Loki Laufeyson is not an appropriate candidate for any one in any division of S.H.I.E.L.D. to be having any kind of intimate and/or personal relationship with. Any member of S.H.I.E.L.D. who is found to be in direct violation of this will be considered emotionally compromised and will be suspended from duty for the immediate future.
Director Nick Fury
That is in the email that goes around every and all S.H.I.E.L.D. member. Right down to the guy who mops the floors.
Tony Stark reads over it once, twice, and then a third time before blinking somewhat owlishly and clapping his hands together. "Right, JARVIS, draw up a response."
"Yes, Sir," his AI responds promptly, pulling up a holographic version of a blank email.
Tony paces back in forth in front of his desk. "Director Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not the appropriate candidate to be making such regulations." He glances up at the email as JARVIS formulates the words. Pleased that his AI is getting it word for word, he continues. "Due to the fact his only form of relationship seems to be with his -" Tony pauses. "Hey JARVIS, is Fury left or right handed?"
JARVIS is silent for a moment. "Right-handed, Sir."
"Got it. Due to to the fact his only form of intimate relationship seems to be with his right hand." Tony stares at the email thoughtfully. "Further rules or regulations issued by Director Fury regarding this particular issue should be overlooked as a brief lapse in his rational thought pattern."
Tony reads it through once more and bites the inside of his cheek. "How does that sound to you, JARVIS?"
"Incredibly rude and disrespectful, Sir."
Tony smiles brightly. "Just what I was going for." He picks up a wrench, twirling it around in his fingers. "Send that to every S.H.I.E.L.D member, would you JARVIS?"
Tony almost looks appalled. "No!" He drops the wrench and flicks his eyes across his workshop for his Stylus. Locating it, he snatches it up and signs his name on the screen, big and bold. "There we go," he says, stepping back to admire his work somewhat proudly.
"Don't want to hear it, JARVIS." Tony talks over his AI's obvious complaint. "Just send the damn thing."
"Sir," JARVIS starts, and Tony quirks a brow as he picks up what sounds like tentativeness in JARVIS' automated tone.
"Yes, JARVIS?" he answers somewhat patronizingly.
"I feel it should be said that Director Fury is only sending out such regulations in an effort to prevent any unfortunate incidents regarding Loki Laufeyson and yourself, Sir."
Tony's patience starts to wear. "Yeah, well Fury doesn't exactly get a say in my relationships, JARVIS, so -"
"An email has been received, Sir," intones JARVIS coolly, cutting off Tony's response.
"Open it," says Tony flatly.
Report to S.H.I.E.L.D. base NOW, Stark.
Tony rolls his eyes.
"I really believe you had that coming to you, Sir."
"Don't sass me JARVIS," warns Tony threateningly as he glances at the clock on the screen. If he took the MARK VII he could be to Fury in about twenty minutes, half an hour. If he decided to be difficult... As pleasing as the thought of Fury sitting in his office spitting tax at an extended wait, Tony has better things to do with his day.
"Alright," he says begrudgingly, "tell Buttercup I'll be to him soon."
"Buttercup?" says Fury, voice cold and calm as he looks at Tony with his one eye.
Tony makes a face, "typo?" I'm going to kill you JARVIS, he thinks.
"I am the laughing stock of S.H.I.E.L.D. Mr. Stark and I can assure you I am not enjoying it one bit." Fury actually sounds furious, which is mildly amusing to Tony because, you know. Fury. Furious.
"What's a little banter between friends?" asks Tony, leaning back in his chair and smiling at Fury sweetly across the table.
"I was giving a direct order, Stark, and not only have you undermined my authority you are also in direct violation of said order, are you not?" Fury raises his brow. "Did I not say that any member of S.H.I.E.L.D would be suspended for the immediate future if he failed to comply?"
"Yeah, you did," agrees Tony, "but technically that doesn't apply to me because I'm not exactly a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, am I?" Tony looks nonplussed as Fury's eye narrows. "I am under no legally binding contract that says I have to obey you. The Iron Man suit is mine and mine only and it wouldn't matter either way because I am not emotionally compromised -"
"I think fucking one of S.H.I.E.L.D.s' most wanted criminals counts as emotionally compromised, Stark," and Fury looks like he's about to burst into flames and Tony will be damned if it isn't both slightly amusing and incredibly irritating that the man thinks he can dictate to Tony what he should be doing with his life.
"Watch the language there," reprimands Tony in a particularly practised kind of mocking drawl. "Look, not that I have to explain myself to you, but Loki and I aren't running off down the aisle any time soon. He still likes to try and take over the city every now and then, and if he does, I blast his ass to kingdom come because that is what I said I would do - protect this world." Tony shrugs and stands up. "Believe me, if Loki felt I was standing in the way of one of his grand plans I'm more than certain he'd try and dispose of me quickly and effectively."
"All the more reason for you not to be anywhere near him, Stark!" Fury looks to be on boiling point. His eye looks like it could pop out of his head at any second. "You are putting us all at risk and everything we have worked for -"
"I'm sorry, what's this 'we?'" Tony asks curiously. "I was unaware that you were all sleeping with Loki, too." He stops, watching Fury seethe in silence. "That's right, you're not. Loki has no contact with anyone on my team or yours - hell, he practically runs for his life if Bruce even sets foot in the building. There is no problem here unless you make one, Director Fury."
Tony crosses his arms over his chest. "Is there going to be a problem?"
Fury hardly moves. "Get the fuck out of my office." It's cold and harsh and Tony knows he's crossed like, every single line in Fury's 'good little agent' handbook, but really? Non-existent.
