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Making a Point

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He couldn’t even say no one had warned him. Three of them had. Tony, don’t be an idiot, we don’t know what’s in there, had been Natasha’s warning. Stark, wait for us to get a scan of what’s down there from the quinjet, had been Steve’s. Can I have your cars when you die? had been Clint’s.

They were usually all so wrong, though. Usually this sort of recklessness mostly, mostly paid off. At the least, he more often than not found/achieved/crashed into something important enough to merit it, and on the occasions he didn’t it was because there was really nothing there. Okay, so on a few occasions it had sort of been an ambush, but not like this.

Not bad enough to take him out with nothing but one swipe of an enormous spiky metal something that had moved way too fast for all its massive size. It bit through the metal of his chest plate and his arms as it dragged him viciously up the rock wall. In the struggle, the blade-like protrusion that pierced his chest-plate, then twisted, sunk in deep enough to take his breath away, and broke off so it stayed there. Then there had been a concussive force from somewhere, and the rock wall started to crumble. The metal had released him: the rockslide hadn’t. He managed to prevent most of it from landing on top of him, but his legs still wound up trapped and his hand repulsors weren’t working quite properly by that point.

And that thing had torn through the suit. Tony could scarcely hear JARVIS after that initial grinding, creaking squeal of metal and sudden searing pain. Once the cacophony stopped because he’d hit the ground along with a couple tons of basalt, Tony suddenly wondered if he was going to die. “I’m hit, and I’m down,” he managed to rasp into his comm. His HUD flickered, and he thought he saw a flicker of something green. JARVIS’s voice, too quiet, said something about an energy reading. Then all the lights went out for Tony Stark.

 

~~

 

He woke back up in the quinjet with Clint and Bruce leaning over him, both looking concerned, though Clint looked just a little disappointed.

“What the hell was that?” Tony rasped.

“Don’t worry about it for now,” Bruce said firmly. “You lost a lot of blood.”

“So that’s a no on the cars,” Clint muttered.

“You’re an asshole, Robin Hood,” Tony grit out. His mouth was dry, and his head throbbed. Green, he thought vaguely, and winced. “You guys see any sign I was messed with before you found me?”

Clint and Bruce exchanged glances.

“Not so’s you’d notice,” Clint said. “Why?”

Tony weakly raised a hand to his ribcage where he remembered feeling his bones crack as metal wedged between them. “My ribs aren’t broken?”

“No, just badly cracked,” Bruce said simply. “Your suit caught most of it.”

“That’s not what it felt like,” Tony muttered, his eyes falling shut. “JARVIS picked up an energy reading before I passed out. Didn’t have time to identify it, but I don’t think I was the only one down there.”

“Maybe,” Bruce said softly, “But whoever it was didn’t do anything much so far as we could tell.”

Something occurred to Tony vaguely. “What day is it again?”

Clint told him.

“Do you feel concussed at all?” Bruce asked, reaching for his head and checking his eyes with a penlight.

Missed a gala, he thought, and wished he hadn’t answered the call. Funny how he had never really been able to remember what days they were on until Loki started showing up at them. “No, not concussed. Just trying to think if there’s something other than just this that Pepper’s going to chew me out for,” he said, and Bruce and Clint left him to himself then, as he closed his eyes again and feigned sleep. It was only partially a lie: he did know he was going to get chewed out, but for some reason nearly dying had him thinking about Loki and feeling something close to regret. You’re just mortal, he reminded himself bitterly. And probably just a fling.

Well. An affair, maybe, given it had lasted far, far more than just a few nights. Tony didn’t think about how he hadn’t had anyone else in his bed in the months since it started, and didn’t think about why it bothered him so much, seeing that flash of green and feeling something like hope. Hope for what? He’s not exactly been known to work healing magic. What the hell would you be hoping he was there for?

He knew the answer, but really didn’t want to admit that Loki appearing when he was near death might indicate that the god cared enough about him to be watching––to be concerned. Tony really didn’t want to admit that he wished Loki cared that much.

A three-month-long affair in the same person’s bed, for Tony Stark, was almost a functional relationship. Even Pepper hadn’t lasted quite that long before things fell apart: almost, but not quite.

Tony opened his eyes and asked Bruce for a bit more painkillers, and thankfully that dulled the noise in his head enough for sleep to overtake him again.

 

~~

 

Once the S.H.I.E.L.D. med bay released him, after stitching up his left arm and a big ugly cut along his ribs, and wrapping up said ribs to keep them in place until they healed, Tony managed to make it up to his penthouse in Avengers tower with mere discomfort, rather than any real difficulty. His legs were fine, though his left arm needed a sling.

He headed for the bar out of habit and got all the way there before his medication-blurred thoughts caught up with the fact that scotch would probably be a bad idea given everything else currently pumping through his system. Then he noticed something a bit out of place on the bar and blinked at it. It was a helmet: a very familiar, gold, horned helmet. With a sticky note on it. Tony plucked the note off it and read: Next week, then, if you’re feeling less suicidal. It wasn’t signed; it didn’t need to be.

Tony snorted, amused and depressed all at once. He picked up the helmet, and found it lighter than it looked: either the horns were hollow, or there was some sort of magic trick at play on it. It wasn’t the same one he remembered seeing Loki wear before: it was sleeker, without the antiquated touches of the other. Why the god of lies and mischief had chosen to leave it in Tony’s house, he couldn’t begin to guess. If it was a gift, then it was odd. If it was supposed to communicate some sort of message (helmet = be more careful? horns = ... well, that went without saying lately) then Tony was 80% sure that between his exhaustion, bitterness, and all of the pain killers in his bloodstream, he was missing the heart of it.

He went to bed. If helmet wound up on his dresser on the way there, it didn’t mean much of anything at all.

 

~~

 

Tony was exceedingly puzzled by one or two things about his suit, once he started repairs. It was all a bit disturbing.

“I’m telling you, Bruce, the faceplate was on before I passed out.”

“It wasn’t in the rubble anywhere.”

“Then where the hell did it go?” Tony muttered. He also examined the large and obvious tears in the ribcage-region of the suit. There was something off about them: the gap too wide at the top, the torn edges looking like they’d been bent outward by some strange force, but since the puncture had been toward him rather than away, there was no way that should be possible. “This is odd.”

“Well, we did have to take it apart without you conscious to help.”

Tony conceded that might be a factor where the chest pieces were concerned. “But the faceplate?”

“Gone when we got there.”

“Damn,” Tony muttered.

 

~~

 

A week later, he was eating slices of fruit off of Loki’s skin, in a trail that started at his throat, and snaked down across his chest, along his stomach, and down to his hip.

