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The whole thing could have started any number of ways, when Tony thinks about it. Maybe it was inevitable, maybe not. Actually, the more he thinks about it, the less sense it makes. But either way, it happens like this:

 

Steve radios in and says there's a situation downtown. At least two persons involved, possibly Amora and Loki, but he can't get a good look from the street. Tony's got his suit on and is flying out before Steve can even say assemble, because he's been crawling out of his skin for weeks waiting for some action. The city has been too quiet, like someone slipped a sedative into the water system, and Tony hates being bored. He can only blow a hole through the wall of the mansion so many times before Fury starts retaliating.

 

Tony sees Steve on the street in front of him, a red and blue dot that's trying frantically to move people back and avoid falling debris. It looks and sounds like someone is demolishing the top of a building.

 

"What the hell is happening," Tony says, landing next to Steve.

 

"I'm not sure yet, but judging by the blasts of green, I'm guessing Loki is involved."

 

There's another blast and then a shriek, which Tony can only guess is Amora. A strip of metal comes tumbling down from the roof of the building, and Steve blocks it away with his shield.

 

"Can you fly up there?" he asks. "I need to know if there's anyone else."

 

Tony groans.

 

"I've had enough of this magical shit. Isn't it Thor's job to deal with his brother?"

 

Natasha's voice uncurls in static over the communicator, "He's in Asgard."

 

"Yeah," Clint says. "All you, fly boy."

 

Tony rolls his eyes, even if no one can see it, they probably know he's doing it. He moves two buildings down and starts up from the right side, ignoring every one of Steve's tactics that he's trying to relay over the comm. No one seems to be in immediate danger yet, other than the building threatening to fall to pieces. Tony clears the building, looks down, and sees Amora and Loki and...that's it.

 

Steve's voice rings in his ear. "Tony? What can you see? Do they have hostages?"

 

"Uh, no, not unless they're invisible."

 

It gets weirder from there. Amora and Loki look like they're fighting each other, not anyone else, which doesn't make a lick of sense to Tony. They've been teaming up together for a few months now, magic on top of magic, throwing the city for a fucking loop and a half, not to mention all of the Avengers. They usually attack when Thor is around though, and they don't attack each other.

 

"Tony. What's going on?"

 

Amora and Loki are so engrossed in each other that they don't even notice Tony is there, not yet anyway. Amora has a ball of green light in her hand, and she looks like she's waiting for the perfect moment to chuck it at Loki's head. She's snarling, all her pretty white teeth bared. Loki just looks like he's having the time of his life, that psychotic little smile plastered on his face. He's done something to royally piss her off, and that's about all Tony can get without trying to intervene.

 

"I think Amora and Loki are having a little spat."

 

"A spat?"

 

"They're fighting each other," Tony says. "Well, Amora's doing most of the fighting, Loki's just standing there."

 

"They're fighting each other?"

 

"Is there a damn echo in here? Yeah, Cap, each other."

 

Tony glances around for any signs of someone else, maybe Doom, maybe a hostage or two. But there's nothing. He doesn't know what the protocol is for villain vs. villain. Do they pick a side and help? Stop them both? Or maybe just leave it alone? Tony honestly doesn't want to get involved, not when it comes to magic.

 

"What a minute," Clint says over the comm, voicing Tony's thoughts. "Do we stop them, or what? I mean if they kill each other, then it's problem solved for us."

 

"Oh I like that," Natasha is saying, just as Steve says, "No, we have to stop them. They could cause casualties."

 

They start talking formation, telling Tony to just hold tight and they'll be up in a minute, but it's too late at that point, because Loki glances up just enough to see him hovering there, and narrows his eyes.

 

"Okay you can hurry up on that formation now," Tony says. "I've been spotted."

 

Amora turns just after Loki does, still holding that magic in her hand with a look that could murder just about anything. She looks absolutely pissed at being interrupted. Tony doesn't move, but he keeps his weapons ready, because damn if he's about to be taken out by whatever Amora is holding, but maybe he can talk his way out of this.

 

"Bad time?" Tony asks, just as Amora releases the magic in her hand.

 

He has to jet upwards to avoid it, barrel rolling in the air and then landing on the rooftop in front of Amora and Loki, the weight of his suit crumbling the concrete. So much for talking.

 

"Stark," Loki says. "You should leave."

 

"Sorry, kinda can't do that."

 

"No it's fine," Amora says. "You're just in time to watch me kill this little wretch."

 

Loki lets out a dry laugh, hands curled around a dagger. He looks far more amused than intimidated, which Tony also finds kind of amusing. Loki truly has no concern for danger.

 

"Oh now you're just goading her," Tony says, and Loki merely shrugs.

 

"Silence!" Amora yells. "Loki you will pay for what you have done to me."

 

Tony steps in between the two, weapons at the ready. He's not exactly sure what the protocol here should be. When one of your teammate's siblings who is also an enemy becomes the enemy of another enemy…do you help?

 

"Look, I understand your hatred as much as the next guy, trust me, but he's still Thor's younger brother, and we're under a no kill order. Actually, I think Thor would bash my head in if you knew I'd let you harm him seriously."

 

Loki scoffs next to him.

 

"It is not me you should be worried about."

 

"Hey I've saved your ass a few times," Tony says, which isn't entirely true. It was more Thor stepping in and Tony just waiting for it all to be over so he could have a drink. Tony turns to Amora again. "Sorry lady, but I just can't let you kill the guy, but believe me when I say I understand where you're coming from."

 

"You claim to be his enemy, when you are clearly an ally. A weakling who can't disobey his superior's orders."

 

"Oh yeah," Tony says. "We're regular pals, Loki and I. We just love each other. Come on, lady."

 

Amora grins suddenly, and Tony isn't quite sure why. It's unnerving, almost the same grin Loki gets when he's about to unleash some serious mischief. Loki's got magic curling around his wrists, already ready for whatever she's going to pull, and Tony is just seriously wishing he'd pretended not to be around when Steve called for him.

 

"Fine," Amora says. "I may not be able to kill you, but I can have my revenge another way."

 

"Will it involve you in that outfit?" Tony says. "Can I come?"

 

Loki's eyes flicker to Tony.

 

"How gauche of you."

 

And it's in that second, that split second that Loki gives Tony his attention that Amora strikes. She moves almost too fast for Tony's HUD to register, and then suddenly there's a blast of pink light and Loki is being thrown backwards, a tumble of leather and lanky god across the rooftop.

 

"Ah, shit," Tony says.

 

Now Thor's really going to kill him.

 

"Guys," Tony yells into his comm, and all he gets back is a garbled sound from Clint that sounds like, "Fucking Skurge." Yeah, he'd been wondering where Amora's little axe wielding bodyguard was. Loki is still on the ground, but he's starting to move again, thankfully not dead, but Tony still doesn't know what he just got hit with.

 

Loki picks himself up, wobbling slightly, but looks unharmed. Amora is the one looking pleased now, and Tony doesn't like that one bit. For a moment, Loki just stands there, still a little stunned from whatever voodoo magic Amora just threw at him, blinking himself back to reality. Tony starts to approach him, and Loki croaks out, "Don't," but it's too late because Tony is already in his line of sight. Loki's eyes squeeze shut like it's painful, like something is worming its way into his head. He puts a palm to his forehead and pushes like he's forcing out a headache. When he opens his eyes again, when he sees Tony, he flushes.

 

Behind him, Amora is laughing.

 

"You think you're the only one who can play a trick? You've crossed me one too many times, Loki – and now you will suffer for it."

 

She's gone before Tony can try and pull anything else out of her, but the real issue here is definitely Loki. Something is wrong, something is really wrong, because Loki is blushing like a goddamn schoolgirl and Tony can't figure out why. This isn't something he's ever seen Loki do before, it's usually maniacal laughter and feral anger and a lot of well timed glares. This is just...weird. It's human. It's freaking Tony out.

 

He takes a step towards Loki and Loki takes a step back. Tony wants to try it again, maybe they can get a dance routine going, but Loki disappears in a flash of smoke and then there's nothing but Cap screaming over the comm for Tony to please answer him.

 

 

--

 

Tony doesn't know anything about love. The closest he ever got was Pepper, and then he royally fucked that up, because when it came down to it, Tony knew he was damaged goods. It's hard, anyway, trying to lead a normal life and save the world and be dangerously attractive. He's not good at relationships, hell, he can barely keep it together with the Avengers. Romance is just messy. Tony knows about science, he knows about good booze, knows the curves of women and how to bend the elements to his will, but Tony Stark doesn't know a thing about love.

 

"Tell me again what happened."

 

Steve's cornered him in his own workshop as Tony works his way out of his suit, hounding him with the same question since they met him on the roof.

 

"The story isn't going to change, Cap. Amora blasted Loki with some voodoo and then they just disappeared."

 

It makes about as much sense as any of their other encounters with villains, but Steve seems like he's waiting for Tony to spill some other pertinent information. There's just really nothing else to tell, and Tony is pretty sure Loki suddenly getting embarrassed isn't something he needs to share. He's still freaked out about it himself.

 

"It just doesn't make sense," Steve says. "They left? That's it?"

 

"Sometimes that's how these things play out." Tony stretches once he's out of the suit, listening to the bones in his neck crack and pop. There's hydraulic fluid leaking in his arm gauntlets again. "We'll know if they come back, isn't that good enough?"

 

"I don't know," Steve says. "It just seems too...neat."

 

Tony shrugs and claps Steve on the shoulder.

 

"It's fine," he says.

 

--

 

It's not fine.

 

Tony doesn't sleep, as usual. He stays up all night glued to his workbench, fiddling with the mechanics of the left arm of his suit, patching together the burnt parts where Amora hit him with magic. It's not totally busted, that's the good news. He's not really all that worried about Loki or Amora, but that doesn't stop him from thinking about it. He wants to know what kind of magic she hit him with, what the hell it was that made Loki blush. And definitely was a blush, Tony's pretty sure. Amora knew she couldn't kill Loki, not at the moment anyway, but she did say something about making him suffer...

 

"Jarvis, play me some mood music, would ya?"

 

Black Sabbath starts blaring loudly through his surround sound. Jarvis has always been good at picking music out for Tony. He pulls up some schematics on the computer, flipping for something to work on, anything else to occupy him. He's been meaning to work on some new stabilizers for his suit but he's been too busy distracting himself with his own cars.

 

"Sir," Jarvis says.

 

"Not now."

 

"Sir, Loki is here."

 

"Loki is what," Tony says, turns around and nearly pisses himself because shit, yeah, Loki is here.

 

Tony has several thoughts that fly into his head all at once, thoughts like how and why and shit. Jarvis has probably already alerted the others, but Loki could murder Tony and be gone before they even set foot in the workshop. But after the initial panic wears off Tony realizes that Loki looks...different.

 

He doesn't know how to explain it, but something about him is off. He looks even more exhausted than he usually does, arms flat at his sides. Loki looks like he's not here for a fight at all. His face is nothing but smooth lines, eyes fixed on Tony like he's going to dissect him later, and possibly not in the morbid way. He doesn't look dangerous at all, which is the most disconcerting part of the whole thing, because Loki is always dangerous. Always.

 

"Before you kill me," Tony says, "you should know that I totally supported you in that little tiff with Amora today."

 

Loki says nothing, and Tony risks a glance to the elevator, checking to see if anyone is coming. So far he's still on his own.

 

"Uh, also it's pretty dishonorable of you to kill a guy without his suit. I'm defenseless, you know."

 

In the harsh light of his workshop, Tony can see the way Loki's brow furrows just so as he looks Tony over, starting from his bare feet and working up to his hairline. He's still not fucking saying anything, and that's freaking Tony out more than him actually being there. He's about to tell Loki to just kill him already, or leave or anything so long as he stops looking at Tony like that, when he finally opens his mouth.

 

"You have no idea what you brought on," Loki says. "I warned you today that you should leave."

 

There's something about Norse gods and always speaking vaguely. It really pisses Tony off.

 

"Look, if you're going to kill me –"

 

"I am not," Loki says, and looks almost offended by the very suggestion.

 

Tony straightens. He and Loki, they have a kind of special relationship. They're enemies, there's no doubt about that, but Loki is by far one of the smartest villains Tony has ever had the displeasure of meeting. He's psychotic, sure, but he's also a little too smart for his own good, and Tony knows exactly what that's like. Verbal banter between them is pretty much the norm these days, so the lack of it happening right now is just another red flag on the field. Tony tries a new tactic.

 

"Okay then. Well, if you don't leave, I'm going to have to apprehend you. Or something."

 

He stands up to prove his point, takes a step forward. Just like on the roof, Loki takes a step backward. His fingers curl and uncurl at his sides like he wants to reach out, but he's taking great effort to stop himself. Tony raises a brow.

 

"What did Amora do to you?"

 

He doesn't really expect an answer, and of course he doesn't get one. Loki has always been a cryptic little bastard, but Tony is really just not in the mood.

 

"Right, well, off you go then."

 

"I cannot," Loki says, and that makes Tony pause. Will not and cannot are two very different things, and Loki is always pretty concise in his language. He's purposely avoiding telling Tony what's going on, and that's only making Tony more curious. In a split second decision, Tony decides to take two steps towards Loki, just to see what he'll do.

 

Loki jerks backwards like Tony expects him to, and then collapses to his knees, which Tony does not expect. He hisses and clutches at his chest like he's in agonizing pain, or just severely exhausted and unable to make himself move. Now that he's a bit closer, Tony can see the rabbit fast beating of Loki's pulse in his neck.

 

At that moment, Bruce smashes through the doors of the elevator, already Hulked out and roaring, Steve and Natasha right behind him. Loki doesn't make a move to get up or fight. He just stays crouched like it would be far too much effort to even bother.  

 

"Jeez," Steve says. "What did you do to him, Tony?"

 

"No idea," says Tony.

 

And he really doesn't. 

 

--

 

"Call Thor," Fury says. "I don't care what kind of shit he's up to in Asgard, we need him here now."

 

They're watching Loki on the cameras at SHIELD headquarters, all these unanswered questions on their lips. Loki's in a holding cell, which is about as good as trying to hold water in a net as far as Tony is concerned. But so far, Loki hasn't moved an inch. He's just standing there, frowning at the door. Normally, whenever they capture him, Loki stares up at the cameras, trying to goad Thor into talking to him. He still looks near death, like his body has been under some intense physical strain since they last saw him this afternoon, but that's the only clue they've got.

 

Natasha and Clint are talking quietly in the corner and Bruce is being held next door until he calms down, but Steve is just watching Tony with that look he gets sometimes, the one where he's disappointed because he knows Tony hasn't told him everything that he should.

 

Fury steps out to talk to Coulson, and Steve approaches him.

 

"What happened with Loki," he says.

 

Tony plays it dumb.

 

"You mean in his life? Might want to ask Thor about that one, a fucked up childhood from what I can guess –"

 

"Tony."

 

"Look," Tony says. "I really don't know. Amora hit him with some magic today, but it was different, you know? More pink, less green. It didn't hurt him, really, I don't think."

 

"And then?" Steve asks, and Clint says, "Pink magic?"

 

They both ignore Clint.

 

"And then he uh, I don't know. He went red in the face. He uh-" Tony makes a sort of vague motion to his face with his hand. "He fucking blushed."

 

There's silence for a while, and Steve is staring at Tony like he just tried to explain cell phones to him again before Natasha finally blurts out, "He did what?"

 

They don't buy it, which Tony doesn't entirely blame them for. Loki and blush go together as well as Thor and graceful. He gets it, but that doesn't change the fact that it happened. And what exactly that all means in the grand scheme of things, Tony still has no idea.

 

"Maybe he was in pain," Steve says.

 

"No, it was definitely a blush. Trust me, I know a blush when I see one."

 

"That's weird," Clint says. "Can gods even blush? That's just not right."

 

It gets even weirder when Thor shows up.

 

Tony pulls up the footage from that afternoon for Thor to get a look at. If he can identify the magic, then maybe they can get a better handle on what they're dealing with. It all looks normal up until the part where Amora hits Loki with her magic, and then Thor makes this face at the computer like he's going to smash it with his hammer, jaw tightening audibly. Tony doesn't like the look of that. There's the shot of Loki opening his eyes again, and yeah, it's definitely a blush, and Thor stands up.

 

"This is most upsetting," he says.

 

"...what is?" Tony asks. "Seriously. What is going on."

 

Thor looks at Tony, and his face softens slightly like he pities Tony. That doesn't make him feel any better.

 

"I've seen this magic before," Thor says. "Though I know not how to combat it. It appears Amora has put some sort of enchantment on my brother, an ancient magic that has taken over his body."

 

"Right. Okay. Say that again, but in English."

 

Thor grapples for a moment, and then, "She has cast a love spell on him. It appears the other involved is you, Tony Stark."

 

"Who with the what now?"

 

Tony can't laugh because he's literally too stunned to do anything, but Clint does it for him. He shakes with laughter to the point where Tony thinks he's going to pass out, and Natasha does nothing to help because she's laughing too. They all are, in fact, even Steve is covering his face to try and hide it. Everyone except Thor and Tony.

 

"That...can't be right," Tony says. "Because no. Last I checked we weren't living in a fairy tale, because love spells don't exist."

 

And who can trust Thor's deduction skills anyway? Tony looks at the camera, into the cell where Loki is sitting so quiet and fucking evil and he just can't believe it. He can't. Thor puts a hand on Tony's shoulder.

 

"I'm afraid you are wrong. They do exist."

 

Clint is still howling in the background.

 

"Fucking love spell! Tony, oh my god, you are lucky, man. Really. That's-" and just keeps on laughing.

 

"Okay," Tony says. "Everyone out. Out. I hate you, just get out."

 

He needs a minute, or an hour or year to just...understand what the hell just happened. Because of all the stupid shit that they've been through with Loki, this is by far the most ridiculous, the most unbelievable – and Tony is including the time he shape-shifted into Natasha and tried to seduce them all.

 

"Tony," Steve tries, lips twitching as he tries not to laugh. "Tony, listen –"

 

Tony holds his hand up to silence him. He feels like the butt of a joke that was never funny. When Steven and the others finally get out, it's just him and Thor in one of the most awkward silences Tony's ever been in. From the side, Thor looks almost jealous, like he should be the one to face this burden, not Tony. Tony isn't even going to try and decipher that meaning. Thor and Loki's relationship has always been…special. The thing he's most worried about right now is the fact that a super villain is currently in love with him, however involuntary that might be. This is not something that Tony signed on for.