"Pleasure, as always," calls Tony somewhat sarcastically as he leaves.
Loki comes to him that night. Tony is out cold and drooling into his pillow when he feels the familiar weight next to him in his bed, waking him. He blinks sleep from his eyes and glances across at his clock, reads 4:00am and rolls over blearily.
Loki blinks at him innocently.
"Worst timing," says Tony, throat scratchy from sleep and too much alcohol. He may or may not have gotten a little hammered after his meeting with Fury. He reaches beneath the blankets, finds Loki's cold hip naked beneath his fingers. He makes a little sound of approval.
"Immaculate timing, I would say," murmurs Loki, snaking his hand around Tony's waist. Tony shivers at the contact of the cool pads of Loki's fingers trailing up his spine. Tony grunts and presses himself against Loki's lean frame, pressing a kiss to the underside of the God's jaw and pulling him close. He exhales heavily.
Loki seems to gather there's something wrong. "Stark?" he questions, moving his head back to look down at Tony questioningly. The room is dark but not dark enough, and Tony knows Loki can see the worry and stress etched onto his features.
"Not tonight," he mumbles into Loki's skins. "Just leave it." He presses closer, hoping Loki will just let it drop this time, because normally he nags and swindles his way into getting Tony to talk.
Loki obviously knows that something is different, this time, because he makes a humming-like sound and relaxes into Tony's embrace.
"For tonight," he says quietly, and Tony thinks that's a hell of a lot better than nothing, and takes what he's given. He shuts his eyes and inhales Loki's scent, falling asleep to the sound of Loki's barely-there rhythmic breathing above his head.
"I heard about your little email exchange with Fury."
It's been two days since Loki came to him in the night. Tony had woken to find the Asgardian gone the next morning, but that wasn't exactly unusual - he could be gone for weeks before popping back announced. But Tony's been on edge and he knows that Loki is aware of that - knows that something isn't quite right. Tony has no queries that Loki will arrive at some point wanting answers.
Now, Tony glances over to where Rhodey is going through some paperwork. Bored, and with most of the other Avengers doing God knows what, Tony thought he'd come bother Rhodey for a while.
"I thought I handled it well," he says off-hand.
Rhodey frowns, but Tony knows him well enough to see the slight curve of his lips and the crinkling at the corner of his eyes that says he's amused. Then they're gone and Tony thinks fuck. He stands quickly.
"You know what, I'm sure I've got other things to do -"
"Sit your ass down," snaps Rhodey tiredly. Tony blinks at him and sits. Dropping his paper work, Rhodey fixes Tony with a level stare. "Director Fury isn't exactly wrong, Tony. You're putting yourself in the direct line of fire here."
"I think I know what I'm doing," retorts Tony, somewhat rudely, but Rhodey hardly acknowledges it.
"I think you're being incredibly naive," is what Rhodey says, and Tony looks away and tries to pretend that the cement wall is intriguing. "Loki is dangerous, Tony, he's not some pick-up from a bar that you take home and do over a couple of times. He's not mentally stable. Forget the fact that he's a wanted criminal and look at the fact that he's damaged goods, Tony."
"Because I'm not?" asks Tony, honesty lacing his voice that he hadn't meant to seep through.
Rhodey blinks slowly. "No one's perfect, Tony, but Loki could snap at any second and just - end you. Without the suit you're no match for him and you know it, Tony."
"That's where you're wrong," says Tony, somewhat detached, standing up and gathering his jacket, because there's no way he's going to sit here and listen to this all over again after he got it once from Fury. "See, I'm almost the perfect match for him."
He offers Rhodey a sad, broken kind of smile that makes Rhodey's shoulders drop before he turns on his heel and leaves.
Tony is in a foul mood that evening. Steve is back from God-knows-where-Fury-sent-him and is happy to see Tony, but Tony barks out some kind of 'hello' and then locks himself away in his workshop. JARVIS alerts him to both Natasha and Clint arriving back as he stalks off down the hall, also, and he wonders vaguely what they were all doing. Not that he really cares at the moment.The Avengers HQ, as they were all calling it, had been a fun idea when Tony had first brought it up. They could all move into the tower, obviously he'd make some adjustments with the building plan, but it meant they'd be on call and ready to go for any trouble on the mainstream.
Now, however, Tony thinks about packing up his shit and moving back to Malibu for a while, because he just wants his space. He sets to work on the new MARK VIII internal plating structure that he'd drawn plans up for last week. He's got a soldering iron in one hand and a bunch of wires in the other when JARVIS lets off an alerted beep.
Tony pauses in his work and then continues as if nothing has happened. He's being a shit, and he knows it, but he's pissed off and irritable. He's allowed to be a shit.
It takes him another twenty minutes to finish what he's doing, and when he finally looks up and sets his work tools down there's Loki, seated in Tony's chair and waiting patiently. Tony knows Loki is only patient when there's something incredibly important he wants to discuss, and isn't too sure how to approach Tony about it. Usually Loki just gets in his way or threatens to kill a couple dozen people so that Tony will pay him some attention. The patient waiting thing is infinitely worse.
"Bad day?" asks Loki easily, raising a brow. Tony wants to hit him.
"Bad decade," spits Tony, walking around the desk to pick up his glass of scotch (or, what's remaining in the glass, anyway.) He downs it all in one gulp, and tries to ignore the way Loki's eyes settle on his throat.
"Well," says Loki, getting to his feet, "if this is just a prelude to your demeanour for this evening I think I'll take my leave."
Great. Now he's pissed him off. Tony did kind of see that one coming.