 

Before that, though, Loki had seemed a bit off, not least because of the dark circles under his eyes and some interesting, colorful bruises up his side. The god of mischief didn’t injure easily, Tony knew. It was part of the whole “god of _____” package that he associated with Asgard these days.

“What happened to you?” Tony asked, curious, his fingers gentle over the livid reds and purples. His brow furrowed further when he felt places it wasn’t just bruising, but half-healed wounds.

“I could ask the same,” Loki countered flatly, his eyes dark and expression masked except for the sharp, shrewd look in his eyes as he looked Tony over head-to-foot pointedly.

“I get the feeling you know what happened to me, though.”

“Not really. I had previously been under the impression you were intelligent and possessed keen survival instincts,” Loki bit back, rolling Tony under him on the bed. They were both down to just slacks now, belts littering the floor along with expensive shirts and blazers. The god of mischief pinned Tony’s arms to the bed and stared down at him, glared really, for a few long moments.

“I generally do.”

Loki’s lips thinned. “At times, I do wonder,” he growled.

Tony blinked, a bit stunned that Loki seemed so angry at him. “If I weren’t reckless by nature, you think we’d both be here?” he challenged.

“Am I merely yet another means by which you’re cheating death, Tony?”

The engineer swallowed tightly. Lying to the god of lies, he reminded himself, was bound to be a futile endeavor. “No. No you’re not,” he said, a bit more softly than he intended, but Loki was acting odd, and looked battered, and was still glaring at him.

Loki relaxed a bit at that, leaning in closer. “I ask this because I honestly wonder, given what I’ve learned: are you actually trying to get yourself killed?” His voice was low, silken and sincerely curious: deceptively light, given the intensity with which he held the mad engineer’s gaze.

“No. I don’t want to die,” Tony said sharply. “I wouldn’t give so many people who dislike me that satisfaction, for one.” He relaxed a little when that caused a smirk to tug at the god of mischief’s lips. “And two, I’m not done yet: not with living, not with learning, not with messing things up––not with all of this. There’s more to be had, so I’m not done. I’m greedy, that way.”

At that, the god of mischief smiled an odd, crooked sort of smile. “Very good,” he murmured, and rested a hand over Tony’s ribs.

The engineer hissed at the sudden rush of cold, tingling sensation, but stopped short when there was no pain on his next inhalation. His eyes widened a little. “Uhm. Thank you. Those were getting pretty-”

“I have plans for you tonight,” Loki purred, by way of explanation. “No use in further breaking anything I plan to use in future.”

Tony’s mouth went dry. He decided that he’d come up with some excuse for the healed ribs in the morning, surely. For now, coherent thought wasn’t going to happen. “I’m fine with that.”

“I also an idea for which we should order room service.”

From there it had started with whipped cream, and somehow progressed to slices of fruit. Tony hadn’t been particularly fond of apples before, but that night, he became a fan of whatever variety it was Loki had ordered from room service. Later, he would attribute it to the fact that most fruit tasted better when the serving dish was Loki Lie-smith’s skin. It also helped that after dessert, he got to have Loki wholly undone under him, all frantic kisses and hungry, broken sounds Tony hadn’t quite heard before.

If the night didn’t turn out to be as long and beautiful as it was, Tony would’ve had the presence of mind to recognize that the way Loki looked at him once or twice had brought the same hope-flicker that the damn flash of green had the week before. Instead, he only realized it a day later, in retrospect, when he found himself smiling for no reason and realized that he was in deeper shit than he’d ever dared think.

 

~~

 

After spending two days straight in his lab ignoring any and all attempts by the outside world to interrupt his thoughts with something as distracting as human contact, Tony came to a decision: he was already screwed, so he might as well give in.

The third time he’d wound up in bed with Loki, he’d found out the god of mischief had a cellphone. He’d gotten the number, but hadn’t used it until now. Go out to dinner with me. Friday.

That didn’t stop him from trying to punch the wall out of sheer irritation at himself because he knew this was a stupid idea, it had to be––and then he realized he’d actually punched a respectable little crater into the concrete wall and, pulling his hand away, didn’t even have a scratch to show for it.

He stared at the wall for a long few minutes in sheer incomprehension. “JARVIS?” he croaked.

“Yes sir?”

“Set up the strength-testing equipment, the same stuff we used on Thor and Cap when we got bored last summer. I think... I think I’m losing my mind.”

“That is less unusual than your ability to damage concrete bare-handed, sir.”

“Just do it, please,” Tony shot back, irritated.

“Of course, sir.”

Then the results of the strength and endurance tests proved his “losing his mind” theory wrong, and Tony sat down on the floor wondering how the hell this had happened. He wasn’t up to Thor’s measurements in strength, but his endurance was about the same, and his resistance to blunt force was also up there: all his measurements were high enough that they shouldn’t be possible for a normal human. He compared Steve’s data too, and found his reflexes and reaction time still a bit shy, indicating he hadn’t somehow been slipped some Captain America elixir at any point.

He went to Bruce.

“I’m asking you this in confidence, because I have no idea what’s going on,” he began. Then he stuck out his arm, wrist up, veins proffered. “What’s wrong with me?”

“Specifically? It would take days to list,” Bruce countered, looking baffled.

“Please take a blood sample,” Tony said sharply.

“Are you alright?”

“Fine, but I think I might’ve been exposed to something. I’m not sure what, but it’s more disconcerting than harmful.”

“Oh?”

“I punched a hole in a wall,” Tony said sincerely.

Bruce’s eyebrows raised. “I suppose that’s a little unusual for you, if only because you prefer being less hands-on with your destruction most of the time.” He fumbled around in one of the lab drawers and opened a clean hypodermic. “You’re sure about this needing blood work?”

“Just... run some tests. Look for something weird. Maybe compare it to past samples from the rest of the team.”

“Tony, is there something you aren’t telling me?” Bruce inquired carefully.

“It was a concrete wall, and I wasn’t wearing a gauntlet.”

Bruce blinked. “Oh.”

“Yeah, keep it quiet for now, please?”

“Yes. I also have to do the usual doctorly thing here and ask if you’ve had anything questionable or unusual to eat or drink in the past week?” He expertly inserted the needle such that the engineer hardly felt it, and began to draw a sample.

Tony considered, thought vaguely about mentioning the use of an alien deity as a platter, but dismissed it for the moment. “I don’t have a normal diet at the best of times. I mean, I ate an unusual amount of fruit by my standards about three or four days ago. Other than that, I’ve been working, so it’s been all stuff in our shared fridge here in the tower, and coffee. That’s about it.”

“Fruit is unusual for you, of course,” Bruce sighed. “I don’t recall seeing any fresh fruit here––but then, you weren’t at the tower that night.” He raised his eyebrows as a thought suddenly occurred to him. “Tony, please don’t make me ask about your sex life.”

