Everything tumbles down when they are found out. It's not like Tony hasn't been expecting it. In fact, he has expected something like this to happen much earlier, but somehow they have been lucky and were able to keep it from anybody. If he thinks about it more closely the biggest surprise is probably that they were able to keep it from Pepper of all people, seeing how she literally just walks in when she wants to talk to him, even after their break up. But he pushes the thought away as he stares up at Steve from his, very comfortable, place in Loki's arms.
"Hey Steve," he greets sheepishly. Steve looks like he can't quite decide how to react for a moment. His expression changes from the initial shock to disbelief before he seems to settle on anger.
"Tony, just what the hell is this?"
Several possible answers run through his head before his mouth starts working on its own, "This is not what it looks like...or...no, this is exactly what it looks like. Wait, what does it even look like? I mean..."
It's the look in Steve's eyes that cuts him off mid-sentence and makes him sit up. He feels Loki's fingers tighten against his side protectively for a moment.
"Well, Tony, this," Steve makes a vague gesture at them, "looks like you are actually betraying us and collaborate with our archenemy." He sounds angry and betrayed.
"Well..." Tony doesn't quite know what to say. He knows that basically Steve is right, but...well, he's been with Loki for some months now and if there's something he definitely didn't do it's collaborating with him.
"I guess you won't believe me if I say I didn't tell him anything and he didn't even try to get any kind of information from me. Well, apart from the non-confidential stuff." He knows his effort is futile, but he tries anyway.
"Tony, it's Loki! How can you know that he really didn't try to get information?"
JARVIS seems to decide that they need some help and chimes in, "Captain Rogers, I can assure you that Mr Laufeyson hasn't tried anything. In fact it would be my pleasure to help clearing him and Mr Stark of all accusations."
It is Loki who speaks next, he has been silently watching their exchange until now, "I think we all know that there is only one way to solve this problem."
Tony looks at him, horrified.
"No, I...Loki, don't do this!"
The Norse god reaches out and strokes a hand over Tony's hair and pulls him close to give him a short kiss.
"It'll be ok, Tony. We can do this," he whispers softly, deeply looking into his eyes.
Tony sighs, closes his eyes for a short moment and nods.
"Guess we don't have another choice."
Loki nods, too and looks up at Steve, who stares down at him in turn, jaw set and arms crossed.
"So Captain Rogers, I believe we have come to an agreement here. You may take me to your superiors. I think they'll be most delighted to see me."
"We'll see if they do," Steve answers coldly, waiting for Loki to stand up.
The Asgardian raises a hand, stopping Tony from following him.
"No, stay here, please. I think it's better if you don't have to witness this."
Steve narrows his eyes at them and seems to decide that it would do no good to leave Tony on his own either.
"I think you should move over to the mansion for the time being. We'll talk about this later."
And with that he takes Loki by his arm and leads him out to take him to SHIELD's headquarters.
For once Tony does what Steve tells him and drives over to the mansion. No one is there except for Clint when he enters the living room and lets himself fall onto one of the sofas. The archer is watching some silly cartoon and barely grunts as a greeting. It's ok with Tony, he doesn't want to talk anyway. He just prefers to worry about Loki and what Steve will say to him when he comes back. He is anxious, because he knows it will be bad and he doesn't even start thinking about Fury's reaction to Steve's discovery. He'll probably be lucky to be stripped of his position as an Avenger. Though he doubts that Fury would actually try that. He shifts around on the sofa and tries to focus on the cartoon, of only just to keep his mind occupied.
A few minutes later he accepts that it won't work and turns to his back to stare at the ceiling. Scenarios start running through his head, each worse than the other and he begins to ask himself whether he would be ready to betray his comrades for the sake of Loki. Some more minutes pass and he comes to the conclusion that yes, he would do that. Because Loki miraculously has managed to heal at least some of the wounds life has inflicted on him and has stayed by his side, even through arguments and doubts and a gigantic bunch of times Tony hasn't deemed himself worthy of anything close to mutual affection. He can't lie to Loki, because apparently the man is the master of lies and has the ability to see through them if he needed to.
Tony shifts again, still anxious about what awaits him when Steve comes back and this time it makes Clint look away from the TV and over at him.
"Anything the matter?" The archer asks him and Tony just answers with a grunted "Don't wanna talk about it." Clint shrugs and turns back.
"Just tell me when you want to."
Tony ignores him and listens intently to every sound in the mansion, trying to hear if Steve comes back.
He has to wait for what seems to be a very long time. He doesn't bother to check the clock, but knows that it has probably been a lot shorter than he thinks. By the time of Steve's arrival the other Avengers have come back to the mansion, too. It makes Tony feel even more on edge than he already is. He can deal with Steve's rage and disappointment, but he's not so sure if he can deal with what the other might hurl at him right now, especially Thor. He's not entirely convinced that the God of Thunder will react positively to the revelation that Tony is in a relationship with his brother. But that is the least of his concerns when Steve stalks in, anger still burning in his eyes and points at Tony.