"Wait." He looks a little guiltily at the Norse deity standing across from him. "I'm sorry." Loki waits. Tony sighs. He's not in the mood for grovelling tonight. "People have been on my case. Our case. You. Me." He flicks his hand between them in indication. "Whatever the fuck we're doing."
Loki just tilts his head. "You find it strange that your comrades would wish you to terminate the relationship you and I share?" He almost looks puzzled - confused that Tony is showing such denseness. "I think it would be obvious they would disapprove -"
"Yeah, no, that's not what I'm talking about," says Tony irritably, and he's not sure if Loki just doesn't get it or he's being particularly dense. "They're right, okay? I should be handing you over to S.H.I.E.L.D. with a big red bow around your neck."
Loki's eyes go cold and his whole posture changes. Tony realises he's pissed him off even more. Great.
"I would like to see you try," replies Loki smoothly, and Tony just doesn't want to go there tonight.
"You know I'm not going to," he says, tiredly, but Loki's eyes don't lose that coldness. "Not unless you give me good reason to."
"My very presence here should be reason enough," spits Loki, looking away in irritation before settling his eyes back on Tony. Tony knows that Loki is temperamental and prone to irrational emotional fits. He should really have thought about this conversation before he dove into it. Tony goes to open his mouth, offer an apology, tell Loki it doesn't matter or he doesn't care what they think, but Loki's got his head tipped back in a way that mean he's passed pissed off, passed angry, and is now somewhere in the range of furious (and this is the worst part, the part that makes Tony feel like shit) hurt.
"So be it," says Loki flatly, and then disappears. No smoke or jagged flames to mark his exit like he normally leaves when he's showing off, just... Gone.
Tony slumps down into the chair Loki had been sitting on previously and buries his head in his hands.
"Clint, on your right!" calls out Natasha as she tucks her legs up beneath her and flips neatly off the back of an exploding vehicle. Tony tries not to be impressed. Clint whirls, arrow loosing from his bow before he's even fully turned.
Loki swipes it aside like a fly.
Tony knew as soon as they got the call that it'd be him. After last night's... issues, he didn't put it past Loki to be mad enough to take it out on the city. He seems to have no real motive this time except for to destroy, and Tony thinks that's somewhat worse because when Loki's angry he's... irrationally angry.
He decimates everything in sight, staff lifted at almost every turn, no hint of a smile on his stony face. The lower part of Manhattan is kind of a fucking mess, and Tony just isn't in the mood for this shit today.
"Just give it up," he snarls at Loki, who acts as if Tony hasn't even spoken. In fact, that's kind of how the whole day has been going. Loki pretends Tony doesn't exist, takes his anger out on the rest of the team and the city and kind of just bats Tony aside like he isn't worth fighting when Tony comes at him.
Loki levels his sceptre at an unsuspecting Captain America (currently attempting to get a middle-aged couple out of a pile of wreckage) and releases a blast of bright blue energy. Tony beats him to it, swooping down and snatching Steve out of the way before the captain becomes fried. The woman screams but isn't hurt, and they scramble away hurriedly. Loki's blast catches his leg and he loses balance, him and Steve both dropping to the pavement before Tony can gain control over his repulsors.
Great, just great. Tony heaves himself up, has JARVIS assess the damage and finds it bearable, before helping Steve up.
"What got him so pissy?" asks Clint through their comms. "Is someone not getting any or something?"
Tony contemplates shooting at Clint himself, but Loki already has it covered (makes Tony wonder if he can hear what they're saying), the blast knocking Clint from his feet and back into a building. When he drops, he doesn't get up. Tony can already see Natasha moving, and then she's up, taking Loki in hand to hand combat and Tony thinks bad-fucking-idea because Loki is so not in the mood, and Tony can see it.
Steve notices civilians trapped in a car and tells Tony to cover him. (It's like the guy has a civilian radar or something) Tony nods and zaps on over to Clint, keeping an eye on Steve in his peripheral vision.
"Wake up, sunshine," says Tony flatly, hauling a groggy Clint to his feet.
"Where's Thor when you need him?" mutters Clint, stretching out his back and rubbing his head. "Or Bruce, where the hell is Bruce?"
Tony's attention is snapped back to to Loki as he sends Natasha flying, and Tony catches the glimpse of blood and torn suit. Clint is on his feet and racing over to her prone form before Tony can even think about doing it himself.
"Enough!" he calls out at Loki and powers up his thrusters, taking off from the ground and aiming levelly at Loki's middle. He catches him straight around the gut, and drives Loki down into the cement beneath him. Loki snarls, lashing out with his sceptre and catching Tony's right arm. The blow slashes through the suit and cuts wires, and Tony loses power to his right hand. Well, fuck. With his left he tries to wrest the stupid thing out Loki's hand but he's not giving up that easy.
Practically snarling, Loki propels him off his body and into the air. Tony catches himself easily, power thrumming to his thrusters as he goes to take down Loki again. Loki's ready this time, and slashes low and fast, sceptre a bright spear of colour as it goes straight through Tony's suit and embeds itself in his abdomen.
There's a fraction of a second where Tony looks at Loki's face through his suit and sees nothing but coldness in Loki's face, and then the God is gone. Just like that.
Tony looks down when he feels an unusual warmth in his stomach. There's a gaping hole in the waist of his suit and thick red blood is slowly dripping out of the torn plates. His blood. Oh God, Loki stabbed him. Loki actually stabbed him. His vision blurs and he hears JARVIS in his ear, and then he's on his knees, gasping for breath. An arm circles under his arms and hauls him up, and he catches a glimpse of Steve's face shouting something to Clint and Natasha and then everything goes black.
