Chapter 1: recovery stage one
“Steve, Steve, you don’t need to—I know where everything is, I practically lived here last summer, remember?”
Tony fixed Steve with one of his best what-are-you-doing-man stares as Steve scratched the back of his neck awkwardly, grinning despite it, standing there in his kitchen with no socks, no shoes, sweats and a plain shirt, looking unassuming and embarrassed as hell with Tony Stark glaring him down, trust Steve Rogers to grin anyway.
“Sorry, Tony, I know. It’s just sort of cool to have you around permanently, I guess.”
Tony rolled his eyes. Well, shit, he couldn’t be pissed off at him now. “Uh. Yeah, it—Just like old times, right?” He said, in an almost distracted tone as he looked around the apartment. Everything was so very Steve, and it was… oddly comforting to him, at the moment.
“I’ll leave you to get settled in, then, yeah? I gotta shower and get to class…” Steve straightened up, still grinning, walking around Tony toward the door into the hallway, pausing on the threshold. “Don’t forget you have to go in later, registration’s today for you.” He said, index finger raised and pointed right at Tony, before disappearing.
Tony stayed where he was for a few moments, staring around Steve’s kitchen, mostly neat with a few plates stacked up at the sink, a glass of water still sitting out, photographs of people Tony didn’t recognise covering the fridge. There was more photos around the TV stand, some textbooks and newspapers littering the couches. Tony gave a small smile. Steve still bought newspapers. He heaved a heavy sigh and stuffed his hans into his pocket, following Steve’s footsteps into the hallway toward the spare-room-turned-Tony’s-room.
Transferring had gone a lot easier than Tony’d expected it to, but then again everything like this tended to go smoothly when people heard his name, and followed up with the inevitable, “Is your father Howard Stark?” He’d been living away from home for two years now but that still got to him. Back home, with an apartment of his own, and a job of his own even though his mother insisted he needn’t bother, he was still known as Howard’s son. Made sense that it followed him a four hour drive away, right? Right.
After an hour of waiting in three different queues, signing his name at three different desks, waiting for fifteen minutes to have his photograph taken for his student ID, he was now sat in a bench outside the college, donut in one hand, timetable/map in the other. It wasn’t like the place was that big, but he supposed it made them feel impressive to hand out a map anyway. The fact that it was small enough to fit on the same page as his timetable sort of cancelled that out, though. He narrowed his eyes behind his sunglasses at the page, taking note of his breaks, and the fact that he had no classes on a Monday. Not all bad, then.
Hating the involuntary jump he gave at someone shouting his name suddenly, he rearranged his grip on the donut he’d almost dropped and looked up, frowning, to see Steve coming wandering over the green, massive grin in place as usual, but followed by a small group of people all fixing Tony with a stare he couldn’t decide was supposed to be curious or condescending. Either way he hated them right away. He waved a donut-filled hand once, looking back down his paper, waiting for Steve to approach.
“Hey,” he said, slightly out of breath as he dumped himself into the empty space on the bench beside him, and Tony could actually hear the smile in his voice. It was infectious, and though he wouldn’t admit as much out loud, it was kinda nice to have one friend who was that excited to see him. “Why aren’t you at orientation?”
Tony gave a one shouldered shrug, deciding to look up. “Seemed boring. Gonna meet everybody eventually, right, why waste an afternoon watching people stood awkwardly in a gym hall shuffling around with cups of tea and stupid—“
“Okay, okay, I get it,” Steve said, giving a laugh and patting Tony on the shoulder. “We have a three hour break, you should hang out with us for a while, we’ll show you around.”
Tony held up his map pointedly, but shot Steve’s company a quick glance, knowing Steve would catch it.
“Oh, god, sorry, I forgot, I—“ Steve sat forward, reddening at his cheekbones, and Tony gave a small smile. “Guys, this is Tony, the friend I told you all about.”
The first one to approach Tony was… well, he was huge. Inches taller than Tony, massive arms, exposed by the vest the guy must totally know was flattering for that reason. He held out a big hand, and Tony set his paper down, rising to his feet as he shook it, giving a bemused, lop-sided smile at the grin as big as the rest of him, and the impossible blonde hair.
“Steve’s new roommate!” He boomed happily, giving Tony’s had a hard shake.
“This is Thor,” Steve said, with the inflection of an explanation.
“Pleased to meet you,” Thor nodded, still grinning, still gripping Tony’s hand.
“Give him a little space, Thor, shit,” A shorter guy interrupted, shoving Thor a little with his elbow, before smirking at Tony. “Clint. And this is Tasha,” he added, looking to the—well, there was no other way to put it in Tony’s mind, but to the banging red-head with Clint’s arm curled around her waist. She gave a silent nod, the corner of her lip curling in a tiny smirk, and Tony made a mental note to stop staring, and nodded to both of them.
“Bruce, come over, will you?” Steve leaned over to look behind Thor, beckoning to someone there. Another guy about Tony’s height stepped forward, hands in his pockets, inclining his head politely. Every group has a quiet one. “This is Bruce.” Steve said, and Tony resisted the urge to point out that he heard him the first time.
“Uhm, hey.” Tony said after a moment, looking at each of them again.
“You have to join us,” Thor gave Tony’s hand another hard squeeze before releasing him and stepping back, still beaming at him. “You’ll be spending enough time here, come with us into town, let us show you round there.”
“I—uhh, I’ve been here a lot, actually, visiting Steve, so I know the place, but sure,” he added quickly, watching Thor’s expression fall a little, and Clint gave a chuckle. “Why not?”
Showing him around town apparently meant wandering aimlessly, stopping at every café they passed so that Thor could buy another—Tony wasn’t really sure what he was eating, but he was sure most of it wasn’t healthy. Tony didn’t follow most of what they talked about, people he didn’t know, nightclubs he only vaguely recognised the name of, classes he didn’t take and a weekend camping he hadn’t been to, so he stayed quiet most of the time, smiling if Steve looked his way, and nodding where appropriate. They stopped for a while under the city clock, sheltered from the still warm September sun by the trees planted around the fountain there while Thor finished a pop-tart, Tasha texted someone and Clint threw pebbles at pigeons, laughing every now and again while Bruce warned him if someone was watching, and Tony sat at the edge of the fountain, looking around at the stores and people passing by.
“You’re quiet.” Steve said from beside him suddenly, sitting down next to him and giving him a small smile that was either understanding or pitying, but Tony wasn’t sure which was worse.
“Yeah.” Was all he said, looking up.
“Fine.” Tony winced at how irritated he sounded, and flashed Steve a slightly apologetic smile. “Sorry. Yeah, I’m good, just taking it all in, you know.”
“Don’t worry,” Tony jumped and looked up to find that Thor had wandered over to stand in front of them, catching the tail end of the short conversation apparently, and deciding to interject with his opinion. “Some fun is all you need. Break-ups are rough, but distractions and fun are all you need. We should all meet up and take him out this weekend, right Steve?” Thor grinned ignorantly down at Steve, while Tony outright glared at his friend, who was looking from Tony to Thor, to Tony, to Thor, reddening more with every second.
“Uh, we—yeah, sounds good….” He replied quietly, looking away while Tony continued to glare, and Thor quieted, looking at each of them, catching up to the fact that something was off.
“Did I say somethi---“
“Nope.” Tony cut him off, standing up suddenly, pulling his sunglasses out of his pocket and shaking his head as he put them on. “Not a thing. Thanks for today but I think I’m done for now.” He was aware that Clint, Bruce and Tasha were all watching now, but he ignored them and Thor and leaned over to hiss quietly at Steve. “I’ll speak to you later,” before walking off, back in the direction he came, shadows of the trees flashing over him while he took a deep, steadying breath.
Half an hour later and he was back at Steve’s—well, their apartment now, technically, now that Tony had fully moved in and they’d started halving the rent, in his room, not the spare room, lying flat on his back on his bed and staring at the ceiling.
He shouldn’t be as annoyed at Steve as he was. He’d helped him out more than anyone over the last two months, and was actually the only person who continued to try after the first two weeks. Even Tony knew he was hard to deal with on a daily basis, but he’d turned into an outright asshole to everyone when the break-up happened, and where most of his then-friends took the other side or had the sense to tell him to fuck off, Steve had interrupted his summer break with his wonderful college friends to come home and keep an eye on him.
He’d stayed over at Tony’s most nights, followed him around bars when Tony took the notion to lose himself, and carried him home and fed him painkillers and carbs the next day. He’d sat through every stupid movie imaginable to give Tony a distraction that wasn’t destructive, taken him on day-long road trips even though Tony didn’t speak a word for the entire drive, forced him to eat when he was being a danger to himself by forgetting, and when it was so bad that Tony couldn’t sleep, couldn’t get his mind to slow down or to stop, Steve had even stayed with him entire nights, lying in the bed beside him and talking about everything and nothing to soothe him, while Tony lay with his back to him, focussing on breathing.
And when time was approaching for Steve to go back, when the first semester of the new year was starting, he’d talked to Tony’s parents and the three of them had arranged this whole move, the whole transfer; Tony was a year younger than Steve, but he’d go to Steve’s college, take Engineering there, and move into Steve’s apartment, where Steve could keep a constant eye. Fresh start, and all that shit.
So if Steve had decided to explain the situation to his friends, why he was suddenly disappearing on them for several weeks and bringing a roommate back with him, Tony really shouldn’t be so annoyed. But he couldn’t help it. Hearing someone he’d just met, mention it so casually—He took a deep, shaky breath to calm himself, staring at the ceiling and willing himself to stop being an idiot. He felt the weight of his phone in his pocket too much, too tempted to take it out and scroll to her name in his contacts, stare at it as he battled the temptation to phone. What would he even say if he did? There was nothing to say.
When he heard Steve’s key in the door, he closed his eyes and waited.
“…Tony?” He heard the tentative call, and opened his eyes again, breathing. He listened to Steve check the main room, heard him knock on the bathroom door, and then heard his slow, quiet footsteps approach Tony’s door. Tony counted to ten before he knocked. “Tony?”
The door creaked a little as Steve pushed it open enough to look in, then a little more as he walked slowly to the end of Tony’s bed, sitting down with his back almost to Tony, but turned a little, looking over his shoulder at him. “Tony, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything to…”
“Nah. Don’t worry about it Steve.” Tony answered, surprised by how calm his voice was, and looked over at Steve, giving him a small smile. “Just me being—being me, you know. It wasn’t a big deal.”
Steve watched Tony silently for a few moments. “I should’ve asked you first, though. So I’m sorry.”
“Steve,” Tony shook his head, smiling a tiny bit wider. “Stop trying to make it your fault. It’s no big deal. Really. I overreacted, I won’t do it again, end of story.”
Steve nodded, conceding, and neither of them moved or spoke for another few moments. “You should come out with us, though.” Steve suggested quietly. “We’re going to Thor’s for a few hours this tonight, I’m gonna change and leave then. Better than sitting here on your own, huh?”
Tony shook his head and took another heavy breath. “I’m good, I’m just gonna lie here. For a while. I’ll watch some TV, shower, sleep.”
When Tony suggested sleep of his own accord, it was normally a danger sign, but Steve had seen Tony do it a couple of times over the last month at least, in his slow recovery. Even so, Tony could almost feel the worry rolling from him like waves.
“I’ll make it back a little early anyway, ten or something. Promise to phone if you change your mind about staying here?”
Tony sighed as he recognised the hidden meaning in Steve’s words. Not, ‘if you change your mind about coming to Thor’s’, more like, ‘if you change you’re mind about staying in and start getting tempted to head off alone and find a bar,’. He nodded anyway. “Promise.”
Steve relaxed a little, gave a quiet sigh, and nodded as he stood up. “Good.”
Tony woke up the next day to a missed call and a text from his mother from the night before. Clearly he’d gone to sleep way too early to have missed that—he left his phone on silent when he was sleeping—and the back of his head felt heavy with sleep as he shuffled into the kitchen and went straight for the coffee. He opened the text when it was boiling.
[If you’re sleeping, don’t mind the missed call, we’ll talk in the morning. Was just looking for all the news from the first day xx]
He locked the keypad, making a mental note to call her once he’d had coffee and a shower to wake him up. He wasn’t in the mood for answering all her questions and pretending to believe her when she tried to give the impression his father was interested, too, he just clearly didn’t have the time to call, so she did it for both of them. All the time. Coincidence, Tony thought not.
Steve got up at some point while Tony was in the shower, and was eating a slice of toast with another newspaper in front of him when Tony poured himself more coffee, dressed with a towel over his shoulders.
“Your Mom called,” Steve said when he was finished chewing. “She wants you to phone.”
“She called you too? Shit, I was just in the shower, I hope you reminded her that a, like, fifteen minute delay doesn’t mean I’m dead.”
One of the best things about Steve was that he knew when Tony meant things to sound harsh and when he didn’t. Steve was like a second son to Maria Stark, which was always weird for Tony in that the two people who knew him better than anyone in the word knew each other just as well, but at least it meant neither Steve nor his mother took offence when Tony fake-snapped at either of them, and when he actually did snap, they gave as good as they got.
“I told her you have a break at noon and you’d call her then.” Steve replied, laughing. Tony didn’t even bother asking why Steve knew when his breaks were. “You also have a team module this morning; all first years have it for the first semester, to get to know each other.”
“Isn’t it optional?” Tony grumbled, landing in one of the chairs with a huff, coffee in hand.
“Yep, but I’m making you go.” Steve said cheerily, and Tony rolled his eyes.
Tony hated feeling awkward. Back home, pretty much everyone knew him on sight, and when he was himself, he had no problems whatsoever striking up a conversation with confidence. But here, while everyone knew his name or his father’s name, nobody knew him to look at. Which was refreshing, in some ways. He could easily tell the difference between someone being genuine and someone sucking up, but he’d rarely, if ever, faced the problem of feeling awkward in a room of people he didn’t know before.
He looked around the lecture hall, still standing in the doorway. Not that many people here, yet, so plenty of free spaces. He didn’t have the mood or the energy to explode into the room like he normally did, so for once, he went for a seat in the left isle because it was surrounded by mostly empty chairs.
He hated this. He hated not feeling himself, and not having the enthusiasm to muster up some of his usual charisma. He hated feeling like he was retreating to a corner, or like he was being pushed into the corner. Tony had split himself into before Pepper and after Pepper, and he hated Tony after Pepper. He had never been unsure of himself in this sense before Pepper. She’d told him he was either too much, or not enough, for people, and Tony after Pepper suddenly remembered all his personality flaws every ten or fifteen seconds when confronted with a room full of people.
The room filled up quickly over the next ten minutes, and it got worse. The seats in front and behind him were occupied slowly, and a few people had thrown a smile or a nod his direction, and Tony had thrown a half-assed attempt back at them, which apparently wasn’t good, since he was mostly ignored after that. He rolled his eyes to himself, and held back a sigh of relief when the year head finally stepped up to the front.
“Alright, everybody, quiet down and pay attention,” she called into the small mic, leaning over a little. It had obviously been last adjusted for a person shorter than her. “For the purpose of this module, you’ll all be calling me by my first name so we can all get real familiar, so hello, year one, I’m Hope.”
She paused there, and Tony wasn’t sure what she was expecting, but she received a tired, mumbled response, and sighed into her mic. “Yes, I know, everyone hates the cheesy team-building module, but my job is to make it less cheesy and more enjoyable, so hopefully only this first class will take place in this lecture hall. Today, we’re going to find out about each other, what we all like, and suffer it, because you only have me once a week. Depending on the progress we make today, other weeks will be split on stuff like movies, bowling…” she grinned as almost everyone in the room straightened at that. “Yeah, you’re all interested now, huh? Okay, we’re going to sta—“ Hope paused, looking up, and the students looked over their shoulders at the loud noise as the door opened suddenly. Latecomer, probably, Tony thought, looking away again. “Year one? Yes, take a seat, quickly, please, we’re about to begin.”
Hope continued speaking, and Tony sat his chin in his hand, looking down at the notebook in front of him, picking up his pen and scribbling on the front. He caught bits of what she was saying; she was going to hand out a short profile sheet, everybody fills it out, she shuffles them around, everyone gets each other’s, reads out what they ended up with… bla bla bla….
The profile sheet was even worse than he thought it would be, but he filled it out anyway, attempting to make his handwriting a little illegible in some places without letting it look like he’d done it on purpose, figuring he’d get a laugh at whoever ended up reading it out.
He honestly didn’t think he’d ever been so bored in his life, when they shuffled the pages and the reading started. It was comical, how each person stood to read with the same slow awkwardness, tugging at their sleeves in some cases, until about twenty minutes in, when people started calling out stuff like ‘Really? Me too!’ for hobbies or ‘I’ve been there on holiday,’ in response to names of hometowns. Tony had begun drawing a diagram of the inside of a handgun in his boredom, when they room fell silent and he looked up, wondering what he’d missed.
“I said I can’t read it.” A voice came from the other side of the room, in a bored and slightly irritated tone.
“Is it inappropriate?” Hope called from her mic, frowning curiously.
“No,” the voice repeated, as if speaking to a child. “I can’t read it. The handwriting is terrible. Admittedly, it’s legible in some areas but I’m not going to stand and read fragments while I try to distinguish English out of the rest of it.”
“…..Okaaaay…” Hope replied, frowning a little deeper, and Tony sat up straight, grinning. “Can you read the name?”
Tony looked over at a movement as the person she was addressing looked down to the piece of paper before them, then up again, rolling his eyes. “Tony.”
Tony hadn’t spotted him at registration yesterday, or if he did, he just didn’t remember. He sat back in his seat, in a black shirt, green on the inside, with the cuffs rolled up and turned over a little, revealing the little bit of color, opened a little at the collar, and he watched Hope through heavy lidded eyes, an eyebrow quirked almost condescendingly. He looked confident in the room, self-assured of his greater intelligence or something, and Tony grinned a little wider. He actually looked a little interesting.
“Tony what?” Hope asked, and the eyebrow went up a little higher, with no reply. “Right, right, okay. Do we have more than one Tony?”
Tony waited for a moment to see if anyone responded before him, and when nothing happened, he raised an arm halfway, leaning back and resting his elbow on the back of his seat, a little charisma returning to him at the challenge of entertaining or surprising the man behind the voice.
“Just me.” He spoke up, looking across the room rather than at Hope as the bored eyes fixed on him.
“Okay Tony,” Hope said, picking up a little. “How about you help him out? What’s your full name?”
Tony didn’t look away, and neither did the other man, and he watched his eyes closely for any hint of a reaction when he responded. “Tony Stark.”
A couple of people in the room made an interested noise, and a good few of them turned to get a look at him, but the person he was watching gave a sigh and looked away. Tony frowned.
“Tony Stark?” Hope repeated, smiling widely. “Tony, is your father--?”
“Yep.” Cut her off, frowning a little deeper as the man picked up the two books he’d brought with him and stood slowly, pretty tall, and stepped out onto the steps, pausing and leaving Tony’s profile on the desk almost as an afterthought, before making his way quietly toward the door while eyes were on Tony.
“Oh, well! Pity most of us know your age and about your hometown, then…” Hope said, looking down at what must’ve been a stencil of the profiles they’d filled out. “…and your family… You wanna tell everybody about your hobbies?”
“I think I’m done for the day, actually.” Tony said, standing and picking up his notebook before she could respond. “Good talk!” He added with a smirk as he took the steps two at a time, heading straight for the door.
He waited until he was out of the building entirely and on the green outside the college before he stopped and pulled out his phone, throwing his notebook on the grass and sitting cross-legged next to it.
“Steve, jesus,” Tony said, lying flat on his back. “You’re on a break, right? What’re you doing, I gotta get out of here.”
“Wh-- Yeah, I am, we’re at the cafeteria, but what’s wrong?”
“Eugh. Nothing. Well, people. It was so fucking boring, and it’s Friday, I don’t wanna spend my Friday--”
He heard Steve laugh on the other end. “Okay, well, where are you? We’re just waiting for Thor to finish then we’re leaving, we’ll come meet you.”
“Just on the green outside.”
“Okay, be there in five.”
Tony pulled himself into a sitting position again, not really wanting to be caught on his back in front of all Steve’s friends after storming off on them the day before. He flipped his notebook over, face down to hide the diagram of the gun, and pulled on his sunglasses while he waited, enjoying the gentle heat of the sun.
Tony heard them coming before he saw them, because shit, Thor’s voice could really travel. They rounded the corner of the building all at once, Thor with one arm around Clint’s shoulders and the other around Bruce’s, while Tasha walked behind them, smirking, and Steve walked in front, waving and grinning at Tony.
“Tony Stark!” Thor called, and Tony was really fucking grateful there weren’t many people around to hear him.
“Skipping class on your first day.” Clint shook his head, frowning sternly, but grinned after a moment, and some slight nervousness Tony didn’t realise was there loosened in his chest when he saw they weren’t pissed about the other day. Steve must have explained that, too, and this time Tony was pretty okay with it.
“What can I say,” Tony shrugged as everyone else settled on the grass, Steve sitting closest, deciding he’d make an effort in the conversation at least, this time. “You’ve been to that thing last year, right? Did you stay?”
“He didn’t even go.” Tasha answered for him, leaning against Clint a little. “Only Steve and Bruce went.”
“I went for an hour, on the very first class.” Thor said proudly, as if he’d achieved something difficult and should be rewarded, and having just spend about forty-five-minutes, Tony was ready to give him a trophy. “I hope my brother gets some use out of it, though.”
The entire group gave a nod and a non-committal “Mmm,” at that, and Tony frowned, looking at Steve for an explanation. “Thor’s brother is in your year,” he said. “He’s a little….”
“He’s difficult.” Thor said with a shrug. “He needs friends, he needs to get out more.”
“On the subject of getting out,” Clint said suddenly. “Since we’re already being a little delinquent, and we’ve only got philosophy later….”
“Cliiiint…” Bruce rolled his eyes, and Thor grinned.
“We didn’t finish yesterday’s game.”
Catching on, Tony narrowed his eyes as he considered his timetable. Marketing. Totally skippable. He looked over at Steve, a slow grin spreading across his face, and Steve sighed, shaking his head.
“I don’t know if they’re going to be a bad influence on you, or if you’re going to be a bad influence on them, but I can already tell this is the start of something I’m gonna severely regret.” He grinned when he said it, though, so Tony clapped him on the shoulder, grinning back, and Steve added, “Don’t forget to call your Mom!”
The others laughed while Tony groaned, and one by one, pausing every now and again in conversation, they gathered up their things and left the campus at a leisurely pace, and Tony forced himelf to forget his uneasiness for a few hours at least. Give it a chance, while you’re in the mood, Tony, could be good for you.
When did the responsible voice in his head become Steve’s?
It took them about forty minutes to get to Thor’s, and Tony hadn’t really been keeping track, but Steve decided to announce that fact when they arrived, and point out how it normally only look them twenty or twenty-five minutes.
“Shh, Steve, you’re used to me, give your friends some time to get used to my totally distracting personality.” Tony winked at him, feeling a little more like himself, and Clint whistled while Bruce chuckled. Thor was already marching through his kitchen for more food, and he had no idea where Tasha’d gone.
“Are you going to offer us any this time, Thor?” Bruce asked, wandering toward an armchair as Thor pulled out a multi-pack of popcorn. Thor’s response was to throw a bag in Bruce’s face as he entered and stretched out on the couch, pulling a PS3 controller out of nowhere.
“It was me last,” Clint called, dropping himself cross-legged on the floor near Thor and lifting a second controller, and Tony sat on the arm of Bruce’s chair, wondering if a bunch of twenty-one and twenty-two year olds skipping out to play video-games was something Tony before Pepper would’ve enjoyed. He didn’t think so, but this wasn’t bad. All it really needed was some beers.
“Thor,” a sharp voice suddenly snapped, and they all turned to look toward the stairs and Tony’s mouth fell open a little. He wasn’t wearing the shirt anymore, he’d changed into a black t-shirt that looked a little big for him, but that was definitely the dude from this morning. Everyone else looked away, but Thor sat up a little, looking over the top of the couch with some weird puppy-dog expression, and said, “…..Popcorn?”
Thor received a cold glare in response that lasted about five seconds, before apparently being dismissed as he turned and made his way back up the stairs. Thor sighed and lay back on the sofa, and mumbled, “He’s not even supposed to be home yet.”
“That’s your brother?” Tony asked quickly as it clicked.
“That was Loki, yeah,” Steve said, walking in from the kitchen and handing Tony a coffee, frowning. “Do you know him?”
“I—nah, I don’t I just—thanks,” he said, taking the coffee, and sipping to save himself from answering. Steve watched him for a few seconds, before getting distracted as Clint and Thor picked up on whatever Tony had missed the other day.
Tony watched, following for about fifteen minutes or so, but when it began to get monotonous, he fell back into his own thoughts and, inevitably, started to feel out of place. Steve’s presence was a slight comfort, but given time to sit and think, Tony found himself watching the others, wondering everything about them, wondering what impression they were getting of him, then looking around Thor’s place, everything unfamiliar, taking it in and feeling more and more uneasy as he did.
His thoughts eventually wandered on to Thor’s brother, who very clearly didn’t want all the people in his house, which sort of made Tony want to pick himself up and assert his presence even more after that morning. Loki seemed irritated and short with people on both occasions Tony’d run into him now, but in a way that caught his attention. Nobody was that obviously and outwardly bitter for no reason, especially in front of a room of strangers. He clearly looked down on the company at the module that morning, even the lecturer. Most people’s attention piqued when Tony’s name was mentioned, but Loki had sighed, looked away, dumped his profile on the desk and left. It was new…. And kinda interesting.
Tony blinked and looked over at Steve frowning at him from the couch. Thor must have sat up straight at some point and left a space for Steve to sit.
“Huh?” He asked, realising he was still holding his empty cup of coffee.
“You okay?” Steve raised his eyebrows.
“Yeah, yeah, fine, just—“ Tony waved a hand and shook his head. “Daydreaming, or whatever, sorry.”
Steve leaned over a little and lowered his voice. “We can go, if you want.”
“I’m fine, seriously.” Tony said, listening a little for any noise from upstairs and catching nothing. “Let’s stay put.”
The next week flew by before Tony even realised it was Friday again. He was used to pushing himself through each day, constantly watching the clock, counting down hours until the next day, even though he was just gonna do the same thing tomorrow anyway. He had a quiet weekend, for him, at least. They stayed at Thor’s until late, when Thor finally came down with a case of sore loser syndrome and Clint couldn’t help rubbing it in. Steve, being the responsible one, had decided to call it a night shortly afterward to save a physical fight. And just as Tony was beginning to place bets.
They met up with Thor and Bruce the next day, late afternoon, and Tony was ‘shown around’ again, but in a better mood this time. The conversation came a little easier, especially with Bruce, who Tony found to be quietly intelligent. He was too easy to annoy, and after a few hours Tony started to make that his thing; winding the guy up, then following with a wink to make everything okay again. Bruce seemed to enjoy it, weirdly enough. They ate out for dinner, and decided to head back to Steve and Tony’s afterwards, where they spent the night in with drinks, watching some random talent show and laughing at the contestants for an hour, before watching a few of Thor’s favourite, stupidly bad action movies that were actually a little okay with the pleasant buzz of alcohol. He woke up late on the Sunday, phoned his mother after spending around two hours waking himself up properly, then got some work done for the rest of the day, and Steve decided he wanted to cook a Sunday meal in the evening, which went a little wrong, but was a good cause for a laugh afterwards.
He kept an eye out in class for Loki, although for the first three days he refused to admit to himself that he was. He figured by the time Wednesday ended and he was sure that Loki was either skipping or not in any of his classes, he should probably admit that yeah, he was paying attention, but he couldn’t help it; he’d seen about thirty seconds of Loki, and spent hours with others in his year, yet Loki was still more interesting than any of them.
On Thursday, Clint decided that, even after having spent almost a whole summer here before, and being settled for a week, Tony hadn’t had a proper welcome, and so they all decided to meet up at Steve and Tony’s on Saturday evening for small drinks, before dragging Tony all over town. He skipped the team module that week, and tried to ignore the uneasy feeling of believing he'd missed something.
He barely remembered some of the places he was carried to on Saturday, but that was more because of the fact that he was actually having fun, he was enjoying himself, can you believe that, than it was because of the alcohol. He learned that he and Bruce made pretty good drinking buddies, even if the consequences weren’t always great (if anyone asked the next day, they had no idea how that barstool ended up in the street), and Steve and Thor held their drink so well it was criminal (although Tony was aware of that fact in regard to Steve already given the amount of times the guy’d carried him home). Tasha wasn’t really too different, apart from the fact that she became a little more vocal and showed a hint more expression, and Clint, if possible, actually got louder.
It was wandering past the fountain at around midnight, when Tony and Bruce were creating currents in the water to race two leaves across… well, they weren’t really sure where the starting point or the ending point of the race was, but point was, it was a race, that Thor declared they were all going back to his, since it was closest, his parents were out for the weekend, and he had room. He and Clint had a minor scuffle at this, apparently Clint wasn’t too happy with that idea, but after Steve’s intervention, they set off.
If Steve thought it took them long to get to Thor’s before… Tony gave an embarrassing giggle when they arrived and Tasha announced that they’d taken a full hour to get there, before landing in Thor’s armchair, gripping the sides as he waited for the rest of the world to stop spinning and catch up with the fact that he was stationary now.
“Drinks!” Thor declared, walking in from the kitchen with his arms full of cans, while Tasha and Clint were taking their customary spots on the floor, Steve took his on the end of the couch, and since Tony was in Bruce’s chair, Bruce took it upon himself to use Tony as a chair, sitting sideways on Tony’s lap with his legs draped over the arm rest.
“I’m good,” Steve said, grinning, his cheeks a little red.
“Uh-uh, look at you, you’re almost there, another, c’mon,” Tony definitely didn’t plead, and Thor seemed to agree, shoving a can into Steve’s arm, before turning to Tony and Bruce, raising his eyebrows and grinning for a moment, then winking at them and throwing a can each. Tony caught both while Bruce shushed at something Tony wasn’t hearing.
“I call this spot right here,” Clint drawled, lying flat on his back on the floor while Tasha sat almost hugging her knees beside him, remote in hand and turning the TV up on an Aerosmith song. “I’m not getting up again.”
“Ohhhhh no,” Thor shook his head, laughing and giving Clint a gentle kick as he passed him. “You’re taking my parents’ room, you sleep with your eyes open, and Loki will come down in the morning and---“ Thor stopped in the doorway to the kitchen suddenly, whirling around to face them again and almost falling into the doorframe in the process. “…Loki.”
Tasha pressed mute and, almost comically, everyone but Bruce slowly raised their eyes to the ceiling, listening.
“Maybe he’s not home,” Steve said quietly.
“He’s always home,” Thor grumbled, making his way into the kitchen for more cans.
They didn’t stay up as long as they’d planned to, watching TV and talking in low voices for an hour or so after that, a little tense, even though Tony didn’t see what the big deal was, but that was probably because he was drunk. Wake him up, he thought, get him down here, get drinks in him, get everyone down here. When Clint actually did fall asleep on the floor, Thor gave him a hard kick and declared that he was ready to show everyone to their rooms, then took another five minutes of Steve poking him in the temple to get up and do it.
Getting up the stairs quietly, or trying to, was just too funny for Tony, and Steve winced several times as Tony came down with a fit of giggles. Tasha half-carried Clint up in front of the rest of them while he mumbled something about a hamster he’d given her once upon a time, Thor followed behind them, catching his toes on the stairs every now and again, and Tony and Bruce followed them in a weird blind-helping-the-blind, three-legged-race stance, arms over each other’s shoulders, and Steve behind them making sure they didn’t fall and break each other.
Leaving Tasha to take care of Clint once she and Thor got him as far as the bed, the rest of them were led to Thor’s room, where Tony collapsed in another fit of giggles watching him and Thor trying to pull out his sofa-bed, while Bruce tapped him repeatedly on the shoulder, whispering, “Tony, Tony, Tony, we forgot the stool, we were gonna bring it with us, remember?”
When the bed was out, Bruce made an almost immediate beeline toward it, and Tony barely caught Steve’s laugh and bemused, “Uhm, okay, guess I’ll bunk with Thor,” as Tony tried not to fall over, then followed him, annoyed that his pillar had suddenly made off without him.
Once everyone was settled, and the silence was suddenly ringing in Tony’s ears, he gave another giggle. “G’night Steve…”
He heard a clear laugh from Thor as Steve replied with a slightly slurred, “Goodnight Tony.”
“Night Thor,” Bruce’s reply was muffled by the pillow he had his face in, before he moved his face and frowned. “Wait, no, Tony.”
“S’okay, Thor’s turn was nex—“
“Tony, you’re my best friend, but I swear, I will tape your mouth shut.” Steve whispered, but Tony could hear the smile behind it, and gave another burst of giggles when Thor suddenly said “G’night Tony.”
Chapter 2: halloween not-horror
"Tony sat on the stair for a while, confused, wondering what just happened and if he should be worried, then wondering why he was sat on a stair when there was a party happening, remembering that he came here to subtract and that Clint most likely owed him money, and that Bruce had abandoned him in the kitchen. He realised then, that he was waiting for Loki to pass him and retreat to his room again, and that it hadn’t happened yet. He sighed, deciding to poke at that when he was sober..."
Chapter 2, with added Loki.
In no case should anyone start expecting daily updates to this - inspiration took me today, might not take me tomorrow, so on... @.@ So apologies if the next one doesn't come for some days.
Weeks passed of mostly the same thing, and Tony found himself smiling a lot more. The classes were boring as hell, but he suffered them. Well, most of them. Marketing became a favourite of his to skip, and he didn’t go to another team module for its entire duration. The work came easy to him, so he wasn’t really sure if he was doing awesome exactly, but he knew he was far from failing anything. He could tell why Steve liked it here so much, and pretty soon, he wasn’t sure when the exact moment it happened was, but he became part of Steve’s group of friends, and any time he wasn’t at home doing work, he was doing something with at least one of them. He seemed to get along with Bruce most, could carry any sort of conversation easily with him, and they fell into a fun dynamic of Tony winding him up and Bruce taking it in his stride. It wasn’t that he had any problems with Thor or Clint, they were awesome, but he was just most comfortable around Bruce, and Tasha still scared him a little, but he was sure she was doing that on purpose at this stage. Steve beat them all, of course, but that went without saying.
After their last night in Thor’s, they avoided staying or spending too much time at his, when they found Thor looking mopey on the Monday afterwards, saying Loki had ripped him apart verbally the next day after they all left. Tony caught a few glimpses of Loki around college, but the man was slowly slipping from his mind, though the vague curiosity was still there.
The next time they ended up there, was when Halloween came around, which was apparently celebrated with fever in Thor’s household, to the point that Thor’s father had actually given him permission to have a house party. Costume mandatory, of course. Tony didn’t really find it weird that Thor still lived with his parents. He studied in his hometown, so what was the point in the extra cost of an apartment when he seemed to get along well with them? Tony had moved out as soon as he could, back home, but he’d been threatening it for years, so it wasn’t really a big surprise to anyone. It wasn’t as if he’d spent that much time there in his teenage years, anyway.
So it was that Tony found himself landing on Thor’s doorstep with Steve, Tony carrying a bottle of vodka, rum and gin in hand, for the house, and Steve struggling to hang on to two twelve-pack boxes. The door was open already, music travelling out into the streets, and a hell of a lot of people had arrived already. The majority were from Steve’s year, but it wasn’t as if Tony spent that much time with anyone from his own year anyway, so it didn’t really bother him. They moved through the small crowed toward the kitchen pretty quickly, Steve grinning and shouting random greetings over the music at the people he knew, and Tony nodding, following him.
“There they are!”
There was more space in the kitchen, two or three people passing through refilling drinks, and Clint hopped off the countertop he’d been perched on, coming to meet them with a big grin. “Awww, for me?” He laughed, winking at Steve and helping him with the boxes. Tasha smiled and offered them a “Hey,” each from her spot on a kitchen stool.
“What are you supposed to be?” Steve asked, frowning at Clint.
“For fuck’s—Why does everybody keep asking?!”
“Because you half-assed your costume.” Tasha answered with a smirk, taking a sip from her glass.
“Yours isn’t even a costume,” Clint accused, gesturing at her.
“Yes it is.” Tasha’d come in some sort of tight black catsuit, added tail and furry ears on a hairband. “He says he’s some guy from Reservoir Dogs.”
“…Oh.” Steve said after a moment, looking Clint’s bloodied shirt up and down.
“Well, okay, I know what you are,” Clint huffed, then glared at Tony. “But what are you?”
“Forties gangster.” Tony answered easily, tilting his hat a little and tugging on his braces with his other hand.
“Where is everybody?” Steve asked quickly and a little loudly, obviously trying to stop the impeding argument and Clint shrugged.
“Bruce isn’t here yet and Thor’s out back showing people the trampoline. Drinks?”
“I’ll just grab a beer, thanks.” Steve said, tearing a little at the tape on the boxes, and Tony set everything but the bottle of vodka beside the sink, grinning and holding his hand out for a glass, and he poured, adding coke, while Clint topped up his own.
“I think Volstagg just pushed Thor off the trampoline…” Steve mumbled, leaning over and looking out the window, and Clint and Tasha got up to look, too, grinning, while Tony sipped, and a voice came from the doorway.
Everyone looked around at once to see Loki there, leaning in the doorframe, arms crossed, with someone Tony didn’t recognise. A loose black vest gathered around his hips, one ankle crossed over the other, and Tony wondered if he always dressed in black.
“Hey Loki, Fandral,” Steve said, smiling. “What’s up?”
The guy Tony didn’t know, Fandral, pointed a thumb at Loki as he stepped into the room, heading toward the beers. “He was just kicking me out of his room.”
“Rightly so.” Loki rolled his eyes. “Just because the rest of the house has to be subjected to the sort of drunken treatment you’re used to, doesn’t mean I should have to expose my room to it, too.”
“I didn’t know it was yours!” Fandral protested, exaggeratedly innocent as he opened his can. “I’ve only ever been in Thor’s.”
“Yes, well, I might have an easier time believing that if you hadn’t broken the door handle last time you were here. Which, incidentally, is why it isn’t locked.”
“Are you joining the party, Loki?” Steve asked in a polite, neutral tone, always the referee, while Clint hopped off the counter and stalked outside.
Loki followed Clint with his eyes for a few moments, and gave a vague smirk when he was gone, before looking back to Steve, sighing and uncrossing his feet, taking a few steps into the room, passing Tony as he went to sit next to Tasha. “It’s in my house, I’m somewhat forced to.”
Tasha gave a small, knowing smile, which Loki returned, and Tony frowned as she poured him a glass of rum and reached for the lemonade to mix. Guess Loki didn’t hate all Thor’s friends…
“You’d enjoy yourself if you gave it half a chance,” Fandral said in an announcing tone, heading toward the back door and patting Loki on the shoulder on the way, to which Loki narrowed his eyes, and shook his hand off, and Fandral stepped back, grinning and winking. “After a few more drinks, then.” He waved to everyone in the room with a bit of a flourish, before following Clint.
“Is he still doing that?” Tasha asked, lifting her own glass again.
“Always…” Loki rolled his eyes before picking up his glass and taking a few sips. Tony watched, still not speaking, not really sure what to say for once, as Steve frowned almost sympathetically. Obviously something Tony’d need to be caught up on, but he didn’t really think it was a good idea to ask just then.
“He’s right though,” Steve said, again with the tone of a careful suggestion. “You could enjoy yourself.”
“Loki!” Thor’s voice suddenly boomed, as he marched into the house, arms raised a little. He was wearing some sort of robe, and Tony narrowed his eyes as he tried to figure out what he was. Loki’s shoulders hunched visibly as he took another long sip. “Fandral said you’d be joining us, I was surprised.”
Thor’s expression fell a little at the dry reply, and he looked to Tasha, then Steve, with a worried frown, before settling on Tony and grinning widely suddenly, marching toward him. Tony took a step back, opening his mouth to question him, but Thor beat him to it.
“Loki,” He grabbed Tony around the shoulders and dragged him forward without warning, and it took Tony some effort not to trip. “You must meet Tony, he’s in your year!”
Tony raised an eyebrow up at Thor. They way he’d said it, it was as if he was declaring they had everything under the stars in common, all of a sudden, and he watched Loki as he looked up, smirking slowly and looking Tony up and down.
“Ah, yes, Tony Stark. With the terrible handwriting.”
“I thought you said you didn’t know him?” Steve asked, tilting his head.
“I don’t. I mean—I saw him in class one day, at the team module, when I was messing with people.” Tony said, trying to shrug free of Thor and failing.
Tasha raised an eyebrow. “The day you left early and phoned Steve up to moan about how you hate people?”
Tony did his best not to notice the way Loki’s smirk grew into a small grin at that, raising his eyebrows with interest. “Really, now? Why was that?”
“Because,” Tony twisted and took a step away from Thor, straightening his shirt and glaring around the room. “They were boring as hell, including you, so don’t flatter yourself.”
Thor turned to frown at Tony suddenly, Tasha raised her eyebrows and Steve winced and whispered “Tony…”, while Loki continued to watch Tony, but the smirk slowly slipped away, and his expression became contemplative as he leaned back in his chair a little, while Tony continued to glare back, and the kitchen lapsed into a dangerous few seconds of silence.
“Thor, your Mom’s back with the food,” A tall, long-haired girl interrupted the silence, appearing from the hallway, and Thor blinked and finally turned his gaze from Tony.
“Ah, food!” He smiled, clapping his hands together. "Tell her to come ahead, Sif, we’ll clear the table.”
