He had breached the fiftieth floor of the tower when Loki’s ward warned him of the intrusion. He tried to wake Tony while alerting Jarvis to the change.
The AI was far more helpful than Loki’s half asleep lover.
Loki was sitting upright as Tony wound his arms around Loki’s hips, resting his head on Loki’s lap.
Loki was mildly annoyed by how inattentive he was to the threat, but also knew that this was the first time he’d really slept in the past three days.
Loki would have to handle this on his own.
After calibrating his sensors Jarvis was able to pick up the noise of someone moving. They were nearly silent and were staying completely out of view of Jarvis’ cameras, motion detectors, and heat sensors.
Loki took in a deep breath, ignoring how pleasantly warm Tony was against him, and cast a spell to give him eyes and ears on the fiftieth floor.
A rough looking man with tangled hair and a metal arm appeared in an illusion in front of the bed.
Loki could tell with just a glance that he wasn’t imbued with magic, but he wasn’t quite human either.
He needed to be captured, but he really didn’t want to leave bed, not with the way Tony was holding him so lovingly.
“Facial recognition?” Loki asked Jarvis in a hushed voice.
“I have identified him as Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes, former member of the Howling Commandos which Captain Rogers led. After his capture he was brainwashed into being an assassin for Hydra, known as the Winter Soldier. His identity was revealed to a select group after the incident in DC three months ago. Currently Captain Rogers and former Airman First Class Samuel Thomas Wilson are in Tennessee trying to track him down.”
Loki held back a scoff. They were clearly off course.
“Please inform Rogers that he is a dullard and his former brother in arms is currently in New York, verbatim.”
Loki watched as the Winter Soldier scaled to the next floor without tripping the alarm system.
“Once he is capture we shall tell Rogers we have him. No need to stir false hope.” Loki had had enough of that in his life. “Suggestions on how we capture him?”
“Floor sixty-three is empty—Captain Rogers is calling. Would you like me to answer?”
“No. Continue with what you were saying.”
“The floor is nearly empty with only two entrances. Placing a containment spell directly in front of each of these point should be sufficient. After which point I can close the air ducts and fill the area with knock out gas. Will that suffice?”
“I suppose it will have to.” Loki closed his eyes and projected himself to the sixty-third floor, easily and putting the spells in place without ever having to leave bed.
Loki watched on vigilantly while his hand idly caressed Tony’s head, neck, and shoulders.
It took the Winter Soldier over two hours of careful footwork and maneuvering to make it to the sixty-third floor.
Loki’s trap sprung, a tinted orb of green forming all around the Winter Soldier. The look on his face reminded Loki far too much of a cornered animal as he tried to punch his way out. No fissures formed though. The spherical shield was made of magic and only magic could harm it.
The Winter Soldier only fought harder when Jarvis started flooding the area with knock out gas. It took nearly forty-five minutes for the area to be filled and for the intruder to finally succumb to it.
Loki let out a small sigh of relief.
Loki wouldn’t allow anyone volatile around Tony, excluding himself.
He settled in the blankets, easily maneuvering Tony around.
“If he shows any signs of regaining consciousness wake me,” Loki ordered.
“As you wish.”
The lights dimmed until only the glow of the arc reactor was left.
Loki closed his eyes, despite knowing he wouldn’t be able to fall asleep until the threat was thoroughly dealt with.
Instead he just reveled in the feeling of Tony being in his arms, safe and warm.
Tony woke up the same way he always did, suddenly and unhappily.
The feeling was quickly brushed aside when he saw that he was practically nose to nose with Loki, whose green eyes were wide awake.
This was a common occurrence that had originally freaked him out, but now that he’d gotten used to Loki’s eyes being the first thing he saw in the morning it made waking up a little less annoying.
Tony leaned in and gave him a peck on the nose. Loki smiled brightly in return.
“I wish we could stay like this, but we have an intruder and I haven’t been able to properly relax since I took notice of him,” Loki said, his breath minty fresh.
“J?” Tony asked while sitting up.
The TV screen lit up, showing an unconscious Winter Soldier surrounded by Loki’s magic.
“Captain Rogers has left several messages regarded our guest,” Jarvis informed him and Loki snorted at the word guest.
“Just give him a status update and send a pic.” Jarvis didn’t respond, but Tony trusted that he would do as he was told. “Guess we should go down there, yeah?” Tony asked, already halfway out of the bed.
“Leave him to the captain. Beyond his presence he’s none of our concern.”
“He broke into my tower. That makes him my concern.” Tony was pulling on his pants and he could practically hear Loki rolling his eyes. “Wake up the soldier, Jarvis.”
On screen the Winter Soldier started twitching and Tony assumed Jarvis was blaring music to wake him up.
“This is needlessly dangerous.” Loki sounded exasperated. Tony loved when he could irritate him.
“Needlessly Dangerous is my middle name.”
“Do I even need to explain to you why that sounds incredibly stupid?”
“Nope!” Tony started heading towards the bedroom door.
“At least brush your teeth first, you swine.”
“But then my coffee will taste all minty.”
“Then just wash your mouth—We are not having this conversation again.” Loki threw the covers off before he stood. Gold shimmered around him and a moment later he was fully dressed. He left before Tony could get another word in edgewise.
By the time the Winter Soldier was fully awake Tony and Loki had finished their breakfast.
They took the elevator, not wanting to startle him by just popping in via teleportation.
Tony was tapping his foot on the ground, a habit Loki hated.
He refrained from stepping on Tony’s foot as he usually would, instead just watching the numbers descend.
The elevator doors opened and frantic blue eyes were on them immediately.
They walked over and the only reason Loki didn’t say something about how close Tony got to the volatile human was because he trusted that his magic would keep Tony safe.
“So,” Tony dragged out the word, “what are you doing in my tower?”
Loki closed his eyes for a moment. He knew he should have been the one to do the talking. Tony had no tact and was taking things too lightly. That was not the way to get information from a hardened assassin.
How was he in love with such a fool?
When the Winter Soldier remained silent Loki turned to Tony, still keeping the intruder in his line of sight.
“This is a waste of time, Anthony. Just wait till Rogers gets here.”
“No,” the Winter Soldier whispered. Loki nearly didn’t catch it. Loki could see a bit of fear in his eyes.
“State your business and then perhaps we can delay Rogers,” Loki offered up. Blue eyes flickered between him and Tony.
“I need…” His mouth gaped open and close a few times. “I need someplace safe, someplace where I’m not being hunted down, where I can think.” The Winter Soldier closed his eyes tightly. “I should have… I shouldn’t have broken in.”
“Yeah, that was kind of a dick move,” Tony said and Loki elbowed him in the side swiftly. Tony grumbled, but Loki ignored him.
“Why do you wish not to see Rogers?”
“He… he knows me, or who I used to be. The look in his eyes—Whenever I see him I feel sick and terrified.” He stared at the ground, nearly motionless, only his metal hand shaking slightly.
“Cap is a no go then,” Tony said with a shrug and the Winter Soldier looked over at him with surprise. “We have a lovely cell fully accommodated. It can hold anything from an unbalanced Bruce to a raging Hulk. One,” Tony paused, “enhanced human shouldn’t be a problem.” Tony smiled. “What name do you go by?”
“Asset? Sounds too much like ass-hat. Try again.” Loki gave Tony a look, trying to tell him not to push. The Winter Soldier was doing his gaping fish routine again. “Don’t worry. We can get to that later. Let’s just get you tucked in.” Tony turned his big brown eyes on Loki. “Honey, darling, snookums—” Loki teleported the Winter Soldier to the Hulk proof cell, not wanting to be subjected to any more annoying names.