Tony wakes up to people arguing over his head. He's more than a little annoyed.
"We all knew it was going to happen - Loki's a sociopath and a killer and it was only a matter of time before he did something like this -"
"Tony seemed to trust him enough, Natasha, and although I don't approve of it it wasn't exactly like we could stop him."
"Steve that's not the point -"
"Shut up," groans Tony, blinking his eyes open. "Where am I?"
Steve appears in his line of vision. "S.H.I.E.L.D. medical bay. You've been out for about twelve hours." He makes a face. "Loki stabbed you with his sceptre."
"I gathered," grunts Tony, getting his vision together and spotting Natasha with her arms crossed over her chest. "You okay?" he asks, because the last time he'd seen her Loki had tossed her about like a rag doll.
"Peachy," she snaps, and Steve fixes her with a hard glare. She drops her arms and strides out of the room, not saying another word.
"What flew up her skirt?" croaks Tony, and Steve hands him a glass of water. Tony tries to take it without snatching. It's a little difficult, he's kind of feeling like his throat is made up of the Sahara.
"Just Loki cracking one of her ribs, giving Clint a concussion and stabbing you in the stomach," says Steve kind of nonchalantly. Tony feels a lecture coming. "Nothing much, really." Steve pulls a chair over and sits down next to the bed. "We had you transported here after you dropped - Loki went off the radar and we haven't heard from him since - and I thought I'd stick around while they had you under the knife." Steve's brows knit together as he reaches out to point at Arc Reactor. "I know you don't like people tampering, so..." he clears his throat. "I tried to get you moved back to HQ but Fury won't have it, so I said I'd stay on here until you woke up." He leans back in his chair. "I'm also your temporary relief until Fury gets in here and gives you the rollicking of a lifetime."
"Rollicking?" asks Tony, and Steve gives him that look. Tony smiles widely. "You're my favourite super soldier, Rogers." He sculls back the rest of the water, licking his lips somewhat happily.
Steve doesn't look too happy.
Tony beats him to it before Steve can even get started. "I know," he says, looking up at the ceiling. "I know, I get it, it's over - don't worry. Fury can stop having a conniption and continue brooding, and I will continue to be a good little Avenger and not fornicate with crazy Norse Gods who want to kill me."
Steve is quiet for a moment before he nods. "Okay then."
Tony looks almost surprised. "Okay then? That's it?"
Steve shrugs. "You love who you love. Just because everyone else may not approve of them doesn't make you love them any less."
"Hold up," says Tony sharply, "who said anything about love? I do not love Loki - he certainly doesn't love me - what are you on, Rogers? A new serum to accelerate the brain because I don't think it's working."
Steve rolls his eyes. "Stop being so dramatic, I'm just saying that, well. Whatever you do, you do. I'm not going to say I'm okay with any of it, because I'm really, really not, but that doesn't mean I can force you into doing what I think is right." Steve stops, but can't seem to hold it in, "even if I think you're being extremely pig-headed and arrogant about the whole affair." Then he sucks in a breath and looks at Tony somewhat sheepishly. "But seeing as you've ended it and all... I guess that kind of makes all this null and void." He scratches at his hairline and stands awkwardly.
"Aw, you're cute when you blush," says Tony with a grin. Steve just shakes his head.
"You've got a couple of stitches but they'll heal neat, and on no account are you to be mixing any alcohol with your medication. I'm sure Natasha's alerted Fury to your wake up, but I'll try and get you moved back to HQ as soon as possible." He smiles warmly at Tony before taking his leave.
"Like I said," calls Tony after him, "you're my favourite!"
Fury rips him a new asshole and Tony just kind of has to sit there and take it because he's fucking exhausted and sore and not allowed to leave the stupid bed, so Fury gets to be as angry and spit-y as he wants. Tony fights back, admittedly, but then his side hurts and he gets a headache and Fury tells him to shut the fuck up, and Tony is a little drugged up and a little shocked that he does, and Fury continues ranting.
And then Pepper walks through the door.
Fury whirls on her. "You do not have permission to be here Miss Potts -"
"On the contrary," says Pepper, all business, "as CEO of Stark Industries it is my job to ensure the health and welfare of Mr. Stark himself is not being," she pauses, "what's the word, Director? Oh yes, compromised." She smiles sweetly. Fury blinks. Tony wonders if this is an illusion. "I have every right and then some to be here, Director Fury. If that's going to continue to be a problem for you I will have Mr. Stark moved to a more competent facility."
Fury looks like he wants to rip something apart. "This isn't a little office game, Miss Potts. Stark here could be costing people their lives and -"
"And I think that is an invalid argument considering Mr. Stark was willing to carry a nuclear weapon that you fired upon a city into outer space to save lives not just last year, Director. Mr. Stark is under no signed agreement to S.H.I.E.L.D. that you can rely upon to keep him here except for doctor's orders, and I can have those over seen if I choose."
Pepper regards the fuming Director coolly. "Now if you'll excuse us for a moment I'd like to have a word in private with Mr. Stark."
Fury's one eye looks to be about to burst, and his hands are clenched so tight at his sides his knuckles are almost white. He gives Pepper one more infuriated look before positively storming out of the room.
Tony blinks up at her. "How are you real?"
Pepper just drops to the bed beside him and places a hand on his arm, eyes searching his face. "What were you thinking?" she asks, voice breaking. "You knew that Loki was dangerous, Tony, and you pursued this relationship with him against everything everyone said, against what I said." She shakes her head sadly. "I've lost you so many times, Tony, and you've managed to find your way back - I almost lost faith today."
