“Anthony Stark,” Loki says, and he names him, like it’s the only name in the entire world. HIs eyes are spat out pieces of green stained glass, fractured and luminous, and this glass is not the window to a holy place, fuck no, but it’s not like Tony’s ever been religious.
“Loki,” he says in kind. It’s inadequate, isn’t it, two syllables naming this sort of sharp green, yet Tony lets himself be cut by its edges. Loki. Loki. Loki. He holds his arms in front of him and fires.
“Foolish of you, Stark,” Loki says. He easily parries the orange with a slash of magic. It rips a cut into the air, leaving a mark that soon closes up, quick as that, as if it’s never existed.
Funny how unhinged you can be, around this brand of madness, Tony thinks, ‘cause the clock’s turning back a bit, and everything’s draining out. The scotch is burning at his throat and Dad’s red-rimmed eyes are burning at his shaky grin and the desert sands are burning at the place where his heart used to be -- billionaire playboy philanthropist -- more, baby, more.
Another flash of his blasters, darts of embers in the night, and Loki’s not there anymore.
Bastard. Him and his mind games.
Tony grips his gold-red glove against the arc reactor’s blue. He’s stable. He’s stable.
“Super-villain -- a god, Thor’s little brother, etc. -- visited a while ago, Brucie,” he says casually. He bends over a counter and squints at the circuit board he’d been toying with recently.
Red wire blue wire gold wire new wire. Should be a fuckin’ rhyme, it should.
“Did he?” Bruce mutters distractedly, calloused fingers lingering down the test tube’s surface. “Wait. You’re talking about Loki, aren’t you?”
“Sure. Definitely was him, ‘less we got other Norse guys in green who are masters of shit-eating grins.” Tony’s eyes trace Bruce’s hand on the test tube. The liquid inside is an almost luminescent aqua. Glow-in-the-dark looking. An urge to spill it across his palm, to hold it to an ultraviolet lamp, tugs at his brain, but Tony disregards the curiosity instantly.
“Are you okay?”
“Yep. Got my suit on and everything, but he just taunted me like a brat playing tag. And then he did his disappearing trick.”
A clink. Bruce sets down the tube and now he’s examining Tony with a worried expression. “He didn’t mind control you, did he?”
Tony snorts. “Would you really ask an allegedly mind-controlled person that question? Like, really?”
Bruce ducks his head, a sheepish smile on his face. “Well. No, not the best method. But you’re definitely Tony.”
Tony says, “Motherfucker can’t faze me, Bruce,” and he knows it’s a lie even before the sentence leaves his mouth.
Tony goes to bed with a swallow of wine in his mouth, like it’s some sort of victory, and he can feel the green deteriorating into pieces into his skin.
“Why me?” he says to the ceiling as everything spirals past his eyes like a slideshow on repeat. No reply. Tony says, “JARVIS. Entertain me, will ya?”
The room lights up with blue displays of his schematics, random doodles of gears and wires. “Thank you,” he breathes into the night, and he’s still fucking cold without the heat heat heat of alcohol Dad’s descent the beating desert sun.
He pulls the blankets tighter around him. Wishes for relief.
Tony’s out for the count, spread-eagled on the asphalt as the armor presses into his bones. The boosters have malfunctioned, because he’s been exerting too much strength hauling concrete blocks from ruined buildings, trying to save anyone trapped.
He closes his eyes and begins to fade into the HUD’s steady blinking blue, but the faceplate pops open, and fuck, it’s green again.
“Go away,” he groans to the bright sunlight. “You’ve fulfilled your trouble quota today, thank you very much.”
Loki, however, is not perturbed by the dismissal; in fact, he seems amused. “Oh, Man of Iron, I believe you are the one lying bleeding on the ground. Do not presume command over me.”
“I presume lots of things,” Tony says carelessly, and it’s almost banter because there is no true intensity now: it’s just another battle. “Once thought that this waitress was trying to flirt with me, but she was only talking about the fondue special. Big mistake. And who knows? My repulsors could still be in working shape, kid. Better watch out for that pretty face of yours.”
Loki stiffens. “Address me properly, Stark. I am a god, and you are a--”
“Mere mortal,” Tony completes. “But isn’t that the point?”
“What ‘point’ do you speak of?”
“That I’ve won. I’m -- as you put it, bleeding on the floor -- but you really can’t get the better of me, so either we’re both gods or we’re both humans. Equal and all that.”