“Oh captain, my captain!” Tony said while standing in the lobby of the tower as Steve rushed in. Sam was a few paces behind him, panting.
“Where is he?” Steve asked, forgoing greetings.
“Safe and sound and sleeping like a puppy after his first trip to the park.” Tony gave him his media smile. Sam caught up with them. Tony gestured for one of his employees manning the front desk to bring over a water for Sam.
“I need to see him.” Steve kept shifting from foot to foot and it was clear the pair hadn’t stopped moving since Jarvis informed them the Winter Soldier was in New York.
“Yeah, of course!” Tony pulled out his phone, making a few motions with his fingers until a large hologram of the Winter Soldier appeared.
“That’s not what I mean and why is he in a cell?”
“About that,” Tony paused as his employee gave Sam a water bottle. Sam nodded in thanks. “He came here because he needs time alone to think and to feel safe.” It was the nicest way Tony could put it.
Yes, he could use tact, despite what Loki thought.
“Stark, get out of the way. I need to see him.”
“Yeah, no. He doesn’t want to see you.”
Okay, so maybe he didn’t have that much tact.
Steve completely froze and his baby blue eyes went wide.
“What?” His voice was brittle.
“You two have been dogging him for three months. Don’t you think that might tire a guy out? He’s had his brains scrambled and just wants some peace.”
“Why is he in a cell? If you’re doing tests on—”
“Steve,” Sam cut in and Steve’s mouth snapped close.
Tony tried not to scowl. Threats were one of his pet-peeves, to put it mildly.
“Don’t forget what happened last time you threatened me, Cap. I don’t control Loki and he doesn’t control me. There would only be so much I could do to deter him.” Steve’s lips formed a hard line. “The Winter Soldier is in a cell because he wants to feel safe—”
“Safe from hurting anyone else.” Steve deflated a bit and Sam put his hand on Steve’s shoulder.
“His name is Bucky,” Steve whispered after a long silence in which he stared at the ground.
“I asked him his name. He said Asset. Told him I wouldn’t call him that and to think up a better name. Till then I’m calling him the Winter Soldier,” Tony said firmly, not enjoying seeing his teammate so put out. “I’m going to respect his wishes and not let you see him and I hope you will too. I’ll have Jarvis send you a weekly report on him. I don’t want to break his trust, so it will be pretty vague. When he’s ready to see you you’ll be the first to know.” Steve looked completely forlorn and Tony could sympathize with him. “Loki and I are going to do what we can to help him. I brought Loki back from the brink. I know I’m not at the top of your list when it comes to reliability, but you need to trust me.”
Steve took in a deep breath and Sam squeezed his shoulder again.
“At least we know where he’s at and that Hydra doesn’t have him,” Sam said softly.
“Yeah,” Steve whispered.
The pair left without another word.
Loki had somehow been designated caretaker as Tony ordered all sorts of things for their self-imprisoned guest.
Jarvis had already asked the Winter Soldier a variety of questions on his preferences, with little avail, leaving Loki guessing.
He just made simple dishes. Why bother with being fancy when the person in question didn’t seem to really care.
The elevator pinged as it opened and Loki immediately felt eyes upon him.
“Do you know who I am?” Loki asked once he was close enough.
“No.” He was monotone and his fists were clenched tightly while resting on his thighs.
“I am Loki Friggason of Earth. I am a mage and I deeply care for Tony Stark. As such, if you ever hurt him I will have no qualms with torturing you far worse than Hydra ever could. Do you understand?” The Winter Soldier nodded and looked strangely relieved. “Good. As to ensure you won’t try to leave before you are better I will simply teleport items into your cell. Either Jarvis or I will always warn you beforehand so as not to startle you. Do you understand?”
“I shall now teleport three meals along with two bottles of water into your cell. When you have finished your meal you are to leave everything on the table excluding any unfinished water bottles.” He nodded and Loki cast the spell. “If any of these meals are unsatisfactory or you are still hungry inform Jarvis.” The Winter Soldier nodded and Loki was quick to disappear.
“You complain about me having no tact then practically give him orders,” Tony complained once Loki joined him in their penthouse.
“He needs things to be simple at this point. Allowing too many options will only slow the process of his recovery.”
“If you say so.” Tony shrugged slightly while working on his tablet.
“I do say so,” Loki stated bluntly, causing Tony to grin. A book appeared in Loki’s hands. He rested his head on Tony’s lap. “Don’t buy him too many things. You don’t want to overwhelm him.”
“But…” Tony trailed off.
“Gifts do not solve everything.” Loki glanced away from his book and saw that Tony was pouting. “Fine. You can buy him whatever you want, but I’ll regulate what he gets and when he gets it.”
“Yay!” Tony’s fingers moved faster on the tablet. Tony knew the sound was soothing to Loki and could almost feel him relaxing. “Most of this stuff should be delivered within a few hours,” Tony said happily. He swiped his finger on the tablet and towards the TV. Images of what he bought appeared on screen. “Choose which items you want to take to him.”
“I don’t want to take anything to him, but I will, for you.”
“Do you have no sympathy for him at all?” Tony did his best not to sound accusing. Loki’s grip on his book tightened.
“You know I do. I shall handle things my way and you shall handle things your way.” Loki sat up and Tony handed him the tablet. Tony wrapped his arm around Loki’s shoulders and Loki leaned into him. He flipped through the various images and Tony knew he was making a mental list.
Tony gave him a peck on the cheek and Loki smiled softly.
Loki held a soft blanket in his arms along with a few other things.
The Winter Soldier was sitting on the cot that was part of the wall.
“Have you decided on a name for yourself yet?” The Winter Soldier shook his head. The movement was barely discernable. “Anthony has picked up plenty of things for you. I am here to deliver a few.” And to check on him with his own eyes. Loki teleported the items onto the table, knowing that keeping their interactions consistent would help. “There’s a change of clothing. I suggest you utilize the shower. “I also brought down a nice blanket, cup of hot chocolate, snacks, a variety of books, and a composition notebook and a pen. I understand how boring captivity can be.” The Winter Soldier looked over at him with confusion. “Is there anything else you might want or need?”
Tony liked to go down to the basement and see his self-imprisoned captive every day. He didn’t react much to Tony’s ramblings, only casting him a look once or twice throughout the hour. Tony liked telling him about what he’d gotten up to the day before and, of course, his favorite subject, Loki.
Tony could go on for hours, just talking about how Loki was a snarky bastard who helped keep him grounded and not work himself to death.
Weeks passed with very little change. The only discernable difference was the amount of items that were accumulating in the cell, some of which Loki must have chosen, because Tony didn’t recognize them.
Steve was constantly pestering Tony for more information whenever Jarvis sent out a vague report on his former best friend, but Tony never gave in, even when the captain used the voice on him.
Tony knew that the Winter Soldier spent a good portion of his time alone either working out or writing in the composition notebooks that were quickly filling up a corner of his spacious cell.
Tony was dying of curiosity, but refrained from getting Jarvis to tell him what was written in them.
“I have an idea!” Tony said while leaning forward in his seat and not letting his ice cream cone tip over. Blue eyes met brown. “Why don’t we get Loki to magic down a TV for us and we can all watch a movie together?” It was a brilliant idea and Tony was not afraid to admit that. “What do ya think?” Tony was expecting a simple shrug and his prediction was correct. “Super!” I’ll just go talk to Loki!” Tony began rushing towards the elevator while balancing his ice cream. “J, where is my dearest Loki?”