"Pepper -" Tony smiles at her in what he hopes is a comforting manner. "I'm sorry." The words feel heavy on his tongue. If there was anyone he never meant to hurt, it's Pepper. Anyone but Pepper. "But Loki -"
"I know," she says, which surprises him. She gives him a look. "I'm not stupid. I know you do rash things, Tony, but there's always reason and logic that cross through at some point... Most of the time."
"It's over, anyway," says Tony gruffly, because he feels his throat constricting and damn, it's only because of all these drugs, he swears.
Pepper actually looks surprised. "Really?"
"Well, I kind of take being stabbed in the gut as a hard limit, you know?" he tries to play it cool, he really does, but Pepper just shakes her head and sees right through him.
"At your request I'll have you moved back to the Avengers tower, or to Malibu or to a private hospital, whatever you want." She squeezes his arm lightly.
"Can I just say, you telling Fury off was quite possibly one of the hottest things I have ever seen." He thinks about it for a moment. "Like, ever. No jokes." It really, really is. Damn.
"Well," says Pepper, blushing, "it's my job to tell you off, not his."
Tony thinks about that. "I'm okay with that. Can we make that a thing? Like, all tellings off must come from you otherwise I'll consider them null and void?"
Pepper makes a face. "Tony, you consider almost any advice as null and void."
He grins. "That's true."
He's on technical bed rest for the next few weeks, and spends most of his time tinkering around in his workshop or pestering the others. 'Seen my scar?' he asks, whipping his shirt up and flashing Bruce as soon as he walks through the door.
"Very brave," says Bruce dryly. "That's what you get for sleeping with a deranged God and then breaking up with him." Tony takes offence to that and locks Bruce out of the lab for two days. Then Bruce makes a threat about letting the Other Guy persuade Tony to revoke the stupid lock and Tony isn't dumb enough to say no.
Natasha is talking to him, though briefly and coolly, but Tony figures he kind of deserves that because now she's not allowed to break any other human beings over her knee due to recovery and he figures when you're the Black Widow that can put a dampener on your work life.
Clint is still a nuisance, even more so now that he and the others have to take double shifts to make up for Tony an Natasha being off-field. Steve seems nonplussed, glad to have Tony back in the building in one piece and well.
Everyone is kind of in awe of Pepper at the moment. Tony, like a proud parent, told them all about it after Clint asked why Fury put a hole in the wall with his bare fist after leaving Tony's med-bay room. Steve is impressed, really, but tries not to make too big a deal about it otherwise it encourages Clint to make obnoxious jokes. Natasha had tried to hide the quirk of a brow but failed, and Bruce had grinned down into his cup of tea while Tony re-enacted a very good impression of Fury's leaving stomp.
They're all in the kitchen one night snatching pizza out of a box when Loki becomes the topic of conversation. Tony tenses and Steve tries to diffuse it, but Natasha isn't having any excuses.
"Although you seem to have forgotten, Loki is still a wanted criminal and will be continued to be talked about as such." She eyes Tony suspiciously. "You said you weren't emotionally compromised, but now I'm starting to disagree."
There may have been a moment where Tony called her 'frigid' which may have lead to a full blown argument but Tony still says he didn't, that Natasha has hearing problems and maybe she needs to be benched longer before hitting the streets.
"He is a cold blooded killer, Tony!" says Natasha over the counter, slamming her fist down. "He is not some ditz that you can bring home and fuck and then get rid of. He didn't care about you," she continues, ignoring the fact that Tony has gone quiet. "He didn't care about you, he never did, you were a convenience for him and nothing more. He was using you to get to us for something but you broke it off before anything could come of it. That's why he demolished most of Manhattan and you know it. What motive was there? Nothing. It was a deliberate act out of pure emotional instability."
Natasha stops, realizing that the room is completely quiet and that Tony hasn't cut in once to disagree with her or fight back. She glances around at everyone's pained expressions and when she looks at Tony he's string at his plate of pizza and not moving.
He snaps his head up. "No, you're right." There is no emotion in his voice. "You're absolutely right." He leaves the pizza, ignores Steve's call for him to come back, and walks over to the bar, snatching up a bottle of drink and turning in the direction of his workshop.
He's somewhere between completely inebriated and asleep, slumped over the desk in his workshop when he hears footsteps. He opens up one bleary eye but the world spins and he squeezes it shut again, groaning.
There's a pause and it feels like some one lays a cold, cold hand on the back of his neck. It's enough to make Tony jerk his head up and look around.
"JARVIS," he croaks out, "you there?"
"Scan - Security," the words tumble out of his mouth in disarray. "Intruders recently?"
JARVIS manages to make sense of it. "No security breaches, Sir. Records are clean."
Tony glances around, but everything is spinning and nothing makes sense, so he drops his head back to his desk and lets himself drop off into a neat little coma.
The next morning he wakes up in his bed, a glass of water and two pills next to his head. He groans and takes them greedily, wondering if he's still drunk when the room spins.
Later on in the kitchen he runs into Steve. "Hey, thanks for last night," he says flatly, a little awkward. Steve looks at him curiously. "Me. Alcohol. The aspirin?" he prompts, and Steve just looks confused. Tony pauses. "Never mind," he plays it off with a laugh. "Never mind."
He runs back down to his workshop. "JARVIS, security footage from last night, now." JARVIS brings it all up, and Tony fast forwards through all of his binge drinking and falling over and swearing at his robots until he falls asleep on his desk. Two hours in and he's uninterrupted, before the footage starts to break and flash out. "What?" mumbles Tony, "did we have an electrical surge?"