“I haven’t been with anyone in the past two weeks that I haven’t also been with for over a month before that,” Tony said, unthinking, then nearly bit his tongue.

Bruce looked amused as he withdrew the needle, capped it, and set it aside. “Did you just admit you’ve been seeing someone on the side––and almost steadily?”

“Keep it down, will you?”

“How trustworthy is she?”

A bark of laughter escaped Tony’s throat before he could smother it, so he went ahead and rolled with it. “Aha, trustworthy? Well, that’s an interesting question, really...”

“Is it possibly she slipped you something?”

Tony opened his mouth to deny it, then hesitated. It seemed more than a little odd, if Loki had waited, well, quite this long to pull any major mischief over him. “If he did, I’m not sure what he’s trying to accomplish really.”

Bruce cleared his throat. “Sorry, I didn’t realize-”

Tony waved a hand. “Not a problem. I mean... if he was going to slip me something, I’d think he would’ve timed it better. It’s been––well, let’s say he’s had opportunities to make this more effective at causing any sort of problems.”

Bruce was looking at him very strangely.

“This is a man I’ve been having a prolonged affair with,” Tony said flatly. “Were you expecting normalcy and sanity?”

“Point taken.”

Tony thought about it. “Is there... well, this might be a bit out of left field for you, given this is more of a botanical question: do you know of any apple varieties with naturally-occurring skin that looks like gold?”

Bruce thought about it, his brow furrowed. “Nnnot that I know of. You’re sure it wasn’t just edible gold leaf or something?”

“Pretty sure; I’ve had that sort of thing before.”

For a moment, the doctor opened his mouth, then snapped it shut, shaking his head in dismissal and sniggering.

“What is it?”

“I just... I think I’ve been living with Thor too long,” Bruce sighed.

That was a red flag. “How so?” Tony inquired lightly, his expression a careful blank.

“It’s part of the myths. There’s a goddess called Idunn who keeps an orchard of trees that grow golden apples. They’re supposedly where all the gods get their strength, durability, longevity and all of that.” He snorted. “I’ll have to ask Thor if that’s one of the true-ish ones or not.”

Tony felt his skin prickle and a strange chill in his stomach. “Well. Let me know how the blood looks, right?”

“It won’t be done quick, you know that right? I don’t have quite all the equipment for what you’re asking, and I get the feeling you don’t want it going to S.H.I.E.L.D., so...”

“Well. I’ll keep an eye on it until then.” Tony smiled brightly and slipped out the door. He felt his phone buzz in his pocket and noticed his hands were shaking as he read Loki’s response: a time, and a place. Not a refusal.

Tony had no clue how to feel about that, suddenly.

 

~~

 

Tony spent a while on his couch in the penthouse staring into space. If Bruce was right, and the myths weren’t entirely wrong, Tony supposed he might sort of be immortal, or immortal-ish. Close enough that short of violent and gruesome dismemberment, death would be difficult to deal to Tony Stark. As such, he tried to take the opportunity to have a cigarette, but the smell turned his stomach more than it ever had before and he started to wonder if the damn apple had any other odd side effects.

Almost everything in my life that’s meant something, he couldn’t help but think, meant something because I thought I was going to die. All of the work he’d done on the business side, rather than for the Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D., had been about legacy: his father’s and his own. Legacy couldn’t really happen if he never died.

There was also the prospect of being studied like a lab specimen if anything interesting showed up in his blood work. If the effects were replicable––well, there was a reason everyone was secretly relieved that Captain America’s miracle immortality serum never made it into mass production. War, famine, overpopulation, and all that jazz, Tony mused. At the same time, saving lives was what he was supposed to do these days. Wasn’t it?

Tony rubbed his hands over his face. It was good to think about the abstract and philosophical questions that might be applicable. He kept thinking about them until his head hurt, because it was still better than the gnawing, desperate question in his chest that was threatening to tear him up: Why? Why? Why did you-?

He let his head fall back, and sighed. And why, for fuck’s sake, did it have to increase my already impressive alcohol tolerance? Two bottles of good scotch and he was barely buzzed: not nearly enough to stop all the questions storming around in his brain.

 

~~

 

Friday arrived.

The restaurant Loki had picked was one that prided itself of providing an environment where anyone who could afford to get in should have no concerns about their privacy. As such, they regularly had to fire the occasional stealth paparazzi or odd photography student from their waitstaff.

They had a hedge maze off their large, elegant patio, which baffled Tony a bit, until a waiter saw him give it an odd look and explained that it led to a smaller street by which it might be easier for some guests to leave without being seen, or followed. It was only then that it occurred to Tony that this place might be catering to mafia bosses as well as celebrities, but he admired their dedication regardless. Near the corner of the patio, where an antiquated-looking brick wall divided the patio from the entrance of the maze, Loki sat waiting at a table, looking ridiculously elegant in a dark grey suit with emerald green accents: so well-tailored it should have been a crime.

Tony noticed that between the arched gateway in the brick wall to Loki’s left, and the well-lit doorways back into the main building to his right, the god of mischief had managed to get a table with at least two readily available exits nearby. He wasn’t sure which of them that might be meant for.

Then it sunk in again that he’d actually asked Loki out on a date for once, and Tony’s stomach performed an uncomfortable bit of acrobatics as he strode up to the table. His smile remained unaffected, though, as he sat down.

“Good evening, Mr. Stark,” Loki greeted, low and thoughtful. The candlelight was doing unfairly lovely things to the lines of his cheekbones and those impossibly green eyes. “You look well.”

“You too. Your tailor should be imprisoned for causing near-lethal cases of distraction, though,” Tony countered.

The god of mischief only smiled faintly, eyes downcast. His eyelashes were unfairly long. “I admit I was surprised by the invitation.” He looked back up, a little more shrewd but also strangely hesitant. It didn’t look right on him. “And I’m curious.”

“Me too,” Tony murmured.

The waiter chose that moment to materialize in front of their table, at which point they discussed wine in a mild, bantering fashion until he left with request for a bottle.

“Was this intended to be an exceptionally polite interrogation, then?” Loki asked.

Tony considered. “At first, only a little, with a bit more talking planned on my end. Then I worked something out and got an unexpected response to a botanical inquiry and I’m no longer sure.”

Loki raised an eyebrow, his expression giving away nothing away.

“How many of the myths are true?” That sounded like a safe enough starter.

The god of mischief snorted. “I’ve never given birth to a horse, if that’s what you’re asking, but I did get Thor to cross-dress.” He raised a finger. “And furthermore, the plan which hinged on that little feat actually worked.”

Tony sniggered despite himself. “Okay, now I want the real version of that one.”