“He’s in the conservatory.” Tony rolled his eyes. Loki had insisted it be called a conservatory just because it had a ton of windows and Loki used it to grow a few rare plants. Other than tending to the plants he used the room for studying and creating spells.
Tony tried not to disturb him when he was there since dangerous shit was usually going down, but his idea was too good to be put on hold.
Tony licked at his ice cream as the elevator ascended, trying not to let his fingers get sticky.
The elevator opened and it was suspiciously quiet.
Tony narrowed his eyes while taking another lick.
“Loki, lover, sweetie-pie, my favorite frostbite,” Tony called out softly, “will something explode if I come in?”
“Only my temper if you don’t stop with those names,” Loki growled out, his voice almost reverberating despite the thick door that separated them.
Tony grinned and walked into the way too bright room.
Loki was sitting at a finely carved desk, grinding something with his mortar and pestle.
“Movie night, you, me, and the silent assassin right now.”
“It’s midday,” Loki responded with a bored look on his face. Tony licked a bit of melted ice cream before it could escape down the cone.
Tony’s ice cream cone disappeared and was in Loki’s hand not a moment later. Loki took a big bite out of the ice cream, like the heathen that he was.
“Have you even thought about which movie we should watch? We don’t really know his triggers.”
“There’s mind control in that.”
“Murder and denial of one’s own identity.”
“Do you want to see me cry?”
“You do look pretty when you cry,” Tony joked and Loki threw the ice cream at him, hitting him squarely in the chest. “Aww, that was the last of it.”
“As if Jarvis hasn’t already ordered more.” Loki looked him over. “Why are you limiting yourself to Disney movies?”
“Well, I thought they’d be the safest bet, but I forgot that almost all the popular ones have villains in them.” Tony held in a sigh.
“The Pursuit of Happyness, overcoming adversity. How to Train your Dragon, getting rid of ignorance for a misunderstood group. Shrek, accepting one’s self.”
“You are so much better at this than I am.”
“As I am with most things.” Loki made a motion with his hand and the mortar and pestle disappeared. “We’ll let him decide on which one to watch.”
“So commanding. Very sexy.”
“You didn’t think that when we first met.”
“You don’t know that.”
The Winter Soldier sat in silence.
He had nothing else to write today.
At first his own handwriting had startled him, especially when he realized his handwriting changed when he used his other hand. Both were legible, but some part of him knew that he wasn’t able to do this when he was his old self.
The fractured memories he wrote about rarely made sense and he found himself writing more and more about Tony and Loki.
Tony always visited him midday, happy to talk about anything and everything. The Winter Soldier wasn’t used to such chatter, but it didn’t annoy him. It was almost enrapturing and he ended up learning so much about this world he’d been shoved into.
Loki came by in the morning despite being perfectly able to just make things appear even when he wasn’t around. At first he made the Winter Soldier wary. There was something dangerous in those green eyes. But after a while that feeling eased, mostly because he could see how hard Loki was trying to help. He put up a cold front, but the Winter Soldier was good at reading people.
“Sir, Loki has asked me to inform you that various things will be appearing in front of your cell in a moment.” The Winter Soldier nodded at the voice, Jarvis. It had startled him at first and made him feel like he was constantly being scrutinized, but he’d grown used to it and accepted that the AI was impartial to his daily activities.
A TV and couch popped into existence shortly followed by Tony and Loki.
They briefly acknowledged him before Tony went behind the TV to connect it to the wall and Loki proceeded to throw popcorn at him.
“Would you like some?” Loki offered up.
Popcorn, he vaguely remembered what it tasted like.
Carnivals and movies.
A car that floated only to fall.
The Winter Soldier shook his head, trying to clear it. Loki took that as a no and turned back around, watching Tony.
The TV lit up and three titles appeared with vague summaries under them.
“You get to choose, Mr. tall, dark, and silent,” Tony said after he rounded the TV again.
The Winter Soldier hated having to make choices. He didn’t really know how to.
He stared at each option though, trying to see which had the most value.
Two were animated while the third was based off a true story. He chose that one and pulled up a seat so he could see clearly.
The lights dimmed and the movie started.
It was… interesting and the Winter Soldier had to remind himself that he’d been alive, more or less, when the real events actually took place.
His eyes didn’t stay on the screen though. The drifted to the pair that had taken him in.
They were holding each other, occasionally whispering things. Loki occasionally fed Tony popcorn, his tongue not shying away from licking the salt off Loki’s fingers.
They looked so… comfortable, like they didn’t have a care in the world.
It was… enviable.
He wanted to join them, feel the warmth of someone beside him.
But he knew that would never happen.
Without a wall of reinforced glass between them Tony and Loki would only become tense, on guard, and distrustful.
It was better for him to just stay in here where he couldn’t hurt anyone.
“So whatcha think?” Tony asked while craning his neck to see the Winter Soldier.
Tony lit up.
“Good! We should make this a weekly thing.”
“I agree,” Loki said while making a sweeping hand motion. All the popcorn that was on the ground disappeared. “What do you think?” Loki looked over at the Winter Soldier.
“I think… I’d like that.” It was clear that even the Winter Soldier was surprised by the amount of words he used. It was the longest response they’d gotten since day one.
“Awesome! We’ll have to get you a recliner or something. That plastic chair does not look fun to sit in.” Tony’s face scrunched up slightly. “Or you could just join us out here!” Tony spread out on the couch and on Loki’s lap. “Plenty of room for three.”
“Anthony, don’t push him.”
“I’m fine in here,” the Winter Soldier said. His voice sounded almost choked off.
Tony rolled around so that he could see the Winter Soldier a bit easier.
“We’ll just leave the door open during movie nights then, in case you change your mind.”
“I’m dangerous.” The Winter Soldier was staring at the ground.
“Pff, Loki is like a thousand times more dangerous. He tried to kill me five times.”
“At least five times,” Loki corrected.
“Yeah,” Tony dragged out the word, “those were good times.” Loki openly rolled his eyes at him.
“Get off me and fold the blanket, you idiot,” Loki said harshly, but it was clear he was holding back a smile. Tony whined and curled around him. “You are so childish.”
“To be fair,” Tony said against Loki’s side, “I’m technically the youngest person in this room.”
“Yet you look the oldest. Your hair is greying and your refractory period is getting longer—” Tony twisted Loki around until he was on his back. Loki put up a token fight as Tony shoved a pillow against his face, muffling Loki’s laughter.
“Don’t listen to him. Not all of us have the stamina of a god. He’s just annoyed that my technique is so damn good.”
“I most certainly am not,” Loki said while shoving aside the pillow.
“It’s fine, babe. I’ve just had a lot more practice than you.”
“And what does that say about you? You’re not even half a century old, yet have laid with more people than I have!”
“It means I’m devilishly good looking and you think my grey hair is charming.”
“I tolerate you at best and I find your grey hair unbecoming.”
“Lies, dirty, stinking, lies! You love me and my grey hair!” Tony leaned down and gave Loki a kiss before his lips started trailing downwards.
“You are aware we have an audience, aren’t you?” Loki asked, not stopping Tony’s descent. Tony popped back up.
“Oh, sorry.” He smiled bashfully at the Winter Soldier who was expressionless. He turned back to Loki. “How about you teleport us back to our bedroom then?”
The Winter Soldier spent most of the following days contemplating what he had saw, along with what his name was.
Loki asked him every morning, his tone always patient, yet firm.