 

"I am sorry this has happened," Thor says. "I do not know Amora's reasoning for it, but I can assure you that she will pay."

 

Tony scrubs as his face with his hands. He's damn right she's going to pay.

 

"Yeah that's really fine and dandy, but we still have to deal with Loki. I sure as hell don't need him creeping around the mansion for the next however long it takes to break this."

 

They glance at the cameras together. Loki is looking up at them now, like he's sensed someone talking about him. Tony swallows as Thor squeezes his shoulder to try and reassure him that it will be okay, but as far as Tony is concerned, it is as far as it can be from okay.

 

"It is for the best that he stays."

 

"No, I think it's probably not."

 

Thor shakes his head.

 

"You do not understand. It physically pains him not be near you," he says. "I would not see my brother in such pain."

 

Well that explains why Loki showed up in Tony's workshop looking like death. He must have been in some serious agony if he decided to actually suck it up and go to him. Tony tries to imagine how bad the pain must have been, how much Loki's fragile little ego has been wounded from it. He would feel bad if it weren't Loki.

 

"No offense, Thor, but Loki is still kind of, ya know, evil."

 

But Tony understands why that doesn't matter to Thor at all. It never has. Loki will always come first for him, and the Avengers have all been forced to learn that at one point or another. That's why they have a no kill order on Loki. Thor would send them all to their death for hurting his little brother.

 

"He is my brother," Thor says, just like Tony expects him to.

 

He looks back at the camera and frowns. Tony isn't sure how he's supposed to about dealing with this. Loki blowing up the city and unleashing an alien army on earth, Tony can deal with. Loki involuntarily besotted with him and having something dangerously close to emotions is an entirely different story.

 

"Alright," Tony says. "So what are we going to do with him?"

 

"He's staying."

 

That's Fury, suddenly back in the room again.

 

"Sorry," Tony says, turning. "Who's staying?"

 

"Loki."

 

Thor beams from beside him, obviously pleased, but Tony doesn't get what Fury's motives are here.  

 

"Do you understand what you're saying? Loki staying here? In our supposedly top secrete base? Loki the villain?"

 

"Well thank you, Stark, for pointing out the obvious," Fury says. "Look, if Loki is in here, then he can't be doing any damage out there." Fury claps his hands together. It's done. It's law. "If he breaks the spell –"

 

"When he breaks the spell-"

 

"-When he breaks the spell, then we'll deal with it. But for right now, he's not going to do anything to hurt you, Tony. So I suggest you take advantage of that."

 

Tony doesn't like the way that sounds, and now he's about five seconds away from having a hissy fit. Take advantage. Fury can't be fucking serious. What does he want Tony to do, ask for flowers? Loki has absolutely nothing that Tony would be interested in taking advantage of. Unless if by take advantage, Fury is implying that Tony could ask Loki to do anything and he would agree, in which case Tony may ask him to dye is hair pink, but Thor probably would kill him for that.

 

"This has got to breach like, twenty different areas of protocol or whatever. We can't just let a known fugitive come hang out with us."

 

"Yes we can," Fury says. "I invented the protocol, so I can change it however I see fit. And Loki will be staying until we sort this mess out. I'm not about to have him take out his anger for being stuck in love with you on my city."

 

"I hate you," Tony says. "I hope your other eye falls out."

 

--

 

To be fair, no one is particularly pleased with the arrangement except Thor. Even Fury seems pretty pissed about the whole thing, but no one is more wary about it than Tony. He's already considered the possibility that the spell could wear off at any moment, giving Loki the perfect excuse to murder him in his sleep and hide his organs around the mansion for everyone to find. But Thor seems pretty confident that the spell must first be broken before Loki can attempt any of that. He seems happier than he has been in months with Loki now here, and he follows Fury and Tony as they walk into the holding cells to let Loki out.

 

Tony hangs off to the side once they get there, observing. Thor is already chatting animatedly to Loki as Fury tries to explain what sort of decision they've made. It's funny, when Tony thinks about it, because even if Fury hadn't decided to let Loki stay, the god probably would have done so anyway. Fury must know that. If he was in so much pain that he'd risk coming there, he'd do it all over again. Loki does whatever he wants – he always has.

 

Even as they're talking to him, Loki catches sight of Tony in the corner and watches. He still looks exhausted and pissed as hell, but the spell is keeping him from just outright giving Tony a death glare. There's something like softness in his face, and Tony won't lie and say it doesn't freak him out a little, because it really does.

 

When Fury unlocks the holding cell, Loki does the exact opposite of what Tony expects. He gets up and doesn't go over to Tony at all, doesn't say a damn word to him. Loki lets Thor talk to him, throw an arm around him and call him brother in the warmest of tones. They walk out together and Loki doesn't say anything to Tony.

 

But he is watching him.

 

--

 

Tony wakes up in the middle of the night without warning, something tugging at his brain, telling him to be alert. His eyes slide open and he sees someone next to his bed, a dagger in their hand, which is raised above them, ready to strike. There's a second of hesitation and then nothing, they don't harm Tony, even though it would be easy to press the dagger into his stomach. They do nothing.

 

"Lights," Tony says, and the room is flooded with them, bright and fluorescent, but there's no one else in the room.

 

Jarvis tells him that no one is there, no one has been except him, but Tony knows that Loki is a tricky little bastard. He sits up in bed for a while, waiting, testing to see if Loki will come back, but he never does.

 

He can't get back to sleep after that, so Tony goes down to his workshop and hacks into the SHIELD computer system to look at Loki's file. It's small, disturbingly small, actually, and reveals nothing about Loki that Thor hasn't already told them. Tony falls asleep again at his computer, and wakes up with a paper stuck to his cheek.

 

"Good morning, sir," Jarvis says. "I trust you slept well?"

 

Tony flicks off the room.

 

He runs into Natasha in the hallway. She's in full gear like she's ready for a fight, but leaning against the wall. Tony hands her a cup of the coffee he's just brewed from his workshop. It's the only coffee maker in the building Bruce hasn't destroyed yet.

 

"Thanks," she says.

 

"Little morning pick me up. Any luck on finding Amora yet?"

 

Natasha shakes her head.

 

"Not yet," she says. "What did Loki do to her that she wanted to hit him with a love spell?"

 

Tony shrugs. "I don't know, I didn't really get the chance to ask. Called her fat?"

 

They walk together and Natasha is on high alert still, like she's expecting Loki to jump down from the rafters any minute. Tony doesn't blame her at all for that.

 

"It's kind of cruel, when you think about it," she says.

 

"Calling a lady fat?"

 

"No. The love spell deal."

 

"Um, hello," Tony says, because seriously now. "Are we actually sympathizing with Loki here?"

 

"Not sympathizing, understanding." Natasha shrugs. "If she were torturing him physically, I could totally get that. I'd even join in."

 

"You're kidding me," Tony says.

 

"Nope."

 

"Well forgive me for not sympathizing with the guy who threw me out a window once."

 

"Oh my god," Natasha says. "Again with the window? Stop milking it, Tony."

 

He's not milking it. He almost died from that little stunt that Loki pulled, he's allowed to bring it up a few times to prove a point. Natasha leaves him right before the kitchen to go talk to Coulson, and Tony decides to get something to eat. He's honestly a little surprised that Loki hasn't been following him around since he got there, but he's definitely not complaining. Judging by how shitty Loki looked last night, Tony wouldn't be surprised if he was still asleep.

 

He walks into the kitchen and finds out that he's very wrong. Loki is leaning over the table, talking quietly with Thor, but he seems to sense Tony's presence. He looks up and immediately his face softens, this blatant display of emotion that is so honest and vulnerable that Tony feels fucking guilty for even existing. In the next second, Loki is scowling, looking back to Thor, who stands in front of him like he's going to protect Loki from Tony.

 

How he suddenly became the antagonist in all this, he'll never know.

 

"Uh, hey," Tony says. "Sorry I was just...yeah I'll go."

 

"No."

 

Loki is barely visible behind Thor's broad shoulders, but Tony can see that he's speaking to him, even if he's not looking at him.

 

"O-kay," Tony says, and starts turning back around.

 

"Keep your distance," Loki says, so Tony just stands there for a moment before remembering how ridiculous this all is.

 

He grabs a banana from the counter, leaning subtly towards Loki and Thor to try and get a snippet of their conversation. Loki looks a hell of a lot better than he did last night, Tony has to at least give him that. But he can't forget the look that Loki gave him just now, that naked emotion that Tony almost wants to see again. It makes Loki seem suddenly even more dangerous, more imposing.

 

Thor and Loki speak in whispers that Tony can't understand, so he stops trying to and decides to finish up his banana, maybe see if he can rope Steve into cooking him something for breakfast. Tony's halfway through his banana when he catches Loki watching him, jaw clenched and pulsing like it wants to just open wide and bite. Then he remembers the spell, remembers what he's eating, and just shoves the rest of the banana down his throat because he can, because it's worth it to see the way Loki's eye twitches. So maybe he can have a little fun with this.

 

Tony can almost get a glimpse of what's going on inside that magical little brain of Loki's, which feels like some sort of weird victory, because it's Loki's absolute joy in life to fuck with their heads, and now he's getting it the other way around. He smirks at Loki as he deposits the banana peel in the trash, and Loki considers him with a look that is both terrifying and comical.

 

Bruce walks into the kitchen, sees Loki, and walks out.

 

With an arm around his shoulders, Thor steers Loki back into their conversation, nearly shielding him with his whole body. Tony will never understand how incredibly blind Thor can be when it comes to Loki. There is nothing about Loki that suggest he can't take care of himself, but Thor insists on protecting him. It's bordering on the whole 'love' thing again, which Tony is proud to say he's never grasped the concept of.

 

"Hey," he says. "Are you two sharing diary secrets over there or what?"

 

Thor does that thing where he frowns with his whole face.

 

"No, we are discussing how to deal with Amora."

 

Now that's something Tony wants in on. If they're planning on exacting some sort of revenge, Tony wants to be part of it. He slides closer to the brothers, all too aware of the way Loki draws in on himself, uncomfortable. Tony chooses to ignore that.

 

"Care to let me in on any of the plan?"

 

"No," Loki says.

 

Thor says, "We will handle it."

 

Tony leans back against the countertop and sips his coffee. He's still hungry, and there's nothing in the kitchen that doesn't involve actual cooking, which is not something he has any interest in doing. Tony taps at his arc reactor, then on the countertop. Loki glances up every now and again to look at Tony like he's checking on him or something, and all Tony wants to do is eavesdrop on he and Thor's plan.

 

He whistles to get Loki's attention, almost surprised when the god actually turns and looks at him. Tony gestures to the empty counter.

 

"So can you whip me up some sort of magical breakfast? I'm hungry."

 

Loki makes a sound like a hiss. "Amora did not enchant me to follow your every command."

 

"Oh," Tony says. "Bummer."

 

He's trying to feel out the rules and boundaries, though, so he pushes it a bit more.

 

"But do you want to whip me up some sort of magical breakfast?"

 

Loki looks at him and the room shakes, suddenly gets darker and Tony remembers that love doesn't stop people from killing each other. Loki is close and in his face, snarling and angry and then he's gone, and Thor is looking at Tony like he wants to break his neck.

 

"You push too far at times," he says, and then he follows after Loki, leaving Tony alone in the kitchen.

 

Somehow, everyone's mad at him. It's business as usual so far.

 

--

 

There's no official meeting or memo or anything, Loki is just there and no one says anything about it, but everyone looks twice before they open any doors. Thor says he and Loki are working together to locate Amora and reverse the spell, which means Loki is working on trying to locate her and Thor is trying to repair a severely damaged relationship.

 

Pepper completely clears Tony's schedule. No meetings, no benefits, no vacations around the world, and definitely no picking up random women in bars. If Loki is the jealous type, it's best they don't find out. It's just another annoying marker for Tony, but he supposes there could be worse things. Possibly. Loki has a room somewhere, Tony hasn't bothered to figure out where yet, but he's been hiding behind Thor for the past week and pretending like Tony doesn't exist at all, which may be for the best.

 

Pepper orders them all pizza for dinner one night, and they sit awkward and scattered on the couch when Loki joins them at Thor's insistence.

 

"You sit by him," Clint says. "He likes you, remember."

 

"Involuntarily," Tony snaps, and gets fucking nervous at the thought of Loki sitting next to him. It's like lunch in elementary school.

 

He's curious to see how Loki eats, if he's ever had pizza before, and if he'll love it just as much as Thor does. Loki pulls a slice from the box and stares at it like it's some kind of weapon before taking a bite. He obviously decides that he likes it, because he takes another slice and then disappears without another word, probably back to his room. Thor frowns but doesn't follow after him, and no one else says anything.

 

Tony sleeps a little easier, that night.

 

--

 

He's in his workshop when Loki comes down again. Jarvis at least gives him a proper warning, this time. Tony is torn between letting him in and putting a lockdown on the elevator, but then Loki just walks right in like security systems don't even exist to him. Tony pretends to be busy with a wrench but watches out of the corner of his eye as Loki wanders around the workshop, maneuvering his way through metal and damaged AIs and something that looks like spilt coffee.

 

"It's polite to knock before entering," Tony says, and points at Loki with his wrench.

 

"Yes," Loki says, and Tony isn't sure what that's supposed to mean. He could tell Loki to leave, but he highly doubts that'll happen, so he drops the wrench and goes for the talking option. If Loki is going to be here, it may as well be entertaining.

 

"Any luck finding our good friend Amora?"

 

Loki extends one of those inhumanly long fingers and runs it over a few papers on Tony's desk like he's reading the words with his finger.

 

"It's difficult to track down someone that does not want to be found." Loki looks up. "Especially when she is keeping you occupied with other things."

 

Yeah, that. It must be hard to try and find Amora when Loki can't seem to stay more than a few hundred yards away from Tony or risk being in agonizing, crippling fucking pain.

 

"Right. I'd say I was sorry but I feel you kind of deserved that one."

 

"And you deserve to be thrown through another window," Loki says, voice a bit louder, and then his expression softens again like he regrets what he just said, and he adds, "But perhaps you are right. I do deserve it."

 

Loki looks sad, or almost sad, or as close to vaguely upset as he can possibly get, and Tony has to repeat the words fucking love spell over and over again in his head.

 

"Being evil has a lot of downsides, just saying."

 

"That seems like such a black and white term, coming from you."

 

"I call it as I see it," Tony says, and picks up his wrench again because he feels like he has to. It's easier to talk to Loki when he's threatening global safety, but if he squints it's almost like he and Loki are bantering back and forth like they always do, minus the explosions and blood.  

 

Bizarrely, Loki laughs softly, an amused little expression on his face. Tony wonders where Thor is, and if he knows his brother is down here doing what might just be flirting or something close to it. Loki hasn't stopped staring at him from the second he walked in, and Tony sets his wrench down again and forgets why he had it in the first place. He pulls up a file on his computer and tries to do something productive, but he can feel Loki's eyes on him, and when he looks up again Loki is somehow much closer than he was before without having made a sound. And without the threat of death being imminent, Tony gets the chance to really look at Loki, all his lines and muscles. Conclusion? He's fucking beautiful when he's not covered in other people's blood and trying to take over the world. He thinks to himself, well I suppose it could be worse, and isn't entirely sure what he means by that. Loki is still watching him.

 

"Look the creepy staring thing has got to stop."

 

"I am not staring," Loki says.

 

Tony just sort of raises an eyebrow at him, not buying that for a second. It's weird having Loki staring at you in a way that's not homicidal, more like he wants to lick Tony from head to toe and then cuddle him after or something ludicrous like that.

 

"What are you doing up, anyway, shouldn't you be plotting?"

 

Loki looks momentarily offended at the suggestion.

 

"I can't find sleep," he says, instead of threatening Tony's life like he should be doing.

 

"Yeah," Tony says, because he knows that feeling all too well. He wonders briefly if it's a side effect of that spell. "Right well just, I don't know. Sit down or something, quit standing around, you're freaking me out."

 

Remarkably, Loki listens. He takes a seat on the table next to Tony, watching as he pulls files out and discards them, and then changes his mind and pulls them back out again. And then Tony gets a brilliant idea, because most of Tony's brilliant ideas come to him in odd hours of the night. If Loki is going to try and break the spell on his with Thor trailing behind him, fine, good for them, but that doesn't mean Tony can't try his hand at it, too. He opens a new file and names it, "Project Magical Bitch", which Loki snorts at but says nothing about.

 

He stays astonishingly quiet, and then Tony really gets in the zone, and starts cooking up all sorts of ideas, and forgets for a hot second that Loki is actually there with him until Loki says, "Your command of science is impressive."

 

Tony would like to think that Loki would say that even without the help of a love spell, because it sure as hell is true. Tony smirks at his screen because he can't help it, he still has an ego the size of his penthouse, and cracks his knuckles.

 

And then Loki says, "You could easily implement elements of magic to your suit," and Tony frowns.

 

"No thank you, no I think I'll stick with science. Science has never hit me with a love spell."

 

"I can assure you that science has never afforded you the opportunity to turn your enemies into snakes and then cut their heads off," Loki says, and Tony has to give him a point for that one.

 

Loki goes silent once more and allows him to continue working. He seems enthralled by Tony's computers, so he lets him watch. Hours might pass, Tony isn't sure, he just comes out of the zone and remembers that he needs his phone.

 

"Be a dear and grab that for me," Tony says, gesturing pointedly.

 

He says it without thinking, and then remembers (how could he forget?) that he's just asked Loki to help him. The shocking part is when Loki actually does. It's automatic – he reaches behind and grabs the phone, places it in Tony's open hand. It's not until he lets go of it that he seems to realize what he's done. It feels like another victory to Tony, so he gives Loki another one of his winning smiles, and Loki just stares at him.

 

"You're going to kill me once you've broken this spell thing, aren't you?"

 

Loki finally smiles, like Tony has amused him.

 

"It's possible that once I remove the enchantment I will feel compelled to do so."

 

Yeah, well, Tony better enjoy while it lasts then. He synchs the phone into the computer and then leans back in his chair, practically exposing himself to Loki as something he can't have – whether it's to kill or not. Loki's eyes follow his shirt as it rides up, then focus in on the arc reactor, and finally Tony's jugular.

 

"If you want to touch, it's going to cost you," Tony says.