“Now, or later?”

Tony glanced around at their quiet, frankly beautiful surroundings, heard a well-played violin’s sound escaping the well-lit doorway behind him, and smiled softly, helplessly. “Now, I think,” he said. Before this breaks, he thought, with a little more ache than he’d expected, I’d like to enjoy this. Loki’s face in candlelight, those green eyes fixed on him looking curious and wary but warm, and the illusion of something more than a strange affair and an inexplicable apple between them.

Loki looked a bit surprised, but obliged.

Fifteen minutes later they had finished nearly half the bottle of wine, and Loki’s story, and were both still coming down from all the laughing. They ordered food not long after, and Tony started telling Loki about a trick Natasha had helped him pull on Clint which resulted in the archer suspended upside-down from a lamppost in a pink catsuit. He was satisfied to surprise a laugh from the god of mischief loud enough to disconcert a passing waiter.

By the time they finished their respective dishes, and nearly finished a second bottle of wine, they had traded another two stories apiece, deliberately trying to scandalize each other and occasional passerby on their way into the maze, and Tony had almost managed to forget that it would have to end.

In the quiet that followed their last story, the god of mischief leaned back in his chair and shot Tony a look he just couldn’t fathom, couldn’t process. It was appreciation, and a bit of warmth (or a trick of the candlelight), and something else––something more out of place. “You have questions,” Loki said simply. “While I do love to see you laugh, I know this isn’t why you asked me to come here.”

Tony stared at him. It might have been, he wanted to say, but couldn’t. “I think you tricked me, last time we met.”

“You sound surprised.”

“I’m not really surprised. I just don’t understand.”

Loki’s expression slipped perfectly back behind a mask again, though not before Tony caught a flicker of something––a crack, however brief––in his eye. “You’ll have to be more specific than that. I know better than to incriminate myself by offering you a starting point.”

Tony nodded. “Do you think it’s anything incriminating?”

The god of mischief said nothing, his expression very neutral.

“Well,” Tony said quietly, “I suppose the apple might be a good starting point.”

Loki picked up his wineglass, emptied the last of the bottle into it and took a sip, leaning back in his seat again. “What of it?”

Why? But no. Wait. Verification first, and practical information, then the actual bomb, He reminded himself. “Aside from giving me the ability to crack concrete walls by punching them, what exactly did that do?”

The god of mischief looked thoughtful, trying to read him, and apparently coming up short. “As though your inquiring mind hasn’t already worked out a few things.”

“Loki, please.” His voice was a bit sharp.

To his surprise, Loki appeared momentarily uncomfortable. “It was a trick, yes. I felt you needed to be tricked into it, despite your words.” His brow furrowed. “I know I am not exactly trustworthy...”

“You handed me the same––the same strength and resilience, and I suspect longevity, of a citizen of Asgard... as a trick?” Tony repeated carefully. “What exactly did you expect to achieve by it?”

Loki stared at him, looking more than hesitant this time. “I... I’m not sure what you want me to say.”

Tony pulled a few exceptionally high-denomination bills from his pocket and dropped them on the table. “Then I think we’re done here.” He stood, not looking at the god even as he heard movement. He was halfway to the door, halfway into the light, when he felt Loki’s hand around his wrist.

Please,” the god of mischief hissed, like it was being torn from him. “Not yet.”

Stopping, but not turning around, Tony snapped back, “What do you want from me, Loki?”

“Time. That’s all––just. More time.” He sounded actually distraught. Then he took a deep breath, and let it out, his grip starting to loosen. “I would prefer you alive and resentful of me for tricking you than dead. I don’t––I never planned to hold it over you. If you do not wish to spend that time with me, then go. You owe me nothing.”

Tony felt his heart nearly stop and turned around sharply, invading Loki’s space with sufficient abruptness to surprise the god of mischief into tightening his grip again on  Tony’s wrist. Wrapping his free hand up in Loki’s silk tie, Tony yanked the taller man down to his level. “You––ridiculous son of a bitch.”

“Pardon?” Baffled hardly began to cover it.

Leaning in closer, because he could and because Loki let him, Tony hissed, “Why would you let me think it was just a trick when really, you’re just as compromised as I am?” he bit out.

“What?” Loki sounded lost, and the engineer couldn’t quite fathom how one syllable could contain so much disbelief.

“I’ve been––I couldn’t-” Tony started, then stopped, feeling Loki’s cool, uneven breath on his lips. “I want more time with you. I want––just more, with you. More of a lot of things.” He swallowed thickly.

Loki let out a ragged breath, his hand on Tony’s wrist tightening further. “Maze.”

“What?”

“Someone just took a few pictures of us, I think. Film student, is my guess: the lighting is better for dramatic use than successful identification of you.”

“Shit. Fine. The maze.”

Loki dragged him by the wrist past the brick archway, looked around them quickly, and pinned Tony against the wall with haste. He gestured vaguely with one hand and a hedge identical to the ones in the maze appeared between them and the path, effectively cutting them off from view. The god of mischief looked pale, and his eyes were very bright. “You were saying something about what you wanted, I think.”

“You too.”

Loki swallowed thickly, and reached into his jacket, pulling out something metal that looked like it had been dragged down a cliff face. He pressed it firmly to Tony’s chest and said, “If you ever pull any ridiculous stunt like that again––if you die because of something like that I will bring you back just long enough to kill you myself,” he said, all at once, looking halfway between livid and afraid.

“Holy shit.” Tony held it up. Yes: that was his suit’s missing faceplate. “You––that was you?”

“I may have been listening in on the comms from your penthouse after you failed to arrive at the gala.” He cleared his throat.

Tony stared. “You’re insane.”

“You nearly died, you idiot. I’m not half so expert at healing magic as I am warfare––if I hadn’t been able to-” He cut off. “Why are we still talking?”

“Because neither of us have actually admitted to being in love yet.”

Loki stared at him with almost comically wide eyes. “I... suppose we haven’t.”

Tony pulled him down by his tie again. “Can you keep that illusion going whilst in the middle of an orgasm?”

The god of mischief snorted. “Of course I can. What sort of god do you take me f-” he was cut off by Tony’s mouth, and made a low, hungry noise in response, deepening the kiss quickly and getting completely distracted for several long seconds.

Then Tony pulled back. “Mine. That’s the kind I take you for.”

Loki’s eyes fell open, and he ran his thumb up along the line of Tony’s jaw. “I think I’m in love with you, you insane bastard.”

“Good,” Tony said, his voice only cracking a little. “It’s not just me, then.”

“No, I fear we’re both terribly caught up in this,” Loki breathed.

“Regrets?”

“None,” Loki growled and kissed him again.

