To each other's eyes, they are not golden, not proud, the idols of childhood. They are dark, and shadowed, and sly. They have forged infamy from emptiness, power from anguish. They have fallen, from bridges, into caves, and they have clawed their way out with anger in their eyes, and defiance behind their teeth, and a burning, shining thing in their chest, beating in place of shattered hearts. No more disenfranchised princes, but gods, forged from metal and magic and fire, hammered to desperate, shining things, searing in the darkness, calling chaos forth. Loki knows. Loki sees. So does Tony.
They are the war-bringers, and the death-keepers. Never warriors, never that. The makers of things, the breakers of things, the weavers of the shapes of the world, holding it between their hands, forging it to their goals. Metal and Magic. Gods and Merchants. Chaos and Death. They are, at their most fundamental, broken things. They are, at their most fundamental, powerful things. But one, oh, but one, more powerful than the other.
It is the mirror he looks in, the God of Chaos, in the bloodied man he holds beneath him, in the iron man that hangs before him. The mirror Loki sees, in dark eyes burning with broken fire, and a chest shining with caged force, and a smile fixed to bloodied teeth. It is his mirror, his own face, this broken thing that defies him without end, this man that laughs in his face, this god of metal broken at his feet. So much smaller. So much weaker. His hand crushed in Loki's grasp, stripped of armour, fingers bloodless. So fragile. A mirror, but so much lesser.
And yet. And yet. His defiance unfaltering, his contempt complete. Broken at the feet of a god, hanging above the precipice, poised on the edge of the void. That smile still fixed. His fingers are bloodless, no strength in them that wrung power from emptiness, vengeance from captivity. No strength left. But they do not let go. This man, this so weakling thing, this mirror, hangs once more from the bridge, and does not fall. Seizes tight to his killer's wrist, holds fast to Chaos, and refuses yet to fall.
And Loki ... is no golden idol, no childhood dream, to stand on a broken bridge and make empty promises. He is not that, was never that, can never be that. He stands in judgement over a broken thing, but that thing is yet defiant, that thing is yet unbowed, and his hand rests in Loki's. Not the distance of a weapon away, but wrist to wrist, bloodied hand in bloodied hand. Those white fingers, shorn of metal, but yet those of a god, bite fast to Loki's arm. This is a man, who hangs beneath him, his life in Loki's hands. This is a broken thing.
But in this mirror, shattered, frail and defiant, he sees a thing he had known lost, so long ago. In those dark eyes, in that shining, bloodied grin, he sees a thing no golden idol could have offered. In this broken thing, yet unbowed, he sees what he has never before.
He sees hope. Not for victory, but for pride. Not for strength, but for defiance. Metal and magic, and the forging of desperate, shining things. He sees ... hope.
And Tony, looking up at him, Ironman, holding tight to him, sees something too. Mirrors, endlessly reflecting, and he knows, this human man, this broken prince, this forged thing. He looks on Loki, sees the thing behind Loki's eyes that recognises him in turn, and he knows.
And knowing ... he raises his other hand. Holds it up, no more armoured than the first, no more strong. Not entreaty. Offer. Hope. Defiance. Chance. Holds out his hand, to the god who crouches on the bridge, holding his life in his hands. Tony reaches for him, not, never, in capitulation, but in challenge. The shining thing, clawing his way from death, and daring gods to help him do it, or be carried into the fall alongside him.
It is too much. A thing too perfect, a mirror too exact, a joy too complete. Either, both. To fall, to fly. To pull, to be pulled. To leap forth, or draw near. Either way. Too perfect a thing. Loki smiles. Teeth, and defiance, not bloodied, yet, but no less red, no less shining. He smiles, and seizes that second hand. Smiles, and heaves, wrenches the man to him. Presses his magic to the shining thing in Tony's chest, his own fingers white on so-breakable wrists. The burning thing in his eyes, now pressed to Tony's own.
His mouth, his biting smile, the hope and defiance behind his teeth ... inches from his mirror's. From Tony's. And he holds. He stills. A challenge all his own, green eyes and bared teeth and darkling magic, Chaos, an inch away. Well, mortal? Are you a god, or aren't you?
And Tony's smile, here ... is not defiant. Is not fixed. It is liquid, and languid, and drowning in a dark and hungry thing, and his mouth ...
He tastes of blood, and fire, and the forging of broken things. Of metals and magic, of death and chaos. Tangled in Loki's own, taste and scent and blood, and the clenching of white fingers, and a hold that once, this once, does not let go. This is a man, a broken god, a bloodied mirror, and in that mirror it is not darkness or despair that reflects, but a grinning, desperate, defiant hope, shining as it crawls from blackness. Infamy from emptiness. Power from anguish. Tony burns, the crucible, the changing thing, and Loki pours inside him, ice and rage and magic, as the world was once wrung from void, because they are the shapers of things, and the makers of things, and the breakers of things, forged and forging, shaped and shaping, and It. Is. Glorious. It sings, down to Loki's bones, Tony's teeth blades against him, Tony's kiss a world to drown him, Tony's bright, bitter defiance the most perfect thing in the universe.
He falls back. Lets himself, tumbles backwards, onto the bridge, with this human thing in his arms, this jagged shaper of things. Tony on top, Tony above him, borne up, not bearing down, and they part long enough for eyes to meet. For hands to shift, white grip broken, replaced by tangled limbs, and eyes now the link between them, eyes now the bridge.
Loki looks up at him. At the weight of him, upon his chest, and from the golden idol, the brother, the weight on the bridge had been crushing, grinding his heart beneath it. But Tony ... is too small a thing, too frail a thing, and smiles too brightly in the darkness.
"Now?" Tony asks him, head tilting sideways, broken hands pressed about Loki's head. "Never? Always?" Bridges never broken, or never forged?
"Yes," Loki answers, bladed grin, and grips narrow hips. "Yes," he smiles, Chaos in the bleeding, and suddenly there are Tony's lips, and Tony's teeth, and an answer sealed in blood and the smiling of a broken, shining mirror.
Now. Never. Always.