 

Loki's eyes flicker, and he tenses against the table suddenly, before standing. Tony watches him, realizing now that he said the wrong thing, joke time is over. He's pushed too far, but he isn't sure what it was that he said and is having trouble really caring. The one thing Tony has learned in dealing with Nordic gods is that they're cryptic as fuck. And this still isn't his problem. It's not his problem and it's not his fault.

 

Loki walks towards the elevator without looking back, but says, "Goodnight Stark," like it's forced out of him.

 

Tony stays up until Jarvis informs him that the sun has risen.

 

--

 

Coulson and Fury pull him aside a few days later, under the premise that they need to have a chat, which sounds horrible and bureaucratic and Tony doesn't want any part of it.

 

"Listen," he says, "I'd love to but I can't. I'm real busy and I've got a God of Mischief in love with me, so you know, I can't."

 

"That's exactly why we need to talk," Coulson says, and they pull him into one of the meeting rooms.

 

Tony hates the bullshit that comes with working for an elite secret agency, and Coulson and Fury are spectacular at twisting words and getting what they need. They try to get him to sit, but the last thing Tony wants is not to be eye level with these two, so he folds his arms and stands his ground.

 

"If you want me to take Loki out on a date or something, the answer is no. I really don’t dig guys in leather."

 

"Spare us the sarcasm, Stark," Fury says. "This is serious. Do you understand the position you're in right now?"

 

Tony glances at his feet. "A standing one."

 

Fury ignores his stunning wit.

 

"Loki isn't exactly the most approachable villain we've ever faced, but he's here right now, and he's more than willing to speak to you. If I were you, I'd get him talking and not let him stop. In fact, I'd use that charming little face of yours to try and get him to see that being a villain ain't all it's cracked up to be."

 

Tony looks between Fury and Coulson. Surely they aren't suggesting what he thinks they're suggesting, because that's a level of insane that even Loki wouldn't try.  

 

"You're saying you want me to smooth talk Loki into joining the good guys?"

 

Coulson clears his throat. "We're saying you need to take advantage of the situation."

 

What a wonderful twisting of words. Tony shakes his head, chuckling. He's got to hand it to them, they really thought it all out when they made that decision. Of course they'd never just let Loki stay with them, no matter who he is to Thor.

 

"That's kind of fucked up, don't you think?"

 

"Do you honestly care?"

 

It's not a matter of caring, it's a matter of manipulative bullshit, but whatever. Tony shrugs.

 

"I suppose my answer would have to be not really."

 

"Good," Fury says. "Because we need Loki on our side."

 

"Do you really think this will work?" Tony asks, and thinks of Thor, who's probably breaking his neck trying to fix things between him and Loki. He wouldn't approve at this at all, no matter how desperately he wants things to change. Lying and tricking? That's Loki's game, but now Tony supposes it's his game too. "You're putting an awful lot of faith in this, it seems. Me thinks someone is a little desperate for resolution."

 

"More like tired of chasing our own tails when it comes to Loki," Coulson says. "There's only so much catch and release we can do with Loki before something snaps."

 

Tony has to stand there for a moment and try and decipher that, because it turns out Nordic gods aren't the only ones who are cryptic. Coulson and Fury don't give him much more than that, Coulson gets a call on his cell and they head out, meeting adjourned, apparently. Tony decides to go looking for Loki.

 

--

 

He ends up finding Thor, instead, crouched beside a closed door in the hallway. Tony can only assume the room is Loki's, and by the resigned look on Thor's face, his brother still isn't on the best of terms with him. He thought they'd be working together, but Loki is more of the lone wolf type of god, even his hook ups with other villains are rare, and if the other day with Amora is anything to go by, not very successful.

 

"Tony Stark," Thor says, shifting a little so Tony can mimic his stance and crouch beside him.

 

"Loki in time out or what?"

 

Thor frowns.

 

"No, he is…he is researching."

 

Tony can see it in his big blue eyes how badly he wants to go in there, but Thor knows better than to push Loki. Tony, on the other hand, that's exactly what he plans to do.

 

"My brother is very proud," Thor says. "He does not like to accept help from others."

 

Yeah tell me about it, Tony thinks. He knows that he could probably lure Loki out right now if he wanted to, all he'd have to do is knock, but that seems like it'd be a blow right to Thor's heart, and Tony couldn't do that to the guy.

 

"You think he'd be begging for help to get rid of that spell."

 

Thor smiles and shakes his head, like he's remembering some fond memory from long ago, when he and Loki were still happy, all golden and brotherly.

 

"Loki is a powerful sorcerer, he will break the spell in time."

 

They can only hope. Worst case scenario is the spell is never broken, and Loki is no troll when it comes to looks, but he's still a mentally unstable Norse god that shouldn't be tangled with. Tony can only play house with the guy for so long before someone gets their throat slit.

 

"Yeah about that spell," Tony says, scratching at his goatee. "What sort of side effects are we expecting? I mean, other than the physical pain, which is an excellent little trick, by the way. Remind me to personally thank Amora for that."

 

Thor gives Tony a quizzical look, like he's trying to figure out what exactly Tony means by side effects.

 

"I do not understand what you mean. It is as if he is in love with you, those are the 'side effects', as you put it."

 

"No, I get that," Tony says. He grapples with his words for a moment, trying to spin this in a way Thor can understand. "But how else is that going to make him act?"

 

The look Thor gives Tony is absolutely bizarre, and almost a little sad.

 

"You don't know?"

 

Tony knows exactly what he means. He should know what it's like to be in love, but he doesn't, he really, really doesn't. He knows lust and he knows affection, and he knows what it's like to cling to something that makes you feel safe. But that's not love. Love is not a science Tony has ever figured out. He doesn't want to.

 

"Look, you know the guy better than anyone. Just tell me what I'm in for here."

 

"From my own experiences I can tell you that he will be pleased upon seeing you, though he may not show it outwardly." Thor looks like he's trying to think back to someone else. "It is hard to control yourself, around someone you care so deeply for. He will want to make you happy, I imagine. It is something foreign to Loki, and he will fight it."

 

It's hard to control yourself around someone you care so deeply for. Tony purses his lips. Natasha's right, that does sound a hell of a lot worse than physical torture.

 

"He's not going to leave me dead birds on my pillow, is he? Some kind of weird present?"

 

"You should take this weight more seriously," Thor says, fixing Tony with something close to a glare. "Despite his faults, Loki is still my brother. If you wound his heart I will be very displeased."

 

"Wound his – Thor come on, you sound like a Danielle Steel novel."

 

"I know no text by that name," Thor says, and stands. He looks towards Loki's shut door like he can see through it, and then looks down at Tony, his face hard and serious. "I mean what I say."

 

He walks away, leaving Tony alone in front of Loki's door, torn between laughing loudly and crying at this clearly cruel joke the universe has decided to play on him. It could have been anyone else, should have been someone else. If only Steve or Clint had gotten up there before he had, but the stupid bastards can't fly. Tony hates his life, sometimes. He stands and faces Loki's door, raises a hand to knock.

 

There's no answer, not that Tony expected one. Loki might think he's still Thor.

 

"It's Tony," he says. "You know, Stark."

 

Silence. Tony doesn't think Loki is even in there at all, or if he is, he's going to great lengths to ignore just about everyone, which is better than his usual behavior of blowing everything to shit.

 

 

--

 

He gets excused from patrol that night because he'd have to take Loki along, which Tony considers another small perk in this whole ordeal. So Clint and Thor go out and Tony stays in and lets Steve talk strategy to him. Poor guy doesn't even know Fury and Coulson's plan, which is probably for the best. Steve has a big heart, and he empathizes easily, which is a strength as much as it is a weakness. Tony doubts even he'd approve of manipulating Loki's feelings to turn him away from the dark side.

 

"Once we break this spell," he says, "Loki is probably going to retaliate against you, somehow."

 

"I have considered the possibility of being turned into a snake and then decapitated," Tony says, and takes a sip of his scotch.

 

Steve just blinks at him.

 

"Stop worrying your pretty head over it," Tony says. "With any luck he'll have residual effects for years to come and never want to kill me. Maybe he'll be so mortified he won't even show his face around town again. That'd be something."

 

Steve makes a stupid noise in the back of his throat, like he doesn't think Tony gets it. Then he glares at Tony's scotch, because he's never approved of Tony's drinking habits, so when all else fails, he glares at Tony's alcohol. They're seated together at the kitchen table, and Steve is eating a ham sandwich like the good old American boy that he is. Tony prefers his food in liquid form.

 

"I don't think you're taking this seriously enough."

 

"Everyone keeps saying that." Tony sets his glass down, and it makes a neat clink against the table. "I know what's at stake here, trust me. But there's not much I can do about it right now. I know what I'm doing, just have a little faith."

 

"That's asking an awful lot," Steve says, and then he grins, lighthearted, like all is forgiven.

 

--

 

Loki comes down to the workshop again that night, which Tony expected, even if Loki looks like he's lost some internal battle just by walking through the doors. Hard to control, Tony thinks. Along with, Impulse. How do people in love act? Stupid, that's how, so by all accounts, Tony should expect anything from Loki.

 

He's beside Tony with no warning, nothing but the chill of the air to him.

 

"Thanks for the warning, Jarvis," he says.

 

"You were in no danger," Jarvis replies sweetly.

 

Foiled by his own AI.

 

"I should put a bell on you," Tony says, looking up at Loki from his workbench. "That way I'll know when you're coming."

 

"That seems odd, considering I am not a cat," Loki says. He looks at Tony's monitors with something akin to interest, like he's actually curious about what shenanigans Tony gets up to down here. Tony has to remind himself that Loki is not like Thor when it comes to technology. "This looks intriguing. Tell me about it."

 

Loki points at the Starkpad on the table with one of his fiendishly long fingers, leaving a smudge print in its wake.

 

"Remember the other night, when I was trying to figure out a way to trace Amora's magic? Think I might be onto something, finally." Tony wipes the smudge print away. "She's laying low on purpose, that magical little bitch."

 

Loki's brows furrow as he looks over the plans, as if he can actually understand them…and maybe he can.

 

"This is impressive, Stark," he says. "But without a sample of her magic you won't be able to do anything."

 

"Actually, that's where you come in."

 

Loki's head cocks to the side a bit, but he says nothing, just watches as Tony wheels backwards in his chair and picks up a metal box from the other desk. He wheels back over and sets it next to the computer, tapping at it with his fingers. It's not technically his, he nicked it from Bruce, but he figures he probably won't notice anyhow. Tony opens the box and shows Loki the contents. He's got a syringe in there, perfect for taking blood.

 

"I see," Loki says. "You want to use my blood."

 

"Amora's magic is swimming around in you right now, like little Amora sperms." Tony winces for a second, because why would he make the analogy ever, but keeps going. "I can feed that to the system and pick up her trace, done and done."

 

For a second, it looks like Loki is actually considering that, but ultimately he just scoffs at the needle. Tony notices that he's not as flushed in the face around him now, but he's definitely more comfortable, which is either a good sign, or a bad one. Tony can't tell. Either way, he doesn't appreciate having his brilliant plans scoffed at.

 

"Ambitious, but foolish." Loki extends his hand, palm up. "Even if you did get a trace on her magic, Amora could be worlds away by now. I doubt your science could reach into another realm."

 

Tony slams the box shut.

 

"And I suppose you have a more elegant solution, oh magic fingers."

 

Loki gets this befuddled look on his face at the magic fingers comment, eyes blinking rapidly before he sets the mask back in place. Normally, he'd just set Tony with a death glare, and probably an accompanying death threat, but even he can't be that schooled 24/7, not with a love spell.

 

"I'm already working to counteract her spell. Once it's broken, I will find her, no matter what realm she may be hidden in."

 

"You don't seem like you've been very successful so far, just saying."

 

Loki's jaw twitches, and he curls his hand back. "I will be."

 

Tony makes a weak gesture to the box.

 

"Does this mean you won't let me take your blood?"

 

Loki hesitates. He knows, and Tony knows, that with Loki's blood, SHIELD could also trace his magic, making him far more predictable for when he decides to unleash chaos on the world. But Tony can see it in his eyes that he wants to help, and he's got to be eager to break the spell, willing to do whatever it takes. Still, he shakes his head.

 

"That would put me at a disadvantage with your group that I do not wish to be at," he says.

 

"I could technically toss your blood, after it's all said and done."

 

Loki smiles, but it's not like before, it's just a poor smirk, a pained one.

 

"The enchanted part of me believes you in full, but I still have some of my own will, and I know better than to trust you."

 

Tony wants to say something smart about how science is better than magic anyway, and Loki should just trust him already because he has no one else at the moment except Thor, and Thor certainly isn't going to be much help in the science department. He doesn't, though, because Loki reaches out suddenly, a smooth quick movement, and places his hand over the arc reactor. Tony freezes in place. Loki may be in love with him, but it's a gut reaction when it comes down to it.

 

"This was built by your science," Loki says. His hand is perfectly still on the reactor, but there's a creeping feeling starting to telegraph up Tony's spine, like Loki is pulling something out of him. "It powers your suit, keeps you alive."

 

It's getting hard to breathe. Loki is closer to him now, and Tony has to wonder how well he can control impulse at the moment, because he swipes his tongue over his lips once like he's getting ready to devour Tony whole.

 

"I have no doubt in your abilities, Stark, but this is no place for mortal science."

 

He pulls his hand away and Tony can suddenly breathe easier, arc reactor humming underneath his shirt. Loki folds his hands behind his back like he's going to stop them from moving on their own again, and levels Tony with a stare that reveals almost nothing. Tony isn't sure what the hell just happened, but it's time to even the playing field a bit. Fury and Coulson want him to take advantage of the situation? Fine.

 

"You suck as a villain right now," he says.

 

Loki's eyebrows raise.

 

"No don't get me wrong, the whole bringing an alien army to earth thing was gold and all that, but you don't seem like your typical cut and dry villain. Hanging out with the Avengers? That can't be good for street cred."

 

"You seem happy that I'm, as you say it, 'hanging out'."

 

"It would make me really happy if you stopped being evil," Tony says, and then winces immediately because fuck, that sounds like something straight out of a bad movie, terrible acting to boot. He's no good at this, doesn't anyone realize how shit he is at all this love stuff? Christ.

 

Loki looks at him through his lashes, a knowing smirk at his lips.

 

"Your skills in lying need improvement."

 

"Well I bet you could give me a few pointers, there, Liesmith."

 

"That I could," Loki says, and his smirk gets wider.

 

They're back at the playful verbal banter, which Tony honestly has always enjoyed. A good quality conversation before defeating your enemy is always a nice perk. He stands up finally so he's not at such a height disadvantage, leaning against his desk. Loki mirrors his movements.

 

"But in all seriousness, being evil? It seems to have more downsides for you than upsides. You ever consider joining the good guys?"

 

"And do what? Protect the humans? This pathetic earth? That's not who I am."

 

"No one is inherently evil, fyi. People can change."

 

There's no mistaking the way Loki's eyes darken, and for a second Tony thinks he's pushed too far, but Loki keeps talking.

 

"No, they don't change. They mask who they are and hope no one notices."

 

It's short and clipped but it says so fucking much. Like Loki honestly believes this is how it has to be for him, which is some fucked up psyche right there. Loki doesn't even think he's good enough to be the hero. It makes Tony wonder exactly what home life was like for him and Thor, because the big guy is pretty tight lipped about anything that involves Loki, but Tony is way too curious now. The urge to self destruct has always been intriguing to Tony, because he does it so well himself. He's as good as Loki is at fucking his own shit up. The fact that they have more in common than he originally thought just makes him feel weird.

 

"People can change," Tony says. "Look at me, you think I grew up wanting to be a hero? You think I'm anything this city deserves? Let me tell you right now, I'm not. Not at all."

 

Loki opens his mouth looking like he's about to say something in Tony's defense, but he manages to hold it in, jaw set tight. He looks visibly upset, jolted by what Tony's said to him. Maybe Fury was right, maybe he can convince Loki to switch sides. Tony wants to count this little encounter as a definite win. Loki finally speaks again.

 

"You don't give yourself enough credit, why is that?"

 

"I'm just a humble guy, really, but hey, this conversation isn't about me."

 

"You want to get inside my head," Loki says. "Do you have any idea who I am?"

 

Tony steps forward, crowds Loki's space, not caring if it's a bad idea, not caring if Loki looks ready to run or maybe fight.

 

"I know who you are," he says. "You get inside everyone's head because you're too afraid to get into your own. You don't even know you are, do you?"

 

"I know who I am," Loki says, and his voice is grave, bitter. He's all around Tony the next second, hand on his neck and Tony thinks he's about to get thrown again, but Loki pulls back almost immediately, face softening. Another near death moment, courtesy of Loki. Hands set at his sides, Loki doesn't apologize, and Tony doesn't expect him to. His pulse is beating fast, he forgot how easy it is for Loki to get riled up, but he seems surprisingly calm now.

 

"You chose your path, I chose mine," Loki says.

 

He makes a movement almost like a bow, and Tony can read the look on his face, he's going to leave, but by the time he opens his mouth, Loki is gone. Tony is alone again.

 

"Jarvis, where has Loki gone?"

 

"His room, sir, shall I request he come back?"

 

"No." Tony touches the arc reactor in his chest. "It's fine."

 

--

 

He gets woken up at the ass crack of dawn because there's been activity near the city center. It takes Tony a second to realize what that means, and then he's rolling out of bed and jumping into his clothes, trying to get as much information as possible.

 

"Tell me it's Amora, say it's Amora!"

 

"Sorry," Fury says. "HYDRA. We think Viper is leading them."

 

Tony drops his pants on the floor.

 

"Well count me out, then. I've got a God of Mischief attached to me, don't forget."

 

"Too bad, we've got a siege on the mayor's office. Downtown is overrun with their agents. I need all of you down there, and I need you there now."

 

Tony stares at his pants. Fury can't be fucking serious. Anywhere Tony goes, Loki is going to follow, and there's no way in hell he's going to help them, even if he is in love with Tony at the moment. He would probably sooner help Viper, Tony knows they've partnered up before.

 

"This is a terrible fucking idea, just saying."

 

"We'll know soon enough, now go."

 

The problem is, downtown isn't just swarming with HYDRA agents. Viper's latest scheme, which is flawed in ways that Tony won't even begin to analyze, seems to involve taking over the city by the taking the mayor hostage, and he's recruited civilians to help him. Tony meets Hulk, Steve, and Thor on the street, Widow and Hawkeye overhead in the Quinjet. Fury's voice is already uncurling in their ears over the comm.

