Loki snickered behind his hand, but it was one of actual amusement and not one that clearly meant you had fallen into his trap. Tony Stark could barely believe it. His day had begun with Clint purposely bringing up Howard in front of Steve just to piss Tony off and was apparently ending with a surprisingly pleasant dinner with a supervillain. Even with a life as odd as his, Tony hadn't seen this one coming.
Tony didn't even know what he'd done to piss the archer off in the first place. Okay, that was a lie. He knew exactly what he'd done.
The genius ducked behind his coffee mug as his teammate stormed into the communal kitchen. It wasn't that he thought the piece of ceramic would actually hide him, it was just his natural reaction. Still, he felt a little betrayed when Clint's angry glare settled on him.
"What the Hell did you do to my bow?!"
Tony had never reacted well to accusations and that definitely sounded like an accusation. He could almost feel the classic Stark Snark rear its ugly head.
"I fixed it, bird brain. Chill."
"It wasn't broken!"
"Psh, doesn't mean it doesn't need fixing. That thing could have been made by Hammer! Trust me, it's much better now."
Surprisingly, that didn't seem to reassure the archer at all.
"That doesn't mean you can just take it without permission! That bow is important to me, Tony!"
And, okay, Tony could totally see his point there, but he was still a Stark. As his father had always told him, Starks didn't apologize.
"Whatever, man. You'll be thanking me once you've tried it."
For a moment, Tony thought Clint might actually explode from anger. It didn't make him feel much better when the archer suddenly smiled instead. Without saying another word to the genius, he backed out of the door and left. Tony sipped his coffee suspiciously and didn't dare leave. It was almost ten minutes later that Clint re-entered the kitchen, talking animatedly with Cap.
"No way! That's crazy!" He turned to Tony, beaming as though he hadn't been yelling at him just minutes before. "Tony! Did you know your dad flew Steve across enemy lines on his first mission as Captain America? Talk about awesome! Say, can you pilot a plane?"
It had been a low blow, one Clint knew was a sure-fire way to get under the genius's skin. Tony still felt a rush of anger just thinking back on it. He'd meant well, even if he'd gone about it the wrong way. There'd been no reason to bring his father into things. (And, just for the record, Tony Stark could fly a plane…if he wanted to…he'd just never done so before.)
Luckily Steve, Clint's unwitting accomplice, figured out what was going on pretty quickly and put a stop to it. Tony had fled immediately to hide in his lab. He hadn't intended to come out for at least 12 hours, but life had other plans. The call for the Avengers to assemble had come in less than two hours later, just after 10AM.
Both Clint and Tony had been in sullen moods throughout the entire flight to Disney World where Loki was busy creating illusions of various villains from the classic movies and letting them run amuck. On any other day, Tony probably would have gotten a kick out of the whole thing and possibly even applauded Loki's efforts. As it was, he was too caught up in his anger to really care about anything else.
Still, he'd chastised himself, Clint had a point about Tony needing to ask permission before taking people's things. He'd been doing a lot of growing up since becoming Iron Man. Maybe it was time to be an adult and let this go. He didn't have to apologize, just not hold the fact that Clint had brought up Howard against the archer.
At the very least, it wasn't a decision he would have to make right away. Clint was a professional and the team was in the middle of a serious situation. There was no way Clint would let what had happened cause an even bigger problem in the middle of the fight…at least not for the first five minutes apparently.
Tony spun through the air, doing a quick loop around an opponent before firing a repulsor into Captain Hook's back. The one-handed pirate disappeared in a cloud of smoke, much as it seemed any of them would do once hit. The issue didn't come from being hard to destroy, it was just that Loki kept making MORE of them.
Steve's shield flew past to destroy Scar, who'd been leaping from on top of a building to attack Tony from behind. The inventor scooped it up and dropped it back off to its owner as he tackled the writhing mass of tentacles that was four individual Ursalas who had teamed up to cover each other's backs.
"Thanks for the save, Capsicle."
Tony figured he owed the man some curtesy after how quickly he'd handled the situation that morning. He was almost feeling good about the situation before Clint's voice had cut across the coms.