"You, me, kitchen, now." Is all he says before he is out of the room again. Tony gets up and follows him, barely registering the sympathetic and slightly curious looks the others give him. Even Clint, who never seems to be able to stay silent, doesn't say anything this time.
When he enters the kitchen Steve has just got himself a bottle of water and sat down. He gestures at Tony to have a seat, before he takes a sip from his bottle. He looks weary now, exhausted and Tony waits for him to speak. Steve sighs heavily and runs a hand through his hair, then fixes his gaze on Tony.
"Tony, tell me one thing: Why Loki?"
This is...unexpected, but Tony knows his answer to this one. Has known it for a long time.
"I love him."
It's simple as that for him, but it appears Steve wants to know more.
"But Tony, why?"
Tony lifts an eyebrow.
"Now that's more than one thing, but if you really want to know...
"I don't know if you've ever really been in love with someone, but you should probably be aware that it's nothing you can rationally explain. And, well since I don't guess that's enough for you right now," Tony sighs, ruffles through his hair. He doesn't usually talk about his feelings, especially not with Steve, but he guesses that there's no way around it this time, so he continues.
"I love Loki for a lot of things. He's sweet and caring and knows my issues. And once you get past all the "You were made to be ruled" stuff he actually is a pretty normal man, at least as far as normal applies to Asgardians, with problems, which are not that different from ours, or, if you want it more specifically, mine. Not to mention that lying to the god of lies isn't the best working thing on the planet, which in turn happens to be quite helpful if you're me."
Steve is silent for a moment, processing what he just heard, then he sighs and runs his hands through his hair.
"Are you sure about this?" he finally asks.
"Yes," Tony says, nodding because it's true and there hasn't been anything before in his life that he was as sure about as this. Loki makes him happy, whole, makes him feel loved and that's something rather new for him and most definitely something he doesn't want to lose. He shifts on his chair.
"So...what did Fury say?"
Steve takes a minute to answer, which doesn’t help Tony with his anxiousness.
"He didn't say much. Basically just something about this being his lucky day and dealing with you later."
Tony didn't really know if he should feel lucky or not before he decided that there were more important things to worry about.
"How...how is he? Loki, I mean."
Steve considered him for a moment, before he reached out to put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
"He will be alright. He's cooperating and that should help, even with SHIELD. Besides they wouldn't dare to hurt him or do anything...weird. We all know how protective Thor is of his brother and I guess it's not too much to say that he has an ally now."
Tony nods, then he grins at Steve.
"You know what, Cap? Since I'm still alive I'd very much like to distract myself now and count on the fact that my boyfriend is a big guy and I don't have to worry too much."
He gets up and walks out of the kitchen, heading for his workshop and leaving a sighing Steve behind.
He doesn't get very far though. When he's just passing the living room he's crushed in a big bear hug, courtesy of Thor. Tony struggles a bit to break free and looks up into a grinning god's face.
"Wha..." he starts, but reconsiders immediately, "Wait, tell me you didn't eavesdrop. Or...maybe don't. Lying is your brother's thing, wouldn’t' want you to get started with it."
And then there's Clint, slinging one arm around Tony's shoulder and wiping non-existing tears from his eyes.
"That was so cheesy. And there I thought we would never see the day when Tony Stark would be romantic. Now tell me, who got laid by whom?"
"First of all, that's none of your concern. And second, what happened to the Agent Barton who wanted nothing more than to kill the god who had him under mind control? Do I have to be concerned about you?"
Tony ducked out beneath Clint's arm and made a worried face, while trying to put a hand on the archer's front to feel his temperature.
"After hearing what you said? You know, I might be more the one to vomit into his face now if I'd see him. Or lose all of my teeth to cavities. I haven't quite decided on that, yet."
"You're such a sweetheart, Barton."
"Only if you stay so cheesy, Stark."
"Whatever you say. Now, if you excuse me, I was going somewhere and you're kinda blocking the way," Tony looks up at the still beaming Thor, who pats him on the shoulder.
"We shall celebrate this in the near future, Tony Stark," he booms as he makes room for the billionaire to pass him.
"We probably should," Tony agrees and tries not to think about his team mates' enthusiasm.
He doesn't sleep that night. He starts working on a new upgrade for the suit and since there is no one to make it desirable to come to bad (or just drag him there) he manages to get absorbed enough in his work to stay up until Pepper comes down, a cup of coffee and a bunch of papers in her hands.
"You didn't sleep, did you?" she asks sighing as she hands him the coffee. He just shrugs and takes a sip.
"Had work to do."
Pepper shakes her head and ruffles through her papers.