 

"We've got word of at least two dozen agents on the street, maybe more in the mayor's office, but as far as we know, he's being held captive by some nameless group, some lackeys that Viper hired."

 

"We can take out his agents left and right but he knows we won't kill civilians," Steve says.

 

Tony shrugs. "Won't we?"

 

"Tony."

 

"Widow and I can land on the roof," Hawkeye says. "Storm the fuckers from the ceiling."

 

"And we can run interference on the street," Steve confirms. "Apprehend but don't kill. We'll want to question them later."

 

"As long as you save the mayor," Fury says, "I don't care what you do, understand?"

 

"You heard the man!" Tony says, and doesn't wait for Steve's reply before he's up in the air again, guns at the ready.

 

"Hulk! You've got two cronies behind you, look alive."

 

He hears the whistle of Mjölnir as Thor sends one of them flying, the crack of bone and cloth. It's still weird to think about, after all this time, that they came together as a team. They've saved the world more times than they get credit for, not that Tony needs to the credit, but it's nice to get some recognition every now and again.

 

Tony sends an agent toppling downward, catching a flash of green and black to his left. Loki. He's perched on the rooftop of a building, watching them fight like it's the matinee showing at the movies, arms crossed over his chest like he's not all impressed.

 

"Hey," Tony says. "Look who decided to join the party."

 

"You know why I'm here."

 

Thor's voice comes ringing up from the street.

 

"Brother! Come join me!"

 

Loki ignores him. He looks put out, which Tony thinks is kind of amusing, all things considered. Below them, HYDRA agents are still popping up left and right, like Viper has been breeding them or something. Tony swears. No wonder Fury wanted them all out there. He looks back to Loki.  

 

"You could help us, you know, anytime now."

 

"No, I don't think I will," Loki says, the bastard.

 

Before Tony can reply, Loki points behind him, and Tony turns just in time to get a face full of a HYDRA agent on this weird hover bike thing, thanks Loki, and they tumble in the air together for a moment before Tony gets him off, watching as he spirals down to the concrete.

 

It goes like that for a while. They clear most of them off the street, and Hulk moves into the mayor's office with Hawkeye and Widow to clear out the hostages, and some of Viper's thugs come pouring out of the building like ants, scurrying every direction, every man for himself. By this time the police have found some use for themselves, and they start trying to round them up.

 

"Damn," Tony says. "These are young kids, what the hell are they doing working with HYDRA?"

 

"He must be recruiting," Steve says. "I doubt any of them will know his location – Tony! On your six!"

 

The warning comes just a second too late. For a second all he sees is yellow light, a direct hit on his left shoulder, something sharp like pain resonating up his spine. The blast sends Tony flailing like a ragdoll down the street, the clank of metal as he bounces on the concrete. He finally rolls to a stop and looks up at the sky just in time to see the agent coming down on him full force, weapon raised to kill –

 

Only he doesn't.

 

He gets flung violently to the side, and Tony can literally hear the crunch of the head splitting open, all his guts spilling onto the street. It's fuzzy, but when he looks up, he sees Loki on the street next to him. He's glowing green, seething, an anger Tony hasn't seen since they first fought him, since the first time Tony caught a look at those eyes, empty and angry and full of rage.

 

For a second, he looks surprised by his own actions, and then he looks at Tony as if to get some semblance of acceptance – is this okay.

 

Tony just stares.

 

Two more agents swim into view and Loki literally incinerates them with magic, automatic, not even thinking about it. For some reason, Tony feels like shaking, he feels like he's going to vomit.

 

Loki is ready to kill for him, he's ready to – Tony hisses at the pain in his shoulder, Jarvis' voice popping into his ear, "Sir, the left shoulder of the suit is not responding to command."

 

But he couldn't care less about that right now. It's Thor who goes to Loki in the middle of the chaos, trying to calm him down, but Loki isn't listening to him at all. He and Tony hold each other's gazes, searching, trying to figure something out. Tony just isn't sure what. Steve's hand connects with his shoulder a second later, and Tony doesn't even remember him moving over to him.

 

"You okay?" he asks. "Tony, you all right?"

 

"Yeah," Tony says, shaking himself. "Calm down Rogers, this ain't my first rodeo."

 

Loki is gone when he looks up again.

 

--

 

He's not at the mansion. Out of his suit, Tony's left shoulder is stinging, but he's sustained far worse injuries, and actually they were from Loki anyway. The suit will need minor repairs, and that's the excuse Tony uses to hide himself in his room for the rest of the night when Fury wants to pull them all into a meeting.

 

"We've talked about this," Fury says. "Meetings are not optional, Stark."

 

"Oh come on, I nearly died today." Tony cracks his shoulder to prove the point. "I need recovery time. Just send me highlights, I'm sure it'll all go much faster without me around."

 

When he turns, Fury grabs his arm.

 

"I saw what Loki did today," he says. "Do you think it's working?"

 

"I don't know what you're talking about," Tony says, and pulls his arm away. "Now if you'll excuse me, I need a drink."

 

He walks the hallways, absolutely not looking for Loki. There's been no sign of him since he pounded those agents into oblivion, and Tony is starting to think he's not in the mansion at all, which is really saying something, because it puts Loki in physical agony not to be near him. Tony goes to his room, not the workshop. He doesn't work on his suit, he gets drunk. It's something he's always been good at.

 

Four scotches later, Tony is face down on his own bar, drooling. He tries to avoid these responsibilities for a reason. Sure, he's changed a lot over the years, saving the world does that to a guy, he distances himself for a reason. Loki today was just, god he just looked scared. He looked scared for Tony, and it's different. It's not the same scared that Steve gets when one of them is hurt. And then for some stupid reason, because Tony's brain always does this, Tony wonders if Loki's ever been in love before. Voluntary or not. If he's ever had the chance to be reckless and stupid with someone, put his whole heart on the line and not care if gets broken. If he hasn't, then this must be absolutely terrifying for him, and suddenly Tony feels bad.

 

He passes out before he can pour himself another drink.

 

--

 

Loki is crawling over him, back arched, all those clean smooth lines of muscle and skin. He's got a cherry between his lips – for what reason, Tony doesn't know and doesn't care. He runs a hand over the skin of Loki's arm, much softer than he expected, shaking lightly, warm. He wants to pull that cherry out from between Loki's lips, watch the juice of it stain them red. He wants to lick it up.

 

"How do you want me?" Loki asks, a whisper, a tiny gust of wind and sweet breath.

 

He's reaching for Tony's belt and Tony…

 

…Tony wakes up.

 

He jolts awake in a puddle of his own drool, eyes blinking against the darkness.

 

"Jesus Christ," he says.

 

"Nice dream?" someone says.

 

"Jesus Christ. Lights."

 

They flicker on and there's Loki, sitting on Tony's bed like it's his own, legs crossed, face placid. He looks exhausted, probably still feeling the effects of the spell after having disappeared to wherever, today. Tony almost asks him if he's okay, but he's not that drunk. He stumbles upright, wiping the crusted spit from the corner of his mouth.

 

"What a pleasant surprise."

 

"I thought you might drown in your own vomit," Loki says.

 

Tony laughs. "I've mastered the art of avoiding such things."

 

True to form, Tony reaches for the bottle of scotch. His mouth tastes like road kill, and more scotch should clear out the taste. He pours himself a glass, holding the bottle out in Loki's direction to offer him some. Loki nods, so Tony pours him a glass.

 

Loki is beside him the next second, taking the glass in his hand and sniffing the liquid, eyebrows raised slightly. His lips touch the rim of the glass and Tony thinks cherry, and then downs his scotch. For a minute they just stand there together, drinking silently, waiting for the other to say something, anything.

 

And Tony can never keep his mouth shut, so:

 

"That was some impressive handiwork, today." Tony makes a crushing motion with his free hand. "Very effective."

 

Loki takes a long sip of scotch and frowns down at the glass, looking unsure how he feels about the drink. He looks back up at Tony less amused.

 

"So I guess what I'm trying to say is thanks," Tony says. Just keep talking, keep talking. "And hey, you almost sort of joined the good guys, that counts for something in Fury's book, I'm sure."

 

"That was not my intention," Loki says, voice sour.

 

"Was your intention to let me die." Tony holds the bottle up and refills Loki's glass without asking. Loki drinks it. Tony wonders if gods can get drunk. "Because I gotta say I like the other one much better."

 

Loki sets his glass down on the bar, lips thinning.

 

"Your shoulder," he says, motioning with a nod of his head. "Does it give you pain?"

 

"Nothing more scotch can't fix."

 

Before Tony can turn to grab the bottle again, Loki's hand is wrapping around his shoulder, cool even through his t-shirt. Tony freezes mid pose, eyebrows raised to Loki for some sort of answer. Loki just focuses on his shoulder. Something happens the next moment, and Tony can't find the words to describe it but it's like sand creeping into his skin and bone and muscle. It moves warm and smooth and slow, swallowing up the pain. Tony is afraid to look down for some reason, but then Loki pulls his hand away and his shoulder feels fine. It feels fucking great actually, maybe even better than his right shoulder. Tony rolls the joint around a bit, testing it.

 

"Uh, wow," he says. "Thanks."

 

Loki picks his glass up from the bar again and takes another sip.

 

"You should be more careful in battle," he says. "A human such as yourself can't afford distractions."

 

"Ha," Tony says. "Thanks for that tip. You know, half my major injuries in the past year have been from you."

 

Loki shrugs into his scotch, eyes on Tony. He looks good like this, more relaxed, the lines of his face softer, his stance less defensive. Tony is wondering a whole lot of things about him that he never bothered to wonder before. He finds it strange how much it doesn't bother him. Loki finishes his drink and reaches to refill it without asking.

 

"Thor was proud of you today," Tony says. Keep pushing him.

 

"Why must you try and involve yourself in these matters?" Loki asks, sounding more genuinely curious than angry.

 

"Why do you act like you're not worthy of being his brother?"

 

Check and mate. Loki isn't the only one who's good at getting in people's heads, and Tony knows exactly what it's like to feel unworthy. Next to him, Loki takes a dangerously long sip of scotch.

 

"Thor has a big heart…too big, at times." Loki grins over his glass, but it doesn't make what he says next any less sad. "How big do you suppose mine is?"

 

"He still loves you," Tony says. "Shit, anyone can see that. Stop pulling the daddy issues card and just let him."

 

Which, okay, is a little hypocritical coming from Tony, and Loki must know that, because his face goes a bit darker and he says:

 

"Yes, that must have been very easy for you. Is that why you try and save everyone? To make up for your past? The merchant of death, isn't that what they called you?"

 

Tony should have known better than to go to head to head with the God of Mischief and Lies in a mind game. After all, getting inside people's heads in what Loki does best. Just ask Dr. Selvig. Tony takes a furious swig from his glass, not even tasting the alcohol anymore.

 

"If you think you know even a lick of my –"

 

"You can't save everyone," Loki says. "That is a foolish endeavor. And it will not help you to save yourself."

 

Oh well shit, shit, Loki really is good at getting in people's heads, and Tony is too drunk for this, he's too drunk and too tired. Loki is too human right now for him to deal with, too full of something like emotion, and Tony is no good at those. He sets his glass on the bar.

 

"Well this has been lovely," he says. "Really, truly eye opening. Goodnight."

 

Tony stumbles over to his bed and collapses into it, not bothering to undress, just calling for Jarvis to snuff the lights and wrapping himself in the covers. He's not running away.

 

"I've upset you," Loki says.

 

"What a remarkable observation," Tony says.

 

The mattress dips slightly from Loki's weight, he's in Tony's bed right now, and Tony isn't sure what action he's supposed to take about that.

 

"If you do not wish me to speak the truth, then do not speak it at me."

 

"You're supposed to be a liar," Tony says, and thinks his voice sounds a bit petulant and childlike.

 

"If I didn't sometimes speak the truth, how could I get anyone to believe me?"

 

Tony opens his mouth and then shuts it. Oh, he's good. He's really good. He doesn't say anything after that, but the way he relaxes into the mattress probably lets Loki know that he's okay with him being there, which may be a bad idea, maybe not. Tony isn't famous for his good ideas. Eventually, he can feel the shift as Loki moves to lay beside him on the bed, not touching, just laying there. Tony spends so long wondering if he should tell him to go that he just falls asleep.

 

He wasn't going to tell him to leave anyway.

 

--

 

There are ten boxes of donuts in the kitchen.

 

"Why the hell do we have ten boxes of donuts in the kitchen?"

 

Clint's got three in one hand, smiling stupid, the rest of them have at least one on their plate. Thor looks like he's already consumed at least a dozen, so maybe there were eleven boxes. Tony is hung over and this isn't making sense.

 

"The mayor's office sent them," Natasha says, biting into a jelly filled one. "A thank you."

 

"They sent us fucking donuts?" Tony snorts. "Thank you for saving my life, here's some fried bread. Uh. Wow."

 

"I have no complaints," Thor says. He's got powdered sugar on his fingertips.

 

Tony shrugs and grabs a chocolate frosted one from the box.

 

"Trying to get us fat," Clint says. He looks to Natasha. "Not that you could ever get fat."

 

"Please shut up."

 

Tony grabs three more donuts and wraps them in a napkin, stepping backwards to escape from the kitchen. Thor steps him in front of him, so close, and Tony swears under his breath. He feels stupidly guilty about talking to Thor for some reason, because dirty dream aside, Loki slept in his bed last night. Nothing happened, but still, Tony let Loki into his bed. Though in his defense, he was pretty fucking drunk.

 

"My brother is not in his room," Thor says. "I fear for him if he wanders too far. Have you heard from him?"

 

"He's fine," Tony says. "He uh, he stopped by my room last night. He's here."

 

"Oh."

 

Thor straightens, wiping his fingers against his pant leg. Tony reaches out with his free hand, awkward, patting Thor's arm in some weird attempt to comfort him.

 

"Give it time," he says. "He'll come around."

 

Thor looks more like a kicked puppy right now than a Norse god, and Tony just hates this whole feelings thing, it's so uncomfortable, it really is.

 

"Your shoulder," Thor says, nodding. "It no longer pains you?"

 

"Oh yeah." Tony wiggles the joint around a bit. "Loki healed it."

 

After that, Thor's frown gets even deeper. He turns away from Tony without saying anything, and Tony has to just stand there for a moment wondering what the hell happened before going back to his room. He can only deal with one emotional Norse god at a time.

 

Loki wasn't there when Tony woke up, but he is when Tony comes back, staring out the window of Tony's room and down into the city below, hands folded behind his back. He turns around when Tony comes in, despite Tony making no noise, he just knows he's back. Loki looks at the donuts in Tony's hand, eyes narrowing slightly, then he glances at Tony's shoulder.

 

"Hey," Tony says, motioning to his face. "I'm up here."

 

The god levels him with a blank stare, so Tony holds out a donut. "Breakfast?"

 

Loki hesitates a moment before taking one, holds it between two fingers like it's some sort of weapon.

 

"What is this," he says.

 

"A donut." Tony starts stuffing another into his mouth. "Quite possibly the greatest food invention ever, fried to perfection, topped with nothing but pure sugar. Absolutely horrible for you, too, but delicious. Stop staring at it, it's not going to explode. Eat it."

 

Still hesitant, Loki takes a bite, chews slowly, deciding. After a moment, he nods his approval.

 

"This is good."

 

He grabs the last donut before Tony can stop him, biting right into the center of it. Jelly gushes out and he catches it on his finger, sucks it right up and Tony thinks cherry, and also, get a hold of yourself.

 

"You've seriously never had a donut before? What do they feed you up there in Asgard?"

 

"Wild boar," Loki says, and looks to Tony for more donuts, to which Tony can only shrug.

 

"Oh, yum. There's more in the kitchen, but later, later. I had an idea last night about Amora."

 

Loki licks sugar from his fingertips. "My answer remains the same. I will not give you my blood."

 

"Fair enough, but maybe I don't need your blood to locate Amora. I could do a scan of your body – nothing creepy, just a scan, map out her magic. What do you think?"

 

For a moment, Loki does nothing but chew, and his voice would give nothing away if he brows weren't drawn downward slightly, a sign that he's actually considering Tony's proposal. Or, he's upset about the lack of donuts in the immediate vicinity, which Tony isn't really ruling out either.

 

"What sort of scan?" Loki says.

 

"A sensory scan to pick up on Amora's magic, uh, a bit like shining a light into a dark room, let's say. I wouldn't even touch your magic. You could watch the whole time." Loki still looks skeptical, so Tony adds an ultimatum. "Or I could get Thor to hold you down and I take your blood."

 

"A highly unlikely scenario, but I see your point."

 

"So." Tony smiles, one he knows is charming, because he's used it on women before, and a few men too. "So is that a yes?"

 

"Perhaps," Loki says. "But first I would like more of these donuts, you said there were more."

 

To be honest, Tony was expecting another flat out no, but Loki is watching him with something that looks like trust, or close to it, at any rate. He realizes then that he's in a position with Loki that no one, not even Thor, is in. He's willing to work with Tony, which is a huge step, another victory for the good guys, maybe. Tony tries to imagine what it would be like, having someone as powerful as Loki on their side, tries to imagine Loki next to him in battle, body humming with magic. It doesn't seem that far out there.

 

"Okay, deal," he says. "Donuts first, science after."

 

Tony turns, motioning for Loki to follow him, which he does.

 

"Better hurry, though. Bruce and Thor will eat all of them, those greedy pigs."

 

"Bruce," Loki repeats. "He is your Hulk, is he not?"

 

"Yeah. The guy is a Zen master, too. You ever try getting him to hulk out? It's next to impossible."

 

"Huh," Loki says.

 

There's no one in the kitchen when they get down there, a few boxes of donuts left out on the counter. Loki picks through them with a certain curiosity, discovering them. Tony grabs the last chocolate frosted one and swallows it down in one bite, watching as Loki grabs three from the box, two in his hand and one in his mouth. He wants to make a jab about calorie count, but doubts Loki will care. He eats one, licks the sugar from his lips and looks up towards the doorway, listening silently.

 

"What –" Tony starts.

 

"Be silent," Loki says, and is gone the next second, leaving Tony alone in the kitchen.

 

Bruce comes in the next minute, eyes on the donut box. He nods a hello to Tony before grabbing one.

 

"Thor said uh, he said Loki was in your room last night."

 

He says it without looking at Tony, which is just so junior high school that Tony barks out a laugh and what he definitely does not do is blush because it's not like that, not at all.

