murmured. “Do you want to? Or are you done?”
Bruce thought of that honeyed voice in his ear, of the cool touch on his shoulder. Of those cold, piercing eyes. Of the way Loki controlled it all—had kept it all under control, from the very beginning.
He squeezed back and nodded.
“Yes, Tony,” he said. “Please.”
When Loki heard him agree, he took a deep, silent breath which made his nostrils flutter; and his wide grin reappeared as the iron vanished from his fingers. It would have been unthinkable for Tony to agree with this only half an hour ago; but a lot of things had changed during those thirty minutes.
“Hmm,” Loki said, burning eyes casting glances over and around Bruce as though he was drawing something in his mind. “Oh, yes,” he murmured suddenly under his breath, like Tony did when he was having an idea, “of course, let’s...”
The chains clanked again, making Bruce startle; and then the cross began to be pulled up into a vertical position, the upper part of the X being lifted up while the lower part got closer and closer to the ground until it hit the marble with a dull sound. Bruce took a deep breath; in this position, he didn’t have to struggle to hold his head up, but he was exposed to the full blast of the other’s gazes on him. He swallowed, acutely conscious of the ropes strapping him to the cross, and he felt his cock fill and weigh again between his legs the more they looked. Tony looked just as aroused now. Bruce still felt stupid and sorry for making them both endure a useless ordeal, but those embarrassing thoughts couldn’t resist Tony’s dark eyes as they took in Bruce’s half-naked body, spread-eagled, on display. Clint himself didn’t look indifferent, although he looked envious of Bruce rather than actually attracted to him.
Loki, though, looked absolutely ravenous and almost rooted to the spot, like he wanted to do so many things he had no idea where to start. Bruce felt his stomach twist with what must be anxiety; but on the other hand, the thought that Tony had lent him to Loki, the thought that Tony would get to watch this like it was a show—it was staggering. Bruce actually felt dizzy with anticipation when Loki finally snapped out of it and turned to Tony with a wide, sharp grin.
“Stark,” he breathed, honey and sandpaper all in once. “Have a seat.”
Thank you for reading! Comments are always cherished. ^^
Clint was still a bit dizzy from what had just happened; but when Loki told Tony to sit back, the billionaire hesitated and Clint knew why—he was fully hard now, and he wouldn’t be able to hide it if he sat down. But after a split second, he did sit, and even spread his legs to expose the bulge in his jeans, raising an eyebrow at Loki as if to say so what are you gonna do about it?
Loki grinned—then suddenly grabbed Clint’s upper arm and shoved him down on the floor.
Clint was caught off guard and landed roughly on the marble. He heard Bruce gasp in surprise behind him, but man, he should have seen this coming. He was still wearing nothing but his black boxers, and when he gingerly straightened up on all fours and looked up, he realized Loki had thrown him right at Tony’s feet. The billionaire was silent for once, but his pupils were dilated—and his hard-on even more obvious.
Clint was being offered.
“Keep him entertained,” Loki confirmed elegantly.
Clint swallowed. “Sir—”
The dozens burns on his skin suddenly flared with hissing heat and he screamed, short and broken, and fell on his elbows when the pain stopped.
Loki smirked. “Don’t make me say it again.”
You just love making a scene, Barton, he whispered through the link.
Clint gritted his teeth, the pain still vivid all over his body. Son of a bitch. He loved Loki but sometimes he still hated him, and now was definitely one of those times.
Go on. Crawl for him.
He sucked in a breath, then crawled over to Tony. He’d been worried the billionaire would be embarrassed or reluctant, but Stark had gotten into the game fast. He was watching him with eyes darkened with lust, barely breathing. Clint didn’t wonder how it would feel to be used by Tony, though; because no matter what Tony did, it wouldn’t be Tony. It was all Loki, pulling Clint’s strings. Enjoying his humiliation as he always did.
Don’t open his jeans at once. Breathe him in.
Clint swallowed again, then pressed his face against Tony’s crotch and inhaled deeply, smelling musk and denim and a vague, metallic smell mixed with coconut. Stark stiffened, but it wasn’t in displeasure.
The other Stark had desired Clint, after all. So maybe this one—
“Always did wonder, Barton,” Tony murmured for only him to hear. “How it’d be like to make you my bitch.”
Fuck. He was a dirty talker. Clint felt himself harden despite his will.
Oh, I knew I liked him, Loki mocked in his ear.
Clint could hear him talking to Banner in the back of the room, but although Stark was probably very interested in that show, Clint himself was finding it quite difficult to focus on something else than the hard cock he felt straining against Stark’s tight pants. He couldn’t believe Loki was making him do this. He couldn’t believe Stark was rolling with it.
He couldn’t believe how aroused he was.
“Gonna be good for me, Barton?” Tony mumbled.
Certainly not, Loki smirked. You are forbidden to let him come.
Clint almost whined out loud in despair. How was he supposed to do this? Stark was already on the brink of his climax. As a matter of fact, he suddenly grabbed the back of Clint’s head and roughly pressed his face against his crotch; Clint panted and automatically opened his mouth.
Tony stifled a moan when Clint complied, flattening his tongue on the raspy denim, cock hot and throbbing underneath.
“I think—we’re gonna need shackles over there,” Tony breathed.
Clint realized he’d crossed his hands behind his back without thinking. He heard a rattling of chains; next thing he knew, Tony was leaning forward so he could reach down his back and cuff his wrists.
I would have made them fit tighter, Loki’s amused voice said as the metal circled Clint’s wrists and tugged them together.
Stark was leaning back in his seat again.
Now. Open his pants.
Tony chuckled when Clint attacked the button with his teeth and tongue, as though there was a private joke here somewhere. It only took Clint a minute to flick the button open and pull the zipper down—Stark’s jeans had nothing on Loki’s outfits with their thousand straps and buckles. He felt the heat of Tony’s arousal, smelled its heavy smell, and involuntarily licked his lips.
“You cock-loving slut,” Tony murmured as he freed himself from his underwear.
Take him. Deep down. The shard of winter zapped Clint from the inside. Now.
He opened his mouth and swallowed Tony in one go.
This was so weird, because Tony was the one moaning, heavy and salty on Clint’s tongue, but really it was Loki that the archer was pleasuring; Loki forcing him to do this, Loki connected to his nerves and following every step of his objectification. Clint was conscious that the demi-god was right in the middle of his scene with Bruce, but he had no idea what they were doing since, to him, it felt like Loki was entirely here with him, watching over his shoulder, whispering cruel comments right inside his ear.
Make it last, Barton.
Clint sucked harder but was very mindful of Stark’s throbs, relenting every time he felt him on the brink of an explosion.
Pull away. Lick the tip, then go down on his balls.
Clint almost came, himself. Fuck, he was so hard, nobody was touching him or caring about his pleasure, and he was so damn hard. Loki’s silvery voice was making it ten times worse, not to mention Tony’s groan of pleasure when Clint sucked his balls and rolled them in his mouth.
Go up along his length with your tongue. Take him in again.
He complied; heard the hint of a cold little laugh.
“Fuck, Clint, that’s—hmm—I bet he’s got you on your knees all the time,” Tony whispered, rough and breathy. “Does he do this a lot? Lending you to people? Selling you like a whore?”
Clint moaned slightly around Tony’s length.
And now he’s giving me ideas, Loki purred.
Tony’s fingers scratched Clint’s scalp when he gripped his hair tight. Clint could have broken free easily, after what Loki had done to his body, but he didn’t and let Tony fuck his face with hard thrusts.
Now that is going to make you gag.
“Don’t care if you gag,” Tony rasped. “Just fucking take it.”
Oh, I’m not helping. He can make you choke, for all I care.
“Wonder if you can take it even deeper—fuck, yes, ahh, that’s a thing of beauty right here.”
Always nice to know I’ve trained my slave well.
“You like this, Barton.”
You love this, Barton.
Fuck, oh fuck fuck fuck they were going to drive him insane, and Clint lost it and sucked and licked and swallowed until he remembered Stark must not come and he forced himself to calm down a bit, panting raggedly through his nose, so hard, so throbbing hard, fighting against the heavy shackles to ground himself, to feel like someone was holding down his wrists, whispering in his ear, Slow down, Barton, and Clint thought in delirium, Sir, please sir, please but Loki answered with a sharp little laugh, No.
So Clint went at it again. He could taste Tony on his lips and tongue and throat, could feel the hot velvet on iron hardness, the throbbing vein, the balls brushing against his chin every time the tip hit the back of his throat. Tony’s hand was firm in his hair and Clint had to admit he was good at this, whispering filth which Loki echoed with perverted pleasure as they used him both at once, each in their own way, so demeaning and so fucking good, and in the random moments when he managed to think, Clint wondered what the hell Loki and Bruce could possibly be doing.
Only when Loki threw Clint down at Tony's feet did Bruce understand what was about to happen. He opened wide eyes and involuntarily struggled against his restraints, but Loki smiled at him and trailed a playful hand through his curls.
“Don't make a scene, Banner. I need them busy so we can play.”
This was the first time Loki was touching him in open dominance, and the first time anyone had spelled it out—Bruce had been handed over for Loki to play, and the thought made his stomach twist and clench.
“Keep him entertained,” Loki called out.
He was hiding Clint—and consequently, Tony—from Bruce's sight, but Bruce heard the archer yowl in pain as though he'd been reluctant and punished for it in some way.
“Don't make me say it again,” Loki confirmed in a light tone.
Bruce heard Clint drag himself across the floor; then Tony's voice droned low across the room, murmuring inaudible words until it turned into a sharp breath Bruce knew only too well, and wet, sloppy sounds.
Clint was sucking him off.
The thought triggered so many contradictory emotions in him that he couldn't hide any of them from Loki, who grinned at him.
“But where are my manners,” he murmured, and stepped aside to let Bruce see.
Bruce unconsciously tugged at the shackles and ropes again. The no sex rule Loki had so mockingly respected until then had obviously been thrown out the window. Tony looked a hundred percent okay with it as he threw his head back with a gasp of pleasure, shuddering with each bob of Clint’s head, then leaning forward to whisper something in his ear,
In the split second before he did, though, his dark eyes flicked up at Bruce, who felt ever so slightly reassured. Tony was still watching out for him. It would be okay.
Loki stepped in front of him again—and suddenly snapped his fingers in front of Bruce's eyes. The doctor startled way too violently and gaped at him in confusion and near panic.
“You blinked,” Loki said.
Bruce let out a shaky breath. “...What?”
“You blinked,” Loki repeated with a nasty smirk. “Let's try that again.”
Although he'd announced it, Bruce still jumped when the lightning-quick fingers snapped before his eyes. Loki shook his head and tsked.
“That will not do, Doctor.”
He stepped into Bruce's space and caught his face with both hands to press their foreheads together. It was too intrusive a gesture for Bruce not to close his eyes and wish it wasn't happening.
“Do you trust me?” Loki murmured.
Bruce stiffened, but Loki's hands were strangely gentle—albeit firm—on each side of his head. “This is not a trick question, Banner. Do you trust me?”
“No,” Bruce breathed. He remembered Loki's soothing fingers on his burn. “I... maybe just a little.”
Loki pulled away so Bruce didn't have to squint to see him. The demi-god was smiling, a razor-sharp little smirk.
“You are surprisingly reckless for a man so self-conscious,” he said. “You trust me just a little, so you let me restrain you just a little and you now are just a little at my mercy.”
Bruce instinctively glanced over the demi-god’s shoulder, but Loki brought his head back in line, more brutally this time. “No, Stark will not help you. Or is this the way you both function? You come up with an idea and he endures every unpleasant aspect of it?”
Bruce's eyes prickled with tears with the shameful memory of his aborted branding; he jerked his head free. Loki sighed, but he was still grinning widely, delightfully, fiercely. “Doctor, Doctor, Doctor. You're in my hands now.”
He tilted his head on the side and repeated, “So do you trust me?”
“A little,” Bruce said again, jaw clenched against guilt and anger.
“A little is a start.”
Tony called out for shackles in a hoarse moan and Loki turned away to comply with his wishes. Bruce could have caught Tony's gaze again then, but he didn't try. What the demi-god had said was burning him more cruelly than the branding iron. It was true. Just because he was Tony's sub didn't mean Tony should have to clean up his mess, yet it was always happening. Bruce was the one at fault for everything—Clint's branding, his own disastrous tryout, and now this.
Bruce would endure it. It was his own fault. It was his own mess.
“Why, Doctor,” Loki smirked in mock surprise, turning back to him. “You look so ashamed all of a sudden.”
Bruce blinked his tears away and stared at the marble floor. Loki's hand cupped his chin, too gentle again.
“Try to keep your eyes on me,” he said softly.
Bruce forced himself to look up. Loki rubbed his thumb along his jaw, like he'd done in the library. Then he raised his free hand, slowly, until it was level with Bruce's eyes; and he snapped his fingers.
Bruce blinked and winced immediately after. Loki let out a disappointed sigh; then his hands pressed against Bruce's bare sides, went down on his hips, making his breath hitch. Nimble fingers unlaced the front of the suede pants and he completely stopped breathing.
But Loki didn't tug them down; he just left them open and raised an eyebrow.
“What?” he said. “Am I not entitled to this? I offered my slave to Stark. Do I get nothing in return?”
Bruce fought again the urge to seek Tony's gaze. Loki smiled approvingly, but still said, “Answer me.”
The doctor swallowed. Tony didn’t usually like him to use words; make sounds, yes, but not words. But this was not Tony.