"Well, I need you to take a look at these. They come from R&D and I want your opinion on them. So if you have some time in the near future...”
"Yeah, sure. Put them somewhere on the desk. I'll deal with them later."
"Good. Also Phil has asked me to tell you he wants to talk to you. He's upstairs in the kitchen and he looks rather grim."
The look on Tony's face becomes serious.
"Oh, I bet he does," he mutters darkly and pours down the rest of his coffee as he walks towards the door, "I'll better not let him wait."
"What did you do this time?" Pepper wants to know.
"Nothing life-threatening and too dangerous," Tony replies and then he's already out of the room and on his way upstairs.
In the kitchen Phil is sitting together with Steve, drinking coffee and engaged in serious conversation. Tony refills his coffee and places himself next to Steve, far enough from Phil to feel safe and out of reach of his infamous taser.
"I heard you want to talk to me," he says.
"Yes, Mr Stark. Director Fury sends me to talk to you about the situation with Loki."
"Oh has he?" Well, then let me hear what he has to say."
"At the moment not very much. But he has questions and I'm here to ask them."
"Oh, so I'm not going to die yet? Cheers. Now bring on those questions."
"How long have you been involved with Loki?"
"About...six months if I'm not mistaken."
"Did you tell anyone?"
"Before Steve found out yesterday? Definitely not."
Tony sighed before he answered, "It wasn't like there was anything dangerous about it. Look, I won't tell you the whole story, because that really isn't any of your business, but we just talked. It started as simple as that. Believe me, if it had been too dangerous JARVIS would have called the team. He was on alert all the time. Feel free to ask him."
"I can assure you, Agent Coulson, that Mr Stark has never been in danger," JARVIS speaks up, but remains ignored.
"In fact, he even helped to enhance JARVIS' security protocols and detection systems, which is basically all I will tell you."
"Did he give you any information on his plans or allies or anything?"
"No, because, as funny as it may sound to you, I have better things to do than discuss battle strategy with my supervillainous boyfriend. Besides, I don't know if you guys already picked up on it, but supervillains aren't dumb. In fact they are a rather intelligent bunch of people, which in turn means they are likely to pick up on things, such as the superheroes suddenly knowing about their plans. Or to put it short: Apart from the fact, that I really didn't talk to him about that acting different would have had the possibility of life-threatening danger for at least one of us and to be honest I prefer my boyfriend to be safe."
"Any other information that might be useful in the future?"
Tony's mouth falls open at that. He can't really believe what he just heard.
"Are you...?" he shakes his head, "No. Steve, I misheard, didn't I? He didn't just ask me to betray the person I love."
"You know about my brother what you need to know. Whether he tells you anything else shall be his decision alone."
It is Thor who enters the kitchen with the whole stance and aura of the prince of Asgard that he is.
"Son of Coul, there are things your people don't need to know. You should leave it at that and not ask for information that isn't meant for you. Now, I'd like to see my brother, I demand that you take me to where he is held."
Coulson just nods, knowing that Thor wouldn't take no for an answer and gets up.
"Well, Mr Stark, thank you for your cooperation. Mr Rogers."
Steve nods curtly and Phil leaves the room. Thor lingers for a moment, looking at Tony.
"Do you have any message for me to convey to my brother, Tony Stark?"
"Just..." Tony pauses, unsure what he wants Thor to tell Loki," Just tell him I miss him."
There is a sad smile on his face and Thor nods silently as he leaves the room. Steve rises, too and says with a look at Pepper, "I guess you two have stuff to talk about. I'll better leave you alone."
And with that he leaves them alone in the kitchen, Pepper seated across from Tony. She gives Tony a long look and sighs.
"So..." she starts, "Loki."
Tony nods and Pepper sighs again.
"Tony...why? Why...why Loki?"
"Why not?" Tony shrugs and takes a sip of his coffee. Pepper glares at him now and he can't help but think that he actually might be a bit scared of her if she is like that. Pepper is certainly more likely to make him be afraid of her than it is ever possible or Steve (and damn, he can be scary) or Fury. He finds himself swallowing and fidgeting under her glare.
"Because, Tony Stark, Loki is one of the bad guys and even though he might be your team mate's brother he's definitely not the person you should start a relationship with. What were you even thinking? He's the enemy, Tony, the enemy!"
"What if he of all people makes me happy?"
The look on Tony's face is totally serious as he says it, he means the question, looked for an answer to it before, but he has been biased by his feelings for Loki at that time so there has been no way he could find a negative answer to it.
Pepper sighs again.
"What if it's all just a plot to get to you and play with you?" she asks back. He can't say that he hasn't considered it before. Of course he has, he may not be the most responsible person in the world, but he was still a genius and of course he had considered it all to be a ploy to destroy the team and he hasn't been entirely wrong.
"It was in the beginning," he says softly.
Pepper looks a t him with wide eyes.