 

"You two gossip like you're at a nail salon, seriously. He came and fixed my shoulder for me, my dignity is still intact, scout's honor."

 

"I think Thor is worried more about Loki's," Bruce says.

 

Before Tony can formulate a wonderful comeback as to just how ridiculous that is, a voice echoes from the air:

 

"What about my dignity?"

 

And Bruce freezes in place because Loki is suddenly in front of him, right up in his space and he plucks the donut from Bruce's hand, taking a chaste little bite and looking more beautifully evil than Tony has ever seen him. Bruce jumps back and yeah, yeah that does it. He hulks out and look straight to Tony like it's his fault and then Loki says, "Run."

 

So they run, Tony and Loki are bounding over the couch and down the hall, and Tony is fucking laughing, he can barely breathe he's laughing so hard. Loki grabs his wrist and they teleport out of there, leaving the others to deal with Bruce.

 

--

 

It takes Tony a few minutes to get his breath back. He can't remember the last time he laughed that hard, not even when Clint lost that bet and had to try and fit into Natasha's cat suit. Loki's teleported them to the workshop, and he's standing next to Tony with an absolute shit eating grin, like he's so proud of himself for having done that. Mischief, mischief. When Loki's working with you, maybe the chaos can be somewhat fun. Tony doesn't say that though, because he feels like it would be crossing a boundary he shouldn't, so he just coughs and straightens and goes for his work bench, digging around.

 

He's modified one of his scanners to pick up traces of magic, which Tony has discovered (thanks to Amora and Loki and their magical shenanigans) is still made up of the same molecules as most elements found on Earth and in space. The scanner is about as big as TV remote, nothing terribly intimidating, but Loki still eyes in cautiously when Tony walks up to him with it, and Tony really doesn't blame him. To ease the tension, he waves the scanner over his arm, a light hum as it looks for any trace of magic on him.

 

"See? Harmless." Tony motions to Loki's clothes. "Lose the coat and we'll get started."

 

Loki shrugs off his overcoat, dropping it to the floor and for a moment all Tony can do is stare at him and wonder where he's supposed to start. Loki is tall, really tall, lean and definitely formidable. Tony doesn't think he's been this close to him since Loki grabbed him by his neck and threw him out the window.

 

"Right," Tony says. "We'll start at the feet."

 

He bends down and scanner hums. Tony draws it slowly up Loki's leg, watching the blue reflect off his leather and bronze. Loki is absolutely still above him, stance tight but somewhat relaxed, hands limp at his sides. Tony wants to look up, he wants to look at him, but he keeps his eyes focused on the scanner and tries to figure out exactly when he stopped seeing Loki as just an enemy. He can smell Loki, a mix of something like earth and spice, maybe from the scotch last night, Tony isn't sure. He waves the scanner over Loki's torso, up the sides of his arms, then to his neck, the blue light ghosting over the long pale stretch of throat. Tony never realized how long Loki's neck was before. Shit.

 

"Close your eyes," Tony says.

 

His voice sounds loud, feels loud.

 

Loki closes his eyes and it scares Tony just how much he trusts him right now.

 

Tony waves the scanner over his face, Loki breathing in and out evenly, and maybe Tony leans forward just a bit, and maybe Loki breathes in a bit deeper, inhaling Tony's scent. Just keep pushing.

 

The scanner beeps and Tony snaps out of it. It's picked up something. He pulls back just as Loki's eyes slide open.

 

"Did it work," he says.

 

Tony sets the device at his computer, letting the hard drive read it.

 

"It'll be a while," Tony says. "I'm going to have to run it through the computer a few times."

 

There's movement behind him as Loki bends down to pick up his overcoat, and then Loki is next to him, leaning over Tony's shoulder to watch the computer read his scans. Tony watches the monitor. Loki stands up straight suddenly, and Tony lets himself turn around to look at him.

 

"Alert me if you find anything," he says. "I'm going to do my own research now."

 

Loki's gone before Tony can finish saying, "All right."

 

--

 

He pinpoints Amora's magic at around eight. The bitch did her homework in hiding herself, but Tony finally gets a lock on her, so he ventures out of his workshop to find Loki.

 

Steve catches him in the hallway.

 

"Hey," he says. "Where have you been all day?"

 

"Working on a brilliant plan to find our magical friend Amora."

 

"And?" Steve is in his civilian clothes, and despite having been in modern times for almost a year now, he still dresses like he's from the forties. "Is that plan working?"

 

"I got a lock on her magic just a few minutes ago," Tony says. "How's that for working?"

 

"Oh," Steve says. "No that's great. Did you tell Fury?"

 

"Eh. Not yet. First I've got to talk to Loki, I'm thinking we can track her together."

 

Steve gives him this look that says everything he's trying to stop himself from saying, and for a minute Tony really doesn't see what he looks so shocked about, and then he remembers.

 

"Oh come on Rogers, don't look at me like that –"

 

"I'm sorry," Steve says. "I just…the thought of you working with Loki is kind of…really weird."

 

Yeah, Tony thinks, I know. Trust me.

 

"Past that rough leather exterior is actually a gooey center," he says.

 

Steve blinks.

 

"Never mind, just, trust me. I know what I'm doing."

 

"Do you?" Steve asks. "This isn't Loki's true self, remember that, okay? He's under an enchantment right now, and after it's lifted he's not going to be so eager to be buddy buddy with you."

 

Leave it to Captain America to sober Tony up. Honestly, he hasn't even really thought of that, and in the back of his mind, he knows that eventually Loki is going to go back to being, well, Loki. He fucking knows that, but it's still a little nice having him the way he is right now. Thor sure as hell isn't complaining. Tony doesn't know why the comment gets him riled, it just does.

 

"Thanks for the advice, Cap," he says.

 

He slaps Steve's shoulder and walks away.

 

When Tony gets to Loki's room, he twists the doorknob lightly to find it's unlocked, so he walks right in. He figures he and Loki have reached a understanding at this point, and Loki isn't going to mind him barging in, especially since that's what Loki does all the time.

 

The room is pretty much as nondescript as the other spare bedrooms in the mansion, white walls and a bed, plus a startling view of the city from the window, which makes Tony think they should be charging Loki to stay here. It takes Tony only a second to find him though, and when he does it's nothing like he expected.

 

Loki is propped up in bed asleep, head drooped down and resting on his chest, hands splayed out in his lap. There is a piece of paper resting next to him that looks about a thousand years old. He looks unbelievably human like this, and Tony hates him a little more for that, for making Tony feel bad for him, for making him feel at all. He must be exhausted, spending all this time trying to locate Amora with no luck, and then saving Tony, and then being in love with Tony, which Tony knows isn't easy for anyone. Just ask Pepper.

 

Tony crosses the length of the room and Loki doesn't stir, which is surprising, because Loki seems like the type to always be on high alert. But maybe he senses it's Tony, and his body lets him relax. Tony reaches out and touches Loki's wrist, jostling him a little to wake him up.

 

"Hey, Loki. My evil valentine."

 

And Loki's eyes slide open and he looks up at Tony, eyes blinking away sleep and then he full out smiles, this wide brilliant flash of teeth and his eyes even crinkle a bit at the corners, his face practically fucking glowing. That moment of defenselessness upon waking, the inability to control what you're trying so fucking hard to. It takes less than half a second for Loki to realize it, but by this point, Tony's already seen it. Loki pushes Tony's hand away, standing, face going dark. He didn't want Tony to see him like this, didn't want anyone to see him like this and hell, now Tony feels guilty all over again.

 

"Hey, shit, look, I was just –"

 

Loki is gone before Tony can finish his poorly constructed sentence, putting up the fence again for as long as he can.

 

Tony swears into the empty space.

 

--

 

The Avengers all have dinner together the next night, a rare moment of peace. Bruce is calm once again but still won't look at Tony without glaring at him, like it's somehow Tony's fault. Maybe it is a little. They gather around the table with Chinese food between them, sharing and stuffing their faces until Clint prods at Tony with his chopsticks.

 

"Hey," he says. "Where's your boyfriend?"

 

"Pickin' up my dry cleaning," Tony says. "What's it to you?"

 

Thor remains suspiciously quiet.

 

"Seriously though," Natasha says. "He's been hanging around you all the time lately."

 

"I don't know, mom." Tony shoves an eggroll into his mouth. "You guys know he's not actually my boyfriend, right? Help me out here, Thor."

 

"I do not feel comfortable speaking of Loki in this manner," Thor says, and Tony wants to scream.

 

"Am I the only one who's glad he's not here right now?" asks Bruce. "No offense, Thor."

 

"I understand."

 

"Okay, new topic," Tony says. "Anyone heard from Viper? Remember him? Tried to kill the mayor the other day?"

 

"If Loki never breaks the spell, do you think Thor will give you his permission to date him?" Clint asks.

 

"I will not," Thor says, just as Tony says, "Go fuck one of your arrows, man."

 

Steve gets them to calm down, because that's what Steve does. The Loki talk ceases, mostly for Thor's sake, but Tony does kind of wish he was there. Only a little bit, though.

 

--

 

Loki shows up silently, appearing in Tony's room that night when he's nearly asleep, a shadow next to his bedside. Tony is face down on the mattress, but he rolls over, lazy, gazing up at Loki, who's watching him somewhat intently.

 

"You missed Chinese food," he says.

 

"It is unwise for you to sneak up on me."

 

Tony sits up. Right, well, he figured Loki might be a little sore about that, but he looks conflicted about something else that isn't just Tony choosing not to knock before he enters. There's a whole side of the bed open for Loki to crawl into, Tony left it that way on purpose, but Loki just stands there, giving nothing away. It's frustrating.

 

"You're too touchy," Tony says. "I didn't mean to sneak up the other day, but hey –"

 

"I am finding it more difficult to control."

 

"What?"

 

Loki fidgets, such a human thing to do, and Tony is torn between turning the lights on or keeping them in the dark.

 

"Amora's magic is…either getting stronger, or my will against it is dissolving."

 

Tony's mouth goes dry. "Oh. Oh. Oh shit."

 

"It is for the best that you no longer stand near me."

 

For some stupid, inconceivable reason, Tony doesn't agree. He keeps talking.

 

"Wow, that's it? Are you kidding me? You're just going to chicken out from it?"

 

Thor's voice in his head, you push too far, and Tony just doesn't care. Something in the back of his head tells him he wants this. He wants to see how far he can push and maybe he just wants. Above him, Loki's breath hitches. Maybe this isn't the way he's supposed to be pushing, no, scratch that, it's definitely not the way he should be pushing this.

 

"Chicken out," Loki echoes.

 

"You know. Run away."

 

"What would you have me do?" Loki's lips curl. "You have no idea what I've thought of doing."

 

"I bet I have some idea," Tony says. "Got a great imagination."

 

Loki's fingers twitch at his sides, alive with their own ideas, and Loki is trying, he's trying so hard not to give in. Tony can see it in his eyes how hard he's trying, and how much he just wants to. And Tony wants him to. He doesn't know when that happened, maybe just now, but he wants Loki to just give in. He wants. He's selfish like that.

 

"Tell me what you want." 

 

"I hunger for you," Loki says, and shit, shit. Tony is only human.

 

He reaches out, no hesitation, no second thoughts. He grabs Loki's wrist and the skin is hot, pulse beating fast underneath.

 

"Stark," Loki says, a warning.

 

Tony doesn't heed it. "C'mere," he says, and pulls.

 

Loki follows, body angling in and then they're kissing. He doesn't really know what he was expecting, Loki is still a god, but when their lips meet, Loki makes a painful sound deep in his throat, like he's been waiting so long for this. Tony wants to swallow him whole. They kiss messy, nowhere near elegant, tongue and teeth and saliva, Tony wrapping a hand around Loki's waist and pulling down further so that Loki is sprawled on top of him in bed, his limbs everywhere.

 

"C'mere," he keeps saying, "Come on."

 

He moves his hands over the fabric of Loki's clothing, searching for a buckle, a snap, a tie, anything. They slide off easy the next minute, magic, Tony thinks briefly, and then he's got his hands all over Loki's bare skin, the sharp bones of his shoulders. Tony strips off his own shirt and then he's down to nothing too. The light of the arc reactor is like a beacon between them, and Tony's always been a little self conscious about it, but Loki doesn't seem to mind at all. He bites kisses all down Tony's neck and Tony can feel him shaking against him, literally shaking with want. It just makes Tony want to take him apart that much more, and knowing that he can do it makes his groin twist tightly.

 

Tony reaches down between them and takes Loki's cock in his hand, hard and heavy. Loki nips at his collar bone, breath coming out ragged now, body tensing as Tony curls a fist around him, stroking slowly. Loki's hair tickles at the bare skin of chest as he moves against him, pushing his hips into Tony's fist, shallow and unsure.

 

"Come on," Tony says, and is amazed how rough his voice sounds. "Just let go, just take it. You've been so good, Loki. Let me take care of you now."

 

He thumbs the head, feeling how wet Loki is already, how close he is. He never thought taking someone apart could feel so good. Loki pushes himself into Tony's fist again, this time more adamant, lifting his head so he can look down at Tony. The light from his arc reactor is making Loki glow, and Tony can see how blown his pupils are, mouth open slightly. His nails are digging into Tony's skin and he can't even bring himself to care, and Loki is staring at him like he's just the greatest thing.

 

"You're so wet," Tony says. "You want to come?"

 

Loki bares his teeth. "Stark –"

 

"Call me Tony, come on," and then he slows down some, leaving Loki thrusting empty against him, frustrated. "You want to come?"

 

"Star – Tony."

 

He could still reach right down and rip out Tony's arc reactor, leave him there dead for everyone to find, but he won't, and Tony knows he won't.

 

"Just tell me what you want and I'll do it for you," he says.

 

Loki doesn't tell him, he shows him. He wraps his hand around Tony's and makes him move, hips canting.

 

"This," he says. "I want this."

 

"Yeah that's good," Tony says, and starts really stroking him again, fist tightening a bit. He's never learned the art of shutting up during sex, but Loki seems too distracted to shut him up, eyes fluttering closed.

 

Tony sees the muscles on his abdomen tighten and release and knows. He strokes Loki through it, the quiet sigh of his orgasm, hand and chest going wet as Loki spills over, arms shaking where they're held on either side of Tony's head and Tony thinks he could spend all night learning Loki's body. He wonders how much more different he is from a human, and then thinks to himself, you just jerked off a god.

 

He tries to sit up, but Loki pushes him back down with a hand to his sternum, holding Tony flat against the mattress. His gaze flickers to Tony's erection, untouched, and then he slides down and takes Tony in his mouth, right down to the hilt.

 

"Shit fuck," Tony says, back arching.

 

Loki's mouth is hotter than he thought it would be, tongue pressing against the underside of his cock, this constant pressure. He can feel when he touches the back of Loki's throat but Loki acts like he doesn't even feel it, just pulls off some to tongue at the slit and taste him. Tony can't fucking breathe for a moment, it's too much and too sudden and he's about to come embarrassingly fast.

 

"Fuck," he says. "Loki you just –"

 

He shuts up again when Loki ghosts a finger past his balls and perineum, whole body going tight. Loki pushes against his entrance with just enough pressure that it's way too much. Tony spills into Loki's mouth, toes fucking curling and back arching right off the bed. Loki waits for him to finish and then pulls off, wiping his mouth with the back of his head. Tony collapses back against the mattress, chest heaving.

 

"Well shit." He could go for a cigar and a scotch. "Shit."

 

Loki curls next to him, something like a hum of agreement coming from his lips. The air conditioner clicks on, cooling the sweat against their skin, and for a long moment Tony tries to feel bad about what just happened, and then realizes that he doesn't and won't. Loki is a solid weight next to him, body pressed against his and Tony throws an arm loosely over him and just lets himself sleep and doesn't think.

 

--

 

Things get weird after that.

 

Not that they weren't already weird.

 

Tony wakes up the next morning and Loki is still asleep next to him, face down in the pillows, bare ass to the world. He runs through last night in his head to see if he regrets it and nope – still doesn't, so he gets up and makes coffee.

 

Loki fucking hates coffee.

 

"This is horrid and bitter," he says, and his nose scrunches up when he says it and Tony doesn't think it's cute at all because that would be absolutely ridiculous and probably a little bit insane.

 

"Do not hate on coffee," Tony says. "Coffee has always been good to me."

 

When Tony actually goes to a meeting that afternoon, Loki goes with him.

 

Everyone, understandably, does a bit of a double take when Loki walks in, but says nothing. Fury pauses in the middle of his speech, watching as Loki takes a seat next to Tony, calm as you please. It's Steve who speaks up.

 

"Sir," he says to Fury. "Is this wise?"

 

"I don't know yet," Fury says.

 

"He aided us in our victory," says Thor, looking for all the world like he wants to go over and sit next to Loki, but his brother still won't even look at him.

 

"That doesn't mean we can trust him," Bruce says, right as Natasha says, "It's a valid point."

 

Clint sniffs from the corner. "Technically he only aided Tony. Just saying."

 

"Were you feeling left out?" asks Loki, head cocked.

 

"The hell I was."

 

"People," Fury says. "Shut up. I did not ask for anyone's opinion."

 

He and Loki lock eyes and just stare at each other like they're communicating silently while everyone else reduces their talk to hushed whispers. Tony doesn't say a thing, even though Steve is trying to question him with his hands across the table. Tony shrugs and politely ignores him. This is what Fury wanted, anyone, or something to this effect – Loki joining the good guys. If he's willing to sit in on a meeting, that's got to be progress, even if Tony thinks it might only be because he wants to be close to Tony. Last night he said he was close to giving in, and then he did give in (which Tony isn't taking credit for, he only helped), so maybe he's just letting the enchantment run its course now. Tony can't be sure.

 

Fury finally breaks his stare down with Loki.

 

"He can stay," he says. "He was present for the attack, he already knows the details, and if he has an ulterior motive, we'll find out. He's still under our roof, don't forget."

 

"Sir," Steve says. "With all due respect –"

 

"It's not open for discussion." Fury's tone is final. "Now the police took one of the perps from the siege in custody. Coulson questioned him, but he's keeping pretty tight lipped about any of Viper's plans."

 

"Were we expecting him to open up?" asks Tony. "Those kids were what, sixteen? Seventeen?"

 

"Seventeen," Fury says.

 

That just rubs Tony all the wrong ways. Hiring kids to do your dirty work is a level of fucked up that Tony doubts even Loki would go for. Actually, Loki probably wouldn't trust a bunch of human kids enough to try it, anyway. Tony folds his arms over his chest, scowls.