"No, Sir," answers JARVIS. Then the screen goes black. Tony fast forwards, and five minutes later the footage returns, except this time the workshop is empty and Tony is nowhere in sight. He goes back and forwards over the footage but nothing. Not a thing. He leans back on his heels and thinks, huh.
"JARVIS, if I asked you directly who was here last night, what would you say?"
"Only you, Sir," replies JARVIS promptly. Tony frowns. "If that's what you wish to hear."
Tony's eyebrows jerk up. "What?"
"I said, only you Sir," repeats JARVIS, "you were the only person here."
Tony thinks he might need another aspirin.
He's called Doctor Doom and he's an ass. His attempt to take over the city with what he calls his doom-bots isn't exactly a fun time, and he has the Avengers run ragged working against him. They're unprepared and still down one Norse God of Thunder while he does his business on his own planet or whatever. Doom himself made only a few showy appearances before leaving the rest to his mechanical army to annihilate everything in sight.
The crux of it is they're unprepared. Tony has JARVIS trying to hack the bots' systems, but JARVIS is running into walls because the doom-bots are part tech-part magic, and JARVIS has only ever done scans on Thor's hammer - this stuff is a little new and he's working as he goes.
Tony and Natasha are still supposed to be on rest, but they're needed right now, and when duty calls... They're tired though, all of them, even the Hulk, it's been a long, recurring weekend of battling with things that just seem to keep reappearing while S.H.I.E.L.D. tries to locate Doom's co-ordinates so they can take him out. The sneaky bastard has obviously had this planned for some time, or he's been watching them at least, because the Doom-Bots go for weak spots and work in a fashion designed to trip the Avengers wherever possible. Tony figures that Doom himself can seem to speak to them through his little minions, so Tony gives him (in Steve's term) a verbal rollicking worth ten times the snark he usually saves up for Fury. (Or maybe he's taking out all his fucked up issues out on Doom, whatever.)
But for the moment they have to deal with trapped citizens and deranged robots and Tony's getting really sick of it all. His suit has taken a battering and his power's running low, JARVIS keeps tapping him on with warnings which he promptly ignores. Steve looks worse for wear, though he's hardly giving up, but Tony knows the lag in his step and thinks shit. When Captain America falters you know what's up. They've been taking shifts, two taking a three to four hour sleep break before snapping back into action, because there is no way they can keep fighting like this. They're not drones, they need a break.
"Power at twenty four percent, Sir," says JARVIS, and Tony grits his teeth and destroys two bots with one blast of his repulsor, a little impressed with his own aim. He glances down to see Clint out of arrows and dealing with hand-hand combat, same as Natasha who's used up all her rounds. The Hulk is some distance down the street, and the local PD have a perimeter set up, but they're slowly being pushed back toward it and Tony doesn't know how long he can keep this up.
There's a sudden calamity and an explosion of sorts that knocks Tony out of the air. He hits the ground hard, looks up to see Natasha landing on her knees with a groan of pain and Steve covering himself and Clint with his shield.
"I tire of your petty resistance." Tony feels his heart sink at the distorted voice behind him, and then he's being shot at. He knows it isn't a weapon blast, he knows it's magic, because he's felt the difference many times in prior battles. He rolls over onto his back to see Doom striding towards him, throwing a hand out when Steve makes a play. Steve tumbles back, head hitting the pavement hard and Tony winces, but he's a little busy being dragged up to his toes by Doom's hand.
Then he feels it. It's like barbed wire crawling down the back of his neck as Doom squeezes his fingers around the metal of Tony's suit. There's power sizzling off those metal gloves and Tony cringes because he can feel the micro-filaments pop as they train to contain the damage to his suit but it's not enough.
"Power at eight percent," comes JARVIS' voice and Tony thinks fuck because he's realized. Literally. Whatever Doom is doing to him has him paralysed and he wants to scream but he can't and if this is what it's like not having control over your own body he'd rather die. His mind is filled with caves and sweat and hot heat and suddenly he's panicking, but he can't do anything about it. Doom's hand curls tighter and the metal shatters beneath his fingers. Sharp pain snatches behind Tony's ear as the metal cuts into his skin. With his other hand, Doom pulls Tony's head gear off.
"Just a little man," says Doom cruelly. "Hardly worth my time, really, you and your little team." He spits the word out as Natasha tries to talk him from behind, but she's distracted by a bot that steps between them, and she's cut off.
Tony thinks this is it, and, what the fuck am I doing? when there's a sudden hot heat that blasts over his face and a bright light and when he opens his eyes Loki is suddenly there.
Tony kind of forgot how scary Loki was when he was angry.
He's given a very visual reminder as of right now.
"Finally come to help?" sneers Doom behind his metal mask, "months without word from you and -" there's a strangled choke and Tony drops to the ground, looking up with wide eyes as Loki blasts Doom into the side of a building.
"I'll only say it once," hisses Loki as he advances on Doom's staggering form, "it would be wise of you not to touch my things."
Tony thinks fleetingly of last year and fighting Thor and huh. Huh. Tony realizes he can move, and thank fuck, as well. He scrambles over to back Natasha up.
"What the hell is he doing here?" she asks, panting, after they've finished off the doom bot.
"Like I have any idea," says Tony tiredly.
"Well," says Natasha, wiping her brow. "I'm not exactly saying I'm unhappy to see him."
"Yeah," says Tony, turning his head to watch Doom and Loki face off in a battle of crackling energy and harsh blows. "I'd have to say the same."