"It was in the beginning," Tony repeats, "he told me so. But...but then he got to know me and changed his mind. That's what he told me and I believe him."
The glare is back in place again.
"And the thought never really occurred to you that he could have told you that to make you believe in his lies?"
"No, I believe him, because I know him, Pepper! I guess the only one here who knows him better than I do is Thor and he grew up with him. And I'm possibly the only one who can at least imagine what he had to go through."
"Tony," Pepper sighs, "Look, I can't say I'm particularly happy about this, nor that I support you. But I also know how stubborn you are, so I won't even try to stop you. Just...try not to let him hurt you."
She sighs again and Tony reaches out to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear.
"It will be alright, Pepper, I promise."
She smiles, but it's weary and Tony knows she will still wait for the worst to happen.
"You should be going now, I bet you have some really important meeting or something," he says and gets up. He wants to be alone now and then he wants to work or have a look at those papers Pepper brought with her. Just anything to keep his mind more or less occupied. Pepper looks like she knows exactly what he's going to do, but she doesn't say anything and lets him lead her to the door.
When Pepper is gone Tony locks himself in his workshop again, but doesn't get any of his work done. He starts working, but soon enough there's a call from Fury who wants to see him immediately and no, he doesn't care if Tony is working on some fucking thing. Which means Tony takes his time, finishes at least part of his work and empties his coffee before he leaves for SHIELD.
He meets Fury in his office and the first thing the director does when Tony sits down is to give him a one-eyed glare, which he has perfected to an extend that it does at least earn Tony's respect.
"Now, Stark, tell me what the fuck you were thinking."
"I don't know what you mean," against better judgement Tony decides to act innocent, even though he knows that he can't fool Fury with it.
"You know very well what I mean."
Well, it has been worth a try.
"I could tell you that I didn't think anything at all, but I guess that wouldn't be the answer you want."
"I can very much imagine that you didn't think anything at all. I hope you know how close I actually am to kicking you out of the Avengers. Just give me one more reason and I will do it."
"I hope you know that that would actually make me consider getting Loki out of here by force."
"I consider you to be foolish enough to try something like that."
"Well, you know what they say: 'But love is blind, and lovers cannot see the pretty follies that themselves commit' "
"Quoting Shakespeare now?" Fury raises an eyebrow and Tony is close to rolling his eyes.
"Look, Nick, honestly, why don't you look at this from another perspective? Has Loki tried anything since Steve brought him here yesterday? How much has he even done these past six months? I mean, maybe my memory provides me with wrong facts, but I believe there have been surprisingly few occasions when Loki was responsible."
"And what about the fucking people he killed? There's a goddamn reason why we want him captured and you know that."
"Yeah. Yeah, I know that. So what?" Tony shrugs nonchalantly, "My tech killed millions of innocent people and what do I do now? I save them."
"Do you have problems to understand me? I just said that he fucking killed people."
"No, you don't seem to understand me," Tony points a finger at Fury, "Because what I was saying was that people change. You just have to give them a chance and maybe you should be giving Loki his now."
"Ok, I knew that you aren't normal, but this is even worse than what I'm used to, Stark."
"Think about it, Fury and you'll see that I'm right," Tony shrugs and gets up, "If that's everything I'd like to go now. You may not believe me, but I have things to do."
"Feel free to go. Just note that currently you aren't allowed to visit Loki."
Tony is already on his way to the door, but he turns abruptly. He's angry, that much is clear from his expression.
"What the fuck, Nick?" Tony glares at the SHIELD director who doesn't even blink.
""In case you haven't understood: You aren't allowed near Loki."
"Because you can't seem to think properly around him and because he is a SHIELD prisoner, which means I am the one who decides who is allowed to visit him and who's not and I decided that for you the latter applies."
"You can't...ok, maybe you can do that, but it's just plain unfair!"
"I don't care what you think about that, but I think it's appropriate. And you will act accordingly until I tell you differently."
Tony grinds his teeth, but doesn't protest this time. He knows that he should keep his thoughts to himself if he wants to see his boyfriend anytime soon and if there is one thing he wants it's that. He gives Fury a final glare instead and leaves the room.
When he comes home Thor is waiting for him in the hall. The Norse god is almost bouncing on his feet.
"I have a message for you from my brother," he says as soon as Tony has entered.
"Whoa you didn't just wait there for me so you could tell me about it, did you?" Tony says grinning and claps the Asgardian on the shoulder. "What did he say?"
"He said to tell you that he misses you, too and that you should remember to sleep, my friend."
Tony gives him a sad smile, because it is probably all he needs to hear, but it's still not enough because he can't hear the words from Loki himself. He says thank you and is almost on his way towards his workshop when Thor puts a hand on his shoulder to stop him. Tony turns around and looks up at him questioningly.