“I—” he stammered. “No. I don't want—please... not this.”
“What do you want from me, then?”
Bruce was taken short. “I... I don't know.”
Loki snapped his fingers before his eyes; Bruce startled violently and got smacked across the face for it. It barely hurt, but it still took his breath away.
“Liar,” Loki said, calmly. “What do you want from me?”
“You do not trust me at all,” Loki accused. “But Stark does, now; he must think there is something you can learn from me. I just hit you and he did not react.”
He took a step closer. “Which is not a surprise. A true slave at his feet—he can finally be as rough as he always dreamed to be,” he went on in a low hiss. “Without having to worry about his precious little Snowflake.” He quirked a smile. “A funny choice of words—I am talented enough when it comes to ice and snow.”
Bruce stiffened and bit back a whimper when Loki trailed freezing fingers across his chest.
“You are scared,” Loki said, smiling at his goosebumps. “You wish to go home. You wish for Stark's moans of pleasure to stop and you wish to be taken away from me.”
He seized Bruce's chin. “Color?”
Bruce didn't answer.
Loki emitted another tsk sound but he looked satisfied, as though he'd made a point. “You do not even trust me enough to listen to your safewords. So why comply with this? Why would you take such a risk? What do you want?”
“I...” Bruce began, but then he shut himself up.
Loki closed in, too damn close. “Banner,” he whispered in his ear. “Tell me. For better or for worse, Stark cannot hear.”
He stayed there, so dreadfully close that Bruce knew he was hearing him swallow the lump in his throat. “I—I want to know how it is,” he blurted. “To be like Clint.”
“In what way?”
“In every way. He's not scared. He hated you, and now you're torturing him and he's still not scared. He's... he's happy.”
Loki drew back. For the first time, he looked a little thrown.
“He told you he was happy?”
“Yes,” Bruce said, a bit lost. “In the library.”
Something flashed through Loki's eyes, something true and vivid; Bruce blinked, but already the demi-god was grinning again, his usual mask back on.
“So. This is what you want,” he said. “A magic word to make the pain stop. To make the fear stop.”
He put a hand on Bruce's forehead, like he was taking his temperature. “To make the monster stop,” he murmured.
This time, Bruce had to close his eyes not to let tears roll down his cheeks. If only Loki could stop talking. The demi-god let out a small humming sound, and his hand was fresh against Bruce’s burning skin.
“Open your eyes, Doctor.”
Bruce obeyed only to see Loki's fingers in close-up—they snapped and he flinched back, but this time he hadn't exactly blinked. The demi-god smiled at him.
Tony let out a loud moan on the other side of the room and Bruce closed his eyes again.
“Oh, that hurts,” Loki whispered right in his ear. “I know.”
This was Loki’s way to torture him. Not through pain; not through humiliation; but through Tony. Something flared golden through Bruce's eyelids; he almost opened them, but a cold hand came over his eyes. “No. Since you want to close them, keep them closed.”
Something long and sharp scratched the stubble on Bruce's cheek, and he knew what it was. A knife. A gleaming knife like the one Clint had picked up on the heavy table. Loki trailed it across his throat, firm and quick, and if it had been the edge Bruce would be dead.
“Now,” Loki murmured.
He turned the dagger so the tip of the blade rested against Bruce’s cheekbone, then slowly, with just enough pressure to dimple his skin without cutting, he traced the tip down Bruce’s cheek and across his parted lips. Bruce breathed as deeply as he could, in the dark under Loki’s hand, and focused on remaining still as the tip of the knife continued down his chin, running along his jugular to his right shoulder. It disappeared, then came back above his groin, pushing just underneath Bruce's open belt. He took a deep breath, but didn't shiver nearly as violently as before.
“Still alive,” Loki noticed in his ear.
This pulled a stupid, nervous puff of laughter out of Bruce's lips. Loki kissed him on the mouth, lightning-quick.
Bruce stiffened, but not nearly as much as he should have. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly when the knife resumed his bewitching pattern on his chest, scraping, sliding, pricking then sliding again, making him flinch and shiver.
“We both know Stark loves sex,” Loki murmured. “But not to the extent of abandoning you to a certain doom. I could kill you in a flash right now. And the reason he doesn't speak up cannot be reduced to the fact that his cock is in my slave's mouth. Don’t you think?”
He slid the knife between his skin and the rope looped around his shoulder. Bruce's weight, hanging from the ropes for so long, had stretched them just enough for the thin blade to fit.
“What would happen if I cut you, Banner?” Loki asked, sounding genuinely curious.
“Contamination,” Bruce answered in a breathy whisper. “My blood's radioactive. It could… contaminate the whole room.”
Loki turned the blade just slightly, but enough that Bruce could feel the sharp edge press into his skin. Then, in one quick movement, Loki sliced away from Bruce’s skin and the rope parted like silk.
Bruce let out a strained breath.
“Let’s not do that, then,” Loki murmured.
He ran the edge of the knife back up, across Bruce’s chest to the rope that anchored the harness. Again, he slid the blade between the rope and his skin, and cut the rope free. It fell, leaving the loose ends to hang down Bruce’s chest. Loki took his hand off Bruce's eyes to grab the ropes and tug them away, but Bruce didn't open his eyes. He was breathing a bit more easily and it wasn't because he'd lost a layer of restraints. He pulled on his shackles, just a little, and breathed even deeper.
Loki put the knife right in the middle of Bruce’s sternum. He dragged the edge across to his nipple, then ran the tip of the knife around the little nub, chuckling darkly when it hardened under the touch of cool metal.
“Oh, you are a sensitive one,” he said. “Open your eyes, Doctor.”
Bruce did. He expected Loki to snap his fingers before his eyes again, but what he saw made him gape a little.
The demi-god was holding a red ember in his hand.
He grinned when he saw the look on Bruce's face. “Oh, Banner,” he scolded mockingly. “Of course this is an illusion. I am not immune to fire.”
But Bruce could feel the heat of it on his skin. He parted his lips, then looked up at Loki for guidance; he was rewarded with a small, nasty smile.
“It's simple, Doctor Banner. You have to kiss my palm.”
He offered his hand to Bruce, tilted slightly forward but not too much so the red-hot ember wouldn't fall down. The doctor swallowed.
Loki was playfully twirling the knife in his other hand. “Do it,” he said.
Bruce leaned forward, shaking, swallowing almost every second. It wasn't real, was it? Loki had said it was a trick. But he could feel it—such heat, the same heat which had made him scream in the suspension as Clint worked him over…
He closed his eyes and closed in like he would have jumped off a diving board. He felt heat, a lot of heat, and—nothing. No burn. His lips brushed Loki's fresh skin, like an ice cube at the bottom of a cup of hot tea, and that was it.
He reopened his eyes. Loki was smiling at him; he closed his hand, then opened it again. This time the heat of the ember was twice as scorching.
“Do you trust me?” he said.
Bruce looked into his eyes.
“A little... more,” he murmured.
Loki's smile looked sincere. He offered Bruce the ember. “Do it again,” he said.
Bruce closed his eyes, took a deep breath and leaned in at once this time.
What he found was not a branding coal, but it wasn't Loki's palm either—it was the demi-god's mouth, cold, firm lips against his.
This time, Loki didn't satisfy himself with a quick peck—he pressed until the back of Bruce's head thumped against the cross, then pressed again and Bruce could only part his lips and let him in. It was an invasive, oddly cold kiss with a strange, intoxicating taste, so foreign in comparison with Tony's familiar, welcoming warmth.
When they parted, Bruce realized he had grown hard again at some point. He opened his eyes, breathless and dizzy, and saw Loki smirking at him.
“Banner,” he said. “I think you have your answer.”
Yes, Bruce realized. He wasn't afraid anymore.
All it took was an ounce of trust; a small, daring leap of faith—it was so difficult to remember this, after so many years on the run, so many years of complete loneliness with only indifference or hatred aimed at him.
For Loki to be the one to remind him of this…
“I am not an easy man to please,” Loki said. “But Barton pleases me in ways beyond words—beyond even my words. And he is taking care of Stark right now. Tell me—will that be enough? Will Stark forget about you?”
Bruce closed his eyes again, breathed out, and the answer was obvious. Idiot. “No.”
Tony was there for him. He was always there for him only. Even now, even as Clint sucked him off, Tony had somehow managed to keep it all about Bruce.
Loki kissed him again and this time, Bruce greeted him and felt himself grow even harder in his suede pants, unlacing themselves under the weight of his cock. The knife was back on his bare chest, running freely without the ropes in its way, and it was like a feather tracing Bruce's ribs and muscles. He shivered and this time, he knew it was only with delight.
Loki stepped back, and there was a tingling pride in his eyes which made Bruce shudder with a strange, warm feeling. This was so strange, because Loki was the one in front of him, but really it was Tony that Bruce was making proud; Tony trusting Loki to take care of Bruce, Tony trusting Bruce to trust him about this, and Bruce being rewarded for living up to this trust.
Loki snapped his fingers before his eyes and he didn't flinch.
The knife suddenly stuck itself in the steel of the cross, right next to his neck—it could have killed him, and Bruce didn't bat an eyelid. He trusted Loki not to hurt him, because Tony did. Because Tony knew. Bruce felt completely safe. He felt...
He felt something well up inside him, a wave of devouring faith he was dying to let burst out, he wanted to get on his knees for Tony, to thank him, to worship him, to show him how much he loved him—how much he trusted him—
“Please,” he breathed, hallucinated, panting with need. “Please…”
The corners of Loki’s eyes crinkled when he grinned.
“Stark,” the demi-god called over his shoulder. “He is ready.”
Please, tell us what you thought? :D
Clint had lost the ability to figure out exactly what was going on; he felt like Tony had been using him for years. His jaw was sore and tears were pushed out of his eyes every time he took it deep; and he didn’t know and he couldn’t think and he started to feel dizzy, to feel wobbly, and the shackles weren’t enough to ground him anymore. He wanted to beg but his mouth was full. The intense torture he’d undergone, the stress of having to hurt Bruce and now this endless throat-fucking; it had all managed to drain even his enhanced energy. And he should have felt good; because what Tony was doing, Loki could have done, too. But just like Coulson’s professional Dom, Tony could only do so much for him. The billionaire was just a tool, just Loki’s tool in torturing Bruce, and in torturing Clint, too. But Clint couldn’t take it anymore. He was tired of tools. He wanted Loki. He felt like he was slowly shredding in millions of pieces floating in every direction, and Loki was the only one who could put them back together, Loki’s fingers and Loki’s cold whispers, he was choking and drowning and he didn’t mind drowning but only when Loki was the one holding his head underwater—
Tony suddenly grabbed his hair and jerked Clint’s head back to pull out; Clint gasped and whined and suddenly he was dropped on the cold marble and left there, hands shackled in his back, trembling uncontrollably, on the brink of complete terror because if he fell—
Cold fingers, nimble fingers grabbed his shoulders and helped him up.
“Loki,” Clint slurred.
“Yes,” Loki whispered with that unique smile in his voice he only had when Clint was saying his name. “I am here.”
“Loki—sir—please,” Clint babbled. “Please, I can’t—no more—”
“No,” Loki approved, and Clint worshipped that voice, that smooth cold voice—“no more, Barton. You’ve earned it.”
He chiseled those words like all the consonants were the sharp ridges of a crystal glass. Clint opened his mouth only for Loki’s to invade it. The demi-god could probably taste Tony, but he only purred against his slave’s lips and wrapped him in a tight embrace which swept Clint off his feet. Or maybe it was the way Loki had spoken, in this low, hoarse murmur.
“Was there something you wanted?” Loki smiled against his ear.
Clint felt like the demi-god was wrapped around him like a cloak, blocking his arms between their chests; but still a clever hand pushed between his thighs and palmed his burning arousal under the thin fabric of his underwear. Clint almost sobbed. “Yes—yes—sir, please—”
“Ask me anything,” Loki said—oh, that bewitching hiss, how could he sound like this, like he was always about to come or kill something or both—“I will grant you anything, Barton, anything—”
What Clint wanted was as simple as desire.
“Please,” he breathed. “Take me.”
Loki crushed him even harder against his chest. “Your wish,” he whispered, “is my command.”
There was no real need to restrain Clint, but when Loki lay him down on a mattress and chained his shackles to the bedhead, when he tied Clint’s legs bent double before spreading his knees apart, Clint could have cried in gratitude, because keeping it together had been harder and harder, and now everything was simple. Everything was certain. He couldn’t move; nothing more was up to him.
Loki had already fucked him hard in the morning; and this time, he made sure there would be no pain. When he slid in, slick and warm and perfect, Clint exhaled a dying moan and lifted his heavy eyelids. Loki was naked, completely naked, glowing white with jet-black hair, his fingers like claws on Clint’s tan chest, like some wonderful mythological bird of prey; and he devoured him indeed—he bit Clint hard between his neck and shoulder, didn’t draw blood but didn’t loosen the vice of his teeth either, bit down and thrust in.
Bruce and Tony were on the other side of the room and half-buried in a sea of velvet pillows and blankets Clint was sure hadn’t been there before. Their clothes were scattered all over the floor; and somehow, Tony happened to push into Bruce just as Clint’s hazy, almost unseeing eyes trailed over their bodies. All he could think was how obvious it was, that they should be doing this. Bruce’s head thrown back in wordless pleasure. Tony’s dark eyes. Skin against skin. The trust. The love. This was good. This was amazing, and this was all Loki’s doing.
