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Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall

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See, the thing is, the thing Tony will never admit to anyone (until he does), is that if he made himself a god, just for him, perfect and broken, to fit in all his shattered places - it would be Loki. Loki, the cleverest person in nine realms (self-declared, but no one's arguing); Loki, angry and bitter and so damned powerful Tony can't help but believe him when he says that plan didn't fail, it went perfectly, because it got the invaders killed and him back in Asgard.

Yeah. Tony's not an idiot. The opposite, actually. Not the cleverest person in nine realms, but Loki smirks at him, sometimes, whenever they foil him again (what, like you thought Asgard could hold him? Pfft. He had at least a thousand years of studying their methods). Loki smirks at him, and sometimes a sheet of paper explaining his latest trick shows up in Tony's workshop, and he should tell someone about that, he really should, Fury or Thor, or at least Bruce, the only person on Earth capable of actually slowing Loki down.

… he should tell someone. Pepper, maybe, wonderful Pepper, the only person to ever stick things out with him, until he fucked things up again and he doesn't blame her for backing off, being friend and CEO but not lover, never again.

(I know what you’re doing, Clint tells him one afternoon, when he drops in to talk about arrows and explosions.

I’m doing a lot of things, Tony says, and Clint huffs a small laugh.

But Clint doesn’t tell anyone else, and sometimes, he looks so wistful.

Tony wonders what Clint’s perfect god would look like.)

It’s not going to end well, because Tony won’t betray the only family he’s ever had, and he won’t kill –

Tony doesn’t believe in gods. He believes in what he can test, and apparently, faith doesn’t really take well to being tested. And more primitive humans might’ve worshipped Asgard, but Tony’s seen them bleed and weep, and he knows he could kill them.

Gods don’t bleed, and gods don’t weep.

Gods don’t die.

Everything dies.

So, see, the thing is… the thing is, Loki is not Tony’s god. He’s always had a soft spot for Hephaestus, actually, but Loki had scoffed when he asked about that (what, of course they’re talking, you think Tony can hang out with anyone for a while without talking? Please. Even if their mouths did other things for a bit, well. Loki’s got this voice, right? Of course Tony talks to him.).

Anyway. The point. Tony’s run the numbers, assessed the variables, plotted out a thousand ways this whole thing can go. None of them end well.

(Iron Man is a hero. Somehow. Tony knows what a slippery slope those first few weeks were, when he looked out over the world and thought about it.

No one could have stopped him, then. But he saw Obie, felt Obie, and he saw what not to do, what not to become.

And Loki, Thor’s little brother, lashing out and so damned bitter – he never had that.

He could be Loki, and Loki could’ve been him, and Natasha studies him sometimes, and he raises an eyebrow at her, and she doesn’t say a thing.)

“If I asked,” Loki muses, one finger tracing Tony’s jaw, his other hand spread out over the arc reactor.

Loki doesn’t finish the thought, but Tony’s not a moron. Loki’s attacks lately have been – almost easy-going. Simple. Child’s play.

Courting gifts.

“I’d refuse,” he says, but he isn’t sure anymore, and Loki’s small smile and biting kiss says he knows it.