The woman disappeared without another word, her pony-tail flicking out behind her as she turned and moved through the crowd again, and Steve cleared his throat. “Need a hand, Thor?”
“Carry this,” Thor lifted both twelve packs effortlessly and dumped them into Steve’s hands, “over there,” he continued, pointing to an empty spot beside the sink. “Loki, will you take—“
“No, thank you.” Loki stood suddenly, gracefully, lifting his glass, heading out the back door. “Perhaps your bored friend would like something to do.”
Thor watched him leave, and he fell into a frown again as he regarded Tony. “You shouldn’t aggravate Loki like that.”
Because Thor was bigger than him, and probably playing the protective older brother, and because Tony had no idea what urge suddenly took him to speak to Loki like that anyway, he shrugged and gave a nod, holding out his hands for whatever Thor had. “Load me up, buddy.”
After that, the night started to move a little quicker, when everyone gathered and passed through the kitchen at the food Thor’s glorious mother had brought back from some sort of caterer, and Tony followed Steve around for a while as he went out back with Thor, and was introduced to too many people to remember, but hey, hopefully some of them would be too drunk to remember him anyway, so he’d get away with it. He didn’t have high hopes about the ones who’s faces fell open upon hearing his name, followed by the usual “Tony Stark? Steve you didn’t tell us you knew him!”
Later, he found Bruce had arrived at some stage, late, and was falling dangerously behind the drunk train, so he and Tony took to the living room for a drinking game that became a competition that became them surrounded by around twenty party goers cheering for one of the other, that became both of them wandering out to the abandoned trampoline with a half-bottle of rum and losing all sense of gravity for what must have been a serious amount of time, and it was only when, lying flat on their backs side by side, Tony cradling the rum, and Bruce saying “I feel like my stomach is bubbling into my throat,” that they decided hurling themselves up and down that quickly and that much after too much alcohol was probably a bad idea, and vacated it to wander back into the kitchen.
Tony lost Bruce there for a while, when he found Thor and Steve arm-wrestling in what was apparently the final stages of some battle he’d been missing while out on the trampoline, started placing confused bets with Clint, and found himself frowning and wondering whether he’d just been robbed while Clint ran off into the crowd cackling. I can’t subtract anymore, he realised, wandering into the hallway and sitting himself down on the third stair, leaning his head against the wall, and deciding that he could totally do Engineering without math.
He frowned when he thought he felt the floor shaking a little, and actually leaned forward, looking down at the stair to check.
“So,” a voice came from—from behind him, he deduced after looking around for a moment, and suddenly there were Loki’s long legs making their way slowly down the stairs toward him, and Tony took a deep breath as he lowered himself into the next stair up from Tony. “Boring?”
Tony shifted around a little until he could look up at Loki without feeling like his eyes were going to continue right around and look into the back of his head. Loki had one elbow resting on his knee, chin rested in his hand and a half-glass of something in the other. He looked down at Loki with one eyebrow raised, and Tony wasn’t sure if he found it intriguing or ridiculous, how he was able to make that expression with his eyebrows like that, like he was curious, but bored, condescending yet also polite. And his eyes were green. Oh. “What?” Tony answered, stupidly, after a few minutes.
Loki sighed and looked down at his glass. “You’re drunk.”
“You’re not,” Tony retorted. “And it’s, like, half your party.”
Loki looked up again for a moment, with a hint of a smile, then back down at his glass. “I could be. Perhaps I’m just better at composing myself than some. The trampoline probably doesn’t help.”
“….You were watching me on the trampoline? That’s kinda creepy…”
“You and your—friend, were making quite a lot of noise before you cuddled up, and my window faces toward it.”
Tony wanted to ask why he hesitated at the word friend, there, and also wanted to contradict him on the cuddling comment, which sort of answered his first question, so he should really reply with something clever and contradictory, and instead said, “Have you just been drinking in your room this whole time?”
Loki narrowed his eyes. “How is it half my party?”
“You answered a question with a question,” Tony pointed out, looking around for a drink he was sure he’d brought with him, but he didn’t, did he, he was subtracting. “That means—it’s an answer you don’t like, or don’t like giving, so that means yes, right?”
Loki tilted his head, still staring, his eyes wide but a little glassy from the drink. “You tell me.”
“Because this is your house, too, by the way, remember,” Tony said suddenly, sighing and giving up on his search for his drink, turning and lifting his feet onto the same stair he was sitting on, leaning his back on the wall. “So your party too.”
“No,” Loki said, looking sort of amused. “This is Thor’s party. It’s just an unfortunate circumstance that I live in the same house.”
“So why don’t you just leave?”
“Why doesn’t he go elsewhere?”
Tony frowned and tilted his head to look up at Loki thoughtfully, while Loki stared back down at him. “There’s stuff I don’t know going on here, right, and I should stop asking questions,” Tony said, a little surprised at the beginning of his sentence when he realised he was speaking out loud, and trying to wrap it up without making himself look like a idiot. “I’m getting’ that. Yep.”
Loki pursed his lips against a smile. “I was just getting another drink.”
“Oh. Okay.” Neither of them moved for a few seconds, until Tony straightened up. “Ohhh, right, yeah,” he mumbled, moving his feet to let Loki pass, clearing his throat as Loki stood again, slipping past Tony, and Tony couldn’t stop staring at how the waistband of his jeans was visible on one side, where his vest had gathered up, until Loki was turning, pausing, and he thought the ceiling could be very interesting right now.
“Thor says you moved here this summer. That you had enrolled elsewhere and transferred here to live with Steve.”
“He did, huh,” Tony responded non-committedly as he closed his eyes, leaning his head against the wall again.
“He said that you were leaving a difficult situation.”
Tony frowned, and opened his eyes again to look at Loki sideways. “So?”
Loki didn’t move for a few seconds, watching Tony with an expression Tony couldn’t place, before turning and heading down the hallway, calling back, somewhat sarcastically “How nice for you.”
Tony sat on the stair for a while, confused, wondering what just happened and if he should be worried, then wondering why he was sat on a stair when there was a party happening, remembering that he came here to subtract and that Clint most likely owed him money, and that Bruce had abandoned him in the kitchen. He realised then, that he was waiting for Loki to pass him and retreat to his room again, and that it hadn’t happened yet. He sighed, deciding to poke at that when he was sober, and pulled himself up using the banister until he was standing again.
The living room had gone a little quiet, where a group of people had gathered to watch some shitty Halloween movie, but were unable to shut up throughout the entire thing, so Tony passed right by it and made his way to the kitchen, looking for Clint, but found Bruce first, sitting in a stool with his arms crossed on the countertop in front of him and his head resting on them, and he made a beeline for him, shaking him awake.
With Bruce up and going again, they made their way back out to the abandoned trampoline, a bottle of some sort of red vodka mix in hand, and collapsing on their backs again. Tony wasn’t sure where he went after that, except that Thor had come out to find him sitting on Bruce and shaking him in what he was told was an attempt to persuade Bruce into asking some girl he was talking about out, and climbed on beside them, starting a skirmish with them until Steve came back, and Tony argued with him over whether or not it was time to go home.
Steve won, somehow, but it involved Tony bringing Bruce with him, which made sense as a victory to him at the time.
Chapter 3: compensation
What went through a man’s head that was so terrible, that he had to lose himself in the bottle to escape from it, even though he knew it was only a temporary escape? Some terrible things ran through Loki’s head on a daily basis, but he hadn’t sought the bottle for it yet, so what must be in Tony's?
Chapter three with extra-EXTRA-Loki.
So this took quite a while to burp out... ^^
Loki leaned one shoulder against the wall of his bedroom, turned slightly so that he could see out the window, but not enough that anyone looking up would spot him. He watched the path of a neighbour’s dog as it walked past their driveway, not really paying attention to what he was seeing, but what he was hearing. Footsteps from downstairs, moving from room to room as the other occupants of the house gathered up their things, the rattle of a pair of keys, some hurried farewells. His door creaked as someone opened the front door, and he tilted his head slightly, watching his parents make their way to the car, his mother pausing for a moment to wave back at the house where Thor must have been standing at the door, before they both climbed in and it set off slowly.
Silence for a moment, then the front door closing. Loki closed his eyes, leaning his head on the wall, too, enjoying the cold sensation as he now listened to Thor moving through the house. He opened and closed a cupboard—his lunch, Loki knew. Next he would gather up his coat and bag, and then, hopefully, leave.
He didn’t move for a moment, didn’t curse, and sighed, pushing himself away from the wall and taking a few steps to his door, opening it a tiny crack, just enough for his voice to be heard. “Yes, Thor.” He answered tiredly.
“Aren’t you going in today? I don’t see your bag….”
“It’s up here with me, and yes, I am. Later.”
Thor went silent for a moment, probably deciding whether or not to poke at Loki’s answer, but then Loki heard him step away from the stairs, heard the latch and felt the draught go through the hallways as the door opened. “Okay. Talk to you later then.”
Loki didn’t reply, just waited until he heard the door close, and moved back to the window. He narrowed his eyes against the glare of the winter sun, emerging from the clouds for a few minutes, staring at the back of Thor’s head as he walked off, pulling a scarf close around himself. When he was far enough away that Loki could only make him out for the splash of red from his shirt in the distance, he moved away from the window and, grabbing his bag on the way, swung his door open fully, locking it after stepping into the hallway. He’d had a new lock installed shortly after Halloween when he realized how desperately he needed one.
He took slow steps down the stairs, savouring the silence surrounding him. There were days when he craved silence and days when he craved nothing but noise, and the differing cravings came on seemingly random whims, uncontrolled by him. Nothing moved, and he could hear a clock ticking somewhere. Peace…
On days like this, when he needed silence, life itself felt like white noise, overpowering his ability to think, his ability to feel. On days when he needed noise, it was because the silence was crushing him, forcing a confrontation with thoughts he didn’t like. Lately, there was rarely an in-between; it was one or the other, and he hated it.
Today, he was finding it difficult to find the motivation to follow Thor, to go to class. He had another hour and a half before it started, but what he would give to just… go somewhere quiet, away from people, away from necessities. He didn’t want to stay here, either, in this house. Only his room felt comfortable. Down here, nothing felt like him, nothing felt like home.
He supposed class was better than this; the longer he stayed here the more crushing his thoughts would become.
Tony shivered as he stepped outside, stuffing his hands into his pockets and rolling his shoulders a little, looking around until he spotted Steve and Thor on the corner of the street. Over the last few weeks, Thor had gotten into the habit of taking a detour to Steve and Tony’s in the morning and walking with them the rest of the way, and Tony was, without fail, always the last one out. They looked deep in conversation as Tony approached, Steve frowning and nodding, looking up at Thor, who was waving his hands, explaining something, looking almost frustrated.
“…don’t understand it, sometimes.” Tony caught from him as he drew close.
“Don’t understand what?” He asked, nudging them both. “C’mon, walk and talk, too cold to stand here.”
“Loki,” Thor answered, pulling his bag higher on his shoulder, and Tony said, “Ah.”
He didn’t know the full story, but he knew Thor’d been really bothered by Loki lately. Something was wrong with him and Thor didn’t know what, he wouldn’t talk to him, bla bla bla. It didn’t sound that bad to Tony, but Thor was really invested in the whole thing, so he gave a sympathetic nod.
“I’m sure he’ll come around, Thor,” Steve supplied for him. “It could be anything, I mean—you don’t tell him everything, so it makes sense that you don’t know everything that’s going on with him.”
“Maybe he’s spending all his time away with a hot date.” Tony suggested, shrugging.
“Who, though? Loki doesn’t speak to—“
“You don’t know that, though, you’re always talking about all the time he spends in his room or all the time he’s away doing who-knows-what, you dunno who he hangs out with.”
Thor went silent, frowning. He didn’t argue, but it was clear he didn’t agree. Whatever, Tony could live with that, and his phone decided to ring in that moment, anyway, so he waved Thor and Steve ahead, keep walking, people, as he stopped and drew it out of his pocket, answering it before looking.
Tony froze, breath held, staring ahead at nothing for about ten seconds while his chest sank and his stomach rose, and they met in the middle in some weird, nervous twist. “Pepper.”
“Do you want me to call back later?” She asked, sounding a little unsure, probably taking his silence as him being distracted.
“Uhm—I’m at class later, so…” He didn’t really trust himself to continue the sentence, he was to tempted to just ask outright why she’d called, after five months of nothing. There had to be a reason.
“Oh, yeah, okay.” A pause. She was working up to it. Thor and Steve continued walking, bumping shoulders and hands deep in their pockets. “How are you?”
Tony took a deep breath and looked down at the pavement. “What’s this about, Pep?” He asked, voice quiet, it hurt to call her that, for some reason. She sighed on the other end.
“Look, Tony… I don’t really know how to say it, it’s been a while—“
“—Okay, yeah, months, and—I wanted to tell you because it wouldn’t be fair for you to hear from someone else, and it wasn’t really fair of me to go so long without speaking to you anyway…”
“You’re seeing someone.” He guessed. He didn’t ask, just stated it, voice gone a little dead.
Okay, Tony, breathe, it’s been five months, people’ve stopped acting careful around you, Steve’s stopped watching out for self-destruct time, you’re over this. No big deal. “Okay.” She didn’t say anything for a moment, building herself up to continue, that wasn’t it, there was more, he realized, and it clicked suddenly, and he felt sick. “Someone I know, right?”
Pepper made a noise that might have been slightly relieved; it was easier, she didn’t have to search for some of the words, when she was speaking to Tony Stark. He could guess before she needed to say them. “…It’s Happy, Tony.”
Oh. That stung. A lot. No wonder Tony hadn’t heard from him in—it was probably the week after Halloween. Four weeks ago now. That’s probably when it happened. He swallowed, cleared his throat. “Okay.”
“Don’t. Pepper, just… It’s Happy, okay, you know, only one of my closest friends. No big deal. Consider me informed.” He’d spoken before he realised what he was saying, didn’t mean to start getting sarcastic, but it was numbing.
“Tony, it’s not to hurt you or something—“
“Nah, that’s just a nice side-effect. Have fun, Pep.”
He took the phone away from his ear and pressed the end call button with shaking fingers before he could hear any more, or say anymore. He really didn’t want to hurt her, that’d been the last thing he’d wanted to do, but—He didn’t know. He didn’t know what to say, what to feel or what to do.
He looked up and Steve was there, staring at him with the worst expression, something close to pity, surprised, but worried, Thor a few feet behind him looking confused. Tony had no idea how much he’d heard, but clearly he heard the last part, at least, and knew who Tony was talking to.
“Are you okay?” Was all he said, taking another step forward.
“Fucking A, Steve. Fucking A.”
Tony passed most of the remaining daylight hours feeling somewhat numb. He went to his classes. He listened. Well, he guessed he did, because he’d taken notes, at least. He’d somehow managed to transfer what he was hearing to paper without it actually passing through his mind, but he wasn’t called a genius for nothing. He didn’t speak to anyone though, not much. Not many people in his classes spoke to him, and he was pretty okay with that. He met up with everybody for lunch at the cafeteria, and ended up passing the hour and a half staring out the window, or at the table, or giving Steve and Bruce a reassuring nod when either of them asked if he was okay. He could feel Steve’s eyes on him a lot, and Bruce nudged him occasionally with his elbow, sitting next to him and looking over at him with an expression that hurt Tony, and he wasn’t sure why. It said, nod all you want, I can see something’s up, and I’m not gonna ask because I’m a good friend like that, but I’m not gonna ignore you like you want me to, either.
He bumped into Loki, literally, which was weird and snapped him out of it for a second, as he was moving from one lecture hall to another. He’d been walking behind him without realising, both of them heading in the same direction, but Loki stopped suddenly at the doorway, turned to leave, and they walked right into each other. They hadn’t spoken since Halloween, beyond a brief ‘hey’ at Thor’s house or something, and Tony found Loki was a decent few inches taller than him. He hadn’t noticed fully before, but blinking up at him while Loki’s eyelids lowered ever so slightly to look down at him, drew attention to it. They were frozen like that for a few seconds, until Loki opened his mouth a little, closed it, and cleared his throat.
“Sorry,” he said quietly, side-stepping to let Tony past.
“You’re not coming in too?” Tony frowned, didn’t move.
Loki decided not to answer that, and rather than wait for Tony to walk past him, took off in a brisk walk down the corridor, shoulders hunched. Tony watched him for a minute, still frowning, until he couldn’t see him anymore and sighed, making his way into the lecture hall.
“Remind me again why I’m going with this idea.”
“Because we’re your friends and you trust our judgement.”
Tony levelled Bruce with his best sceptical glare, sighing and reaching into his pocket for some change, sliding down in his seat in the back of the cab to get at his pocket easier. “Okay, remind me why I trust you people, then.”
Bruce chuckled in the front seat as Steve and Tony handed him their change, adding it to his own and handing all of it over to the driver. Tony pushed the door open and climbed out, leaving Bruce to it and stuffing his hands into his pockets, shivering as Steve walked around the car to join him on the sidewalk, under the orange glare of the street light.
“Seriously, though, Steve, what’s going on?” Tony asked quietly before Bruce joined them. “You don’t like me drinking—and don’t deny it cause I don’t even like me drinking sometimes—so why are we suddenly encouraging it?”
“We’re not,” Steve moved to stand in front of Tony, watching him carefully. “Tony, I’ve known you for years now. I know when something’s wrong, and I know what you feel like doing when that happens. At least if you do it with us, there’s less chance of—of—“
“Of doing something stupid.” Tony finished, nodding and looking down. Made sense.
“You might even have fun.” Steve gave a tiny smile, then stepped back a little as the cab drove away and Bruce walked toward them.
“Is it just me, or is it kinda weird how often Thor’s parents are away?” He asked, adopting the same stance as Tony with his hands deep in his pockets as the three of them made their way down Thor’s driveway.
“Not really. When you run a company you gotta go to business conventions pretty often to know your market.” Tony supplied.
“Huh.” Was all Bruce said as they reached Thor’s doorstep, hanging back and letting Steve knock.
Tony was really not in the mood for this.
And he felt pretty terrible about that, cause he could see what his friends were trying to do for him, and it had been working for the first few hours, but he could feel himself slowly sinking, surrendering to his mood, the numbness that had filled him for most of the day fading. It was easy at the beginning, when he was humouring him, they’d arranged his impromptu night in at Thor’s for him, to give him this weird normalcy, even though it was different in that it had been a few weeks since they were all in one place at the same time, and Tony knew they’d done that to cheer him up, so he played along. Took the drinks, joined the conversations, watched the games, then the movie. The more drinks his friends had, though, the more they fell into each other’s company, enjoying themselves, and forgetting that they wanted to make sure Tony wasn’t drinking himself to death, and Tony was tempted to do just that while they were distracted.
But he wouldn’t, because he still felt guilty for them. They pulled the night out of nowhere for him, to make him happy, and he couldn’t even bring himself to actually be happy, for them, in return, so he sat cross-legged on the floor, leaning against Bruce’s armchair, going through drink after drink, feeling like a failure as a friend, and as a boyfriend, and just feeling inadequate in general.
It was around midnight when Loki suddenly stepped in the front door, and Tony looked over his shoulder at him, frowning. Thor said he was upstairs.
“Loki?” Tony turned to look at Thor as he pulled himself heavily from the couch, brushing some bits of popcorn off his shirt, blinking with either confusion or inebriation at his brother. “Are you—Is this you just getting in? I thought you were upstairs….”
Loki stood in the doorway, looking tall and lean and impressive against the light coming in from the street, and Tony couldn’t see his face but he could feel his eyes move over the group, and everyone was frozen for a few seconds until Loki stepped in and shut the door, and Tony could finally see him. He looked furious.
“Clearly not, thank you for checking.” Loki responded eventually, voice dripping with sarcasm, eyes settling on Thor. “What are you doing?”
Thor shrugged, frowning, making his way around the couch to take a few steps toward Loki. “Watching a movie.”
Tony felt a breeze blow over him as Loki moved to meet Thor halfway, and Clint suddenly asked the rest of them some loud and pointless question about the movie, Steve, Bruce and Tasha taking the opportunity to lean forward and begin a discussion, giving Thor and Loki a little bit of space. Tony stayed where he was, unnoticed still.
“Thor,” Loki hissed quietly, narrowing his eyes. “What are all these people doing here?”
“My friends are over for some fun, Loki,” Tony suspected Thor wouldn’t have decided to match Loki’s scathing tone if he’d been entirely sober. “You should try it sometime.”
“You didn’t think it was necessary to ask if I was alright to coming home to a gang of drunken idiots in my home?”
“You weren’t even here—“
“You didn’t even know that!” Loki said, loud suddenly, lifting a hand to one of Thor’s shoulders, shoving him away. “You thought I was upstairs!” Thor opened his mouth to answer, looking really surprised at being shoved back, but Loki cut him off. “Fuck you, Thor.”
The room went silent suddenly as Loki tightened his grip on his bag and turned away, heading up the stairs hurriedly, and Tony winced a little as he heard a door slam. They all watched Thor, waiting for a reaction as he stared at the spot Loki had been standing in, then sighed suddenly and spread his hands. “What is his problem?!”
He received some weird mumbled ‘Mmm,’ response from the others as he took his seat again, landing heavily on the couch beside Steve. Tony frowned. His problem was pretty fucking obvious, or maybe it was just him. The response from the rest of them pissed him off, though. They might not know Loki and, hell, neither did he, but why humour Thor at his expense?
Loki didn’t come downstairs again for the rest of the night, and although everyone was pretty quiet for ten or fifteen minutes after his sudden departure, it only took a joke here and there from Clint and another drink each for them to pick up again. Tony remained on the floor, smiling occasionally, even adding to the conversation now and then, but his mind was still on what had happened.
He jerked a little in surprise, catching himself before he spilled his drink, as Bruce absently put his hand on Tony’s head, and Tony gave a small grin, tilting his head to look up at him in the chair. “M’not a cat,” he pointed out, taking another sip.
Bruce shrugged, looking away from the TV for a second to grin back at him, massaging his fingers into Tony’s scalp at the comment. “Close enough.”
Tony chuckled and reached up, taking Bruce’s hand off him and using it to help pull himself to his feet, leaving his drink on the floor. “You’re such a fucking handsy drunk, Bruce,” he said, taking Bruce’s hand in both of his and placing it on the armrest. “Not that I’m complaining, it’s a cold day in hell when I complain about somebody being handsy, but I gotta pee.”
Bruce rolled his eyes and nodded as Tony patted his hand before stepping away. He heard Steve call him and waved a hand, I’m fine, Steve, leave me alooooone, leaving Bruce to explain where he was as he took to the stairs carefully, quietly. He hadn’t been in Thor’s bathroom before, but he knew which room was Thor’s and which room was Thor’s parents’, which narrowed his options down nicely. It was normally pretty easy to guess.
He paused at the top of the stairs, ignoring the door to Odin and Frigga’s room and heading down the hallway, passing Thor’s room. One of the remaining doors were open, revealing a large closet filled with towels and bed sheets, pausing to close the door and rule that one out.
“What are you doing?”
Tony froze, resisted the urge to jump a mile into the air at the sudden voice, and turned to find Loki leaning against the frame of one of the remaining doors, arms crossed.
“Uhh—Sorry,” Tony let his hand slide off the handle for the closet. Loki looked… Okay Tony wasn’t really sure how to describe how he looked. He’d changed into a plain green and sort of old looking shirt, and had a few stray strands of hair in his face. Every time Tony got a new, closer look at Loki, he found it hard to look away. “I was just looking for the bathroom.” He said quickly, realising he still hadn’t answered him.
Loki gave a soft smirk and lifted one hand to point a long index finger at the door opposite his. Dismissed. Tony looked away, clearing his throat and stepping toward it. “Thanks.” He didn’t look up until he’d closed the door and slid the lock into place, letting out a sigh.
There was something weird about Loki that sort of planted him in Tony’s mind since he’d first seen him in the lecture hall that day, mocking his handwriting. He hadn’t thought about him much then, but he didn’t forget him, either. Halloween happened, then, and there were random moments when he was just falling asleep, or letting his mind drift in class, when he’d remember their conversation, remember staring at Loki’s back as he called back, “How nice for you.”, or how animated his expressions could be, how his face transformed with even the smallest smirk or raise of an eyebrow.
He’d gotten an even closer look at Loki today, mainly because he was actually looking. It was hard not to when he literally walked right into him, so he’d been on Tony’s mind already. Then the door opened at midnight and Tony couldn’t take his eyes away. Each new look at Loki Tony got, Loki’s place in his mind seemed to grow, the curiosity, the opinion. He’d seemed so dangerous when he walked in the door that night, but seemed anything but when he smirked gently at Tony just now. Tony had told Loki that his year were boring as hell, including him, but he found himself rethinking that statement.
When he was finished, he opened the door slowly, wondering if Loki would still be there, but found Loki’s bedroom door closed. He swallowed, not sure if he was disappointed or relieved, and stayed there staying at the door for a few moments, Loki’s voice in his head from earlier, asking, “What are all these people doing here?”
This was one of those moments that Tony had no idea what he was doing until after he’d done it, and before even thinking about it, he found himself stood right at Loki’s door, lifting a hand, and knocking. His chest tightened a little as he wondered if he’d reach the end of the hallway before Loki answered if he ran now, but the door suddenly swung inwards as Loki pulled it open. He leaned into the doorframe again, only opening it far enough for his face and half his body to be visible. “…What?”
“Do you begin many conversations like that?” Loki asked, eyebrows tilted a little in humour, lips pursed.
Tony found himself holding back a smile of his own. “Not really, actually.”
“I’m flattered,” Loki tilted his head, looking anything but. “What do you want?”
“Oh, right—I wanted to say sorry.”
Loki frowned. “..You disturbed me so that you could apologize for disturbing me?”
“Disturbing you twice, I guess,” Tony shrugged. “I didn’t know you didn’t like—y’know, us all over the place, or that Thor didn’t ask, and it’s kinda my fault they all decided to do this today, so I’m sorry for that. And for disturbing you to say sorry for disturbing you.” Tony hoped that made as much sense out loud as it did in his head.
Loki smiled, very, very slowly, and quirked one eyebrow. “Your fault?”
“Yeah but doesn’t matter,” Tony shook his head, waving a hand. “They meant good by it, I just—I knocked to say sorry for sucking, not to tell you why I suck, so.” He figured Loki had enough bad mood of his own without Tony adding to it.
Loki didn’t respond at first, smile fading as he studied Tony closely, and Tony found himself feeling both increasingly nervous as being caught in his gaze like that, and weirdly enjoying it. No matter how much Loki frowned, or glared, his eyes always seemed wide, or bright. Maybe it was the green. It was a pretty strong green. “Acceptance is pending, in that case.” He said eventually.
Tony frowned this time. “Pending?”
“I may want to know why,” Loki explained, taking a small step forward, letting the door close a few more centimetres on his back. “In order to accept the apology.”
“It’s not that interesting.”
“But if I’m to forgive you for having your own reasons for disturbing me tonight, I should know those reasons to make an informed decision.”
“And if that’s not why I apologized?”
Loki raised his eyebrows, smiled widely. “You mean if you lied?”
“No,” Tony couldn’t help smiling back a little. “If I have my reasons, but if I apologized for a different one.”
“Then I would have that reason before accepting it, and the others for curiosity’s sake. Compensation,” he added, or corrected, Tony wasn’t sure.
“Tony? Are you alright up there?”
They both looked down the hallway at the same time as Bruce’s voice travelled up the stairs, and Tony sighed while Loki retraced his step, back into the room. “Another time, perhaps, your boyfriend needs you.”
“He’s not my—what?”
Loki actually grinned this time. “You don’t think so? Maybe you should tell him.” Tony opened his mouth to question that, but Loki shook his head, pursing his lips again to hold back his smile as he closed the door, and called through the wood. “Good night, Stark.”
Tony stared at the handle for a few seconds, imagining Loki standing on the other side still, and sighed, moving away and heading down the hallway. “I’m fine, Bruce, I’m peachy, no need to panic….”
Loki leaned his back on his door and listened to Tony’s footsteps as he moved away, waiting until he was down the stairs before straightening up and going to sit on the edge of his bed, then lying flat, frowning up at the ceiling. His bare feet nudged his pillow, on the floor where he’d thrown it, as he tried to settle his legs in some sort of a comfortable position, and he sighed, sitting up again and reaching down to pick it up.
Tony Stark. Loki frowned as he thought over what he knew of the name. Everyone knew of his father, so he knew the privileged background Tony must have, and yet he was here, living with Steve Rogers. He wasn’t interested in Howard Stark or the controversy surrounding his work, but he found it strange that the whole country knew much of Howard, but little of Tony beyond the fact that he was Howard’s son.
He thought over what he knew of Tony from what he heard Thor say, never to him, but over family dinner, occasionally, or over the phone as Loki passed by. He had moved here in the dying stages of the summer to live with Steve, from a ‘difficult situation’ that Thor had later explained to their mother was a bad break-up, as she questioned him on his new friend. Pepper was her name, and they had been together for two and a half years. The reason for the break-up wasn’t clear to him, but he did know that it had not been Tony’s choice, and Thor had explained that Steve moved him here to keep an eye on him. ‘He drinks,’ Thor had said, so matter-of-fact. ‘He drinks, and sometimes other stuff, and Steve says he’s hurt himself at it before, and that he was pretty bad in the summer so he didn’t wanna leave him.’
Self-destructive tendencies. Loki didn’t see the great appeal in alcohol, but then again he had never exactly been drunk, but the thought of it interested him. What went through a man’s head that was so terrible, that he had to lose himself in the bottle to escape from it, even though he knew it was only a temporary escape? Some terrible things ran through Loki’s head on a daily basis, but he hadn’t sought the bottle for it yet, so what must be in Tony's? He didn’t think the confusion of being inebriated would help the confusion he already dealt with, though.
Tony Stark, son of the billionaire, confident genius, too good for most people. That was the impression Loki had gathered most students had of Tony. So, troubled, self-destructive tendencies, carries a public front on a daily basis that was most likely to be exhausting. Probably thoughts verging on self-loathing, Loki decided, after the conversation they had just shared when Tony took the blame entirely on himself for Loki being upset.
He was intriguing. Twenty minutes ago, Loki had been smothering his face in his pillow to dampen his rage at Thor, and been on the edge of tearing his hair out with frustration, not even his own brother could see how out of place he felt in his own home, and ventured to make it worse, instead, leaving Loki unable to find any sort of comfort. Then Tony shuffled through the hallway.
The distraction had been almost instantaneous as Loki opened his door to watch him. His mind quieted, though the thoughts were still there. It had been difficult not to give even a small smile at Tony uhm-ing ridiculously in his hallway, and his stomach had flipped with an odd anticipation when Tony knocked.
It was strange.
Chapter 4: is there whiskey in this
“Did you actually take Loki with you?”
Tony went into the kitchen, kicking off his damp shoes and leaning against the washing machine as he pulled off his socks, throwing them in with the dirty laundry. “Uhh, he took me there, actually, it was his idea. I didn’t even know the place existed.”
Steve followed him, raising one eyebrow. “…That’s weird. Loki’s not usually so…” Steve narrowed his eyes, searching for a word.
“I think I know what you mean, from hearing Thor talk.” Tony shrugged. “Seems fine to me.”
Excuse my massively unimaginative titles for the chapters.
Tony woke up on Saturday morning in Thor’s pull-out bed with Bruce’s arm over his shoulders, and tried to stretch as gently as he could without waking his friend, shutting his eyes tightly, curling his toes and letting out a jaw-cracking yawn. He had a mild headache where he’d been lying on the pillow, but apart from horrible morning breath and a dire need for a glass of water, he didn’t feel that hungover. Made sense, he hadn’t been that drunk. He rolled onto his back, glancing at Bruce and curling his index finger and thumb around his wrist and lifting his arm off his chest slowly. With that done, and Bruce still sleeping, he tilted his head up to check Thor’s bed to find it empty. Thor and Steve must be up already…
He pushed the blankets off and sat up slowly, shivering as the cold air hit him. He swung his legs over the side of the bed, reaching for his jeans, shoving his feet through them with as little noise as possible. He thought of the cold tiles in Thor’s kitchen, and pulled his trainers on over his bare feet, too, and grabbed some random shirt of Thor’s on his way out the door, pulling it on over his vest. It was kinda huge on him, but it stopped him shivering, so he rolled up the sleeves and headed downstairs.
“Bout time!” Clint called from the couch when Tony appeared. He was sprawled out, feet up and on Tasha’s lap, bowl of cereal in hand. “Where’s Bruce?”
“Still asleep,” Tony answered, yawning and rolling his shoulders as he made his way into the kitchen. “What time is it?”
“Ten past one,” Steve answered with an amused smile, raising an eyebrow. “Is that Thor’s shirt?”
“I was cold,” Tony grumbled, climbing into one of the kitchen stools beside him and folding his arms around himself. “Mine’s down here somewhere.”
Thor turned toward them both, putting two cups down in front of them and pouring from a coffee pot. Tony gave an appreciative hum, leaning forward and pulling his closer as Thor handed Steve some milk and sugar.
“Check this out,” he said once his hands were free, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his phone.
“Give me a second,” Thor frowned, staring at the phone, all concentration as he scrolled through menus, and then grinned suddenly. “Here!”
Tony took the phone, rubbing at his eye as he tilted it away from the kitchen light to see.
“He sent me a copy and I sent Clint one, so it’s no use deleting it,” Steve said through a laugh as Tony’s mouth fell open, before laughing, too. The picture was of him and Bruce in the fold-out, Tony flat on his back, sleeping, mouth open, and Bruce curled on his side with an arm over Tony’s chest and his nose squashed up against Tony’s shoulder, also asleep.
“This is actually hilarious, send me one,” he grinned, handing Thor back his phone. “Someone should wake him up, though, he’s going home for the Christmas holidays, his bus is in, like… Three hours?”
“I’ll do it,” Steve offered, standing.
“Careful though, he gets grumpy.”
Steve shrugged. “I can handle grumpy. Be right back.”
Tony shook his head, still grinning a little, and held up a hand as Thor started to walk off with the coffee pot. “Wait, Thor, buddy, can I get a little more coffee, Steve put too much milk in,” he said, pointing.
“Steve takes coffee with his milk,” Thor agreed, nodding and turning and adding a little more to Tony’s cup and going in to Clint and Tasha with the rest.
Tony breathed in the scent and sighed before taking a drink, resting an elbow on the table and rubbing at the back of his head where the slight headache was, then looked up as the back door opened and Loki stepped in, shaking snow out of his hair. He looked ridiculously wide awake, fully dressed, eyes bright, flakes of snow on the shoulders of his black coat. He put the heel of one foot to the toes of the other and kicked off his shoes, glancing up at Tony and smirking a little as he took something wrapped in paper from his pocket and pulled off his coat.
“You look ridiculous in that shirt,” he said when his back was to Tony, hanging up his coat.
Tony looked down at himself and shrugged. “Who cares, I’m not goin’ anywhere in it, nobody’s looking.”
Loki raised an eyebrow at that, looking over at Tony again for a moment before walking around the table and reaching into a cupboard for a cup. Every time he reached up for something, hanging up his coat or grabbing a cup, Tony’s eyes couldn’t seem to help settling on the curve of his spine. Loki sighed when he saw the missing coffee pot and settled into the stool opposite Tony with an empty cup, and pulled the paper-wrapped item across the table toward him.
“What’s that?” Tony asked with a mild frown.
“Mmm, breakfast,” Loki answered without looking up, unwrapping some sort of sandwich. “Thor goes through food very quickly when he has company.”
Tony considered apologizing for that, but remembered he hadn’t eaten anything yet, but his attention was still drawn to how put-out Loki was made whenever they were over. Then he remembered knocking on his door sometime after midnight. “Sorry ‘bout yesterday,” he said, frowning a little more.
“Be clearer,” Loki smirked wider, still not looking up. “Are you apologizing for disturbing me once, for disturbing me twice, or for apologizing?”
Tony raised his eyebrows, thinking, shit, that actually makes me sound like a serious suck-up, but then Loki looked up with a mischievous grin as he lifted his sandwich, and Tony grinned back, shaking his head. “None, if you’re gonna be like that.”
Loki took a bite as Tony had been speaking, and held a hand in front of his mouth while he chewed, rolling his eyes and replying when he swallowed. “Does that mean I don’t get my compensation?”
Tony shrugged. “Gotta pay a premium to get compensation.”
“I believe my attention at twelve forty-five in the morning counts as premium.”
“Tony Stark Insurance only covers phone calls after three a.m, bad sympathizing skills and being a drunken asshole, not apologies, sorry.”
“Compensation is still due where the policy is unclear,” Loki tilted his head. “I believe knocking on my door counts for your third point, don’t you?”
Tony bit his lower lip to stop himself grinning wider. “Oh, you’re scary.”
“Yet you don’t seem afraid,” Loki leaned back slightly in his stool, glancing over his shoulder, before fixing his eyes on Tony again, and raising his voice. “There had better be coffee left in that, Thor.”
Tony looked toward the door where Thor was returning, looking from the coffee pot to Loki sheepishly.
“Here,” Tony pushed his cup forward, and both Loki and Thor stared at him, Loki with one eyebrow raised in knowing amusement, and Thor with a confused frown. “Compensation.”
Loki took on a satisfied smirk as he reached forward and took the cup, keeping his eyes on Tony. “It’s a start.”
“….What?” Thor asked, standing in the middle of the kitchen with the empty coffee mug in hand, still.
“Nothing,” Tony and Loki replied at the same time, to which Thor frowned deeper at, so Tony stood, rolling up the sleeves of the shirt a little more. “I’m gonna go make sure Steve hasn’t been killed getting Bruce up.” He gave a salute before leaving the room, Thor and Loki’s voices travelling for a moment.
“What was that all about?”
“Shut up, Thor.”
The weekend passed without Tony disappearing and falling into a bottle, which Steve was unashamed of being proud of by Sunday night. He kept patting Tony on the shoulder or something when he walked by, or catching Tony’s eye with a weird grin that Tony could only quirk an eyebrow at. He’d been doing pretty well in not letting the whole Pepper thing get to him, and having company 24/7 seemed to help.
It was on Sunday night, when they were sat in opposite armchairs in their apartment with pizza in hand, that Tony’s text alert went off, and he happened to catch Steve glancing to the phone, then to Tony, apprehensively, before pointedly staring at the TV. Tony shook his head and sighed, reaching for the phone and sliding the unlock button, then froze when he saw the text.
Sunday 11th Dec, 22:17
Hey, man, how’re you keeping up there?
“How did you know?” Tony asked tonelessly, locking the phone and stuffing it back into his pocket without looking up.
Steve shuffled a little in his chair. “I dunno what you’re talking about.”
Tony looked up, glaring, in time to see Steve sigh and lean forward to put his plate on the table. He rested his elbows on his knees and looked at the floor. “Uh—Pepper called me. On Friday.”
“She what?! Steve—“ Tony broke off, shaking his head and rubbing a hand across his face. “Why didn’t you tell me? What’d she say, hi Steve, long time no speak, Steve, keep an eye on Tony, Steve, he might be sorely tempted to fuck himself up today?”
“Tony, don’t be mad,” Steve looked up, and Tony looked away because looking at that apologetic, worried expression on Steve killed him right now. “Not for that, at least. She just wanted to make sure someone knew, you weren’t about to tell anyone.”
“Because it’s so easy to bring up in a conversation, my ex-girlfriend of two fucking years is moving on and dating one of my best friends, while I—How did you know he was gonna text?” Tony leaned forward and shoved his plate unceremoniously on the table, too.
“She said he was worried, and Tony, you can’t… You shouldn’t keep that kinda thing to yourself, not if you’re upset. You’re my best friend, how am I supposed to help if you don’t let me?”
Tony looked up again at that, then away again, lifting both his hands to cover his face while he got his thoughts together. He was so….angry, right now, but so many different forms of angry, he didn’t know where to start. He’d been pretty much numb since Friday, but now, he had to come to terms with the fact that, yeah, he’d figured after five months he was over it, but this was it. Pepper had moved on way quicker than him, she was gone, she was with someone else, and Tony was still… He didn’t know what he was. He’d given up on the idea of him and Pepper ever happening again about two months ago, but it still stung to think he was that replaceable.
And Steve. Steve was his best friend, he’d done so much for Tony since all of this happened, and he still wanted to do more, and Tony felt so guilty that he couldn’t do what Steve needed him to. It’d be easier for them both if Steve just gave up.
“I can’t do this right now,” he said, standing and storming into the kitchen, Steve rising and following him quickly.
“Tony, you don’t have to do—where are you going?” He asked, tone going slightly panicked as Tony reached for his coat.
“I’m going for a walk, Steve, I need to clear my head.” The fabric of his coat made an angry snapping noise as he pulled it on quickly, zipping it up and pulling his gloves from the pocket.
“Tony, it’s almost eleven, you can’t go out now.”
“Watch me.” Tony refused to look up again, refused to look at Steve’s face and the concern there that would just crush him even more with guilt, heading straight for the door.
“But where are you going?” Steve followed him the whole way there.
“A walk, I said I’m going for a walk,” Tony gave an exasperated sigh as he pulled the door open. “One foot in front of the other, walking. I didn’t realize I had a bedtime.”
Steve and Tony both froze and stared when a voice came from outside, and Tony pulled the door open a little wider to find Loki on the doorstep, hand raised as if he’d been about to knock, a brown paper bag in the other hand, looking from Tony to Steve with a mild frown.
“…Loki,” Steve said, recovering faster than Tony. “Oh, uhmm… what’s up?”
“Thor tells me you both left clothes behind,” he replied, looking at Tony rather than Steve as he spoke, holding out the bag. “I pass this direction from the library, so he had me return it.”