And as though he’d heard Clint think his name, Loki rolled his hips and thrust, sharp and deep, a pumping which set Clint’s blood running, like jolts of life, jolts of pleasure shooting throughout his body, claws on his chest and everywhere on his body, and he would have fallen apart but Loki’s was holding him, pinning him down, the pain of his teeth a steady point in Clint’s melting world; and anchored like this, he could let go, he could stop worrying and let go entirely, and was about to, on the edge of, but what mattered was more, something greater than him, something he didn’t have the words to name—
Loki’s voice cut through the haze of Tony’s pleasure.
“Stark, he is ready.”
Tony’s head snapped up. Loki had been standing mostly in front of Bruce, blocking his view, but now he stepped aside to reveal him, free of the ropes but still shackled to the cross. He was a mess, eyes blown, lips swollen, curls tousled and damp with sweat, and if it wasn’t for the cuffs around his wrists, he probably wouldn’t have been on his feet. But what made Tony’s breath catch in his chest was the look of intense longing, of love and desire, in Bruce’s eyes.
Without thinking, he pushed Clint back so he could pull free and he was on his feet, leaving Clint tottering over onto the marble. He didn’t feel guilty for long, though, because Loki went to Clint, placing his hand on Tony’s shoulder as he passed him.
And then there was just Bruce in front of him, his gaze wandering down to Tony’s hard dick spilling out of his pants.
“Tony,” Bruce started to say, panting. “Tony—Tony—please—
Tony kissed him, deep and hot, and Bruce surged against him like never before; he was fighting against his restraints to get closer, throbbing hard against Tony’s thigh.
“Please,” he repeated, breathless and hazy, almost drugged.
“Yes,” Tony murmured hoarsely, suddenly acutely conscious of his own pulsing erection. “Yes, let me just—”
As he spoke, Tony bent down and worked the cuffs around Bruce’s ankles open; when he straightened up, the doctor leaned forward to let his head rest on Tony’s shoulder while he worked on opening the wrist cuffs. There was a gleaming knife embedded in the metal cross near Bruce’s arm, and Tony paused as he stared at it.
“He didn't hurt you, right?”
He’d been so sure, because this Loki decidedly wasn’t the despaired mess Thor had brought back to Asgard; he was steady and controlled and Tony had felt strongly attracted to him in more than one way. He’d felt… kinship. Trust. Acknowledgment. But suddenly the doubts were coming back. The last cuffs came free and Bruce stumbled forward into Tony’s arms. He was heavy, and flushed with warmth, and harder than ever against Tony’s thigh. Tony rubbed his arms to help get the circulation going again, then sank onto the floor when Bruce’s weight became a little too heavy to keep upright.
“No,” Bruce said, but his voice sounded slurred. “No, he didn’t, I’m fine. Tony. Tony.”
“What?” Tony said, throat dry.
“I love you.” Bruce kissed him, pressed flush against him now that he was free. “I love you. I love you.”
Bruce, as a rule, didn’t get drunk and didn’t use drugs (well, beyond what he created in the lab), so the look in his eyes was as strange and alien as it was arousing.
“I love you, too, Snowflake,” Tony panted. “God, you did so well. You’re so good.”
Bruce snuggled deeper against his chest and his hands were going towards Tony’s dick. Tony was still wet from Clint’s mouth, and, suddenly, he didn’t want Bruce to feel that right now, so he shifted away a little.
“Let’s take this to a bed, ok?”
“Yes—” but Bruce cut himself off with another kiss, and for a second Tony could only press and push in return, and if he didn’t take him right now he was going to go insane.
He had to make an effort to pull back and cast a look around—but there was only one bed and it was currently occupied. Loki had Clint chained to the bed posts, knees bent up, and he was taking him, hard and deep and excruciatingly slow.Tony couldn’t see their faces from this angle, but he could see the long, pale lines of Loki’s back, the lean muscles clenching and the black hair sticking to the sweat on his shoulders. Loki snapped his hips forward and Clint moaned in response. Tony felt himself harden even more at the sight.
There was a pile of velvet pillows and blankets close at hand. Those definitely weren’t there before. Tony couldn’t have cared less. He snagged them, dragging the whole pile back over to Bruce and laying it out on the smooth floor.
“Here, Brucie,” Tony said as he helped him onto the plush velvet. Bruce started to roll over onto all fours, but Tony stopped him. “No,” he said, “No. I want to see your face.”
Tony eased the leather pants down Bruce’s legs, and he raised his hips so Tony could slide them off. He shucked off his shirt and threw it aside. Bruce pulled his knees up, and Tony knelt between them, reaching down to slide a soft pillow under his hips. Bruce shuddered as Tony lined up his cock and pressed slowly in. They both groaned and panted as Tony pushed in, but Bruce was warm and soft and yielding.
“You’re so good,” Tony murmured again, and Bruce arched his back and shifted his hips to encourage him deeper. “You were so helpless on that cross. So helpless and so strong.”
Bruce cried out as his hips were grasped and pulled forward. The velvet blanket slid nicely on the marble, so Tony could pull him even deeper onto his cock. He paused when he was as deep as he could go, then leaned slowly forward to capture Bruce’s mouth in a kiss. The change of angle made Bruce shiver and shudder in breathy whimpers beneath his mouth.
They broke apart but Tony kept his lips hovering just above Bruce’s so that he could feel his warm breath washing over his lips. He rolled his hips forward and Bruce’s head tipped back, exposing the underside of his jaw. Tony pressed a possessive kiss to the pulse point on his neck. Bruce’s heart was beating wildly but, for once, he didn’t seem concerned. In fact, it seemed like the thought was the furthest thing from his mind.
“Are you close?” Tony whispered right into his ear. “Are you going to come?”
Bruce nodded, eyes squeezed tight and head pressed to the blanket.
“Look at me,” Tony commanded, and Bruce did, brown eyes wide and unfocused, but he smiled—
—he smiled, and Clint almost couldn’t stand it—that smile, not a smirk not a grin not a disguised wince but a smile, a smile, it was so rare on Loki’s face, but now Loki was sweating and panting and almost moaning with each thrust, and smiling, with a gleam in his eyes, like he was so proud, because what was happening now wasn’t possible and yet it was happening, just this, bodies moving together and sweat, and heat, press and push and that smile, that smile, and Clint understood what it was, Loki was just happy, happy and Clint was going insane because this was too much and pleasure shot through him and he arched and cried out—
—and Bruce arched and cried out, feet tangling in the velvet covers, sinking in the pillow beneath him, and he swallowed and pressed against Tony, Tony, he could not get enough of Tony, there was not enough skin and heat and he needed to taste him on his tongue, to breathe him in his lungs, what was happening, how was it happening, how possibly, somewhere he saw Clint and Loki tangled together like vine and ivy, naked bodies, white and tan and blond and black, and he knew where he was, he knew Tony and he weren’t alone, but this made it all better—because it worked, it worked, he wasn’t afraid, he wasn’t ashamed, he felt whole and confident and strong and right where he should be, he loved Tony Stark and he was going to shout it to the stars—
—he shouted to the stars and pushed in all the more, like he was going to thrust right through him, through that skin and flesh and blood which were all his, all so wonderfully his, and he belonged, just as much as this body and soul belonged to him, he belonged, they could all see it, could all feel it, and there was no hatred, no distrust, no contempt, just the smell and taste of sex and this incredible, wonderful warmth, and he thrust again—
—he thrust again, and for once, his mind was quiet, still, no equations or variables or balancing to do, everything fit right in its place like the ocean and sky melding into the horizon and musical notes in perfect harmony, because they all had a part to play and each every piece was necessary as if one couldn’t exist without the other, two elements melting into one alloy, and this must be what love felt like—
—this was what love felt like, and how long had his soul journeyed for this, through time and space and the big wide universe, to be here, in this moment, with these people, and everything he had been through—that they had been through—was worth it, if only for this one, bright moment in the darkness that seemed to go on forever—
—it seemed to go on forever, the velvet glide of skin on skin and mouth on mouth, and someone was moaning, it might be him, the sound was low and longing, and it felt like a prayer echoed on the stone that was once so cold and unforgiving but now felt like a blood-warm altar and he would sacrifice anything—everything—for him—
—everything for him, for him, only him, and this cosmic love coursing through them which made him feel like his skin was too small for his soul, he was overflowing with light and ripe with mad pleasure, oh, the lust, the lust like fluid in his lungs, the sweetest way to drown, and it was building and building and building but still holding back, still not bursting, and it was amazing, it was incredible, like a bolt of lightning taking forever to touch the ground, he was shouting, screaming oh it was too much, it was tearing him and swelling inside, it was torture, it was bliss, it was coiling and coiling and coiling and suddenly—
—and suddenly it happened, the explosion, the end of the world, the genesis, the stars and suns, and he shouted his lungs out with ecstasy and he arched and—
—and he came—
all was quiet.
For a very long time, nothing moved; there was nothing to be heard but loud, deep breaths echoing in the room, sometimes in sync as though by chance.
Loki's eyes were ajar, crystal blue slits in the flushed paleness of his features, but he wasn't moving. His ribs were slowly expanding beneath his snow-white skin; sweat was glistening in the crease of his spine, and strands of his black hair were sticking to his shoulders. Clint's heart was pounding loud and hard against the demi-god's ear.
He stayed like this for a bit longer. Simply listening to the fluttering sound of those tangled breaths; feeling the heated air cool down on his damp skin, as they all sank deeper and deeper into blissful unconsciousness.
Eventually, Loki moved, very slowly, as though trying not to startle himself. He brought back his extended arm under himself, folding it against the mattress and tucking it under his chest, fingers curling up weakly without really grabbing the sheets. He breathed for another couple of minutes; then pushed on his hand, which pushed up his wrist then his arm then his shoulder up to the collarbone and shoulder blade, and finally raised himself up on one elbow, as though his body was as heavy as a dead star.
Thus propped up, Loki looked at Clint for another eternity.
Then he leaned down, slowly, so slowly; kissed his forehead, kissed his closed eyelids, one after the other, and then kissed his mouth in that particular way of kissing which is just closed lips pressing against skin and letting out a tiny, tender sound every time they draw back. Clint did not stir, but he looked like he was smiling. Loki trailed a hand through his sweat-damp hair, then finally moved the rest of his body and knelt up on the mattress.
His gestures were still slow and heavy with a kind of languid warmth. He checked Clint's restraints; then he got up and stood naked, lean and almost translucent in the dim light. His blue gaze fell on Stark and Banner. They were huddled together in a sea of velvet, their browner bodies a rich sight against the dark, shimmering colors. Their eyes were closed; Stark was resting on top of Banner's chest, and the doctor's right arm was braced around the engineer's body. Stark's left hand was curling around Banner's throat, in a gesture of possession or protectiveness, as though he'd been taking his pulse. The fingers of their other hand were tangled together and clenched tight, even in their deep slumber.
Loki smiled faintly at them, then opened his arms wide in a graceful, curved gesture. The covers and pillows slowly rose in the air, supporting the weight of the two men who only sank down a bit deeper in the velvet. The demi-god walked to the door which opened itself on what looked very much like a guest room, with a great, round bed, half-hidden in grey and blue and black shadows. Loki let his guests rest down on the mattress. The pillows rolled slowly under their bodies until they'd migrated to the head of the bed; the covers untangled and smoothed themselves over the sleepers. They never stirred, never flinched; only held hands tighter.
Loki watched them for another minute, tall and nude like a strange angel over the dark bed. He tilted his head on the side and a hundred white candles appeared all over the room; a blink and they were all lit up. A warm, glowing light banished the darkness into the corners of the room for a second; then the dazzle dimmed out and the candles kept burning low, their trembling flames casting soft, blurred shadows on the wall.
Still smiling to himself, Loki turned away and closed the door behind him. Crossing the torture chambers, he went back to the bed where he'd left Clint. The archer was still unconscious. Loki untied his folded legs and rubbed them until they felt warm and pliant; he unclasped the cuffs around his wrists, and Clint curled up a little on himself, shivering with cold. Loki tugged on the sheets which were damp with come and sweat, until they slid off from under Clint's body. He rolled them in a ball and threw it on the floor where it vanished without a sound. Then he invoked a huge quilt, warm and soft and heavy; he crawled into bed and covered them both under it. He pulled Barton's body to him, lay the archer's head on his chest, tangled their legs together, wrapping his arms around the scarred body; and then he closed his eyes, again, and fell asleep.
Tony felt as though he’d slept for a hundred years. Maybe a thousand.
The first thing he was aware of was Bruce, solid and warm beneath his cheek, his chest rising and falling with slow, even breaths. Tony swallowed. His mouth was dry, but it wasn’t uncomfortable enough yet to wake up all the way and find water. Besides, he was warm, and the velvet covers felt like heaven on his bare skin. He let himself float on waves of languid peace until he felt Bruce’s chest hitch.
Bruce groaned and stiffened as he stretched from his shoulders to his toes. The groan turned into a hiss of pain as he pulled his shoulder, and Tony opened his eyes.
They were in a room of the same cold grey marble as he was now used to seeing. But the floor was covered in a sea of white candles, casting a warm flickering glow over the entire room. There was no natural light so he couldn’t tell how long they had slept.
“Are you awake?” Bruce whispered.
“Yeah. How are you feeling?”
“Amazing. And sore as hell. And tired. How long have we been asleep?”
“I don’t know,” Tony replied, but Bruce just hummed in response as if that thought didn’t really bother him.
“I’m too lazy to move,” Bruce murmured sleepily. “Is there any reason to move?”