The Winter Soldier turned to a blank page of one of his notebooks and began writing down names. Some were from his past, others were aliases.
He wrote his original name to, the one given to him by his parents.
James Buchanan Barnes
Then the name that some squirt gave him.
He scratched out the last name, tearing the page.
That name was out of the question.
The list was long, so many false lives…
So many lives taken.
He still didn’t know if it was his fault.
The sound of the elevator opening pulled his attention away from the page. He closed the notebook.
Loki walked over, a paper plate stacked high with food, bottle of orange juice, and a new book under his arms.
“Good morning,” Loki said and he nodded in response. The items appeared on the table in front of him. “Have you decided on a name for yourself yet?”
“James,” he whispered, startling himself. A smile grew on Loki’s face and he was a bit startled by the sheer beauty of him.
“James.” Loki seemed to be trying out the name. “Without a doubt Anthony will want to celebrate this.” Loki pursed his lips and it was clear to the Winter—clear to James that he was trying not to smile.
“I have already informed Sir and he has ordered a large banner with the name James printed on it. Cake as well.”
“Typical,” Loki sighed out. “If you were outside of that cell he’d probably buy you a motorcycle too. Norns know he’s spent more money on lesser occasions.” Loki closed his eyes for a long moment. “I’m going to go stop him before he does something stupid.”
Loki disappeared and James turned towards his closed notebook.
“Alright! We have music from every decade you were out of commission!” Tony said loudly and Loki just covered his face in exasperation. Tony loved when he did that. “Your job, James, is to decide which ones you like, dislike, or have no opinion of.”
“This is supposed to be a celebration. Stop pressuring him, Anthony.”
“I’m just trying to be helpful.” Tony pouted. Loki grabbed Tony’s wobbling lower lip.
“Do you remember what happened last time you tried to be helpful?”
“I saved the city?” Tony asked, his words slightly slurred since Loki was still gripping his lip.
“No, you almost leveled the building.” Loki released him then wiped the saliva on Tony’s shirt.
“To be fair, I was just getting you some tea.” Loki rolled his eyes at him.
“James, we bought two cakes. One chocolate and the other vanilla. Which would you like?” A cake appeared in each of Loki’s hands and he brought them close so that James could see them. He eyed each one carefully before pointing at the chocolate cake. It disappeared from Loki’s hand and reappeared on James’ table, along with a cake knife, paper plate, fork, half a gallon of milk, and a plastic cup.
Tony began playing the music and dancing. A holograph appeared in front of James, showing the title and artist of the song along with three circles, a happy face, frowny face, and one that was neutral.
Tony started dancing and tried to pull Loki with him.
“Cake first,” Loki deadpanned, easily slipping out of Tony’s grasp.
“You don’t even like cake,” Tony said, not stopping his dance.
“This is a festivity. I usually abhor celebrations, but I can make an exception on this occasion.” Loki shrugged as he set down the cake and started slicing pieces. “James, do you drink alcohol?” Loki asked off-handedly.
“I don’t know?” He was staring at the hologram, lips pursed.
“Cake tastes better with milk anyway,” Tony said, still dancing.
“That’s surprising, coming from you.” Loki gave Tony a knowing look and Tony made a childish noise in return.
“Can you believe this, James? I cut back on my drinking and he still bitches at me.” Tony pointed a thumb at his lover, never stopping his dancing. James pressed the neutral button. “That would be like me bitching about his old murderous tendencies, but no,you don’t hear me doing that.”
“Yes, he doesn’t hear you doing it, but that doesn’t mean you don’t.” Loki sneered. “That fool, the Mandarin, attacked our home.”
“I’m a superhero. It kind of comes with the territory. Also, it was technically Killian.”
“Regardless, you should be thanking me for taking care of the threat before things could escalate further.” Loki plated a slice of cake and handed it over to Tony who finally stopped dancing and took a seat.
“How’s the cake, James?” Tony asked after taking a large bite out of his own slice. James had not bothered slicing the cake and was just eating it from the inside out.
“It’s… good. I think I like chocolate cake.”
“Jarvis, add that to the list of things he likes.”
“Already done, Sir.”
Loki joined Tony on the couch which was facing the cell.
A few songs went by, each of which James selected as neutral.
“Jarv, why don’t you open James’ cell?”
“No!” James said immediately, his eyes wide and panicked.
“You might not see it,” Loki said, “but you’ve been improving. You’ve plateaued though. You don’t have to go through the door, but it’s an option. When we leave we’ll close the door.” James stared at them, unmoving. “Progress is often times scary and difficult, but staying where you are means nothing will change.” Loki took a slow bite of his cake, licking his fork clean. “Do you agree or disagree?”
James shifted in his seat.
“I… guess.” James stared down at his cake.
For the rest of the party James actually pressed more than just the neutral button for the songs.
It was another movie night and James’ stomach was clenched painfully. He knew they’d open the door again, the only thing keeping them safe, the only thing keeping him safe from making another mistake.
He paced around his large cell, his metal fist clenching and unclenching.
It was true. He had pulled his thoughts together as best he could almost two weeks ago.
He remembered who Steve Rogers was, how they used to be friends and comrades. That wasn’t possible anymore. He couldn’t look at him. It was just too painful to even imagine.
James had spied on him and Sam when they were trying to track him down. Steve felt so much regret for having believed he was dead.
James remembered falling from the train. It would have killed any normal man, but he wasn’t normal—not after Zola.
Even when things were still disjointed he knew that Steve would never forgive himself, that his blue eyes would always be filled with pity.
James rushed over to the bathroom and bent over the toilet, dry heaving.
“Sir, is there anything I can get for you? Ginger ale is often used to settle the stomach.”
James waved the AI off.
Tony and Loki said they’d keep him away though. They’d kept their word so far.
Tony and Loki…
How Tony moved during the party. James had never seen anything like it. And then Loki had been pulled into it.
James knew he used to like to dance, and that feeling, that compulsion had hit him full force.
He actually wanted to join them, but he hadn’t.
He wanted to be part of what they had.
James really couldn’t identify what he felt for them.
He knew there was gratitude there, but it was more than that.
It had been so long since he wanted anything beyond survival and trying to find out who he really was.
The pair were so different from each other.
Loki was reserved, steady, and balanced—unless Tony was around. And then he became someone else, someone whose past wasn’t weighing him down. It was enviable and he knew it was because of Tony.
He wondered if Tony could make him feel like that.
And then there was how Loki effected Tony.
He seemed to reel him in without stifling who he was. There was a tolerance towards Tony that James knew could only be born out of love—the sort of love that James would never deserve.
Tony was… so accepting.
James knew his past, had read more than one file on him.
He had forged himself into a better man—something James, maybe he could do that, but that just felt like a dream.
Loki said that he had made progress and James knew he was right.
But if he pushed himself, took even a step out of that cell… he could lose everything he’d worked so hard for.
He felt safe in there. White walls, soft blankets, books, a place where he didn’t have to feel the eyes of Hydra or the pursuit of someone who used to know him—a different him.
Yet they trusted him. For some reason beyond his comprehension they trusted him.
Tony was snug as a bug against Loki’s side, loving how he felt, his scent, and the way he randomly whispered little observations in his ear.
From the corner on his eye he saw James stand from his seat behind his cell wall. From the slight shift in Loki’s position he knew that he’d noticed too.
Tony hid his smile against Loki’s neck before looking back at the screen, his smile never leaving his face.
James continued creeping forward until he was leaning against the doorway of his cell, arms crossed over his chest, fingers digging into his arms in a way that just had to be painful.