"I would like to thank you," he says, "It's been a long time since my brother was that honest with me. You changed him for the better, I think and perhaps he might be called a good man again."
Tony is overwhelmed for a moment. He considers what Loki has told him once, in a rare moment of vulnerability and it's right there, a clear memory right down to that smell that is just so Loki. He allows himself to replay it right there and the bittersweet feelings that come with it are just as present as the first time. The want to hold Loki in his arms and tell him everything will be ok, to kiss him and make sure he knows that Tony will always be there if he needs him. He shakes the memory off and grins at Thor.
"No need to thank, big guy," his expression becomes serious again, "I just hope they give him a chance to show it."
Thor nods and Tony thinks he can see almost a hint of something like desperation.
“If they don’t,” he says, because he really thinks Thor needs some cheering up, “we’ll just have to make sure he gets it.”
His words earn him a smile, which he can only describe as beaming.
“That sounds like a fine idea if it comes to that. But for now we shall not give up hope, my friend.”
“See? That’s the spirit. And while we’re waiting for something to happen I’ll work on stuff and get on people’s nerves and you do whatever it is you do the whole day. And maybe we’ll save the world or something.”
And Tony smiles at Thor and maybe he even starts to be convinced by his own words.
Tony stays in his workshop for the remainder of the day or at least he intends to do that. Steve effectively stops the attempt by coming down to convince him to come to the living room.
“We’re watching a movie. I thought you might want to join us,” he says and Tony already opens his mouth to decline the offer when he remembers what Thor told him earlier. Maybe sitting down and watching a movie will help to lull him to sleep or make it possible to attempt it. Also he has that feeling about Thor wanting to make sure Tony follows his brother’s advice and locking himself in his workshop isn’t really helping his case. So he wipes his hands clean saying, “Yeah, sure. I’m coming.” and follows Steve to the elevator.
The other Avengers are already in the living room, scattered across the sofas and parts of the floor. Several bowls of popcorn are already on the couch table. Tony falls onto the couch next to Thor, because he figures he’s the safest to sit next to, leaving the remaining place between Bruce and Natasha for Steve.
“What’s on tonight?” he asks and Clint grins up at him from his place on the floor in front of Bruce.
“Ghostbusters!” he exclaims happily, “Steve and Thor don’t know it yet, so we decided it was time they saw it.”
“Whoa, why hasn’t anyone told me earlier? That’s like a huge gap in your education! It was very unreasonable to wait so long and I totally blame you for it,” he points at Clint, because it’s usually the archer who comes up with movies the others missed.
“Ok, then I’m probably guilty, but I’m not the only one who forgot about it! And I bet they are not the only ones who haven’t seen it.”
Tony can see Steve tense and Bruce give him a cautious look at Clint’s words. Everyone knows whom he refers to and Tony imagines he can feel the atmosphere get the slightest bit tenser.
“If you’re by any chance referring to Loki, I can put your mind at ease. He has seen it. In fact, he has seen both movies. Perhaps even part of the cartoon, though I’m not quite sure of that,” Tony declares and if there’s a small but fond smile on his face no one says anything about it. Everyone is silent for a moment until Bruce shifts and says, “Well, if we’re done with that, can we please just start the movie already?” and Clint claps his hands.
“Great idea,” he says and they finally watch Ghostbusters.
Tony has seen the movie so many times he doesn’t feel like he even wants to pay attention to all of it, so at some point he starts watching the team instead.
Thor’s totally engrossed in the story, as eager as ever and for a short moment Tony asks if they will ever find something the Asgardian doesn’t like. Natasha looks like she’s concentrating very hard on cleaning her fingernails and sports a bored look, even though Tony would bet that she doesn’t miss a bit, while Steve just concentrates on the movie. Judging from his expression he likes it, which Tony doesn’t find surprising at all. Seriously, it’s impossible not to like Ghostbusters.
He moves on to Bruce, or rather Bruce and Clint, because even though Clint still sits on the floor his back against the sofa, while Bruce still sits on the couch, the archer has somehow ended up resting his head against Bruce’s knees, one arm slung around the other man’s ankles as the scientist absentmindedly runs his fingers through his short hair and scratches his scalp. Bruce catches his look and Tony grins at him, giving him a thumbs-up at which Bruce simply rolls his eyes before he turns his attention back to the screen. Tony’s gaze lingers on them for a moment longer before he returns to watching the movie.
Somehow they end up starting a marathon and somewhere half through ‘Zombieland’ Tony actually manages to pass out, leaning against Thor, with his head on the man’s shoulder.
It’s still early when he wakes up and everyone is still there. Thor must have shifted at some point, because they are leaning comfortably against each other and the Asgardian is snoring lightly. The others actually haven’t shifted that much, it looks a bit like they just fell asleep like he did. He stands up cautiously, so he doesn’t wake up Thor and taps over to the kitchen to start the coffee machine. He sits alone for a while, sipping his coffee and looking over drafts on a tablet he’s dug out somewhere.