“Nah,” Tony said. He stretched his legs and cracked his toes. His foot bumped into something solid hidden in the folds of the blankets. Reaching down, his fingers found a small jar.
“What’s that?” Bruce asked.
Tony unscrewed the lid and sniffed at it. It smelled cool and medicinal, and he immediately knew what it was for. “Hey, how’s the shoulder?”
“Hurts like a bitch,” Bruce muttered. “Though I was doing a pretty good job of ignoring it.”
With a monumental effort, Tony turned over and rose to his knees. “Turn over,” he said.
Bruce did as he was told, hissing again as the movement stretched the skin on his shoulder. Tony put his hand on the middle of his back to guide him down, rubbing gently until he was settled. The burns on his shoulder looked red and white and angry, and the skin all around them was inflamed. Tony dipped his fingers into the jar, and they tingled with cold. Carefully, with as little pressure as he could, he dabbed the salve onto the small round burns. Bruce hissed again, but he didn’t move.
“Does that hurt?” Tony asked before adding any more.
“Yeah, but… it’s not bad. And then it feels better. Keep going.”
Reassured, Tony spread the salve all across his shoulder, and he could see the muscles across Bruce’s back relax as the pain was relieved. Almost immediately, the swelling eased and the burns turned from angry red to, well, annoyed red.
“It’s beautiful,” Tony said absently.
Bruce was quiet for a long moment, as if remembering something. “What is it?” he asked slowly.
Tony traced it with feather-light fingers. Bruce shivered, but didn’t flinch, so he guessed that it wasn’t agonizing. “There’s a circle, here. And then a triangle, here, in the center.”
Bruce sucked in a breath. “Is it...it’s the arc reactor, isn’t it?”
Tony’s heart nearly stopped. He couldn’t judge if Bruce was pleased… or pissed. It was hard to tell with Bruce most of the time. “Yeah, I think so. But I’m sure we could change it… uh… make into the Mercedes-Benz symbol or a peace sign or something…”
“No!” Bruce cut him off. “I mean, why would I want to change it?”
Tony didn’t really have an answer to that.
He sat cross-legged and scratched the back of his head. “Bruce, if you want to… like… talk, about what happened? Maybe we should. Not the bad kind of talk, more like the ‘what the fuck happened’ kind of talk.”
He was glad that Bruce was lying face-down because it gave him some semblance of privacy to process his thoughts before answering. Bruce swallowed roughly and turned his head, so that it rested on his folded arms and he could see Tony in the periphery of his vision.
“Yeah,” he said softly. “I… uh… I’m really glad that we… you know… went through with it. I was worried that you wouldn’t, and then I was worried that I couldn’t.”
Tony wiped the salve off his hands on a corner of the blanket and threaded his fingers through Bruce’s hair. It was a mess, and he tried to straighten his curls into some kind of shape. “I knew you could do it. I didn’t understand why you would want to put yourself through so much pain. You don’t have to prove any kind of point to me, ever.”
He played with his curls for a few more seconds.
“But, after a while, I think I saw where you were coming from. And it’s good, I think, that you did that. I don’t test your limits very often—not like that—and sometimes you have to, just to see what they are.”
Tony could see the muscles across Bruce’s shoulders and back relax even more. He was tense, probably afraid that Tony would judge him for what he had done—or hadn't done—or something. Just that he would be judged at all.
“Wasn’t it weird?” Bruce asked quietly, half-buried in the pillow beneath him. “For you? I mean… letting Loki have me like that.”
“I knew he wouldn’t go too far.”
“I just knew. I could tell.”
It sounded pretty stupid and reckless now to Tony’s own ears. He didn’t know how to explain this deep feeling of mutual understanding which had so suddenly formed between him and this version of Loki. He didn’t know how to explain that Loki had turned into an element of themselves; into Tony’s tool to bring Bruce to realize his own strength, to prove him he would never be abandoned. And Tony could always trust his tools.
But Bruce didn’t look or sound mad at him; rather pensive. “You saw him hit me?” he asked after a while; there was no still no anger, just a genuine curiosity.
“I saw him hit you,” Tony said softly. “But… Bruce, I would have stopped him. The second you said red. But I knew he had a purpose and I knew it was a good one. I honestly don’t know how, I just—I trusted him.”
“I know,” Bruce said. “I know. I mean… I trusted him, too, by the end of it. I get what you mean.”
“You weren’t scared?” Tony said softly, carding through his curls.
“I was scared,” Bruce said in a small voice. “But I’m scared most of the time. I’m used to it. And then, at some point, I didn’t feel the fear any more.”
Tony tightened his grip in Bruce’s hair, not pulling, just holding him there. He leaned down so that his lips were right next to Bruce’s ear. “What are you so scared of?”
Bruce shivered, maybe from the words, maybe from the sensation of warm breath tickling his ear. “Of losing you,” he answered.
Tony straightened up and ruffled his hair again. “That’s never going to happen,” he said, because sometimes you just had to say things out loud.
Bruce smiled, softly. “And you?” he said. “You weren’t scared of me?”
“Scared of you?” Tony repeated. “Why would I—oh.” He looked at him for a second, then challenged, “Were you scared of that happening?”.
Bruce thought about it. “...No,” he said after a second, sounding slightly surprised. “I… I forgot about him. About Hulk. I never came close.”
“What I thought,” Tony grinned. “Brucie, I trust you to know yourself. I’d bet my life on that. Hell, I do bet my life on that.”
Bruce smiled again, hesitant and a bit crooked. “Hey—want to know something else?” he murmured shyly.
“I really… like, really liked it.”
Now Tony was liking how this conversation was going. It was difficult to get Bruce to openly discuss anything to do with sex or the bedroom. He usually had to get Bruce halfway to subspace before he could voice his opinions. But yesterday night had apparently left a few doors open.
“What parts?” he asked, flopping down on his stomach and hugging his pillow as though this was a slumber party.
Bruce licked his lips. “I liked the… the ropes. They hurt, but in a good way—I felt… exposed, but secure. Both.”
“Good. What else?”
“The branding wasn’t...”
He winced and Tony winced back. “Yeah, that was pretty clear.”
“But when you were there, helping me through it, that was… not being alone, it was—it was great.”
A plan started taking shape in Tony’s mind. It wasn’t clear yet, but it was there.He gently caressed the back of Bruce’s neck as he thought.
“What did you like?” Bruce asked, his voice breaking through Tony’s reverie.
A wicked grin bloomed on his face. “Most of all? Seeing you, on display, strung up on that cross like some kind of sacrifice. I can’t believe you let me do that to you, that you could lie there so still and let me tie you up when you knew what was going to happen to you. You are so fucking strong, but few people are blessed enough to witness it.”
Bruce pushed himself up, turning quickly, so yeah, that salve must be some magic or something because Tony was suddenly tugged down and being thoroughly kissed. They stayed that way for a while, trading lazy kisses and rolling around in the velvet blankets, though Bruce was careful not to put any direct pressure on his shoulder. At last, they broke apart, panting and smiling at each other as they caught their breath.
“And at the end?” Tony asked between breaths.
There was a silence. Bruce’s pupils dilated slowly. “That was…”
He licked his lips. “That was something else. It felt as though… everything was falling into place. You know?”
“Yeah. God, yeah. Same.”
Tony closed his eyes and stroked Bruce’s hair again. “Did you see them? Clint and Loki?”
Bruce nodded. “Yes. They were incredible. They looked as if…”
His voice trailed off and his eyes focused past Tony’s shoulder, and his smile fell a little as a crease appeared between his eyebrows. He looked around the room, at the marble walls, the jewel-colored bed, the candle-lit floor…
“Tony?” he asked. “Why the hell are we still here?”
Now isn't that a good question
Clint took a deep breath, then stretched a little under the quilt, sighing out in pleasure. He could feel Loki's strong arms around him. Everything was warm and soft.
Loki nudged him with his nose, then licked and bit the lobe of his ear, the hint of sharpness a pleasant contrast. Clint let himself shiver to show he was awake. He became gradually aware of the dozens of burns studding his skin; they didn't really hurt—he healed too fast for that now—but they were very sensitive, as though they offered a direct access to his nerves. Loki's fingers danced on the spots on his shoulder, followed his spine, caressed the curve of his ass.
The demi-god straightened up and put a firm hand between Clint's shoulder-blades to keep him down on the mattress. The quilt slid off their naked bodies, but the room wasn't cold, and Clint only shivered in anticipation when he felt himself exposed. Truth be told, he felt too languid to move or open his eyes. Loki brushed his hands over his body, then his fingers tip-toed again on the burns—all of them, one after another, in a thorough, methodical way. He started by Clint's feet, then his legs, and spread his ass cheeks on his way up. He lifted his hips, squeezed his balls, his cock, let him fall down again, went up on his shoulders. He was doing a body check. Clint felt himself harden a bit more at the thought, and his breath hitched when Loki's cold fingers traced up the scar on his back.
Loki's other hand came back on his ass to cup it almost pensively. It kneaded for a second, then slid two fingers in the crease. Clint was still loose from two rough fuckings yesterday; Loki pushed in effortlessly, found his prostate and massaged it slowly.
Clint tensed and took a sharp intake of breath.
“I should have marked you here,” Loki said in his ear.
Okay, he was definitely hard now. Curse that enhanced sex drive. Or bless it.
The fingers pressed and rubbed for a bit longer before sliding out, and Loki turned him on his back; Clint let himself be manhandled and closed his eyes when his erection came into sight. What? It might be absurd, but sometimes he was still shy.
He gasped and moaned when Loki's warm mouth swallowed him.
Letting his head fall back, he kept his eyes tightly shut and his teeth clenched; he was suddenly very aware of the dotted triangle Loki had drawn on his pelvis, like an arrow pointing down with a sign saying “help yourselves”. His right hand was groping for something to hold on but he couldn't grip Loki's hair and he was insanely relieved when his fingers found the demi-god's to intertwine with. Clint's other hand gripped the pillow tight and didn't let go.
Loki took him impossibly deep and swallowed, swallowed, swallowed, working only his throat around Clint's length, squeezing, loosening, again and again, his long hair spilling over his slave's inner thighs, and god shit fuck Clint always managed to forget how good he was at this. He held onto Loki's hand for dear life and bit his other fist to stifle a desperate moan when Loki's tongue finally whirled into action. The blue streak going on in his mind came to a sudden stop and he struggled not to jerk up his hips, abs and inner thighs fluttering, because stuffing his cock down Loki's throat would be a rather poor way to thank him for this —and he came, panted, moaned and came, shudders rippling through his body.
He had kept his eyes closed, but he felt Loki's lean, supple body glide upwards, hair brushing his abs then chest then collarbone, and then the demi-god's mouth was on his; Clint parted his lips and tasted his own come, shivering all over.
They parted with a small breath for Loki, a gasp for Clint; the demi-god smiled and pressed his sticky lips against Clint’s cheekbone.
“Feeling a bit timid today?” he said under his breath.
Eyes still closed, Clint smiled back, but didn’t answer.
“Is it because of yesterday's show?” Loki said with a smirk in his voice. “Yet you performed magnificently.”
“Thank you, sir,” Clint breathed.
Loki drew back and the archer finally opened his eyes to look at himself. The burns were dotting his body with small brown circles, like Indian henna. Aesthetically, it actually looked quite nice.
The demi-god invoked black, slightly loose clothes which he let fall in Clint's lap.
Clint slowly slipped the shirt over his head and tugged on the pants—no underwear today—without leaving the bed, because Loki was still in it, himself. He felt warm and languid, and Loki didn't look like he was in much of a hurry, either. When Clint was fully dressed, Loki called forth two pairs of shackles with a twirl of his fingers. The cuffs clicked around Clint’s wrists, and the second pair got locked around his ankles. Both chains were quite long—not constraints, but restraints. Loki got up and clothed himself in the green tunic and tight black pants he usually wore when he wasn't in his armor; he motioned Clint to follow.
Clint felt like a high-security prisoner on Earth, except for the fact that his uniform wasn't orange or yellow, but black. He got up easily enough, but he had to walk in a slightly awkward way, chains clinking with each step, while Loki obviously reveled in walking with a fluid, agile gait next to him. Clint knew he would have gotten hard again if the demi-god hadn't just made him come, because he thoroughly felt like Loki's slave right now, chained and humiliated for his pleasure.
But also, Clint knew, for his own comfort. Regardless of any sexual fantasy, he liked being in shackles. It made him feel secure; grounded; like he belonged. And Loki knew it, and Clint knew that he knew. They needed no neural link for that.
“So what do they like?” Loki asked gleefully when they entered the dining room.
Clint drew his chair, then shuffled around the table to draw his own and sat down. “What do they like?”
“To eat,” the demi-god grinned, sitting down. “In the morning.”
“Oh.” Clint frowned to remember. “Pancakes, I guess. Lots of coffee for Stark, and tea and toast for Banner.” He smiled a little. “And bacon.”
Loki invoked a full breakfast with a snap of his fingers, and started eating slowly, taking his time. Clint followed his lead, chains jingling a little each time he grabbed something or spread butter on his bread.
The door banged open and Loki turned without a start, smiling.
“Hello,” he said in mocking cheerfulness. “Have you slept well?”
Tony strode inside the room with Bruce in tow. “Cut the crap,” he snapped. “How are we still here? Weren't we supposed to literally fuck off after last night?”
Loki raised a condescending eyebrow at him.
Tony opened a mouth wide with indignation. “What? What? That was all bullshit?"