He never moved out of his cell though. It was progress though.
The door opened the following morning.
“Would it bother you if I hand delivered your breakfast today?” Loki asked while walking over to James’ cell.
James was sitting on his bed. He looked over at Loki with eyes full of fear despite being expressionless.
“It’s completely up to you.”
James took in a deep breath before nodding.
Loki moved smoothly placing the food on the table.
“Perhaps we can eat together tomorrow.” Loki gave him a curt nod, not waiting for a response before disappearing.
“Have you ever played chess?” Tony asked while standing in the doorway of James’ cell.
James nodded slightly.
“Awesome.” Tony strolled into the cell and saw James tense up. “Don’t worry. You can stay sitting on your bed if you want, but I’d enjoy it if you were sitting across from me. Makes it easier for me to read my opponent.” Tony winked at him as he pulled out a chair and sat down.
“Making things a challenge for me? I see how it is, you sneaky bastard.” Tony smiled, trying to show he was just teasing. “Jarvis, two lovely hologram chessboards please.” Blue images flared to life, one on the table and the other in front of James. “First or second move, James?”
“Why are you doing this?” James asked, startling Tony. He quickly recovered.
“’Cause Loki kicks my ass every time and I’m getting tired of losing. Thought I might get some new strategies by playing you.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“I know.” Tony touched one of the holographic pawns, tipping it slightly. The corresponding piece on James’ board moved in tandem. “And I know I’m pushy.” Tony frowned to himself. “I try not to be, but I don’t always notice when I am. If am being pushy now or at any time, will you tell me? Friend to friend?”
“We’re friends,” James stated, looking uncertain.
“Obviously. Do you know how much money my time is worth? I could be inventing, but I’d rather spend my time with you.” Tony made a meaningless hand gesture. “Are you blushing? That’s so cute! I didn’t know you were cute! This is a revelation!” James ducked his head. “Aww, don’t hide that face from me with your long hair! No need to be embarrassed! Just take the compliment!” Tony was enjoying himself more than he expected to.
“You have no problem taking a compliment, do you?” James grumbled.
“He speaks once more! Such a handsome face! Such a deep voice! You could have all the ladies!”
“What about men?”
“All the genders,” Tony said, not missing a beat. “The scruff looks good on you, but a haircut wouldn’t hurt.” Tony waved his hand, causing the holograms to disappear. “What’s your type?”
James didn’t answer immediately. Tony could be patient, but only with Loki and James.
“Don’t want to.”
“I don’t really have a type. Loki just does it for me, that crazy asshole.” James curled in on himself a bit more. “Oh.” James stilled completely.
“Oh?” James asked hesitantly, staring at his metal arm.
“O. Yeah, it comes between N and P. Favorite letter in the alphabet. Can’t spell Tony without an O! Speaking of O, I should G-O!”
Tony scrambled out of his seat and out of the cell, not looking back at his self-imprisoned friend. The elevator was too slow and Tony was tapping his foot impatiently.
“You’re already annoying me,” Loki said as Tony rushed in.
“Loki! Love of my life, keeper of both my hearts! Our dear in the dungeon has a crush on me!”
“Your ego knows no bounds, you sad, little man,” Loki said in a monotone, not looking away from the window and the few birds that flew this high.
“Jarvis! Back me up! Show Loki the video!” Tony plopped down beside Loki and maneuvered his head so that he was facing the TV.
“Sad, sad, little man,” Loki said while brushing aside Tony’s hands. The video began. “You went in there alone?” Loki growled out.
“What? You said he’s safe!”
“Safe for me.” Loki was scowling. “I am a god! You have shards of metal that could easily pierce your heart if your arc gives out for a moment too long!”
“How ‘bout we not have this conversation again and you just watch the damn video.” Loki glared at him with piercing green eyes before turning to look at the TV again. His expression did not change at all throughout the recording. “Whatcha think?”
“Your ego knows no bounds.” Tony made a whining noise in response. “On this occasion though, you may be correct.”
“Are you angry?”
“Why would I be?”
“Because you’re unpredictable, and that’s one of the things I love about you.” Tony gave him a big smooch. Loki wiped a bit of slobber off his cheek before taking in a slow breath.
“I see potential in this.”
“Potential?” Tony asked while slipping lower on the couch, draping himself over Loki’s lap.
“I see the way you look at him.” Loki started carding his fingers through Tony’s hair. “You don’t look at him like he’s another one of your pet projects or just one of the flies that swarm this world.”
“You have a way with words, Mr. Silvertongue. I don’t know what you’re getting at though.”
“He… interests you.”
“I could love no one more than you.” Tony reached up and tried to boop Loki on the nose. His finger was caught and promptly bit.
“Our James is growing. I like what I’m seeing and he likes what he sees in us.”
“Your intuition has never been as strong as mine.”
“You knew and you didn’t tell me?”
“It’s a recent development. I wasn’t certain until just now.”
“You said ‘us’ though.”
“That I did.”
Loki couldn’t tell if he was unsettled, even with Tony napping on top of him. He still felt uncertainty.
There was… always a voice inside of him, a voice that told him Tony would leave him some day.
Tony liked broken things, hollow people.
Tony had ‘fixed’ him and that’s how they’d fallen in love.
Now Tony was trying to ‘fix’ James.
Loki stared at the screen of the TV. There was a live feed to James’ cell.
He was pacing more than usual.
Loki would never admit it, but he felt like they were kindred spirits, both thrown into a life they didn’t want. They were very different though, enough where it counted at least.
He really could see James starting to open up, and there was something wonderful there.
Loki and he usually had only brief interactions, nothing like what James shared with Tony…
James did seem to have some sort of interest in Loki, if Loki’s intuition was correct.
He’d form a conclusion tomorrow when he had breakfast with James.
Feeling a bit more secure Loki stood and Tony rolled off him and to the ground.
“Shouldn’t you be inventing something?” Loki asked while stepping over him. Tony caught his other leg before he could escape.
“Love you,” Tony said groggily while hugging Loki’s leg.
“I love you too. Would you like me to carry you to bed?”
“Mhh, no. I think I’ll go play in my workshop.” Tony kissed Loki’s leg before letting it go.
James was tense as he heard Loki walking over to his cell the next morning. The door slid open.
“I’ve decided to impose on you and eat breakfast here. I’d be pleased if you joined me at the table, but I understand if you want to stay away,” Loki said while entering the cell, but not walking further in.
James shifted in his seat, not certain what to do, before deciding to stay at the table.
Loki smiled brightly and James really thought it was a shame that he didn’t smile like that more often. Then James realized he was the one who made him smile, that he could make others smile where once he could only make them scream and cry.
“Pardon Anthony’s abrupt departure yesterday. He lacks finesse when it comes to some social interaction, but is still very lovable.” Loki set down the two plates, one heaping with classic, all American breakfast foods while the other had mostly sliced fruit with a side of honey ham. “What would you like to drink?” Loki asked as a glass of cold tea with a spiral cut piece of lemon floating in it appeared beside Loki’s plate.
James considered the question. Till this point it had been a rotation of juices, water, and milk.
“Coffee.” He remembered that he used to like that, even the dregs, though from what Tony told him he doubted there would be any dregs.
“There’s a variety of coffees now, according to Anthony. Though he doesn’t count them as being real coffee.”
“He’s a coffee snob,” James repeated the phrase Tony had used weeks ago. Loki smiled again.
“Exactly.” A mug of coffee appeared between them, along with sugar and cream.