“Here,” Tony grabbed the bag and threw it at Steve, who caught it against his chest, then stepped out onto the doorstep, nudging Loki as he passed him. “C’mon.”
“Tony,” Steve called, as Loki smirked and turned to follow. “Why—“
Tony walked in silence for a few minutes after pulling his gloves on and turning his collar up around his neck, then stuffing his hands in his pockets. He heard Loki following behind him as they turned the corner at the end of the apartment block, and listened to his pace quicken as he hurried to catch up with Tony, which was momentarily amusing since he was taller and probably walked faster than Tony. When Tony wasn’t raging, that is.
“I’m not sure I understand what you’re doing, nor why I have to follow you.” Loki said after a moment walking alongside Tony, brushing some snow off his shoulders before sticking his own hands in his pockets.
Tony gave a laugh that he really didn’t mean to sound so bitter. “When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.”
Loki let silence fall between them after that, simply watching his feet as he matched Tony’s pace.
“Do you drink?” Tony asked suddenly, not really sure why. He wouldn’t disappear now after leaving Steve like that, he didn’t even bring his phone. At least, he didn’t think he would. Not until he was sitting on a barstool would he stop thinking that he wouldn’t.
Tony could almost feel Loki’s gaze as he caught him in the corner of his eye, turning his head a little to look at Tony, answering after a moment. “Not really.”
Tony nodded, and sighed. “Good. Probably.”
Loki didn’t turn his head, didn’t look away, for a full sixty-something seconds. Tony had started counting mentally, nervously, after maybe ten, and reached fifty-nine before he looked away, picking up his pace suddenly, walking about a foot in front of Tony. “Come with me.”
Tony frowned at his back, considered saying no, wondered why he’d even told Loki to come with him at the door, wondered why Loki followed, and where he was leading him. In the end the curiosity got the better of him and he hurried his walk. “Where?”
“You’ll see when we get there.”
Tony gave a small smile that didn’t last long, hunching his shoulders and lowering his chin, covering more of his face with his collar. “How far is it?”
“You can begin timing the walk now if you want.” Loki smirked and looked over his shoulder and Tony sighed, nodding.
“How many questions do I have to ask before you give a normal, straight answer?”
“I am neither normal nor straight, but you can keep trying if it helps you fill the silence.”
Tony looked up, eyebrows raised in slight surprise, as Loki looked forward again, still smirking as he walked. “Huh, really?”
“Hmm, no, I just enjoy talking.”
Tony let a small smile grow in response to that, and Loki looked at Tony and away again, grinning impishly, and they both let out a quiet laugh. “Okay, okay, less questions, I get it.”
“Perhaps if you were better at answering mine right, I might decide to answer a few of yours better in the future.”
“What did I answer wrong?”
“Whether your disturbance on Friday night was covered in the third point of your insurance policy or not.”
Tony let out another laugh, which surprised him, given the fact that he still felt like shit. Just…weirdly less so. “I guess it does, yeah. But I did give you coffee.”
“Which turned out to have sugar in it, no good.”
Oh yeah, Steve takes sugar… “Whoops?”
“Which means I get another question,” Loki announced, and Tony opened his mouth to question how he came to that conclusion, but Loki continued. “You can choose which to answer; what was the reasoning behind Friday’s gathering, and the disturbance as you labelled it, or,” he paused, looking over at Tony with his eyes narrowed in thought, “Why are you running from Steve Rogers?”
Tony stared back, expressionless, as he thought it over. Loki was clever. But Tony wasn’t sure he wanted to talk about it, that was why he’d walked out. He needed to clear his head before talking to Steve about it. Loki was also far too easy for him to talk to, though, and maybe talking to him would help clear his head for Steve. “….They’re kinda the same reason, actually.”
Loki nodded. “I’d assumed so.”
“So that was a trick question?”
Loki’s smirk turned a little soft and he stopped walking in front of what looked like a dark little café. “Yes, but you can still fall for it. If you want.” He stood blocking the doorway, watching Tony, until Tony gave a small shrug and he nodded, pushing the door in and holding it open for Tony.
Tony looked around as soon as he stepped inside, raising his eyebrows appreciatively. It was a dark place, but in a pretty thought out kind of way. The walls were all painted black, but the round tables scattered here and there were silver and the roof was white. The paintings they had hung around the place were all greyscale, well lighted, with silver frames. It was quiet, only one table occupied, the music volume low, but the most attention catching part about it was the fact that there were books everywhere. Tony had no idea if they were scattered in terms of genre, author, whatever, or even what they were, but it gave a really cosy atmosphere.
Loki nodded at the waitress behind the counter when she waved to him, and gestured to a table in the corner. “Take a seat. Coffee, with sugar?”
“Nah, no sugar. That was Steve. I’ll catch the cost when we’re leaving?”
“No need. Staff discount.” Loki walked off toward the corner and left Tony blinking at his back. Loki worked here? He walked slowly toward the table he’d indicated, looking around him as he did so, careful not to topple a nearby stack of books as he lowered himself into the chair. Loki was behind the counter now, pushing buttons on a coffee machine while whispering to the waitress. Loki seemed different in here. He held himself differently, shoulders lowered, relaxed, moving with a sort of easy grace as opposed to what Tony was used to seeing at Thor’s, or between classes, when he moved from place to place quickly, tense, as if he just wanted to get there to have it done with. The waitress looked over at Tony, so he looked away, pulling off his gloves.
Loki returned with two large, fully made coffees, settling into the second chair with a sigh, setting them down on the table and loosening his scarf.
“I didn’t realize you worked,” Tony said, taking the cup Loki pushed toward him and looking around. “Cool kinda place, I didn’t even know it existed.”
“I wouldn’t think so, assuming you were shown around by Steve, or Thor and the others.” Loki took his scarf off entirely as he spoke, before reaching for his cup and taking a tiny sip. “ Thor doesn’t know I work, either, though he does know of my fondness for this café.”
“Huh…” Tony lifted his cup, tempted by the scent and by watching Loki sipping, and frowned after a small drink. “Is there—whiskey in this?” Loki gave a grin and shrugged, so Tony shrugged too and continued sipping. “Bottoms up, I guess.”
“A small amount of alcohol is calming.” Loki said, resting his elbows on the table. “A large amount can be damning, or so I’m told.”
Tony nodded, unsurprised that Loki had picked up on the almost hypothetical plan he’d had earlier from his question about whether he drank. He also sort of appreciated what he was doing with the touch of whiskey, rather than keeping any form of alcohol a mile away or something like Steve liked to do sometimes. Made him feel less on the verge of going nuts.
“So. Your reason.” Loki prompted as Tony took another sip.
Tony nodded again, slower this time, setting his cup down and leaning back in his chair. “Right… Same reason, really, like I said. They—I mean, the group on Friday, and Steve today—they wanna help me, but…” He gave a one shouldered shrug. “They shouldn’t have to. I get frustrated…” He broke of, sighing and shaking his head. “I’m not making any sense.”
Loki shook his head almost impatiently. “Your friends try to help, effect is temporary, problem remains, and you become frustrated that their efforts are wasted, but perhaps it would help if you began at the beginning.”
Tony blinked, staring at Loki who stared back, expression sombre but eyes still as bright and intelligent looking as ever. Not even Steve would have followed as well as that.
“…Right,” he said, still a little surprised, and taking a deep breath, preparing himself to tell the story. He hadn’t told anyone before. Steve knew to an extent because he was there for some of it, but he hadn’t told Bruce or the others the whole thing in one go. “Okay. I moved here at the end of the summer, in with Steve, it was his idea, cause I couldn’t stay back home. I moved outta home as soon as I turned eighteen, and—after a while, my, well, my ex-girlfriend now, she moved in with me. Pepper.” He paused, looking down at his coffee cup. “I’ve known her years, she was my best friend along with Steve, and I thought it was great. Just over two years, and I still thought it was fine, but….” He gave a shrug, and lifted his cup for a drink.
“What was her reasoning?” Loki asked, since it was clear where Tony was going with this.
“I dunno. Me. I wasn’t doing it right. She said I was either too much, or not enough. She couldn’t handle it, and stuff. My fault. But it was really tough, and I was actually really fucking surprised, though she seemed to think it’d been coming on for a while. And I—Okay so you guessed a little from today, I’m guessing from the whiskey, but when I’m stressed, or angry, or… I dunno. I drink too much, and I know I do, when things are tough, but I still do it. Most of the time I’m fine, social drinker, like anyone else, but anyway. Steve stayed with me for a few weeks, stopped me some days, went with me when he couldn’t, and I went with the move cause I agreed that I needed to get away.”
Loki nodded, but didn’t give any other form of input. He didn’t look sympathetic, amused, angry, disgusted, surprised; he didn’t do anything but sit there and acknowledge what Tony was saying.
“I’ve been okay with it for a few months now. I mean, I think I conceded, somewhere in my mind, that me and Pepper wasn’t gonna happen again. For a while it still sucked, but I slowly stopped thinking ‘bout it.”
“Until… Friday,” Loki said, quietly, guessing.
“What happened on Friday?”
Tony sat quietly, staring down into his cooling coffee as he let his thoughts calm down a little. “She called me for the first time in five months. Told me she was dating again, one of my best friends from back home, thought it was better coming from her.”
“Yeah. But she called Steve then, and told him to—I dunno I didn’t get far enough to hearing what she said, but that’s why he arranged Friday, he just told me today. I knew he knew I was torn up about something, but to not tell me she called— And then that asshole texts me and it all comes out.”
“So you leave.”
“….Pretty much. Couldn’t talk to him, I didn’t know what to think.”
Except, now, he sort of did. He was angrier at himself than he was at Pepper, Happy, or Steve. Pepper had moved on, sure, that’s what people did. Happy, well, Tony always knew he had a bit of a thing for Pepper, and was obviously worried about what Tony was gonna think and do, or else Pepper wouldn’t have phoned Steve for him, and Steve was just trying to help.
Everybody was tip-toeing around Tony while getting on with their lives like people do, and Tony was stuck in this place, where he wished everybody well, even Pepper, and was okay with her dating again, deep down, because he knew she couldn’t be happy with him, and he did want her to be happy again. But he was still stuck, feeling like a screw-up, wondering why Steve bothered with him when he was such a clear screw-up, feeling undeserving of his concern and guilty that he was being given it, and taking it, anyway. He was angry at himself for not being able to just be happy, too, even if just for the people he cared about.
“And now?” Loki asked after a few moments silence.
Tony looked up, one corner of his mouth curving into a small smile. “…Better.”
Loki gave an almost triumphant smirk and leaned back in his chair. “Your coffee is going cold.”
Tony picked up the cup absently, watching Loki thoughtfully. He had no idea why he’d told Loki all of that, but he couldn’t find any reasoning behind anything since leaving the apartment. Loki just seemed to enjoy defying reason.
They departed shortly after that, and Tony left a few dollars in the tip jar, feeling a little uncomfortable with freeloading off Loki’s staff discount. The waitress locked the door after them, and Tony wondered if she’d left it open after closing because he and Loki were there, and made a mental note to add more to his tip next time he was here, because he definitely planned on going back.
It was snowing heavily now, so they walked quickly, mostly in silence, apart from the odd grumble on Tony’s part at the cold and damp seeping through his shoes into his socks, and Loki giving short, quiet laughs at his expense, that Tony, oddly, didn’t seem to mind.
When they turned the corner at Tony’s apartment block again, he glanced up to Steve’s bedroom window on the second floor, where the light was on. “Steve’s still up,” he commented, feeling guilty about leaving again. Loki shrugged.
“So am I. I might file this walk under disturbance, in turn filing it under your third point, and placing a claim.”
Tony grinned and sighed. “Or you could just start normal conversation when you feel like it, like most people do.”
Loki raised an eyebrow, smirking. “Where’s the fun in that?”
Shaking his head, Tony held out his hand. “Gimme your phone.”
“Why?” Loki questioned suspiciously, but reached into the pocket of his coat anyway.
“Everybody’s gotta have a contact number for their insurance company.” He pulled off one of his gloves as Loki handed him his phone, his eyebrows tilted, slightly amused, watching as Tony navigated through the phone with his free thumb and added his number, locking the phone and holding it out with a flourish. Loki took it back slowly, with an expression Tony couldn’t place, and said nothing.
Pushing his bare hand into his pocket, holding the glove, Tony took a step back. “Thanks for the coffee, anyway. I’ll see you later, I guess.”
Loki inclined his head. “I look forward to hearing your apology for dragging me out, at night, in terrible weather.”
Tony raised a hand in a mock salute as Loki turned and started walking away, taking backward steps to the door, and calling after him. “I’ll make it good!”
Loki didn’t turn around, just raised his hand in a lazy wave, and continued walking. Tony shut the door and made his way up the staircase, in a much lighter mood, though still feeling bad about the way he spoke to Steve, rooting through his pocket for his keys. He was barely in the door when Steve pulled open the door of his bedroom.
“Oh my god, Tony, you left your phone here, I—“
“I’m sorry,” Tony closed the door and cut him off before he could go any further and bring down his mood, and he owed the apology pretty heavily anyway. “Seriously, I am. I shouldn’t have spoken to you like that, I was just pissed.”
“You’re allowed to be,” Steve said, giving a relieved sigh and moving to grab Tony in a tight hug. “And even if you don’t wanna talk to me about it, you’re still allowed to be pissed off around me. I understand.”
Tony patted his back, nodding against Steve’s shoulder. “Still. I’m sorry for walking off, then.”
Steve pulled back until he could see Tony. “…Where did you even go, actually?”
“A coffee shop, I dunno what it was called, first time in there,” he explained, pulling off his coat.
“Did you actually take Loki with you?”
Tony went into the kitchen, kicking off his damp shoes and leaning against the washing machine as he pulled off his socks, throwing them in with the dirty laundry. “Uhh, he took me there, actually, it was his idea. I didn’t even know the place existed.”
Steve followed him, raising one eyebrow. “…That’s weird. Loki’s not usually so…” Steve narrowed his eyes, searching for a word.
“I think I know what you mean, from hearing Thor talk.” Tony shrugged. “Seems fine to me.”
“Tony, you called him boring at Halloween.”
“That’s cause he was getting ready to insult my ego, I could see it coming. I talked to him later that day anyway.”
Tony laughed. “Look, Steve, I know I’ve been a bit of a dick tonight already, but can we, you know, do this tomorrow? I’m cold, and I'm tired. Mentally and physically.” He also really didn’t want Steve starting to ask what they talked about, but he was saved the trouble as Steve agreed readily.
“Sure, sure thing. You’re okay, though, yeah?”
Tony walked over to grab his phone from the couch he’d left it on, and gave Steve a pat on the shoulder as he passed him, heading toward the hallway and his room. “I’m gettin’ there, and I’ll tell you if I’m not, yeah?”
Steve inhaled and exhaled slowly, studying Tony for any sign of a lie, then closed his eyes, nodding with a bit of a smile. “Okay. G’night, Tony.”
When he was in his room with his door closed, Tony realised just how tired he actually was. He shook off his jeans and changed into a pyjama vest, collapsing into his bed with a sigh. He still felt shit, and angry with himself, but was sort of relieved to know where exactly his problem lay, even if he had no idea how to stop hating so many bits of himself right now. It was a start, and he was a tiny, tiny bit optimistic about that. His phone buzzed suddenly, and he opened the text, from a number his phone didn’t recognize, and grinned at the contents.
Sunday 11th Dec, 23:38
I’m also placing a claim under ‘bad sympathizing skills’.
At your response to me making my discomfort in the cold weather clear.
He stored Loki’s number quickly before replying.
Sunday 11th Dec, 23: 41
Nothing wrong with a little snow, but that’s two claims now.
I’ll look forward to whatever premium you decide to pay. G’night.
Chapter 5: ripple effect
The moment that Tony realised that he could, and probably would, easily disregard his sensible voice, felt like a quiet oh, like the tiniest, smallest drop that falls with the tiniest, smallest noise, but disturbs the water anyway.
I'm sorry that this one took so long. Some business came up and it took some time to get back into my writing groove, which, evident in the short length of this chapter, I haven't quite done yet.
The next morning passed awkwardly for Tony. He and Steve spok, but it was a short talk while they made their breakfasts, pulled shoes on, glanced out the window to see Thor waiting, and hurried it along. Tony promised not to get pissed at Steve over the Pepper situation anymore, since he and Pepper had been friends before the break-up and still kept in contact through emails and Facebook, and Steve promised to tell Tony next time something happened that involved him.
He spotted Loki around campus a few times on Monday, and the odd thing about it this time was that they actually spoke to each other. At first it was a simple hello, how are you, but it was acknowledgment, and Loki rarely did that with anyone in their year. They struck up small conversations outside lectures, beginning when a nearby couple broke into an argument nearby, appearing behind Tony and mumbling quietly.
“What problem this time?”
Tony jumped a little and looked over his shoulder, grinning at Loki’s smirk, the clear amusement he was taking in the argument.
“I’m gonna make a wild guess and say cheating,” he replied in the same low voice. “I saw him in the library uh, with someone, the other day. Didn’t think it was weird ‘till now.”
“How so?” Loki crossed his arms and tilted his head, smirking a little wider as their female classmate aimed a slap at her boyfriend.
“Cause that seems to be his girlfriend.”
“Ah.” Loki looked at Tony out of the corner of his eye. “You didn’t know?”
“Nope. They do this often, then?”
“Don’t you pay attention?” Loki didn’t sound accusing or condescending, but curious, and Tony shook his head.
“To these people?” He gestured at the crowd around them, mostly students in their year, also waiting around the lecture hall. “Not really.”
“Not worthy of your attention.” Loki shook his head and looked away, but he was still smirking.
“More to do with how boring they are, actually, but sure, let’s go with that.”
“How can you safely assume they’re boring if you don’t pay attention?”
Loki looked over again, eyebrows raised, but a small smile at the corner of his lips. “Yes.”
“Well, then,” Tony gave a mock grin of triumph.
“It still doesn’t do any good to ignore your surroundings, and the people they include. They can be mildly interesting, sometimes.”
“Loki, you stalker.”
They both gave a quiet breath of laughter, watching as their classmate stormed off down the corridor, her hair flying angrily behind her. Their lecturer returned, frowning at her as she pushed past him, shrugging and holding the stack of papers in his arms up a little.
“Okay, the photocopier in the other room was working, so here, everybody take one from this pile,” he said, indicating the papers in his left hand. “And one from this, has all the details of the assignment. Once you have one of each you can go.”
The group moved forward in a slow shuffle, and Tony and Loki waited to get close, shoulders bumping occasionally. Tony grabbed two of each when he reached the lecturer, passing Loki the extras as they stepped away. Tony folded his in half right away and pulled his bag around from over his shoulder, stuffing the assignment details inside before slinging it over again.
“This is due in January,” Loki remarked, sounding surprised.
“Yeah, when’d you think it was due? This is the last week of class, holidays start after.”
Loki’s expression darkened for a moment, and he gave a small sigh, folding the papers. “Wonderful.”
“What’s wrong, don’t like the holiday season?” Tony asked with a wry smile. He didn’t have any particular fondness for it himself.
“We spend it with our… extended family. Groups of people. Noise. Cramped space.”
“And an assignment,” Tony pointed out. “Ouch.”
Loki gave a second sigh at that, putting the papers away in his own bag, then paused, watching Tony expressionlessly. “Aren’t you supposed to meet Thor and his merry men now?”
Tony nodded. He was done for the day now, but Steve wasn’t, and he normally met them in the cafeteria for an hour on their break. “It’s kinda weird that you know that. Stalker, right?”
“Thor is my brother,” Loki replied with a hint of a smile, then paused again, as if he’d been about to say something but thought better of it. Tony didn’t speak, curious, knowing that if he filled the silence, he likely wouldn’t continue what he’d been about to say. “I have work in an hour,” he said eventually. “But I’d planned to eat lunch there before my shift. Care to join me? I do have a premium to work up, as you pointed out last night.”
Tony blinked, surprised. Loki was sort of known for preferring his own company, so he definitely hadn’t been expecting an invitation to lunch. He was glad they had the premium joke. He suspected Loki wouldn’t have asked if he didn’t have the joke to fall back on.
“Sure, I’ll try and think up something fun and claim-inspiring while I’m at it, Mondays make me restless.” He grinned.
While leaving campus, he sent Steve a quick text.
Monday 12th Dec, 14:03
Can’t make lunch, sorry. See you at home.
Tony got used to eating lunch with Loki for the rest of the week, passing the better part of an hour over coffee, food, and some of the most stimulating conversation he’d had since he moved. He loved Steve, Steve was his best friend, but neither he nor the rest of his group were awesome at keeping up with Tony, so he’d taken to toning it down, even with Bruce, who was closest. Loki was just as quick as he was, though, quietly charismatic, and Tony started to learn how to read his different expression, the tilt of his eyebrows and slight glint in his eye when he knew something nobody else did, or when he was thinking something devious, which Tony also found he did quite often. By Thursday, Loki had stopped bothering to ask Tony to join him; they both just came to expect it. On Friday, Tony stayed an extra hour, into Loki’s shift, and was introduced to the waitress he’d seen before, a short but bubbly girl named Jan.
In the evenings, when Loki wasn’t working, they’d taken a habit of walking the same circle they’d walked the night Loki first brought Tony to the café, in the snow, talking. When Tony tried to remember what they’d passed the time talking about specifically, he never could. The conversation came too easily, and they tended to tease each other good-humouredly, so a lot of the time it was very ambiguous. He told Loki about his friends back home, mostly Rhodey, still avoiding the subject of Pepper and Happy. Steve gave him funny looks when he came home afterward, and just gave a stupid grin and said “Nothing!” if Tony asked what he was looking at.
“Someone will find that one day, and you’ll have explaining to do.”
Tony looked up from his notepad, grinning at Loki. Saturday morning, and he’d decided to show up for a slightly late breakfast, and hang around for a while. It was pretty quiet, anyway, and Loki and Jan didn’t seem to mind.
“Maybe I’ll leave it somewhere on purpose,” he answered, shutting the notepad, hiding the gun sketches. “See who worries and why.”
“Why do you draw guns?” Loki tossed the cloth that had been resting over his shoulder onto the table and seated himself across from Tony.
“Dunno, I’m like—“ He gave a shrug. “Distracted when I do it, I dunno, my hands just go themselves.”
“But why guns?”
“Dad taught me the workings of most of ‘em when I was younger, I guess it’s easiest when I’m daydreaming. The details come easy. Is it always this quiet on a Saturday?”
“Clearly you scare the customers.” Tony grinned over at him and rolled his eyes, and Loki smirked back before giving a real answer. “It’s a quiet place. I think it looks more like a book store than a coffee shop.”
“You should put up some Christmas decorations,” Tony said, gesturing around the shop with one hand. “Attract people with shiny stuff.”
“I’d rather not. And where do you suppose we’d fit a tree?”
Tony chuckled. “Fair point…” He looked sideways at Loki after a moment, curious. “You don’t really seem that into Christmas.”
“No,” he answered with a shake of his head, brushing a little hair behind his ear. Tony’s eyes were drawn to the black rubber bracelet he wore, how it dangled there and how the bones of his hand showed at the curve of his wrist, before he caught himself and looked back at Loki’s face. “The snow is really the only part I enjoy.”
“…I thought you didn’t like being ‘dragged out in the terrible weather’?”
They stared at each other silently for a few seconds, Loki with a small hint of challenge in his eyes, and Tony frowning, before he flashed a quick smile and Loki returned it with a small one.
“What time are you finished today? Feel like being dragged out again?”
“…Six,” Loki didn’t look away at first as he answered, but blinked after a moment and looked down at the table. “But I have to go home and pack.”
“Pack? For what?”
“Christmas with the family. At my grandfather’s.”
“Oh, I thought they came to you… So you’re outta town for the entire holiday?”
“Until the first of January. The snow will still be there when I return,” he added, looking up at Tony again. “And I think I would like to, yes.”
There was something strange in Loki’s expression, something Tony couldn’t place. He looked less sure of himself, that quiet arrogance muted a little. “You don’t get along with your family,” he said suddenly, guessing, and Loki closed his eyes, breathing out a quiet laugh.
“Nothing slips by you. No, no I don’t.” He opened his eyes. “Not for lack of trying. I’m difficult to them, and putting up the act of how they’d rather I be is tiring.”
“What? No, acting like somebody else isn’t trying, Loki,” Tony said, and frowned when Loki did. “Is that what you think counts as trying with family?”
“I’d rather not talk about this, Tony.”
Tony shrugged. “Up to you. Sounds like they’re being difficult, but I’ll drop it.”
They both looked up as Jan called, leaning over the counter, holding her dripping hands away from her. “The dishwasher, again, I can’t reach the drain….”
Loki sighed and rose, raising an eyebrow at Tony as he stood with him. “See the cheap equipment we’re forced to work with?”
“I’ll leave you to it,” he grinned, patting Loki on the shoulder. “I can smell that drain from here, and I got an assignment to start anyway.”
“Ha! You’re some help.”
“Hey, you’re getting paid for it, enjoy!” Tony grinned a little wider at the laugh, looking over his shoulder at Loki as he made for the door. He’d noticed a long while ago, back at Halloween, how Loki’s entire face transformed when he smiled, whether it was genuine or devilish, but with the laugh—Whoah, stop, Tony, before you’re staring. He gave a quick wave, which Loki returned, raising one eyebrow, before turning away and heading out the door.
He walked home thinking about Loki, understanding a little better why he spent so much time out of his house, and wondering how Thor couldn’t see it. Loki didn’t need a job, Tony knew that from Thor’s talking. Their parents had enough money to put both of them through college easily, but Loki visibly relaxed in that place, smiling and laughing while surrounded by dusty, battered books and probably with a hand stuck from the elbow down in a stinking dishwasher drain right now. Thor complained at least once a day that he didn’t know why Loki liked this or didn’t like that or why he acts like this when he could be doing that, bla bla bla. From the sounds of it, most of his family were the same, otherwise he wouldn’t feel the need to put up the act he mentioned. Who would spend their free time in a place with people who questioned everything that made you who you were?
Loki’s absence was actually a lot more noticeable than Tony thought it’d be, and by the second day he found himself missing the walks in the evenings. He tried not to think about it too much, and cursed mentally at himself when he did. He didn’t even bother trying to deny that Loki was good-looking—okay, very good-looking—and conceded that point months ago when he first met him. But there was a difference in noticing that, and actually missing the tiny changes of expression that took place more in his eyes than anything else, or the way he held his head depending on his mood. He missed the conversation, and that he didn’t have to run his words through a heavy filter around Loki because he always seemed to know what he was talking about anyway. He pissed himself off with the list of things he missed, because he definitely didn’t need it right now, not when even thinking of Pepper still had him taking a sharp breath against the sinking sensation in his chest, and not when he’s only known Loki a few months.
He pissed himself off the most on the third day, though, when he actually found himself grinning stupidly at his phone when Loki texted him out of nowhere. I’m bored, was all it said, but the many texts that followed, the phone call that night, and the almost daily phone calls afterward indicated that maybe Loki missed him a little, too, right?
No. Stop. Cut it out right now, Tony. He couldn’t let himself think like that, he reminded himself that he didn’t need it.
Monday 25th December (00:03)
Happy Holidays, etc.
The moment that Tony realised that he could, and probably would, easily disregard his sensible voice, felt like a quiet oh, like the tiniest, smallest drop that falls with the tiniest, smallest noise, but disturbs the water anyway.
Tony jumped as his laptop gave a noise, looking up from his pen and paper, train of thought suddenly broken. He sighed and got up, covering the short distance from his desk to his bed where the laptop was sitting, and throwing himself down on it gracelessly, crossing his legs and pulling it toward himself. He’d forgotten when he started to work on his assignment that he’d left himself signed in. He looked around on the screen, refreshing Facebook before clicking the Skype icon flashing at him.
Monday 26th December
Loki: Are you there or did you leave it on again?
left it on but i heard it from the desk, what’s goin on?
Loki: I'm going crazy here.
Tony: what happened?
Loki: I just can't stand being around them.
Spend time with them nd they criticise everything.
Spend time alone and I'm being difficult.
I have a list of their words to choose from.
Tony: fuck, loki
just ignore it, you're back in a week
one more week, just avoud them and fuck it
don't listen to them
Loki: They're my family, Tony.
What does it say for me, that my own family hate me?
Tony: they don't hate you loki, they're just being assholes
family are better than anyone at making us feel shit
it's like that saying, you know, can't choose your family
people are assholes sometimes and it sucks when you're related to them
Loki: If we could choose our family, they wouldn't choose me.
Tony: their loss, plenty others would
don't let yourself feel down because of them
i'll punch thor when yo guys get back if that helps
Loki: It's a wonderful image, though not very helpful.
Thor would destroy you in a fight and I'd rather he didn't.
You're the only one who doesn't hate me.
Or think that I'm a failure as a person.
For whatever reason, you actualy put up with me.
Probably because you aren't sane.
I'm miserable and you're insane, what a pair we make.
Tony: i dont 'put up with you' loki, you make it sound like a chore
i hang out with you cause you're awesome and i want to
can't choose your family but you can choose your friends
I'm going to get some sleep.
Tony: rest up. hope tomorrow's better. sorry for taking so long before i replied first
call me if you gotta talk yeah?
Loki: I will. Goodnight, Tony.
Chapter 6: happy holidays
Loki pursed his lips, holding back a wide smile, and blinked repeatedly. Oh, Tony, he thought, placing the note tightly between to pages and closing the journal, running a shaking hand over the cover. You’d better run now before I actually start loving you, you poor man.
Tony woke up at about twenty past ten on Tuesday morning with a headache from sleeping too much, which was such a goddamn oddity for him he actually just lay there for fifteen minutes, frowning up at his ceiling, before attempting to rise. When he finally moved, it was only to reach over to his bedside locker to pick up his phone, throwing his head back against the pillows, rubbing at an eye with one hand and flicking through his emails with the other. Nothing much.
He threw the phone on the bed and rolled onto his side, stretching out his legs and sighing. He had no motivation to get up at all, no motivation to do anything but lie there and stare at his phone, and that worried him a lot. If it happened to light up with a text alert or something he’d probably move so quick the sound notification wouldn’t have a chance to ring out, and the thought made him want to kick himself. He had to get a grip. He’d gone to bed not long after Loki the night before, their short conversation running over and over his mind, so it was no surprise it was still heavy in his thoughts upon waking.
He had to get a grip. He’d only known Loki for almost five months, and had only spoken to him for two of those months, most of which had happened in the very last month. It shouldn’t weigh him down so badly, the thought of Loki an hour and a half’s drive away, surrounded by people who made him miserable and uncomfortable. He thought of last time he’d seen Loki in person, back in the café, grinning and laughing about a blocked up and stinking dishwasher, at ease and brightening up his surroundings by just being himself. The memory brought up a contrasting image of how Tony imaged Loki must be at this moment; avoiding the people he should be able to relax like that around, because they won’t accept him as he is, because he’s different.
It’d be the same if it was Steve, right? Or Bruce? Or any friend of his? Loki was a friend. Friends worried about each other like that. Loki was also Thor’s brother, Thor, with his protective issues and massive arms, and also Tony’s friend. He was also pretty sure Loki could look after himself, and probably wouldn’t appreciate how ridiculous Tony was being. The day Tony managed to develop an attachment that wasn’t complicated or dramatic in some way would be the day Steve managed to actually hate someone.
“Tony?” Steve’s voice came, almost on cue.
The door opened, catching on a sock Tony’d left lying on the floor, but Steve just pushed the door open over it and peeked his head in. “Bruce is on the phone,” Tony rolled onto his back again to look at Steve, taking note of the cellphone Steve held against his chest.
“He’s coming back early, wants to know if we’re all up for a New Year’s Eve party?”
“Did you even need to ask me that question?”
Steve chuckled, stepping into the room and lifting the phone to his ear. Tony shuffled over a little to make room for him on the edge of the bed as he sat down, then lay down flat on his back, on the covers, beside Tony. “Yeah, Tony’s up for it. Where do you wanna have it? ……I’ve never been to Tasha’s, where is it? Is it, uh—it’s bigger than mine and Tony’s at least, right?”
Ohhh, party at Tasha’s. That’d be interesting. Tony wondered what sort of interior design mysterious, scary women with murder heels kept.
“If she’s okay with it, sure. Okay. I’ll see you on Friday!”
After a somewhat unintelligible and mumbled goodbye, Steve hung up and grinned over at Tony. “This should be fun, ‘specially since we missed last New Year’s Eve together. Shame Thor won’t make it, though…”
“Mmm,” Tony replied, still sleepy and non-committal. He wondered when and if Loki actually celebrated New Year’s Eve, and if so, how, since Tony knew he didn’t really drink. Shame, indeed. “How come Bruce’s back early?”
Tony felt the dip in the bed as Steve shrugged. “Too much time with family, I think, and he said he misses us, but I expect that’s probably an excuse.”
“Tasha at party’s, huh.”
“…Are you okay?” Steve sat up a little, leaning on one elbow and frowning down at Tony.
“What? I—Oh, party at Tasha’s, sorry. Yeah, I just need to wake up, or something.”
“Okay…. Want me to make you some breakfast?” Steve didn’t look convinced.
“Free homemade breakfast, light her up, Steve.” Tony winked, an attempt at his usual charisma, and nudged Steve with an elbow. “Gimme ten minutes to get my head in gear. This is why I don’t sleep much.”
Steve rolled his eyes as he stood up, pushing Tony’s elbow away with his own before he did so. “I’ll stick some coffee on, too.”
“Thank you, Steve, you are an angel.”
Loki didn’t call on Tuesday. Tony went for lunch with Steve, fidgeted a lot, stopped when Steve pointed it out, and definitely didn’t check his phone every ten minutes. Steve shook his head with a bemused smile, letting it go, and let Tony close himself in his room with his assignment when they got back, after a short rant on Tony’s end about how he was determined to have it finished before the New Year’s Party. He kept at his desk, working through it distractedly, consciously leaving himself signed into Skype, with Facebook also open, on the bed behind him, thanking Steve when he popped in and left a cup of coffee for him at around six.
Since the 20th, Loki had at least texted every day, good mood or bad, sometimes about nothing at all, the conversation floating over all sorts of random territory, but after the conversation last night, and no word from him—it was now 7.30pm, as Tony checked—for the entire day so far… Tony reminded himself that Loki took care of himself for years; he didn’t need Tony bugging him. If he didn’t wanna talk today, fine. Tony sure as hell wasn’t gonna send one of those clichéd ‘Are you okay I’m worried’ texts, because he wasn’t, right? He was just wondering. Loki had better things to do today, so Tony did too. Like this assignment that he’d been working at for almost four hours and no memory of actually doing the work, but hey, look, work had been done.
He sighed, leaning away from his desk. He was gonna have to read over everything he’d done today to make sure it was okay, he could have written anything, he was that distracted. He stood up and trudged his way toward the bed, sitting up against his pillows and pulling his laptop toward himself. Nothing on Skype. Something on Facebook though. A message from Bruce.
TONY WAKE UP.
wtf bruce, it’s 7pm, i’m awake!
XD Sorry, just messing with you.
what’s so urgent dude? :P
Nothing in particular, excited about coming back. BYOB on Saturday, by the way.
i always do. that bad over there huh?
Not THAT bad, no.
whats the rush then? not that i’m complainin, been too quiet with everyone gone everywhere
Christmas is over now, I suppose. All the usual stuff done, caught up with everyone. I guess I feel a little out of place this year, like home is elsewhere now.
awwww bruce is all grown up! or you just love us way too much
Never too much :P Don’t let it get to your head. What are you doing on Friday?
do i ever?
nothing i know of yet, why?
Want to come meet me at the bus?
sure, what time?
4:30. You can help with the extra luggage I’ve accumulated.
oh thanks, riiiight, i make a good set of arms
Shhh XD I’ve gotta go, see you Friday?
He closed the conversation tab when it alerted him that Bruce had gone offline, and refreshed his news feed. He felt kind of bad when the conversation started and he realised he hadn’t been keeping in contact with Bruce since he’d gone home. Considering the amount of texts and conversations exchanged with Loki, he decided it was probably a good idea not to mention it to anyone else. Bruce didn’t seem annoyed about it, at least. In fact, he grinned, Bruce seemed to have had a good time at home, judging by the photos he was tagged in filling up Tony’s feed. His hair looked so weird, tidier than the slightly curly mess it usually was, and Tony left a comment saying just that. Probably his Mom’s influence.
He scrolled down to more photos, but not of Bruce, this time. Thor had uploaded some in the last half hour, apparently, and Tony clicked into the album almost immediately, the knot of concern in his chest loosening a little. Loki was alive at least, or else Thor wouldn’t be on Facebook. Whether or not he’d notice if Loki was upset was another matter.
They were nice pictures. Most of them were of people he didn’t recognise, aunts, uncles, cousins or something, and few were of Thor considering he had the camera. Odin looked as stern as the first and only time Tony had seen him in person, and Frigga graced nearly every picture with a gentle smile. Clearly she was good with the whole family.
Loki appeared in only two; one that looked like it was from Christmas dinner, with Thor on his right wearing three paper hats from the Christmas crackers. Loki’s head was turned slightly, one eyebrow raised at Thor and his lips pursed in the way they did when he was trying to hide a smile, but the corners of his mouth were still turned up a little. Tony stopped on the second photo of Loki, taken from inside, through a window. He was stood on some sort of snow covered porch, staring out into the darkness, his form lit only by the lights from the house and, to an extent, the moon. Stood outside, probably taking a moment to avoid the family for reasons Tony couldn’t believe weren’t clear to everyone, and Thor took a fucking picture. Nice.
Tony slept shortly after midnight, surprising himself again. It was actually easier to sleep than think himself through the circles he was going in lately, which was saying a lot for him since he was pretty damn good at thinking, though his process wasn’t always exactly a straight line. He didn’t know what time it was when he woke up, and he didn’t know where his watch or his phone were, since they were normally on the bedside locker, but he did know he wasn’t bothered about getting up and looking for them. He rolled over onto his stomach, lying on the side of his face, letting his thoughts drift in a semi-awake haze over everything and nothing, before blinking himself awake seemingly five seconds later to a knocking at his door.
“Whaaaat…” He mumbled into his pillow, opening one eye at the door.
“Tony? Are you awake?”
“Steve, just come in,” He grumbled, rolling onto his back as Steve opened the door. “I’m not waking up shouting through the door at you.”
“You left your phone in the bathroom,” Steve said, holding the thing up gingerly. Tony frowned, from the phone to the strange expression on Steve’s face.
“…You woke me up for that?”
Tony blinked, sitting up after that elaboration. “Gimme that thing!”
Steve stepped forward, raising one eyebrow and holding the phone out further. “Why is Loki phoning you?” He asked, lowering his voice.
“Out,” Tony said, taking the phone and looking down at the screen to confirm Loki was still there.
“Sorry, that was rude, but still,” Tony waved a hand toward the door. “Please?”
Steve stayed where he was for a moment, looking like he was planning on saying something else, before giving a nod, patting Tony on the shoulder. “If you say so. I’ll make coffee.”
“Thanks, Steve,” Tony called after him, waiting until the door closed before lifting the phone to his ear.
“How are you still in your bed at this hour?”
Tony breathed a laugh, pretending to be offended. “I dunno what time it is, I left my stuff in the bathroom after my shower last night.”
“Then you haven’t checked your texts this morning.”
“No, were you texting?”
“I was,” Loki sounded lighter, as if he smiled at the words. “Would you like to hang up and check it, or shall I tell you now, while I have you?”
“Tell me now, I’m listening.”
“I’m returning home on Saturday morning.”
Tony blinked. “Whoah. Okay, yeah, that’s great, but why?”
The phone crackled as Loki sighed into it. “You know why.”
“Oh… Did something happen yesterday, or how come you’re allowed away? What’s different?”
“Hm. Something silly, really. Mother decided it would do no harm for me to return a few days earlier than everyone else.”
“…Thor, and my oldest cousin, older than both Thor and myself. They decided as I woke up that I could use a haircut.”
“Oh. Oh my god. Did--?”
“No, I kicked Thor in the nose, and my cousin in…an unpleasant area to be kicked before they got the thing close enough to my hair.”
Tony paused for a moment, doing his best to hold back the laugh bubbling in his throat. He gave a sharp cough, hoping to cover it.
“You’re allowed to laugh,” Loki said, picking up on it. “I certainly did.”
Tony covered his mouth anyway when he did laugh, not wanting to grab Steve’s attention. “Oh my god, what age does Thor think—I mean hell yeah, good job getting rid of them, but still—“
“I don’t think Thor thinks in those terms.”
“What’d your Mom say?”
“That we are all too ‘wired’ to be in each other’s presence another five days. I’ll be home by eleven, but working at noon.”
“You called work to say you were coming home?”
“New Year’s Eve is a good day to work, Tony. Almost double pay.” Loki’s voice drew away in the last few years, before getting louder again as he returned the phone to his ear. “I have to go.”
“Oh. Okay. Well, uh, that’s good to hear. About Saturday. I’ll talk to you ‘bout it more later.”
“I got a proposition for you, when you’re done with work. Later, though.” Tony paused when Loki didn’t respond, pulling idly at the sheets at his hand. “I wondered, yesterday, when you didn’t get in touch. After Monday night—“
“I was tired and over-emotional.” Loki said suddenly. “On Monday, I overreacted, perhaps.”
“No you didn’t, it’s totally normal to—“
“Thank you, Tony. I do have to go, though. Don’t leave your phone lying around.”
Tony gave a small smile. “Gotcha. See you on Saturday.”