Loki smirked a little, then took another bite, idly chewing.
"But—but what about the spear?”
Loki swallowed, then said, “You’re the one who suggested it had brought you here in the first place. Who was I to contradict you?”
“But—and what about all that stuff you said about anchors and syncopathic energy?”
Loki turned to Clint, who shrugged and muttered, “Honestly, I still can't believe they bought that.”
“Talent, Barton,” Loki grinned.
Tony looked downright outraged.
“Wh—” he repeated, choking. “You two-faced pigeon!You mean you knew from the start...” but his voice trailed off when he saw the silver shackles around his wrists.
Clint drank his bowl of coffee, chains tingling, then put it down and glanced up at him.
“Yeah, okay,” Tony muttered, calming down in spite of himself and ruffling his own hair. “Right. Fuck. I guess I can't really blame you for not tattling on your master, uh.”
“Gotta let him have his fun,” Clint shrugged.
Loki's countenance didn't waver, but his voice was clear and sharp through the link. Twenty lashes, Barton.
The archer smirked in the corner of his mouth. Totally worth it, sir.
He could almost feel Loki's red desire rise in answer to his cockiness, and Clint knew he would come to bitterly regret those words—with utter, agonizing delight.
“Mind if we have a seat?” Bruce said, speaking for the first time.
Clint was a bit surprised, but Loki's smile, this time, was genuine.
“Please, do,” he said. “This is all for you.”
The doctor sat down next to Clint and Tony followed his lead, still frowning but looking like he didn't quite know where to restart the fight.
“So,” Loki began, eyeing Bruce. “Does this mean your greener self will be paying us no visit?”
“Were you actually worried about that?” Bruce smiled.
He looked strangely fond, too. Clint realized those two had in common the fact that although they smiled a lot, they didn't actually smile all that much. To see them so relaxed around each other was completely surreal.
Clint thought of the other version of Tony and Bruce; he washed down the lump in his throat with another gulp of coffee.
“Well, I don't know,” Loki said playfully. “Stark does look pretty mad.”
“I am,” Tony barked. “Seriously—what was this bullshit even about? What was your point?”
“My point?” Loki purred, warming his hands around his cup.
“Yeah! I mean, you had your way, hurray, but, we're not dead or—or injured or mentally broken—or compromised or anything, we actually enjoyed ourselves, so why put so much effort into it?”
“You sound like I make a habit of breaking things.”
Clint snorted and this time, Loki lightly tapped his fingers on the table. Forty lashes, Barton.
The archer dove into his cup and willed himself to shut the fuck up.
“There,” Bruce suddenly said.
Clint and Loki looked at him. “What?”
“You did it again. You're... you're talking to each other in some way.”
They exchanged a glance; Clint wasn't sure how Loki would handle Bruce's insight, but the demi-god actually looked pretty excited about it.
“And I also think—” Bruce began, reaching out for Clint’s arm, before stopping himself and looking at Loki. “Can I?”
The demi-god beamed at him all the more and nodded, “Do.”
Bruce grabbed Clint’s arm and rolled up his sleeve. The brown dots of the burns were there, smooth little bumps of scar tissue.
“You've already healed.”
Bruce looked up at Clint, then at Loki, then at Clint again. The archer shrugged. “Yeah, that's... something the others didn't take really well either.”
“You enhanced him?” Tony called at Loki, before staring at Clint too. “Like—you're, what? Stronger? Telepathic?” A beat, then, “Immortal?
Clint lowered his eyes and didn't answer.
“Basically, yes,” the demi-god murmured.
Tony looked between them both with his mouth hanging a little open. Then he turned to the doctor and raised his eyebrows.
“Oh my God, Bruce,” he said between his teeth, like it was an embarrassing secret. “They're married.”
Clint burst into laughter, so suddenly he surprised even himself. He'd expected any comment, but not that. God, it felt so good to have Bruce and Tony—even if they weren't exactly his Bruce and Tony—accept him as he was. He hadn't realized how much he'd kept pining over it until... now...
Wait. Had Loki—?
Was this... was this the reason he'd done all that ?
Clint turned to him, but Loki only looked away with a slight smile.
I love you, Clint blurted before he knew it.
The corner of Loki's eyes crinkled when he smiled. He put a hand on Clint's thigh under the table and squeezed it.
Forty lashes all the same, Barton.
Clint laughed a little. Roger that, sir.
“Okay, stop that, it's totally rude,” Tony intervened. “And a bit creepy. And also—I mean, Barton, congratulations on the wedding and all, but, could we all focus on us poor mortals for a minute?”
“I thought that was what we did last night,” Loki said lightly.
There was a silence; not exactly awkward, but a bit... tangled up in itself.
Bruce took a deep breath, then repeated, “Well, I’m not angry.”
He was talking to Loki, but also to Tony. “I could be, but I'm not. I'm... actually grateful. Clint—thank you for doing all this for us. And Loki...” He chuckled. “Thanks for the, opportunity, I guess. And for the life lesson.”
Loki's features quivered for a minute before growing smooth and ironic again. “You're most welcome, Doctor.”
“Alright,” Tony conceded. “It was a fucked-up, creepy thing to do but I'm not really mad either even though I should be; there, it's said, but now I want to know—what did you get out of it?”
“Was is just for fun?” Tony insisted. “Watching us being ridiculous and falling for your tricks?”
“There was nothing ridiculous about you,” the demi-god said quietly.
That seemed to take them aback a little. Loki looked into his tea for a minute, then went on, slowly, “I wanted this. I took the... opportunity. That is all.”
“The opportunity to put on a show?” Tony snorted.
Then he blinked.
He repeated slowly, “The opportunity to put on a show.” He tilted his head on the side. “To... show yourself. To people who might understand. Right?”
The demi-god did not answer, and Clint would have liked to be able to tell Tony he was on dangerous ground here. Loki wasn't all that fond of voicing truths out loud.
But then the billionaire only shrugged.
“Well,” he said. “As far as shows go, that was... pretty good.”
A slow smile crept up Loki's lips. He drank a bit of tea and murmured, “Yours wasn't all bad either.”
Tony snorted, but his smirk lingered in the corner of his mouth, and for a second there, all four of them just smiled at each other.
“Hey, Bruce,” Clint said after a while.
The doctor looked up from the table at him. Clint grinned at him and said, “Pass the bacon?”
Bruce frowned at the table, then chuckled heartily. He gave it to Clint and squeezed the archer's fingers a little as he did, brushing his gleaming chains.
“Would you like it, Brucie?” Tony asked casually.
The doctor turned to him. “I—what?”
“Being shackled like that for breakfast.”
Clint distinctly heard Bruce's breathing stop for a minute.
“I,” he said. “Um. Yes.”
He was flushing a little, but after yesterday, this kind of comment wasn't much.
“Well, I’d love to. But for that we have to go home,” Tony said, looking at Loki. “Can we? Is there actually some kind of battle plan in your twisted mind?”
Loki chuckled. “There is no need. All dimensions collapse on themselves every five thousand years. You just happened to fall through a temporary portal—it had absolutely nothing to do with your activities; nor with the spear, by the way.”
“Oh, right, the spear—can we have it back?”
“No,” Loki said. “As I was saying, the whole Universe is ripe with magic this week; a mere spell will be enough to send you back.”
“Fucking God of goddamn Mischief,” Tony groaned, rubbing his face with both hands.
Bruce still looked faintly amused. Clint didn't know what he'd gotten out of yesterday, but obviously, it was something good. Something which would, with any luck, last.
Loki grinned at them, then concluded, “But we've still got time.” He tore a piece of bread and said, “Enough, I'm sure, to finish our breakfast.”
*Authors clear throat* LOKI'D
Tony had cleaned his plate long ago, but for once, he didn’t mind waiting for the others to finish eating. He was watching Bruce—watching how relaxed, how at ease and how genuinely happy he looked for once. Considering the night they’d had, it was sort of weird. But on the other hand, Tony knew it had all been about trust, really; and trust was almost unbearably precious to them both.
Not to mention to their hosts.
Clint’s gleaming shackles kept catching Tony’s attention, jingling with each shift of the archer’s hands. Somehow, to see him restrained like this felt right. Or maybe it was just the fact that he looked, too, way more happy and relaxed than anything Tony had ever seen of him. Or the fact that Loki had obviously not done this to make any of them uncomfortable. It was just the way they functioned. Tony still couldn’t get over how healthy they both looked. If someone had told him Loki Laufeyson and Clint Barton could bloom into happiness thanks to a hardcore sadomasochistic relationship, Tony would have laughed in everyone’s face and declared it evidence that the multiverse theory was trash.
Well, the more you know.
Looking up, he realized Loki was doing exactly the same thing as him—watching their respective subs having a light chat, with a pondering expression of distant wonder. Tony suspected the whole thing had meant much, much more to him than what he’d originally thought. And he also suspected it had been a long road for those two ever since the battle of New York. To get where they were now after that bad a start? That couldn’t have been easy. And now Tony kinda wondered what insight Loki had gotten from it—and exactly what he’d told Bruce yesterday. He might never know; but for once, he was fine with that.
He blinked and realized Loki wasn’t in his seat anymore. Where the fuck—?
“Stark,” the smooth voice said next to him as long fingers brushed his shoulder.
Tony startled and turned round so fast that Loki’s huffed a small laugh. “Apologies.”
Tony just made a face at him. “Oh, it’s nothing—your coffee just made me a bit jumpy. Guess Barton likes it black.”
“He does,” Loki said with a somehow sharper smile.
Tony drew back his chair to get up.
“So, time for the big adieu?” he asked.
Bruce looked up; he hadn’t finished eating, but Loki shook his head minutely. “I would like a word in private first. Take your time,” he added at Bruce’s address.
Tony glanced at Bruce, but Clint was going to stay with him and besides, he couldn’t find it in himself to worry after last night. He followed Loki out of the room, genuinely curious about what he had to say.
They found themselves in the warmly lit library and the demi-god let Tony walk inside as he softly shut the door behind them. Tony trailed his fingers over the rows of books before remembering he shouldn’t touch anything; he quickly folded his fingers and turned to look at Loki.
Frankly, Tony expected about anything from him, from an assassination attempt to a last-minute quickie—because who knew how Loki liked to say goodbye; but he didn’t expect Loki to take a few wandering steps before turning back to him and say, with a strange, almost vulnerable look, “What happened to me?”
Tony blinked at him. “You mean…”
And then he got it and he suddenly felt cold. “You mean—you. As in—the other you.”
“Yes,” Loki said in a low voice. “As in the other me.”
A heavy silence settled between them. Tony winced a little. God, he would have preferred an assassination attempt by far.
Loki huffed a joyless laugh. “Is it that bad?”
“Well,” Tony began.
He shut up. He had no idea how to say this.
“There’s nothing to say, really. Far as I know, you’re still in Odin’s cells. And you’re not… you’re not...”
“Did I kill myself?” Loki asked blandly.
Tony said nothing for a long, stunned second.
Then he slowly shook his head. “I don’t know. I don’t think so. But—”
“You don’t know,” Loki said, nodding in acceptance. “Very well.”
Tony involuntarily took a few steps forward. It just didn’t seem very right discussing such things half a mile apart.
Loki took a somehow shallow breath. “And how is the other Barton doing?”
“Good,” Tony said immediately. “I mean—he’s doing okay. Got his head back in the game and all.”
Loki chuckled a little at his choice of words, but it sounded rather bitter. “Good,” he said. “Take care of him.”
And Tony realized this Loki regretted—maybe not everything he’d done, but what he’d done to Clint Barton at any rate. And he mourned for himself as well. It must be a strange feeling. From where he was, Loki could see exactly the paths which should be taken by his other self; but there was no way to save him. Not this time.
“What about Coulson?” Tony risked.
Loki glanced up as though he’d traveled a hundred miles in one second. “What?”
“You told me Coulson was still alive on your side.”
“Oh,” Loki said.
He smiled, slowly—almost fondly, albeit in an ironic way. Well, now that was weird. “He is well,” he said. “One might even call us friends now.”
Tony pulled such a dubious look that the demi-god couldn’t help laughing—and it was so weird to hear.
“Your side is so odd,” Tony told him.
Loki grinned, then suddenly took a step forward and wrapped a hand behind Tony’s neck—whether it was an affectionate or restraining gesture, Tony wasn’t quite sure. Loki pulled him even closer and okay, he was not freaking out and could totally work with that.
“Yours is even odder,” the demi-god smirked. “Such recklessness—taking so dangerous a road with Banner of all people.”
Tony forced himself to smile back. “Oh—the Hulk is actually pretty friendly when you don’t rub him up the wrong way...”
Loki slowly shook his head, thumb rubbing at Tony’s jaw. “I am not talking about the beast.”
Tony frowned, nervousness morphing into puzzlement.
“I have made a lot of mistakes,” the demi-god murmured.
Tony raised an eyebrow. “Now that’s something I never expected you to say.”
“I have made a lot of mistakes with Barton,” Loki clarified. “And I am not certain you could afford to make them.” He tilted his head on the side. “I have seen how Banner is. You call him Snowflake for a reason.”
Tony stayed silent for a long time, which was very unusual for him. Eventually, he said, “No, I fucked up too, you know. Probably will again. You’re right—it’s a dangerous road.”
Loki’s smile was so understanding now that it was almost unsettling. And yeah, he knew. Of course they both knew, with how broken, how distrustful, how scarred their loved ones were.
“But it’s fucking worth it,” Tony said.