“Coffee was rationed when I was in the military for civilians. I think I used to drink more than what was probably healthy. Captain America didn’t like coffee so he always gave me his ration.” James didn’t add any fixings to his coffee and took a sip. He was startled by his own moan, even though he burnt his tongue a bit. It would be healed by the time he finished eating.
“Another coffee addict. Just what we need.” Loki speared a piece of fruit. “You didn’t even flinch when you said Captain America,” Loki observed.
“The fella I used to know, when we were both just Brooklyn boys… Hydra made sure I never associated the two, or at least they tried to. It’s easier to refer to him as Captain America.” James breathed in the scent of the coffee, completely ignoring his breakfast. Loki made a carafe appear.
“You’re an enabler,” James muttered over the brim of his coffee.
“I merely choose not to fight losing battles.” Loki savored a slice of peach. “Anthony and I are enjoying you being here, despite the strange circumstances. When I say being here I don’t mean in this cell, but in our company.”
James sipped at his coffee, trying to sift through what Loki said. It was straightforward, but he could tell there was something more to it. Loki might have been alive for centuries, but even he couldn’t hide every micro-expression, expressions the Winter Soldier had been train to find.
“Thank you,” he finally settled on saying. Loki began slicing into his honeyed ham.
“Wooden stick, wooden swords, blunt swords, and then the real thing.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s a saying from where I grew up. I suppose the equivalent on Earth would be baby steps, but you’re making leaps and bounds now. Somewhere between wooden swords and blunt ones.” Loki took a bite of the ham and James could tell how much he liked it by the way his eyes slid shut.
Did they always close when he felt pleasure?
James tried to push away the thought.
Loki and Tony were in love and he was just the broken person they were helping out.
To even let his thoughts wonder on how it would be if he was with one of them, let alone both of them, was ungrateful.
It was also hoping for more than he could ever have or deserve. Love, acceptance, and a place to call home.
“I didn’t think I merited Anthony’s attention, at the start,” Loki stated. “I know that look. I’ve seen it many times in the mirror. I’ve committed so many atrocities, both of my own volition and under the influence of others. You never had a choice. Of the two of us I am far less deserving of Anthony’s affections, but he sees past what I’ve done and revealed a part of me I didn’t even know existed.” Loki sipped his tea. “It’s alright to having feelings for him.”
James froze, his grip on his coffee mug almost breaking it.
How did… how did he know?
James had been so careful, but yesterday he’d slipped which meant Tony knew and told Loki.
Would his visits stop?
James felt like he might be slipping, slipping back to what he was.
“You don’t need to worry. Anthony and I are fine with it, though his ego really didn’t need to grow any bigger.” Loki chuckled to himself.
“I’ve never met anyone who was… so full of their self. Except for maybe Howard.”
“Word of advice: never mention Howard in front of Tony. They did not have a good relationship.” Loki took a large bite of a mixture of strawberry and kiwi slices.
“You’re both… fine with my feelings towards Tony because—” He didn’t want to say it, say that no one would ever love him.
“I’m not worried that you could take him from me. What we have is something beautiful.” And there was that smile again, the one James knew was shared with only a select group. “Anthony is,” Loki leaned back in his seat, looking thoughtful. “He is capable of loving more than one person at a time. It’s one of the things I love about him, being able to open his heart despite how many times he’s been betrayed and hurt.” Loki let out a huff that could only be interpreted as both happy and whimsical. “The real question is if you could ever care for him properly. I don’t believe you’re a danger to him anymore. This place has few stressors. Anthony and I made sure of that long before you arrived in our home.” Loki continued to eat, lost in thought.
James refilled his coffee. He could feel its radiating heat in his right hand, but his left was metal and would never feel again.
“I have feelings for more than just Tony,” James admitted.
“I know.” James let go of his mug and clenched his hands in his lap. “It’s not as easy for me as it is for Tony. I was left to die by my father. Odin lied to me, put a glamour on me so that I looked like I wasn’t a Jotun, made me look like I was one of his kind. He lied to me and said I was his son, but he only saw me as a tool to be used in the right moment. Maybe he thought he was doing it to gain peace. Maybe not. I’ve accepted that I’ll never know. The point is that he lied to me when he could have easily told me the truth.”
“What is it you feel for me, if anything?”
“There’s something there,” Loki said while touching the middle of his own chest. “I don’t know what it is. My emotions have always been,” Loki pursed his lips briefly, “unstable, sometimes even foreign to me. All I know is that this feeling is positive.” Loki smiled softly and it was something James had never seen before. “And I think that it has the potential to grow.” Loki blushed. “I’m not used to this sort of thing and I get a feeling you’re a bit out of practice.” Loki stood and James watched him carefully. “We’ll just have to see where this goes.”
Tony strolled in like he owned the place—because, well, he did.
James stood up when Tony came into view, eliciting a smile from Tony.
“Have a good breakfast?” Tony asked while walking into James’ cell.
“It was informative.”
“Mr. Silvertongue. Always a wealth of information.” Tony took the seat that he knew Loki had been inhabiting earlier in the day. “Ya know, movie nights count as dates,” Tony said while tipping his chair back precariously. James was eyeing the movement and there was even a hint of concern in his eyes. Tony tilted the chair back further, instinctually knowing the combination of his weight and the chair’s tipping point.
He pushed past it and James was off his bed a second later, grabbing Tony’s arm and pulling him forward until all four legs of the chair were firmly on the ground.
“My hero,” Tony said while grinning like mad. James quickly pulled back. “Look at that,” Tony held up his arm, “you didn’t bruise or hurt me. You saved me.”
“You did that on purpose.”
“It was a trust fall. It shows that I trust you. Though traditionally both parties are aware what’s going to happen” Tony winked at him before using his foot to push the chair opposite of him out. “I trust you. Be a dear and trust my judgement.” James was hesitant before taking the seat. “Thanks.”
“Why are you thanking me?”
“For making me smile, obviously—and for yielding to my superior knowledge.”
“Yup, and I’m not even compensating for anything.”
“Your tower says otherwise.”
“Cap said it was ugly when we first met,” Tony said, gauging his reaction at the mention of James’ old friend.
“It’s grown on me.”
“It’s a work of damn art!”
“The skyline I used to know was a work of art.” James was smiling a small little thing. “Not so damn bright and painful on the eyes.”
“There’s perks to this day and age though.”
“Yeah, and you’re one of them.”
“James, are you flirting with me?”
“You’re doing a good job. I’m just here for your looks though, so you don’t have to try too hard.” Tony gave him a lecherous grin. “No need to stop though.”
“I’ve never met anyone like you before.”
“I’ve heard that one a million times, James.”
“And every time it was true.”
“Oh, my tender heart!” Tony laid a hand on his chest and breathed in deeply. “Go on.”
“I think I’ve said enough. Loki may be the one with the silvertongue, but I’ve heard you’re not so bad yourself.”
“I love the pursuit.” Tony stood and grabbed his chair, placing it on the left side of the table, facing James. He smoothly sat back down in it, resting his arm on the table and leaning closer to James. They were only inches apart.
“You’re not doing anything,” James said after two minutes passed without Tony speaking and barely moving beyond occasional eye contact.
“Course I am. You’re proof enough of that. Your voice is deeper, heart pounding faster, face flushed, and your eyes are dilated to the point where I wouldn’t know the color of your irises if this was our first encounter.” Tony gently touched James’ bicep. “I’m sure if you look you can see the same signs on me, not that I’ve ever tried to hide them.” Tony gave James’ arm a squeeze before standing. “I have a meeting with my CEO Pep. Later!”