 

~~

 

Impressively, the hedge-illusion held until they emerged from behind it half an hour later, their suits looking considerably less immaculate than before. Tony cleared his throat. “So, cab?”

“Where to?” Loki inquired, looking quite composed except the slight lingering flush across his cheekbones and the fact his lips appeared a bit swollen.

“My place or yours?” Tony inquired.

“How much do you want your fellow Avengers to know?”

The engineer considered. “I honestly don’t even care.” He felt his chest tighten and his bones warm at the sight of the incandescently brilliant smile that Loki flashed at that, however briefly.

“Well then.” The god of mischief took hold of his wrist again, and for a moment it felt like a whirlwind kicked up around them, and the world around them faded from view. Tony shivered at the odd sensation of weightlessness for a moment, then felt his feet touch the ground again, this time in the middle of his penthouse suite in the Avengers tower.

“Good evening, Mr. Stark, and Mr. Lie-smith,” JARVIS greeted placidly.

“I did find it interesting that I don’t seem to set off any alarms or security protocols here anymore,” Loki mused.

Tony coughed. He’d deliberately programmed his systems to ignore Loki’s presence anywhere in his private rooms in the tower. “I suppose I should set more of the tower like that. If we’d appeared anywhere else, there might have been some flashing lights.”

Loki snorted and pulled him closer a bit, by the wrist, staring down at him with a mixture of curiosity, intrigue and mild disbelief. “I should ask, I suppose, precisely how much a part of your life you would be comfortable with me having.”

The engineer slid an arm over his shoulder, comfortable, pressing them together. “I could ask the same, you know. I want to know the rest of you––everything I haven’t seen yet.” He hesitated when Loki’s eyes fell shut and he glimpsed that cracking at the edge of the god of mischief’s masks again. “I’m all or nothing, Loki.”

“Well then,” Loki breathed, his eyes falling open. “Where shall we start?”

“Questions.”

“You always have questions,” Loki murmured, but he sounded more amused than offended. Between banter and quieter, more soft and serious conversations, they’d had many, usually in bed sometime not long before dawn. “I’ve answered a great number of them, as have you.”

“How much a part of your life am I allowed to have?” Tony asked.

Loki considered. “How much do you want?”

“I want to know where it is you go when you’re not with me, and what you spend your time doing. You know my life inside and out, most likely: I’m in the spotlight, and I live up here in a glass box. You’re a mystery wrapped in an enigma, in comparison.”

“Well, to be fair, we started out as just enemies who happened to enjoy sex with each other a great deal.”

“But not now.”

“No. Not now,” Loki agreed. “Strange as that may be.” He rested his brow against Tony’s, breathing him in. “You’re already aware that I talked my way out of further incarceration once I got out of that damn tree.”

“I still can’t believe you spent over a year as a tree,” Tony muttered.

“I do still live in Asgard,” the god of mischief said carefully, “though I don’t spend much time in the palace these days.”

“So where do you spend it?”

“Well. I have two places between which I divide my time: a large apartment here in New York, and a marginally respectable home at the edge of the capital city in Asgard.” He settled his hands on Tony’s waist. “Which would you like to see first?”

Tony blinked twice, then started to smile, disbelieving and starting to feel pleasantly restless with anticipation. “We’ll start with the apartment.”

 

~~

 

Two weeks later, they were leaving the local cafe they both frequented, when Tony’s paparazzi senses started tingling. It was subtle: only one or two of them, wearing shades and leaning against a nearby building. Tony was aware of them, and starting to get an idea.

“I dislike being sized up by your groupies,” Loki observed.

“Not groupies. Look at the camera bags.”

“Oh, fantastic,” the god of mischief muttered, turning just slightly away from them so they saw less of his profile.

“What, afraid to be seen with me?” Tony teased.

“I could ask you the same question,” Loki countered.

Grinning maniacal and fierce at that, Tony reached up and took hold of Loki’s tie, seeing the two paparazzi now lowering their shades to stare before quickly pulling out their camera equipment.

Loki’s spine stiffened. “What are you doing?”

“Making a point,” Tony countered, and pulled him down into a kiss that wasn’t chaste in the least, and only smirking a little when he noticed the slight flicker of a camera flash when he opened his eyes just a little. When he pulled away, the look on the god of mischief’s face was priceless.

“If you keep doing that, I may stop wearing ties,” Loki warned.

“No you won’t,” Tony growled.

At that, Loki flashed him that dazzling smile again, sharper this time. “No. I won’t.”

“In case you were wondering, you can have more of a part in my life than you might think, love,” Tony said, winking at him, then expertly turning them both away from the cameras and darting around the corner toward Tony’s car and laughing like kids.

Chapter Text

Pepper looked distinctly unimpressed by the front page of the gossip magazine Steve Rogers dropped in front of her on the desk. Yes, Tony Stark was on it. Yes, he was in a compromising position. On closer inspection, it was a man this time, which caused her to raise an eyebrow at Captain America. “Did you really need to bring in backup for this one?” She nodded at where Clint, Natasha and Bruce stood a few steps behind him. “Admittedly, it’s been a few years since the press caught him with a man...”

 

“That’s not actually what any of us are concerned about,” Steve said, his face only reddening a little, indicating he was pretty serious. He pulled a folder out from under the magazine, and opened it. “That name ring any bells?”

 

“Loki Laufeyson... Loki. The guy with the horned helmet who-” She stopped, lifted the folder, and took a closer look at the gossip magazine. In the photo, Tony had pulled the taller man down for a not-very-chaste kiss by means of a firm grip on the stranger’s dark green tie. The taller man’s face wasn’t too clear, given the angle, but looking between the file, and the magazine cover, she could see the resemblance: those cheekbones were pretty distinct, though if that was Loki, he’d gotten a haircut. “You’re sure that’s Loki?”

 

“We’ve examined that photo, and half a dozen others from other photographers, for other news sources,” Clint said. “Cross-referencing them, there’s no doubt. That’s him.”

 

“When was this taken?”

 

“Yesterday. Apparently, they stopped off at a cafe before the benefit he had scheduled,” Natasha said.

 

“Well, Tony seemed to be fine this morning,” Pepper mused, though the marks on his neck she’d teased him about could be viewed in a new light. He usually didn’t let his one-nighters get away with that sort of thing, before or after their break-up last year. “I don’t see why you haven’t just gone straight to him.”

 

“We wanted to consult you on it, because three of the photos we found online were taken from people’s cellphones,” Bruce said gently, “As far back as two months ago.”

 

Pepper’s eyebrows slowly raised. “What?”

 

“A few prints are in the file,” Steve said, sounding tired. He had the bridge of his nose pinched between thumb and forefinger.