Bruce is the first one who joins him. He fetches some coffee and sits down groggily.
They don’t speak until the scientist is halfway through his coffee and at last seems to be more or less awake.
“Loki, huh?” he asks out of the blue and Tony’s only answer is a nod, because there isn’t much more he could say., is there and he doesn’t really want to say anything wrong just because it’s still early and he’s on his first cup of coffee.
“That’s why you said it might become difficult, isn’t it?”
It takes Tony a moment to understand what Bruce refers to, but then he remembers a conversation they had a while ago, late at night when both of them couldn’t sleep.
“Yes,” he says,” that’s the whole reason why I said it might become difficult.”
“Well, you know what I told you about difficulties. Even though I probably thought of other kinds of them when I said that.”
“The point’s still the same, isn’t it?” Tony remarks and takes a sip of his coffee, “If you truly love a person you’ll take on the world together and overcome any obstacles in your path, may they be long distances or prejudices or just secret organisations who think at least one of you is a threat to humanity.”
“I guess so,” Bruce says and then, “Good luck to you two.”
Tony wonders about it for a moment. He didn’t expect these words from Bruce. Well, he didn’t even know what to expect from Bruce at all, but he is pretty sure that it shouldn’t be this. Perhaps it should start to creep him out that so many of his teammates are so supportive of him and Loki. It certainly isn’t the reaction he thought he’d get.
One after another the rest of the Avengers wake up and join Bruce and Tony in the kitchen (the first is Clint, who acts like it’s a total coincidence that he ends up sitting as close to Bruce as possible without actually touching him).
It’s rare that they sit together like this in the morning, but when it happens they usually do what they can to make it as enjoyable as possible. They all drink their first cup of coffee and then Steve and Clint make pancakes (because apparently they make the best ones) and Bruce makes tea while Tony and Thor get the plates and everything and Tony actually still has to keep Thor from putting every sauce he can find in the kitchen onto the table, because seriously, who eats pancakes with barbecue sauce? And Natasha makes a whole new pot of coffee and then they all sit down and have a nice breakfast and chat and Tony may briefly wonder how Loki would fit in if he were there, but the thought is gone in the blink of an eye and he finds himself explaining American politics to Thor. Again.
As nice as the day begins, life just doesn’t roll like this if you’re an Avenger and soon enough SHIELD calls them to deal with the newest threat to New York. It really shouldn’t take them long to deal with it, but somehow it’s not actually their lucky day and Doctor Doom seems to want to make it his very special kind of extremely difficult for them to defeat him this time, so they have to put up more of a fight than usual (not that it’s that easy at other times, but they have had enough encounters with Doom to know what to expect).
And suddenly Tony finds himself alone against several Doombots.
“Great,” he mutters as he blasts the first one away.
It’s not that they will be a big problem, at least they shouldn’t be, he has fought enough of them to know their fight patterns. But well, there is that bit where it isn’t the Avengers’ lucky day and Tony certainly doesn’t know what’s different yet, but he is fairly sure that something is off and that he should probably get back to his team as fast as he can.
“Hey guys,” he says over the com link, “I could use some help here.”
“I was just going to say the same,” Clint remarks and then Thor says, “Their strategy is unusual, but I fear that it is very effective.”
“Ok. Cap, any ideas to solve our little problem?” Tony asks, because Cap always has some kind of plan, but it seems like he’s out of luck today.
“None other than to meet up as fast as possible.”
“I figured as much already,” Tony says as he turns and blasts away one of the Doombots, “so unless we can find a way to each other again we don’t have a plan.”
“I’m afraid so,” he can almost see Steve scrunch up his face when he says it.
“Well, then let’s do our best with that.”
And then it’s silent on the com again, each of them concentrating on their own battles. Tony ties flying away, but it doesn’t work out and he continues fighting on the ground and asks himself if there actually is a way to deal with them.
In his effort to fight the robots he gets very close to be hit from behind. Well, he would definitely have received the blow if there hadn’t been a flash of green at the precise moment at which the Doombot raises its arm. Tony turns to find Loki standing next to him, clad in his armour and arm still in the air from throwing his dagger.
“I would have totally survived that,” he tells his lover, who smirks in return.
“Yes, you probably would. But I rather appreciate that I could prevent you from getting hurt.”
Which is about everything they say, because they fight their way out of this mess alongside each other, rather than giving the Doombots any more chances to land a blow on either of them. As soon as they have reduced the number of robots surrounding them (even with the occasional admiring glance Tony sneaks at Loki), he grabs the Asgardian and starts for where Steve seems to be stuck with Natasha. Loki clings a bit awkwardly to him and when they catch a glimpse of Thor in the distance he shouts to Tony that he will go help his brother as soon as they get down. Tony simply acknowledges it with a grunt and then they are at their goal and Tony immediately resumes fighting Doombots, while Loki disappears in a green swirl of magic to go help Thor.