 

"Pain in my ass," he says. "I hate HYDRA."

 

Next to him, Loki hums.

 

There's silence for a moment, Fury speaking quietly with Steve about something when Loki's voice pierces through the air again:

 

"Viper is planning another attack on the mayor." Loki glances at his nails, so nonchalant. "Tomorrow, in fact. You may want to up your security."

 

"Brother," Thor says.

 

"How did you –" Fury stops himself. It doesn't matter how he knows. "Is this true?"

 

He looks to Tony like somehow Tony will know, like Loki actually let him into that complex little brain of his, but all Tony can do is stare open mouthed at Loki because he…is he actually helping?

 

"It's true," Loki says. "He's desperate."

 

Whether or not Fury thinks it's a trick or lie or what, he still doesn't take any chances. He's on his phone already dialing out to Coulson, and in the meantime everyone else is just staring at Loki, caught between thanking him and interrogating him because it's just too unreal to be real. Thor stands and goes over to Loki, hesitant still, but looking ready to embrace him.

 

"Brother," he says. "You would help us?"

 

"Do not flatter yourself, Thor." Loki stands. "I did it for myself."

 

He walks out and Thor is left there looking absolutely torn up about it, and then he looks over at Tony like he can help him. Oh fuck you, Tony thinks, this is not my responsibility. Though he supposes he's made it his responsibility, just a bit.

 

He follows after Loki.

 

The god is waiting for him just outside the room, tucked in the corner of the hallway. Tony strolls toward him, arms folded behind his back.

 

"I think everyone is going to want to shake your hand later, provided that information is true."

 

"I do not wish for their thanks," Loki says.

 

"Right," Tony says. He gestures towards the meeting room. "Thor wants to talk to you, you know."

 

Loki's eyes darken. "I do not wish for that, either."

 

It's something of an answer that Tony was expecting. He knows Loki well enough by now to know that Loki isn't going to do anything just because you ask him to. So Tony pushes, literally. He moves into Loki's space, crowding him against the wall of the hallway. Loki allows it, even if his eyes go a fraction wider, he can't help wanting Tony's touch.

 

"What is this," he says.

 

Tony doesn't answer him. He presses a kiss to Loki's neck, one hand snaking between them to palm him through his trousers, just enough pressure that Loki's hips jerk forward some, his hands coming up to grip at Tony's shoulders. The fact that Loki looks something close to startled right now makes Tony feel all the more smug. They're in the open, anyone could walk by, anyone could walk out of the meeting and see them there and Tony is more thrilled than terrified by the prospect of it.

 

He traces the outline of Loki's cock through his pants, thumbing the head gently, feeling the way Loki's grip tightens dangerously at his shoulders, threatening to bruise.

 

"I wonder if I can make you come like this," Tony says against his neck.

 

Loki, to his credit, only shakes once against him.

 

"Are you trying to test me, Mr. Stark?"

 

Tony laughs. They're good like this, they really are. And he thinks, if he kept going, he really could get Loki to come undone like this, which is fucking thrilling to think about, but not why he's here right now. Tony pulls away and Loki tries to follow but Tony stops him with a finger to his lips that Loki looks ready to bite off.

 

"Talk to your bother," he says, and then starts to walk away, a brilliant exit, but he's shoved into the wall the next second, Loki's hand over his neck, possessive and dangerously close to his jugular vein.

 

"Just because I let you bed me does not mean you are free to control me, Tony."

 

"You let me? Pretty sure you were almost begging for it."

 

The pressure that Loki applies to his windpipe is painful and arousing in a really, really weird way. For a moment, Tony thinks he's going to pass out, but Loki's voice snaps him back to reality.

 

"Your mouth will get you into trouble," he says. "As to why you keep insisting I talk to Thor –"

 

"Because you want to talk to him, you little shit. I know you do, so just do it." Tony struggles to swallow and take around Loki's thumb cutting off his air supply. "You think you've got him fooled, but I can see right through you."

 

And that does something, but Loki lets go immediately, pressure gone, and when Tony turns around, he's not there at all.

 

--

 

Viper does exactly what Loki said he would do, and this time they're ready for him.

 

Loki is conveniently not around for anyone to thank him.

 

(Later, Natasha says to Tony, "Loki could make a good teammate," and then winks like she knows something, which is frightening and also a little relieving).

 

--

 

The thing is, Loki does talk to Thor. Tony doesn't know when it happens, he just knows that sometime after he cornered Loki against the wall, Thor and Loki are sparring together like nothing ever happened. At first, everyone thinks they're fighting – Steve comes rushing into the workshop breathless, telling Tony to hurry, and Tony does, but when he gets to the rec room all he sees is Thor pinning Loki to the floor and laughing, and then Loki smirks and disappears, reappears a second later above Thor to hit him from behind but of course Thor is ready. He swings Loki around by the arm and they wrestle until they're too tired to do anything else.

 

"Oh," Steve says, shifting almost uncomfortably next to Tony. "I thought…I didn't realize they'd made up."

 

"Yeah," says Tony. "How about that."

 

And of course Thor tries to thank him for it, later. He swallows Tony from behind in a bear hug, nearly crushing his spine in the process. For a second Tony thinks he's going to try and kill him, but then Thor laughs full bodied.

 

"My friend," he says. "I believe I owe you some thanks."

 

"No, you really don't." Tony straightens his shirt, trying to finish making his sandwich. "I didn't do anything."

 

Thor puts a hand on him, so Tony sets the knife he was using to spread mayonnaise with down and turns.

 

"Loki has changed. I…I realize the enchantment is part of the reason but it is still good. He reminds me of my brother as he was. Do you understand? You have helped him, Tony Stark."

 

Talking about feelings has always made Tony go a big rubbery one. He's no good at it, at love or feelings or anything. Really. He isn't.

 

"But I didn't say anything to him, Thor. I'm not the guy's therapist." I just gave him an orgasm.

 

But once Thor's got an idea in his head, he usually doesn't let it go. "Nonsense," he says. "I take back what I said before. Perhaps it would be the for the best if the enchantment were permanent."

 

Then he laughs again and walks off, and suddenly Tony isn't hungry at all anymore.

 

Feelings are fucking horrible.

 

It occurs to him then that he has the lock on Amora's magic and still hasn't tried to locate her. Tony tells himself he doesn't know why, he's been busy after all, and whatever, they have time anyway, it's not like there's a rush. Loki sure as hell isn't going anywhere. Hell, though, what are they waiting for? He wants Loki to leave, after all, that's the end goal here. That's the whole reason they're doing this. Tony can't remember when the hell he started to lose sight of that goal. He dumps his unfinished sandwich into the trash and goes to his workshop.

 

--

 

Jarvis summons Loki down for him, the god appearing easy by his side, his greeting is his hand resting on Tony's hip like it belongs there.

 

"Your AI said you wanted to speak to me."

 

"Yeah." Tony shifts but doesn't move Loki's hand. "I think it's time we started tracking Amora down, remember that? That was a plan we had or something."

 

Loki nods, and if he looks slightly disappointed in Tony's reasoning for calling him down, Tony pretends he doesn't notice. He still wants to break this spell too, Tony knows he does. He just has to remind him. He's got three computers using a GPS trace to pick up any sort of magic Amora might be emitting. If she so much as lights a flame, Tony will know. So far it's only for a forty mile radius in the city, but it's small steps.

 

"What about your magic? Any luck?"

 

"No," Loki says, purposely vague, which makes Tony think he hasn't done shit to look for her in the past few days.

 

He sits on his workbench, waiting for some kind of pick up. It's a long shot and he knows that, but he's making progress, damn it. He spends so long watching the meter that he doesn't realize Loki's taken a seat next to him, body angled close. He doesn't seem mad at all about the other day, and then Tony makes the mistake of looking at him and Loki kisses him, all open mouth and willing. He kisses back. Whatever.

 

Tony doesn't know anything about love.

 

They make out on his workbench like horny teenagers, and Loki is a very good kisser, learns how Tony likes to be kissed very quickly and he's a god anyway, so Tony wasn't expecting anything less. He bites Loki's lips, playful, and Loki grins into his mouth like this is a game he is enjoying. Tony thinks, I want to take you apart, and then he says it, one rushed whisper of air against Loki's face.

 

"You'd let me, wouldn't you," Tony says. "Jesus."

 

Loki's answer is to climb into his lap, crotches pressed together, his lips ghosting against Tony's ear.

 

"You seem so sure that you're the one in control here," he says, and bites Tony's ear hard, soothes it over with his tongue, that inhumanly long tongue, and presses himself closer to Tony, slotting their lips together again. Tony isn't sure who's in control anymore, he's starting to think it's not either of them. Shit.

 

He pulls Loki up some with two hands on his ass, squeezing, and Loki writhes in his lap and Tony wonders if he'd let him inside of him, if Loki trusts him that much to let him take him. He shudders into Loki's mouth and runs a finger over the fabric of his pants, tracing the outline of them before pressing in between, just enough to let Loki know what he's after, a question right there between them.

 

And then Steve walks in.

 

It's fucking awkward and involves Tony shoving Loki to the other side of the bench and standing, and then sitting because he remembers the massive hard on he has. For his part, Loki looks pissed at being interrupted, not at all embarrassed, arms folded, legs still open in an invitation. Steve looks pointedly at the air between them. There's just silence for a while, horrible, awkward silence while they wait for someone to break first and say something.

 

"I should have knocked," is what Steve says.

 

"If I told you this isn't what it looks like would you believe me?" asks Tony.

 

"Can we talk for a second?" Steve glances at Tony's crotch for a second, then his eyes sweep back up to nothing, embarrassed blush on his cheeks. "I'll be upstairs when you're ready."

 

He makes a pretty hasty retreat. That talk is probably going to be more uncomfortable than this whole situation just was. Tony groans, tilts his head over to Loki.

 

"Did you know he was coming?"

 

"No," Loki says, and Tony can't tell if he's lying or not.

 

In any case, Jarvis should have fucking warned him or set them on fire or something. Anything. Tony stands, smoothing his pants, erection slowly going down. With any luck, Steve is too traumatized to mention anything about this to the others, especially Thor, because Tony thinks he might literally hit him over the head with that hammer of his. Somehow it'll be Tony's fault, not Loki's.

 

--

 

"Okay seriously," Steve says. "What the heck was that?"

 

"Well," Tony desperately needs a drink right now. "What did it look like?"

 

"It looked like you were…making out with Loki." Steve says making out in this scandalized whisper that makes Tony cringe.

 

"Yeah, that might have been what was happening," Tony says.

 

They're in the security of Steve's room, but somehow that just makes it all the more awkward for Tony, like he's been called into his parent's room for a serious discussion about his sex life. He can understand why Steve is maybe, possibly, a little bit concerned. But still. Not his business.

 

"Are you, I mean, Tony what are you doing?" Steve makes a helpless motion with his hands. "You were kissing Loki, he's our enemy, did you know that?"

 

"Of course I know that –"

 

"I just don't understand what you were thinking, Tony. This isn't what it's always going to be like, you know. Once the spell is broken, he's probably going to kill you."

 

Like he needs to be reminded.

 

"Yeah," Tony says. "I know that, okay? I do."

 

"Then why would you get involved with him?"

 

"He's…I don't know…" Tony grapples to find the right words. He doesn't honestly know what the answer is, or at least that's what he tells himself. He doesn't know why he does half the things he does. "He's different now, I don't know. I can't throw the guy a little sympathy?"

 

"Different, how? How is this sympathy –" he pauses suddenly, thinking, considering something. It's actually a little terrifying to watch when the realization hits him, because then Steve stares at Tony like he's gone crazy. "Tony are you…do you have feelings for Loki?"

 

"Oh my god," Tony says. "Sorry, pop, but I think I'm going to have to end this family time discussion. I need to head to my art therapy class and paint out my feelings."

 

"I'm serious," Steve says, just as Tony turns away to leave because no, no they are not going to have this discussion. The last thing Tony wants to do is actually talk about this. But Steve grabs him by the arm and spins him around, leveling him with a stare that tells Tony he's not going anywhere for a while.

 

"Tony, just talk to me. We're friends, right? Do you like Loki?"

 

"Define 'like'."

 

"Tony."

 

"Steve it's fine, okay?" Tony shakes his arm off. This is not a conversation he wants to have again. Ever. He likes having Loki around. That's what he knows. He can see a side to Loki that he wasn't able to see before. That's what he knows. "We're close to finding Amora anyway, so you can forget I soiled your virgin eyes."

 

"Do you even still want to find her?" Steve calls after him.

 

"Of course I do," Tony says, pivoting back. "What the hell kind of question is that?"

 

"It's just that you seem to be getting real comfortable with Loki."

 

Tony's eyebrows shoot up. That's not fair, he's had no choice. Steve doesn't know anything about it, and suddenly Tony is pissed at him for even thinking that he knows what he's talking about. He doesn't. Tony walks away without answering him.

 

--

 

They don't have to find Amora.

 

She finds them.

 

Mid afternoon and they're all in the living room, crowded in front of the TV and watching reruns of I Love Lucy. Tony is sitting between Loki and Natasha, ignoring the sidelong glances Natasha is giving him, which he's sure she learned from spending too much time with Clint. At any rate, he's just finished explaining to Loki why there's a laugh track attached to sitcoms, because yes, people do need a cue when to laugh. That's when Coulson comes in and everyone frowns because Coulson never comes in with good news.

 

"Good news," he says, and Tony snorts.

 

"You're retiring," says Clint.

 

Coulson smiles.

 

"Not that good. We have reports that Amora's just tried to break some HYDRA agents out of holding."

 

That gets everyone's attention. They glance immediately to Loki, who glances immediately to Tony, who glances immediately at nothing. This is a good thing, they've been waiting for this for a long time. Still, for whatever reason, Tony hesitates to get up on the couch. Everyone does. But they finally pull themselves up when Thor stands and calls for Mjölnir, set and ready on revenge for Loki.

 

"You ready for this?" Steve asks, following Tony out.

 

Tony nods.

 

Of course he's ready.

 

--

 

The plan is as follows: Tony and Loki and Thor will get Amora, and everyone else will make sure the agents doesn't make a break for it. It sounds simple enough, which makes Tony think it won't be simple at all.

 

--

 

He's right. Tony hates being right, sometimes.

 

--

 

"She's in the park! Thor, cut her off!"

 

"Fear not, Stark!"

 

There was an explosion, that's all Tony really knows, but now they're hauling ass into Central Park trying to stop Amora from escaping. Everyone else is dealing with Skurge, but at least the agents are still safely behind bars.

 

Loki is somewhere behind them, hopefully thinking up a brilliant plan to get Amora to reverse her magic.

 

Thor does what he's told – he hits the ground with his hammer so hard it ruptures, and Amora is thrown backwards like a ragdoll, right past Tony until she collides with the ground again, bouncing a few times before skidding to a stop.

 

"Well damn, Thor," Tony says into his comm. He meant business when he said he was going to make her pay.

 

Before Amora can get to her feet, Loki hits her with his magic, a neat line of green that wraps around her wrists and ankles, something like a bind so that she can't move. She hisses ugly on the ground, trying to worm her way out of the binding, but no luck. Loki approaches her with a  malicious smile, hands glowing green.

 

"Enchantress," he says. "We meet again, it's been too long."

 

"Go to Hel," she spits.

 

"Enough games," Tony says. "I have a date with a bottle of scotch, so can we just hurry this along?"

 

Amora hisses, uncooperative, not that Tony was expecting any other action from her. She's probably been laughing herself silly ever since that day on the roof, maybe watching them, who knows. When she takes too long to answer, Loki tightens her binds. Tony can hear her bones clicking together, dangerously close to breaking.

 

"Just break the damn spell. Come on already."

 

"Why," Amora says. "Do you tire of each other already?"

 

"Nah, we eloped."

 

She laughs despite the fact that her skin is going purple, circulation cut off from Loki's binding. Tony wants to tell him to let up a bit, maybe this is too much, but he says nothing. Even Thor remains silent. Loki twists his wrist a bit, Amora's body lifting upright.

 

"You will release me from this spell," he says.

 

"Is that really what you want?" Amora's head cocks and Tony knows immediately what she's trying to do. "Are you sure you want go back to the way it was before, when I can offer you so much more?"

 

"Seriously, shut up," Tony says. "Break the spell and you can go on your merry evil bitch way, but stop with the head games. That's Loki's deal."

 

"We should take her to Fury," says Thor, eyes moving rapidly between them. He wants to do something, anything, but he doesn't move.

 

Amora makes a tsk sound like they've been inconveniencing her, not the other way around. Tony thinks they're going to have to start convincing her another way when she closes her eyes and murmurs something in a different language, hopefully to break the spell, not cast another. Loki takes a step back, maybe a moment of hesitation or something else entirely, but stands his ground. This is it, Tony thinks. And it feels weird, happening this way, but Tony's not sure how he imagined it ending. It just seems so anticlimactic.

 

"There," Amora says, opening her eyes. "The spell is undone."

 

Tony turns to Loki.

 

"How do you feel?"

 

Loki doesn't look at him. He stares at the ground and after a moment shudders with his whole body like he's shaking something off. It's only after that he looks up at Tony, really just staring at him. Tony suddenly feels hotter in his suit, and remembers Loki against him, Loki's mouth on his, Loki's quiet little sigh when he kissed him. 

 

"Wonderful," Loki says, and grins, the same slightly psychotic grin Tony's used to seeing from before.

 

It occurs to him right then that Loki might keep good on his promise and kill him. Maybe turn him into a snake and cut his head off. Drink his blood. He doesn't. What Loki does do is disappear. Just like that, he's gone, no trace, nothing.

 

It's a shitty move for two reasons:

 

1)    He's basically just run away.

2)    Amora is now free from her binds.

 

She recognizes it within a second and throws Thor and Tony backwards with a blast, sending them rolling halfway across the park. They're up quick enough, but Tony already knows that Amora's not going to be there, and she isn't. Thor runs the length of the park, searching for her and Loki, but they're not there. They could anywhere. Tony punches the ground.