Tony hung up and locked the keypad of the phone in one practiced motion, keeping it in hand as he slowly swung his legs over the side of the bed, curling his toes at the sudden cold, and frowning as he searched through his clothes for a pair of jeans to pull on over his underwear. With the news that both Loki and Bruce were coming back earlier than expected, he was having an easier time getting up and out of bed than he thought he would. Not only that, but he was actually really relieved to have heard from Loki. He didn’t wanna push him about it too much over the phone, but the full story behind what happened was probably a lot worse than he was trying to let Tony believe. He tried to imagine it, Loki in his bed, barely awake, with Thor looming over him (the cousin wasn’t in his image, he couldn’t decide what he’d look like, beyond that he was probably gonna be blonde), electric razor in hand, and Loki somehow fighting back with enough force to kick Thor in the face of all places. Thor wasn’t gonna like that.
He wandered to the kitchen, barefoot and following the smell of Steve’s coffee, stretching before sitting down at the table and accepting a cup gratefully. He watched Steve return the pot to the countertop, then rinsing his hands in the sink for some unknown reason, deciding that Steve’s sense of style seriously needed spruced up. Tony was bored of seeing him in the same white tees most of the time.
“We gotta get you some new clothes for Saturday, and no, I don’t mean one of those horrible shirts you—“
“Why was Loki phoning you?”
Tony blinked at the sudden interruption, raising an eyebrow at Steve’s attempt at a casual expression.
“Uh, to talk to me? That’s normally why people phone each other.” A small crease appeared between Steve’s eyebrows, and he looked at a spot in the table somewhere in front of Tony, clearly thinking something over, and Tony took a long sip of his coffee in preparation for Steve’s gentle-worded opinion that was surely about to come.
“….You talk to him a lot lately, I think. I’ve heard you on the phone in your room a lot recently, was it to him?”
“I’m a busy guy, Steve; I get a lot of phone calls. A few might’ve been. What’s this about?”
Steve nodded, still looking at the table, then took a slow breath as he looked up again. “Loki’s… I don’t know how to describe it really, but I’ve known him a while now, but never spoke to him a lot. I know a lot about him from Thor, though.”
“….And? C’mon, you’re clearly going somewhere with this.” Tony could feel himself brining up a wall, his emotions numbing, watching expressionlessly like he tended to do when someone was about to say something he didn’t like.
“I’m not saying he’s a bad guy, I don’t know him so I don’t like to judge, but yeah, I was going somewhere with this. Thor says he hasn’t had a lot of friends of his own, grew up being used to hanging around with him and his friends, and—I guess it worked alright, when he was younger? I’m not sure what changed and neither is Thor, but since they came into their late teens I’m told he started to get a little… cold.”
Tony nodded, putting his coffee cup down. “I don’t see what his disposition or whatever has to do with the fact that I speak to him occasionally.”
“The friends that he has had,” Steve picked up, staring Tony right in the eyes. “Thor says he seemed to almost… use them up, keep them for a while, and then they’d just… disappear, I suppose. Thor stopped seeing or hearing about them.”
“And he automatically assumed it was Loki’s fault.”
“Look, Tony, I’m not trying to insult you, or suggest you can’t handle yourself, but he can be harsh. He has a different sense of humour to most people, a different way of thinking. And you…” Steve trailed off, sighing, while Tony narrowed his eyes suddenly.
“What about me, Steve?” He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table, staring right back. “Finish what you were gonna say. Keep tryin’ to hide me away from everything, or hide it from me, cause I’m an emotionally unstable hazard to myself, right?”
“Tony,” Steve’s face fell visibly, and he reached forward to rest a hand on Tony’s arm. “That’s not what I—I’m your best friend, I just wanna make sure you’re okay. I don’t think letting Loki in, or getting friendly with him, is a good idea.”
“….Whatever.” Tony shook Steve’s arm off and pushed his chair out, rising. “I’m done listening to this.”
“I’m sorry, Tony, I just want you to be careful—“
“There’s a difference between that and—you know what, let’s not do this. Thank you for your opinion, Steve,” Tony shook his head. “I’ll totally keep it in mind, and shit, but I’m not gonna fall out over this. Let’s drop it now, yeah?”
Steve stared up at his friend, looking like he was getting ready to say something else, then sighed, nodding. “Okay.”
Saturday morning came, and Tony had managed to avoid the subject of Loki with Steve. The conversation had bugged him a hell of a lot more than he wanted Steve to know, for several reasons. For starters, he didn’t like Steve trying to pick and choose his friends for him, like he was some sort of kid that needed protected from the big bad world. Secondly, he didn’t think Steve of all people talking bad about someone even he confessed he didn’t know that well. The third reason was that he was re-thinking his second reason; if Steve had been around longer, maybe he did know Loki better than Tony did, and maybe he was right. He liked that reason the least.
Picking Bruce up from the bus was pretty easy. The extras he mentioned were both presents that he’d received from family, and presents he’d picked up for the group. They were all small and simple; Tony’s was a case for his iPhone with some sort of pistol design on it, which he really, really liked, though he did have to apologize heavily for not having gotten Bruce anything, since he wasn’t too great at the whole Christmas thing. He’d covered Steve and his mother, and tried not to think about the last two Christmases, that he’d put effort into, the engraved bracelet and earrings he’d bought Pepper, and tried even harder not to think too much about that fact that she was probably spending this year with Happy. It didn’t hurt as much as he thought it would, but part of him wished he was there to glare at Happy and make sure he changed the radio when Cliff Richards came on, because Pepper hated him.
After agreeing that in exchange he’d bring along a bottle of white rum to Tasha’s for Bruce, he didn’t feel as bad about accepting the gift, and stayed long enough to drink a coffee, watch his friend unpack his presents, and tell a few stories, before heading home again.
It was on the way home, walking through the heavy falling snow with his nose stuffed into his scarf, that he thought of the text from Loki on Christmas Day. He hadn’t replied, just stared at it for a while, stuck in his thoughts before they dragged him to sleep, but an idea occurred to him; get Loki a present. Nothing fancy, just something simple but with thought, like Bruce’s iPhone case. He wasn’t sure Loki’d like even getting a present, but as long as it was just a small one, not much harm done, right?
And so it was that on Saturday morning, he found himself trudging more snow, half-melting in the midday sun, with an A4 journal, decorated cover to look like a journal from the 1800s or something. He knew Loki wrote a lot, though he wasn’t sure what. He’d just caught him jotting stuff down at random moments in the café or in lectures, or even while walking, in a small notebook, and got shake of the head in reply if he asked what he was doing.
He checked his watch as he reached the door of the café, making sure Loki would be there to start his shift, and pushed the door open, kicking his shoes free of snow on the edge of the step as he shuffled inside.
“Moooorning,” he called out, looking around to see the place empty apart from Loki and Jan. Loki held up an index finger, saying wait, as he spoke into the phone, and Jan leaned against the countertop behind him, frowning sadly.
“No, Thor. I don’t care how it makes you look, you—What? No, I’m in a café. No, I used their phone when I saw the text, it doesn’t matter.”
Tony stepped up to the cash register, leaning his elbows on the desk and watching as Loki rolled his eyes.
“No I will not come back, the bus was fifteen dollars. I’m not paying that again to—Thor, this was arranged days ago. If you have a problem with it, speak to mother, I’m done listening to you.”
He hung up swiftly then, and glanced over his shoulder at Jan as he walked around the cash register. “If that rings again and it’s him, say I’ve gone.” He took Tony by the elbow as he passed him, directing him toward an empty table, and only released him to lower himself heavily into a chair. Tony sat in the other one, frowning.
“You okay? What’s his problem?”
Loki waved a hand dismissively. “He’s annoyed that my leaving early has made the rest of them disapprove of his prank, and of him and my cousin.”
“I’m not surprised he didn’t guess there’d be disapproval involved somewhere.”
“You know him too well,” Loki sighed and gave a tired smile. “What are you doing here?”
“Well,” Tony lifted the paper bag the journal was wrapped in, setting it on the table between them. “I figured, since you had such a shitty Christmas, I’d try to brighten it up a little.”
Loki’s eyes dropped to the bag, and he leaned forward, tilting his head and looking back up at Tony again. “…That’s for me?”
“Nah I’m gonna put my coffee on it. Yes, it’s for you, take it.”
“Because,” Tony crossed his arms over the desk, raising an eyebrow. “It’s yours. That’s how this whole gift thing works.”
“I’m not dense,” Loki replied with a grin, thankfully not taking Tony seriously at all. “I mean, why did you get it?”
“Cause friends get friends gifts?”
Loki watched Tony closely for a few moments, and Tony did his best to stare back and not shift uncomfortably in his chair, the intensity of Loki’s eyes distracting, before he finally looked down and reached out, pulling the bag toward him.
“…Not gonna open it?”
“I will,” Loki leaned back in his chair. “But not while you’re here.”
“That’s not fai--!”
“I gotta see if you like it or not,” Tony pulled a mock-pout, while Loki smiled wider.
“I can tell you what I think of it later.”
“Fiiiiine…. But, speaking of later, what’re you doing tonight?”
Loki raised his eyebrows, probably at the sudden subject change. “….Sleeping?”
“Nothing, then,” Tony elaborated for himself, staring a little at how Loki could look amused, curious and dignified all at the same time. “There’s a New Year’s Eve party at Tasha’s tonight, whaddya say?”
Tony rarely ever caught Loki looking unsure of himself, and he thought maybe the only reason it seemed so clear this time was because he happened to be looking, and his own expression fell a little as he wondered whether asking had been a good idea or not.
“I… don’t go to parties, very often, and I don’t drink very much…”
“You don’t have to drink, nobody’s gonna make you, and,” Tony watched Loki hopefully as he spoke. “Thor won’t be there.”
“I have nothing against drinking; I just doubt how well I would hold it. Though…” A small curve of his previous smile returned. “It sounds surprisingly tempting. I have to go back to work, now, but I’ll send you a message when I decide. What time?”
“It starts at nine, what time do you finish?”
“Six.” Loki picked up the journal and stood, so Tony followed suit.
“You should come, let off some steam after—Well.”
Loki laughed, and Tony grinned with him, before blinking as Loki leaned forward and gave him a quick hug, the journal bumping against his shoulder blades when Loki draped his arms over Tony’s shoulders. Tony lifted his hands to Loki’s back and returned it for a moment, then schooled his expression hurriedly when he pulled away and made his way back to the register, and Tony headed toward the door.
“I’ll think about it. Thank you for the gift!”
“Leave me a message later!”
Loki paused at the register, watching as Tony stepped outside and pulled his scarf tight around himself against the cold. He held the paper wrapped item up in front of him so he could get a look at it, turning it over in his hands.
“What did you get?” Jan asked behind him, and he could hear the smile in her voice.
“I don’t know yet.”
It had really come as a surprise to him, actually, that Tony had gotten him anything, especially when he had nothing for Tony. They had become close so very quickly, and Tony even knew of his situation with his family, so while he quietly and secretly considered Tony a good friend, he hadn’t realised that Tony felt the same way. He assumed he didn’t register high on Tony’s list of friends, with who he was and the amount he likely had, so the gift was a pleasant surprise.
It couldn’t have come at a better time, either. Christmas was always one of the most stressful times of the year for him, his birthday being another, and this year had been no different. He knew Thor didn’t mean to upset him, and the majority of the time he meant well, but somehow that made it worse, that he didn’t realize what he was doing sometimes. None of his family did. He felt muted or invisible in their presence, unless they were questioning him on his ambitions, hobbies, etc., and decided they had better ideas for him. Then he just felt like a failure.
The temptation to talk to Tony was heavy in those first few days, and he didn’t want to give in to it. With his assumption that Tony had more important people to pay his attention to, Loki didn’t want to appear desperate or close to it. Thankfully, when he did give in, Tony had seemed just as eager to speak to him.
“Open it, silly! How come you didn’t open it while he was here?”
“….I don’t know,” Loki confessed, and Jan straightened and walked toward him, leaning around him to look at his face.
“It’s okay,” She said after a moment. “I do, and I’m gonna go to the bathroom now so you can open it, okay?”
“How do you--?”
“Women’s intuition!” She called, marching off toward the bathroom doors and spinning on her heel to fix him with a glare. “Just open it.” She ordered, and Loki watched the door swing closed behind her.
Loki shook his head with bemusement when she was gone, looking down at the bag again. He knew why he didn’t open it yet; he didn’t want Tony watching his reaction, though why, he didn’t know. He’d better get on with it, though, before Jan got back. He parted the paper at the top, stepping forward to the countertop as he held the bottom and tilted it, shaking the contents free into his other hand.
A book fell out, and Loki frowned, setting the paper down on the countertop. The cover was a brownish-red, decorated is if made of leather, with studded and twirling designs through it. It had a magnetic clasp that he twisted to flip the book open, finding empty, lined pages. A piece of paper fell out, and he caught it quickly before it landed on the floor, straightening to read it.
Notice my handwriting isn’t actually as bad as you probably think it is. I would’ve written something on the inside cover like people do, but I didn’t wanna make it non-returnable if you don’t like it and wanna swap it, and I suck at saying meaningful stuff when I’m actually supposed to.
Loki pursed his lips, holding back a wide smile, and blinked repeatedly. Oh, Tony, he thought, placing the note tightly between to pages and closing the journal, running a shaking hand over the cover. You’d better run now before I actually start loving you, you poor man.
So, my plan for the end of this chapter was for the party to actually happen at this stage, and for 'shit to hit the fan' so to speak. It became a lot longer than I'd planned, though, so look forward to torture and angst in the coming chapter. ;]
Chapter 7: happy new year
Who the hell did Tony have, to wait around on, to deny himself someone here, wanting him, for?
I'm so very sorry this took so long. My muse for writing ran away, and I wanted this chapter to be a good one. I'm still not exactly happy with it, but I wouldn't be able to put it off much longer with a clear mind.
Tony stopped at the door of the apartment, one foot out and looked over his shoulder at the tone in Steve’s voice to find him gesturing toward the table in the kitchen where Bruce’s bottle of white rum was still standing.
“Oh!” He stepped away from the door, letting it close behind him as he hurried over and grabbed the bottle, slipping it into the bag he was carrying with all the others. “Thanks.”
Steve opened the door again, stepping back and holding it open as Tony shuffled past him, rearranging the shoulder strap of his bag. “Calm down, we’re not even there yet,” he said with a laugh, and Tony grinned back at him as the door closed on them both.
“Never. It’s New Year’s Eve, Steve, get excited.”
“I am excited, I’m just not—climbing the walls or something.”
“Later then. Hey! Maybe we’ll actually get you drunk tonight, that’d be fun to see. I’ve known you years and never seen you actually drunk.”
By the time they arrived at Tasha’s door, which was a lot easier to find that Steve had thought or been hinting, Steve was excited, and Tony had decided to make it his personal mission for the night to get him drunk. With help, of course. He hadn’t heard from Loki since he visited the café that morning, but his mood was still difficult to shake. He hoped Loki would show. He was almost sure he would.
Tasha pulled the door open and Tony, first checked if Clint was within earshot, and upon seeing that he wasn’t, gave a whistle. He didn’t normally like animal print, but Tasha was really pulling it off.
“Thanks,” she said, tone almost amused, she must have had a little to drink already. “You guys are a little late.”
“Tony didn’t decide to get ready until maybe five minutes before we went out the door?” Steve replied, glancing at Tony for confirmation.
“I prefer the natural look,” Tony said easily, stepping inside with a grin. “I pull it off so well.”
“Of course,” Tasha definitely sounded amused that time, how much did she drink so far? Or was she just in such a good mood she was actually showing it? “Bring those to the kitchen, come on,” She closed the door once Steve was in, and gestured at the door closest to them. “Everyone else is in there, Steve.”
Tony pulled the bag off, over his shoulders, and followed Tasha down the hallway to the kitchen, carrying it by the straps and nodding appreciatively at the amount of booze already there. They were definitely gonna get Steve drunk tonight. “This one’s for Bruce, put it like—to the side somewhere,” he said, emptying his bag onto the countertop.
“You can bring it in to him in a minute,” Tasha pushed two empty glasses over to Tony. “Along with whatever you and Steve are having.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Tony said with a small laugh, setting the bag down on a kitchen chair once it was emptied, then spotted Tasha turning to head back to the living room. “Hey, Tasha, wait a second,” he lowered his voice, stepping around a chair to move closer to her as she frowned and turned around slowly.
“Don’t gimme funny looks in case Steve comes in, but uhh—I invited Loki, is that cool?”
He was worried for a moment at the way her frown deepened when he mentioned not giving him funny looks, and even more worried about the weird glint her eyes took and the smirk spreading across her lips when he got to Loki. “So did I.”
Tony blinked. “Oh. Oh, that’s okay then. Is he coming?”
Tasha watched Tony closely for a moment, unreadable, before suddenly giving a nonchalant shrug and turning away, back toward the living room. Tony gave a sigh, and a shrug of his own, to himself, turning back to the drinks. “Okay….”
He wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or a bad sign.
It wasn’t long before he forgot about it, though, even if he hadn’t forgotten about Loki entirely. When Tasha said ‘a little late’, Tony had to wonder exactly how late, because everybody seemed to be in full swing of it already. Steve had already been dragged down to sit on the floor next to Clint, who was sitting cross-legged in the middle of some animated conversation between himself, Steve, and a guy Tony remembered seeing around and remembered—after searching his mind for a minute—was named Peter, waving his arms frantically as he explained.
Tasha had sauntered over to a group of girls at the window, Jan being one of them. Tony wasn’t really sure who the rest where, but he recognised Maria Hill because Tasha hung out with her quite a bit.
Blinking, Tony gave a grin when he spotted who he’d been looking for. Bruce was on the other side of the room with another person Tony didn’t recognise, leaning on the fireplace with one elbow, balancing himself and holding a clear, plastic cup in the other. Tony stepped around the coffee table, his own glass in hand, filled already, and wiggling Bruce’s bottle of white rum at him in the other. Bruce stepped away from the fireplace and they shared a quick hug, slapping each other’s back, before drawing back. Tony glanced at the other guy, eyebrows raised, wondering if Bruce was gonna introduce him or what.
“Oh—Right, Tony, I dunno if you know him but this is Reed Richards—“
Tony gave him a once over, taking in the shirt and the jacket with some level of amusement, and the fleeting, nervous smile only brought it up another level.
“Uhh, bits and pieces, sort of smart dude stories, right?” He guessed, holding out his hand for a shake. He wasn’t surprised that, at a party full of people, Bruce was hanging out in front of the fire with probably the only other nerd in the building.
Reed’s handshake was firm, though, which surprised Tony given the weird sort of jerky nervousness he gave off a second ago. “Something like that,” he held the smile this time. “I’ve heard the same about you.”
Tony quirked an eyebrow, releasing his hand and taking a sip from his glass. “About me? Or my Dad?”
“Oh no, you specifically,” Reed laughed and jerked a thumb toward Bruce. “You have a big fan here.”
Tony joined in the laugh as he looked toward Bruce, catching his tight-lipped smile he did when he was close to being embarrassed about something, but resisting the urge to smile anyway, and threw an arm over his shoulders. “Don’t trust Bruce, I only feed him the good stories ‘bout me. I am, though, beginning to think I should start telling some about him, he’s getting a headstart.”
“Tony…” Bruce rolled his eyes half-heartedly, while Reed smiled into his glass.
“Too bad I know most of them already.”
“No problem, we can both tell them to other people,” Tony turned his back to the fireplace, moving to stand between Reed and Bruce as he gestured to the group of girls Tasha was surrounded with. “How ‘bout it, Bruce? We be your wingmen?”
Bruce tilted his head back and narrowed his eyes comically at the group of girls, earning the three of them a few weird looks, before shrugging. “Naaaah. None I’m interested in.” He looked sideways at Reed suddenly, with a sly smile. “What about you, Reed?” He asked with an exaggerated innocence that wasn’t missed on Tony, so Tony joined in staring at Reed, while he lowered his glass and looked around every bit of the room except the group of girls.
“I don’t—I mean they’re—Um.”
“Which one?” Tony asked suddenly, shifting to the side a little to get up in Reed’s space, with Bruce leaning over his shoulder.
“Susan,” he answered on Reed’s behalf, close to Tony’s ear. “Susan Storm, the blonde one in black, with the blue shoes.”
Tony gave a mischievous laugh at the way Reed’s eyes darted directly to her, followed by a whistle when he got a look at her himself. “Oooooh, aiming high there dude. Let’s start with the important part,” He turned his face back to Reed, raising his eyebrows ridiculously. “Does she know you exist?”
Bruce moved back to lean on the fireplace again, giving a loud laugh before muffling it in his cup.
“Well—yes, we’ve spoken a few times, lectures and—“
“Uh-uh! Not good enough!” Tony stepped back again, shaking his head. “Existing in class and outside class are two different things. You’re gonna go talk to her today, and it’s not gonna be about college.”
Bruce, having just recovered from his previous bout of giddy laughter, relapsed. “He’s not gonna do that, Tony….”
“Why not?” Tony looked at Bruce, giving pretence of offence, turning then to Reed. “Why not?”
Reed opened and closed his mouth a few times, looking at some empty spot in front of him, before making a strangled noise.
“Oh, that’s why.” Tony grinned, setting his glass down on the top of the fireplace and opening Bruce’s bottle of white rum, topping up Reed’s cup without asking. “There. You will in half an hour, and hour tops.”
He turned away, leaving Reed looking horrified, laughing silently and topping Bruce up, too. Bruce held his cup out, watching with a small smile as Tony poured.
“We were talking about Dr. Strange a minute ago, and the conversation goes to girls as soon as you get here, why am I not surprised.”
“I dunno if you’re looking for an answer when you don’t phrase it as a question,” Tony said, adding a little to his own glass to make his drink stronger because he seriously needed to catch up. “But we can go back to Dr. Strange if you want. That’s the psychology lecturer, right? Weird dude, not my type.”
He grinned triumphantly when Bruce inevitably laughed, picking up his glass and setting the bottle on the fireplace in its place, taking as long of a drink as he could before the strong taste hit him in the back of his tongue and he had to stop.
“I didn’t even realise you had a type!”
Tony blinked back the sudden image of green eyes, ignoring the slight falling sensation in his stomach and moving on quickly. “That’s ‘cause you don’t ask, Bruce, think about it.”
They continued their lazy conversation for a while as the house filled up with more arrivals, none of which were Loki, frequently falling back to making fun of Reed, who Tony found he got along with surprisingly well, every time someone spoke to Susan. There was a dangerous moment when Tony and Reed’s conversation started steering in the direction of engineering while Bruce compared the physics aspect of much of what they were talking about to the chemical aspect, until Tony, now about three very strong drinks in, thought, why the fuck are we talking science at a New Year’s Eve Party?
Tony remembered after an hour or more that he’d planned to get Steve drunk tonight, and a glance from where he was now sitting on the coffee table found him still in animated conversation with Clint and Peter, except Tasha and a few others had joined them now, in a circle on the floor doing shots. Steve was in very good hands, Tony decided, raising his glass and grinning in Clint’s direction and getting a hilarious salute in response.
They lost Reed eventually, which Tony let himself feel brilliantly, insanely smug with himself about because hey, he was talking to Sue. He had no idea what it was about, but she didn’t look bored so he didn’t think it was something stupid. Every time Bruce let his shock over Reed making conversation with her known, Tony beamed triumphantly and nudged him, giggling, joined by Jan who was happy enough to praise Tony for his success after Reed seemed to have stolen her friend.
Tony had no idea what time it was anymore, but he did know they’d passed enough time to share and finish Bruce’s white rum, that he was feeling pretty drunk now, and that Loki hadn’t shown up. He risked pulling his phone out when he, Jan and Bruce headed to the kitchen for refills (he was notorious for drunk texting and had wisely kept it in his pocket so far) to check for any messages, but there was nothing.
“Talkin’ to somebody?”
Tony blinked slowly, narrowing his eyes as they adjusted to the change of light when he looked from the screen of his phone to Jan, standing next to him, giggling drunkenly. He stuffed his phone back in his pocket, missing it the first time, before answering.
She held his glass out to him, filled again, and he had a brief moment of thinking, I don’t even like the taste of this anymore and I’m so drunk already, why am I drinking this, before moving on to it’s a party, and I can totally get more drunk. It wasn’t like he had any reason to drink or not to drink; no deep emotional turmoil for once, right? And no need to keep up appearances for anybody, he was at a party, with his friends. That Loki blew him off on, clearly.
He took the glass determinedly in both hands, taking a long sip.
“You wanna be talking to somebody?” Jan continued, nudging his arm with her elbow. Damn but he really liked Jan. Not that way—not that she wasn’t attractive, he decided, looking over at her huge, bright eyes and pixie cut, but she was just such a goddamn nice person. He sometimes thought he was a little jealous of her, getting to spend so much time around Loki, but nope, he was drunk and had decided. Jan was cool.
“I can’t remember what the que—Oh yeah, I—how do women do that?” He frowned, or he thought he did, he couldn’t really feel movement in his face that well, and wrapped an arm over her shoulders.
“Intuition!” Jan declared, giggling again. “That’s what I told Loki anyway.”
Tony allowed himself a weird sigh through his nose as he brought the glass to his lips again, but didn’t miss the exaggerated smirk Jan took on suddenly, as she leaned up on her tip-toes to whisper at him.
“You want to be talking to Loki, right?”
Tony just stared back at her, watching her blink expectantly, then down at her hand as she patted his chest almost consolingly.
“It’s okay,” she said, straightening his shirt where she’d touched it. “I dunno why he didn’t come, I can tell he wanted to. You should—“
“Are you guys coming outside?” They both looked up as Bruce spoke suddenly, one foot in the living room, leaning on the door and grinning over at them. “The fireworks will be going soon.”
“The—what time is it?!” Tony looked around the kitchen for a clock, his head turning wildly while Jan burst into giggles again.
“The new year’s in ten minutes silly! And eugh, I’m not going out there, there’s snow. Snow’s cold.”
“C’mon, Tony, fireworks!” Bruce gestured, and Jan picked up a bottle of vodka mix, meandering her way back to the living room.
“Hang on, lemme….” Tony turned around, examining the countertop and grabbing a bottle of what Jan had, following Bruce with his glass in one hand and it in the other.
The cold hit his face as soon as he stepped outside, but not the rest of him, oddly, considering he was only wearing jeans and a shirt. Tasha’s porch was free of snow, but had nowhere to sit, so Bruce followed Tony’s lead when he leaned his back on the wall of the house and slid down to sit on the hard wood, knees brought up enough to rest his elbows on them. Lights were on all over the neighbourhood, and there were others here and there stood on their own porches, waiting, but too far away to make out faces or other details.
“I think we should bring in the New Year with Tasha every year.” Bruce spoke around a massive sigh as he settled down comfortably, and Tony giggled when he spilled a little of his drink while he did, and even more so when Bruce proceeded to dab at the wood with his sleeve.
“Stop, stop, stop,” Tony leaned over, grabbing his arm and bringing it away from the spill, shaking with laughter as gravity tried to take him and he ended up slumped against Bruce’s shoulder, both of them trying to get their breathing back to normal and quivering a little every time a laugh broke free, or the cold tried to hit them.
“Good lady. Throws a good party.” Tony mumbled, bringing the vodka mix to his mouth for a sip, moving slowly so he wouldn’t spill it on Bruce. “Shit if I even, like, look from the left to the right too quickly my head fucking spins….”
“You’re drunk.” Bruce stated, sounding like he’d just declared the result of a deep mathematical equation.
“No shit.” It was very easy for Tony to agree considering he realized forever ago that he was drunk, and just as easy not to question Bruce’s hand on the side of his head, playing with the hair above his ear. “What’d you do this time last year?”
“Mmm…” Bruce’s shoulder rumbled a little when he spoke, and Tony wondered how his face could feel this numb and sensitive to the vibrations at the same time. “I did this, but at Thor’s. Tasha and—she was with this friend of ours, he’s on exchange right now, Bucky—but she got with Clint for… New Year’s kiss or whatever.”
“Oh…. Dramatic.” Tony’d heard of Bucky, Steve had mentioned him enough times for him to be able to identify the name with certain stories, but he didn’t know he’d been going out with Tasha.
“Yeah…. Everybody’s cool now, though, Bucky and Clint are cool.” Tony made a small noise of discomfort when Bruce moved under him, lifting his other hand to take a drink. “You?”
“….I went to a bar with Pepper. And two friends.” Tony frowned at Bruce’s knees as he remembered it. He, Pepper, Happy and Rhodey, shouting out the countdown together at the top of their lungs, grinning insanely in a circle, weird plastic party jewellery around their wrists and necks. Bruce said nothing, just leaned his head atop Tony’s, and ceased the playing with his hair, letting his hand go still instead.
They sat like that in silence, Bruce breathing steadily and Tony wondering about the change in his life between this day last year, and now, and how it didn’t bother him as much as he thought it would. He and Pepper—maybe it was because he was drunk, but for the first time since the break-up, he thought they’d be okay again someday. He told himself it had nothing to do with the impossible green eyes he’d been seeing in his head all night, tried not to think about the fact that their owner not only didn’t show up, but decided not to bother telling him that, either.
“Listen,” He jumped a little as Bruce suddenly spoke. “The countdown.”
Tony went still, listening to the voices in the house, chanting together. Six…five…four…three…two… One. Explosion. He grinned a little at the cheers not only from behind him, but the ones he could hear all over the neighbourhood too, and straightened up to tilt his head back to stare up at the first fireworks.
Bruce was watching him, and still had his arm over Tony’s shoulders where it had fallen when Tony straightened up. He stared right at Tony, expression serious, up close, and Tony stared back, not breaking eye-contact as his mind worked to catch up. Then Bruce’s gaze flickered from Tony’s eyes, to his lips, and back.
Suddenly every moment in Bruce’s company, every Facebook conversation, played through Tony’s mind, from his very first shy greeting, to the teasing, to racing leaves drunkenly across a fountain, barstools in the middle of the road, sleeping half-wrapped around each other. How hadn’t he realized? Did he even want to? He could just speak now, break the moment, pretend he didn’t know.
But it was New Year’s Day, on the very minute. Fireworks were still blasting around him, and Bruce was right there, always was. The green eyes came to mind again, and he felt himself frown gently. Bruce was here, willing to spend time with him. Probably would’ve left a message if he couldn’t, too. Who the hell did Tony have, to wait around on, to deny himself someone here, wanting him, for?
Bruce moved barely an inch closer and Tony decided.
Closing the rest of the distance was easy, and happened quickly when his half-bitter thoughts caught up with him, and he almost literally melted against Bruce, let his eyes drift closed as Bruce’s arm tightened around his shoulders and his mouth moved against his own, drunkenly but god, so solid and real and eager. Tony heard Bruce’s glass fall over, but barely registered it, when Bruce’s other hand came up to tangle roughly in his hair, tugging a little, but Tony didn’t care.
He set both his bottle and glass down haphazardly and turned to raise himself to his knees, trying not to break the kiss, Bruce breathing hard into it and holding his hand desperately in Tony’s hair, as Tony twisted until he could lift one leg and sit himself on Bruce’s lap, gripping the front of his shirt for purchase as he pushed down and deepened the kiss frantically, swallowing the tiny groan Bruce gave in the back of his throat. He let Bruce move his hands, lower, running down Tony’s back and his sides, stopping to grip his waist tightly and pull Tony against him. The kiss broke and Tony let out a noise, caught somewhere between need, he needed this, hands holding him this tight, someone wanting him this much, and more, he didn’t want it to stop.
It was almost the perfect cure for something Tony didn’t even fully realize was wrong, as Bruce made hushing noises at him, and moved his mouth across Tony’s jaw, nipping kisses down the side of his neck, and Tony wrapped his own hands in Bruce’s curls to steady himself, breathing harshly.
It would be the perfect cure if, somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew how guilty he already felt for it, and that, like the wonderful fucking person he was, he was probably using his friend.
Loki really wasn’t fond of parties. He’d been to quite a few, and found he only really enjoyed them in the right company, with someone he knew and almost trusted, to stay by him and share the experience, keep him grounded when he wondered what the hell he was doing there. Given that perhaps three people at this party had foreknowledge that he might be showing up, and the fact that he was in quite a good mood, had decided to surprise them and was very, very late, he didn’t have that luxury when he first arrived.
He spent some time searching, extracting himself gently when someone attempted to drag him into drunken conversation (maybe later, he wasn’t in that good a mood, and the fact that he hadn’t blatantly ignored any of them was enough for now), searching for one of those three people in particular, but deciding after twenty minutes or so that he’d settle for any of them. It shouldn’t be this difficult to find a man like Tony, well-known and well-liked by people who didn’t even know him. He drew attention to himself, even when he didn’t realise he was doing it.
He spun on his heel in the hallway, relieved to finally hear a voice he recognised, and let a smile grace him as Jan almost hopped toward him, throwing her arms around his shoulders in an enthusiastic hug. “I didn’t think you were gonna come!”
“I wasn’t sure myself.” Loki replied, holding at arm’s length when the hug became too long. Thankfully she knew not to take offence.
“Tasha’ll be so happy, I know she will,” Jan took him by the hand and dragged him back toward the kitchen, rambling, and he smiled a little more and let her. “She’s always trying to get you to go to—And Tony! Tony was gonna text you earlier, I think, he kept checking his phone—“
“Where is Tony?” Loki asked as she released him, grabbing a glass and going in search of what he assumed was a drink for him. “And Tasha?”
“Tasha’s upstairs,” Jan barely stopped speaking or smiling as she poured him something. “And you just missed Tony, he went outside for the fireworks, the countdown is, like, any minute, here!”
Loki took the glass from her, amused at how she was one of the only people who could talk at him that much without annoying him. “What is this?”
“It’s just vodka and lemonade, it’s all that’s left, really, but you need a drink in your hand for the countdown, you’ll—“ Jan broke off, distracted, as a group of people piled into the kitchen from the living room, a few calling her name, and Loki stepped back as she was caught up in a messy, drunken group hug.
“Jan, I’m going to find Tony!” He called, hoping she’d heard him, and giving a short laugh as her hand emerged, thumb up.
He was almost glad he had shown up late, he decided, as he manoeuvred through the hallway again toward the front door. As the people he pushed past started counting, grabbing and hugging each other, he decided he would probably be mortified if he had shown up on time and allowed himself to get drunk enough to join in. It would be quieter outside, and as the cheers rose up and the lights of the first of the fireworks flickered though the hallway, he pushed through a little harder, determined to be there with Tony for the fireworks at least.
He remembered how hopeful Tony had sounded when he asked him to go, earlier, Tasha’s text a few hours ago about him, and Jan’s mention of him checking his phone, and fought back the small bit of guilt threatening to rise at the thought of leaving Tony wondering this long. He really hadn’t been sure if he wanted to go or not, and he hoped Tony would understand, and they could enjoy the rest of the night. He found himself not wanting to disappoint, when Tony seemed to find him worth the effort of caring.
When he took one unsure step onto the porch, though, sticking his head out to see if he could spot him, he decided bitterly that he needn’t have worried, after a moment’s shock. He turned back quickly, eyes narrowed and teeth gritted. Why was he annoyed? He had no reason to be annoyed. None. He had no reason, no claim, and no desire to make himself out as an idiot. But he was annoyed. And he realized how dangerous that was.
He ignored Tasha’s voice, not even checking what direction it had come from, as he stormed his way through the kitchen on his way to the back door. “Loki!” She called again, closer, and he looked over his shoulder just on time to find her directly behind him, a hand on his shoulder, frowning up at him worriedly.
“Where are you going, your text—“
Ah, the text. Tasha had text him to slyly let him know that Tony’s attention had apparently been on him, earlier, and Loki let out a harsh laugh as he remembered his response. Well then, can’t leave him waiting all year.
“We needn’t have worried,” he said, surprised at how low and harsh his voice sounded. Tasha released his shoulder, because she was a clever person, wasn’t she. She was the only one of Thor’s friends who saw through Loki from the beginning, and knew when to leave him be. “Tony is quite occupied on your porch. Happy New Year.” He added, as she frowned and gave a silent nod that said, go, I don’t know what happened, but I understand.
Loki watched her set her glass down on the countertop, as she marched steadily to the hallway. She barely appeared drunk, she never did.
He almost wished he could watch the interruption that was to follow, but he exhaled bitterly and left without another word to anyone.
Chapter 8: thinking in circles
The streets were empty; everyone was probably inside watching seasonal TV shows with their family after a big New Year’s Day dinner. Except for Tony that was, marching through the cold with no idea of where he was going, and a terrible guilt following him the whole way.
Some New Year’s Day. He’d managed to hurt Steve after being up for less than fifteen minutes, and destroy his friendship with Bruce in the first few seconds of the day. Not only that, but now he was off running away from the problems.
Late update! Apologies! Enjoy! Short sentances! Emphasis!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The first thing Tony registered as he woke was that he was really, really thirsty. He hadn’t bothered opening his eyes yet, but shit his mouth felt like someone poured sand in it while he slept. He pulled a disgusted face, turned his head to the side and ended up wincing at the dull ache in the back of his head. I need water, he thought, and enough headache meds to knock me out again. He braced himself before opening his eyes, and lay blinking at Tasha’s fireplace for a few seconds before he remembered where he was and that it was New Year’s Day.
He could see Steve sitting totally out of it in an armchair, from where he lay on the couch. That was weird, normally when they went out, Steve stayed sober enough to get them both home thanks to his unfortunate metabolism. He must have had a good night, Tony decided, grinning weakly as he reached for the top of the couch, for purchase as he pulled himself into a sitting position, his headache and every joint in his body protesting. It’d been so long since he’d had a hangover this bad… What time did he crash at? He couldn’t remember… He couldn’t remember much actually….
He had some blurry recollection of pulling on Clint’s ankles while he was trying to climb the banister of Tasha’s stairs… Steve had thrown him over his shoulder at some point, too. He couldn’t remember where he last saw Tasha. Maybe dancing, he remembered being dragged out to dance by—Bruce? Yeah, he was dancing with Bruce, and—
Oh shit. When they were dancing they—when did that start? Tony pressed the heel of his palms against his eyes, willing himself to think back. He remembered now. The dancing, the porch, the countdown—he remembered and felt terrible. “Shiiiiit….” Where was Bruce now? What else did he forget?
“Mhmm.” A voice replied, and Tony jumped, his heartbeat quickening and feeling way stronger than usual in his sensitive, hung-over state. Tasha stood in the doorway to the kitchen, dressed in skinny jeans and a brown vest-top, arms crossed and positively glaring at Tony. He didn’t respond, didn’t really know what to say, or what to do, but stare back. After a few moments Tasha raised an eyebrow and tilted her head expectantly.
“I—what time is it?” Tony asked, dodging. He’d forgotten a big enough portion of last night to be unsure of what she was actually annoyed about, but it was most likely Bruce.
“Two-thirty. Come with me.”
Tasha turned on her heel and marched into the kitchen, and Tony glanced at Steve, still sleeping, and grimaced at the fact that it was afternoon already. He rose to his feet, slowly, breathing deeply but never enough, which was pretty typical of a hangover, and followed her cautiously. The kitchen was empty except for both of them, and it looked like Tasha had been awake and cleaning for a while already.
“What time did the party fizzle out?” Tony rubbed at his eyes, trying to break the ice.
“Late. Or very early. Bruce went out to pick up breakfast. You’re going to leave before he comes back.”
Tony frowned, lowering his hands. Tasha’s arms were still crossed, and she stood leaning against the sink, eyes fixed on Tony. Tony didn’t know what to think of that.
“I said, you’re going to leave, now. Go home. Decide what you want to do, but leave Bruce alone until you do.”
“Decide what I…? What’re you talking about? Why do I have to—“
“Tony.” The rise in her voice was enough to stop him in his track, and her expression was genuinely scary. “I’m only going to help you a certain amount because, weirdly enough, I empathise a little. But,” she straightened up, uncrossed her arms and took a few steps toward him. “This doesn’t mean I’m on your side. The only thing stopping me from kicking you where it’ll really hurt, is the fact that I’ve made a similar mistake in the past.”
“Tasha, what the fuck are you talking about?”
“You know what I’m talking about, Tony. What the hell were you thinking when you invited Loki out yesterday, just to have him arrive to find you with your tongue down Bruce’s throat?!”
That shut him up, like she’d struck a physical blow to his chest. First thing that crossed his mind was, why is she bringing up Loki she can’t be that sharp, before it suddenly clicked that, wait, Loki was at the party last night? He’d seen--?
“I didn’t—What would it—“ He struggled between wanting to defend himself, wanting to deny that Loki needed to be in this equation at all, and wanting to agree that he was a complete fuck up.
“Tony, shut up. Don’t speak, just listen.” Tasha took another step closer, narrowing her eyes. “I don’t care what you want people to think, because quite frankly I’m not as stupid as most people, so drop the act. Secondly, weirdly enough, Loki actually seems to like you. Do you know what that means? He doesn’t even like his family, Tony, if he’s letting you in don’t you dare abuse that. The only problems are that you’re a stubborn idiot, and that Bruce actually likes you, too.”
“That’s not…” Tony trailed off as Tasha fixed him with another glare.
“I said shut up. I know for a fact that Bruce has genuine feelings for you, so I want you to go home right now and don’t speak to him until you’ve decided what to do. Think hard, Tony, because if you mess this up more…. I’ve helped you, now, so nothing’s gonna stop me next time.”
Tony’s heart felt like it was beating in his stomach as he stared back at Tasha, processing her words. There was no point in trying to defend himself, because she was right. He’d fucked up badly. He thought about Bruce probably on his way back, thought about what Bruce probably thought was going on, and felt a sharp pang of guilt.