“Nice to see you, Iron Man,” Cap says in between destroying two of Dr. Doom’s creations and Natasha asks, “Was that Loki?”
“Yes,” Tony replies, “apparently he doesn’t like when I get hurt. He’s helping Thor now.”
After that it’s mostly just destroying Doombots and helping Banner out, because as puny as the things are to the Hulk even he can only fight so many of them. Just as they reach him a yelp can be heard through the com link and then Clint says “You just scared the shit out of me, man.”
A moment later a giant eagle sweeps down from the sky, drops Hawkeye and transforms back into Loki upon landing. Thor drops down right after them and claps him on the shoulder.
“Nicely fought, brother. It’s good to have you back fighting with me.”
“Someone had to watch your back, since you seemed incapable to do so yourself.”
Thor just grins, obviously too happy to see his brother to have any bad feelings about the remark.
“What now, cap?” Are we kicking some Doombot ass or what?” Clint wants to know, while Natasha calmly replaces the ammo clips of her guns.
“Yes, we will. They try to get us alone, so we’ll stay together. You attack from above, Iron Man, just don’t get too far away. The rest stays on the ground.”
Everyone nods and Tony lifts himself off the ground to hover not too far above them. He keeps himself mostly occupied with shooting repulsor blasts at the Doombots behind the first line of attack, but he does at least catch glimpses of Loki fighting alongside Thor. He looks like a deadly dancer, swirling, throwing daggers and occasional blasts of magic at their enemies, his clothing only adding to the effect.
Compared to him, Thor looks more like a klutz. Where Loki is all swift elegance his brother us brute strength, every inch a warrior. For Tony to say he isn’t mesmerised by it would be a lie, he’s fascinated and it’s hard to keep his eyes off him.
With combined effort they fight the Doombots off and manage to force them into retreat.
When the last of them is gone Tony lands next to Loki, who breathes the slightest bit more heavy than usual. He lifts the visor of his suit and leans forward to give him a quick kiss.
“Thanks for the help back then. It was a close call,” he says.
Loki smiles at him and rests his forehead against Tony’s for a moment as he murmurs, “I already told you I prefer you unharmed. It was very much worth the effort.”
Tony kisses him a second time, before he takes a step away and looks around. The first SHIELD agents have arrived to take care of the remains of the Doombots and Steve is walking towards them. Tony can see him swallow when he stops in front of Loki.
“I think we didn’t have the best start, but I want to thank you for helping us today. I don’t know if we could have made it without you.”
For a really short moment there is confusion on Loki’s face, but it’s gone as soon as Tony sees it and replaced by his more familiar smirk as he says, “You’re quite welcome, Captain. After all I had something to protect. Even though SHIELD might see that a bit different.”
Steve’s look follows Loki’s to see Coulson approaching them.
“Look, Loki,” he puts a hand on the other one’s shoulder, “I’ll see if I can do anything to help you.”
Loki nods, “The notion is very much appreciated, Captain.”
And then Coulson is there, measuring Loki with a calculating look. The Asgardian smirks.
“I believe I have caused quite a commotion when I left your agency’s facility so unexpectedly. But I hope you understand that I had...a pressing engagement.”
“I could see that,” Coulson says dryly, “However, it would be much appreciated if you did at least warn us next time or didn’t do it all.”
“I will keep it in mind.”
“I’m ordered to take you back to SHIELD then, Mr Laufeyson.”
“If you would allow me to have a private moment with Tony...”
Coulson nods and he and Steve step away from the couple.
Loki caresses Tony’s cheek.
“It’s nice to see you’re fine,” he says with a soft smile, “but I fear we’ll have to part again.”
“Cap and me will do our best to help you,” Tony promises.
“See you soon then.”
“Yeah, see you soon.”
Tony grins and Loki leans forward to press a short kiss onto Tony’s lips, before he goes and lets himself be brought back to SHIELD.
Steve joins Tony again and they both look at the retreating figures of Loki and Coulson.
“I think I owe you an apology,” Steve says after a moment.
“For what?” Tony wants to know, “For making a totally reasonable decision when you found me cuddling with a wanted criminal?”
“I should have taken a different course of action,”
“No Steve, you did the right thing. As much as it pains me to admit it, you did what you thought was right at that moment. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“No, don’t waste your energy. You told Loki you want to help him, better focus on that instead.”
Tony claps Steve onto his shoulder and moves over to where Thor stands watching SHIELD agents cleaning up the battle site.
Several hours later Steve comes down to Tony’s workshop to speak with him. He sits down on an office chair he finds somewhere and watches the engineer at work for a moment. Tony waits patiently for him to sort his thoughts and start speaking.