James felt lightheaded. He didn’t know what to make of Loki or Tony. He felt like he was being sucked into something greater than himself. He was falling into something, gravity being an inescapable force, but he knew he could always pull the ripcord.
He wasn’t a prisoner here.
They could have just left him to wallow in his own thoughts, yet everyday they…
And the way Tony’s eyes had roved over him. There was hunger, but something else too, something less base.
Loki said that Tony was capable of loving more than one person at a time. James could see that now.
James just had to show what scraps he’d pulled together of himself and he knew Tony’s feelings would grow for him.
Feelings that James thought were unimaginable for him to feel, much less for anyone to feel for him.
Loki was different though. He’d said so himself.
If there was ever to be anything between them it would take a lot of time.
He was surprised when he heard the elevator. He glanced at the clock. It was six in the morning. Loki normally came by an hour and a half later. He wasn’t caring any food.
“Anthony is working out,” Loki said, as if that explained everything. “It is… delightful to watch. Would you care to join me?” James contemplated the offer for a moment. It would be a big step, not just leaving his cell, but also his sense of security.
He wanted to do this though, and not just because he’d get to see Tony glistening with sweat. He wanted to progress and leaving the security of his cell would do just that.
“Yeah, so long as you stick by my side.”
“Happily.” Loki walked into the cell and held his hand out, offering to help James stand. James took a deep breath before accepting it. His hand wasn’t as warm as Tony’s, but definitely smoother and more elegant. The physical contact was brief, but comforting.
Loki led the way, leaving his back completely unprotected. James felt his emotions swirling again from just the show of trust. He still didn’t understand why they trusted him so much, why they even bothered.
He grew tense in the elevator. It was so small compared to his cell. The soft classical music that was playing stirred the edge of a memory, but he couldn’t grasp it. He had a feeling it wasn’t a bad memory though.
James was almost startled when the elevator opened.
He was surprised that there was no music playing. Some part of him assumed Tony would need the noise while working out. That just made him realize how little he knew of him despite there long, one-sided conversations.
They slipped into the large room unnoticed, sitting in chairs that were too comfortable and plush for a gym.
Tony was shirtless and in shorts. James had never seen him in shorts before, but could see how built his legs were—far more than he expected from an engineer. He had to remind himself that Tony wasn’t just a billionaire who loved to create. He was also Iron Man.
Tony was doing weighted pullups. James couldn’t see how much weight he was hoisting from his angle, but the noises he was making made James’ heart beat a bit faster.
His back was to them and James couldn’t pull his eyes away from the rivets of sweat that glided over his muscles. The top of his shorts were wet with perspiration. He’d been at it for a while.
James faintly remembered having to do a similar work out, but he had only been permitted use his right arm.
Loki let out a hum of approval.
“He always gets so caught up in whatever he sets his mind to. It’s one of the reasons I love him. I could shout his name out right now and he wouldn’t notice, that stupid man.”
“How often does he come here?” James asked, trying to keep the conversation alive, to get back in the habit of talking.
“Usually twice a week, unless a project is too entrancing for him to keep track of time. He also stays fit by all the heavy lifting he does in the lab.”
“What about you?”
“It is very hard for me to work out in a place like this.” Loki gestured towards the gym. “We did not have such equipment where I grew up simply because it was unnecessary. A good portion of everyday was spent sparring. Tony is not strong enough or well versed in combat that does not include machinery. I mostly focus on improving my flexibility so that I can master new ways of fighting. I also keep my stamina up in the bedroom.”
James stared at Loki for a moment, not used to people being so open about their sex lives, especially when it involved someone of the same gender.
“Can he… keep up?” Loki smiled at him. It was almost a devilish look.
“At first, no, but I gave him plenty of incentives. Once he was more up to par I made an elixir to shorten his refractory period.”
Loki looked proud and James could understand why. They made each other better, the sum was greater than the parts.
They continued watching as Tony went from one work out to another, only breaking to drink and eat a banana.
“What is he doing now?” James asked as Tony started doing weird poses.
“Yoga, good for flexibility and helps with his breathing problems.” James gave him a confused look. “The arc reactor is deeper than most people think. His lung capacity is far lower than the average human’s. He makes up for it by improving his blood flow and being able to use the air he has more efficiently.”
James hadn’t noticed he had breathing problems. It was a testament to how well Tony had trained.
Loki conjured up breakfast as well as a table and another seat, though the seat was far less plush and had no fabric on it.
They ate in silence, watching Tony go through his yoga routine. At the end of it he let out a slow breath and rolled his shoulders. His brown eyes were hooded as they drifted around the gym. Loki flicked his wrist and all the equipment was put back in their proper places.
“Loki! James!” Tony instantly looked reenergized as he ran over to them. More food appeared on the table, along with a green concoction in a bottle. “Good morning.” Tony leaned towards Loki to give him a kiss, but Loki held up a napkin, stopping the motion.
“I do not want your sweat on me,” Loki said in a dull voice.
“You didn’t mind last night.” Despite his words he patted his face down before giving Loki a kiss on the cheek. The image of the pair together made the breath in his throat catch. “Aww, you made me breakfast. You’re so nice.” Tony sat in the chair on the other side of the table.
James could already see his sweat starting to dry. He also got a clearer view of Tony’s arc reactor and scars. He’d seen it once before when Tony had noticed him looking at the faint glow near the start of everything. He hadn’t hesitated to show it, but they had too been far apart for James to see any real details. The scars were thicker and more widespread than he expected.
After a moment he pulled his eyes away, knowing how much hated when others stared at his scars. Neither Tony nor Loki noticed, or if they did they didn’t say anything.
Tony was chugging down the green drink.
“What is that?” James asked.
“This?” Tony held the bottle at an angle, looking at it as if he didn’t realize it was there. “Mostly liquid chlorophyll.” James tried to remember what chlorophyll was, but no memory rose from his muddled past. “It’s the stuff that allows plants to convert sunlight into energy,” Tony said, probably reading his expression. “I also have some ground ginger, coconut water, and lemon juice in it. I switch up the recipe sometimes, but there’s always chlorophyll in them. It’s good for me and I grew addicted to the stuff after an earlier version of the reactor started poisoning me.” Tony shrugged as if being poisoned was insignificant. “Wanna try it?”
“It tastes horrid,” Loki warned, leaning back in his seat while cupping his warm mug of tea.
James couldn’t deny Tony though. His smile was just so compelling and his eyes were bright with happiness.
He took the bottle, stared at the contents before taking a sip. James kept his face composed.
“Whatcha think?” Tony asked.
“It’s better than eating boiled leather boots, but not something I would drink unless I had to.” Tony scoffed at James’ response.
“Neither of you have any taste for the finer things,” Tony said while swiping the bottle from James.
“I am a prince who lived in a castle of gold. I can appreciate the finer things more than you can, or do I need to remind you of our visit to the Metropolitan Museum?”
“I don’t like old things,” Tony said with his mouth half full. He jumped slightly in his seat and James figured Loki had kicked him.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full. It’s disgusting. And have you forgotten that I am older than some of the pieces there?”
“That’s different.” There was an undertone of whining in Tony’s voice, making James smile.
“How so, my genius?” Loki’s words were dripping with sarcasm.
“You look and act young. You are alive. All the exhibits you led me to was just old crap. There was no life in them.”
“See, James, he has no appreciation of art. Many of those painting were alive in their own way, vibrant and capable of eliciting emotions, if only one was able to look for more than a second before going back to their phone.” Loki was scowling at Tony. “You have no appreciation for the finer things and clearly that concoction you drink is an acquired taste.”