"Might want to check that shield, Cap. You never know what Stark might have done to it behind your back."
Tony had to grit his teeth to keep from making an angry retort. He took up repeating a mantra in his head of, 'You are an adult. You will not take his bait. You will let this go. You are an adult.' Maybe if he said it enough times, he'd actually feel like it was the truth.
What had followed throughout the fight was a series of jabs by Clint over the open coms. He criticized everything from Tony's battle strategies to his interactions with the other Avengers. The archer ignored any attempts by Steve or the others to get him to knock it off, even Natasha. Still, Tony could have handled it, (he'd been called worse, after all) except Clint had once again turned to the one sore spot that Tony would never be able to ignore.
"Jesus, Stark! This bow is a piece of shit! I can hardly use it!" That was a lie, the archer was shooting even more targets than he normally did, using Tony's added features with abandon. "No wonder you Dad thought you were a failure!"
Tony distantly heard Steve yell at Clint to go back to the helicarrier, that he wasn't going to be needed for the rest of this fight, that they'd be having a long talk when they got back to the Tower. It didn't register in Tony's brain, though. Clint's last sentence was just playing over and over again in his mind. Rage coursed through his veins, wiping out any thoughts of letting things go or being an adult. If Clint could aim for sore spots, so could Tony.
He switched on his repulsers and rocketed towards the sky where Loki and Thor were battling it out, leaving his own opponents behind. He pulled up right next to the pair, not even taking a moment to consider the repercussions of what he was about to do. His com link was left open. After all, it just wouldn't do if the others couldn't hear what was about to happen.
"Mind if I cut in?"
"Friend Tony, I do not wish for you to do something fooli-"
"Not to worry! I just want to ask Frosty here a question. I promise it won't take long."
Loki was looking at him with one eyebrow raised, seeming intrigued.
"Ask it, then. Perhaps, if you are lucky, I will even give you an answer."
A grin split across Tony's face, he was enjoying this already.
"Want to get dinner with me tonight? I know this great Italian place I think you'd love."
The coms suddenly burst into an uproar, but Tony wasn't done yet. Oh, no, Clint deserved so much worse than that.
"My, Stark, are you asking me on a date?"
"You bet your supervillain ass I am. How does seven sound? I'll pick you up at your evil lair?"
Amusement lit up Loki's face and he waved a hand, casually dismissing all of the illusions below.
"My apartment will suffice, I think. I will send you my address…once SHIELD is not listening in, of course."
And, okay, so Tony hadn't actually been expecting Loki to agree, but there was no way he was backing out after he did. He was Tony Stark, like Hell he was going to let someone call his bluff…even if he ended up dead.
Loki disappeared after agreeing to go on the date, so the battle was technically over. In the interest of avoiding a lecture from Steve, and probably everyone else, Tony had decided to fly off on his own and lock himself in the lab before any of the others could reach the Tower. He put the labs on lockdown and told JARVIS to hold any calls that didn't come from an Unknown number…or Loki. He wasn't really sure how the God intended to contact him.
At exactly four in the afternoon a ball of fire burst to life over Tony's desk, Tony himself toppling out of his chair with a shout of surprise. The simple note left in its place held an address and nothing else. Well, he hadn't known Loki could do that!
Tony stared up at the high rise before glancing down to check the address in his hand. He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting Loki's apartment to look like, but it certainly wasn't this. This was clearly a place for people with money, and lots of it. In fact, Tony was pretty sure he owned a loft in Chicago that was in a pretty similar-looking building.
The doorman opened the gold-plated door without hesitation, bobbing his head in Tony's direction to acknowledge him. As soon as the genius's foot hit the marble floor of the lobby, a man in a suit approached him with a smile.
"Ah, Mr. Stark, what a pleasure to meet you. Mr. Smith informed us that you would be coming. I am Gustav, Head of Staff."
Tony smiled and chatted, letting the man lead him to the elevators and watching as he hit the button for the top floor. Loki lived in the penthouse, then, not bad. He supposed he shouldn't have expected any less from a prince. A voice in the back of Tony's head that sounded suspiciously like Natasha warned that this could still be a trap, but it just didn't seem like Loki's style.