Loki’s eyes lit up. “Yes,” he breathed, before smirking, “it really is fucking worth it.”
Tony laughed and suddenly they were kissing, kissing again for the third and last time, as if to loop the loop. It felt good, somehow, between neither of them was trying to take control—or give it. It was something they shared, something actually quite innocent since it implied nothing more than what it was. It felt oddly comforting, oddly invigorating, oddly solid in some way. Kinship.
They had to part for breath eventually, but Loki didn’t loosen his hold.
“I meant it, you know,” he said. “It was a good show. You impressed me.”
Tony blinked at him. “Really?” He was used to people stroking his massive ego, but Loki paying him a sincere compliment was entirely new. “Impressed how?”
Loki chuckled. “You comforted Banner,” he said. “I deeply admire a master who will kneel for his slave.”
Tony thought of saying that Bruce wasn’t his slave, but he realized it wasn’t in any way relevant right now and closed his mouth. Loki suddenly pressed flush against him again.
“About Coulson,” he breathed.
He kept Tony very close, as though he was hiding his words from someone else. “I stabbed him through the lung,” he said. “Not the heart. It gave Fury a bit of time.”
“A—a bit of time to do what?” Tony asked.
Loki’s hand quivered slightly on the back of his neck and Tony suddenly felt light-headed, because the last time he had felt this, he had been thrown out a window right after. He stayed still, breathless, heart pounding, even though he wasn’t afraid—not really.
“I guess you’ll find out,” Loki said, so close, so overwhelmingly there.
It lasted for a breathless second; then he released him, and it was over.
Tony stared at him for a long moment.
Then he said, “You know—Barton could do worse.”
Loki laughed out loud.
“No, he couldn’t,” he grinned, and it was as though the whole conversation had never happened.
He opened the door and put a hand on Tony's shoulder. “Come, Stark—let’s send you home now.”
For a few minutes, the only sound was the clink of cups on polished wood and the heavier metallic jangle of Clint’s chains as the four of them finished their meal. Bruce bent over his tea, so deep in thought that he almost didn't notice Loki and Tony stealing away to the library.
When the door closed, he turned back to Clint, whose shrewd eyes had followed his master until he left.
“So,” Bruce said, somehow shyly. “I guess this is goodbye .”
Clint blinked a little, then smiled at him. “Oh, you’ll see me again, one day,” he said. “Probably today.”
Bruce felt his face twist into something that wasn’t quite a smile. “And... what about you?” he asked. “Are you ever going to see us again?”
Clint leaned back, chains jingling and shifting against his skin. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “Predicting stuff while in Loki’s service is rather…futile.”
“Right. God of Chaos,” Bruce said.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” Clint replied. He reached across the table for another slice of bacon and shoved it into his mouth. “Then again, most things worth having are a bit of both,” he said with his mouth full.
He swallowed, then kept staring at the breakfast table and his brow slowly furrowed in worry.
“Are you really alright?” he asked after a minute. “I mean—yesterday was… I knew what Loki was doing but I would have said something if—”
“Clint,” Bruce said firmly. “You’re not responsible for us.”
His voice softened. “And I don’t regret a thing we did yesterday.”
Clint stared into space for a second. Then he laughed a little. “You know, I still can’t believe you’re together. Tony and you. I mean—you get along well enough on my side, but to see the both of you like this…”
Bruce smiled a little bashfully. “Probably a bit strange.”
“Nah,” Clint said. “Sorry, but I got you totally out-stranged here.”
It was Bruce’s turn to laugh. There was a bit of a quiet moment afterwards, and he only realized he was staring at Clint’s hands clasped in silver chains when he saw the archer’s small crooked grin. “Contain yourself, Doc.”
“It’s just—those are really—nice,” Bruce blurted.
“Yeah,” Clint said lightly.
He turned his wrist to make the metal glint in the dim light. “When you agree to wear them? Fucking changes everything.”
Bruce thought of the Hulk, and other completely unrelated matters.
Clint must know, because he was still smiling when he leaned forward to give Bruce a light kiss on the corner of the lips. Bruce didn’t even startle; it was too soft and to slow for that, but he still didn’t see it coming.
“I wanted to do that at least once,” Clint said, sitting back.
Bruce smiled at him, then looked down. “Sorry about the branding thing,” he murmured.
“Nothing to be sorry about. You know you weren’t supposed to enjoy it.”
“I know, but I wanted—”
“No, that’s not what I mean. You’re not supposed to enjoy anything.You’re supposed to find out whatever it is that you enjoy, and then enjoy the fuck out of it.” He paused, then said, “Even if that thing is Tony Stark. Your funeral.”
Bruce laughed again, because seriously, coming from Loki's slave—and he realized he didn’t feel bad anymore. About anything. For a shining moment, he was absolutely carefree—and that?
That was definitely something he might enjoy.
“Hey,” Clint told him. “You take care of yourself, alright?”
Clint grinned. “Oh, don’t worry. I’m all taken care of.”
“Very well,” Loki said as they came back into the dining-room.
He did a small gesture and Clint’s shackles vanished. “Time to say goodbye,” the demi-god said. “The Conjunction cannot last forever.”
In a way, Bruce was relieved that they would not be leaving from the same room where they had arrived. He didn’t feel the intense dread about the dungeon as he had when they first arrived—on the contrary, he felt a sense of strange fondness, mostly similar to his feelings about Tony’s workshop. But he wanted to preserve his last memories of Loki and Clint in this room, with the dim light softening their features so that Clint looked almost—almost—human again.
Now that it was out in the open, Bruce couldn’t believe he hadn't seen how different Clint looked now. There was a sharpness to his features that didn’t exist before, as if everything about him was a little clearer, purer. It was slightly… unsettling.
“What if we missed it,” Clint asked. “The Conjunction. Could we still send them back?”
“Undoubtedly,” Loki said, “but it would be much more dangerous and complex. The main issue with inter-dimensional spell-casting…”
Bruce watched in bewilderment Loki explain in great earnestness the delicacies of magic to the slave he had tortured the day before; and Clint listened to him with a look of calm but intense focus, just like he did before a mission, adding questions or comments of his own. The whole thing was so strange that it took Bruce a second to realize that Tony was back by his side—and looking just a little shell-shocked. His gaze was somber, but when Bruce bumped his elbow with his side, Tony turned to him with a small smile.
Well, whatever it was, Bruce would learn about it later.
“So—ready to get this show on the road, then?” Tony called.
Loki turned to Bruce and looked him over from head to toe. “One thing first.”
And then Bruce’s clothes—well, actually, still Clint’s cast-offs—began to glow and shimmer around him. He didn’t feel anything at all, but the cloth reformed into a pair of charcoal slacks and a green linen button-up shirt. It felt like it was tailored to him, which, he supposed, it was.
“Uh…thanks,” Bruce said. “It’s going to be weird ending up…well…appropriately dressed for once.”
Loki smiled, then turned away and motioned them to follow.
“Whoa,” Tony said as they stepped through the door. “What is this place?”
Bruce blinked. It was a completely empty cube with naked grey walls; the door itself vanished after it was closed. The light had no source—it simply was.
“Think of it as my workshop,” Loki said. “Now stay here and maintain physical contact.”
“You mean like hold hands?”
“My, Stark, what an indecent mind you have,” he mocked.
Bruce chuckled a little at Tony’s face, but kept Tony’s arm around his shoulder and gripped his wrist. Loki opened his hands in an elegant gesture. “You know what to do,” he told Clint.
“Yes sir,” Clint mumbled, opening his hands as well then frowning in concentration.
Bruce gaped, but it was Tony who said, “Whoa—wait, Clint is the one who’s gonna do it?”
“Well, we need to pin-point your arrival,” Loki said. “He knows Midgard the best; his help will not go amiss.”
“No, but I mean, he can—”
“Yeah, Stark, I’m a magical girl,” Clint grinned. “And so are you, just so you know. Just haven’t tried hard enough yet.”
“Barton, that’s enough,” Loki murmured, but he was smiling.
“Wait wait wait, you mean—I can—it’s a thing?” Tony almost squealed. “Magic? It’s a science thing?”
“Sorry, man—already got in enough trouble for today,” Clint said, and although his tone was light, Bruce knew he was serious. “Besides, no spoilers.”
“I can’t believe you!” Tony said indignantly. “Throwing me a bone like this and then—”
“Oh, worry not,” Loki smirked. “You will be avenged.”
Tony froze mid-sentence and almost looked like he wanted to ask, then thought twice and shut up. He apparently shared Bruce’s feelings that Clint’s punishment would take a very physical form. Clint smiled at them. “It was fun,” he said. “It really was. Drop by again sometimes.”
“Sure, in five thousand years or so.”
Clint was still smiling, but a chill suddenly went up Bruce’s spine, because—maybe Clint would still be around for the next Conjunction. This was not Clint, not anymore. He was someone else altogether.
“Now,” Loki murmured.
He closed his eyes and Clint did the same.
Loki began speaking, and his voice sounded like it was all around them, yet a universe away at the same time. The chant was low and measured, each syllable falling like a song of its own. Clint joined him after a line or two, his voice rougher, stilted at first as if he was still learning the rhythms, but then falling more in time as he wove in and out of Loki’s voice. It wasn’t a harmony, yet the sound felt like it held them, hugged them, surrounded them like a physical sensation. A great ice-cold wind rose into the empty room and Bruce and Tony instinctively huddled together. Bruce remembered what Loki had said about physical contact and being read as one; he didn’t need those reasons anyway to wrap his arm around Tony’s waist and pull him closer. Tony smiled at him, then turned to face him and altogether pressed their bodies flush together. Bruce was tempted to bury his face in Tony’s shoulder, but then a strange tendril of gold appeared in the air and wrapped around them, followed by a string of white, of red, yellow, blue, purple, every color until they were weaved inside a bright rainbow.
“Well,” Tony murmured. “Seems like we’re getting out of here.”
Bruce laced his fingers behind his lover’s back. “Yeah,” he said. “Kinda different from what we’d first imagined, right?”
“I don’t think anyone in his right mind could have imagined that,” Tony grinned.
He pressed their foreheads together. “I’m so glad we did this. I’m so glad we—I’m so glad we did this together.”
Bruce wanted to answer, but his voice failed him so he simply grabbed Tony’s face to kiss him deeply, warmly in the ever colder wind. Tony kissed back; and when they parted, it felt like the same current was running underneath both their skins, from vein to vein to vein. It felt like their hearts were beating together, like they shared the exact same heat, the exact same breath. Tony locked their bodies even tighter, then looked up, through the gusts of wind and the twirling, dazzling colors dancing around them.
“Hey,” he called. “Thanks for the ride.”
Bruce looked up as well and what he saw suddenly iced his blood. Because Loki’s eyes were completely rolled back, vacant and white, and a wide, somehow exulting smirk was stretching on his face; and Clint’s eyes were rolled back too, and he had the exact same smile, and they articulated in perfect unison, in the same distorted, fiercely joyful voice, like the grand finale of their spell,
And suddenly there was a blast of wind—and then only light left, dazzling white light for a blinding second of eternity.
Well, well, seems like we're almost done. Thoughts? ^^
Blood pounded in Bruce’s ears, and he could hear Tony’s gasping breaths. But, other than that, it was quiet.
The piercing wind and the chanting were gone.
He opened one eye, then the other to see the fluorescent lighting of the workshop. Tony was still holding him a death grip, his eyes squeezed tightly closed. Bruce rubbed his back.
“Toto, I think we’re back in Kansas,” Bruce said.
Tony opened his eyes and slowly let Bruce go. He ran a hand through his hair as his quick eyes took in every angle and surface of the workshop.
“JARVIS! How long have we been gone?” Tony asked.
“I’m sorry, Sir, but my sensors indicate that you and Doctor Banner have been in the workshop for a little over an hour. Where, exactly, do you believe you went?”
Tony’s eyes opened wide, but he didn’t answer. Bruce looked around the workshop. There were his clothes, balled up in the corner. And the staff was nowhere to be seen.
“JARVIS, play the security footage for the past hour,” Bruce said.
“There is no security footage, Doctor Banner. The cameras were turned off.”
That was right. They turned off the cameras when they started getting frisky.
“So, what happened to the staff?”
A few heartbeats passed before JARVIS responded. “No data.”
Tony and Bruce looked at each other and burst out laughing, a little hysterically.
“Wait! Wait!” Tony said. He put his hand on Bruce’s shoulder. “How do we know we ended up in the right place? This might not be our dimension.”
“Uh,” Bruce said. “Believe it or not, I don’t think they would have screwed this up.”
Tony took one last look around and grabbed Bruce’s hands. “Come on, let’s find the others!”
They took the elevator up to the common lounge. If they'd arrived at the same time they had left, someone would probably be in the kitchen making dinner.
Tony kept hold of Bruce’s hand during the elevator ride, as if he was afraid of what would happen if he let go. Bruce smiled at him and didn’t fight it.
As soon as the elevator opened, they could hear music coming from the kitchen. Someone had the stereo on. And was singing. Only one person in the Tower sang along with the stereo while he was making dinner.
It was Clint.
Tony’s mouth opened in a silent, giddy cry, and he bit his fist to keep himself from laughing. “This is perfect,” he said around his hand.
“Shhh!” Bruce hissed. “Don’t act weird! He’ll know something’s up!”
They snuck around the corner like two pranking kids, and the words of the song became clear as they got closer.
“Dirty babe. You see these shackles baby, I’m your slaaaave. I’ll let you whip me if I misbehave.”