 

Morbidly curious, Pepper flipped past the front page with Loki’s picture from his temporary incarceration in the Helicarrier, back in the early days. Beneath it were photos of rather poorer quality, but still clear enough: one was clearly meant to be a photo of the girl in the foreground, but just over her shoulder, distinctly, was Loki Laufeyson leaning into Tony Stark’s space: Tony on a barstool, his back to the bar, Loki standing almost between his knees, hands resting on the edge of the bartop on either side, barring Tony any exit. To judge by the half-challenging, half-curious expression on the mad engineer’s face, he hadn’t been giving much thought to leaving. They were both in business casual, normal human clothing. The bar could be one of any number of  places Tony frequented, where privacy and anonymity were the draw for most of the clientele: usually wealthy, eccentric and semi-famous, all. It had a sticky note in bottom corner: dated two months ago.

 

The next one, Pepper was a little more disconcerted by. It was Tony at a cafe not too far from Avengers tower. Loki’s face was more recognizable there, and it seemed he was the one caught more off-guard: he was seated at a table just outside the cafe, and to most passerby they would’ve been half-hidden by a conveniently large potted shrubbery. Tony’s hand rested on Loki’s wrist, and his smile was all sharp edges. Loki appeared in equal parts wary and intrigued. Sticky note: 6 weeks ago, taken by the barista.

 

The last example was two weeks old, and made Pepper hesitate. It was actually two shots on one page, one taken only a few seconds after the other. The first one showed primarily Loki, gripping Tony’s wrist pulling him back as he tried to leave. The expression on Loki’s face was difficult to read: maybe angry, but maybe afraid. It certainly wasn’t the same mask as all the others. The second photo showed Tony turned to face Loki again––where Loki hadn’t released his wrist––with Loki’s tie wrapped around his hand. Tony was saying something, not kissing, but they were close enough together that a kiss seemed the only logical progression. Originally heavily photoshopped, part of an art display. 3 weeks ago.

 

Slowly, Pepper turned her wide-eyed stare on the rest of the Avengers. Steve, caught between anger, worry, and exasperation. Natasha, serene and unreadable. Clint, clearly fuming and possibly a little betrayed. And Bruce, who looked nervously amused and a bit worried. Pepper settled on Steve. “I... didn’t know about this. I hadn’t even expected––well...”

 

“There’s something else,” Steve said. “We had a rough couple weeks of it, lately. All sorts of crap. Had to call in the Fantastic Four and Doc Strange both on that last one. Well, the injury reports for Tony after each of those five missions sort of... aren’t adding up.”

 

“Not adding up?” Pepper repeated. “Clarify?”

“We pulled a sizable splinter of metal from his upper arm after the second,” Bruce said. “The stitches should have been ready to come out by the time we finished the third, but––and we missed it at the time, given the chaos––the wound was gone. The third mission cracked two of his ribs, which should have left visible bruising and limited mobility by the time the fourth came around...”

 

“But not a sign of it?” Pepper prompted.

 

“Yeah. His ribs were fine when poked and prodded that time around.”

 

Pepper looked at the last photo in the set, from just before all that started happening. “Something happened, I think,” she murmured.

 

“And so he gets reckless enough to show this off in front of the press?” Steve sighed. “Seriously?”

 

Returning her attention to the magazine cover, Pepper took a closer look at Loki: his hands had been caught right before he actually managed to settle them on Tony’s waist, his head was only a little tilted and there was a looseness to his posture, like the tension in his shoulders had been suddenly drained away. “I think he was making some sort of point.”

 

“Right on, Pep,” Tony’s voice concurred from the intercom on the other end of her desk. Everyone in the room jumped––except Natasha, who only whipped her head around and glared. “Don’t mind me, just dropped in to have lunch with Happy and happened to notice the Avengers party headed for your office, so I hacked a little.”

 

“Tony, you’re an ass,” Steve snapped.

 

“Look, hey, can you blame me?”

“Yes,” most of them said, in eerie synchrony, except Bruce who was too busy trying not to laugh.

 

“Wait, is this you guys blaming me for the hacking, or for the Loki thing?”

 

Steve sighed. “Personally, I’ll go with both, but while we’re on that subject: what exactly is ‘the Loki thing’ to you?”

 

“Well...” Tony could convey the uneasy, restless urge to flee quite well, usually against his will, and Pepper recognized it instantly. “It got a bit complicated at some point.”

 

“Tony,” Pepper warned, in that tone.

 

“Okay. Okay. Fine. I’m in––we’re a thing. It started out with us both being a bit stupid and not willing to back down, but he did this crazy, absurd, absolutely ridiculous-” He stopped. “He, uh. I... I’minlovewithhim.”

 

A long pause followed.

 

Pepper half-smiled, shaking her head. “You’re out of your fucking mind, Tony.”

 

“I KNOW! I know. It’s... not necessarily a sane thing, but it’s not going to change anytime soon.”

 

“He tried to destroy-”

 

“I know! We’ve talked about it.”

 

That seemed to shock Pepper more than any of the rest of this conversation. “You what?” she asked.

 

“I’m capable of talking about important things!” Tony responded, almost petulantly.

 

“How exactly did you talk about it and come to... to this point?” Steve asked.

 

Tony took a deep breath. “Look. I’m not saying he’ll be joining the good guys––that’d be all sorts of horrible, actually. And I’m not saying he’s altogether sane––though neither am I––or redeemed or anything. He’s sort of like me––we don’t do redemption, just... just improvement. He sees what I... what we’ve got as an improvement, compared to being my enemy––or even our enemy. We, ah, we’ve talked about a lot of things I’m not inclined to tell you all the details of. A lot. Maybe more than I’ve ever talked in my life about shit that matters.” He cleared his throat. “And if this were to manipulate me, or turn me on you guys via magic or trickery, he’s had more than 6 opportunities this past month, that I can think of just off the top of my head, to make our lives miserable and do me harm in one fell swoop, and he hasn’t. Not in three months, and honestly, it started getting complicated a bit before the first month was up.”

 

Three months?” Steve managed.

 

“Yeah. Mostly that was time spent in private hotel rooms.”

 

Steve’s face reddened further.

 

Tony cleared his throat. “So. I’m out of my mind, Steve is out of his depth, Pepper seems to be mostly okay with it. Anyone else care to contribute? Mean and green?”

 

Bruce snorted. “I wish I could say I was more surprised. I’m indifferent so long as he doesn’t destroy anything or invite anymore alien invasions.”

 

“Legolas?”

 

“I hate you,” Clint said flatly.

 

“Come on, Sunshine, no you don’t.”

 

“No, but still want to stab you right now.”

 

“How is that different than any other Thursday.”

 

“You’re screwing a murderous psychopath I have personal problems with.”