“What time did Loki get here?” He asked, quietly, not even sure if she was going to answer. She continued to glare for a few seconds, then sighed and crossed her arms again.
“Ten or fifteen minutes before the countdown. He left right after. I didn’t think he was going to come, either, but that doesn’t excuse—“
“I know, I know, don’t worry, I know.” He nodded. What the hell was he thinking? Bruce was one of his best friends, and he’d used him in the worst possible way. He didn’t think Loki thought about Tony the same way he did about Loki, but the tiny, optimistic part of him that hoped he did was crushed by the fact that if he did, Tony’d pretty much blown it. “What about Steve?”
“He knows his way home. Go before Bruce is close enough to see you leaving.”
Tony nodded again, casting a look over his shoulder at Tasha when he’d reached the doorway.
“Good luck, Tony.” She said quietly. “I actually do hope you figure this out.”
“Thanks,” he said, not really sure if she wanted to accept it, but feeling like an asshole if he didn’t offer it anyway.
Tony’s mind was pretty much empty for the duration of his walk home. He was almost emotionless as he trudged through the snow, hands stuffed in his pockets, staring at his feet, feeling like he was fleeing the scene of a crime or something.
He leaned his back on the door once he was inside, resting his head against the wood and taking in a few deep breaths to soothe the hangover. It occurred to him that he should probably get as much water in him as he could, as well as some advil. Maybe even sleep it off, too. That definitely seemed like a good idea. He wasn’t gonna get much thinking done in this state, anyway.
He made his way into the kitchen, empty and quiet, and pulled his coat off. He retrieved his phone from its pocket before he dumped it over the back of a chair. No messages or calls yet. He dreaded the inevitable text from Bruce, and the inevitable lack of one from Loki. He just wanted to be dead to the world for another while before having to deal with this, and once he’d swallowed almost a pint of water and some advil, that was exactly what he did.
He woke to the noise of the shower, but thankfully no headache. He rolled onto his side, blinking his eyes open slowly to find night had fallen while he slept. He reached to his beside locker to grab his phone, catching the time at 6:08pm as it lit up. He hated how short the days were in winter. He frowned at the two unread messages, sliding his thumb across the unlock button.
Sunday 1st January (14:48)
Told Bruce you didn’t feel well and went home.
Sunday 1st January (15:26)
On my way home, heard you weren’t feeling good, want anything back?
Nothing from Loki, but that didn’t surprise him. Steve must have gotten back hours ago, judging from that text. Probably saw that Tony was asleep and decided to leave him alone. Please don’t have seen me with Bruce last night… and if you did, don’t remember… He thought hopelessly as he swung his legs out of bed and pulled himself up to sit. At least he didn’t feel hungover anymore. He stood up, stretched, and made his way to the door, stopping as an afterthought and grabbing his laptop, too.
There was a newspaper on the kitchen table, which had Tony smiling briefly before he moved it out of the way a little to set his laptop down. He never got why Steve waited to read his news in a paper when he could get it update by the hour online or on his phone. Newspapers were just an environmental hazard these days, in his opinion.
The whirring noise of the shower stopped as he was making a coffee, and he made a mental note to take a shower very soon, too. He kinda hoped Steve would be quick, though, company would be nice, and he still didn’t wanna think. But at the same time, he wanted to find out what Steve knew or remembered, so it was 50/50. Another text came through as he was sitting down, Jan, wanting to know where he was. He had no idea what she knew, either. What if everybody knew? What if they all were as sharp as Tasha and could see what was really happening with him and Bruce? If they didn’t think he was an asshole already, they would soon.
Loki probably didn’t see, judging by how Tasha had spoken.
Would word get back to Pepper? Would it matter if it did? ….It didn’t actually worry him that much, which surprised him.
“Morning,” Steve said suddenly, jokingly, as he stepped into the room, a towel draped over his shoulders. “How’re you feeling?”
“Yeah, feelin’ okay now,” Tony answered, rubbing at his face when he remembered Tasha had told everyone he wasn’t feeling well. “Sleep helped.”
“That’s good. I’m still exhausted.”
“You seemed pretty out of it this afternoon,” Tony grinned, looking up. “Good night?”
“I’d like to think so,” Steve laughed, checking the hot water and pouring a coffee of his own. “I do think so.”
“You don’t remember much?” Tony asked, keeping his voice casual as anything.
“Umm… Bits and pieces?” Steve turned around, pulling out a chair and sitting across from Tony. “I blame Clint.”
Tony nodded, shoulders relaxing with relief. “Yeah he got you pretty trashed, I was impressed.”
“You said you were going to get me drunk,” Steve pointed out, sipping. “You looked pretty busy, though.”
“I—what?” Tony froze, setting his coffee down. Oh, fuck you, Steve. “Busy?” Hopefully he was talking about something else.
“Mmm,” Steve nodded, cup still at his lips. “I didn’t realise you and Bruce, uhh—got along that well.”
Tony sighed, set his elbows on the table and rubbed at his eyes. The last thing he wanted was Steve judging him over this, but it wasn’t exactly avoidable with the amount of people at that party. “It’s not what it looks like, Steve.” Might as well just get it over with.
Steve said nothing at first, and Tony looked up, frowning to see why he was so quiet, to find Steve watching him closely. He sighed after a moment and shook his head slowly. “Tony…”
“I didn’t-- I wasn’t thinking, Steve, I was drunk,”
“Why, though, Tony?” Steve spoke gently, nothing like Tasha had.
“I don’t know,” he mumbled in reply, rubbing a hand across his face. “Cause I could?”
“Tony, Bruce is your friend, he—“
“I know! I know, jesus, Steve, I know. I’m sorry.”
“You don’t need to apologize to me, I just… I’m just trying to understand.”
Oh, great. Tony knew Steve was well-meaning, but he hated this. He’d rather Steve just called him out on the asshole he was. “There’s nothing in-depth to understand. I was drunk, I was pissed off at—“ Okay, whoah, Tony, don’t go there.
“I thought you were… You know, okay about… about her?”
That had Tony looking up again. Steve was staring at him with a horrible concern in his eyes, tense, as if Tony was some sort of time bomb he was worried he’d just set off. “This isn’t about Pepper, and you can say her fucking name, I’m not gonna throw myself into a bottle over it.”
“I’m just worried about you, Tony,” Steve leaned forward over the table, staring at Tony with an intensity that made him want to get up and go. “If something was upsetting you, you could’ve told me.”
Tony thought back to the ‘stay-away-from-Loki’ conversation with Steve a while ago and let out a laugh, bitterer than he’d intended it to be. “Nope. Sorry, Steve, but this one’s none of your business.”
“I’ll take care of Bruce myself. My mistake, my problem. Stay out of it.”
Steve drew back again, and Tony felt a pang of guilt at the hurt look on his face. “What about the other thing? Why won’t you let me help you?”
“I’m going for a walk.” Tony pushed his coffee away and stood, walking straight toward his room. Steve didn’t follow him at first, leaving him alone while Tony swapped his sweats for a pair of jeans, slipping his feet into his shoes as he pulled off his shirt.
“Tony, don’t do this again.”
Steve stood leaning on the doorframe, and Tony took one look at him before pulling through his wardrobe and retrieving a clean shirt.
“You used to talk to me about anything, what changed?”
Tony still didn’t speak, swallowing against the lump that rose in his throat at that. He fucking hated hurting Steve, but it was better this way than trying to talk to him about it and see him disappointed again.
“Where are you even going?”
Tony turned his back on him, spraying on some deodorant and grabbing his keys, stuffing them into his pocket. “For a walk.” Steve blocked his way as he moved to leave the room, but stepped aside when Tony stared.
“Want me to come with you?” He asked, following Tony into the kitchen as he grabbed his coat and his phone.
“Tony, you don’t have to deal with everything on your own,” Steve pleaded, trailing after him again when Tony made his way to the door. Tony took in a deep breath and closed his eyes.
“Nobody can rely on people for everything. Just stay out of it, Steve,” he said, pausing with the door open but not looking back at his friend, knowing that he probably didn’t want to see the look on Steve’s face right now. “Please.”
He should’ve brought a scarf, Tony realized as he walked round the corner. There had been no fresh snow yet that day, and the snow that had fallen the day before was rock solid, frozen in place when people walked over it. The streets were empty; everyone was probably inside watching seasonal TV shows with their family after a big New Year’s Day dinner. Except for Tony that was, marching through the cold with no idea of where he was going, and a terrible guilt following him the whole way.
Some New Year’s Day. He’d managed to hurt Steve after being up for less than fifteen minutes, and destroy his friendship with Bruce in the first few seconds of the day. Not only that, but now he was off running away from the problems. He knew he had to tell Bruce it was a mistake, and the longer he took the worse it would be. He didn’t need to do the thinking Tasha had suggested, there was no deciding there. He knew he didn’t feel that way about Bruce. Whether or not there was a possibility of something with Loki, he just had to say no to Bruce and deal with the consequences.
Loki. What was he gonna say to Loki? The fact that Loki hadn’t contacted him all day told him already that he wasn’t happy with him. Why, though? The little optimistic part of him spoke up again, pointing out that Loki wouldn’t be that bothered about what he saw, unless… But no. He might just have been pissed off at being invited out only to think his friend didn’t seem to want or need him there. Tasha’s words came back to him then. She seemed to think there might be—
He had to stop thinking himself around in these circles. He sighed when a text came through on his phone, knowing who it probably was.
Sunday 1st January (18:34)
Please call me if you need to.
At least he’d actually remembered his phone this time. He wasn’t even gone that long last time but Steve had freaked out. That was back when he and Loki had gone for that first walk. He could really use one of those walks right now, but he had no idea how annoyed Loki was.
He frowned. Why not go find out? Loki’s family weren’t back until tomorrow, he could call in on him right now. He could go apologize, if Loki would let him, but it was worth trying, right? Probably better than not trying, the effort might even be appreciated. He wasn’t sure he was very ready for the conversation or where it might lead, but he felt he had to try.
Tony had expected to feel weird in heading to Thor’s house when Thor wasn’t around, but he realized when he got there that he actually thought about it as Loki’s house as much as it was Thor’s. Maybe even more so while Thor was away. There were only two lights on, Tony saw as he drew close. On on the bottom floor at the front, the living room, and one on the side on the second floor which, after a moment’s thought, Tony confirmed as Loki’s. It occurred to him that Loki had been here, probably on his own all day. Even if he had fucked up, at least he had Steve around. Loki had been spending New Year’s Day on his own.
Maybe I should have brought something with me, he thought as he rang the doorbell. There was no noise from inside, none of the thundering footsteps that normally followed ringing the bell when Thor was in. Tony spotted a shadow in the glass near the top of the door and stepped back a little so that Loki could see that it was him if he was using the spyhole. There was a really long pause before he heard a latch slide open and Loki opened the door.
He didn’t open it far, just enough to step in front of the door and lean on the doorframe. He wore skinny jeans, which he seemed to have a liking for, Tony had noticed a long while ago, and a loose, blue t-shirt. His hair was half-dry, as if he’d showered not long ago.
“Yes?” He asked, looking Tony up and down when Tony said nothing.
“Oh, uhh—“ Shit, Tony hadn't planned on what he was actually gonna say at first. “Hey.” He started lamely.
“….Hello.” Loki responded, obviously not sounding very impressed.
“Can we, uhh—Can we talk about last night?” He decided to jump right to it, since Loki didn’t seem to be in the mood for pleasantries.
“I didn’t realize there was talking to be done.” The scathing tone in his voice said otherwise, though, and Tony took a deep breath. If it was someone else and he knew that progress was going to be this difficult, he probably wouldn’t have bothered, but he didn’t really want to run away from this problem. He missed speaking to Loki in random texts or short phone calls, even though it’d only been a day.
“I think there is,” he said, not looking away. “And I think I should get started on my apology right about now.”
Loki’s expression actually changed at that, in a slight lift of his eyebrows. “Apology.” He repeated, as if seeking Tony to clarify that it was what he’d come to do.
“Yep. An apology, I just—I don’t wanna go off listing off excuses or anything, but yeah. I actually am sorry, Loki.”
Tony wasn’t sure if Loki was getting amusement from this, or if he actually needed Tony to elaborate. Keep going, he told himself, keep talking, it’s what you came here to do.
“…For being a drunken asshole, and—“
“That was point three in the insurance policy, wasn’t it?” Loki interrupted, sounding bored.
“It was wha--? Look,” Tony shook his head. “That’s not why I’m here, I’m not here because of a joke or something, I mean—“
“Why are you here, then?”
“Because I wanted to—Okay, yeah, I was a drunken asshole, and I invited you out and then ignored you for—I mean I didn’t know you were there until this morning, I was so drunk, but I really am sorry, Loki.” Loki remained silent, watching Tony with a slight frown. “I didn’t plan it to turn out like that or anything.”
“What was your plan?”
Tony shrugged. “I wanted—I just wanted a fun night. I wanted you to have fun. I was—I didn’t think you were gonna come and I… I dunno. I guess I was a little upset and I—I’m not trying to blame you or anything,” he added quickly. “I didn’t wanna force you to go or anything, I’m just… I’m just an idiot.”
Loki sighed and looked away, to a point over Tony’s shoulder. “Tony, it’s none of my business who you’re dating, I—“
“I’m not dating, Bruce, Loki, I don’t even—I was drunk, and he was just… It was an accident, okay?” Tony watched Loki carefully, watched the small crease appear between his eyebrows as he turned to look at Tony again, and the little optimistic voice suddenly wanted Tony to push him a little. “…Does he bother you—Is that…?”
“He—no.” Loki replied quickly, blinking, looking over Tony’s shoulders again.
“I don’t want to talk about it, Tony.” He said, words a little rushed, and pushed the door open the whole way, taking a step to the side. “It’s cold.”
Tony looked from Loki, into the house, then back to Loki again, and watched as he suddenly rolled his eyes. “Tony, stop standing there looking like a kicked puppy, you don’t wear the look well. Take your shoes off at the door.”
They fell back into their usual, relaxed conversation and gentle teasing almost instantly when Tony was inside, shoes off and hanging up his coat. He suspected it was because Loki wanted to steer away from the direction Tony was leading his apology, but at least the apology seemed to have been accepted. Loki laughed at the stupid choice of clothes that he’d gone walking through the snow and the dropping temperatures in, and Tony pointed out that at least he was wearing socks.
“I prefer bare feet when I’m at home,” Loki replied with a shrug, padding his way into the kitchen. “There’s no harsh weather inside, I don’t need to be wrapped up.”
Tony followed slowly, eyes drawn to the DVDs and books scattered all over the living room table. It wasn’t difficult to figure out what Loki had been doing all day, though it was clear that he’d been cleaning a hell of a lot, too. The table was the only messy area, and all the random possessions normally scattered around Thor’s home had been cleared away, and the surfaces they’d been covering had been polished clean.
“Yeah, well, I left in a hurry so it sort of slipped my mind.” Tony shot back with a mocking defensive tone. Loki hummed curiously, padding his way toward the cooker as Tony entered the kitchen. There was a great smell coming from the oven, not one he could identify, but really nice.
“What was the hurry?”
“Eh,” Tony shrugged. “I wasn’t rushing anywhere, I just—Steve was poking at me right after I woke up, trying to help fix the Bruce thing, and I just—wanted to do it on my own, so I went for a walk.”
“You seem to make a habit of storming off on him,” Loki pointed out, looking Tony up and down. “So you dressed quickly and left?” Tony nodded, looking down at his shirt and shrugging.
“I wasn’t trying to make a fashion statement or anything, it was sort of the first clean stuff I found.”
“Did you even eat?”
Tony looked up to find Loki narrowing his eyes at him critically. “Uhhh—no, slipped my mind.”
Loki rolled his eyes. “You don’t function well hung-over. Get some popcorn from that cupboard,” He pointed, turning to pull the oven door open, peering inside. “It will do until this is ready, I'd made too much anyway.”
“Umm—Nah, it’s okay, I’ll get something when—“
“You’ll be staying a while, I assume, if you are avoiding Steve,” Loki stated. “Quit being stubborn.”
Tony grinned, moving to the cupboard Loki had pointed out. “Yes mother.”
Loki rolled his eyes but didn’t respond.
“It still makes no fucking sense…”
“It’s not intended to make sense, yet, Tony.”
“You said it’d make sense later though!” Tony laughed and held his plate tighter to stop his garlic potato bake from spilling everywhere as Loki nudged him with his elbow.
“I said that fifteen minutes ago,” Loki said, smugly, picking at his own food with a fork. “The book is better anyway.”
“There’s a book?” Tony frowned at the screen as the two main characters (so far) were suddenly turned into a pair of sofas. Whoever wrote Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy must have been high, there was no other explanation.
“Yes, there’s a book, everyone knows it. Except you, it seems.” Loki smirked around a mouthful of potato.
“Mhmm…” Tony fell silent again, distracted by his food and attempting to follow the movie closer. He was surprised by how comfortable both of them could be in silence, since he normally felt the urge to fill any silence with something just to stop the awkwardness, but he shared silence well with Loki.
The night went on in similar fashion, even after they finished the food. Tony helped wash-up when Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was over, and they watched two more DVDs after it, Interview with the Vampire because Loki couldn’t believe Tony had never seen it, and Phone Booth because they’d both seen it, and Tony liked it because it made more sense to him than improbability drives and homoerotic vampires. Loki didn’t seem to mind when Tony put his feet on the table, just waved a hand dismissively when Tony looked over at him questioningly, and even set his own feet next to Tony’s after a while, one ankle crossed over the other.
It was shortly after midnight, with Phone Booth was nearing its end, and both of them sitting silently for twenty minutes or so, feet still up on the table and leaning close shoulder to shoulder, comfortably, when a text coming through on Tony’s phone made them both jump. He dug into his pocket for his phone, and Loki stretched while barely moving, curling his toes and leaning his head back into the couch.
Monday 2nd January (00:17)
Where are you, Tony? I phoned around and no one’s seen you. I’m worrying a little, can you just let me know you’re okay?
“Shiiiiiit, I forgot Steve doesn’t know where I am….” He mumbled, voice low and a little hoarse.
“Text him,” Loki spoke through a yawn. “Tell him you will be back tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Tony raised an eyebrow, looking over at him, and Loki just nodded and rubbed at his eyes.
“Mmm, tomorrow. Unless you want to go out walking in that.”
Tony looked over to the window when Loki indicated, frowning at the heavy snowfall illuminated by the porch light. “Euuugh, no thanks,” he said, pulling a face. “Well, if that’s okay?”
“I did just offer.”
Tony gave a quiet laugh as he quickly typed a reply to Steve.
Monday 2nd January (00:20)
I’m okay, sorry I lost track of time. Don’t worry, I’ll be back tomorrow. I’m not drinking or anything, just staying somewhere for the night. Talk later.
Loki couldn’t stop yawning every few minutes, so they turned the TV and lights off not long after that. Loki mumbled something about Thor’s room being locked and led Tony to his own room, which was so much tidier than Thor’s it was actually funny. There were random posters all over the wall, but in a sort of organised pattern. He didn’t get time for a good look, though, when Loki threw a pair of pyjama trousers at him.
“They’ll likely be too long but you’ll manage, I think.”
Tony changed in the bathroom, tiredly, wondering at how weird the day had turned out. He still had a nagging worry over the situation with Bruce, and felt guilty about being here with Loki instead of trying to fix it quicker, but he was always a pretty selfish person like that. Not that it made him feel any better, but when he had an opportunity like this to just sit and relax with one of the only people he felt comfortable around, and when Loki wasn’t hating him… Well, it was difficult to turn down.
Loki was already in bed when Tony returned, and he cracked one eye open at Tony and smirked. “The spare is in Thor’s room, but don’t worry, I don’t bite.”
Tony let out a laugh as he walked around the bed and climbed in on the other side. “Maybe not bite, but you probably kick or something.”
“Then kick back,” Loki said, and Tony felt him shrug against his own shoulder. “But after I’ve had some sleep, if that’s convenient.”
Tony shifted around for a moment until he was settled comfortably on his back, closing his eyes with a smile. “G’night Loki.”
I'm not sure how many people are aware, but I have a Tumblr as of recent. I'm still iffy with how it works, but it's a good place to throw prompts my way and to bug me when an update is taking to long. I'm at http://starkrevelations.tumblr.com
Chapter 9: the bad side of it
He told himself that he’d learned from what he had with Pepper, hoped the shitty reputation wouldn’t follow him through it, but apparently one failed, though long-term relationship, wasn’t good enough for that. And he clearly hadn’t learned. Alcohol couldn’t be an excuse when this wasn’t his first mistake, and if it was, that was a different problem entirely.
Tony woke before Loki, which didn’t really surprise him considering he never needed to sleep much, but that he made note of anyway.
He’d totally forgotten where he was for the first few minutes when he woke up, mind blank as he squinted at the unfamiliar walls, but when he caught up with himself he relaxed while developing a weird fluttering in his chest. He probably would’ve grumbled about it out loud if he didn’t turn his head to the right, where Loki was still lying sleeping.
The light in the room was dim, just about on the morning end of dawn, but with the shitty daylight hours in winter, who knew what time that made it. There was enough light to cast a hell of a lot of shadows, though, considering whatever inch of Loki’s walls that wasn’t covered with a poster or quote cut-out had shelves of books over it. The bed was in the corner, and Loki was lying on his stomach with his head facing Tony. He slept with the blankets pulled right up around him, and none of him was visible from the nose down, which Tony found pretty amusing. His eyebrows had a more natural tilt to them while he slept, compared to how he normally went around with one raised, or frowning.
Where people normally felt awkward to be the first awake when staying at someone else’s house, Tony was content to just relax and watch Loki relax, but it occurred to him again how screwed he was when he found a small smile had spread itself across his lips without him realising, and he knew all too well what the fluttering in his chest was. Loki was beautiful, but Tony wished he could see him like this more often, and knew how dangerous the want was, the desire to be able to just keep him, and take him away from everything that stopped him looking as relaxed as this all the time.
He ended watching and panicking and smiling for quite a while, actually, because it was either earlier than he thought it was, or Loki was really tired, and he actually dozed off again briefly, after shifting onto his right side gently and curling his knees up.
It felt brief to him, at least, but when he woke again, Loki was up. The bed was empty, but Tony could hear footsteps in the hallway, and when he rolled onto his back and sat up, rubbing at his eyes with the palm of a hand, Loki pushed the door open with his foot, a cup in each hand.
“I was prepared to jump on you if you weren’t awake by now,” He said, and kicked the door half-way closed again with the heel of his foot. He flicked a bit of hair out of his face as he stepped into the room and handed a cup to Tony. Tony’s chest did the flutter again and he cursed himself silently.
“That how you treat all your guests?” His voice came out low and heavy with sleep, and he took in the smell of the coffee before sipping at it gratefully.
Loki climbed onto the edge of the bed on his knees, and settled down with his legs crossed in front of him. “You say that as if I have many. It’s no more than you deserve, I believe you owe me quite a bit of compensation, now. Enjoy that coffee while you can.”
“I dunno what insurance companies your family deal with,” Tony mumbled against the cup, grinning. “But nobody threatens theirs when the compensation doesn’t come quickly enough.”
“Oh, I’m sure they do, they just don’t mean it as much as I do.”
Loki stared at him, expression innocent, and Tony chuckled and shook his head. They shared a few moments’ silence as they both sipped at the coffee, until Loki nudged Tony with his foot.
“Steve will be looking for you. Don’t ignore him; I don’t want to look at his silly suspicious side-eyes in the corridors when you tell him where you were, if you ignore him.”
Tony gave a quick laugh at the description. “Nice alliteration.”
“Thank you.” Loki raised an arm, setting his cup on a shelf above the bed, and inched higher along the bed until he was lying on his back over the blankets, eyes closed.
Tony watched him, lowering his coffee and grinning. “Still tired?” Loki nodded. “What time is it?” Loki shrugged. Tony didn’t ask another question, but he did busy himself with his coffee when Loki covered his eyes with his forearm. He could climb over him far too easily right now, bend down, and…
He jumped when his phone went off, barely keeping himself from spilling coffee on his chest. Loki heard the noise he let out, and lifted his arm an inch or two to look up, biting his lower lip and holding back a smile. Tony sighed melodramatically, leaning over the side of the bed and putting his coffee on the floor while he fished his phone out from the pocket of his jeans. “Holy crap Steve,” he mumbled as he searched. “It’s like he senses that someone’s talking about him somewhere and just….”
“He’s very involved, isn’t he?”
Tony shrugged, sliding the unlock button on his phone. “He’s supposed to be, he’s my…” He trailed off, staring down at the phone. It wasn’t from Steve, it was from Bruce. Tony’s stomach sank. He’d almost forgotten. He didn’t think he could surprise himself with how shit a person he could be anymore, at times, until he did something that did surprise him.
Monday 2nd January (10:43)
Morning : ) Did u get my fb message?
Tony blinked, looked over and saw that Loki had removed his arm from his eyes and was watching him curiously. “It’s from Bruce.” He answered after a moment, not sure he wanted to bring that up around Loki. “Asking about something on Facebook, I haven’t been on.”
“….I see.” Loki sat up, slowly, crossing his legs again and looking down at his toes. “Either he’s a very tolerant friend, or you haven’t cleared with him what you claimed yesterday.”
Ow. “I—not yet, I was sleeping and then I—came here.”
Loki frowned and looked up, head tilted slightly, and Tony was watching his reactions for some sort of hint of what he was thinking. “Why did—“ Loki cut himself short, suddenly, tensing, his eyes going wide as they both heard the noises of two car doors closing. They stared at each other, Tony confused and Loki opening his mouth to say something, when the muffled sound of voices outside reached them through Loki’s closed window. “Get dressed,” he said quickly, jumping from the bed and crossing the room to his wardrobe in seconds.
“What’s going on?” Tony followed suit, climbing out of bed and reaching for his jeans. “Are your family back already?”
“Yes, I—lost track of time,” Loki muttered distractedly, and took off his shirt. Tony supposed he should have been embarrassed by the fact that he forgot for a second that he was supposed to be hurrying, eyes running over the dent of Loki’s spine, the way his shoulder blades raised against his skin when he lifted his arms. Loki glanced over his shoulder quickly, then again when he caught Tony staring, and rolled his eyes, though a slight pink had risen around his collarbones. “Tony, there is a time and a place. Unless you want Thor to come up here to find you gawping at me half-dressed. In no fit state of dress yourself, by the way.”
Tony grinned stupidly at the ‘time and a place’ comment, filing it away for later and making himself look away. Loki didn’t seem to mind dressing in front of Tony, so Tony went ahead and pulled the pyjama shirt off, searching around the bed for his own.
Loki was slipping on a pair of shoes, and Tony was buttoning his trousers when they heard the front door opening, and Tony recognised Thor’s voice immediately. It was only then that he became fully aware of the fact that Thor was downstairs, and he had no idea how Thor would feel about finding out Tony spent the night, with his protective issues and always wondering bitterly over where Loki was spending all his free time. Even if the night went in a totally platonic fashion (whether Tony would’ve minded if it didn’t was irrelevant), he was sure Thor would still be on to him.
“Loki?” A clear, female voice called out. Definitely Frigga.
Loki was paused at his door, leaning on the frame as he pushed his second shoe on correctly. “I don’t hear father,” he whispered to Tony, before straightening and stepping into the hallway. “Up here mother.”
Fully dressed, Tony sat on the edge of Loki’s bed and waited nervously while he listened to Loki welcome his family home. Well, most of them, anyway. He could hear Thor talking about something that happened on the drive back, and Frigga congratulating Loki on having the place so clean, but no Odin. They voices moved into the kitchen, and he decided he’d might as well reply to Bruce while he had time.
Monday 2nd January (10:56)
Haven’t been on Facebook, what was it?
He stared at the message for a while before sending it, trying to figure out if it was too formal, not formal enough, if he should’ve added something else, until he heard light footsteps coming up the stairs again that could only be Loki, and thought, fuck it, send.
“You’d might as well come down,” Loki said with a sigh when he pushed the door open. “Your coat’s been spotted, and we left DVD boxes everywhere.”
“Sorry,” Tony wasn’t sure what he was apologising for as he stood up, but felt it was appropriate anyway.
“You could probably manage to get home after my mother’s had her formal introduction,” he rolled his eyes, stepping to the side to let Tony past. “I’ll text you when Thor stops questioning me and shows signs of moving on to you.”
“He’ll get over it,” Tony shrugged while Loki pulled the door closed behind them. “He doesn’t worry me.”
Loki looked sideways at Tony, an eyebrow raised and smiling. “No?”
“Not a bit,” he lied, grinning back. “Okay maybe a little, but not enough for it to bother me…. Why’re you looking at me like that?”
“No reason,” Loki quickened his pace to beat Tony to the stairs. “Be polite, now.”
It didn’t go great at first, needless to say, with Thor staring at him as if he had three heads for the first few minutes. Frigga greeted him warmly, smiling, told him she recognised him from seeing him around the house with the others before, it was great to finally meet him, asked him how he knew Loki…. When she seemed to be running out of first-introduction-pleasantries, Tony nodded to Thor, grinned widely and said “Hey!” Thor brightened up then, grabbed Tony in a bear hug, said something about how they all had to meet up and tell each other about their holidays. He went back to frowning at him like he was something unnatural, though, when Loki saw him to the door, hugged him briefly, and promised to text.
All in all, it could’ve gone a lot worse. The only reason Thor wasn’t aware that they’d been hanging out a lot was because no one was, for a long time, and by the time they were, they didn’t have much chance to make comment about it to Thor. It got to a stage, though, when Tony just thought, why bother? Thor would get over whatever suspicions he had, he was only protective because he cared, which was actually pretty decent of him, Tony though, and easy to forget when he was at risk of being on the bad side of it.
For now, though, he had to worry about being on Steve and Bruce’s bad side. He’d worry about Steve first, since he was already on his bad side, and when it was Steve that meant bracing for the disappointed look and the quiet questions, and Steve shaking his head as if to say, ‘I don’t know what to do with you sometimes, Tony’.
He was getting ready to face it when he was digging through his pocket for his keys, but the door opened before he got them out, and Steve stood there staring at him, a mixture of relieved and as close to annoyed as Steve could get.
“Where have you been, Tony? I was so—“
“Were you watching for me out the window?”
Steve crossed his arms and moved to the side to let Tony in. “No, I was walking by the window with the laundry and spotted you.”
“Oh, okay….” He heard the door close behind him, and Steve following, as he made his way into the kitchen.
“Where were you? Are you okay?”
“Yes, Steve, I’m fine, see?” He said, pulling his coat off and gesturing to his torso. “Still in one piece.”
“Look, Tony, I’m sorry for annoying you about Bruce, but—“
“No, Steve, no,” Tony actually cringed at how bad that made him feel. “It wasn’t your fault, I was an asshole and I shouldn’t have walked off.”
“Where did you go?”
Tony paused, looked over at Steve watching him expectantly, eyes round, and sighed before answering. “I went to Loki’s.”
Steve blinked, then frowned. “Oh.”
“I didn’t plan to stay that long, I was just walking and I was frustrated—I needed to go apologize for something anyway, and I ended up staying longer than I—“
“No it’s okay. It’s—Yeah.” Steve nodded slowly. “I just wish you’d told me. I wish you’d talked to me.”
Oh here we go. Tony wanted to just lock himself in his room in wallow in how shitty a friend and person he was. “You don’t have to take it upon yourself to help me through everything, Steve, you’re my friend. I don’t wanna do that to you.”
“As your friend, it’s what I want to do. The whole point in you moving here was so that you’d let me help you, Tony. I guess I just—didn’t think as far as when you didn’t need it anymore.”
Messing things up with Bruce, with Loki, and now Steve…. How was it possible for any one person to be such a screw up? Tony crossed the room in a few steps, standing in front of Steve and staring at him, begging him to understand. “That’s not what I meant, I just—it’s better for me to learn how to clean up my own messes, don’t you think?”
“Then let me help you learn, and you and do whatever else you need to do on your own. Talk to me, Tony. When did you stop being able to talk to me?”
Oh fuck it. If he was gonna fix this with Steve, he might as well do it properly. “When…when you told me to stay away from Loki.”
Steve looked genuinely taken aback by that. “What?”
So Tony started to tell him everything, starting from the very first day when Loki was the only person in the lecture hall not fawning over his name, telling him about Halloween, of the midnight talk outside his room, summarizing how he loved the walks they took in the evenings, the talks in the little café, and eventually getting to New Year’s Eve. It was nice to just spit it all out, and they moved to sit on the couch while Tony explained.
“….Bruce has terrible timing….” was the first thing Steve said, staring at his hands while he took in everything, and Tony shook his head.
“He was drunk, so was I but—I should’ve known better, at least, it wasn’t Bruce.”
“I told Thor you were gone yesterday,” Steve said suddenly, looking up. “I phoned him to ask if he’d been speaking to you, was he weird when he saw you this morning?”
“A little? He didn’t even mention it, though…” That was surprising, but he supposed Thor was too caught up wondering what Tony was doing hanging out with Loki to remember what Steve said.
“So,” Steve watched Tony, nodding. “Loki, huh.”
“Uhm. Yeah.” This was awkward.
“Explains a lot. Tony, you need to talk to Bruce.”
“Yeah, I know… Should I do that today? Have you heard—Oh wait, he text me something about Facebook, I better check that,” Tony suddenly remembered, pulling himself to his feet.
“You do that; I’ll just… process this.” Steve laughed. “Did you eat?”
“I’ll make a late breakfast too.” Steve rolled his eyes, and Tony grinned.
His laptop had been forgotten on his desk for the last two days, and he switched it on when he got to his room before going to pull through his wardrobe while waiting for it to start for some clean clothes to have ready, deciding he’d shower, too, once he checked this.
A few notifications caught his eye when he got it up and going, but it was the message notification he went for first.
You free for a coffee tomorrow? : )
Tony sat at his desk for a few minutes, forehead in his hands, trying to numb himself. He felt so incredibly shit at that moment. He could tell from the message that Bruce put effort into sounding more polite than usual, and it killed him, that it pointed to Bruce already knowing something was up. Steve was right, he had to do this sooner rather than later.
Once he’d composed himself, he typed out a reply.
Hey man, what bout lunch later today instead?
It was hard to not stare at it for a while before sending it, reading over it and trying to imagine how it would sound from Bruce’s point of view, but it said Bruce was offline, so he closed the laptop and went to distract himself with a shower and some food.
Bruce had replied by the time Tony finished his shower, telling him he was free until five, but needed to get to work on assignments after that. He suggested a place Tony didn’t recognise but that Steve did, and he quietly nodded when Tony asked him if it was okay given the circumstances. They agreed to meet at four, and Tony closed Facebook before the conversation went casual. He didn’t want to end of making Bruce feel any worse if this went badly.
He couldn’t eat much of the omelette Steve made; took a few bites and ended up staring at the rest, moving it around on his plate, before giving up and moving to stare at the TV while waiting for four o’ clock. Steve watched him sympathetically, which just made it worse, and offered to walk him there and wait somewhere nearby until he was done, but Tony declined. He didn’t want to drag his other friends into it, didn’t want anyone to be seen taking his side, wanted everyone to stay as close to Bruce as they were, regardless of what he did, and that could’ve turned awkward very quickly if Bruce spotted him. Steve agreed that it was for the best that he stays home, but agreed to let Tasha know when Tony left so that someone could check up on Bruce if they had to.
He left at half past three, the waiting around was getting to him. Steve promised to text Tasha when he left, and gave him a quick hug.
Tony wasn’t sure, while he walked there, if he felt bad about accepting Steve’s support or not. It was far too easy to; it was relieving that someone knew the full story, at least, but at the same time, he didn’t feel he deserved the support. He wished he could come up with some sort of excuse to just not to it today, he didn’t feel ready, but it was Bruce he should be catering to, not himself.
He was absurdly early because of his restlessness. He had twenty minutes to kill, and he’d gone through one coffee already in the first five and assured the waitress that he was fine, just waiting for someone, leaning back in his chair and turning his phone over and over in his hands for the sake of something to do. He took a seat by the window, and he could see the fountain that he and Bruce had drunkenly raced leaves across, feeling a pang of sadness that it’d probably be a while before things were that relaxed between them again.
He jumped when his phone went off, opening the text with a frown.
Monday 2nd January (15:47)
Thor is on his way to ‘visit Steve’. Thought you’d like to be prepared.
Well, that would’ve been interesting. He actually would’ve rather face Thor awkwardly than what he was doing right now.
Monday 2nd January (15:49)
I’m not there, having a coffee in town and waiting for Bruce so I can talk to him.
His thoughts turned to Loki, then, which he really didn’t need there and then. The thing with Bruce had clearly annoyed him, but the optimistic voice was getting louder and louder, the more Tony watched him. He let him in right away, last night, when Tony said he wasn’t dating Bruce, and went a little sour in the morning when he found out that Tony hadn’t spoken to Bruce yet. He wasn’t hopeful enough to fully believe it was pointing to that, though, didn’t believe in himself enough.
His phone rang suddenly, and he stared down at Loki’s name before answering.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m—in a café? Did you get my text?”
“I did. I should have said ‘elaborate’.” Loki explained quietly. “Sorry.”
Tony leaned his elbows on the table, watching for Bruce out the window. “The message on Facebook was asking about coffee tomorrow, I figured I’d better get it over with and asked him if he was free today instead, he’ll be here in like—five minutes? Yeah, five or ten.”
“What was the rush?”
Tony shrugged, even though Loki couldn’t see. “It wasn’t fair to drag it out.”
“So you don’t have….”
“…Don’t have what? What’re the questions about?”
He heard Loki breathing for a few seconds. “Nothing. When are you finished?”
“He has to be back by five, so….”
“Would you like to meet at work? I’m off today, but Jan is there.”
“Don’t think I can handle another coffee today, but sure,” Tony said quickly, wondering over how odd this phone call was, for Loki. “I can—hold on,” he paused, craning his neck. “There’s Bruce.”
“See you on the other side.” Loki’s voice sounded strange, and Tony tried to tell himself to dwell on it later, when he was done here. “Good luck.”
He put his phone away in his pocket when Bruce pushed the door open and smiled when he spotted Tony, pulling his scarf off as he made his way over.
Tony already knew he was terrible at this kind of thing. He’d never needed to have any awkward break-up talks before, never mind one before a relationship had even started. Pepper had initiated the conversation when their time came, but she was always way more graceful than him. He had no idea where to start, and they’d been there for ten minutes of Tony being awkward and Bruce being confused, when Bruce was the one who actually started it.
“Tony, what’s wrong? You’ve been—weird this whole—actually you’ve been weird since Saturday.”
Tony closed his eyes and wrapped his hands around his coffee cup to stop him fidgeting.
“I’m not as clueless as I look sometimes, you know.” Bruce continued, talking for him, when Tony wouldn’t, and fuck, was he going to sit back and let Bruce of all people do it for him? “Talk, Tony, I’m not going to….well, I’d rather hear it, let’s just say.”
“I—Okay, uhm,” Tony opened his eyes again, looking up at Bruce watching him expressionlessly. “This isn’t going the way I planned at all, I’m sorry, I’ll just—“
“You don’t look like you had a plan, Tony.”
He’d never seen Bruce look so… He didn’t know how to describe it, but there was nearly always a smile to Bruce’s expression, whether it was an obvious one, or visible in his eyes and Tony’d never seen him so devoid of one. He told himself he’d deal with however things turned out, though, and if that meant Bruce’s rare but formidable anger directed at him, it was no more than he deserved, right?
“No, you’re right,” he agreed. “I didn’t. I’m sorry, Bruce. I was just—I was drunk, and I didn’t think.”
“If you put it like that, it’s partly my fault too, though.” Bruce breathed a small laugh. “It was stupid. I should’ve known not to, especially if I was drunk. I shouldn’t have made you make that choice.”
“What? No, you’ve got it all wrong, it’s not your fault you….” Tony trailed off, struggling with finding the words.
“Not my fault I developed feelings for the guy with a reputation as a playboy?” Bruce finished for him, sarcastically, and Tony wanted to interrupt, because that hurt, but he couldn’t find the words, and he was supposed to take it and deal with it. “I don’t know if I thought you’d stopped for Pepper or for different reasons, or if I thought it’d stop for—“ He shook his head, looking out the window. ‘For me,’ Tony finished in his head; he wanted to say ‘for me’. “God knows Clint thought I was delusional.”
Tony couldn’t even speak; he was just totally lost for words. He wanted to speak up, tell Bruce he was wrong about him, but he couldn’t, because it would be worse if Bruce knew Loki was involved, if he started to think even more that it was his fault. And he wasn’t wrong, was he? This was evidence enough. He told himself that he’d learned from what he had with Pepper, hoped the shitty reputation wouldn’t follow him through it, but apparently one failed, though long-term relationship, wasn’t good enough for that. And he clearly hadn’t learned. Alcohol couldn’t be an excuse when this wasn’t his first mistake, and if it was, that was a different problem entirely.
“I’m sorry.” He mumbled after a few moments, quiet, and pathetic.
“Me too,” Bruce said, pushing his coffee away, picking up his scarf and coat, and leaving.
Tony listened for the bell above the door as it was swinging closed, counted to twenty, then crossed his arms over the table and rested his head in them.
.....And I decided to end on angst again! As always, it will be cross posted to Tumblr at starkrevelations.tumblr.com
Chapter 10: medicinal
Some days he thought it would be for the best, if he did, he thought, run, Loki, run before I mess this friendship up too, but Loki could pick up on almost every mood of Tony’s. When he could see that Tony was restless, he said some perfect thing to make Tony explain what was wrong in that exact moment, which Tony normally did, providing it wasn’t something Loki-related, and distracted him.