“You’re no fun,” Tony said while slumping on the table, his arm extended on the edge. Loki patted him on his hand.
“There, there, Anthony. Not all of us can be as refined as I am. Hundreds of years of being princely can do that to anyone, well, anyone but you at least.”
“You’re so cruel,” Tony whispered before taking Loki’s hand and kissing his knuckles.
James could tell that Loki was a bit flustered, but he was hiding it well.
“Yes, well, the truth was bound to get out eventually. It might as well come from me.”
Tony pretended to mope a bit longer as he continued eating. He knew Loki saw right through him, but he was enjoying himself, especially since James was there and probably fooled.
“I have a great idea!” Tony said while perking up.
“That are usually your worst ones,” Loki deadpanned before taking a sip of tea. James chuckled and Tony looked at him like he’d just been betrayed.
“Insulted in my own home,” Tony mumbled while sinking lower into his seat.
“Our home,” Loki corrected before meeting James’ eyes. “This is home for all three of us.” James ducked his head and Tony wanted to tease him for blushing, but held back.
“Anyway,” Tony dragged out the word while looking at James, “I think that cell is holding you back and that you should move to the spare bedroom in the penthouse.”
“You’re almost a blunt sword,” Loki added. “Doing this would make you so.”
“What?” Tony asked, giving Loki a confused look.
“Nothing you need to worry about, dear.” Tony knew Loki only used that endearment when he didn’t feel like explaining something. Tony let it go, knowing he could weasel it out of Loki later.
“I…” James took a large gulp of orange juice before continuing. “I don’t know.”
“We already set up a comfy room for you, though feel free to redecorate. Anthony and I have been thinking about this the past few days. Though I had planned on approaching the subject a bit more delicately.” Loki gave Tony a burning look of annoyance. Tony smiled at him, just to annoy him more. “It is a large step, but one I believe was already in the workings before Anthony originally thought it up.”
“But what if I…”
“We’re all capable of great destruction, but that doesn’t mean we’ll do it.”
“Yeah, but you haven’t,” James’ words trailed off.
“I went on a revenge spree and killed countless people,” Tony said evenly, despite his throat constricting painfully.
“I attempted genocide, invaded this planet, and after being set free I wreaked havoc on New York for almost year.” Loki’s eyes were closed as he spoke. He only opened them again after taking a slow sip of tea. “We won’t force you into this.”
“And you don’t have to answer right now.”
“You never gave me that option,” Loki said, clearly offended.
“You had just been captured and I wasn’t going to let you be taken to Asgard! Also, you admitted later on that you were about five minutes away from escaping, so technically you had plenty of time to think about it.” Tony was pointing his fork at Loki as he spoke. The utensil disappeared and Tony made a whining noise before just eating with his hands.
“Savage,” Loki commented.
James didn’t say anything else, not even when Tony was chatting up a storm as they walked back to his cell.
“Cap, you can’t see him yet,” Tony said, hating that he’d been cornered on his way out of his tower. Damn him and his habitual need for fresh donuts. He had his favorite place call Jarvis up whenever they were about to finish a fresh batch.
“It’s been months and Jarvis’ last report said that Bucky has gone out of his cell.”
“Need I remind you that he chose to go by the name James instead of Bucky?” Tony asked, walking around Steve, not willing to miss out on fresh donuts. Steve easily kept pace with him, despite nearly taking up half the sidewalk with many people coming in the opposite direction.
“When can I see him, Tony? He’s been locked in there for months.”
“Language, Cap! There’s a big difference between being held prisoner and choosing to stay in a room.”
“Fine, but it’s a room that he chose not to be in anymore.”
“He hasn’t decided that yet. Just because I go to a donut shop doesn’t mean I’m not going to go back to the tower.” Tony hated explaining such simple logic to others, but it would be easier than listening to Steve’s weird mixture of kicked puppy and mother hen routine. He’d already talked to him a dozen times about James, despite Jarvis keeping him informed on the bigger issues. “You need to back off. When he wants—if he wants to see you we’re not going to stop him. I’m not some dragon keeping him locked in my tower and he’s definitely not some helpless princess. He got through fifty floors of security before Jarvis found out—And before you go getting any ideas James told us how we did it and there’s no blind spots that you’ll be able to find, Loki made sure of that.”
Steve pursed his lips and put his hands in the pockets of his khaki jeans while looking at the ground. Kicked Puppy Mode activated.
Tony held back an eye roll. He understood why Steve wanted to see James so much. If something like that had happened to Rhodey he’d probably do the same, but with more results considering hacking into a building’s security was usually not that difficult.
What Steve didn’t seem to understand was that James and Bucky were different people, not just a name change. He’d tried to explain that to him a few times with little success.
Steve figured his old pal would emerge from the person who broke into Tony’s tower.
Steve would only understand the difference when the truth was shoved right in his face.
Tony didn’t want to be the one to do it. He might not always get along with the guy, but Steve was still a good person.
He’d talked to Sam about it and he said he’d already explained that James was unlikely to ever be the man Steve once knew.
They entered the donut shop and Tony nearly moaned at the scent.
“Want some donuts? I’m paying?” Tony offered, Steve’s kicked puppy look getting to him.
“Thank you, but I think I’ll just,” Steve didn’t finish the sentence, merely walking out while looking forlorn.
James was still stuck in his thoughts when Tony appeared later that day.
“Did you have donuts back in the day, grandpa?” Tony asked while casually walking into the cell, carefully carrying a pink box.
James sat up from his position on his bed, already smelling them.
“Yeah, we couldn’t afford them most of the time, but during the war the Red Cross used to give them out.” Without thinking he walked over to the table and plopped down.
“Prepared to be amazed by modern donuts. I got you a variety.” Tony opened the box before turning them towards James.
“My own personal Doughnut Dolly,” James said while looking at the donuts in amazement.
“What?” Tony asked while peeking over the top of the box.
“That’s what we used to call them, the ladies that gave out the donuts, Doughnut Dollies. They never looked as good as you though.”
“If I knew bringing you donuts would get you to flirt with me I would have done so sooner.” Tony was grinning. James loved making him smile. “They’re fresh so eat up.”
James chose one that was strangely shiny. He took a bite and melted in his seat.
“Donuts didn’t taste this good when I was growing up.”
“The marvels of modern food. So much fattier, but so much yummier.” Tony let go of the top of the box, letting it fall onto the table. He leaned his elbow on the table and rested his chin on the palm of his hand.
James was still savoring the first bite when a series of memories came to mind. He set the donut down and Tony gave him a confused look.
“Food was always a problem growing up. Then in the military I felt like I was feasting like a king. After that I ate what was only necessary, never tasting it. When I went on the lam I just ate whatever I could get my hands onto, not wanting to leave a trail and being too busy to even think about the taste. The first day I was here… I thought the food Loki brought me was some sort of trap. There was just so much and it all smelled delicious. I stared at it for a few hours, forgetting where and when I was. I sat perfectly still even though I was panicking. Thoughts on how to escape kept going through my head automatically. My emotions were completely detached from what was going on in my head, but now it’s like they were never separated to begin with.” The revelation left him breathless.
“Sounds like it was a coping mechanism.” Tony stole a donut that had cherry filling in it. “Not really a healthy one, but it’s what you needed, but subconsciously you decided you don’t need to deal with things like that anymore.” Tony took a bite and hummed happily with his eyes closed. James felt the intense urge to lean forward and kiss him.
“I think I’m ready to move out of my cell.”