Tony finds Loki just where he knew he would, sitting at the bar in All Bar One, gazing moodily down into his pint of cider. It's Loki's favourite place, less of a pub and more of a bar, stylish, big enough so he can get lost in the crowd but not so crowded that he'd feel boxed in.
Unlike other nights, there's something hanging heavy over Loki's shoulders, something that leaves the impression of weariness even though Loki's posture is as straight as ever. Tony is well accustomed to reading between the lines, though, and it's difficult not to recognise one's own tendencies in another.
Tony walks over, claps a hand on Loki's shoulder, squeezes gently before propping himself up on one of the bar stools.
"Spill," he says, smiling and waving at the bartender, who nods, reaching for the scotch. "What has Daddy done now?"
He can see the moment Loki decides to leave off the usual bullshit, and not pretend he doesn't know what Tony's talking about.
"It's not him." The "this time" remains unsaid, but very much present. Loki sighs. "Thor's coming down tomorrow."
Tony winces. Personally he likes Thor, although he can be a bit much at times. He and Loki have a complicated history, though. Adopted families are often like that.
"It's your graduation, man. Of course Thor's going to come for it."
Loki sneers, but doesn't rip into Tony, which really is more of a measure of how well they understand each other than anything else. They have a lot in common, even without scratching the surface of families from hell.
Tony looks at him carefully, but no, it doesn't look like Loki is ready to talk about 'the thing' between him and Thor that even Tony can see a mile off. Just because they've slept together a few times doesn't give Tony the right to push it, though, when it's clear that Loki does not want to talk about it.
What Tony can do is offer what comfort he can, and so he stays, keeping Loki company as he drinks, bitching about Rogers, the captain of the rowing team, just because it makes Loki smile like the sly devil he really is.
His phone beeps with a message, and Tony snorts. "It's Charles," he tells Loki's enquiring look. "He's at The White Horse, getting into an argument again. Raven says hurry."
Loki grins, the slightly demented one that used to make Tony pause. It's been a long time since it bothered him even a little.
"Is it Lehnsherr again?" Loki wants to know.
Tony shrugs. "One supposes. I wish those two would get their fingers out already," he says pointedly, but Loki just gives him a look, and Tony sighs, dropping it.
Loki downs the rest of his pint and pushes off the chair, towering over Tony like he tends to. Tony still finds it hot, even though Loki's closer to a brother to him these days, he and Charles and Raven, an exclusive "Fucked Up Family" Club that's closer to what a family should be like than Tony's real one.
"Let's go make mischief," Loki announces, grin stretching until his whole face folds around it, eyes glinting devilishly, and this is why he's Tony's favourite. Tony knocks back his drink, too, sighs with pleasure and the happy anticipation curling in his gut.
Together, they walk out into the Oxford dusk painting the air a light lavender blue, lit windows like jewels in the falling darkness, and take the shortcut past St Mary's that will take them out to Broad Street.
Tonight, they aim to misbehave.