But he was getting used to this, to letting himself enjoy being around someone, like this, again. He even started to actually believe that Loki might be enjoying it, too.
Sorry for the delay; I turned 20 on Monday and my family and a few friends surprised me with a trip to an outdoor adventure centre, so I was quite distracted.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Life should have felt very difficult for Tony after that.
It wasn’t that it didn’t actually become difficult—it got far from easy, actually, he noticed all too quickly.
It seemed that pretty much everyone who had been at Tasha’s party had seen him with Bruce. Turns out there were a hell of a lot of people at her party, however, and Tony being who he was meant that word travelled very, very fast. After that lunch, more word travelled just as quickly, and even though only his close friends knew the full story (and only Steve and Tasha knew about the Loki thing), his old reputation was being brought up, dragged through the whole college, picked through and investigated by people he didn’t even know. He was catching different kind of looks when the new semester started; not the usual oh-my-god-it’s-Tony-Stark looks, which had been replaced by the raise of an eyebrow as he passed, or someone looking him up and down before turning to whisper something to their friend.
Bruce seemed to become a seriously busy guy, too. For three weeks, he declined any invitation to meet up and hang out with the group. Tony had mentioned doing this, to give Bruce space, the day of the lunch, to Steve, but Steve had strongly advised him to act normally and things would return to normal after a while. When it clearly wasn’t working, though, Tony spoke to Steve strongly, and after it became clear that he wasn’t showing up, either, Steve told him that they started to see a lot more of Bruce again. The last thing he wanted to do was come between the group and Bruce, since they were his friends longer, so he felt like it was the right thing to do.
He rarely saw his friends after that, though, not including Steve. Lunches in the cafeteria had to be avoided, as were nights out, hanging out in someone’s house, and any gathering that he felt he would only make awkward by showing up.
So between losing four out of five friends, forcing himself to become a social pariah, feeling paranoid every time he walked down a corridor, feeling like a shit excuse of a person in general, a text from Pepper asking what happened and if he was okay, and the fact that his stomach attempted to do a flip and fell in a heap every time he thought of Loki, he figured he would have hit the bars within the first few weeks.
But he didn’t. He was definitely tempted the day of Pepper’s text, but he didn’t do it, for one simple reason; Loki.
While he saw less of the rest of his friends, he began to see even more of Loki. They sat together in the lectures they shared at college and paid barely any attention in the end, ate lunch together every day, went for walks again on the evenings Tony didn’t spend at Loki’s house, spent Saturday afternoons together in Loki’s café, and most of every Sunday in Loki’s room watching movies or attempting to do assignments, but failing due to distraction. Tony even joined him in the library on certain evenings.
It was actually scary, at first, how hard it was starting to get to spend time away from Loki, and only added to Tony’s list of reasons to fall off the wagon, but because that would involve driving Loki out with everyone else…. Some days he thought it would be for the best, if he did, he thought, run, Loki, run before I mess this friendship up too, but Loki could pick up on almost every mood of Tony’s. When he could see that Tony was restless, he said some perfect thing to make Tony explain what was wrong in that exact moment, which Tony normally did, providing it wasn’t something Loki-related, and distracted him.
But he was getting used to this, to letting himself enjoy being around someone, like this, again. He even started to actually believe that Loki might be enjoying it, too.
Loki definitely knew that he was the worst kind of selfish.
There were days when he wondered if he was being too hard on himself, if he wasn’t as bad as he normally believed he was, and if everyone in the world thought different or worse of themselves than everyone else saw, or than they actually were. These days were normally days when he expressed this worry to Tony, and Tony reassured him that no, he wasn’t, that he was a great person.
Tony was the reason that he knew he wasn’t.
He wondered, with the massive population of the earth, if anyone else had ever been in this situation and wanted to tear their hair out to punish them for being selfish enough to take pleasure from it, or if he was as alone as he felt in it.
Tony was like—like a drug, to him, he supposed, but he hated using such a drastic comparison, but it was close, wasn’t it? An addict depended on their drug, used it as an escape, a sedative when life began to steal their sanity, had it on their mind most of every day, and experienced withdrawal symptoms when it was unavailable. So it wasn’t exactly inaccurate.
He had used his work as such, for a long while before he met Tony, but he knew almost right away that it wasn’t enough, and came with stresses of its own. He needed a reason to be away from his family, a valid excuse; even if only his parents were aware that he even had a job. They had objected at first, of course, their family was not short of money for him or Thor in their college years, they were born lucky in that aspect. His mother was easier to talk over to the idea; she understood him, really, and when he claimed there was no harm in gaining the experience provided by working and holding a job, it had been easy for her to talk his father around.
And so he had a reason to spend the hours not at college and at work instead, away from his family, where he wasn’t shouldering the constant burden of feeling like the odd one out—of being the odd one out. He was tired every day from attempting to mould himself into what was expected, from his father especially. It was mentally exhausting, when speaking to them, to pause, consider what his verbal response to a question or conversation would be, decide immediately that it was no good and rethink a response that wouldn’t cause more questions, uncomfortable demands, and please them, and speak it before a pause was noticed at all.
He had learned young in life that he would always be struggling for his father’s approval. The man was far from open minded, and Loki was far from another Thor. He was more like his mother than Thor or his father; the arguments had been many before he learned that it upset her to watch them, and that it upset him to see her so. He eventually developed front, a wall that he brought up around his father. He would never be Thor, but he wouldn’t be himself, either. He became nothing. He said little to be questioned or argued over, did very little that would raise objection, and thought carefully when he did speak or act around his family.
Around Tony, he didn’t need to do any of that—Tony actually discouraged him from even considering it when he was away from his family. A habit could never be dropped overnight, but he was learning to change it, learning how to relax, but not reveal too much, because while he was also selfish enough to keep much from Tony, even if by February they had gotten to a stage of friendship in which they told each other almost everything.
He had his own stresses, but he was also more aware than most that Tony also had his, and there were many of late, and that was why Loki felt selfish. The less time Tony spent with the others, the more time he spent with Loki. The longer Bruce was unhappy with him, the longer it would continue. The fear that Tony would forget him when it was all over had been strong to begin with, and that fear only heightened his guilt, the feeling that he was using Tony’s problems to soothe his own, but the more time they spent together, the better he became at reading the other man, and the more he slowly let himself believe that maybe Tony enjoyed spending time with him—that even when, or if, his friendship with Bruce recovered, he would still need Loki.
It was an odd feeling, to need someone and want to be needed, equally.
Tony wasn’t expecting great news when he returned to the apartment on the first Friday of February to find Steve and Thor seating together in the living room. It wasn’t long since he said goodbye to Loki in the library, and he suddenly found himself wondering if Steve told Thor where he was, and remembering that Thor hadn’t mentioned yet what his thoughts were on coming home to find Tony’d slept over on New Year’s Day, and wondering why they were both looking at him so grimly. Nothing really pointed in the direction of great news, so even though it wasn’t quite what he’d expected, he still wasn’t surprised.
“…I didn’t even know your birthday was coming up,” he said, leaning back in the opposite couch and crossing an ankle over his knee. “When did you say the party was again?”
“A week tomorrow,” Thor answered, glancing at Steve, who nodded to him, and back at Tony, continuing. “We all talked about it and we all think it’d be good if you came.”
Whoah, they had like, a group meeting over it? He frowned at Steve, looking for help. “But….”
“Bruce will be there,” Steve sighed, honest at least. “We told him Thor wanted to come here and talk to you about going and he said that’s okay. I think he’s ready to start putting it behind him, Tony, and I think this is a good opportunity.”
“But what if he thinks that now, and something—I dunno, it seems like a good one, but it’s Thor’s birthday, I don’t wanna mess it up for you, dude.”
“If you go,” Thor spoke quietly, after a moment’s silence looking down at his hands. “Loki will probably go.”
That lost him. Thor wanted him to go so that—he wanted him to show up with Loki? Well, Loki lived in the house so he wouldn’t really have to show up with him, but still. He figured he’d feel like an asshole, if he ended up not speaking a word to Bruce and hanging with Loki the entire night, but he knew he wouldn’t likely be inclined to leave Loki alone, either. More of his family were bound to be at this thing.
“I was there when we talked to Bruce,” Thor continued when Tony didn’t answer, probably trying to guess why he was hesitant. Tony caught Steve’s eye, and Steve gave a quiet sigh and looked down. “He said it was cool, it’s been like a month, just say hey or something and we can all go back to normal.”
“That’s not—what did he say?” Tony asked, running a hand across his face.
“He said he didn’t mind.” Steve replied for Thor. “He’s probably as tired of it as you and the rest of us are.”
That comment did surprise Tony, though. He actually hadn’t properly considered the effect it would’ve had on the rest of his friends, tip-toeing around the situation.
“I’ll, uh, I’ll talk to Loki about it, then, I guess,” He decided, smiling despite himself at the huge grin Thor suddenly gave.
“Yes! Try to talk him round, yeah?”
Tony was unconvinced he would try particularly hard to talk Loki into a situation that stuck him in the middle of most of his family, but for Thor’s sake, and the rest of the group, he supposed they could both make some sort of appearance, at least.
So that was how he found himself walking through the town shortly after six the next night with Loki, having left Jan at the café for the final shift. It was still bright, almost, for which Tony was actually kind of grateful. Snow and long nights were cool, but he could only put up with them so long before they started depressing him. It was nice to feel spring coming in.
Loki was finishing his part of a small discussion on how their taste in movies differed, and Tony was trying to figure out how to bring up the subject of Thor’s birthday. He was wondering how to go for the subtle approach, first, but Loki would see right through that, and he’d asked Tony twice already what was wrong with him, so he already knew there was something. There was little he hid from Loki anyway (he told him pretty much everything but his increasing feelings for him, actually, now that he thought about it), so in the end he decided to just spit it out.
“Thor came to visit me yesterday.” He rushed out when Loki finished his sentence.
Loki blinked, paused mid-step and turned to look at Tony. “What?”
“Yeah, when I left you at the library and went home. He and Steve were waiting for me.”
This was the part Loki wasn’t gonna like. “He wants me to say I’ll go to his birthday party,” He said, and watched as Loki’s expression suddenly darkened. He probably knew where this was going. “And then to talk you into staying for it, too.”
“I see. What did you say?”
“I said we’ll see. They had a group meeting about it, apparently,” He pulled a face and kicked a stone off the pavement idly. “Talked to Bruce, he said it’d be good if I went and things started going back to normal, or something.”
Loki didn’t speak for a moment, and Tony looked over, a little worried, to find Loki staring at him, his eyes slightly wider than usual. He blinked and looked away hurriedly when he saw Tony looking up, though. “That’s good,” he nodded, beginning to walk again. “Right?”
“I—guess so? Are you okay?”
“Fine. You know that Thor’s party is a week today.”
“Yeah…. What d’you think?” He said at Loki’s back, before he picked up the pace to walk alongside him again.
“Much of my family will be there,” He spoke slowly, frowning ahead of him as he considered it. “It’s difficult to avoid, considering, but… It would be easier if you were there, I suppose…”
“We can make a quick exit if it goes bad; there’ll be so many people nobody’ll notice ‘till we’re gone. I’m guessing Steve’s probably gonna stay over, we can go stay at my place if it’s tough.”
“It’s a wonder we don’t just say no,” Loki raised an eyebrow. “Considering neither of us seems particularly fond of the idea. We aren’t wise.”
“Probably not. But if it goes good….”
“Alright.” Loki looked over at Tony, the breeze flicking some hair in his face when he turned. “But only under the condition that you suffer my family with me.”
“I’ll be there, don’t worry.” Tony couldn’t help giving a reassuring smile, telling himself not to stare or make a face at the small, unsure smile Loki gave back. “And you can suffer whatever happens with Bruce with me, deal?”
“I hope you aren’t counting on me to be much of a help,” He laughed, nudging Tony to the side with his shoulder.
Tony righted his step and pushed back, smiling a little wider. “We’re doomed.”
Looking back, Tony decided he was glad that thy built up so much worry beforehand. Nothing could have gone as badly as they were both afraid of, though they were afraid for different reasons, so with expectations like that, they were bound to be pleasantly surprised. They spent the entirety of Saturday at the café with their heads together, discussing it, and with Jan over their shoulders shaking her head and assuring them that they were insane. Given that they were both under that impression anyway, this didn’t help much.
When evening arrived, they headed back to Tony’s, first, since it was closer than Loki’s, and Loki waited, investigating Tony’s room while he ran around getting ready. It was the first time Loki’d been in his room, but there wasn’t much to see, really. He’d added a few posters and let his own organised mess surround him since he moved in, especially around the computer desk, but Loki seemed interested anyway.
They arrived at Loki’s approximately three quarters of an hour before the party was due to start, to find that only Frigga was there, packing a bag for the night, as she and Odin had decided they would be leaving halfway through the night to stay with other family and let Thor have his space. “If it were me, they would be watching like hawks, most likely,” Loki had muttered when he explained this to Tony the previous day.
“Oh, hello, Tony,” she smiled warmly as they stepped in the door. Tony offered a smile of his own, and a wave. “You’re quite early; Thor’s gone out with his father to collect more drinks for you all.”
Everyone seemed to have that one friend, with parents of the wonderful opinion of Odin and Frigga when it came to letting their kids have parties. “Nah, it’s okay, I’m waiting with Loki, so.”
“You may as well make use of him while I change into something else,” Loki said, pulling off his jacket and smirking at Tony. “If there’s anything left to prepare.”
“Oh, no, he’s a guest,” She waved a hand dismissively, folding a towel and adding it to a small pile of them on the couch. “You two go—make yourself at home, Tony, it won’t be long starting.”
“I don’t mind helping out, if there’s something,” Tony offered with a shrug, figuring it couldn’t hurt Loki’s situation if he made a good impression, considering how much they hung out.
“He spends too much time here to be considered a guest,” Loki teased, but gestured to Tony to follow him toward the stairs nonetheless.
“Not in your father’s view, he barely met Tony once.”
“Then I look forward to introducing him later,” Loki muttered dryly, taking the first few steps.
“Loki. Go get dressed, and relax until it begins, hm?”
Tony liked Frigga, from what he’d seen and heard so far. He’d gathered from Loki that she was closest to understanding him than the rest of his immediate family, and she was always hospitable when she saw Tony around.
He wasn’t sure about Odin, though. He’d seen him once, when he was driving off while Thor and the group were arriving, but it wasn’t much of an introduction, they hadn’t even spoken. Loki had a lot of trouble with him, though, which Tony could more than sympathise with.
Loki didn’t speak much while he got ready, and neither did Tony. They caught each other’s eye every now and again, and they both knew most of what the other was thinking, what they were worried about. Tony spent a few minutes checking his Facebook on Loki’s laptop, but the distraction didn’t last long, so he attempted to calm down a little, and reminded himself constantly that they could leave if they needed to.
When Loki was ready, he propped himself up against his pillows with his laptop on his knees, one ankle crossed over the other, and Tony sat cross legged beside him. His boots weren’t laced up right, which Tony found sort of endearing, but he wasn’t wearing skinny jeans for once, and had pulled on a pair of grey jeans that were a little loose on him, instead. His shirt was black with thin gold lettering down the side, and he had the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He watched Loki on his laptop, listening when he heard Thor and Odin return, relaxing slowly in the silence as night fell.
It wasn’t long until they caught each other’s eye again, when the first cars could be heard pulling into the driveway and voices started to travel through the house.
“Do you wanna put some stuff in a bag in case we have to go?” Tony suggested, mostly to break the silence and distract Loki, who was biting his lower lip.
“No…. No, I’ll get my things if it comes to that,” He replied after a moment’s thought, closing the laptop and sitting forward. “We’ll go down in five minutes, or so.”
“How’re you feeling?”
Loki gave a small laugh. “Like my insides have turned to ice. You?”
“Pretty much the same,” Tony agreed, deciding it was pretty accurate for what his chest was doing the more nervous he got. He leaned sideways and tugged at one of Loki’s laces until Loki moved his feet closer, letting Tony tie them properly.
“Thank you for coming, Tony,” he spoke quietly, watching Tony’s hands on his boots while Tony looked up. “I know you would rather not have to go, and I know you well enough to know that you didn’t do it because Thor told you to. So. Thank you.”
That knocked Tony back for a minute. He knew it was probably pretty clear to Loki that he’d agreed to do pretty much anything for him so far in their friendship, if he thought he could help, but he felt weirdly torn at being glad that Loki understood that he cared, feeling accomplished by the thanks, and frustrated at the fact that Loki didn’t understand fully, that he couldn’t just tell him, either, and get away with it.
“You’re welcome,” He answered eventually, sounding pathetic to his own ears, but giving Loki a smile anyway. “You’d do the same for me, I think.”
“Yes.” Loki nodded, but didn’t look up. Tony released his foot when he was done with the laces, and he swung his legs over the side of the bed, heaving a sigh. “We should go downstairs, I suppose. There should be enough people now that attention won’t be drawn.”
“Hopefully,” Tony agreed, imagining coming down the stairs to bump right into Bruce or something and trying to think up something to say with the rest of their friends watching.
Loki was right, though; enough people had shown up in the ten minutes before and then after the eight o’ clock mark that when they descended the stairs and headed straight to the kitchen, they were uninterrupted and disturbed no conversations. He could hear more people arriving and being greeted at the door again, and the music started very suddenly as Loki was searching for glasses.
“Liquid courage,” he explained, raising his voice over the noise. “Before you go back in here to say hello, I’m quite sure Bruce won’t be long arriving.”
It made sense, Tony guessed, and they evacuated the kitchen with their drinks before it was filled with Loki’s family; one confrontation at a time, they’d decided. Most of the group had arrived, with only Bruce and Steve missing, which was odd. Unless Tony was holding him up, Steve was rarely late to anything. He caught Tasha watching him as he lowered himself into the couch beside Loki, but he couldn’t read anything from her expression, which didn’t surprise him. Clint wasn’t giving Loki any great looks, though, and Tony frowned. Was this just new, or had Clint always seemed to dislike Loki? He hadn’t noticed. Thor was grinning like madman, though, standing in front of the coffee table.
It was hard to pin-point when Tony began to relax. He thought it might’ve been when conversation was struck up with the group like it always had been, like he hadn’t just spent the last month avoiding them all, or more likely it was when he felt Loki’s shoulder against him when Loki leaned back in the couch, tension leaving him a little. He hadn’t spoken much since they sat down, but he might, possibly have been enjoying himself a little.
People started to steadily arrive after that, and Tony caught himself watching the door for a while, taking note. Steve gave him a huge grin when he showed up, seating himself next to Tony and apologizing for getting caught up on the phone before he got there.
“Good crowd already, huh?” He asked pleasantly, leaning forward so that they could hear him over the noise and looking at Loki too; Tony felt a weird surge of happiness at Steve’s attempt to include him in the conversation, after the warnings he’d given about Loki at first. Friends like Steve really were hard to come by.
“He invited his entire year, and more, I think,” Loki nodded, looking around at the people chattering and laughing over the music.
“Sounds like Thor,” Steve laughed. “I better go find him, get a drink, too. I’ll be right back,” He pulled himself to his feet, straightening the hem of his shirt before stepping around him.
“Odd,” Loki remarked, moving close to Tony’s shoulder to be heard.
“What was? Steve?”
“I was never under the impression he was very fond of me.”
“He’s a weird—“
“Give me your glass,” Loki told him suddenly, holding out a hand and reaching for his own on the coffee table. “I should refill them.”
“But I still—huh?” Tony frowned when Loki’s eyes flickered to somewhere above Tony’s head and he turned in his seat to find Bruce standing over him, a small half-smile on his face. He mentally cursed at the face he must have made, when he was suddenly assaulted by shock, nervousness and fear at the same time, and paid little attention when he realized Loki had taken his glass from him.
“I’ll give you five minutes,” he assured Tony, speaking right in his ear before rising and offering Bruce a nod, then following Steve’s steps.
Bruce took Steve’s seat, giving Tony another quick smile, then moved his gaze to the coffee table. “Hey.”
“Uhm—hi.” Tony wanted to cringe at how terrible this was already going.
“How are—actually, you know what,” Bruce let out a small laugh and shook his head. “I’m just gonna go ahead and say I’m sorry about what I said to you, before.”
He hadn’t expected the conversation to jump to that subject already, and he sure as hell hadn’t expected that. “You….wait, what? No, it’s okay, you were, uh, you were pretty right, you had every reason to say it, you don’t need to apologize.”
“I’m not saying you didn’t deserve it a little,” Bruce glanced at him sideways, smiling. “But I didn’t mean it; I was just…a little upset. It wasn’t the right thing to do, so—start over?”
Tony found himself actually just staring and blinking at Bruce for a few moments. He needed to recover from the shock that Bruce even suggested it, then deal with the fact that he really didn’t feel like he deserved this chance. He knew Bruce, though, all of the group knew him well enough to know that he didn’t enjoy staying angry. Tony felt like he’d be getting off easy this way, but whatever he did or didn’t deserve was irrelevant when he knew Bruce didn’t deserve this being dragged out.
There was that, and the fact that he was good at being selfish when he was being watched by his friends and tons of other people who had silently judged him for it after Tasha’s.
“Okay,” he made himself grin, and Bruce actually looked relieved. “Yeah, okay, if you wanna, then—yeah, sounds good.”
The night started to go very smoothly after that. Bruce moved on to find the others when Steve returned, and Tony knew it would be slow progress and a long while before he and Bruce could be as close as they were, but this was definitely an optimistic start. Loki smiled when Tony told him, then wrapped an arm around his shoulders and gave a quick squeeze, setting the bottle of vodka he’d brought from the kitchen on the table.
So Tony began to relax more and more. After three drinks each, he and Loki were finding it difficult to continue to be suspicious of the entire situation, and when Jan joined them and the three of them were laughing and arguing on the couch like any day in the café, he actually started to enjoy himself. He watched Loki a lot, the way he gestured with his hands when he spoke, how his smile reached his eyes, which happened rarely, and if Loki was enjoying himself—well, it only brought Tony’s mood higher.
After two hours or so, the crowd divided into its smaller cliques, Loki, Jan and Tony forming one on the couch, biting their lips against the laughter when the dancing started, and Thor moved perfectly from one group to the next, with Steve at his side and an enormous smile on his face.
The kitchen was filled with his family and their own private reunions and catch-up conversations, which only became a problem when they finished their vodka and needed to go collect more drinks, and Loki’s shoulders slumped visibly at the thought.
“What I don’t understand how we’re not a little bit more drunk,” Jan was saying. “When we just finished a full bottle of vodka between three of us.”
“Probably because there’re three of us,” Tony pointed out, still watching Loki closely. “Want me and Jan to go out for more?”
“No….” Loki sighed. “I may as well make an appearance sooner rather than later, Thor already has.”
“You do that, I’m gonna go to the bathroom.” Jan announced, standing up very suddenly, and blinking slowly when she did. “Huh. Maybe it’s because we were sitting down. Anyway, I’ll be right back!”
“Confronting them while still closer to sober than drunk would be wiser, also,” Loki spoke with an absent tone, as if he was attempting to talk himself around more than he was trying to talk to Tony.
“I’m here too, come on,” Tony stood a little slower than Jan, taking note of the small buzz at the back of his head. Two or three more and he was definitely going to be drunk. He offered Loki a hand, and Loki raised an eyebrow up at him. “It’ll be okay, just go in there, say hi, and go out again. Come on, I’ll be with you.”
The sad part, at first, was that his family didn’t seem entirely interested. People who Tony assumed were aunts, uncles, or cousins, smiled as he passed and jittered out a hello of some sort. Loki smiled and nodded, dragging Tony behind him as they headed toward the sink, which the drinks were laid out next to.
It was Odin who spoke to him first, seated at the kitchen table, closest to where Loki and Tony were. He turned in his chair, a large glass in his hand, mostly empty, and raised his eyebrows as Loki picked up a bottle of white rum and read over the back of the label quickly. His eye patch had a different pattern on it to last time Tony had run into him, and he made a mental note to ask Loki how he lost the eye someday.
“Don’t drink it too quickly,” he warned quietly, the corner of his mouth turning upwards a little.
“He knows,” Frigga smiled widely up at Loki and Tony when Loki looked over. “Are you enjoying the party, boys?”
“Who is this one?” Odin interrupted, curiously, though, looking Tony over.
“Uh, Tony Stark,” he supplied after a slow moment, remembering that he’d decided to make a good impression and that making this part go smoother for Loki was what he was here for, and held out his hand after taking a step closer. “Nice to meet you.”
“Stark, is it?” Odin’s hand was huge around Tony’s as he took it and shook. “Howard Stark’s boy.”
“Tony, yep.” Tony tried to keep from his tone how much he hated being known for his Dad, but Loki knew already, and he saw him tense in the corner of his eye.
“Loki goes to school with him,” Frigga explained, giving Tony a wink. He supposed that was a good sign.
“He’s my best friend.” Loki added, voice as casual as anything, but Tony’s chest and stomach constricted pleasantly when he did say it, and he felt a little overwhelmed at the fact that shit, Loki means that, I’m actually his best friend, that’s—good, right?
It was probably something to do with being Howard’s boy, or that Odin was a little more happily drunk than they were, but the introduction actually went pretty well, with Tony answering questions on where he was from, what he was studying, and Loki joined in as they spoke of college, when Odin seemed pleased that they worked together for most of their projects, now. After a while, they ended up taking seats at the kitchen table with Odin and Frigga, pouring their drinks there and holding a full hour long conversation with the man as he told stories about his days in college, and Frigga turned out to be a lot quicker and smarter than most people knew.
When they moved on from the kitchen, they had their bottle of white rum half-empty, and they found that Jan had been distracted by one Henry Pym. Loki’s expression looked like constant mask of shock, and Tony couldn’t hold in the laughter that bubbled up at his face, not stopping even when it earned him an elbow to the ribs, because it also earned him a laugh on Loki’s part. They were happy, and they were surprised to be happy, and they had no idea what to do with themselves because they had expected to be miserable or to have left by now, but instead, the foundations had been set for Tony’s reconciliation with Bruce, and Loki held an hour long conversation with his father without feeling like he’d failed or disappointed him somehow.
Most of his family left not long after that, leaving only the younger cousins who joined the party once their parents were out of the way. Loki relaxed even more at his, and Tony felt like he could’ve been entertained the entire night by just watching Loki being genuinely happy for once. They shared what was left of the white rum with Jan, watched Thor and Steve battle in the medium of karaoke and laughed themselves to tears at the sight, and the noise.
The night moved in a blur after they finished the white rum and decided not to drink anything else after that, but Tony was aware of the fact that he didn’t leave Loki’s side once. Even with the family gone and no need to hide from Bruce; he couldn’t have made himself go anywhere else even with a reason. Loki was mesmerizing when he was this happy, Tony didn’t want to miss any of it.
The party seemed to move outside at around 2, though Tony wasn’t really sure when that happened or when he’d started to drift off in the swing bench on Loki’s shoulder, but Loki was smiling and shaking him awake suddenly, and they decided the party was close to over for them. Tony made sure to wish Thor happy birthday again, might even have done so a few too many times while Loki dragged him back into the house, but at least he made his message heard.
He realized, while he let Loki take him by the wrist and lead up the stairs, that this was possibly the happiest he’d felt since… We’ll, since Pepper. He was well over her, so that wasn’t an issue looming over his shoulders and making every simple task difficult, Bruce wanted to make amends, he hadn’t heard from his own father since Christmas, and he’d spent the entire night looking at Loki’s smile. Things weren’t exactly perfect, but they were pretty damn good.
In Loki’s room, he laughed when Loki kicked his boots off gracelessly, threw his jeans on the floor with them and fell into his bed still wearing his shirt, and at the half-hearted “Shut up,” that Loki called out through his pillow in response. He did the same with his own shoes and trousers, but dumped his own shirt with them since he had a vest under it anyway.
Loki shifted around onto his side when Tony climbed in, facing him. “Do you realize what happened tonight?” He asked, eyes closed as he settled comfortably on his pillow.
“Uhh…” Tony lay on his own side, too, all the better to see Loki while they spoke. “We got drunk?”
“Mmm, but more important than that,” Loki opened his eyes and, probably forgetting he’d just spent several minutes getting comfortable a moment ago, raised himself up onto his elbow, looking down at Tony. “I went to Thor’s party. With my family. I was drunk in front of—of my family, Tony, and nothing bad happened!”
Tony grinned widely and his shoulders shook in silent laughter at how Loki’s voice was slightly hoarse from talking and alcohol. Between that, the way his hair fell around him when he leaned over Tony, how bright his eyes were, how goddamn good he looked when he smiled and the fact that Tony was drunk, it took a lot to not tackle him right there.
“D’you know why it was nothing—d’you know why it went well?” Loki persisted, and Tony shook his head, ignoring the dizziness it caused at the back of his head. “Because you were there.” Loki pointed a finger at Tony’s chest when he said it, with a tone as if he was explaining something as obvious as the fact that the sky was blue to a toddler, and Tony let himself roll onto his back so that he could watch easier. “And they all loved you; everyone does, even I do. I couldn’t be miserable and make a mess with you there because it’s impossible to be miserable with you there.”
“You should stop being so adorable when I’m drunk, y’know,” Tony responded, almost mumbling, unable to believe what he was hearing, and fuck but he hoped he would remember every second of this in the morning because his chest felt like it was going to explode.
“I mean it, Tony,” Loki let the hand on Tony’s chest fall flat, resting his palm on him and spreading his fingers out somewhere near his shoulder. “I was thinking for a while that you were something like—I was trying to come up with a comparison, and decided you were a drug, because almost everything I think about finds a way to—to relate itself to you, I feel better when you’re here, I’m horrible when you’re not—“
“But drugs kill, eventually,” Tony pointed out, loathe to interrupt him, but he couldn’t handle hearing all this, didn’t feel he deserved to be thought that highly of.
“Then you’re my medicine,” Loki amended easily, with a shrug. “I know you don’t believe it, but—well, I’ve said it, so, my part is done. Maybe I’ll slowly convince you, if you don’t run away tomorrow.” He sighed and moved his elbow until he was lying down again, but let his head fall on Tony’s other shoulder, and left his hand where it was.
Tony’s heart was beating way too fast, he didn’t think he could breathe, being surrounded by Loki’s words, and Loki himself, but he moved the arm Loki was lying on until it was resting on Loki’s shoulder and brought the other up to interlock the fingers of both his hands, so that he was holding Loki closer. “Sometimes I think you’re not real,” he said quietly. “Because you’re all of that to me, too, and I don’t—I dunno, I don’t get a medicine, I get worse, that’s what happens.”
“You think much worse of yourself than anyone else in the world does, Tony,” Loki muttered quietly into his vest. “I think enough good things about you for the both of us, so I thought if I said that, it would help. Do you think I’m stupid?”
Tony gave another silent laugh, and Loki poked his shoulder in protest at the movement. “No.”
“Then believe me,” he told him, as if it were the easiest thing in the world. “And go to sleep before you make me seasick.”
As usual, it will be double posted to my Tumblr at http://starkrevelations.tumblr.com
Chapter 11: someone changed my mind
I told him I loved him, Loki suddenly remembered, eyes wide and blinking over the covers. His mind went blank, suddenly, with his own shock, and the only noises were his heart beating in his ears and Tony breathing down his neck. He couldn’t believe he’d said that, even as off-handed as it was.
The best and worst part of the night, for Loki, was that he was aware of and remembered everything that he’d said and done. It was too strange, also, to remember; he felt like, yes, it had been him speaking, and him moving, his own thoughts pushing their way from his lips, but he wasn’t the one behind the wheel at the time. It was embarrassing, in a way, that he’d been so reckless when he was normally so good at being careful, but he didn’t regret it. Not really. Yes, it had been an uncomfortable sensation, and gods yes he felt terrible now, like his head was going to implode in on his dehydrated brain, but he didn’t regret it. He hadn’t been lying, for once.
Medicine…. That made a lot more sense than ‘drug’, he decided. He definitely hadn’t been lying about that. He was horrible when Tony wasn’t around. He thought horrible things, said horrible things, resented pretty much everything within eyesight, or anything his thoughts could reach. He hated being at home, hated his family, even Thor, hated how he looked, how he was probably going nowhere with his life. He felt trapped, most of the time.
But last night, with Tony here, he’d held actual conversations with his family. He had celebrated Thor’s birthday with him, found the ability to love his brother the way he always wished he could. He was pleasant to the people he met, didn’t immediately try to judge how fake they were on introduction, because he was too focussed on Tony. He normally found it hard to stand being in the house too long, but when Tony was there, it was like the walls expanded. It wasn’t such a small space anymore. When he worked with Tony, he got more done, felt better about what he’d done, with Tony’s encouragement, rather than assuming he’d failed already. He couldn’t help but notice how Tony looked at him, at times, either; where Loki was good at being careful, Tony seemed to have given up, and it made Loki feel good, like he actually was something to be impressed by.
But that was where his mind started to get restless, confused, scared. He noticed Tony noticing. He wanted Tony to notice. He’d tried to tell Tony what he was to him, against his better judgement, last night, but what would happen now? Tony had been obvious but unwilling to act, so far. Why was that? Was it due to how careful Loki was? Did he need prompting?
Did Loki want to prompt him?
…It took him until now to come to a conclusion on that question. He did want to. He was afraid, so afraid that he would destroy it, destroy Tony, but…. He really wanted to try, actually, and realizing that surprised him.
Though, it probably shouldn’t surprise him that much, considering he was currently curled up on his side, silent in his thoughts, with his back to Tony’s chest, and Tony’s arm over his waist. His hair moved a little every time Tony breathed, and it tickled the back of his neck, but he didn’t mind. His head was splitting, his eyes felt too big, his mouth felt like it had been filled with sand overnight, and he probably had terrible morning breath, but along with all of that, he felt comfortable, secure. The way they’d slept, curled up around each other even when one of them moved was definitely not normal for friends, but it felt normal to him. There was a twinge of anxiety there, when he wondered what Tony would do when he woke, and if he’d remember what Loki said last night, whether or not he’d brush it off as drunk-talk, or take it seriously.
I told him I loved him, Loki suddenly remembered, eyes wide and blinking over the covers. His mind went blank, suddenly, with his own shock, and the only noises were his heart beating in his ears and Tony breathing down his neck. He couldn’t believe he’d said that, even as off-handed as it was.
He blinked again, and took Tony’s wrist in his own hand, moving his arm away from his waist, and rolled quietly out of bed. He grabbed a pair of pyjamas from where they hung off the door handle of his wardrobe, a t-shirt from the floor, and stepped quietly from his room to the bathroom, shutting both doors quietly behind him as he did.
He padded his way downstairs barefoot when he’d changed and brushed his teeth, his balance off entirely from the hangover. He rubbed at his eyes as he wandered into the kitchen, the light cutting through his retina and adding to the hangover. He needed a drink badly, and a few painkillers too, maybe. He pulled a face and shivered at the sight of the food still laid out in the kitchen from the night before, and went straight about pouring a glass of water and grabbing two advil.
He wasn’t sure how long he sat there, nursing his half-full glass on a kitchen stool, leaned over the table. The water tasted horrible after he’d brushed his teeth, but he didn’t care that much, he just needed the drink. He was trying to kick his mind into gear, to think, because something was going to change after today, probably, and he had to figure out what he was going to do. Every attempt to think ahead seemed to end with him thinking back, from last night, to the day before, to every random and comforting memory of Tony from the last seven months.
He blinked his way out of his train of thought when he heard two low voices and some footsteps descending the stairs, and he made an effort to straighten up, to look more awake and alert. He spotted a flash of Tasha’s red hair, then Clint following behind, and sighed quietly.
As expected, when they entered the room and spotted Loki, Natasha gave a slow smirk and Clint gave a scowl. Clint amused Loki, to an extent, so he grinned widely back at him and waved.
“I’ll wait in here,” Clint muttered to Tasha, backtracking to the living room.
Tasha turned and watched as he went out of their view, presumably to the couch, then looked back at Loki with one eyebrow raised. “Was that necessary?”
“Yes and no,” Loki shrugged, and cleared his throat when his voice came out low and hoarse. “He acts like a child, why shouldn’t he be treated like one?”
Tasha had no response to that, and smirked wider instead, taking the stool opposite Loki, crossing her arms on the table. “Fun night?”
“Mmm,” Loki closed his eyes and nodded, leaning his head back as he took another sip of water.
“Then why the long face?”
“I thought you liked my face,” Loki said quietly, preferring to joke with her than take the question seriously. “I won’t apologise for it, in any case.”
“I’ve known you longer than anyone but Thor,” Tasha continued, not one to be deterred once she decided she wanted an answer. “I can see right through you, and I’m asking what’s wrong.”
He sighed. “Nothing.”
“Not the usual, then. Tony?”
“What?” Loki frowned, looked up, and cursed Natasha and her intelligence.
“If it was Thor, or your Dad, you’d say so.” She lifted one hand and rested her chin in her palm. “I’ve taken an interest in what Tony’s up to, these days, so I’m all ears.”
“Why would Tony interest you?”
“I made him a somewhat verbal promise.”
Loki raised his eyebrows. “I’d like to hear more about that.”
“And I’d like to hear more about why you’re down here staring into a glass while Tony’s upstairs.”
He rolled his eyes, set his glass down on the table and glared across at her. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re too curious for your own good?”
“You have, many times,” Tasha said, almost innocently. “You might as well speak up. I know you, I know what you believe in and what you don’t, and while I wish it was someone other than Tony to change your mind—“
“Stop, Natasha.” Loki interrupted in a low voice.
“—I think it could be okay.”
“You believed the same things as me, once,” Loki pointed out.
“Someone changed my mind.”
Loki glanced toward the living room door, to where Clint was probably lying flat on his back, flicking through the TV with his mouth half-open, and where Tasha normally would be, letting him rest his head on her lap, shaking her head at him while smirking. They’d been together for two years now, and that hadn’t changed a bit. Loki didn’t believe something like that could last, sometimes, which was only one reason to back-up his fear of what was happening with Tony, but Tasha didn’t believe things like that could last, once, too. She was an intelligent person, Loki knew.
“Why do you think he went for Bruce on New Year’s Eve?” She asked, suddenly, and Loki’s gaze shifted back to her, and he narrowed his eyes.
“I don’t want to talk—“
“Bruce is an important puzzle piece, Loki. Tony’s immature, sometimes, he was drunk and felt rejected. He did want you there, if he hasn’t told you already.” She stood up, straightened up the neck of her shirt, and actually smiled at him. “Don’t let him leave you waiting all year.”
She left Loki possibly even more confused than he’d already been.
Tony was still asleep when Loki returned to the room with a glass of water and advil for him, too, in the exact same position as he’d left him. He set the glass and pills down on the shelf above his bed, then climbed on, knees first. He felt a pang of guilt when he looked down at Tony’s arm lying limp where Loki had been lying, and he lifted it again, moving it so that he could lie down above the covers on his side, facing Tony, and set his arm down between them. When Tony was awake, he had a tiny line about a centimetre long, right in the middle of his eyebrows, where he was almost always frowning just a little, as if there was always something on his mind. There probably was, whether it was class, his friends, his family, or the inner workings of the microwave he was using, but when he was asleep, it was gone. His eyebrows rested a little higher, and his eyelashes looked even longer when his eyes were closed.
Loki lifted a hand and poked him in the side of the face.
He watched as the line reappeared, and Tony pulled a face, frowning and making a noise. When he went still again, Loki smiled and poked him again, a little harder.
“Whaaaaat….” Tony groaned, almost in a whisper.
“Wake up,” Loki whispered back, poking him again, and smiling a little wider when Tony opened his eyes and glared at him.
“Do you remember how much we drank? I don’t wanna wake up; I wanna roll over and die I— how the hell are you awake and smiling?”
“I’m an early riser, and poking you is funny.” Loki responded easily, sitting up and giving Tony room to roll onto his back and stretch his arms out. He retrieved the glass of water and the painkillers, keeping silent when Tony spotted them, sat up and mumbled some sort of desperate thanks and downed them. Tony was finishing off the water while Loki sat cross-legged, waiting.
When Tony was finished swallowing, he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, then looked Loki up and down, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.
“I want to go for a walk.”
“A walk?” Tony repeated, horrified. “I just woke up, my head—“
“The fresh air will help,” Loki insisted, deciding he wasn’t going to rest until he had Tony convinced. He didn’t want to stay in the house if he was going to follow Tasha’s advice, there were too many people around, and he wanted Tony to himself. “Breakfast, too.”
“Do I get a choice in this?” Tony asked after a moment, shaking his head and grinning, and Loki was suddenly remembered of his thoughts earlier, of Tasha shaking her head down at Clint for two years with that little smirk, and he felt short of air.
“No,” he said, quietly, when he remembered he was still supposed to be answering Tony.
It took Tony twenty-five minutes to get up, dressed and ready to go, where it took Loki ten, which was really no more or no less than Loki had estimated. Tony wasn’t a morning person on a good day, but at least he had Loki to poke him along this time. He wasn’t really sure why he was hurrying him, given that he was a massive pile of nerves and completely unprepared for how he was going to do this, or if he even would, it was very likely he’d change his mind on time to take a simple walk, eat breakfast and return with not much to tell. He supposed he wanted to be out of the house before more people were awake and there to notice them leaving, there was a small chance Thor would be offended.
Clint didn’t look up when they passed through the living room toward the front door, but Tasha did lock eyes with Loki as they were heading out the door, and gave him a small smile that only added to the bundle of nerves in his stomach.
