Loki had, of course, noticed that Tony was off for months now, but it’s only now, sitting in a dark corner of Tony’s workshop, listening to JARVIS relate the level of poisoning on Tony’s blood - 89% now - that Loki realized that Tony had been telling him and Pepper goodbye.
He shut his eyes, uncloaking his presence from JARVIS and Tony. His steps were sure, Loki refused to show how his knees had weakened when he had seen the effects of poison. He stopped in front of Tony, who was only looking at him with remorse at being caught.
Loki glanced at the arc reactor, the blueblackpurple lines which he knew indicated poisoning of the highest degree. Loki could survive this, had survived poisoning of this degree many times in fact. Tony couldn’t.
“When were you going to tell me?” Loki whispered, tracing the lines with his fingers.
“You weren’t supposed to find out,” Tony said, he refuse to look at Loki. “I don’t have much time left.”
“I can see it,” Loki whispered, kneeling in front of Tony so he could see the reactor and the damage the technology was doing to his lover. He couldn’t decide what to feel, overwhelming, encompassing rage… or the deep, dark sadness of having someone he loved taken away again. And this time he couldn’t even blame Odin!
“Surely something can be done. Your Midgardian methods may be crude, but I have seen some great things achieved.” Loki said, sounding much more strong and level headed than he felt.
“No one can help me. Not even you.” The whisper was faint, regretful and resigned.
This was Tony, this was his Tony that was fated to a horrible death, something caused by his own technology. Loki wanted to scream and cry and punch something - Stark preferably - to let his frustration show. His lover could be so utterly fucking stupid for an allegedly genius!
“And you weren’t even going to let me try.” Loki said.
“There’s nothing to be done, I’m… I’m dying.”
“We’ll see about that, Mr. Stark.” Loki said, voice suddenly thick with tears. Tony turned to him, but his eyes were dry, “I’m not done with you, I refuse to let you die like this.”
Suddenly Tony’s head is bent backwards, Loki’s grip on his hair tight enough to pull it out. The kiss they shared was, in contrast, the most bittersweet they had ever shared as Loki slowly tasted the bitter metal tang on his lover’s mouth. Palladium. Damn it.
“We still have time, Stark, if JARVIS is right, and I’ve full confidence he is,” they shared a smile, ignoring the AI’s sudden chirpy voice, “I can still do something about it. Don’t worry so much until the poisoning reaches 99%”
They shared another kiss, Loki still pulling Tony’s hair, before Loki left with a wink.
Loki made sure to leave through the front door, immediately stepping through space to Director Fury’s office. He and Natasha shared a wink before Loki knocked on the door, stepping inside without waiting for an invitation.
“Yes, Loki?” The demigod was the only one with enough balls to enter uninvited.
“I want your file on Stark, and I also want free access to your lab.” Loki said without preamble. He glanced around the office, noticing the very subtle difference in decour.
“Why should I? Specially without insurance.”
“Your insurance is dying at this moment,” Loki said, “if Tony dies, our deal’s off.”
Fury paused. Loki was a very, very, very real threat to Earth, the young - by Asgardian standards - shunned prince had only stopped his conquest of Midgard because he and Stark got caught trading useful and useless knowledge after Stane’s death.
The princeling’s attention had been caught by the heart apparatus, just as Stark’s attention had been caught by the possibilities of magic - once he was forced to acknowledge it existed that is.
When Loki met fury, they made the deal to leave Midgard alone, while the men played with their toys, keeping the destruction only on Stark’s property - much to Pepper’s eventual chagrin - instead of going global.
The fact that they ended up as lovers made things both easier and harder for Fury, who got two powerful beings at the relative cost of one.
“You’ll persuade Stark to enter the Avenger’s Initiative.” Fury stated.
“I’ll give it my best try.” Loki smirked, all pressed lips and no teeth and condescending expression.
Three days later, when Fury eventually got Tony out of the donut, Natasha stabbed him with a solution to counter the Palladium, buying them more time.
It didn’t change the fact that Tony was dying, it only slowed it down.
Their struggle was over. Tony had a new arc reactor in the shape of a triangle, the Hammerbots had been destroyed by Iron Man and the War Machine while Loki, Natasha and Pepper had protected the innocents. Well… while Loki erected a shield which protected the building against the bots and Natasha resetted them. Loki had no idea what Pepper had been doing, until he went to find Tony.
He stepped through space and ended at the top of a building, overlooking part of the city, but Loki had no time to appreciate the view. He turned around at the sound of soft cotton meeting the hard metal of the Iron Man suit only to see Tony’s lips locked with Pepper’s.
It’s a far more intimate kiss, a far more passionate kiss. It’s not something brought on in the heat of the moment, something to release testosterone and adrenaline. Loki could see it was something that had clearly built over weeks! He felt a shiver run up his spine, and purposely took a loud step forward.
He could get no amusement or satisfaction when they released each other and Pepper at least looked at him guiltily. Tony just looked shocked.
“Loki…” Pepper started, but Loki waved her meagre apologies away, still looking at Stark.