When the elevator reached the top floor, Gustav motioned for Tony to exit while making no move to do so himself. Apparently the elevator ran right into the apartment and only Gustav and Loki had the key to access it. The place was lavishly furnished, expensive furs thrown over the back of leather couches, vases that looked older that Tony's great-grandfather…It was all very Loki.
As Tony was taking in the sights, the god in question appeared in the doorway of what Tony could only assume was a hallway that lead to the bedrooms. He was dressed impeccably in a long tailored suit with a green scarf. His hair was longer than it normally appeared and hung over one shoulder in a thick braid. Wire-rimmed glasses were perched on his nose and Tony couldn't help but smile.
"Mr. Smith, I presume?"
A mischievous smirk crossed the other's face.
"Please, call me Lyle."
The memory of Loki's play on words still brought a smile to his face. He looked at his dining companion only to see that the god had one brow arched.
"It seems that I lost you there for a minute."
"Sorry, I was just thinking."
"I take it you didn't hear my question, then?"
"Uh…no…Mind repeating it?"
Loki snorted a laugh.
"Is it true you once built a bomb out of rubber bands, Midguardian confections, and household cleaners?"
Now it was Tony's turn to snort…right into his wine glass. He dabbed at his mouth with a napkin before answering.
"You mean that time Hammer actually managed to kidnap me and demanded I make him weapons? He said he would bring me anything I needed, the idiot. I can't believe he really thought that would work."
"So you did build it, then?"
"Well, sure, had to get out of there somehow. I only used the rubber bands and the cleaners for the bomb, though. The Twinkies were to eat." He sent Loki a wink. "So, do you ever think about teaming up with Doom? There's been some talk of it around SHIELD, but I just don't see it happening."
"You'd be correct. The man is completely incapable of normal speech patterns, not to mention all of his plans leave holes in them the size of a Volstagg's stomach."
Tony didn't get the reference, but he laughed anyway. He knew what Loki meant.
"You're right about that. His plans never give us as much trouble as yours do."
"Resorting to flattery already, Stark? The main course hasn't even arrived yet."
"Not flattery. Fact." Tony leaned forward and looked Loki dead in the eye. "Your plans are perfectly designed to lead us right where you want us to go…well, almost perfectly, at least. We always seem to win out in the end."
Loki's smile was soft, and his gaze far away.
"Yes…you certainly seem to…"
"Anyway, you might want to try your hand as a consultant."
Loki's brows furrowed in confusion. Tony had to admit it was kinda cute.
"Yeah, like, other supervillains could hire you to plan their world domination plots or something…actually, never mind. Don't do that. That would make my life so much more difficult."
"Oh, Stark…I do believe that would be rather the point."
Their conversation continued as their food came and they settled in to eat. Loki had gotten some seafood dish Tony couldn't pronounce the name of and he'd gotten Rigatoni alla Vodka. The only part of that he'd understood was Vodka, but it was apparently a pasta and sausage dish with tomato sauce. It was also delicious.
They were halfway through dessert before Loki asked a question that nearly made Tony drop his fork. He closed his eyes for a moment to regain control of himself. He normally didn't react so poorly, it was just that he hadn't been expecting it. Loki immediately looked alarmed.
"My apologies. I shouldn't have asked."
Tony shook his head and set his utensil aside. One shaking hand rose to cover his chest where the Arc Reactor was. He'd worn a cover of it to conceal the light, but it still jutted out just a bit. His thumb traced the side in a stroking motion.
"No, no, it's alright. I just don't…talk about it much."
Loki inclined his head in acknowledgement, but didn't otherwise respond. His eyes followed the movement of Tony's hand.
"I, uh, I was captured by a group of terrorists a few years ago, back before Iron Man. Back then I sold weapons and, without my knowledge, they were also being sold to the enemy."
Good God, was he really talking about this? With Loki? He didn't even talk to Bruce about this.
"During the attack, a missile went off near me. It was one that I made and it sent a whole bunch of tiny metal pieces into my chest. Another prisoner there saved my life by hooking a car battery up to a magnet and sticking it in my chest."