 

--

 

He gets hounded with a million fucking questions that he doesn't want to answer, shit like, "Where's Loki?" and, "Are you guys not in love anymore?" Most of the stupid questions are from Clint. Tony is just tired, and now that Loki is gone he just wants to sit in his workshop and be drunk and not have to worry about Loki watching him while he sleeps. As far as he's concerned, everything is back to normal. And yeah, maybe he got a little too close to Loki at one point, but the stakes were never real. It was a ruse, an enchantment, and now it's over. Tony ignores the way Steve and Thor are looking at him and makes an eloquent escape to his workshop for the emergency supply of scotch.

 

"You appear to be missing someone," Jarvis says when he enters.

 

Tony flicks off the room, going straight for the liquor cabinet. Glass poured, he takes a seat at his main computer, eyes boring into the monitor. He needs to do something, keep himself busy, maybe create a new stabilizer for his suit. He just doesn't want to think. Reluctantly, and only to himself, Tony will admit having Loki around was almost kind of fun. For a bit. It was more fun when he was getting laid because of it. Tony finishes his first glass.

 

It's too quiet without him around, though.

 

"I take it you managed to successfully locate The Enchantress?" Jarvis asks.

 

"Bingo."

 

"So your Loki problem is no longer applicable?"

 

Problem. It was a problem, wasn't it? Tony almost forgot that.

 

"No," he says. "It's not something to worry about anymore."

 

He pours another glass.

 

--

 

Steve finds him somewhere between his third and fourth glass and a diagnostic testing of his rockets. He sniffs when he enters the workshop, nose scrunched in disapproval like he can already smell the alcohol. No matter how many times Tony begs him not to, Steve never stops giving him the 'look' when he finds him drunk, the 'not angry but disappointed' one. Tony fucking hates that look.

 

"We're going to have a talk, aren't we," he says, chin resting in his hands.

 

Steve pulls a chair up.

 

"You like having your life back the way it was?"

 

"I am ecstatic," Tony says. He waves his glass. "And celebrating."

 

Steve gives him a smile.

 

"Yeah, I see that. Listen I need to debrief Coulson later so…any idea where Amora went?"

 

"Nope."

 

For whatever reason, Steven hesitates before his next question.

 

"And Loki?"

 

Tony shrugs. "Who knows. Even when he was hanging around he didn't tell me much."

 

"I guess you guys didn't do a lot of talking," Steve says.

 

Tony finally looks away from the computer. Surely, Captain America did not just make a somewhat sexual joke at him. Steve purses his lips a bit, glancing down before looking back up at Tony. He's almost daring him to say otherwise.

 

"Mr. Rogers, I am scandalized by your language."

 

"I should report it to Coulson," Steve says. "But I'm not. I'd really rather avoid that conversation."

 

"There's technically nothing to report."

 

"Tony, you were intimate with him." Steve gets an uncomfortable look on his face but doesn't stop. "That's not nothing. And who knows how far that could have gone if Amora hadn't shown back up."

 

Tony puts his glass down because Steve is serious, and Tony is not serious, and also not drunk enough to deal with this. He'll never be drunk enough to deal with this, but Steven isn't about to back down. Steve and Tony's views on love are vastly different, and that's putting it nicely. If Steve knew half of the shit Tony's done…well.

 

"Steve, contrary to what you may think, just because Loki and I touched danger zones doesn't mean I'm in love with the guy."

 

"Danger zones –"

 

"And he was only acting that way because he was under a spell. The truth is I'm just horny. He was there. It happened. End of story."

 

The uncomfortable look Steve was sporting a minute ago somehow gets more uncomfortable, and Tony is tempted to over Steve a glass of scotch to ease him through it. He only just resists. What he really wants, what he needs, is for Steve to just go.

 

"Okay," Steve says. "That was…okay."

 

He stands up, ready to make his own exit. He knows Tony well enough to know when he's beyond talking to, and now is definitely one of those times. He'll probably harass him tomorrow morning when Tony is good and hung over. Steve starts walking away and Tony turns back to his monitor, suddenly forgetting when the hell it was he was working on.

 

Before he steps out, Steve turns back to Tony.

 

"Why do you think he didn't kill you? After the spell was broken, I mean."

 

It's funny because Tony's been thinking about that himself and at the same time trying not to think about it all. He doesn't know. He has theories, but they're just that – theories. So he doesn't answer Steve, and eventually, he leaves.

 

Tony is alone again.

 

--

 

Things go back to 'normal'. A day goes by and everyone is still waiting for Loki to show back up, grinning with all his teeth and ready for mischief. But then another day passes and Bruce stops being cautious around every corner, and then suddenly it's been a whole week of no Loki. So things are 'normal' again.

 

As far as Fury is concerned, project Turn Loki from the Dark Side is a total failure, thanks entirely to Tony, and he does a spectacular job of ignoring him all week, like that's a punishment or something. Tony's sure an awkward talk is soon to follow. The only thing that makes it worse is that Thor hasn't stopped staring at him all week, like he's waiting for Tony to spill some secrets about Loki to him. He actually does feel a little bad, because Thor looks the way he did when Loki first showed up on earth – lost and despondent. Poor guy only just got his brother back, and now Loki's disappeared again, presumably back to scheming and plotting. Tony almost wishes Loki was still there, just so he could yell at him, say, Look at Thor, he's acting like a kicked puppy because of you, shithead.

 

But then another week passes and Loki still doesn't show up, and Thor stops staring after him and Tony almost forgets that the whole thing ever happened. Almost. It's just that he still finds himself looking around at times to see if Loki is there out of habit, and it's strangely disappointing to find out that he's not.

 

Coulson does eventually talk to him at the most inconvenient moment possible.

 

Tony walks out of the bathroom and he's just there, creepy fucking Coulson, leaning against the adjacent wall.

 

"We need to talk," he says.

 

"Christ, were you waiting for me to finish peeing?"

 

"Did Loki ever talk to you about his motivations? Future plans, anything like that?" says Coulson, completely ignoring him.

 

Tony wipes his hands dry on his pants, snorting.

 

"Uh, no."

 

"Stark, if he told you anything, it's pertinent information and I need to know."

 

"I hear you," Tony says. "Sorry, Coulson. We didn't get around to talking about his evil schemes."

 

Coulson moves off the wall. "All that time spent together? What did you talk about?"

 

He doesn't like the way that question sounds at all. It's too much of an innuendo, and it makes Tony think about Loki in his bed, arching into his hand. He doesn't need to be thinking about that.

 

"Not you, sorry," Tony says. "I didn't want to upset you but hey, that's the truth."

 

"And I'm truly hurt," says Coulson.

 

He starts walking away backwards, keeping his eyes on Tony for as long as possible. It's creepy, he's creepy. Tony frowns.

 

"If you remember anything, I'll be here," he says. "I hope you didn't forget to flush in there."

 

Tony snorts.

 

"Yeah, fuck you."

 

--

 

Tony knows about desire. He knows about the ache of it, the heat that starts low in his belly and spreads all over. He knows the shiver that comes when teeth are scraping over skin, sweat dripping slow into the hollows of bones. Tony knows a fucking lot about desire.

 

Jarvis does not alert him when Loki comes back because Jarvis isn't programmed to detect fucking gods. Not yet, anyway. What happens is Tony wakes up because something feels off, and his mind tells him to get up, and quick. He sits up in the dark and calls for the lights and there's Loki, sitting neat on the edge of his bed.

 

Tony is slightly relieved that it's only Loki, but only slightly.

 

"Did you decide to come kill me?"

 

He can't bring himself to be that afraid. Loki looks just as good as Tony remembers him, and just as unstable, but without the unwilling desire to be Tony's best friend.

 

From the edge of the bed, Loki cocks his head.

 

"What makes you think that," he says.

 

"A number of things, starting with you no longer being involuntarily in love with me," Tony says, wondering if he should have Jarvis alert the others.

 

He decides not to. He'll know in a minute whether or not that was a mistake.

 

Loki stands, rounds the bed carefully until he's standing next to Tony, this predatory look in his eyes that makes Tony think he really is going to murder him. The Avengers may just wake up tomorrow to find Tony's head on a plate.

 

"I'm not here to kill you," Loki says.

 

Tony sits up straighter. Loki is standing closer now, eyes flickering to the bed and Tony doesn't quite understand. The spell is broken, he knows that for sure, and the residual effects are probably gone, so. So.

 

"Though I probably should." Loki makes a thoughtful sound in the back of his throat. "You tried to manipulate me, enjoyed my suffering, took your pleasure from it, in more ways than one. I should be playing in your innards."

 

"So what's stopping you," Tony says. "Not that I'm encouraging it, I like my innards where they are."

 

"I'm not sure."

 

"Bullshit," Tony says.

 

Loki grins. "You're right."

 

And then he straddles Tony on the bed, quick, lithe. Tony can't even get his next breath out before Loki's lips are on his, tongue working its way into his mouth. It's shocking enough that he opens his mouth, and feels good enough that he kisses back. His hands go immediately to Loki's waist, pulling him closer. Fuck, okay, maybe he did miss this a little bit. Loki is an aggressive kisser, biting and coaxing and demanding, fingers slipping under the hem of Tony's undershirt to feel the skin there. He pulls away with his mouth red and swollen from Tony's teeth, pupil's wider. Tony isn't really sure what he's supposed to think.  

 

"What," he breathes, brain already short circuiting. "Wait, what is –"

 

"You still want," Loki says, and Tony can't decide whether that's a question or a statement, but he nods. That's good enough for him. Loki crawling into his bed without saying a word was good enough for him to begin with. For some insane, unfathomable reason, Loki wants him, he wants and he's going to take, and Tony is okay with that. He pulls his shirt off and then cranes his neck up to kiss Loki again, coaxing that tongue back into his mouth. This is his answer. He tangles his fingers in Loki's hair, threading through the tangles and drifting to the ends, hands ending up on Loki's shoulders. Tony fiddles with the material there.

 

"Has anyone ever told you how annoying this outfit is?" He mouths Loki's earlobe. "Seriously, get naked."

 

Loki is about ten seconds later, clothes shrugged off and onto the floor like it was that easy. His skin is so pale, all that lean, whipcord muscle, that long long neck. Tony licks up it, one long stripe and then follows it with his teeth, listening to ragged breath that it pulls from Loki's mouth. He shoves Tony down onto his back, lifting his hips to strip him of his sleeping pants, and then it's nothing but skin. For a moment, Loki does nothing but stare at him. His eyes follow the line of Tony's jaw, down his neck and collarbones, stopping for a second longer on his arc reactor before sweeping downward. He looks appreciative, definitely, but also a little like he's trying to see right through Tony's skin. Loki looks frustrated at Tony, but also distracted, and Tony takes that opportunity to pull Loki down and roll them so Loki's pressed against the mattress instead.

 

Instead of angry, Loki looks absolutely amused by Tony trying to take control, shifting to fit his legs around Tony's hips. He drags Tony forward until he's flush against his ass in an invitation that is blatant.

 

"Oh," Tony says, and then scrambles to find lube.

 

The first press of his finger inside Loki is tighter than he expected, and he watches Loki's face for any sign of discomfort, but the god gives him none. He hasn't really done this since he was still in school, and even then it was rushed, awkward fumbling, lanky adolescent limbs. But Loki seems absolutely sure about everything, and opens easy for a second finger, almost looks impatient for it.

 

"That's it, you want another?" Tony swallows and puts a hand over Loki's stomach muscles to feel them quiver. "You take it really well."

 

Loki's laugh is a breathless one, and he circles Tony's wrist with his hand and guides him, shows him exactly what he wants. Three fingers deep and Tony is regretting using this much lube. Loki is hot inside, wet and clenching and Tony can feel the muscle trying to draw him in now, not let him leave. He looks down and sees his fingers disappear inside him, all the way up to the knuckle.

 

He adds the fourth without even thinking about it, it just slips in. Loki hisses once and Tony knows he's pushed just a bit too far again, but he doesn't pull out, and Loki doesn't tell him to. He has to swallow heavy at the sight of it, of himself pushed up inside of Loki, almost his whole hand and shit, Loki would let him.

 

"Fuck, I'm close to – Loki, my fucking hand."

 

Tony feels like he's going to fall apart, come right now without Loki doing anything to him. He's shaking, feels so needy for something to happen, and Loki smiles at him like he knows exactly what he's doing. Of course he does. Tony eases his fingers out.

 

When he first presses in, Loki arches, draws him in deeper until Tony is all the way inside of him. It's fucking tight, and Tony wants to say something, but his breath is literally caught in his throat, threatening to choke him. Loki guides him with his hands on Tony's shoulders, pulling the strings. Tony can't do much about it.

 

"I hope this isn't your attempt to live up to your reputation," Loki says, an obvious goad.

 

It works.

 

"What do you know about my reputation," Tony says.

 

"Only rumors, I'm sure."

 

He finally gets his bearings, hips thrusting until he picks up a rhythm. Loki rolls up to meet him, shivering every now and again like he feels unbelievably good. There's a voice in the back of Tony's head, telling him how long he's been waiting for this, how much he's tried not to think about it, about the feeling of Loki moving underneath him, that body responding to his touch. Tony grips Loki's cock and the god cries out, ass flush against Tony's pelvis. They spent so much time wanting, and now they're taking.

 

Just when Tony thinks he's about to come, Loki pushes him away with a foot to his chest. There's a moment of panic when he's forced out of Loki, body protesting. Loki shoves so that Tony is lying on the mattress and then climbs over him, eyes raw with intent. Tony understands then what he's doing. He slides back down onto Tony's cock and Tony can only watch as it slips back inside of him, Loki's thighs shaking. Then he proceeds to ride Tony into the mattress. It's intense, moves almost too fast at times. Loki plants his hands on Tony's chest and moves his hips like nothing Tony has ever seen before. It's like he's trying to see if Tony can keep up with him, which he can. He definitely can. He keeps a tight hold on Loki's sides, hands sliding down to knead at his ass, spread his cheeks wider like he can stretch Loki even further.

 

Loki bends down to kiss him, looks like he does without even thinking about it, tongue moving messy and uncoordinated against Tony's own. It's the change in angle that has him coming, and he cries out in Tony's mouth. Even when he starts to shake from overstimulation, Loki doesn't stop circling his hips, attempting to get Tony to orgasm, which doesn't take long at all.

 

"Jesus shit," Tony breathes. "Loki."

 

"Yes," Loki says, shifting up so Tony can slip out of him.

 

He doesn't say anything after that. He settles against the pillows, so Tony joins him, body aching. If Tony is supposed to say something clever right now, he's at a complete loss. His brain feels like it's functioning at half its normal capacity. Absently, he calls for lights, engulfing the room in darkness once more.

 

"I don't supposed you're going to tell me what that was all about."

 

"Mm," Loki says, voice already thick with sleep.

 

"You know…" Tony motions in the darkness weakly. "The sex. Not that it wasn't…really fucking amazing."

 

"I wanted you," Loki says, like it's that simple.

 

Tony frowns at the ceiling.

 

Maybe it is.

 

--

 

He's surprised to find Loki still in his bed the next morning, this long pale line wrapped in his sheets. Loki is asleep still, so quiet that he could pass for dead, chest barely rising and falling as he breathes. Tony watches him, the way his hair curls at the ends, the thin skin of his eyelids, lashes sweeping downward. He did hate Loki, at one point, he definitely didn't like him.

 

Tony takes a shower, and then goes to the kitchen for coffee (Coulson finally supplied them with a new machine).

 

It's early enough that no one is there, and he leans against the wall while the coffee brews. He can still smell Loki on his skin, even after the shower, even with the smell of coffee everywhere. Tony doesn't mind it, not at all. He pours himself a cup of coffee, knowing better than to make one for Loki. But he does make a stop at the pantry.

 

He goes back upstairs with a cup of a coffee and a bag of those little powdered donuts you can get from the supermarket.

 

Loki is awake now, standing in front of the floor to ceiling windows, completely naked. He looks like a statue someone carved from marble. Tony clears his throat.

 

"You trying to give the city a show, there?" he asks.

 

Loki turns, eyes fixed on Tony's face, then trailing down to the bag in his hand.

 

"Thought you might want breakfast," Tony says.

 

"How hospitable."

 

Loki steps towards him, reaching out to grab the bag. He pulls a donut out, realizing at once what it is. Suddenly, he looks a lot more pleased.

 

"They're tiny," he says.

 

"Mini-donuts." Tony pops one into his mouth. "Kind of like donut vitamins."

 

If Loki doesn't know what that means, he says nothing. He eats one, then grabs another. There's just something about a god liking donuts that is incredibly amusing to Tony. He'd feed them to Loki all day, if he could, just to watch him lick the sugar from his fingertips. Loki does that exact thing the next second, almost as if he's read Tony's mind. Tony sips his coffee loudly. And then it gets a little awkward. Loki starts gathering his clothes from the floor, and Tony watches his backside dumbly before remembering that Loki is still a villain. He's still fucking evil. He can't just let him go. Can he?

 

"Off so soon?" he asks.

 

Loki raises his brows at him.

 

"Was there something else you wanted from me?"

 

So many things, Tony thinks.

 

"I don't think I can just let you leave," he says.

 

Loki's reaction is just as Tony suspected – he grins, almost challenging Tony to try and stop him. Of course he's going to leave. He can leave whenever he wants, do whatever he pleases. He's still so determined to play the villain.

 

"Only you will," Loki says. He circles Tony, and it reminds him of a hawk waiting to snatch a rabbit, talons out, mouth already open. "Because I've played your game, and now you get to play mine."

 

He leans in mouths Tony's neck all wet and filthy, and Tony grabs his wrist, maybe to steady himself, maybe to keep him there. He can't quite tell.

 

"Not the way it works." Tony tightens his grip on Loki's wrist. "It can't always go your way."

 

"Are you going to try and stop me?"

 

"I haven't decided yet," Tony says, because Loki feels good, his mouth, his body. It just feels good, and Tony likes him, and he's pretty sure Loki likes him and how that fucking happened, he doesn't really know. It just did.

 

Loki pulls away and finishes putting on his clothes and Tony just watches. He's just as threatening naked as he is dressed, and just as beautiful. Tony feels dizzy, a little of out control. Shit. If Loki leaves now, will he come back?

 

"Last chance," Loki says, standing straight.

 

"Can you promise me you won't blow anything up?" Tony asks, because it's worth a shot.

 

"That would just keep you from wondering," says Loki, and then he's gone.

 

He's gone.

 

It's a small miracle that Jarvis says nothing about it.

 

--

 

Loki doesn't blow anything up. At least, nothing Tony can pin on him. And he does come back - a series of sometimes terrifying entrances that Tony doesn't question because he knows better. They've set up silent rules again, and they're following them. For now.