“Oh God!” Tony yelped. “I can’t do this, Bruce, I can’t!”
Clint turned around at Tony’s cry, just in time to see him retreat back to the elevator in near hysterics. He smirked at Bruce and just shook his hips more in time to the music.
“What’s his problem?” Clint asked.
“Uh… nothing. He got into the nitrous down in the lab.”
“Hmmm,” Clint said. He went back to the steak he had grilling on the stove. “I’d ask if you want some, but… well, y’know.”
“Uh, no thanks. We just ate.” Bruce leaned against the fridge as nonchalantly as he could manage. “Hey, Clint, I was wondering… when’s the last time you saw us?”
Clint turned to Bruce, eyebrows raised in concern. “Breakfast? This morning?”
“Oh, ok. Just making sure.”
Well, that was right. It sounded like Clint. It looked like normal, human Clint Barton. Bruce inhaled deeply through his nose, but the searing steak masked Clint’s scent. He stepped closer to Clint and sniffed.
“What the—Bruce! Bruce, did you get into anything down in the lab? Did Tony dare you taste something?”
“No,” Bruce said. “I just… Hey. We’re... friends, right?”
Clint turned off the stove, put the spatula down on the counter, and gave Bruce his full attention.
“Yeah, Doc. I’d say we’re friends.”
“Well, uh, good. Good. You know you can tell me—us, me and Tony—anything, right? Like, if you needed help with… something. Anything. We’re here.”
Clint scratched the back of his head while he gave Bruce a searching look. “Thanks, Doc. Same to you.”
“Ok. Then… Good. Okay. I’ll be seeing you.”
“Are you sure you’re not stoned?” Clint asked.
“No, I’m not sure.”
That seemed to mollify Clint and he shrugged as if everything was perfectly normal again. He flipped his steak into the air, intending to catch it back in the pan, but it just… disappeared.
Bruce gaped a little; Clint only seemed exasperated. “Oh, come on!”
But the steak didn’t come back.
“Seriously, that’s been happening all morning!” Clint exclaimed. He pointed the spatula at Bruce. “What are you and Tony up to in that lab?”
Bruce muttered some vaguely science-ish nonsense about quantum entanglement and Clint just shrugged again.
“Alright, alright,” he said. “Well, could you keep the mini-portals out of the kitchen, please?”
He took another raw steak and threw it in the pan. “And tell Tony I’ll grill him something if he gets the munchies.”
Bruce retreated to the elevator to find Tony.
A world away, another Clint lowered his arms and exhaled deeply, shifting his mind back into its normal setting. Magic always unsettled him. Facing him, Loki gave him a smile.
“You are getting quite good at this.”
“Always easier when it matters,” Clint said, breath fluttering.
There was a somehow deeper silence now that their visitors had left for good.
“So,” Loki went on, softly. “I believe—”
Something fell from the ceiling on the floor between them with a wet splat.
Loki and Clint exchanged a glance, then leaned forward to peer at it. It was red and squishy and dead.
“Someone’s liver?” the demi-god suggested eventually.
“No,” Clint said, frowning. “I think it’s a steak.”
As the days passed, the otherworldly experience with Loki and Clint seemed more and more like a strange dream. At times, Bruce found himself staring in the mirror at the little circles of healing burns on his shoulder, and he would reach his opposite hand around to trace them, press down a little so he could feel the soreness and remind himself that it had been real.
And sometimes he would find himself staring at Clint just a moment too long. Clint noticed. He noticed everything. But it didn’t seem to bother him very much.
Tony was affected too, Bruce knew. They hadn’t had sex since they returned. That wasn’t unusual, really, and Tony showed affection in other ways. He rarely let Bruce out of his sight, and he kept in constant physical contact with him when he was near.
But, at night, Tony couldn’t sleep. He would lie still for a few hours, breathing steadily until he thought Bruce was asleep, then slip out of bed. Something in his demeanor told Bruce he shouldn’t follow, so he didn’t.
After the fourth night, though, Bruce started to worry. So, when Tony quietly rolled over and flipped back the covers, he reached out and grabbed his arm.
“I’ll get up with you. I can’t sleep either.”
Tony froze, his body stiff and stressed. After a few seconds, Bruce felt him relax in his grip.
“Ok,” Tony said.
Bruce got up. He was wearing nothing but his boxer shorts, so he searched for some pants and a decent shirt, but Tony stopped him and held out his own silk robe. Bruce paused.
“Where are we going?”
“The shop,” Tony answered. “Just trust me.”
Just trust me. Bruce was almost ashamed of himself. After what they’d been through? He left the pants behind, though Tony did insist he wear his wool slippers. The floor was cold, after all.
He followed Tony down to the shop in silence. Whatever he was up to, JARVIS was obviously in on it as well because Tony didn’t need to tell the elevator where to go. The doors opened onto the dim shop. Tony didn’t turn the lights on, and Bruce’s suspicions flared. But, he took a deep breath and let it go. He trusted Tony, more now than he ever thought possible.
Tony took a cushion off the shop couch and placed it on the rug.
“Here,” he said. “And take off the robe.”
Bruce kneeled on the cushion, took off the robe, and placed it on the couch. He was more nervous with anticipation than suspicious now.
Tony didn’t turn on the overhead lights in the dark shop, but he peeled off his thick black tank top so that the arc reactor cast a blue-white glow over everything in front of him. Bruce sucked in a breath. Tony was beautiful, all shadows and graceful curves and bright light.
The light dimmed when Tony turned away and walked across the shop. He took a black box from a workbench drawer, and Bruce heard a metallic jingle as Tony stepped closer. Tony kneeled in front of Bruce and opened the box. It was lined with red velvet, and inside rested a set of cuffs, collar, and chain, all in the same silver metal.
Bruce sucked in a breath.
“I wanted to surprise you one day, at breakfast, but, well…” Tony shrugged and held the box out toward Bruce.
Bruce gave Tony a pleading look.
“Go ahead. I made them for you,” Tony said.
The metal was cool to the touch, but warmed quickly under Bruce’s hands. He picked up one of the cuffs, running his fingers along the edges. They were exquisite. The metal was rounded so there were no sharp edges to cut into skin, and there was a design laser-etched into the thick bands. Bruce couldn’t quite make it out in the dim light without his glasses. Tony noticed him squinting, and took Bruce’s hand to hold it closer to the arc reactor’s light.
“I still can’t see it,” Bruce admitted.
So Tony pressed his fingers to the design, tracing over the edges of the engraving.
“They’re snowflakes!” Bruce said in triumph. “What’s the metal?”
“Vibranium-adamantium alloy,” Tony said, and Bruce could hear the pride in his voice.
“It is not,” Bruce said. Vibranium was rare and difficult to create. Even the tiny filament of vibranium in Bruce’s blood probably cost more than he would make in a lifetime.
“It’s an alloy,” Tony repeated. “Can I?”
Bruce nodded, not trusting his voice to answer. Tony took the cuff and fastened it around his right wrist. It clicked shut. Bruce raised his hand, feeling the weight of the metal like a reassuring embrace. Even looking closely, he couldn’t see a locking mechanism.
Tony let him study it for a moment before reclaiming his wrist. He pressed his thumb to the cuff, right where Bruce’s pulse point was, and it opened immediately.
“It’s keyed to your thumbprint?” Bruce guessed.
Tony nodded, looking at Bruce through thick eyelashes. “What do you think?”
A sudden lump in Bruce’s throat cut off any words, so he held out both wrists in answer. Tony’s smile lit up his face brighter than the arc reactor’s light, and he refastened the cuff. The left one went on next. Then there was the collar.
Tony hesitated as he held out the elegant metal collar. Bruce could see it was made with even more care than the cuffs, with the same design carved into it, and a single ring on the front.
“Bruce, I didn’t know if you wanted a collar,” Tony said. “It…well… it means something, and I’m not sure if you…”
“Put it on,” Bruce said.
Tony leaned closer, the light of the reactor dimming as their bodies closed together. Bruce felt his breath on his cheek, the side of his neck, as Tony fastened the collar around his neck. It was heavier than he expected, and tight enough that he could feel it when he swallowed.
Tony leaned back. “Color?”
“Green,” Bruce said. He leaned forward until his forehead rested against Tony’s. “Green.”
There were chains, too, connecting each of the cuffs to the ring in the collar. Bruce knew the significance. The chains and the cuffs and the collar were symbols of being owned like an object. But the way Tony snapped each one on made Bruce feel like he was being secured and protected, not devalued. This, he mused, must be what it was like for Tony when he was in his armor.
And Clint… Bruce thought of Clint, so happy and relaxed in his shackles, as if they reminded him that he had a place and a purpose in life. Looking into Tony’s eyes, Bruce finally understood.
“You’re beautiful,” Tony whispered. “More?”
There was more? Bruce nodded.
Tony kissed him, holding his head still between his hands, and Bruce could feel him smiling against his lips. They pulled apart to breathe, and Tony picked up the box again. He lifted up the velvet on the bottom to reveal another level to the box, with two slightly wider cuffs and another length of chain inside.
“Up,” Tony said, helping him stand with a steadying hand. “These have got to go,” he said, easing Bruce’s boxers off his hips.
He stepped out of them and Tony tossed them onto the couch with the robe before crouching at Bruce’s feet. It felt strange to be standing with Tony bent in front of him, but then there was smooth, cold metal locking around each ankle, and a chain from each was drawn up and around his waist. Tony locked it all in place so that it fastened just below his navel, and the two chains trailed down on each side of his half-hard cock. Even the slightest movement made the metal slide over his sensitive skin, and he could feel every link that rubbed against the inside of this thighs.
Bruce could feel himself slipping down into that comfortable, fuzzy place where nothing mattered but Tony’s touch on his skin and the sound of his voice.
“Still with me?” Tony asked as he stood.
Bruce nodded and took a step closer towards Tony to close the small distance between them. The chains jingled as he moved, and Bruce could see Tony’s eyes half-close in the shadowed light of the reactor and hear his breath hitch next to his ear. Tony grabbed the chains between the wrist cuffs and the collar and took a deliberate step back, pulling Bruce with him. Bruce followed without question.
“Good boy,” Tony coaxed, moving slowly backwards.
He wasn’t restricted, not really, but there was no way to ignore the feel the cuffs and the sound of the chains as he walked. His skin was so flushed with heat that he didn’t even feel the cool draft of the shop air, though he did shiver for an entirely different reason.
“Stop,” Tony said suddenly. “Right there. Don’t move. JARVIS, gonna need your help here.”
Bruce bit back a whimper when Tony let go of the chains and left him standing alone in the middle of the shop. It grew dark as the light left with him. But then the ceiling panels slid back. He looked up, expecting to see the dim shapes of JARVIS’s assembly array, but instead there was a large steel X lowering down on four chains. Bruce gasped.
So…that’s what Tony had been up to every night?
The light returned, muffled behind a bundle that Tony carried in his arms.
“I wanted to wait until it was finished,” he said. “I haven’t connected these yet.” Tony shook out the bundle to reveal long straps of leather, lined in shearling. “But we’ll make do.”
Bruce looked to the cross, now level with the ground, to the straps and to Tony. His smile was soft, though the reactor threw strange shadows on his face so that he looked positively wicked.
“Please…” Bruce said before he could catch himself.
Tony reached over and gave the chain a short jerk, pulling Bruce closer. “Please what?” he demanded.
Bruce bit his lip and shook his head, burying his face against Tony’s shoulder. Tony held him close and stroked his back, up and down slowly.
“Please stop?” Tony teased.
Bruce shook his head. Tony laid his cheek against Bruce’s head. “What are your safe words?” he asked.
“Good boy. JARVIS is fast. He can get this cross to the ground in seconds, ok? We’ve practiced.”
As he spoke, Tony pushed Bruce away just enough so he could unsnap the chains from the cuffs. He was silent as he lined Bruce up with the vertical cross and began to strap him in. There were anchor points where the straps would be permanently connected, but for now Tony just looped the leather around Bruce’s body and the metal, securing the buckles tightly. It felt different than the ropes they had used before. The soft padding was warm and comfortable, and the wide strap put less pressure on his skin than the ropes. Tony had designed this so he could be restrained for hours without fear of losing circulation. The thought made him shudder.
Tony smirked and drew the leather tighter. His arms were secured around his biceps and his forearms, leaving his wrists more or less free so that Tony could see the silver cuffs. More straps went around his upper thighs, and Bruce’s cock hardened even more when calloused fingers tickled the crease where his groin met his legs. Tony cupped his ass from behind, too, and brushed a persistent finger down his crack and across his entrance. Two more lengths of leather crossed Bruce’s chest, and the last one went around his waist.
Tony stepped back to admire his handiwork. He stared for a long time, and Bruce felt like he would explode under the scrutiny.
“Color?” he asked.
“Green,” Bruce said, his voice low and husky with desire.
“Good. Up, JARVIS.”
Bruce’s breath caught in his throat and his weight pulled against the leather as his feet left the ground. He was raised up, up, almost to the ceiling so that he had to hang his head to see Tony below him.
Tony’s hands dropped to his sides and just stared.
“I could keep you up there forever,” he said, his voice full of awe. “I might just do that. Keep you up there while I work, safe and sound and waiting for me.”
Bruce’s breath quickened and he could feel his cock start to leak. He shook in his bonds, not out of fear or pain, but just to test them, just to feel them press into his skin and hold him, open and vulnerable.