They move over to back up Steve and Clint and it's like it's easier, now, knowing that Loki is handling Doom. Tony wishes Thor could be here, because damn would he be pleased to see his brother fighting with them. Or well, Tony assumes he's fighting with them. For them. Whatever. (Whether it be for himself or for them Tony doesn't even care because it's giving them a reprieve and that's amazing.) Besides, Tony is like, sixty percent sure Loki is on their side at the moment and that's better than fucking nothing.
"We've got civilians in that building and an approaching bot," Clint informs them.
"We're on it," replies Steve.
"JARVIS, boost all back ups and let's get this show on the road," instructs Tony, watching as his HUD takes in readings.The screen flickers and blanks out due to the damage around his neck and chest. "No excuses, JARVIS," he adds when he hears the crackled beginning of JARVIS' negative reply. "Saving the world stuff right here, okay? Just do it."
It's difficult though, with his fucked up head piece, and he's still bleeding in the suit and his neck is cut up but he can't do much about it. He heads on over to Steve and takes on a Doom Bot while Steve manages the civilians. The bot goes down with a satisfying thunk to the pavement and Tony grins sadistically.
"Clear!" yells Steve, and Tony's free to move on. There's a high pitched sound in his ear, almost like a screeching and he thinks this can't be good, but shoves it aside.
He jerks his head up, looking at where to move to next, when he notices that everyone's kind of just standing there... staring at something.
"What's? -" he begins to ask, but follows their gazes and answers his own question. Suddenly the high-pitched sound he can hear makes sense.
Loki's face is an emotionless mask as he presses his palm into Doom's face-mask, fingers curved in a death grip. The metal is melting beneath Loki's palm, sizzling and fizzing and Doom is screaming at the top of his lungs. Tony is struck for a second by shock as Doom's hands scramble at Loki's outstretched arm, trying desperately to weaken the Asgardian's grip on his face. His screams sound like pain and loss and defeat and a part of Tony thinks, good, suffer you asshole. The other part cringes and takes in Loki's almost uninterested head tilt as he regards Doom's wrecked face.
Doom's screams turn into a gurgle and his attempts at fleeing turn weak. Tony hears Clint say, 'that's fucking nasty,' and then Loki lowers his head and clenches his fingers and there's a sickening kind of sound and Doom just goes motionless. Loki lets him go, and Doom drops back onto the pavement with a dull thud, the front of his mask caved in and melted, too far back into the skull, indented and - fuck.
Where the fuck is Loki?
Tony realizes the rest of the team have come into together, that they're all back to back and looking around but the apparent saviour of the day is nowhere in sight.
A few moments later and Steve deems it appropriate to relax.
"You know," he says, glancing at Tony, "if that's how Loki reacts to someone hurting you, I think I might just be okay with it if you wanted to start that... relationship up again."
Tony just blinks at him.
"Loki kind of saved the day," says Clint some time later, when they're feeling cleaner and sorer and tired, sitting around a table at S.H.I.E.L.D. Fury looks disbelieving and angry and annoyed and Tony thinks fuck you somewhat spitefully.
"You don't know why he did anything," says Fury kind of stubbornly. "He's crazy. Villains don't like other villains encroaching on their territory -"
"No," and everyone kind of goes silent because Natasha's speaking. She looks at them all steadily. "We've fought Loki enough times to know his game - this wasn't his style. He was angry, infuriated even." She looks up at Fury. "I've seen him angry, Director, and this was a hell of a lot further than that."
That starts up another argument around the table and Bruce kind of looks like he wants to just run from the room and listen to some soft jazz and have a nice, big cup of tea, so that's when Tony steps in.
"Enough," he says flatly. "I don't even care any more. By Loki's hand or not Doom is dead and his minions are out of action. I for one am a hell of a lot thankful either way it happened, because that means I can go home and get some sleep which I haven't had in fuck knows how long." He stands, "Doctor. Banner, would you like a ride?"
Bruce almost jumps out of seat.
Tony glances around, "anyone else?"
There's a collective silence and then everyone gets to their feet.
"You can't just leave!" sputters Fury, looking around incredibly. "You haven't given statements - you haven't even -"
"Save it," says Clint, brushing past him, "you can yell at us all tomorrow. Or the day after that." He pauses. "Or the day after that." He shrugs in a way that says he's not even sorry. "I plan to have a long, long sleep."
Fury watches them all go, mouth slightly agape. Steve is the only one who offers a half-smile in apology before exiting the room.
Tony is curled up in his bed and it is warm and it is cosy and jesus fuck it's the best he's felt in days. He's got bandages on his neck and chest, his right arm is wrapped tight from a sprain and he has bruises everywhere. He tugs the covers up around himself and nestles his head into his pillow because fuck. It's all just so good.
Then there's a sudden drop in temperature.
Tony doesn't even want to look.
"If you came to kill me," he says, voice muffled by his face in the pillow, "can you just do it fast? I mean, I've heard sleep is kind of like a prelude to death so -"
Weight dips on the side of his bed and Tony cracks open an eye. The room is dark due to his automatic window slides (like he's going to try and sleep at three in the afternoon with bright sunlight streaming in. Fuck that). He waits for his eyes to adjust.
There's Loki, perched elegantly on the bed and looking incredibly passive. Tony wonders how this is going to play out. He's not exactly in the mood for a fight or anything. He doesn't even think he could handle a fight if Loki wanted one.
Loki doesn't speak. Tony groans and then offers somewhat playfully, "so you don't like people touching your stuff, huh?"