“Oh?” Loki says, and damn, he’s bending over Tony, his helmet in his hand and dark hair pooling millimeters above Tony’s face. “Do you honestly believe that you have the advantage over me?”
Tony holds his breath, and a slice of magic heals a cut on his cheek, healed from the pale finger sketching out the wound’s path. Just a patch of skin underneath his right eye, a soft half-caress -- Christ.
“You’re on your fucking knees, kiddo,” Tony whispers as the finger leaves his lips, pressed against his mouth like a secret, and Loki’s gone again.
We’re both gods.
Tony hauls Thor out for drinks, just a quiet little bar, nothing like the ones of his rowdy past, and he drags stories out of the thunder god’s head, filling his own with flashes of Loki.
He drinks those words in : my brother my brother my brother, and tries to understand.
“We are doomed to Ragnarok, Stark,” Thor says, eyes heavy-lidded, because damn, he’s a drinker. “It is as foretold. Even Loki’s betrayal has been foreseen, many millennia before, but no Aesir understands the specifics of the prophecy until it actually occurs.”
“Ragnarok. The big god war thing, you mean?”
“It’s coming,” Thor nods his head, “perhaps in your lifetime. Perhaps beyond it. And certainly in mine and Loki’s. All we can do is delay it.”
Tony raises his eyebrows. “Even Loki?”
Thor’s hand falters by his beer. A shadow crosses his face. “I--I do not know, Man of Iron. He started as Mischief, but if he continues as he does now, he hastens our doomsday.”
“Bummer, huh?” Tony says dryly, and he pours Thor more beer, feeling a headache coming on.
New York is a regular Sunnydale/Cardiff/whatever danger magnet town of your choice, and Tony rockets from the Avengers Tower, smoke streaking behind him every day, and he fights.
They do not fight Loki for a long time, but he’s there, dancing on the peripheral. This manic energy emitting emitting emitting -- it isn’t normal. This wear and tear of fierceness is Loki in the shadows, barely even budging the puppet string; his presence in New York is enough to make the moment explode.
The madness wraps around him like a fucking shield and he bears his teeth like a rabid animal; he allows the instability to rock the scales. He’s a god, ACDC blaring in the background like shrieking sirens, and he’s, well.
Tony knows what this is. It’s a double-edged blade of well-meaning intentions and destruction, half of it buried in his gut, other half piercing someone else’s throat. It’s palladium fucking palladium weighing down on a manufactured heart. Alice’s fucking bottle, ‘cept it says protect me/poison me on its label.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” he says to the morning mist, and because he’s the one who asked, Loki comes. (Of course.)
“You’re wrecking havoc, kid,” Tony says. “Tone it down a bit, yeah?”
Loki wrinkles his nose in disdain because he knows it’s a weakness, appearing here. Because he’s listening. Because he’s -- in Fury’s words -- compromised.
“You’ve got to cut it out, ice boy--” Loki starts, and Tony continues, “--yeah, I know, okay? Your big bro told me. You’re just -- throwing a big whiny tantrum, except it’s crazy, all right, mixed in with good ol’ Chitauri PTSD and daddy issues and brother problems.”
“Be quiet, human,” Loki says, voice dangerously soft. “I told you before, and I shall say it again: do not presume.”
“I presume lots,” Tony pushes. “Jesus Christ, you green fucker, look here. Look here.” He glares, waiting until Loki finally levelly meets his eyes, and there there there--
And Tony’s hit by the depth of weariness in green, but it’s tinged with anger. Ruthless.
Whatever Loki sees, he doesn’t say. But they’re searching, the both of them, just -- the burning.
“Fear me,” Loki growls, breaking the contact, and fuck, he’s desperate, he’s broken, he’s chaos.
Tony, in response, unbuttons his collared button-up shirt, just the top couple (he’d gone to a fancy dinner earlier this night). He lets the arc reactor show, laying his chest bare in Loki’s sight.
“No,” he says, and lets Loki wonder.
The light on his chest is a blue firefly during midnight. Tony sits on the rooftop and thinks, the little glow like a beacon.
“Loki Liesmith,” he whispers to the dark -- a challenge. “Are you scared?”
“Do not presume,” Loki murmurs, a sound like the texture of velvet, and Tony’s hands reach to snatch a handful of Loki’s hair to force him down, closer, so that their mouths are touching.
A kiss. Like a puzzle shifting into place, the colours and the chaos and the madness matching.