“I’ve thought about how to help Loki,” the leader of the Avengers finally says.
“And you found a solution?”
“I think so,” he hesitates for a moment, “I thought considering that SHIELD doesn’t appear to be able to truly hold Loki we should ask Fury to release him into our care. He should get a chance to prove that what he did today wasn’t a one-time thing and while he does that we can supervise him. It would mean less work for SHIELD and considering that there are more than just Thor and you here with him we should be able to convince Fury of our solution.”
"Sounds good to me. If it works that is. And what will the team say? I mean I would understand if some of them aren’t too keen on having Loki live with us.”
“Well, let’s find out.”
Steve rises and Tony puts down his tools and follows him upstairs.
The team takes Steve proposition better than Tony would have expected. Thor beams happily, eager to have his little brother live with them. Bruce gives Tony a look he can’t quite decipher and says, “Sure, why not?” Natasha simply nods and Clint grins as he says “Yes, sure. Fine with me” (and Tony still thinks Clint’s reaction to Loki these days should freak him out).
Cap looks like it’s a huge weight off his shoulders and he smiles as he says, “Then all we need to do now is to convince Fury. I’ll take Tony and Clint with me, the rest can stay here.”
They get up and go to the car and Tony drives as fast as possible towards SHIELD headquarters. He doesn’t give himself time to doubt Steve’s plan in any way, even when they stand in Fury’s office.
Steve’s all business and doesn’t look intimidated by Fury in any way, when the SHIELD director glares at him after listening to his suggestion.
“So you want me to set a supervillain free and let him be part of a team of superheroes to prove that he isn’t so bad? Do you have any idea how that plan sounds to me?”
“I know it sounds a bit crazy, but I believe Loki has shown that he doesn’t mean so much harm and having him helping on the team would actually be a huge advantage.”
“He has helped one goddamn time and you think he’ll keep doing it?”
“Sir, technically he wouldn’t be free. He would be under 24/7 surveillance by us.”
“Which would work so well, because at least two of the six of you are compromised, because one of you is his goddamn brother and one of you believes to be in love with him.”
“Is in love with him,” corrects Tony automatically, before he leans forward, eyes fixed on Fury, “Well, we saw how well SHIELD can keep Loki locked up in here, which is not at all. Now the situation with the Avengers wouldn’t be much better, but it definitely wouldn’t be worse. And you can’t deny that he is more likely to cooperate if we give him a bit more comfort than he has now.”
"Sir," Clint chimes in, "I think Steve's plan is good. We are there to watch Loki, he doesn't have a chance against all of us and to him the level of containment is all the same. The team already agreed to it."
Fury considers them for a moment, sighs and says, "Ok, I see you're all very set on it. We'll try it, but if we see it doesn't work out you'll return Loki to SHIELD custody."
"Of course, Sir," Steve nods and Fury waves them away.
"Now leave my office already and take Loki with you."
Tony jumps up, grinning happily and they make their way down to the prison cells. Fury has already ordered the guards to lead Loki out of his cell and they meet him right at the entrance of the cell block.
Tony grins at him, but he can't overlook the fact that his lover looks tired, even though he smiles back. He shoots him a worried glance as Steve thanks his guards and tells them that they'll handle him from here on.
When they are back in the car Tony steals a kiss from Loki's lips and holds him close for the whole drive after a simple "We'll explain the details at home."
Coming home with Loki is different than he would have expected. It's quiet and Clint disappears as soon as they enter the mansion, either to the shooting range or looking for Bruce (Tony wouldn't want to bet on either option) and they head for the kitchen where Steve and Loki sit down in silence until Tony has fetched coffee and hot chocolate for them. Steve takes a sip of his coffee and clears his throat before he begins to speak.
"Well, Loki, we managed to persuade SHIELD to let you stay with us for now. We can't get you full freedom, but I the terms that you don't leave the grounds of the mansion on your own and that you work with us you can stay here and have the chance to get it back."
"So I'm basically still a prisoner, but you would like to have me on your team."
"Let's say it would be nice if you considered helping us."
"I," Loki hesitates a moment, eyes darting to Tony, "I think I will do it. It's the least I can do to repay you."
"That's great, even though you have nothing to repay me for. You saved my team in a bad situation and I promise to help you in return."
"If you say so, Captain," there is something in the way Loki smiles that makes Tony think that Steve didn't quite get what the Asgardian wanted to say.
Steve gets up and grabs his cup.
"I'll leave you two alone then. Welcome to both, the team and the mansion, Loki."
And then he's out of the room and Tony's arm is around Loki to pull him close. The God of Mischief rests his head on Tony's shoulder in a seldom moment of vulnerability and closes his eyes.
"Will it work?" he asks and Tony pulls him a bit closer and rests his head on top of Loki's.
"It will,“ he promises.