“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” United Negro College Fund (1971)
Loki sees beauty in strange places. He sees it in shadows, in the sun rising on the remains of a ruined city, in the intricate patterns of blood, in the eyes of survivors. He sees it because he bothers to look. Others may see only chaos, destruction, devastation – he sees beauty and hope and the chance of new life. He sees beauty in things that cannot break because they are already broken.
Tony Stark is a broken man. It took Loki many months to realise this, to see past the arrogant facade he hides behind, but now that he has seen what lies beneath the mask the image has been forever burned into his mind.
Tony Stark is a genius whose mind is always spinning; always searching for impossibilities he can make possible. He is full to the brim with a rich creative energy that Loki has found lacking in the other mortals of his generation. Whilst they are satisfied to submit to the oppressive hand of the mundane – to sacrifice chaos and freedom for order and security – Tony Stark constantly refuses the shackles of order. He allows his creativity to run free, to manifest itself in his wondrous inventions; and has consequently learnt of the true price of creative freedom. The weapons he created, the pain they caused –it haunts him. Loki can see it in how he acts when he fails at being the hero. He drowns his sorrows in alcohol, in his work, in his hope that next time he will live up to the expectations of the people he always seems to disappoint.
Loki has seen Tony Stark’s mind, his soul, and knows that it is both broken and beautiful.
At times this knowledge fills him with disgust. He has studied the histories of Midgard and knows that they are a race drawn to bloodshed and destruction. That is why he holds a certain fondness for humans, why he has deemed them worthy to be his subjects. Yet it is the minority rather than the majority that possess the innate talent for true chaos, and of these only a few ever truly choose to exercise it in anything resembling a worthy pursuit. Loki had given up searching for a child of chaos like himself when he discovered Stark. For creativity is chaos given purpose and Stark’s purpose is admirable, if not entirely misguided. He creates to protect both people and the ideas of justice his society stands by. He creates to fill the void within him that a childhood of loneliness and disappointment has created. Loki laughs at the former, but he can understand the latter. He uses magic in the same way Stark uses his technology and the comparison leaves an unpleasant taste in his mouth. He doesn’t like the fact that he can empathise with a mortal, that at times he sees his own pain mirrored in the smile that has become easy after years of practice. Yet in times of boredom and distraction he finds his memories returning to that brilliant broken jewel that is Tony Stark’s mind.
The contact had been entirely accidental. It was not Stark’s mind he had meant to ravage for information, but the mortal had intervened whilst the spell was still active and Loki had been presented with a glimpse of the genius’ mind. Now he can never forget what he saw, no matter how much he would like to. Loki knows that if he is to achieve his goals he must kill Iron Man, must crush him and all others who stand against him; but it is hard to destroy something of such beauty, to do battle with a man whose intelligence plagues your idle thoughts. He has yet to discover how he can dispose of Iron Man without murdering Tony Stark in the process.
Stark looks up from his machines when Loki appears in his workshop. His eyes are calm, his gaze steady; Loki wonders if he has been waiting for him. It would not surprise him if he has. When he looked upon Stark’s mind Stark looked upon his in return. Loki can visualise the gears turning in that brilliant brain – can imagine the connections being made. It irks Loki to know that the mortal has seen what he is and now knows him more intimately than any other; yet there is also a sense of satisfaction in the connection.
Loki’s mouth curls into a smile as he stalks closer to his prey. Stark does not panic, does not reach for a weapon, does not call his companions. He simply holds Loki’s gaze and asks, “What do you want Loki?”
“You,” Loki replies. “I want you, Tony Stark. I want to possess you body and soul. I want to hold your existence in my hands and do with it as I please. I want you to be mine.”
Stark’s smile is crooked as Loki skirts his machines to stand before him. “What makes you think I’d want to be yours?”
Loki grabs a fistful of Stark’s hair and pushes back his head to expose his throat. “I do not care what you want. You will be mine.”
Stark laughs and Loki is torn between fury and lust.