Loki's eyes drop sharp and heavy to his face, and Tony tries to look as non-threatening and innocent as possible. Loki narrows his eyes slightly before lifting his chin and looking away.
"I do not share my things."
Tony hides his laugh with a cough. Loki sees straight through it, eyes turning cold as he glares at him. "I'm sorry," says Tony, "I just recall a similar conversation happening sometime last year in the middle of a forest while you sat on a cliff and pissed yourself laughing."
Loki just shifts on the bed.
Tony turns his head, regarding him with wider, more awake eyes. "I heard you." Loki gives him a sidelong glance. "I heard you and Doom when he said you hadn't been in contact with him for months." The temperature drops again. Tony almost whines. Jesus, testy much? "You were sleeping with me and giving him info, weren't you? Because he knew exactly where and how to hit us." Tony thinks the neutral tone of his voice should be noted as gold material, all things considered.
"Yes," says Loki, not looking over guilty. "I was."
"You stopped, though," says Tony, "telling him things."
"Yes," repeats Loki, casual as can be. "I did." His tense posture gives it away though, the fear, the hurt, the uncertainty. Tony kind of wants to hit him and drag him into the bed simultaneously.
"Are you going to come to bed or what?" he asks, a little irritably. Loki blinks at him with wide eyes. Tony looks at him expectantly. "People change their minds, come on, I'm like the poster-child for change here." He rolls onto his side and grins. "Don't tell me you didn't miss me?"
"You are insufferable," spits Loki, standing up. Tony thinks he's actually pissed him off and he's going to leave, but then he sees the jerky movements of Loki taking his clothes off and he hides his smile.
"Just voodoo yourself out of them," grunts Tony, and Loki stares at him for a moment before flicking his fingers. "Where do your clothes even go?" mumbles Tony, slow curve of an appreciative smile gracing his lips as he pulls the blankets back. Loki just glances at him disdainfully before slipping beside him.
Tony dives straight in for cuddles. Loki protests, stiff and annoyed sounding.
"Oh shut up," grumbles Tony, "just take it like a man, would you?" he flings his arm over Loki's cool chest and hooks his leg in between Loki's before sighing and settling back down. "See, this is so much better than stabbing me in the stomach."
Loki goes as stiff as a board beneath him. Tony realizes he is not actually a genius, he is actually a moron and should not be allowed to speak. Period.
Tony goes just as stiff as Loki. "You what?"
"Don't make me say it again you ass," growls Loki. "You are not deaf." He sounds particularly testy. Tony feels something warm and stupid curling in his chest and he glances up at Loki's shadowed face with a smile.
"I suppose you're forgiven."
"Suppose?" asks Loki, sounding rather incredulous.
Tony shrugs, snuggling into Loki's side contentedly, "I told you when we got together that I could be a kinky bastard, but I pull the line at almost-murder."
Loki must seem to realizes he's joking because his body becomes more pliant. "You are an infuriating creature. I expected far more of a fight from you than this."
"You'll get it tomorrow," mumbles Tony, because he's almost asleep now. "I'll yell at you, maybe insult you a bit, you can threaten to kill me and everyone else in the city, and then we can have hot, hot make up sex on the floor in the lounge."
Loki is silent for a moment. "Yes, yes that sounds acceptable," he says finally, and curves around to fit Tony's body. Tony thinks yes, yes it does, and smiles into Loki's shoulder.
The next week a new email goes around every and all S.H.I.E.L.D. member. Right down to the guy who mops the floors. It goes something like this:
Tony Stark wishes to inform all working members of S.H.I.E.L.D. that he is currently in an intimate and personal relationship with Loki Laufeyson. He is not emotionally compromised and he is not suspended from any duties and the world still continues to spin happily. Though it is of no one's business Mr. Stark feels this should be made public, as he will not be held responsible for what Mr. Laufeyson might do if any S.H.I.E.L.D. member has slip of the tongue - possibly in an insulting or inappropriate kind of manner - considering everyone knows what happened to one Doctor Doom last week.
Mr. Stark also wishes to retract his earlier statement regarding S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury and his relationship with his right hand. Mr. Stark would like to point out that he was wrong, Director Fury's only evidential relationship is with his own mother, and he is sorry for any confusion.
Tony has his hands in Loki's hair and his tongue in Loki's mouth when JARVIS alerts him to a new email.
"What is it?" gasps Tony, rolling Loki onto his back and nipping at his throat.
"Director Fury wishes to see you at S.H.I.E.L.D. base immediately, Sir."
"JARVIS," growls at Loki, thrusting his hips up and making Tony gasp, "please tell the Director that Mr. Stark is otherwise unavailable."
"Yes, Sir," responds JARVIS.
"Since when did my AI call you Sir?" Tony asks suspiciously as Loki shreds his shirt into pieces and bites at his bare chest. He forgets he wants an answer after that.
"There has been another email," says JARVIS after a moment, and Tony groans.
"What does it say?" he grinds out, letting Loki push him onto his back and settle over his hips, grinding down with a rather maniacal grin.
"Director Fury wishes to make the point that should you be unavailable due to Mr. Laufeyson -"
"JARVIS," says Loki cutting the AI off, and Tony shivers as Loki's hand reaches into his pants to grasp at his cock. "Tell the Director that should he send one more message to Mr. Stark I will destroy the Statue of Liberty."
"Sir," says JARVIS in an understanding manner rather calmly. Tony is a writhing mess beneath Loki.
"That is the hottest fucking thing," he says, gasping into Loki's mouth as Loki thumbs the head of his cock, "you have ever said."
Loki just grins and kisses him hard.
There are no more emails after that.