“How long?” He asked. He didn’t wait to hear the answer, fighting the urge to shake his head in denial, “you told me you were over her, that you’d never see her again that way.” As he looked at Tony, Loki snorted at his own foolishness, tricked by a mortal of all things!
“Since you left,” Tony whispered looking anywhere but at the demigod. “I made a mistake when we started whatever we had, I’m sorry, Loki.”
Sorry… sorry of all things. What Loki heard was sorry we started the relationship that made you concentrate on something else besides Asgard, sorry I cheated on you with someone I promised I wouldn’t, sorry I can’t even call our companionship a proper relationship, sorry that even though you brought me time I couldn’t wait for you. Sorry I’m ashamed of you.
Sorry… they’re always sorry.
Loki snorted in disgust, turning away from the still entwined couple, “no, you’re not.” It was a statement. Loki didn’t see Tony look at him, his face marred with guilt, the hand which wasn’t holding Pepper was clenched in a tight fist.
“I’ll leave you two to it then,” Loki turned around one last time, giving Stark and Ms Pots a tight nod complete with a tight unamused smile. Before he stepped through space to nowhere in particular. A fist clenched over where his heart was supposed to be, he wondered if the passer-bys could see his heart hammering in his chest so hard he could feel each individual beat through his hand. Could they see the red-rimmed eyes which wanted to cry but which were too proud to shred tears? Could they see his hands trembling in an effort not to react? Could they read the sad smile on his face or did they see it as the amused one he presented to everyone?
The dark prince, shunned once again. Pushed to the side for something a little bit better, something a little more golden.
Loki shook his head and stepped through space one more time and ending somewhere old… older than the Americas. It was time to move on, this had happened before, it was no use to get his silly hopes up and believe it would be different… nothing was ever different.
He stuck his hands in his pockets and begun walking, trying to leave heartbreak behind him with his steps.
It takes him three years to track down Loki.
Three years in which his relationship with Pepper had gone downhill from the moment Loki had left them at the rooftop, and god that seemed like forever ago! Three years… it’s odd how time can pass by so fast and yet so slow. In that time the Avengers had been formed, and he had met Thor, Loki’s adopted brother who had also been looking for him.
He had not been pleased when he had learned what had happened between Loki and himself.
Tony sighed as he leaned back on his seat, waiting impatiently for the pilot to get to Amsterdam. That’s where they had pin-pointed Loki.
No… that’s where Loki let himself be found. It was like a shout to everyone who had been looking for him, but in reality it was just one single post, a woman taking a picture with Loki, calling him friend and posting it on Facebook.
That had just made Tony love the internet even more.
It took little over three hours to get to where he needed to be, a little cemetery in the outskirts of a neighbourhood. He signed for Happy to wait for him, then went ahead and stepped inside. He found Loki on a bench near one of the graves, the name was unfamiliar but the date of death was only a few weeks after the picture was taken.
“It was her last wish, the silly little thing, to have one picture with me on the Internet. Such a simple request, however I knew sooner or later someone would find me through that… how long did it take you, Stark?”
Tony flinched at the last name but then… he deserved it. Yes, he knew he deserved it.
“Two weeks. The location was too general to get an accurate reading, then we examined the surroundings.”
“Two weeks…” Loki hums, not looking at him at all, “and the third week?”
‘I was gathering my courage’ and ‘I was afraid you wouldn’t let me speak’and ‘forgive me, I made a mistake’ is what Tony is meant to say, he doesn’t. Hell he has a lot to make up for. He thinks of the used ring in his pocket, it was too big for Pepper’s fingers, yet he knew it would be perfect for Loki’s. “I needed to get ready.”
“Get ready? For what? Little old me?” His smile is bitter and Tony feels his stomach drop, no… Loki wouldn’t let it go. “What do you want, Stark?”
What did he want? He wanted Loki, he wanted to go back in time and punch himself before any decision was made, he wanted to beg forgiveness and a second chance, he wanted the easy camaraderie they had, the talks and impossible theories Loki would shut down because they were made of nonsense. He wanted, he wanted, he wanted…
“How… how are you?” he asked instead, getting close to the god, but not yet sitting down.
“I’m fine, hoping to see Helena in Valhalla soon. Why are you here?”
“There’s… there might be people after you, I think you know about the Avengers? Well who doesn’t know the Avengers, unless you’ve been living in another realm, but Thor assured me you weren’t since he, you know, searched for you -“
“Stark,” Loki interrupted, for the first time looking at Tony and he couldn’t believe he had let those green eyes go. “I’m not going to get back with you, I’m not going to be anyone’s second choice, I’m not going to be anyone’s fall back on relationship.”
“The moment you thought ‘fuck, I made a mistake’ and I know you thought that,” Loki pierced him with his gaze and Tony had the urge to look at his shoes and fidget, but he was Anthony fucking Stark, he wouldn’t do anything. “I became something you thought you could get back. And let me rid you of that notion. you can’t. Now if that will be all?”
Loki didn’t wait for an answer, he just got up and left.
Tony fingered the ring in his pocket. He wouldn’t give up, he couldn’t.