 

a)    It starts with Tony waking up to Loki pushing him into the bed, rutting against him still fully clothed, and Tony shoves his face into the pillow to keep from screaming, and then

 

b)    it's Tony leaving a box of donuts in his workshop, hoping Loki will show up, which he does, and then Tony grabs him from behind, hands still covered in grease and oil, until Loki is arching into his touch, and

 

c)    one time, Loki tumbles into his room bloody as hell, hair wild and tangled. Tony doesn't ask him what happened, he just gets the first aid kit from the bathroom and wipes the blood away, looking for any sign of injury. There isn't any, which makes Tony think none of the blood was Loki's. And that night, Loki isn't gentle, he's the exact opposite – opening Tony up with his fingers and then sliding hot inside of him, Tony holding him there with a punishing grip, and then

 

d)    there's a magpie sitting on a streetlamp one day when they're all fighting, just sitting and watching, so out of place that Tony just knows, and then it looks like Thor notices too, because he steps toward it, but the bird flies off. It isn't until later that night that Loki shows up in Tony's workshop like he hasn't done anything. "You're a little shit," Tony says, and kisses him, undresses him slow until Loki is naked on the bench, and then Tony bends him over. He licks a wet trail with his tongue down the center of his spine until he gets to his ass and then he pushes his tongue in, taking and taking until Loki shoves back against him, breath heavy, saying, "Please." The strangest times are when it's

 

e)    quiet between them, sometimes just after sex, the sweat cooling on their skins. They hang around each other mostly naked, Tony working, Loki watching. It's weird because he actually understands science, so Tony doesn't mind him watching, actually enjoys it. He just enjoys Loki being there, and Loki seems so distracted by Tony that he doesn't have time to scheme or plot. Well, most of the time,

 

f)    because a few times he's been woken up by Clint freaking out that someone replaced all his bows with sticks, and there was the time that the Quinjet was out of fuel because it had been replaced by milk, and where Loki got a near unlimited supply of that Tony doesn't want to know.  

 

Thor approaches him one night in the kitchen when things are quiet. Bruce is in India for a conference, and Natasha and Clint are on some mission together, though Tony suspects they're actually on a romantic getaway, because who gets sent to Hawaii for world peace? At any rate, Tony is snacking on popcorn when Thor sits next to him, unassuming as hell, but Tony knows better after hanging around Loki for so long.

 

"What's up, big guy? How's your hammer?"

 

"I have reason to believe that every time you ask me that, you are speaking of my manhood," Thor says.

 

"It's good reason." Tony sets the bowl on popcorn between them, and Thor grabs a handful. "How's Asgard?"

 

"Tense, but not of great concern. Have you heard from my brother?"

 

Tony chokes on a kernel. He's heard from Loki in a lot of ways, but he doubts Thor needs to know that. In fact, he definitely doesn't need to know that.

 

"Heard?" Tony says. "Nope. No, I can't say that I have."

 

"Odd, because he tells me otherwise."

 

Tony chokes again, this time on nothing. He stares at Thor, who only regards him with a level stare, like he's taken a lot of time to think this through, and decided that he will not break Tony's neck. Tony swallows and appreciates the fact that he's still alive.

 

"You've seen Loki?"

 

"We communicate on occasion," Thor says. "He is my brother."

 

Tony wants to run away, because he can sense that they're about to talk about feelings, and that's not something Tony is good with. He and Loki don't talk much, which is best for everyone, themselves included. We'd destroy each other, Tony thinks, knows.

 

"Look," Tony says, "we're not dating or betrothed and whatever word you guys use. Or does that make it worse? Would you prefer we were dating, because I gotta say, I don't think the world would take too kindly to me taking Loki to a candlelight dinner –"

 

"It is really none of my business, or so Loki says." Thor doesn't look like he agrees with that at all. "But you would do well to be alert around him."

 

"Um, thanks?"

 

"He will never be the way he was," Thor says. "You'll never have the fortune of seeing him as he was before, Tony Stark. But I will love him regardless. He is kin. Do you understand?"

 

"No," Tony says.

 

Thor stands, taking another handful of popcorn. Tony feels like someone glued him to his fucking seat.

 

"You both are more alike than you realize," Thor says. "What I mean is, you are good for each other, yet also the worst match."

 

He starts to leave, just like that, like he's said his peace and there's no more. Tony feels like he just got sat down before prom night and given 'the talk', and his appetite is gone, now he just wants to drink himself into a coma. Thor pivots back just as he gets to the hallway, like he remembered something important.

 

"Oh, yes," he says, "and if you damage Loki in any way, I will be forced to punish you severely."

 

Then he leaves.

 

Tony sits in the kitchen for a long time before he decides to move again.

 

"Fucking gods," he says, and gets a drink.

 

Two days later, it all goes to shit. Loki shows up at exactly midnight and he and Tony shower together, Tony dropping to his knees on the tile to give Loki a blowjob, to feel the water and clean skin in his mouth. Then they sit around and it's same old, same old. Only something feels off. Loki notices it, and then Tony notices it, too. It's quiet, and that's just not right.

 

"Jarvis," Tony says. "Give me a perimeter sweep."

 

It only takes a few second, and then,

 

"Sir, Director Fury is on his way."

 

"Fuck."

 

SHIELD agents outside the windows, and Tony knows exactly what's going on. Loki stands, snarling, ready to kill, which is the exact opposite of what Tony needs him to do, that's not going to help at all. There are agents blowing through his window, the glass shattering and Tony grimaces, holding an arm out to keep Loki back.

 

"Get out of here," he says, and Loki hesitates for a moment, so eager to spill blood, but he listens. He goes.

 

Then it's just a few dozen SHIELD agents and Nick Fury standing in front of Tony's bed.

 

"You know," Tony says. "I have a door."

 

--

 

On a scale of one to ten, ten being the most fucked Tony could be, he rates himself at about a twelve. He's alone with Fury in one of those rooms that lock from the outside, which isn't Tony's biggest concern, it's the fact that Fury looks ready to carve his eyes out with a spoon. The other being that he had a full glass of scotch upstairs, and he could really use that right about now. It's minutes upon minutes of Fury just standing there staring him down, and finally Tony can't take it anymore.

 

"Was it really necessary to blow out my windows?"

 

Fury slams his fist onto the table.

 

"I should be asking you why a known villain was in your bedroom half dressed," he says. "In fact, I think that is an excellent question."

 

"How detailed do you want me to get?"

 

"Stark, this is serious." Fury says it strangely calm. "Do you have any idea what would happen if people found out you were…being intimate with Loki? Do you understand the repercussions this organization would face, not to mention your public image? Or were you too busy thinking with your dick?"

 

"Ouch, look –"

 

"No, you look. Loki is unstable, Tony. If he decided to turn on you, do you have any idea what would happen?"

 

It feels a bit like being thrown into a tub of cold water. Tony knows, because Pepper did just that to him one night, after a spectacular bout of drinking. He twists and fidgets in his seat because no, he hasn't thought about that, not really. It's crossed his mind, and he's just pushed it away.

 

"He's not going to," Tony says.

 

"How can you be so sure?"

 

"I can't, alright? I can't. But that's not just – he's – and even if he did –"

 

"You have no idea what you've gotten yourself into," Fury says, and Tony feels like a little boy again, scolded by dad for playing with a toy he shouldn't have.

 

There's silence between him and Fury, Tony refusing to look at him. He hates that disappointed look, so he just stares at the table, which makes him feel even more like a kid in trouble.

 

"Would it be worth noting that he hasn't pulled any shit since we've been hanging out? Because I think it is."

 

"He also hasn't exactly been rushing to join the good guys," Fury says.

 

"Right," Tony says, "am I under arrest, or something?"

 

Fury just stares at him.

 

"Okay, then. I'm leaving."

 

He stands up and Fury doesn't stop him, just watches him go, leveling him with that awful stare again.

 

"It's your job to protect this earth," Fury calls after him.

 

Tony flicks him off and then goes and gets drunk in his room, surrounded by glass and the sound of the city and the lingering smell of Loki.

 

--

 

Loki doesn't come back, not that Tony was expecting him to.

 

Not that he was waiting.

 

--

 

Dr. Doom tries to blow up the city, which is nothing new.

 

Tony is almost disappointed that it's not Loki.

 

"Doombot! On your left, Tony."

 

"Thanks, Cap."

 

From the sky, the damage looks worse, and Tony can see Hulk even over the buildings, scooping up hoards of citizens and carrying them to safety. Tony blasts the bot and it goes spiraling down, but another just pops up in its place. He has to admit things were far more interesting when Loki was releasing alien armies and literal hellhounds on the city. He fucking hates Doombots.

 

"Tony, you need to get down here," Steve says, voice panicked.

 

He takes care of the Doombot and then flies down to meet Steve and Thor. The streets are still filled with people panicking and running in every direction, soot raining from the sky.

 

"What is it?" Tony asks.

 

"There's another bomb."

 

"You fucking kidding me? Doesn't Victor get tired of this shit?"

 

"It could be in any of the buildings," Thor says.

 

"We should evacuate everyone."

 

"There isn't time," Tony says. "Shit. Just get as many people out as you can. I'll find it."

 

He's already up and moving before Steve and Thor can try and say anything else to him.

 

"Tony, stop!" Steve calls after him, but Tony doesn't listen.

 

"Jarvis, we need to do a sweep, old school."

 

"Sir, the likelihood –"

 

"Likelihood my ass, just do it."

 

The first two bombs went off within five minutes of each other, which means Tony has got about two minutes before the other one goes off, which means they're all probably fucked. He does a sweep of the block, looking for any unusual heat signatures, pulling out all the stops while Steve and Thor try desperately to get everyone out. Hulk can only carry so many people at a time.

 

"Sir," Jarvis says, "I'm not finding anything."

 

"I know! I know, shit."

 

Tony circles back around, and still nothing. He's got less than a minute. Steve's voice comes over the comm again.

 

"Anything?"

 

"Nothing. How many civilians are still downtown?"

 

"We've evacuated a lot but…Tony there's still too many here. The force of the blast will –"

 

He cuts short, static crackling, and Tony freezes.

 

"Steve," he says. "Steve talk to me."

 

There's more silence, the sound of people screaming, and then silence again. Tony can hear Thor's voice suddenly, and it sounds like he's saying brother. Tony flies towards them, sound rushing in his ears like water, horrified by the possibility of what could have just happened. But when he gets back to everyone, he understands why they've gone silent.

 

Standing in the middle of the street, holding few dozen charges, is Loki.

 

There's this horrifying, gut wrenching second where Tony thinks that Loki is the one who placed the last bomb, that Fury was right all along, that Tony and Thor are just idiots, sucked into Loki's lies all over again, but then Tony realizes something. The bomb's been diffused. Not active. Not going to fucking work. As in, Loki deactivated it. As in, Loki just saved the fucking day.

 

"Did you seriously just," Tony says, stepping towards him. "What the hell is going on here?"

 

"You're of no use to me dead," Loki says, as if that's a good explanation.

 

Steve is still standing in the middle of the street, like if he moves forward he'll wake up. Thor is laughing, grin so wide it's threatening to break his face, and Tony isn't entirely sure he understands anything. Thor crushes Loki in a hug that the god allows but doesn't return, arms still full of dead charges. People are staring, unsure.

 

"Useless creatures," Loki is saying, like they all need to be scolded or something.

 

"I've missed something," Steve says.

 

What Tony doesn't do is rush in and hug Loki, because that would just be ridiculous, so he gives him a sort of lame thumbs up, keeping a somewhat safe distance. Loki's lips turn up slightly, and then he's wiggling out of Thor's hug and walking towards Tony, so full of authority that Tony doesn't move. Fury is screaming over the comms at them, asking what's happened, did Loki really show up, someone debrief him or he's sending out Coulson, but not even Steve answers him. Eventually, Loki drops the charges at Tony's feet.

 

"Good afternoon, Mr. Stark," he says, and does this cordial little bow thing that shouldn't get Tony kind of hot but does. And then Loki looks to Steve and says, "Captain," with another bow.

 

"I really think I've missed something," Steve says, and Tony laughs.

 

--

 

Obviously, Fury calls a meeting. Clint and Natasha are still in Hawaii, those bitches, so it's just the four of them sitting there, watching Fury pace around the room and worry at his chin with his fingers. Steve still looks kind of awestruck, which is appropriate, considering, but also looks semi-impressed, if the way he's watching Tony says anything. Like Tony had something to do with this. He did not.

 

"I do not understand the nature of this meeting," Thor says. "There was no trouble. Loki assisted us."

 

"Yeah, I'll give him that," says Bruce. "He sort of saved the city. A bit. But then he left right after."

 

"Maybe he's shy," Tony says, and Bruce just looks at him.

 

There's a nice bit of back and forth between Bruce and Steve: well maybe he has an ulterior motive, but what could it be? Maybe he's trying to pull one over on us, or maybe spending all that time with the avengers made him go a bit soft.

 

"Perhaps he wanted to do something good," Thor says, which Tony has a chuckle a bit at because, well, it's Loki.

 

"And the purpose of that was?" Fury shakes his head. "Does he want to join us, or what?"

 

Everyone goes silent because they don't know. It's hard to tell with Loki, it really is. But then something occurs to Tony that he hadn't thought of before. It makes him feel a little crazy on the inside, wild laughter threatening to bubble up his throat and out his mouth. He's got to hand it to Loki – he's good, he's really, really good.

 

"I think he was proving a point," Tony says, and smiles so wide it hurts.

 

Fury looks close to having an aneurysm, but he somehow narrowly avoids it by slamming his fist into the wall and pointing at Tony with a rage that Tony has yet to master.

 

"I want you and Loki labeled responsible for my death," he says. "Mother fuckers. Meeting adjourned."

 

Tony claps.

 

"Anyone care for a drink?"

 

"I'm really, really missing something," Steve says.

 

--

 

He waits for Loki that night in the workshop, tinkering with nothing and keeping himself awake by drinking a near full pot of coffee. Loki takes his sweet time showing up, Tony almost redesigns the MK VII when there's lips pressed to his ear, cool and sure.

 

"Shouldn't you be in bed," Loki says, and Tony jumps in his seat.

 

The bastard is quiet, never makes a sound when he enters.

 

"Jarvis," Tony says. "How many times have I told you the warn me when Loki comes?"

 

"Every time he comes, sir?"

 

"Oh that's dirty," Tony says. "That's just wrong."

 

"Sir, I would never."

 

Bastards, Tony thinks. All of them. He spins around and kisses Loki, tugging him down by the collar of his coat. Loki hums against his lips.

 

"No rest for the wicked," Tony says.

 

"I believe that's my line."

 

Tony grins, moves over a bit so Loki can take a seat next to him. There are questions, so many questions, and that's always the way it is when it comes to Loki. The second Tony thinks he's got him figured out is the second he realizes that he doesn't, not at all. What happened earlier that day, that surprised even Tony.

 

They sit together, quiet and comfortable for as long as Tony can stand it, until he can't hold it back anymore.

 

"Let me ask you a question," he says, and Loki nods. "Why did you help out, today?"

 

Loki answers without even thinking about it.

 

"I had to take measures to be sure we wouldn't be interrupted again." Loki's eyes narrow. "Your director is rather annoying."

 

"You fucking liar," Tony says. "You just wanted to help."

 

"I assure you, I did not."

 

Tony leans back to raise an eyebrow at Loki. He's not impressed, and he's been around Loki long enough now to detect at least some of his bullshit when it comes out. He's not going to be honest with Tony, which is fine, Tony doesn't plan on spilling his heart to him either, but it's funny to him the way Loki can't even admit he just wanted to help.

 

"Me thinks our friendly neighborhood villain has gone a bit soft."

 

It's the wrong thing to say, which Tony realizes fairly quickly because Loki pins him to his workbench with one arm, this dark presence that has Tony's throat going tight.

 

"Jesus, what –"

 

"Be silent," Loki hisses.

 

He pushes again, warning him, and Tony doesn't even get a chance to breathe before Loki is pulling his cock from his pants, hand working him with a pressure that is absolutely divine. Tony can't catch his fucking breath, he has no choice but to be silent, except for some embarrassing grunts.

 

"Would you make me a fool?" Loki asks.

 

"No, I – shit."

 

"Because I am not easily taken for one." Loki's thumb runs up the underside of his cock, massaging the vein there. "Make no mistake about that."

 

"Yeah, well," Tony has to pause to bite back a moan. "I'm not the one who's too shit scared to admit his feelings."

 

Loki laughs and then leans in, mouths Tony's jaw, these sucking wet kisses until he's at his ear.

 

"Is that would you'd like?" Loki says. "I was under the impression that was not what you were looking for."

 

He can't think straight with Loki touching him like this, which he knows is on purpose, and it's terrifying, because it's almost like they're having a heart to heart here. And yes, it's a pretty fucked up heart to heart, but he expected nothing less. Tony opens his mouth and manages to get out,

 

"I'm not about to ask you to be my fucking boyfriend."

 

And then he comes, arching off the bench. He feels like Loki just wrung him dry, and thinks it's always going to feel that way. They'll end up breaking each other, nasty and awful, but Tony just doesn't care. This is real. He wants this. No enchantments. Loki tucks him back into his pants, and then brings his fingers to his mouth and licks Tony's come off of them, one digit at a time.

 

"Good," Loki says, licking his lips. "We've come to an understanding, then."

 

"I'll say. Jesus."

 

Tony pushes himself upright and Loki lets him. His back feels fucked up from the bench, but he's not about to complain about that. They make the decision to go upstairs together almost silently, both standing, even though Tony's legs feel a bit gelatinous still from his orgasm. He puts a hand on the small of Loki's back because he knows that he can, because it feels good there. They step forward, and then Tony pauses.

 

"Okay, one more question."

 

"Hm," Loki says.

 

"What the hell did you say to Amora that made her come after you like that? Inquiring minds, and all."

 

Silence. And then,

 

"I called her fat."

 

Tony laughs before he can stop himself, literally throws his head back and howls. The image of Loki saying that, something so petty, and then Amora reacting that way…it's almost unbelievable. Actually, it really is.

 

"You're lying to me, aren't you?"

 

"I suppose you'll never know," Loki says, and then teleports them to Tony's bedroom.

 

Later, there's more fighting, that's inevitable, but there's also unbelievably amazing sex and Loki eating donuts and Tony is close to being comfortable, happy, even. And no, he still doesn't know shit about love, but he's starting to think that's okay.