“That was not a joke Stark.”
“I know,” Stark replies with that infuriating, arrogant smile, “that’s what makes it so funny.”
Teeth clash as Loki crushes his lips against Stark’s. The mortal does not resist as Loki plunders his mouth, as he tastes all that is Tony Stark. He simply stands there – tense and unmovable.
When Loki has taken his fill he releases Stark’s lips. He eases his grip on Stark’s hair and allows the man to meet his eyes. Stark stares boldly into the heat of Loki’s desire and does not flinch or retreat. Loki smiles as his hand dips to curl around the curve of Stark’s jaw. “You have a beautiful mind,” he murmurs.
“How many other geniuses have you used that line on?”
“None,” Loki says honestly, his eyes again fixated on Stark’s lips.
“I suppose I should be honoured.”
Loki raises his gaze to meet Stark’s eyes. They are full of caution, of curiosity, of the same hunger that has plagued Loki ever since he gazed upon this man’s soul. It pleases Loki to know that he is not the only one who was affected by what he saw.
“What did you do to me?” Stark asks in a tone that is what Loki can only describe as subdued.
“I inadvertently let you gaze upon my mind – or soul, as many of you mortals seem to refer to it. What you saw was my essence; the core of my being. You saw me stripped bare, just as I in turn saw exactly what lies beneath your well-crafted armour.”
Stark is still, as if his worst fears have just been confirmed. “What did it look like? My soul?”
“I already told you it was beautiful; what else I saw cannot be expressed in your pitiful excuse for a language.”
Stark silently scrutinises his expression. “How do I know you’re not lying?”
“Would it really make that much of a difference if I was?” Loki asks as he runs the pad of his thumb across Stark’s bottom lip.
There is anger in Stark’s expression as he fights to find the words that will make Loki confess to putting him under a spell; that will explain away his newfound desire for the god of mischief. Loki tries not to laugh at the Man of Iron’s impressive ability to hide in denial.
“You should stop fighting it Mr Stark. I am in no way affecting you at this moment. It will be a lot easier on you if you accept what you feel and allow yourself to be mine.”
“Sorry but I don’t have feelings; gave them up when I took over the family business.”
“Of course you did,” Loki says indulgingly, grinning when Stark glares at him. “You’re making this more difficult on yourself than necessary. I already know that you want to surrender yourself to me; you should submit to that urge.”
“You’re a mindreader now?” Stark says with something that is just short of his usual bravado.
“If you didn’t desire me as I desire you, you would have ordered me to stop touching you at the beginning of our conversation.” Stark’s eyes widen as he realises that one of Loki’s arms is around his waist whilst the other continues to caress his jaw. Loki’s grin descends into a leer as he whispers in Stark’s ear, “Tell me I’m wrong.”
When Stark does not reply Loki triumphantly moves back to bask in the glow of the mortal’s defeat. However, instead of seeing the ruins of Starks pride upon his face Loki is instead presented with the man’s old mask of arrogance and audacity. “You want me to surrender? Sorry, but Tony Stark doesn’t surrender.”
“Is that so?” Loki asks lightly, the only indication of his fury at having his victory stolen the hand now sliding to threateningly circle Stark’s throat.
“Yeah, it is. Whatever you want from me you’re going to have to take by force.”
Stark’s mask slips enough to reveal the challenge in the curve of his lips and the twinkle of mischief in his eyes. A grin gradually makes its way onto Loki’s lips as he deciphers the meaning behind the words of defiance. “If that is the case then I hope you are able to put up a decent fight.”
“You can bet on it,” is Stark’s smug reply.
The hand on Stark’s throat glides to the back of his neck, pushing him into a kiss. This time Stark responds eagerly, his hands tightly gripping Loki’s waist as he presses his tongue against the seam of the god’s lips. Loki permits him entrance, a laugh bubbling in his throat as he easily manoeuvres the man towards a workbench.
Stark is already his, whether he realises it or not.