Loki had completely abandoned his own dessert, focusing his entire attention on the man across from him. If Tony didn't know better, he might of thought there was actually concern in his eyes.
"They wanted me to build weapons for them. When I refused, they tortured me." There was a tightening around Loki's mouth, but Tony knew that if he stopped talking now he wouldn't be able to start again. "They held me under water until I nearly drowned and then repeated the process before I could even catch my breath."
"But they did not kill you."
Loki's voice was soft, almost gentle, and Tony felt the corner of his mouth twitch upwards just a bit.
"No, they didn't. Eventually I agreed to build them the missile they wanted. Instead I built the miniaturized arc reactor and my first suit."
"And you escaped."
"Yeah…Yinsen, the man who was there with me, who saved my life, didn't make it. He didn't follow the plan!"
Tony knew he was getting mad, but he couldn't help it. Why couldn't Yinsen have just waited? He could have gotten them both out of there! He knew he could have!
A cool hand reached across the table to rub soothing circles in the back of Tony's clenched fist. The genius blinked down at it in surprise before realizing Loki was comforting him. Then he blinked again from a whole new round of surprise.
"I pulled a prank for Thor almost four centuries ago. He was betrothed at the time to Lady Sif, a warrior woman of great status and skill. She was a friend of his and he had no desire to marry her. He asked me to help him…I turned her golden hair black as night and spread a rumor that she had been cursed by creatures of Helheim, making her a half-demon. Any man she lay with would fall under a spell that would bind them to her will."
The thumb on the back of Tony's hand continued to rub circles, but Loki's gaze was a thousand miles away.
"The All-Father, of course, figured out my trick, but it was too late. The fear had taken root in the hearts of the Aesir. They would no longer stand for Thor and Sif to be married, even when told the truth. Thor would not speak in my defense, too afraid of Odin's punishments."
Loki's voice turned bitter and, without thinking, Tony turned their hands so that it was now he rubbing soothing circles on Loki's. The god took a shuddered breath before continuing.
"My own children chose to speak in my defense, though I did not know of their plans until it was too late. If they had not associated themselves, perhaps…" He couldn't seem to find the words to continue. When he spoke again, it was with the start of a new sentence. "Odin decreed that my punishment would be the loss of my children. He banished them to the distant Realms, forbidding me from seeking them out. Now, though I am no longer under his thumb, I do not have the tools at my disposal with which to find them…"
Tony hadn't even known Loki had kids, but the shock of that didn't even scratch the surface of his mind. The pain on the god's face was so sharp, he knew Loki still felt the pain of his loss every single moment. In an instant, the genius was out of his chair and wrapping his arms around him. After stiffening initially, Loki relaxed into the hold. After a few moments of silence, Loki spoke again in much more controlled tones.
"I don't talk about that much, either."
"Well," Tony said, forcing a grin, "I think it's safe to say that both those stories sucked. I usually try and save the heavy stuff for the third date, at least."
After that, the mood had lightened a bit. Neither of them had the appetite to finish their desserts, but Tony figured he probably shouldn't be eating the calories anyway. (Between Pepper, Steve, and Bruce, hardly a day went by without a talk about how he needed to eat healthier.) Tony paid when the bill came, he was, after all, a gentleman, and they made it back to Loki's apartment without incident.
As he pulled up outside the high rise, Tony found himself fidgeting in his seat. For the first time in a long time that didn't involve a supervillain attack or a mountain of paperwork, Tony felt nervous. Loki, clearly noticing his behavior, smirked knowingly.
"Yes, Anthony? Something you wish to say?"
"Oh, it's Anthony now?"
"Well, we seem to have gotten familiar enough with each other for the change. Now, do not attempt to distract me."
Tony couldn't help grinning.
"I was just hoping, you know, that maybe we could do this again sometime."
Loki's smirk morphed into a smile and it was amazing how much it changed his face.
"I think I'd like that."
And then Loki leaned across the center console of Tony's car to press a quick kiss to his cheek. Before the genius could react, Loki was out of the car. His smirk was back in place.
"Do give Hawkeye my warmest regards, wouldn't you?"
Tony wore a matching smirk.
"Oh, believe me, it will be my pleasure."