 

“...I’ll make you some new arrows.”

 

Clint’s eyes narrowed. “What kind?”

 

“How do you feel about thermite?”

 

Clint considered. “Fine. I won’t stab you... for now.”

 

“No shooting with arrows either?”

 

“... For now.”

 

“Excellent,” Tony audibly beamed. “Natasha? Thoughts?”

 

“I’ll be willing to promise not to murder you or Loki in your sleep, in exchange for one thing.”

 

“That being?”

 

“High quality footage of Bruce smashing him into the floor during the invasion. I know your security systems caught it, and I want it. Blue-ray.”

 

A long pause followed.

 

“Natasha, I want you to know you’re my hero,” Tony said at last, breaking the awkward silence by means of making himself a source of more vast awkward.

 

“Fine. Fine!” Steve sighed. “You’re a fucking lunatic and we’re sparring tonight.”

 

“Pull no punches, Capsicle,” Tony said, his vicious smile audible over the intercom. “I’ve got a few new tricks up my sleeve.”

 

Bruce suddenly looked thoughtful. “Hmm.”

 

“Ah-ah-ah!” Tony warned, loud enough to make Pepper wince. “I made that botanical inquiry in confidence, Dr. Banner!”

 

Bruce only smiled and waved off everyone’s curious looks. " You'll work it out." He snorted. "But I get the feeling Loki will be hanging around for a long while."

Chapter Text

While the media warmed up to Luke Lyesmthe fairly well, Loki making occasional appearances in Avengers tower’s common rooms (large living room, kitchen, library, game-and-media rooms) hadn’t gotten off to the smoothest of starts. They had left two of Clint’s arrows sticking out of the wall as a general reminder not to go quite that insane again. Eventually Clint used them as a location to hang seldom-used cooking pans, which somewhat negated that effect.

Once the suspicion and overt paranoia on all sides eased a bit, and the open hostility of Clint toward Tony’s lover had gone from outright warfare to elaborate prankster covert-ops on both sides, it reached a point that no one in the mansion would have been at all surprised to notice Loki, in full armor only a little scorched, asleep on the living room couch.

Why the trickster might have chosen to doze on the public couch when he was notoriously the lightest sleeper in the house who wasn’t actually a trained assassin, no one really questioned. Not even Clint, who couldn’t resist such an open opportunity to potentially catch Loki off-guard. Thus, armed with sharpie marker and some glitter, he made his approach, but before the felt tip could get within six inches of Loki’s face, the god of mischief’s hand shot out and seized the archer’s wrist in a vice-like grip. He didn’t even open his eyes. “Really, Barton?”

“I have glitter, and I will use it.”

“I have your livelihood in my grasp and your bones are far more delicate than mine, little archer.”

Clint considered. “Touché.” He raised an eyebrow. “Why are you scorched?”

“I got into a minor altercation with Amora and matters got uncommonly chaotic even by my rather impressive standards.” He opened his eyes. They looked a bit foggier than usual. He looked around the room, suddenly seeming to realize where he was. “I must have been more out of it than I thought, when I returned,” he muttered, releasing released Clint’s wrist as he sat up. He ran a hand through his hair, knocking a bit of ash into the air like a little puff of smoke.

The archer stared. “That’s a weirdly direct answer, coming from you.”

“I’m capable of it,” Loki said, only a little defensively, suddenly not keen on looking Clint in the eye.

“Are you?”

“Most of the time, there are some exceptions, on particularly sensitive subjects, in which case the only real way to get a direct answer is a certain type of very troublesome truth-spell,” Loki rattled off all at once, then winced. “Damn.”

Slowly, Clint began to grin. “You’re under a truth spell?”

“Yes,” Loki said, then swore.

Clint swiftly perched on the arm of the couch Loki had formerly been resting his head on: there was ash on it. “How did she manage that?”

“By deliberately backfiring one of her own spells and using a shield to deflect it in my direction,” Loki said, glaring.

“Can you actually avoid answering a question by trying to keep your mouth shut?” Clint asked.

“No.” Loki started to stand.

“Sit.”

“It doesn’t extend to commands.”

“Sit, god of lies,” Clint said sharply. “You owe me for this.”

Loki considered, head cocked to one side. “Do I?”

The archer glared. “Something about how I ‘have heart’ ring any bells?”

The god of mischief frowned. “It does.”

“Do you regret doing it?”

“No,” Loki said. “Given my options, you were still the best available choice, and also possessed of a psyche and the emotional support from friends and colleagues necessary to bounce back quicker than most.” Slowly, he sat down at the other end of the couch, facing Barton. He looked displeased, but not overtly uncooperative.

The archer wasn’t happy with that answer, clearly. “You ever had that done to you?”

“You think Thanos would entrust that scepter and that quest to someone he didn’t have his claws in the psyche of, especially given my reputation as the god of lies?”

Clint considered that. “You were under his control, then?”

“Initially. Once I arrived on earth, I was merely under his constant observation, knowing that if I strayed too far I would be booted back out of the driver’s seat, as you might say. My thoughts and actions were my own, but to call them entirely willing in most cases would have been something of an exaggeration. You had your strings pulled for you; he made me pull my own.”

That made the archer go quiet for a moment or two. “That admittedly sounds a bit worse, in someways, I admit.”

Loki glanced away, folding his arms over his chest, and said nothing.

“But what I don’t quite get––with that happening to you, you knew what it felt like to have it done to you, and you still did it to all of us? Me, Selvig, the people you made me bring you from S.H.I.E.L.D.’s list of enemies...”

“With so many other minds under the sway of his scepter, and thus his remote control, I could feel his observation wander away from me for brief periods of time,” Loki said. “If not for those brief moments of total lucidity, many more people would be dead because of my actions.”

Clint blinked. “How?”

“I sabotaged myself, Barton. Obviously. I’m millennia old, your mortal Rube Goldberg couldn’t hold a candle to some of the absurd machinations and plots I’ve woven throughout the nine realms to achieve my ends by the most convoluted and entertaining means necessary. I don’t do that with wars however. Consider: with the last pre-Chitauri war I started, I chose the simplest possible method to end it: by trying to wipe out the entire planet of creatures who would war against us. Quick. Simple. Easy to remember, and difficult to stop. Thinking that I truly believed that a convoluted and attention-catching plot, culminating in the summoning of a single army slowly arriving through a gap less than half a mile wide so that their largest ships couldn’t get through, leaving them to trickle with mostly their infantry and start causing rather dull and directionless forms of mayhem, would win me all of the earth is a bit absurd, really. Yes I’d been driven more than half-mad even by own very loose standards of what constitutes sanity, and yes my thoughts were hindered by the awareness of another presence in my head watching for any misstep, but I’m hardly an idiot.”