Tony didn’t seem curious about Loki’s sudden urge to be up and out of the house, but he was probably too brain-dead, still. Was it a good idea to attempt this with Tony in the state he was in? Hopefully, once the painkillers kicked in, and he’d eaten….
“How do you feel now?” He asked mildly, keeping his voice even.
Tony gave a shrug, his hands buried deep in his pockets, and smiled over at him. “Not bad, actually, just really tired. What time’d we go to sleep at?”
“I have no idea,” Loki gave a quiet laugh. “I wasn’t exactly paying attention to the clock.”
“Yeah… You looked like you were enjoying yourself,” Tony commented lightly, and Loki just nodded in response, not wanting to start talking properly until they’d eaten.
They stopped at a nearby store for a take-away breakfast, wandering around the hot food section and stopping to laugh at each other for how dead they both looked. Tony ordered his quickly, a toasted sandwich with ham and lettuce, but Loki spent a little longer staring at the food, not really sure if he wanted anything now that he was here. His chest was cold and his stomach felt like it was slowly sinking with every second closer to when he hoped to speak up, and food just didn’t look appealing. In the end, he ordered the same as Tony.
They made their way down the street, then, in a comfortable silence, aiming for the fountain in the middle of town where they could take a seat at the benches, shoulders bumping as they walked. Tony had unwrapped his sandwich already, and had pulled bits off the corner to chew on, humming happily when he did.
The town was almost deserted this early on a Sunday morning. The fountain was in the commercial area, surrounded by clothes stores, electronic stores, etc… All of which were closed for the day. Loki watched one man in a black coat passing with his dog as they sat on the edge of the fountain, his sandwich forgotten on his knee as he tried again to think, and failed.
“You’re really quiet,” Tony observed, crushing up the now empty paper his sandwich had been wrapped in. “Is that a hangover thing, or…?”
This is the part where he should probably start speaking, he realised. He shrugged, instead, still watching the man with his dog in the distance.
“You okay?” Tony leaned forward a little, trying to get a look at Loki’s face. “Something happen? I thought you’d—y’know, be happy, ‘bout how yesterday went.”
“I was. I am,” Loki corrected, offering Tony a smile. “It couldn’t really have gone better.”
“What’s wrong, then?”
“Nothing’s wrong.” Loki looked away again, discovering that the man had moved on, and then focussed his eyes on a nearby pigeon instead. “I’m just thinking. I was so drunk; I’m…attempting to get my bearings.”
“Ohhhh,” Tony nodded, and Loki gave another small smile when he knew that Tony misunderstood him. This was the hardest thing he’d ever had to put into words, and it didn’t help that he had no idea what he was doing. “It’ll come back to you, don’t worry.”
“I haven’t forgotten anything,” Loki said, pretending to sound offended, but grinning over at Tony. “Have you?”
“You sure?” Tony challenged. “You won’t know ‘till you remember.”
Loki didn’t miss the way Tony dodged the question; he was well used to reading between the lines of what Tony said or didn’t say, now, and that was as good of an answer as any. It meant he did remember, and he wasn’t sure if Loki did, and didn’t want to push it. He thought about what Tasha said, about Bruce, and thought back to when Tony came to his door to apologize. It was ironic and yet perfect that Tony was possibly more afraid than he was, given what most people thought Tony was.
“No, I definitely remember everything.” He looked up, as if pretending to think. “No gaps in my memory, no particular doubt over anything I said or did. No, I definitely have all that in order.”
When he finished speaking, he fixed his eyes on Tony again, and found that Tony had been watching him with wide eyes, but he looked away when Loki looked at him. “You’re a better drunk than most people, I’ll give you that.” He said, clearing his throat and watching Loki’s pigeon. “What’s really not wrong, then?”
Loki didn’t like how complicated the wording was becoming; he didn’t want either of them to fall back on their usual doubts when they thought back on this conversation. “If I… talked plainly, maybe for once, will you listen?”
He watched Tony take in a breath before answering. “Sure, always.”
“Last night was wonderful,” he started, deciding to get that out of the way first, so that Tony would know. “Almost perfect, I—it’s still unbelievable to me, that it went so well, especially with my father, and with Bruce.”
“Yeah, I’m a little in awe of that, too,” Tony nodded, looking at Loki again, finally.
Now or never, time to bring it up. “I wasn’t just drunk rambling when I said it was thanks to you.”
Tony gave a crooked smile at that, and he looked just about as nervous as Loki felt. If Loki was finding it hard to believe that he was doing this at all, Tony was probably even more disbelieving that it was happening. “It’s not, really, you were you the entire night. There’s nothing wrong with you, y’know, you’re pretty awesome,” Tony said, raising his eyebrows. “Maybe I helped you do that, but it was you, in the end it was you.”
Loki shook his head. “I’m many different things, Tony, but the only time I’m good is if I have you with me, and I meant it. If I was alone in that company, I’d be hateful, spiteful—“
“Everybody’s hateful and spiteful sometimes, but that doesn’t make you any less—any less…” Tony broke off, looking frustrated as he struggled for words.
“Any less what?” Loki prompted, quietly, not taking his eyes from Tony’s face. Tony’s eyes met his at the question, and Loki felt like he was falling apart inside when Tony suddenly looked sad.
“I think you’re amazing, Loki,” he whispered as quietly as Loki had asked. “You were amazing before you knew me and you will be without me.”
“No,” Loki’s voice came out a little louder that time, and for that he was grateful. “You’re not listening to what I’m trying to say, Tony, I don’t want to do anything without you.” As strong as he was attempting to make his voice, he was ashamed at the fact that it shook a little at the end of that sentence, and even more so that he felt his eyes beginning to burn and water.
He didn’t want to talk in riddles anymore, he wanted Tony to hear him and believe him, and it hurt to think Tony thought so little of himself that he didn’t think someone else could think as much as Loki did of him.
Something about Loki’s face must have set Tony off, because he suddenly lifted both of his hands to either side of Loki’s head, stroking his thumbs across Loki’s cheeks, and when Loki closed his eyes and took in a shuddering breath, Tony caught the single tear that it forced out.
“Don’t get scared,” Loki heard him say, still whispering. “But I—you started to mean so much to me a while ago, now, and I—Loki, I do horrible stuff to the people I care about, I don’t mean to, but I do. D’you have any idea what it’s like, to want something that badly, but to be too scared of breaking it?”
“Yes,” Loki forced out through the hurricane of emotion he was feeling. He couldn’t even identify most of it; he was upset, but he wasn’t sure what he was upset over, probably that Tony’s opinion of himself was really that terrible, and he was relieved, to hear that from Tony, to know—the only thing stopping them now was their own fears. “It’s why I couldn’t say—“
Thinking back, he had to do his best not to redden at his initial stunned reaction when he suddenly couldn’t speak anymore as Tony tightened his grip only ever so slightly, and Loki took in the smallest breath before Tony’s mouth was on his. It took his mind a moment to catch up, but when it did, he didn’t hesitate in lifting his own hands to clutch at Tony’s sides, pressing back into the kiss as much as he possibly could, and then Tony let out the most wonderful laugh that shouldn’t really have felt as amazing as it did considering he breathed it right into Loki’s mouth, but it was still wonderful.
Tony moved his fingers into L:oki’s hair and pulled away a little, but not very far. He couldn’t really make out the details of his face this close up, but he closed the distance again himself to catch another quick kiss, and the feeling of Tony’s smile against his lips was the best feeling ever. Tony let out another laugh, audible this time and Loki couldn’t help but join in.
He thought maybe he should rethink his earlier comment about how Thor’s party probably couldn’t have gone any better.
As always, will also be posted on Tumblr to http://starkrevelations.tumblr.com
Chapter 12: I am, are you?
His first week with Loki was going so differently, but he wasn’t complaining at all. He was just—so incredibly happy, and every now and again he’d have to pinch Loki to double check, still disbelieving because it had been Loki who’d actually spoke up, on his own accord, without Tony exploding feelings all over him to spur him into what Tony probably would’ve believed was an action based on pity. No, Loki actually wanted him. It felt too good to be true sometimes.
I apologize for how long this took; I was in and out of hospital twice, nothing serious, and I'm quite recovered now.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
There was a weird feeling Tony only ever got once before, that he was sure he wasn’t the only person in the world to ever get. When he’d actually gone and asked Pepper out after years of friendship, it was like he’d just been lifted. The day beforehand, he’d woken up hating the way his hair was sitting, grumbling at his wardrobe because most of it looked crappy, deciding he must get on most of his friend’s nerves most of the time, and letting nearly every small thing get on his nerves in some way or the other. The day afterwards, he smiled in the mirror at himself, wondering what he was worried about because he looked fine, the fault toaster didn’t piss him off anymore because it wasn’t a big deal, he didn’t mind going to school because he’d see her. The feeling just picked him up and kept him floating higher and higher for two years, which only made the crash and burn more painful. It wasn’t healthy, that time. Pepper knew it, and it’d taken him a while before he knew it too.
It was different this time. The feeling was more stable this time. He’d treated the first week with Pepper last the last week of his life, Pepper let’s go to the movies I’ll actually go to one of your romcoms this time, Pepper come walking in the park with me I don’t mind the smell of the flowers anymore it’s actually kinda nice, Pepper let’s go spend our first night together on the beach alone because home just isn’t good enough.
His first week with Loki was going so differently, but he wasn’t complaining at all. He was just—so incredibly happy, and every now and again he’d have to pinch Loki to double check, still disbelieving because it had been Loki who’d actually spoke up, on his own accord, without Tony exploding feelings all over him to spur him into what Tony probably would’ve believed was an action based on pity. No, Loki actually wanted him. It felt too good to be true sometimes.
He didn’t want to drag Loki to the movies, or for clichéd walks in the park, or to a fair, or to a beach, or a restaurant, or anywhere, actually. He was just content to sit with him, near him, where he could just stare at his face for hours or poke his arm to make sure he was there. Loki didn’t seem to mind, either, Tony thought it would have creeped him out, but it didn’t. It was just so good, so comfortable, and so stable. It just—it fit perfectly, for them both.
They spent maybe an hour at the fountain that day, taking turns to break into a smile seemingly out of nowhere. Tony’s mind couldn’t keep up with him, he kept laughing, kissing Loki’s lips, his jaw, his cheekbones, and his eyelids at one stage when Loki took in a shuddering breath and looked like he might cry, even though he was smiling so hard he said his jaw hurt.
They did go back to Loki’s after that, to find everyone up and eating breakfast in the kitchen, courtesy of Steve who didn’t seen hungover this time, and was just that nice of a guy that he actually volunteered to cook for everybody. Tony tried to keep his expression neutral when they stopped at the kitchen for a quick ‘hello good morning everyone, no thanks we’ve eaten’ after Thor called them over, but he assumed he didn’t do very well, judging by the way Loki nudged him with his elbow and rolled his eyes, smiling.
“Staying for movies?” Steve asked, raising his eyebrows and grinning at Tony while dropping bacon on everyone’s plates with a spatula.
Tony opened his mouth, but Loki spoke before he could. “No, we had plans.”
“Uh, yeah, sorry,” Tony shrugged, playing along and wondering what the hell these plans were.
“Come on,” Loki tugged the fabric of his jacket at the elbow, pulling him with him as he exited. “Happy birthday, Thor.”
“Later,” Tony called, giving a quick wave before turning and following Loki up the stairs. “What plans?” He asked when they reached the top, and lost his breath at the way Loki turned on his heel, walking backwards to his room so that he could face Tony while talking. It was too easy to be happy just watching Loki being happy.
“Not having my older brother and your best friend over our shoulders for the entire day,” he replied easily with a shrug, nudging his door open gently with his heel. “Not to mention Bruce, I actually plan to enjoy you today, if you don’t mind.”
“Um.” Tony followed Loki into the room as he moved to the shelves, running a long finger across the spines of his books and letting out a satisfied noise when he found whatever he was looking for. “Really?”
Loki looked over this shoulder, raising an eyebrow. “Not like that,” he rolled his eyes, but smirked all the same. “Not yet, at least….” Then—and Tony took a moment to process it once he’d done it—Loki looked him up and down with the sexiest, most predatory expression he’d ever seen on someone’s face, and holy crap.
“Oh my god you look amazing.”
Loki let out a surprised laugh. “Thank you, though…” He shook his head, turning away from the shelves to face Tony. He dropped a few books onto his bed while he passed it to walk toward him, and Tony raised his hands to rest on Loki’s hips when Loki came close to drape his arms over his shoulders. “If you laugh, that book will meet your head, but—I wouldn’t mind just… I don’t know, sit on you and eat chocolate and go to sleep on you. If that makes sense.”
Tony stared for a moment, then a wide smile spread slowly across his face, and Loki raised his eyebrow again. “Not laughing! Just—happy. I like that idea a lot. Steve’ll be here forever if you wanna go back to my room, I’ll put a movie on the laptop or something.”
“Yes,” Loki agreed, relaxing a little and resting his forehead on Tony’s. “That would be nice, I don’t—I don’t want to be where my family is today.”
“Stay over,” Tony whispered, trying to look into Loki’s eyes but getting comically distracted for a moment by how they merged into one big eye when he was this close. “I stayed here plenty of times, we’ll just relax, and sleep.”
Tony didn’t see the worried frown Loki pulled, but he felt the movement of his eyebrows, with their foreheads pressed together. “Steve?”
“He’ll give me space, don’t worry.” He wrapped his arms around Loki’s waist a little tighter, giving him a reassuring squeeze. “Lemme take you away and take care of you. And be a stupid soppy idiot in the first days of a new relationship. If that makes sense.”
“Are we in a relationship?” Loki whispered back, grinning, testing.
Tony went ahead and laughed that time. “I am, are you?”
Loki rolled his eyes again before closing, leaning in to kiss Tony, long and soft, exploring, and then pulled away with a teasing smile when Tony tilted his head to deepen it. “Alright, my soppy rescuer, get your things and take me away.”
They took turns laughing at each other, again, but making stupid faces at each other, too, as they got ready. Tony gathered up the contents of the bag he brought with him the previous day, and Loki gathered up clothes, phone, charger, laptop, and—hilariously typically of him, in Tony’s opinion—a book.
He waited at the front door when Loki went to the kitchen for his coat, slinging his back over his shoulder and almost melting in mortification when Tasha leaned over and whispered something to Steve, before both of them turned to look at him, Tasha smirking and Steve grinning, with one thumb up at him.
“You need more furniture in here,” Loki commented as he dropped his bag at the foot of Tony’s bed.
“You said that last time,” Tony pointed out, picking up a few stray items of clothing on the floor and throwing them haphazardly into his wardrobe.
“You hadn’t been moved in very long last time, only a few months. It doesn’t seem very personalized, still.”
Tony had theories about why Loki still cluttered the walls of his room with posters he’d said had been there for years, and why he collected little souvenirs of his interests and decorated the place with them, filled his room with his books even though there was plenty of room in the rest of the house…. He knew how uncomfortable Loki felt with his family, in his home, and his room was his space, so it helped. Tony hadn’t felt any particular need for that when he’d move in with Steve, but he had an idea now.
“How about you personalize it slowly for me?” He asked, grinning. “I wouldn’t mind having little pieces of you decorating the place.”
“….Homicidal as that sounds, it’s….endearing,” Loki sat on the edge of the bed, smirking up at Tony. “The kind of thing that would make me cringe, observing it in other people, but oddly it doesn’t bother me coming from you.”
“That’s cause it’s me,” Tony said, winking. “Get comfy, I’m gonna get your chocolate.”
True to their words, they did a common example of ‘nothing’ for the rest of the day. Nothing anyone else would’ve considered productive, but it meant a lot to Tony, so while they did ‘nothing’, the day was one of the longest days he’d ever had, and he loved it. Loki didn’t quite sit on him, but he did seem to appreciate the chocolate, and had kicked his shoes off and gotten comfortable on Tony’s bed by the time he returned with them, his laptop on his knee, asking if Tony had ever seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
“I watch it often,” he explained. “Usually when I’m bitter about something, but—it’s difficult to explain, and not why I feel like watching it now. It’s just…comfortable.”
Anything that made Loki happy made Tony happy, in his opinion, so he passed the afternoon alternating between thinking, hey this is pretty good why have I not seen this, and glancing at Loki where he rested beside him with his head on his shoulder, watching the funny faces he made while he sucked on the chocolate rather than bite it. Loki objected when he pointed this out, but continued to make the faces anyway.
Tony didn’t know how to explain how much it mean to him, to have this, to have Loki here beside him and to be able to wrap his arms around his shoulders, take him away from his family and give him something good. He couldn’t explain if he tried because he didn’t realize how much it meant until he had it. It was incredible. After holding it in as much as he had, being able to turn and just tell Loki how he felt was…liberating. Not that he felt like doing anything with that liberty yet, he just wanted to exist with it and be happy.
When the movie was over, Loki started checking his personal and college emails, and Tony just watched him do that, too, quietly and contentedly. Until his stomach rumbled loudly and Loki’s shoulders twitched as he held back a laugh, then again when he laughed fully.
“Is it time for dinner already?” Tony mumbled, smiling at Loki’s laugh.
“I’ll never know how you eat so much, yet don’t put on weight.”
“I know, right?” Tony moved to sit up, giving Loki’s shoulder a quick squeeze before moving his arm away. “Not like I get a lot of exercise or something.”
“Would you mind going out for food?”
Tony glanced back when he stood, watching Loki close his laptop and straighten up. “Nah, course not. Why?”
“In case,” Loki gave a shrug, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. “Are you sure Steve doesn’t mind my being here?”
“I pay half rent, I’m allowed people over,” Tony said with a wave of his hand. Even though Steve seemed to have come around, Tony hadn’t told him about the ‘stay away from Loki’ talk. “He won’t mind, but we can go out anyway, I don’t wanna cook.”
“I’m not sure I’d survive your cooking…”
“Only cause you’ve got a weak stomach,” Tony teased, offering Loki his hand.
“Ohh, I don’t know,” Loki took his hand, pulling himself to his feet and tilting his head. “I think you’d be surprised by what I can swallow.”
“…You’re gonna kill me,” Tony said after a moment’s pause, leaning in, bringing his lips close to Loki’s and breathing in the little hitch in Loki’s breath when he slid his hands around Loki’s waist, then moved them lower to slide his fingertips into Loki’s back pockets. “If you keep saying stuff like that.”
“I’ve barely said anything yet,” Loki mumbled, stealing a kiss, and then pushing Tony away with a teasing grin. “And I do have a lot to say before I do anything.”
“You fucking troll.”
They ended up staying out for over two hours, talking too much while eating their food, and taking their time walking the usual route they took on their evening walks. It occurred to Tony that he felt like a different person now, to the last time he’d taken that walk with Loki, and he wondered if it had occurred to Loki, too.
They were quiet returning, but when Tony opened the door and spotted the hallway light turned on, he knew he definitely didn’t leave it on, which meant Steve was likely home. He pushed the door of his room open, throwing his keys onto his bed and gesturing at Loki.
“Go on in, I’ll go say hello.”
Loki just nodded, eyes flicking to the kitchen door, then back to Tony, before he stepped into the room.
Tony unzipped his jacket as he walked in to find Steve sitting in the armchair stirring a cup of soup and frowning at the magazine he had open on the table. He looked up at Tony’s sudden entrance, and then grinned widely.
“Hey! Where’ve you been?”
“Dinner,” Tony shrugged out of his coat. “How was Thor’s?”
“It was great, they’re still watching movies over there, but I was tired. How were your….” Steve raised his eyebrows in amusement before continuing. “Uh, plans?”
“Oh, about that,” Tony kept his tone casual as he draped his coat over the back of a chair, not really willing to negotiate anyway if Steve minded Loki being over, but hoping he was okay with it all the same. “Loki’s staying over, that okay?”
“Really?” Steve sounded almost like he was putting effort into sounding surprised, and Tony raised an eyebrow at him. “I mean—of course,” he amended, grinning. “Are you….?”
“What?” Tony knew exactly what Steve was asking, but it was more fun to watch him struggling for polite words.
“Are you guys going out now, or…?” He looked back to his magazine when he asked it.
Tony grinned. “I think—well, yeah, pretty much. Don’t say anything, just in case.” He added as an afterthought. “I dunno if—y’know, if he wants everybody to know yet.”
“That’s great, Tony,” Steve actually sounded genuinely pleased. “I, like—I think I should apologise a little, even if I still—Well, I was talking to Natasha today, she knows Loki pretty well, and… We’ll talk about it later if you wanna, you’re busy.”
Tony had no idea what to say to that, and curious as he was over what Tasha had said and if Steve still wasn’t fond of Loki, Steve was right; he was busy. “Yeah, I don’t want you to feel like I’m blowing you off, but, I am, so.” He winked, moving toward the hallway again. “Later!”
After the hours passed longer than any other day he remembered (which Tony was grateful for), he and Loki took what, according to the clock, was one of the earliest nights Tony’d had while sober. They hadn’t exactly meant to; they’d changed into pyjamas for comfort, and Tony had asked for a comedy, to which Loki opened the 1976 version of The Omen on his laptop, and to which Tony found himself drifting off to, half on his side with his head on Loki’s shoulder.
He woke with a stiff neck, which Loki said he deserved for falling asleep, but smiled while he said so. They didn’t exactly discuss or agree on getting into bed, either; Tony just sort of followed Loki’s suit when he closed the laptop and climbed under the covers. He moved to his desk first, putting his phone on the charger and turning off the lamp, then quite literally crawled in beside Loki, dragging the covers after him.
Loki lay his arm out, just beneath Tony’s pillow, invitingly, and Tony made a contented noise as he settled on his side close to Loki, lowering himself onto his elbow first, then finally resting his head on Loki’s shoulder, one arm tucked under him and the other across Loki’s stomach.
“You sleep like some sort of small animal,” Loki commented in the dark.
“You always either sprawl out, taking up a ridiculous amount of space for someone as short as you,” Loki paused to laugh when Tony grumbled at the short comment, and poked his stomach gently. “Or curl up small, and warm.”
“You’d sleep under the covers if you couldn’t suffocate,” Tony mumbled against Loki’s t-shirt.
“I’m much more comfortable like this,” Loki whispered, lifting the arm Tony was laying on to trail his index finger along Tony’s back.
“Mmmm,” Tony agreed quickly, sighing. “M’glad. I mean, I, like—nevermind.”
“No, I’m asleep, I dunno if I make sense.”
“Then say it, and I’ll tell you if you do.”
“It’s nothing, I just…” He rolled his shoulders, rearranging himself comfortably. “I’m just, like, glad you’re happy ‘cause of me, it’s kinda unbelievable.”
“There are very few things that make me happy, Tony, but you make me happier than anything.”
Tony closed his eyes, letting the grin spread across his face and telling himself to breathe. “See, d’you have any idea how insane that is to hear?”
“Do you have any idea how insane it is for me to say?”
Tony tilted his head to look up at Loki, and their eyes met in a moment of mutual understanding that had them both laughing quietly. “I think I kinda do.”
“My family don’t know that….” Loki frowned, giving a slow sigh. “They aren’t aware of my… interests. I didn’t want to add to the list of problems. But, if it’s alright with you, I think I would like to tell them about this.”
Tony blinked, and then sat up halfway, leaning on his elbow and looking down. “Loki,” he started slowly, clarifying. “Are you saying you wanna come out to your family? ‘Cause of me?”
“When you say it like that it sounds like I’m trying to put you in trouble,” Loki huffed, rolling his eyes. “More for you than because of you. Although there probably will be trouble,” he added, as an afterthought.
“Oh, no, I didn’t mean that, like, I wasn’t angry,” Tony realised he was rambling, but he just had no coherent words for how he felt in that moment. “I’m just….surprised, I’m not exactly the kinda person any parent wants their kid to be with straight or—“
“Tony, stop it.” Loki spoke forcefully, suddenly. “I hate it when you do that. I think you are the greatest person I’ve met, and I want them to know that I think that, not agree. I couldn’t care less if they agree or not.”
“You…. I don’t even know what to say,” Tony rested his head on Loki’s shoulder again, listening to the blood rushing through his ears, willing his heart to slow down. He could hear Loki’s beating almost as quickly. “You’re just… awesome.”
“Thank you,” Loki said dryly, but with a laugh. “I want to build up to it, though. I can’t, yet, it’s….”
“Hey, it’s difficult, I know,” Tony draped his arm over Loki’s stomach again, rubbing his side gently. “I can keep my mouth shut a while, don’t worry.”
“I’m sorry that you have to…”
“You stop that.” Tony paused when Loki let out another short, silent laugh. “If I’m not here for you, for helping you, what am I good for?”
“Oh, I can think of a few things….”
Fucking tease, Tony thought fondly, pinching Loki’s side gently again and smiling.
As usual, shall be posted to my Tumblr at http://starkrevelations.tumblr.com
Chapter 13: patience is a virtue
Loki liked the sound of that—the way Tony said it. Maybe it was the ‘we’, the new title almost, that Tony gave it now, or maybe it was the whole photo scenario. He wouldn’t mind a picture of just Tony in his own room (maybe he’d do that when he got home…), but he liked that Tony wanted to decorate his walls with pictures of them both, as the couple they now were. It was almost overwhelming.
I have no words for how difficult this chapter was to get finished; it was sitting on 1500 words for three weeks, due to the fact that I was admitted to hospital-- again-- and stayed for the duration of three weeks or so. General illness is dangerous for me due to an immune defficiency disorder I have, and I needed my tonsils removed along with that, so it has been a rough few weeks.
I want to thank everyone here for the wonderful comments that kept me going, and everyone on tumblr for the lovely encouraging messages. I'm very sore, and very tired, but without the enthusiastic responses and compassionate messages, I believe this chapter would have taken longer still.
I apologise for making everyone wait for so long, and I sincerely hope it doesn't happen again.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Mid-term break couldn’t have fallen at a better time, Tony decided, sighing and pulling a face as he breathed in some hair. He was so glad he didn’t have to get up right now, grateful for the time to just lie there and take it all in. He and Loki had swapped positions at some stage in the night, and Tony was flat on his back, arms spread wide, with Loki on his shoulder. He exhaled sharply, blowing some of Loki’s hair away from his face, and craned his neck to look down. Loki had pulled the blankets right up to his nose, again, and seemed fast asleep. Tony had no idea what time it was, no idea where he’d left his phone to check, and no idea what was going to happen next, but he had no inclination to find out just yet. He let his head fall back onto the pillow and closed his eyes.
He was pinched awake again a moment later, or so it felt—it was as if he’d closed his eyes and opened them again, but going by the dull pain in the back of his head, it was probably an hour or more. He made a face and gave a quiet noise of discomfort, but opened his eyes finally when Loki breathed a quiet laugh. He was immediately drawn to the green eyes again, with Loki sat up on one elbow leaning over him, a small smirk playing at the corner of his lips and his hair falling around him at either side of his neck.
“I was wondering if you would ever wake up,” he joked quietly, his voice rough with sleep.
“I was awake forever ago, what time is it?” Tony objected, his own voice not doing much better.
“That all?” He lifted the hand Loki wasn’t covering, rubbing at his face. “Is Steve up yet?”
“He is, as of ten minutes ago, or thereabouts.”
Tony nodded, pausing to give a massive, eye-watering yawn. He sighed contentedly, shifting his back a little to get comfortable, and let his eyes linger on Loki’s, smiling after a moment. “You okay?”
Loki seemed a little surprised by the question, but returned the smile after blinking a few times. “Perfect. You?”
Loki rolled his eyes for some reason, but his smile remained, which was reassuring. Tony didn’t take his eyes off Loki as he lowered himself, slowly, folding an arm across his chest and leaning close, placing a soft kiss on Tony’s smile. He lingered, so Tony brought his hand to rest in Loki’s hair, keeping him there, and pushed up to deepen the kiss. Loki inhaled sharply, through his nose, and parted his lips for him, prompting Tony to wrap his other arm around his waist, pressing a hand against his back and holding him close. They were sleepy, and lazy, to begin with, Loki resting almost all of himself on Tony’s body, Tony flat on his back, and after a few moments, Loki suddenly laughed into the kiss, pulling back with a ridiculous grin on his face.
“What?” Tony mumbled, feigning grumpiness, and Loki shook his head.
“I have morning breath.”
It took Tony a moment to realize Loki was genuinely bothered that Tony might be bothered, so in a few quick seconds, he sat up, laughing at the surprised expression on Loki’s face when he tightened the arm around his waist and flipped them, lifting a leg over Loki’s hips and supporting himself on his knees and one elbow as he leaned over him. Actions spoke louder than words sometimes, and when he was freshly woken, Tony couldn’t think of another way to reassure Loki quickly enough, so a display of his continued affection, morning breath or otherwise, would have to do.
It worked well enough, he figured, after Loki breathed a surprised noise into the kiss and snaked his arms under Tony’s and wrapped them around his shoulders. Tony used the arm around Loki’s waist, that he was lying on, to press their chests together, drawing back to run his tongue along Loki’s lower lip, then closing his mouth over Loki’s again.
Loki tried to raise his knees, which resulted in his hips moving against Tony’s very suddenly, and the blankets closing tight over them both from where they were tangled around them, restricting any movement in Tony’s right leg entirely, but not uncomfortable enough to stop him. It was a mixture of sensation, of feeling Loki’s fingers digging light patterns in his shoulder blades, of Loki’s knees against the back of his thighs, Loki’s hips again as he curved his back ever so slightly, Loki everywhere, and the tightness of the blankets, the bedroom heat, the morning breath all doing nothing to deter him from holding him tighter, kissing him harder, and breaking away to drag the kisses and the tip of his teeth along Loki’s jawline, to the tender skin below his ear when Loki turned his head to accommodate him.
He could hear Loki’s breathing coming a little sharper as he moved lower, alternating between tonguing and nibbling as he trailed down his neck, and when he reached the corner where his neck met his shoulders, Loki’s breath hitched entirely, and Tony couldn’t help letting out a gentle noise when Loki pressed his legs against him a little harder.
Tony rearranged himself, moving his knees higher to rest on either side of Loki’s waist, folding his legs for better support as he freed the arm he had been leaning on, slipping his fingers under the hem of Loki’s shirt and pressing his hand, palm down, against the skin of his stomach. Loki’s skin was warm under his hand, smooth as he moved higher, tapping each rib with a finger as he passed them, and stopping when Loki let out an involuntary laugh. He couldn’t help but laugh, too.
“Ticklish?” He mumbled.
Loki’s breath was hot against his mouth when he turned his head to face Tony again, and took a moment before replying. “Sensitive,” he corrected, then sighed. “Steve is in the other room.”
Tony groaned, relaxing against Loki’s body again. “Moment killer.”
“Blame your flatmate.”
Tony had nothing to say to that, so he lay there for a few minutes listening to Loki’s breathing evening out, until the silence went on for too long and he moved his hand again, still under Loki’s shirt. Loki jumped and caught the small noise before it escaped, slapping Tony lightly on the side of his head.
“I didn’t think you were in such a hurry,” he commented, grinning as Tony removed his hand and balanced on his elbows over Loki again, better to see him by.
“I didn’t think you’d be such a tease,” he responded, smiling just as wide.
Loki’s grin drew back to a devilish smirk, and Tony watched, transfixed as he bit his lower lip lightly and slowly released it, eyes on Tony the whole time. “I can’t help it,” he said, his innocent tone contradicting the expression on his face.
“Cut it out,” Tony whispered, stealing another quick but deep kiss before rolling to his side, lying beside Loki on the opposite side to where he’d slept.
“I’m sorry,” Loki laughed quietly, sounding anything but. “Patience is a virtue, you know.”
“I dunno if you know this, but I’m not exactly the most virtuous of people…”
“That is great to know, but changes nothing at this moment.”
Tony made a face. “Wanna get up soon, then? Breakfast?”
He’d anticipated the slight fall in Loki’s expression, but it still made him a little sad to see. “What about Steve?”
“He’s a good cook and likes making breakfast.” Loki lifted an eyebrow, and Tony raised an arm to drape over his shoulder and hug him close. “But seriously, I know you wanna, like—take time in letting people know this is a thing, and everything, but Steve is… Steve knows me too well. It’s just breakfast, and he’s not gonna tell anybody.”
“I’m sorry,” Loki said almost immediately, and Tony gave him a reassuring squeeze at the depressed tone to his voice. “I know this probably isn’t ideal, but—“
“Uh-uh, stop it. Do you know how amazing the last day’s been? It’s more than ideal. I mean,” he gave a one shouldered shrug from where he lay, shifting around a little so that he could see Loki’s face. “Much as I’d love to go nuts and, like, tell everyone ‘mine!’ or something, it barely matters. I’m too happy to care about telling or not telling people, I only really give a shit about you.”
Loki blinked slowly and gave a weak smile. “If you say so.”
“I got plenty of time to convince you anyway. Breakfast?” Tony stole another kiss when Loki nodded, and sat up. “If anything I’d worry about Steve being over-accommodating, he’s like that sometimes.”
Loki did try after that, but he couldn’t shift the guilty feeling. He let Tony lead him out of bed, dressed and threw a smirk in his direction every now and again just to see him smile back, but his stomach was a bag of nerves as he followed Tony down the hallway to the kitchen.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like Steve. Not really. He didn’t know him, but his opinion of him was somewhat biased.
There was nothing not to like about Steve that he could put his finger on, but maybe that was the problem. He remembered when he and Thor hit their mid-teens and things began to change with them, and while Thor hadn’t known Steve then, Steve continued the issue Loki had with that. Thor always had his usual group of friends, people Loki had once, long ago when they were young, considered his own friends, too; Fandral, Volstagg, Hogun and Sif.
But in High School, something changed about his brother. Or maybe it was Loki who had changed, but either way things were never the same. People liked Thor. Almost everyone did. But Loki was almost invisible. Fandral, Volstagg, Hogun and Sif seemed to go with Thor in a package, but perhaps there’d been no room for Loki. Thor met new people, fell in with a new crowd, and had time for very little when his social calendar slowly filled. Loki just….fell in with no crowd, really.
After High School, it continued. Thor kept to the same crowd in college, and Steve arrived. It was like he climbed the ladder of people Thor liked and respected and knocked everyone else down a rung as he did so, in such a short amount of time. Loki heard so much about how nice he was, about how friendly he was, extroverted, good at sports, seemingly not a bad word to say about anyone—he became Thor’s best friend, and Loki supposed people couldn’t be brothers and friends at the same time when they got older.
So it wasn’t that he didn’t like Steve. It was probably more that he was jealous of him.
Jealous of the fact that Thor paid more attention to him than Loki, jealous that he had the ability to be such a good person when Loki spent most of his time hating everyone for different reasons, jealous at how that meant people were able to like him as he was because of that and Loki had to hide so much just to be accepted most of the time.
But Tony also held him in some regard, so he couldn’t be so bad, right? And Tony was the only one in the world who held him first in his attentions, who believed him to be a good person, who liked him for how he was and who he didn’t need to hold anything back from. So, pulling the edges of his jumper halfway over his hands as he entered the kitchen, he decided to open his mind and make the effort for Tony’s sake.
And it wasn’t all that bad, really. Steve was throwing some pancakes together, and Loki really liked pancakes, so in simplistic terms that was a good start. He and Tony swapped some relaxed conversation and jokes, and Loki remained silent until Steve turned and asked if he was okay, and he suddenly felt like an ungracious and snobby guest.
“He’s just quiet,” Tony explained, shrugging it off, but Loki cleared his throat and nodded.
“I’m fine, just—tired, or sleepy, I think.” He said, with a quick nod. “Thank you for the breakfast, by the way.”
He saw Tony turn to look at him in the corner of his eye, and Steve smiled widely.
“Haha, you’re welcome, they’re a favourite of mine,” he explained, his smile turning a little shy. “My Mom used to make them a lot and they’re just homely, I guess.”
“Isn’t he great, home cooked breakfast like five times a week,” Tony joked through a mouthful of food. Loki shook his head at him fondly, but cleared his throat when he looked back at Steve and saw him looking between the two of them, smiling knowingly.
“Don’t make the face, Steve,” Tony waved a finger, and Loki felt his face heat up. He was glad Tony had the confidence he didn’t, at least.
“Sorry,” Steve looked down at his plate, and Loki was glad to see him reddening a little, too. “You just—suit. I’m gonna shut up now.”
“Ha, thanks.” Tony threw some sarcasm into his tone, but Loki saw the grin he threw in Steve’s direction. Loki felt like a weird mixture of mortification and delight, but he wasn’t sure why.
The horribly awkward silence he’d expected to follow didn’t, because thankfully, Tony decided to talk a lot. He started asking Steve about the film they’d watched the night before, and a long discussion about cinema followed, which turned to books, and ended with Steve and Loki passing recommendations to each other and agreeing to swap a few books. Tony looked almost as surprised as Loki felt.
The elation was cut short by a noise from Loki’s phone.
Monday 13th Feb, 13:07
Hey whered u go? comin back soon?
He sighed and handed the phone to Tony, who read it quickly and pulled a face. “I have to go, I think.” He said, looking up to explain to Steve, who just made a sympathetic noise and watched as Loki rose.
“Oh, okay, well—we’ll talk again later,” he said, somehow making it sound like a question without phrasing it as one.
“Of course,” Loki agreed, offering a smile. Tony rose beside him, returning his phone, and watching him closely.
“Need some help getting your stuff together?” He asked, which, paired with the meaningful look he gave him, Loki read as, ‘let me come with you so I can say bye alone’.
Steve, being the considerable, kind-hearted mind-reader that he was, stayed at the table as Loki followed Tony back to his room, bracing himself when Tony paused in the centre of the room and turned to face him.
“Want me to go with?”
Loki shook his head. “No, best to just go back alone. It was already abnormal enough to spend a night away without leaving a clue as to where I went.”
“Proves Steve isn’t gonna spill, at least…”
“Yes, he was—pleasant, actually.” Loki watched the grin spread across Tony’s face, and felt a little better for it.
“You sound pretty surprised, but I’m glad you guys can get along.”
The smile didn’t last long, though, and Tony turned around to fetch Loki’s laptop case from the floor. Loki reluctantly forced himself to move himself and help, gathering up his clothes from the day before and stuffing them into his bag while Tony packed his laptop away, glancing around the room to see if he forgot anything.
“I’ll bring a poster next time,” he joked quietly, looking around at Tony’s empty walls.
Tony laughed. “Bring a sharpie too, autograph the place.”
“Mmm, or some photographs.”
“We gotta take some more, first.”
Loki liked the sound of that—the way Tony said it. Maybe it was the ‘we’, the new title almost, that Tony gave it now, or maybe it was the whole photo scenario. He wouldn’t mind a picture of just Tony in his own room (maybe he’d do that when he got home…), but he liked that Tony wanted to decorate his walls with pictures of them both, as the couple they now were. It was almost overwhelming.
“Me too,” Tony said suddenly, and Loki looked over to find Tony regarding him closely. He dropped Loki’s laptop on the bed and moved close, placing his hands on Loki’s hips in a gesture he seemed to like and that Loki was getting very comfortable with.
“Was I making a face?”
“Sort of.” Tony winked, and Loki sighed, stepping closer to hug Tony tightly, resting his chin on his shoulder. “Can’t you stay a little longer?” Tony whispered close to his ear.
“Not yet,” Loki breathed back, and he felt horrible saying it, like a coward, hating himself for not having the courage to just stay and let everyone else be damned.
“Alright.” He felt Tony’s hands move to rub his back reassuringly. “I can wait.”
“I really am sorry for making you…”
“Hey, what’d I say?” Loki leaned back to look at Tony’s face, at the raised eyebrows and small smile. “Quit apologising. You gonna be okay at home?”
Loki nodded. “I think so.”
“You call me if you need me?”
Tony sighed. “Okay. Guess you better head off.”
“I suppose so.” Loki closed his eyes and took a long, slow kiss, enjoying the moment, then broke the embrace and stepped away. “Tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow,” Tony agreed, following as Loki almost dragged himself to the door.
If leaving Tony alone was going to be that difficult all the time, Loki didn’t think he’d be able to keep the secret very long.
His father’s car was gone, he noticed, as he approached his driveway. Extra time to prepare himself for those questions, at least. His parents had left in his mother’s car on Saturday, and it was Monday, so he assumed his father just had work to take care of after they returned home.
“That you, Loki?” He heard his mother call as soon as he stepped through the door. It was possible to sneak out of his house, but there was no sneaking back in—the lock made too much noise.
“It’s me,” he answered, placing his bag at the bottom of the stairs and pulling at his jacket. His front door led directly into their living room, but there was no sign of Thor there. Just his mother as she appeared at the kitchen door, drying her hands.
“I was wondering when you’d be back,” she almost glided toward him, always moving with a grace only seen in one’s mother, and Loki hung his coat up quickly so that he could open his arms to her hug when she approached him. “Did you have a good night on Saturday?”
“I did,” he didn’t need to feign the surprise in his voice. “It—went well. Quite a crowd, though.”
“So I heard. They cleaned up after themselves well, though I suppose that probably had something to do with Sif.” She drew back, keeping a hand on each of his shoulders, and tilted her head. “Was the crowd why you stayed away yesterday?”
“Partly.” If that was what she was assuming, Loki had no problem going a lot with it. “I was invited to stay at a friends’.”
Loki blinked. “Ah—yes?”
“Thor mentioned.” She gave a smile and a squeeze to his shoulders before releasing him. “Was it alright?”
“Uhm, yes, it was quiet. We watched two films and slept.”
“I can see how you’d prefer that to the crowd,” she nodded, moving to the coffee table to gather up some stray newspapers and magazines. I’d prefer Tony to a crowd any day, no matter how well it went, Loki thought, but nodded. “Go put your things away; I want to wash the floor. We can catch up when you’re settled down.”