“No, not just like that. I’ll put a vibrator up your ass, so you have something to keep you entertained. And then see how long you last up there.”
Bruce whimpered and struggled some more. Tony inhaled sharply and reached down to rub at the bulge in his pants.
“Not tonight, though. JARVIS, bring him down slowly, face down.”
The chains at Bruce’s feet pulled up first until he was face down, staring at the floor. His weight shifted so that he could feel the strain of the straps holding him against gravity. The sensation was unsettling, as if he could drop at any moment, but he trusted Tony’s designs. And then the entire mechanism lowered, bringing him down towards the tile below inch by inch.
When it reached the level of Tony’s shoulder, he reached up and grasped the bar by Bruce’s left wrist to guide it the rest of the way down. He stopped it when it was just a few feet from the ground, dangling level with his waist.
“Turn him over.”
The cross moved again, and Bruce gasped as one side gave way and he was turned sideways. He tried to peer up as he turned, wondering how sophisticated the gears in the ceiling were to be able to switch the position of the chains like that. But there wasn’t enough light to see much of anything.
Tony scrambled around, taking up the slack chain from the side that fell loose and positioning it correctly so it could pull tight again until Bruce was level on his back. He felt strangely unbalanced with his legs and arms pressed into the metal bars, and he had to lift his head to keep it from falling backwards.
There was the rustle of cloth as Tony removed his clothes. Bruce had to strain his neck to watch him walk around the cross until he was standing at Bruce’s head. Strong fingers stroked through Bruce’s hair and pulled tight.
“Good boy,” Tony praised as he pulled Bruce’s head down until his mouth was forced open. “That’s my good boy. Open up.”
And then Tony’s cock was sliding between his lips and the fingers in his hair tightened even more. Tony’s cock was lined up perfectly to slide straight down his throat as he pushed in deeper.
“Relax, Snowflake,” Tony said. “You’re so good. You feel so good.”
The fingers in his hair relaxed and switched position so that his head was cradled, held in just the right way so that Tony could fuck his throat. Bruce concentrated on relaxing, letting Tony do the work and take his pleasure as he pleased, but his eyes watered with the strain and tears dripped down his temples into his hair.
Tony pulled out and Bruce gasped for breath. “Shh,” Tony soothed as he flicked away the tears. “Good boy. Just a little more.”
Bruce opened his mouth again when he felt Tony’s cock press against his lips, and he let him back in. This time, he closed his lips around Tony and hollowed his cheeks.
“Yes,” Tony moaned. “Oh, Brucie, I’m going to lose myself.”
Tony pulled out again with a wet pop, and Bruce whimpered in between breathless pants.
“Over again,” Tony directed.
He was flipped over onto his front again, which was nice because his neck was starting to feel sore from the strain of hanging backwards. Bruce rolled his shoulders as much as he could, and Tony rubbed the ache out of his neck.
Then he walked around to the back of the cross, trailing his fingers down Bruce’s back and across his ass so that Bruce knew he was there, even if he couldn’t turn his head enough to see him. He felt Tony stop between his spread thighs, and he let his head hang down so that he could see Tony’s legs and feet on the floor.
There was the sharp sound of a bottle cap being opened and Bruce knew what was coming next. He was hard and aching, and the feeling of being held so completely open made him want to be filled. So he groaned in relief when two slick fingers slid inside of him, twisting and turning until he wanted to scream.
The fingers were gone, and Tony’s blunt cock pressed against him. His muscles burned as they were stretched, but then the head forced its way inside and the rush of endorphins made Bruce convulse in his bonds.
Tony chuckled a bit and kneaded his ass with both hands, pulling his cheeks further apart. And then Tony pushed his body forward a little so the entire cross swung on its chains, and when he let go, gravity took over and swung him back, impaling him further onto his cock.
Bruce gasped and moaned as Tony rocked him back and forth, using his own momentum to fuck him deeper and deeper. Bruce had no control, no leverage at all, and he felt his entire body give up and give in to the relentless rhythm as Tony sped up and began to slam into him, swinging him forward and backwards as Bruce moaned brokenly. Bruce came, spilling all over the floor of the shop, and Tony kept going right through his orgasm as Bruce hung limply, tears dripping down his face. Tony stiffened and pulled Bruce closer, even deeper than before, and came, hot and wet inside of him.
Tony’s knees buckled and for a minute there was only the sound of both of them panting. Then, slowly, Tony pushed himself underneath Bruce, heedless of the sticky mess on the floor, until he was lying on his back, looking up at him in the blinding light of the arc reactor. Tony reached up and traced the tear tracks on his face. There were matching marks on Tony’s face.
Without a command from Tony, the cross lowered down until he was lying on Tony’s chest, the weight of the bar pressing them close together.
“Good boy,” Tony said breathlessly.
He wrapped his arms all the way around Bruce, the bar, the restraints, everything together.
Stay tuned for the last chapter, and an announcement!
Clint kept his eyes closed under the blindfold and took a deep breath, in and out.
Loki pressed a small kiss against his neck; Clint knew this meant this spot would be sucked and grazed and bitten raw later. For now it was light, and soft, and painless.
Rope swiped over his chest and tugged him back to pin him against the back of the chair. It tightened, then tightened again, and again as Loki secured the knots; it started hurting right on the painful edge of good, not asphyxiating but still too tight to ever be ignored. Clint’s wrists had been bound first, behind the back of the chair; he twisted them a little, then took another breath, in and out, when Loki tied his ankles together then slipped a rope under the chair to connect them to his wrists. The connecting rope was too short and Clint had to arch back—but by doing so, he was pushing against the ropes holding his torso pressed against the back of the chair. The predicament was slight but very real, and he knew it would drive him insane eventually, slowly tearing down his resistance until he begged for the next step.
He didn’t need to be tied down for the interrogations—not anymore; but he would have been cruelly disappointed if Loki had just asked him a few questions in passing. This—this meant earnestness and focus; this meant he would end up telling the entire truth, to the point of sometimes discovering he had lied to himself. He would talk: be it through clenched jaws or bloodied lips or choking sobs, he would talk.
“So,” Loki murmured.
Clint was still arching on the chair, pushing his hips up and forward so he wasn’t even exactly sitting down; he kept breathing deeply, regularly, in and out. He knew he would break in the end, but this was just the beginning. The forty lashes Loki had delivered as promised, with a soft suede flogger, were still burning on the skin of his back in a low buzz which helped his mind settle. Loki’s hands slowly slipped down Clint’s thighs.
“The last couple of days have been… unexpected.”
Clint took a deep breath, then shifted position for the first—but not the last, not by a long shot—time, straining against his own limbs so he could arch a bit less and relieve his spine. He was tugging at his ankles and wrists as hard as he could, shoulders and thighs strained, stretching his joints, and yet his ass was barely touching the seat of the chair.
Yeah. He was going to go insane.
“I was surprised,” Loki said. “I am not often surprised.”
“Thought you knew about the Conjunction,” Clint murmured.
“The Conjunction was not what surprised me.”
Loki’s hands rubbed Clint’s knees, then started going up his thighs again. “I left you alone with Banner twice. Did you talk to him?”
“What did you tell him about me?”
“I told him…”
Clint paused to think.
“I told him you took control whether I liked it or not.”
“Hm. And ?”
“I told him…”
Both Loki’s hands were back on his thighs and rubbing down again.
“I told him I hated you,” Clint breathed.
“I see,” Loki said lightly.
“And I told him I loved you.”
Clint arched even more. “I told him I needed you. Told him you made me better. Told him I trusted you even to kill me.”
He could tell Loki was smiling a bit mockingly by the tone of his voice. “Did you really tell him all those things?”
“Not all of it out loud, sir,” Clint admitted.
Loki chuckled. “Well, he did hear them anyway.”
He kissed Clint’s neck again, then his mouth, still soft and gentle. Clint was starting to strain seriously—he was stronger, but it changed nothing here, since the pain was inflicted by his own weight and strength. He let out an almost inaudible whimper when Loki pulled back, which made the demi-god laugh. “Already, Barton?”
He was rubbing his thighs again, as if to encourage him to bear the torture. “Now. What else did you tell him?”
Clint thought and thought, but there was only one thing left. “I told him I could have stopped you if things went too far.”
“Ah.” Loki’s voice turned predatory. “And was that the truth?”
Clint could not stop Loki. But he could trust him never to go too far. It was Clint’s vow, and Loki’s responsibility; Clint’s lock, and Loki’s key.
“It was simpler to lie.”
Loki laughed under his breath and kissed him again, longer and deeper.
“I had Banner,” he said when they parted.
“I know, sir.”
“By the end of it—I had him in the palm of my hand.”
“I know, sir.”
“But you had me.”
“You made it all possible. You trusted me with your friends. You made them trust me. Towards the end, all I could hear was Stark’s moans as he struggled not to beg you for mercy.”
He was so close, a leather-clad weight pressed against Clint’s bent, naked body.
“And you had me,” he repeated in a breath.
Then his voice was amused again. “Say it.”
“I have you,” Clint murmured. “I have you. I—”
Loki kissed him again, silencing him, and this time, Clint surged against him, pushed as much as his bonds would allow, let the ropes dig into his body and torture his flesh just so he could return this kiss, hold it for another second, another tight second of straining perfection.
Tony watched Bruce sleep in the late afternoon sun, sprawled out bonelessly across the wide bed. Bruce didn’t normally nap so late, but Tony had kept him busy after they moved the cross from the workshop to its permanent installation in the penthouse bedroom. The silver collar on Bruce’s neck glinted in the sunlight as he yawned and stretched in his sleep, and the chains jingled like wind chimes when he turned over.
Bruce was beautiful with nothing but silver draped over his naked skin. Tony abandoned the tablet he was working on and sat gingerly on the bed next to Bruce. He let his fingers skim along the edge of the collar, feeling the warmth of the edge where it touched Bruce’s skin. Bruce sighed and shifted again in his sleep, exposing the healed brand on his shoulder.
Tony thought of Loki. He often did, these days, just fleeting thoughts of the demi-god in odd times. Sometimes when he saw Clint, he would wonder again how, exactly, that Other Loki and Other Clint had found each other. He really wished he'd asked for the full story when he had the chance.
A lot of the time, he thought of Loki when he watched Bruce and saw how different he was now. It was like their experience had unlocked a door inside of Bruce and he had more space to live in his own body.That alone was precious. Bruce had a lot of locked doors. But, still, it was strange to think he had Loki to thank for it.
Most of the time, though, he thought of that last conversation with Loki. If Other Loki felt like killing himself while he was locked away, then what did that mean about theirLoki?
Tony looked down at Bruce, trying to distract himself with the soft hair on Bruce’s arms.
He had come so close to losing Bruce. It wasn’t the same, Tony told himself. He traced the length of chain that lay coiled innocently on the bed. But...still…
Bruce yawned aloud and his eyes fluttered open. He smiled when he saw Tony then reached up to rub blearily at his eyes.
“How long have I been out?”
“About an hour. Go back to sleep if you want.”
But Bruce squirmed over so his head was in Tony’s lap and rubbed his cheek against his thigh.
“What are you doing?” he asked. “Other than watching me sleep.”
“Thinking about Loki.”
“Hmm…” Bruce didn’t seem bothered. In fact, he sounded a bit interested. “Which one?”
“About that kiss?”
Tony chuckled and ruffled Bruce’s hair. “Now I am.” A slight pang of guilt flashed through him. “You know, I kissed him again, in the library, before we left.”
“I kissed Clint goodbye,” Bruce admitted. He blushed and turned so he was looking up at Tony. “It didn’t mean anything,” he said seriously.
Tony laughed. “Liar. Yes it did. It just didn’t mean the same as this.”
And Tony held Bruce still by the collar and bent to kiss him thoroughly, sweeping his tongue across Bruce’s teeth and nipping at his lips.
“No,” Bruce said when they parted to breathe. “Not the same at all.”
There was a pause.
“You know,” Tony said in a low voice. “When we got back, I still couldn’t understand why he’d done this—all this. But now I think he was like… the lonely weird kid who throws a big party just to make friends, you know? It can come off as creepy and over-the-top but that's the only way he knows how to do things. And he's so proud when it works. So genuinely happy everyone trusted him to have fun.”
“Trust,” Bruce murmured.
He was quiet for a few moments.
Tony thought he had fallen asleep again. But then he said, “What did you two talk about before we left?”
Tony looked down at him through lowered eyelashes. “He wanted to know what became of him, here.”
“What did you tell him?”
“The truth. But then he wanted to know if he’d killed himself.”
Bruce sucked in a breath.
Tony put his hand on Bruce’s back, rubbing the smooth skin at the base of his spine. “And the worst part,” Tony continued, “is that we don’t even know. And I’m not sure if there’s anything we can do about it, whatever the truth is.”
“Yes, there is,” Bruce answered firmly. “We can take care of Clint for him. And we can do this.”
And Bruce pulled Tony down into a long, deep kiss before rolling him over into the soft sheets.
CharityLambkin: Thank you for coming along for the ride. And thank you to Nonymos for proposing the adventure and to Loki for letting us all play in his house. It's been a privilege and an honor.
Nonymos: Thank you for being so awesome, and thank you, Charity, for rolling with this crazy idea and making it better than I thought possible.
So! You had the chapter, now here's the announcement: Charity and Nonymos are getting marri... wait, no, not that one. The announcement is: From the Top, dear readers, is starting again! And it will be updated every two days just like before.
Again, thank you soooo much for reading and commenting! We were astonished by the response to this work! You're the absolute best!