Clint gaped at him. “You... you’re an insane motherfucker.”

“You knew this,” Loki said flatly.

“No, no, no, I knew you were batshit crazy and your mind is a bag of cats-”

“A what?”

“-but seriously, if you were planning to fail anyway, why did you do it in a way that deliberately got the most powerful people in the world so pissed off at you that most of them outside this tower would still be more than happy to shoot you in the head.”

“It’s what I do when I’m terrified. I provoke people to anger because anger makes them vulnerable to being tricked, manipulated and redirected more easily,” Loki said. “It also makes me generally feel more confident and at ease when I have successfully infuriated someone to such a degree that they can hardly speak.”

Clint blinked a bit at that. “You’re under a truth spell and I still can’t believe half the shit that comes out of your mouth.”

Loki rolled his eyes. “Next question? You only have a few more hours.”

Something about the way he said that made the archer wonder. “Are you able to lie when not asked a direct question?”

“Only in vague terms: careful omission usually.”

“How many hours, specifically, before this spell wears off.”

Loki grimaced. “Eighteen.”

Clint grinned at him unpleasantly. “What all could you really see of the inside of my head?”

“I focused primarily on information concerning S.H.I.E.L.D.’s enemies, allies, strengths, weaknesses, and so forth. I also looked into all that you knew about the Avengers initiative and the respective candidates considered for it: Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Natasha Romanov. Understandably, I was interested in the wealth of information you had concerning the latter, because emotional bonds are easily manipulated.”

“How did that work out for you?” Clint asked in flat, unimpressed tones.

“Not so well, actually. Of all the mortals I’ve ever met, in the entirety of my long life, Natasha is truly one of the finest artists among them al when it comes to deception, and keeping herself focused and unaffected by emotional or sentimental distractions. I tried to inflict some genuine damage because I have a habit of seeing how far I can really push people, but if anything managed to hit home, it wasn’t while I was watching.”

Clint nodded a little. “So. Tony Stark.”

A twitch under Loki’s left cheekbone. “That’s not a question.”

“This is: your ‘emotional bond’ with him––how serious is it?”

“Gravely so. It’s occasionally terrifying.” Loki looked deeply uncomfortable, like a cat that had just been shot with ice-cold water from a squirt bottle. “If you keep asking along these lines, I will leave.”

“You saw my heart when you tapped me,” the archer growled.

The god of mischief glared, but said nothing to that.

“When did you first notice it was serious with him?”

“Nearly two months ago.”

“How did you notice?”

Loki visibly tried and failed to keep from answering. “I may have offered to take on the appearance of someone else. He rejected the idea outright. He desired me alone, as I have always been. That is a rare thing, for a shape-shifter, trickster, and chronic liar with a cruel streak born of inherent insecurity. I have a weakness for rarities, being one myself, and it occurred to me for the first time that I might actually want to keep him.” He wore a pained, deeply frustrated expression for a moment. “Happy?”

Clint ignored the question. “Looking into my head, did you dig into Budapest?”

The god of mischief’s eyebrows raised. “Not far.”

“How far is ‘not far’, Loki?”

“I didn’t keep your memories. When exploring them, I filtered out the emotional aspect to it in order to focus of visuals: little things I could use there. To dig into your emotional state would have made me subject to your sentiments, which I think would be as uncomfortable for me as it would to you.”

“But you saw a lot of it?”

Loki’s lips thinned. “What you are asking whether I know of, I know of. And that I do regret, if only because I’ve grudgingly come to respect the both of you, and I know it is an offense to you both that I’ve committed that particular violation of privacy.” He looked away quickly, trying to look annoyed and aloof with very minimal success.

One more for the road, the archer thought. “Do you think he loves you?”

“He has told me so, and I trust him. Being a god, I do find belief difficult to give rather than receive, but I’m willing to worship him, and so he has it from me.” At that, Loki met his gaze in an openly defiant manner.

“Okay,” Clint said. “I’d say between this, and the Hulk having ungraciously dented the floor with you, I’m willing to call us even. Clean slate.”

Loki’s eyebrows raised. “Really?”

“A bout of honesty can have that effect, you know.”

The god of mischief tilted his head. “So people tell me. Whether I believe it or not tends to vary, day to day.”

Both of them turned their heads at the sound of someone heading out of the kitchen door nearby, and stared.

Tony Stark stared back, looking at them as though he’d just caught them playing strip poker with an overdressed yeti. “Er... Did I just catch you two having a civil conversation?”

“Yes and no,” Loki answered.

“Your boyfriend is under a compulsive-truthfulness spell,” Clint said cheerfully, rising to his feet with a bright grin. “Enjoy.” He bowed dramatically and wandered off into the game room with something of a spring in his step.

Tony stared after him in a bemused fashion, the glanced at Loki with both eyebrows raised. “What’s with him?”

“Apparently, I’ve made amends.”

“That’s... new.” He strode over and set down his coffee on the nearby coffee table as he settled in on the couch next to Loki. “I thought he’d set you on fire or something, by the look of you.” Tony smiled a little and settled in against Loki’s side, absurdly comfortable with his head tucked under Loki’s chin and the god of mischief’s arm about his waist.

“That would be an impressive feat for him. This was Amora. So is the truth spell.”

“He wasn’t joking?”

“No.”

“Do you love me?”

“Of course I do.”

Tony grinned. “Any truth to the story about the horse?”

“For the last time, Tony, no!”

“What sort of questions did he ask you?”

“Uncomfortable ones concerning my dealings with the Chitauri, the information I gleaned from within his head whilst he was under my control, and our relationship.”

Tony looked uncomfortable. “Does he now have blackmail material I should worry about at all?”

Loki laughed a bit tiredly. “No.”

“Did Amora win?”

“No. She’ll have a fun time of it trying to escape irate Kree hunting parties for a while, which should keep her occupied.”

Tony shook his head a little. “How annoyed are you with the whole ‘barrage of questions’ thing?”

“With you, it’s comfortingly familiar. You’re always full of questions.”

“You don’t mind it?”

“I like it.”

“I saw you sleeping out here, you know. JARVIS told me when you came back.”

Loki made a noncommittal noise.

“You picked this place for a catnap on purpose to clear the air with Barton, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” Loki said quietly. “And I love your brain.”

Tony chuckled. “I’m surprised you let him.”

“I didn’t have to. I could have left, and he knew it. I think I made my point.”

“Nice.” Tony sighed a little, and wrinkled his nose. “You smell like you lost a fight with a bag of charcoal, y’know.”

“You charmer, you.”

“You need a shower, is what I’m getting at. I’ll be happy to help.”

Loki grinned. “I like this idea.”