Grateful for the dismissal, Loki quickly picked up his bag again and jogged up the stairs. He’d wondered how Thor knew he’d stayed at Tony’s, but it was a perfectly logical assumption when he’d left with Tony. Nobody was as dim-witted as some people seemed to believe Thor to be, and Thor was actually much more intelligent than that belief. He didn’t meet him on the way to his room, so he shrugged to himself and closed his door behind him. If Thor wanted something, he would come.
He set his bag down on his bed, withdrawing only the laptop and placing it carefully on his desk, and then threw the bag and the rest of the items in it on the floor at the foot of his bed. He had no desire to put it all away just then, and landed heavily on his bed instead, sprawled out on his back. He took a moment to pull a face at his own actions, feeling a little ridiculous, but he wasn’t even sure he could muster up the enthusiasm to care.
He’d only been gone for less than an hour but he already missed Tony. He wasn’t surprised, it wasn’t new, but it was….deeper now. The sooner he could fully admit that to himself without wanting to cringe at himself for fear of being clichéd, the sooner he’d be able to admit it to others, he supposed. So yes, all he wanted to do at that moment was lie on his bed, ignore his family and wish he was somewhere else, and if he was going to make any progress at all, he’d just lie there and accept that. Though it sounded like a somewhat mentally warped process.
He interlocked his fingers, resting his hands on his stomach and crossed one ankle over the other, taking a moment to consider it. He didn’t think his mother would be surprised; he wasn’t very worried about her. She wouldn’t think of him any differently, but she would have issue with the extended family if they made any snide comments, probably. Either that or she just wouldn’t tell them, and he wasn’t sure he liked that idea any better. If he was going to actually do this, they were all going to know, and he didn’t want her to feel ashamed of him.
His father would have enormous issue with it. He knew that for a fact. Most of the pressure in Loki’s home life came from his father, especially when he had Thor to content with, who Odin was so wonderfully proud of. During family visits he was always ordering Loki to speak up more, say this, don’t say that, make something up in place of it if you must, pretend you enjoy your cousins’ games, laugh with them, quit being so sensitive, they’re just joking…. When the immediate family was alone it was almost as bad.
His father had given up questioning Loki on his day every day at dinner, as it almost always ended in unpleasant conversation. Loki felt as though he’d just—given up on him. Thor was doing it right; focus on Thor, as long as Loki isn’t doing anything to obviously shame me, he’s best left alone, better that he does nothing. His father didn’t seem to think there was much to be respected in his interest, in his previous choice of friends, in his disinterest in sports or physical activity….
His father was definitely going to be difficult to face.
He wasn’t even sure about Thor. He didn’t know if Thor even cared about what Loki did or decided to be anymore. He most likely wouldn’t be fond of the idea, though he didn’t seem bothered by the rumours of Tony and Bruce. Thor and his old friends always had a very defined opinion on ‘manliness’, and Loki physically cringed at the thought, thanking whatever god were out there that he wasn’t so closed-minded. The lack of reaction to Tony and Bruce was a good sign, but when it was his brother… Loki just wasn’t sure. He didn’t think he knew his brother, anymore, and the thought brought his mood even lower.
Speak of the devil, he thought. He heard a door open down the hall, which meant Thor, and sighed as he heard the footsteps approach his door. He counted to three, and then heard the knock.
That would probably be a first clue to Thor that something was going on; he rarely let him into his room, but he knew Thor was going to ask about where he’d been anyway, and he was comfortable here anyway, contemplating the many depressive situations he’d have to endure, just to be happy in the long run. It had only been one day, but he had been sure for a while now that he wanted this to last.
The door creaked open, and Thor poked his head around it, hair falling around him. He looked toward the desk first, then turned his head and narrowed his eyes when he saw Loki on the bed, frowning.
“What’re you doing?”
“A visible display of nothing,” Loki responded, sitting up and swinging his legs over the side of his bed. He rested his elbows on his knees, and quirked an eyebrow at Thor. “Is everything alright?”
“You didn’t tell me you were back,” Thor gave as an explanation, letting the door swing almost closed, and sitting on the edge of Loki’s bed about two feet away.
“I just got back. I forgot to respond to the text,” he added, just realizing that he genuinely did forget.
Thor gave a shrug. “S’okay. You were at Tony’s? I didn’t mean for you to come back, I was just wondering.”
“Lonely?” Loki smirked, and Thor rolled his eyes. “Yes, I went to Tony’s.” He answered after a moment.
“I didn’t realize you two were hanging out so much.” The comment was a casual one, but Loki could hear the question behind it.
“I’m not sure how to respond to that,” he said, completely honest.
“What d’you mean?” Thor turned a little to face Loki, pushing some hair away from his face and over his shoulder.
“I don’t want to point out that you don’t notice much of what I do, and sound vicious, but you really don’t.”
“You never tell me when I ask,” Thor sounded offended anyway, and Loki sighed. “You’re always gone, after class, and at weekends, but nobody sees you around until Tony got here. You didn’t tell me before that.”
He was referring to his job, Loki knew, but the comment about no one seeing him around until Tony arrived surprised him. He probably had just heard from Steve of their walks, or seen them around college, but from the sounds of it he had been asking around long before that. He couldn’t tell him about the job, though, because he would tell their father, and he would automatically disapprove when he had no need to be working in such a disreputable looking place when they were a wealthy family. They wouldn’t understand that he could enjoy it.
“I don’t question where you are every day, do I?”
“So why is it any different when I don’t inform you? Why question it this time?”
“Because you’re my brother, I’m allowed to be worried.”
“There’s nothing to be worried about,” Loki wasn’t sure why he was getting so annoyed—he was just down, he missed Tony, he wasn’t looking forward to what was to come, wishing he could skip these difficult parts and just go back to Tony’s room… “And I am allowed to have some of a life without your inclusion; you do it fine without me.”
As soon as he said it, he knew it was a bad idea, and rather than face Thor’s expression he found it much easier to look away.
“Why’re you angry?” He asked in a tight voice. “Did I do something on Saturday?”
Loki sighed again. “I’d rather you didn’t assume my moods are always directly influenced by you, Thor.”
“And I’d rather you didn’t take them out on me.” Thor stood up, glaring down on Loki. “I was only asking, why’s it so hard to believe I was actually worried?”
“I was gone for a day, Thor, almost less.” Loki felt trapped, pressured, by Thor standing over him, but he refused to let it show, and crossed his arms. “You knew where I was.”
“Maybe that’s why I was worried.” Thor mumbled, and shook his head. “Never mind, you’re fine, I get it.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Loki blinked, and rose too, when Thor turned toward the door.
He gave a shrug, but didn’t look over his shoulder at Loki. “I didn’t think you’d be into what Tony’s into, he drinks, I heard he’s done other stuff…”
“You drink too.” Loki pointed out. “And I know him well enough to guarantee you he is not into drug usage. Is that what people think of him?” Loki asked, appalled suddenly.
“They’re just rumours, Loki.”
“Do not attempt to interfere with my choice of company for the sake of rumours.”
Thor turned around, shrugging again and spreading his hands. “I just wanted to make sure you were—“
“I’m twenty years old, Thor!” Loki’s voice was rising before he knew it, but the conversation was just making him increasingly angry. Thor was supposed to be Tony’s friend, is this how he treated all of his friends? Talking about them behind their back? Or was it just because he didn’t want Loki stealing him away, or something else ridiculous like that? Perhaps he actually was worried, a small voice suggested, but he was too annoyed to pay it any noticed. “I don’t need you looming over me anymore, intervening every time I find something to do with my time that isn’t here. Just because I’m not good enough for you doesn’t mean I can’t be to others.”
“I didn’t say that!” Thor’s temper rose to meet his, and he almost welcomed it, welcomed the fight, but his self-abusive inclination wasn’t to be entertained as his mother’s voice drifted up the stairs.
“Boys! Do not shout at each other! Get back to your rooms if you can’t be civil, I will not hear that in my house!”
They stood there glaring at each other, Loki gritting his teeth behind his lips, and Thor breathing a quiet noise of dismissal before turning his back on him, slamming the door on his way out.
Loki took a shaky breath, covered his face with his hands, and threw himself onto his bed again. He hated it here, he was only back less than fifteen minutes and he already hated it, hated how trapped he felt, how he couldn’t have a civilized conversation with his own brother anymore, or an honest conversation with any member of his family because he had to pretend to be this—this—person, he didn’t even know what he was to them anymore.
He knew, and just proved with that conversation, that just being Loki wasn’t going to be good enough, when the time came to be honest.
He couldn’t stay here much longer.
He had to get out.
Cross posted to tumblr, always, at http://starkrevelations.tumblr.com
Chapter 14: tuesday the 14th
He knew already that he would appreciate what he had with Tony every day, didn’t understand why simply one day would be set aside to celebrate it, in ways that, most likely, neither of them would take seriously, nor be comfortable with, if his typical notion of the occasion was anything to go by. So, perhaps he was on the right path for celebrating it already.
Not much to say as I am quite busy-- I have a lot of comments that I have yet to respond to, I know, and I apologize. I will get to them tomorrow! More apologize in advance for the likely chance of spelling mistakes, I only had time to read over it once.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tony opened his fridge, half a slice of toast held between his teeth as he grabbed a bottle of some generic isotonic juice drink Steve must’ve picked up, feeling guilty again that morning. He realised today where Steve had gone the previous evening while he was in his room on skype with Loki, now that he awoke to see the cupboards restocked. He normally helped pick up the groceries, but for some reason Steve had decided to leave him at home yesterday.
“Steve?” He called, just about understandable through a mouthful of toast.
“Yeah?” The response came, and Tony heard Steve’s door open. Rather than bother shouting down the hallway to talk to him, Tony watched and waited as Steve made his way to the main room, raising his eyebrows at his friend as he crouched to pull on a shoe.
“Should’ve told me you went out,” he said when he finished chewing, gesturing to the open fridge. “I would’ve helped.”
Steve grinned. “I figured you had a lot to talk about.”
“Wipe that smile off your face,” Tony jokingly warning, waving a finger as he raised the bottle to his lips and took a sip. “What are you, twelve?”
Steve chuckled, bending his head to tie his laces. “Do you know what time it is?”
Tony blinked at the sudden question. “Uh—eight thirty?”
“When’s the last time you got up this early on a day off?”
“Where’re you going this morning?” Steve added an exaggeratedly innocent tone to his voice, looking up again and smiling innocently.
He found Steve’s teasing more amusing than anything else, and knew Steve could tell when he was playing along, so he wasn’t worried about offending him. That and his friend had a point. Normally, Tony would be hard pressed to leave his bedroom before noon on holidays, but he just—didn’t want to lie there doing nothing. He’d fallen asleep when Loki signed off, woken up early, and just felt like being up and doing something. He smiled to himself. It was a nice feeling. He liked feeling a purpose in the simple stuff, waking up, getting dressed, brushing his teeth, eating—it actually sounded pretty crazy when he thought over it, but he just—he’d been moving around doing everything since Sunday with this warm, easy-going emotion and Loki on his mind. It sounded weird, trying to put it into words or thoughts, but it made all the sense in the world.
“Actually,” he said suddenly. “On that subject….”
Steve gave a curious frown at the tone to Tony’s voice. “Which?”
“Um. Yes?” Steve straightened up, tapping his heel on the floor to make his shoe comfortable.
“Tuesday the 14th.”
“…..Oh yeah…. Ohhhh….”
“What are you gonna do?”
“I dunno,” Tony leaned back against the countertop and took another sip. “I only just realised yesterday, been trying to decide if I should or….”
“Yeah, it’s a bit—soon… Maybe you could just do something small?”
“Have fun figuring it out,” Steve grinned, patting Tony’s shoulder as he moved past him to take one of the other bottles for himself. “I have gym, so.”
“No plans yourself?”
Steve went a little red around his cheekbones. “Well, no.”
“You should make some too,” Tony winked, then straightened and started toward the hallway. “Peggy’s still single.”
Steve made a small noise, as if beginning to argue back, but thinking better of it and spluttering vaguely in response. Tony gave a quiet laugh and left his friend to his thoughts, too distracted with his own to think about Steve’s that much anyway.
Loki froze at his desk, lifting his head away from his book and narrowing his eyes at the sliver of light from the hallway visible underneath his door. A shadow appeared, as suspected, and he rolled his eyes. He’d heard Thor coming from the second his brother thought he slid his door open quietly. Loki was too used to the noises in his house—too used to listening for them—for Thor to successfully sneak up to his door. He waited for a few moments, but nothing happened. The shadow remained immobile at the bottom of his door, and Thor didn’t speak.
Loki sighed and turned his eyes back to the book in front of him. “What?” He called out to the empty room, voice dry.
Thor knocked. Oh, great. He could get up and address Thor through a crack in his door to ensure he didn’t enter, or bid him enter from where he sat. He didn’t much like the idea of being cornered in his room by Thor for a second day in a row, but he didn’t want to be reduced to hissing through his door either.
“Come in,” he replied, mentally cursing his pride.
He listened as the door slid opened, but didn’t raise his eyes, leaving Thor with a nice view of his hunched shoulders instead.
“Morning,” Thor said after a moment.
“Did you want something?”
“I, uh, just wanted to look in and see if you were okay.”
Loki recognised that Thor was trying, whether it was at his mother’s orders or by his own inclination, but either way he wasn’t doing a very bitter job of it. He recognised in turn that perhaps he should make a less bitter job of it, in return, but he didn’t feel particularly ready yet. He’d told Tony about their fight, skimming over the drug rumours, and felt better after that, but it still weighed on his mind. He had lain awake much of the night, different scenarios going through his mind, what could or would happen when he told them about Tony, because he most certainly planned to and, hated wasting time, but…
“Loki, look…” Thor sighed, and Loki heard a brush of fabric as he shifted a little. “I’m sorry for saying that stuff about Tony. I didn’t wanna be nosey. I just wondered.” His tone started uncertain, but the more he spoke, the more his voice lost tone entirely. Loki recognised the pattern, knew when Thor was only saying part of what he meant. He didn’t want to be nosey. He just wondered. Which meant yes, he was sorry for the fight, but no, he had not changed his stance and still believed he had the right to question and worry.
Loki shook his head at himself. What was he talking about? Thor had the right to worry anyway, and he sighed as he realised how contrary he was being now. He almost didn’t want to be on good terms again, not yet, because then he had no excuse to—to stall more. Procrastinate. Coward, he thought at himself.
“Thank you.” He forced himself to say, his voice coming out tense. Even if he knew that he was being silly and why, it wasn’t exactly any easier to make himself say what he should say. “I apologise for being harsh.” He added after moment, matching Thor’s tone, and meaning yes, I apologise, but no, I have not changed my stance either.
“Are you coming down?”
Loki thought it over. He’d stayed in his room the majority of the previous day, emerging to re-heat his dinner once his mother and Thor were out of the way and done with theirs, only to carry it to his room and stay there. He could still see the plate out of the corner of his eye, at the edge of his desk. He hated eating in his room.
He didn’t have to go down. If his father was home he wouldn’t have gotten away with hiding himself so long, but he hadn’t come back yet. Loki didn’t know why—business trip, he assumed, he hadn’t been speaking to anyone to ask. So he didn’t have to, but… No point making things more difficult for himself just because he was afraid of the opportunity for his confession to arise.
Rather than answer, he marked his page and closed his book, rising from his chair and bringing yesterday’s plate with him as he turned to face Thor. His brother was watching him with eyebrows raised and a small smile, so Loki nodded, closing his own eyes briefly, and followed him from the room, closing his door behind him.
Something small. Something small.
Tony walked through the mall with a permanent frown, staring into each store he passed, eyes narrowed in thought. He’d dismissed so many ideas already, he was starting to run out. He knew Loki would appreciate something small and meaningful more than something Tony could just find and blow a lot of money on. The only problem was finding something that fit that bill.
He was starting to run out of time, too. He told Loki he’d meet him at the café at one, and it was coming close to half eleven now. He went through a mental list of Loki’s interests, trying to think of something—the notepad at Christmas had worked pretty well, but he couldn’t do that again. Loki had a thing for classical music, but Tony knew nothing about it and would probably end up getting him something he had already. Same thing went for his books.
In fact, Tony knew very little in the areas of Loki’s hobbies that would be enough to decide what to get in those areas. Maybe he could ask Jan? Or—no, wait, he couldn’t ask, because that would involve letting whoever he asked know about them, and Loki was still working on that. Maybe he could get something practical? Nah, that was boring.
He stopped dead in his tracks suddenly as his eyes met the window of some sort of gallery. Family portraits and other assorted photographs were displayed on canvas or in frame, and Tony narrowed his eyes a little more.
A memory came back to him, of the day before, when Loki was leaving and said something about photographs. They’d had some sort of weird moment of mutual understanding then. Tony grinned suddenly, pulling out his phone and making his way to the entrance. Hopefully they took SD cards.
Once downstairs and in the kitchen, it occurred to Loki that he was actually quite hungry. The smell of coffee always came to him in their kitchen, and he found himself with a sudden craving for warm breakfast. Probably a good thing he’d decided to leave his room; if he hadn’t, he would undoubtedly still be up there reading, too distracted by his thoughts to pay attention to his stomach. Thor reached for two cups without question or request, and Loki allowed himself a small smile. This was definitely Thor’s own effort, not his mother’s, and he felt better for that.
He busied himself with the food cupboard at the opposite end of the kitchen, searching for a croissant to toast and melt cheese all over, both of them moving around in an almost companionable silence they hadn’t shared in a long time. Loki couldn’t choose whether to be encouraged or dismayed at the development, glad to have a fraction of their old relationship for a moment but running out of more excuses for delaying The Confession, and decided to go for both. Encouragingly dismayed.
“You’re both very quiet…”
Thor and Loki looked up as Frigga entered the kitchen room, a long, yellow silk dressing gown tied around her and a smile on her face.
“Morning, mother.” Loki turned the bag of croissants toward her as she stepped close to him, offering, and she took it with a smile.
“I didn’t even hear either of you getting up,” she added, clearly asking for an explanation in her not-so-subtle way, after yesterday’s argument.
“I’ve been up for some hours, though I’m not certain how long Thor was awake before he decided to sneak up on me,” Loki offered, spirits raised a bit with Frigga in the room. Thor chuckled, shaking his head. “And terribly so, by the way.” Loki added, smirking.
“Only cause Mom sleeps with the light on, you would’ve seen me coming even if you were asleep.”
“When is father back?” Loki remembered to ask, aware that Frigga slept with the hallway light on and her door open a few inches only when Odin was gone.
“Thursday night, the horrible man left me alone on Valentine’s Day, wonderful, isn’t he?” Frigga gave a gentle laugh, then looked from the grin on one of her son’s faces to the plain shock on the other’s with a sly smile. “Plans, today..?”
“I’m going out in about an hour,” Thor grinned a little wider, adding a third cup for Frigga as he poured the coffee. “Meeting Jane by the bridge.”
“Back late I suppose,” Frigga rolled her eyes jokingly, shaking her head and Thor’s shrug before rounding on the next son. “Loki?”
Loki blinked, bringing her face into focus. He’d been lost to his own thoughts as soon as he heard the words Valentine’s Day, his stomach sinking. He hadn’t even realised the date, didn’t even think to—Tony hadn’t mentioned it either, did he know? He would have heard by now, Facebook was probably covered in sickeningly romantic status updates already and Tony checked his like the morning paper—maybe he should ask, or—but if Tony didn’t have anything in mind… They’d only been together a few days, but Loki almost…wanted to… But it was probably too late….
“I wasn’t aware if was the 14th already,” he replied quickly, schooling his expression before Frigga read something in it. She was standing dangerously close.
“That wasn’t a no,” she pointed out, her sly smile returning.
“No, mother, I have no plans.” He clarified, grinning as a cover when he realised Thor was also watching. “Well, none for the date, that is.” He added, when he remembered he was meeting Tony at one. He wouldn’t be able to leave without speculation after telling her he had no plans. “I’m meeting Tony and Jan later.” Which wasn’t exactly a lie. Jan would be there.
She patted his arm, her expression almost disappointed at the lack of news or gossip to work with. “Perhaps next year.”
Loki raised an eyebrow sceptically in response, like he normally would have, and returned to his silent panic when she started to interrogating Thor again.
Some of the special frames the place was selling made Tony want to gag, and the others were just comical in their over the top romantic designs. He walked through the steps slowly, searching for something normal but nice, saving a few pictures from Facebook to his phone at the same time. He was really more interested in what the content of the photo would be than he was in what frame would surround it, but he wanted to do it right, so he searched carefully all the same.
“Are you okay?”
Tony almost jumped at the voice, turning to find a woman a couple of years older than him smiling politely at him. Her hair was pulled back in a curled ponytail, her glasses pointed at the end, and she looked very generally like a stereotypical—well, he wasn’t sure what to call it… gallery… person…. Shit, he was bad at this….
“Uh—do you guys print from SD cards?” He asked first. He didn’t want to start anything else before finding out if he had to go back to his apartment for a USB cable or something.
“Sure,” she grinned easily, glancing down at his phone. “Do you know what size you want yet?”
“….Nnnnno, still, ah—trying to pick one,” he answered, distracted as his phone notified him of another picture successfully downloaded.
“For the occasion?”
“Sorta… Or, yeah, but, d’you have anything not all….?” He gestured at the ridiculous pink and red and surrounded by hearts frames around him, and was relieved when the woman’s grin widened.
“We do,” she answered through a small laugh. “It is a little hard to take some of those seriously. Did you have a certain frame in mind?”
She turned, walking away, and Tony realised he was supposed to follow. “Not really, just something plain but—well, not too plan, just nice.”
“I think I know what you mean…” she mumbled as she led him toward an isle of darker frames. “Do you want to take a look?”
Tony wasn’t sure what there was to look at. Any of the ones in front of him would do, now that he wasn’t blinded by the corny designs on the others, but he supposed he better take a look anyway. He went for the smaller ones rather than the taller A4 ones, pausing on a black one with rounded edges.
“Can I get one of—no wait, two of this one?” He asked, lifting it from display and looking over his shoulder. One each seemed like a good, even if sudden, idea. If he got himself one too, then maybe getting something for Loki this early into the relationship would go down a little smoother if Loki hadn’t wanted to do something for the day.
“Sure, I’ll just go in the back and get another,” she nodded, taking the frame. He followed her to her counter, stopping as she continued on behind it. “If you put your SD card in there,” she pointed to the left of the counter. “And select what pictures you want, you can print them out. This frame doesn’t take canvas, I’m afraid, so you’ll have to select plain photo paper. I’ll frame it and wrap it if you want, when you’re done.”
Tony nodded, shutting his phone down and retrieving the card. He smiled to himself as his photographs appeared on the touchscreen, selecting one and tilting his head when it enlarged. The photo he was looking at had only been taken a couple of days ago, but it felt like longer just because of the huge changes since that; change in situation, change in thinking….
He touched the ‘edit’ option, using each forefinger to manipulate the box for cropping that appeared over the picturing, choosing ‘apply’ when he was done and smiling a little wider. He and Loki sat on the couch in Loki’s living room at Thor’s party, Jan’s arm barely visible beside Loki from where Tony had just cropped her out. Sorry, Jan, not this one, he thought to himself, appreciating the rest of the picture. Sif had taken it, tagged them both in it, and Tony was glad that she did. He couldn’t remember what they’d been talking about, but they both appeared to be laughing, Loki with his eyes closed and head tilted back a little, and Tony himself just grinning and watching. It was a good choice as far as he was concerned. He hit print.
When time came around for Loki to leave and start walking to the café, he was quite glad. The morning had been pleasant, more pleasant than usual, and he’d enjoyed it, but with so much on his mind, his attentions were divided, and his thoughts started to become somewhat premature. He, Thor and Frigga had sat around the kitchen table, sharing breakfast and joking together for the first time in a long time. His family ate dinner together, but rarely did they wake up together. He was sad but not surprised to say that it helped that Odin was away, for him to enjoy it.
A small voice in the back of his mind had slowly started throwing suggestions at him, however. Now’s the perfect time, everyone is in a great mood, Odin isn’t here and you’ll have help when it comes to telling him…. Tell them….
The more it spoke the more tempting the idea became. To just say it, get it over with, share the—he had no shame in admitting it—best part of his life with his family under conditions that they were more likely to be happy for him. His anxiety won over in the end, and he said nothing of it. He was a mixture of relieved and disappointed, but meeting Tony would make him forget, so he was glad to be going to meet him.
Although, there was still the Valentine’s Day issue. Loki hadn’t bought, done, or prepared anything. It wasn’t a holiday he approved of or enjoyed any other year, but when he had Tony he wondered if he should be doing something to celebrate that, like everyone else.
Even that sounded a little ridiculous, he thought as he walked. He knew already that he would appreciate what he had with Tony every day, didn’t understand why simply one day would be set aside to celebrate it, in ways that, most likely, neither of them would take seriously, nor be comfortable with, if his typical notion of the occasion was anything to go by.
So, perhaps he was on the right path for celebrating it already. He was on his way to spend the day with Tony, which is exactly what he wanted to do every day, whatever the occasion. What more could he wish for?
The door creaked as he pushed it open, breathing in the familiar scent of the café, mood lifting already.
“Heeeeey Loki,” Jan greeted him from behind the corner. A few of the lunchtime patrons looked up, but they all turned back to their companions or their business when their interest dwindled.
“Afternoon,” he replied in a voice somewhat lower than hers, offering a smile. “Is Tony here yet?”
Jan had been expecting them both, after Loki had told her over a Facebook chat window the day before that they would be meeting at the café in response to her fears of being bored.
“Nope, you beat him to it. Want a coffee or something?”
“I’ve just had two, a Coke maybe?”
Jan turned away to oblige, and Loki took a seat at the table nearest the till, rolling his eyes as he caught sight of a couple at the other end of the café who clearly had no exhibitionism issues.
“You know,” Jan sighed, placing his Coke on the table and dropping into the chair opposite Loki with her chin in her hand. “I’m so glad we close at six.”
Loki gave another smile. “Just last week you were adamant that we deserved more hours.”
“I rethought it. I reaaaally don’t wanna be stuck in here watching couples all day. Eugh.”
“Rather you than me,” he teased, lifting his cup for a sip.
“Such sympathy…” Jan stuck out her tongue at him, then leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. “You and Tony should stay and keep me company. Whaddya say? Singles day?”
Loki frowned as a thought occurred to him. Apart from Tony, Jan and Tasha would probably be his closest friends, though not on the same level… Maybe if he told them, a method of how to proceed with his family would come to him. Jan saw too much of him and Tony, anyway. It wasn’t as daunting as telling his family, so it seemed like a good place to start.
Loki blinked when he realised he’d been frowning too long, then leaned forward on his elbows. “Oh, fine, sorry.” He set his cup down, watching the ripples and he considered how to spit it out. “….I’ll have to turn that offer down, though. We—don’t fit the requirements.” He finished at last, mentally cringing at how that really could have gone smoother.
He looked up to find Jan grinning almost triumphantly at him, and leaned back again, wary. “Bout time,” She set both palms on the table, rather loudly, and Loki raised an eyebrow. “Since when? How long?”
“Ah—recently?” He responded, somewhat bewildered, wondering the extent of what she was asking. It could be about his relationship status alone, but….
“I knew it was gonna happen.” Her grin shrank to a smirk, and she removed her hands to cross her arms. “Knew it. I am so good. Ever since the present at Christmas. Knew it!”
Loki raised both eyebrows, and Jan shrugged. He hadn’t even known then—well, he’d known his own thoughts, of course, but it was several weeks later before he read anything from Tony.
“Women’s intuition, remember?” She said with a smirk when he didn’t speak.
“That’s just a convenient phrase that women have the advantage of falling back on when they are too nosey,” Loki teased, smirking with her.
“Same thing,” Jan waved a hand.
“Usually. I’d rather you didn’t boast about this one, though. Not yet.”
Jan pouted. “But that’s my favourite--!” She broke off with a suspicious glare. “How come?”
For all her women’ intuition, she’d forgotten much of the situation, Loki noted with some amusement, and waited for it to come to her. When she didn’t speak, though, he resigned himself to admitting his shortcoming, taking a deep breath and releasing it before speaking.
“Because,” he began in a patient tone. “I’d rather my family hear it from me, on my terms, than from another source.”
“…..Ohhh…. Aw man, that sucks.”
“I’ll let you know when you have my permission to boast, though…. For example, you have it for the next few minutes.”
Jan stared at him, clearly confused, and opened her mouth to question him, but stopped when he pointed toward the door.
“Tony!” She sprang to her feet, grinning at her widest yet and turning her back on Loki to watch the door.
Loki watched the perplexed, slightly worried, and then wary expressions cross Tony’s face as he pushed the door open, the small movements of his eyebrows, the rise in his shoulders. Tony looked at him next, and just the look in his eyes as he smiled had Loki convincing himself not to get up, go over there and let Tony envelope him in a hug with all the other patrons watching. He’d missed him a lot over the last tweny-four hours, he realised, and just wanted him close where he could see everything, have the warm reassuring feeling of Tony even just sitting next to him.
“What’d I do?” He asked, with an edge to his voice. He looked to Jan, then back to Loki, raising both eyebrows. Loki shrugged helplessly, pointing to himself, then to Tony, and followed with by making a talking motion with his hand, then pointed at Jan. “…Oh!” He grinned when he caught up, and Loki smiled back.
“Damn right. I knew it!”
Tony dragged a chair from an empty table with him as he made his way to Loki, pulling it up beside him and sitting down, watching Jan again. “You what now?”
“I guessed it forever ago, genius.”
“I’ve allowed her this opportunity to boast,” Loki explained.
“Ahhh. Congratulations, Sherlock.” Tony sighed dramatically and held out his hands, palms up and wrists together in mock surrender. “You got me.”
“That would’ve made sense of Sherlock Holmes as actually a cop,” Jan stuck out her tongue, standing up. “Be right back.”
While Jan returned to the counter where a table of people were waiting to pay, Loki watched as Tony shifted his chair a little closer, grinning again. He was watching Loki closely, his attention focussed almost as soon as he had the opportunity. “Did she guess or did you tell her?”
Loki shrugged. “Both, I think. I decided to tell her, but now believe I may have been prompted.” He paused for a moment, and then continued. “She wanted us to join her for a singles day, given the…” He gestured vaguely to the couples here and there at the other tables, tense as he waited for Tony’s response.
“Valentine’s Day,” Tony finished, eyes moving around the café, and Loki watched him carefully, the calm with which Tony brought it up unexpected. “She’ll find somebody, she’s got lotsa friends. We’ve got plans.”
“That is, uhh,” Tony looked back at Loki, sheepish this time. “If you’re okay with that. Nothing, like—nothing big, I just figured we could hang out. I got some movies I’m kinda hoping you haven’t seen, I text Steve, got rid of him for the day, we can call for a take-out, and—oh yeah…”
Loki watched in continued bemusement as Tony reached under the table to lift a paper bag with a logo printed on the side that he didn’t recognise. How had he not seen that when Tony arrived? His chest was filling with an emotion he couldn’t quite identify, so much so that he didn’t feel like he could contain it that well, and he suddenly found it hard to sit still, hard not to smile as Tony produced a small object wrapped in blue, then closed the top of the bag over what was left, winking.
“The other one’s mine. It’s the same, so you’re not allowed to see ‘till you open yours.”
Loki took the item in both hands, staring down at it with a keen sensation of déjà vu. He didn’t want to open it at that moment, not yet, not with so many people watching. He was caught completely off guard.
“…I didn’t get anything for you.” He said.
“So?” Tony shrugged, and leaned down so he could see Loki’s face. “I just picked it up on my way here, figured why not?”
Why not? Loki let the corners of his mouth tilt upwards in a smile. That was so very Tony. Why not? It made sense. Silly as the day was, why not? With a slightly trembling hand and a smile slowly growing, Loki set the gift on the table to tear open the corners, pushing the blue paper out of the way so that he could slide whatever it was out.
He found himself staring at the back of a photo frame, and suddenly wanted to laugh, the idea not lost to him and the conversation for the day before fresh in his mind. He hadn’t turned it around yet, but it was already perfect.
“Look at it,” Tony whispered very close to his ear. He’d moved closer to rest his chin on Loki’s shoulder and his arm on the back of Loki’s chair.
Loki felt Tony inhale when he turned the frame over, and he did laugh, then, at the sight. It was perfect. Tony’s face was perfect, and he was laughing. He thought this could be one of the only photographs in existence that he was laughing in. Trust Tony to track it down. The first of many, he decided, turning his head to look at Tony, a huge smile on his face.
“Thank you,” he whispered hoarsely, not even caring that Jan could be watching when Tony closed the small gap to plant a firm, possessive kiss on his lips.
Will be cross posted to tumblr soon as I can, at http://starkrevelations.tumblr.com
Chapter 15: [SHORT SPECIAL] don't worry be happy
And Tony was right—the birthday had really taken his mind off things. There were no parents to act differently around, no need to worry about Clint giving him dagger eyes. Bruce grinned widely when he saw him there, and gave Tony a tight hug, which had Loki grinning back. He and Natasha caught up and shared half an hour reminiscing. He played a drinking game with Thor, and got a congratulatory bear hug from his brother for trying.
This chapter is a very, very short one, because it is simply a sort of interlude in the overall plot of the fic.
I hadn't planned on updating exit wounds for another week (I'm not finished with the newest chapter yet), and I apologise for the huge wait. I have been very badly ill for 2 months now, which people who follow my blog on tumblr will know. I'm recovering steadily now, though, and writing is coming easier to me!
This short chapter is a birthday present to the wonderful Felifay (http://felifay.tumblr.com), because she is the sweetest friend a person could ask for, and her support has been invaluable while I've been struggling with my illness for the last two months. My inspiration would be less without her, and I have so much to thank her for, so if you have a moment, please head over to her askbox on tumblr and wish her a happy birthday, as she is the reason this little chapter made it here this early.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Loki woke up every day to that picture, from then onward. He didn’t even care when Thor barged in and spotted it, one day—he simply pointed out how many photos Thor had from football matches and nights out all over his walls, was Loki not allowed one without being questioned about it? Thor did mention it to their mother, though, who commented that Tony should come around more often since he and Loki were spending so much time together these days. Loki resisted the need to point out that Tony was around quite often, because that would draw attention to the fact that any time Tony was over, Loki kept his interaction with his family to a minimal, and simply gave an enthusiastic agreement as a response.
It got him thinking, though— maybe he should let Tony spend a little more time around his family? He had Thor covered already, Tony saw him most days in college and sometimes at home given that he and Steve were such close friends, but his mother had a genuine interest in his new friend. Sometimes he wondered if she suspected, and while that once would have panicked him—he’d dumped people for lesser reasons, for example, his father finding out that they existed somewhere, even if he did just think it was in a friendship capacity—he wasn’t worried too much this time.
He decided the photograph did that. Waking up to it every day like that drew attention to the fact that he often wished he was waking up to the real Tony. He wanted Tony in his life, and he had resolved to tell his family about him one day. It might lessen the shock and bring them around more if they knew Tony better, first.
He tried explaining to Tony one Saturday night while he was staying over, wearing Tony’s t-shirt for pyjamas and watching Tony work on his laptop while they lay in bed. He’d only ever slept over so far, though Tony didn’t seem to be impatient with him… Though, lately, he was trying to decide how best to bring up the subject and tell Tony that he was ready for more… but he pushed the thought from his mind. He’d attempt to make something special of it, surprise Tony, and then show him the night of his life. More thought on that later.
“Quit worrying so much,” Tony told him, when Loki explained about his mother. “I’ve spoken to her a few times; she seems alright, seems to like me. You said so yourself.”
“Yes, but that’s while she thinks you’re a friend passing through.” Loki pulled at the hem of Tony’s t-shirt. “What if her opinion changes, if she thinks that I’m—wrong?”
Tony looked up from the screen at that, and narrowed his eyes at a random spot on the wall in front of him while he thought. “There’s always gonna be that risk,” he said eventually. “But it’s not gonna scare me off, I’d like to think it’s not gonna scare you off, and I actually think she’ll come around, even if she doesn’t like it at first.”
“But wouldn’t it be better if—“
Tony laughed suddenly, and closed the laptop, leaning over to put it down on the floor at his side of the bed. He was smiling when he turned to face Loki, still sitting cross-legged on the blankets while Loki lay propped up against Tony’s pillows inside the bed. “I wasn’t saying no,” he pointed out. “If it’s important to you, I’ll do it; I just wish you wouldn’t worry so much. In fact,” he reached over Loki to pick up his phone from where it lay. “I got something nice to talk about.”
Loki raised his eyebrows, interested. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. It’ll take your mind of things.” Tony held his phone out, and Loki drew an arm out from within the blankets to take it, frowning at the screen.
“A text from Steve?”
Loki pulled the phone closer, mouthing the words as he read them. “…Wait…” He blinked, reading from the text directly. “…’’would you mind talking to Loki about it and seeing if he’d like to join in, if he doesn’t find it too weird? Best part is, it was Clint’s idea’…. Is this, what, an orgy, or…?”
Tony laughed out loud. “Nooo, no, Bruce’s birthday. We’re arranging a surprise party for him at Natasha’s.”
Loki had a sudden flashback to New Year’s Eve at Natasha’s, Tony and Bruce on the porch—“Oh.”
Tony picked up on his tone, and leaned forward. “…If you don’t wanna, it’s okay.” He said in a careful tone, and Loki shook his head, feeling stupid. He’d forgiven Tony of that long ago, even though they weren’t going out at the time and Tony wasn’t technically doing anything wrong. Not by him, at least, but by Bruce….
“Sorry, I’m just remembering…” He said absently, and decided to explain himself rather than keep secrets. “It won’t be strange? After the last party….” Loki looked up on time to see Tony’s expression fall slightly, and he felt bad instantly. “Not like that,” he said quickly. “It just—it won’t bother you or Bruce?”
Tony shook his head and gave a weak smile. “I, uhh, I actually told Bruce about you and me the day before yesterday. He was pretty cool about it. Things are gettin’ better with him, more like normal again.”
Loki felt a smile tug at his lips, and let it happen, hoping to cheer Tony up. “Alright. I’ll help, I’d love to.” It would actually be nice to get to know Bruce more, and he hadn’t seen Natasha in a while, although… He looked down at the text again. “Clint’s idea?”
“Apparently so. Whatever he was pissed off at you for seems to have cleared up.”
Tony had never asked him about that before, and he wasn’t asking now, either, Loki could tell. He didn’t want to push. He would have told Tony then, if he wasn’t excited about the party. He knew it would mean a lot to Tony, to involve Loki in his group, and if he was honest, Loki was more excited about that than anything else.
It was nice to forget his worries for the next week, to forget about his mother wanting to see more of Tony, not to think about how his father was going to react, to quit wondering how he was going to come out to both of them. It was strange spending so much time around Thor outside their house, too, and to have fun while doing so. He felt younger, like for those few days of planning and joking that he and Thor were eleven and inseparable again. Steve welcomed him, as friendly as always, to their planning sessions, and Natasha gave him her usual familiar smirk, and he got no funny looks from Clint about it. He and Clint swapped insults, of course, but it was different this time, like jests between friends with no real venom behind it, even if they weren’t quite friends yet.
When they party actually came, it was a success. They hadn’t invited anyone but their small group, Loki, and Reed Richards, who was in charge of getting Bruce there. They seemed to know from experience that Bruce preferred small crowds and stress-free situations, and Loki took their word for it. They had presents, booze enough for just them, and had decorated Natasha’s living room and kitchen to suit the occasion.
Loki had been in charge of getting the food there just before Bruce so that it would still be warm, which had him stumbling through the door with a stack of pizzas, Tony in tow with the cake, literal minutes before Bruce arrived, but overall the night went out without a hitch.
And Tony was right—the birthday had really taken his mind off things. There were no parents to act differently around, no need to worry about Clint giving him dagger eyes. Bruce grinned widely when he saw him there, and gave Tony a tight hug, which had Loki grinning back. He and Natasha caught up and shared half an hour reminiscing. He played a drinking game with Thor, and got a congratulatory bear hug from his brother for trying, after which he stumbled over to the couch Tony was lounging in, watching.
“Enjoying yourself?” His boyfriend asked, setting his glass down on the table.
“My face feels like hot coals,” Loki breathed as he sat down, his head spinning pleasantly. “I shouldn’t have had those last… how many shots was that?”
Tony laughed, and laughed loud. “It was enough, from the sounds of it!”
Loki reached out, searching with his hand, and Tony looked up to see Thor heading into the kitchen before taking Loki’s hand in his and squeezing, the smile permanent on his face for the night. Loki wanted a picture of that.
“Hold on a minute, don’t move,” he mumbled, dragging his phone from his pocket clumsily with his free hand. Tony just watched him, bemused, and did as he was told, absorbing Loki’s good mood. He grinned ridiculously, eyes closed, when Loki held up his phone, and Loki laughed at the resulting photo. “Perfect.”
Tony sat back in the couch, shoulder to shoulder with Loki, and intertwined their fingers as he turned his head to look at him. He was so close, Loki could make out every detail of his face. Every eyebrow hair, every eyelash, every adorable blemish on his nose, his stubble, his warm eyes…
“Love you,” Tony mumbled, squeezing Loki’s hand again, and leaning in to place a quick, gentle kiss on Loki’s lips.
Loki didn’t even bother checking if anyone saw, and rested his head on Tony’s shoulder. “Thank you for today. I love you too.”
Will be posted also to tumblr at http://starkrevelations.tumblr.com