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"Did you know that I had a date tonight? I bet you didn't."

Steve's voice rings over the comm: "You have a date every night. One miss won't kill you."

Tony snorts, shaking his glass a little in his hand to settle the alcohol.

"If this goes bad, it just might," he says.

"Just keep your eyes open," Fury says. "If Mephisto shows up, you need to be ready."

Tony nods and takes another sip of scotch. Right, Mephisto. Tony really hates that guy. SHIELD intelligence says that Mephisto is planning to raid the new Stark Energy Model and use it for nefarious purposes, which means security has been upped tenfold. But Fury also wants to capture him in the act of it, which means Tony is on stakeout at his own Expo. It's hardly his fault that his technology is that popular, and therefore Tony finds the fact that he's being forced to work at his own show kind of shitty. Tuxes always bring him down—Tony likes being comfortable, not suffocating on a bowtie.

All the avengers are waiting two miles out incase anything goes down. It's the first night of Stark Expo, and a pretty good one at that. Normally, Tony pops in and does a few tricks, shakes a few hands and leaves, but tonight he's being forced to stick around. Rich people are incredibly boring. Tony drains his drink and heads to the bar.

"Maybe you should take it easy on the booze," Natasha says.

"I'm acting casual, remember?" Tony signals to the bartender. "It would be conspicuous if I stopped."

He gets another scotch and leans against the bar, surveying any possible baddies. If Mephisto does show up, Tony doubts it will be subtle in the least. There's something about otherworldly beings and their not understanding how to be discreet. With any luck, it might at least be entertaining. The world hasn't exactly been in any immediate danger recently—not that Tony is complaining—but going from saving the world to just being in it is boring. Tony wants action.

"Hold up." Barton jumps in over the comm. "Security is gathering at the left pavilion."

Tony pauses with his drink to his lips, does a quick check around the room again. He doesn't see any kids, which is a good thing. The last thing he wants is people getting hurt over his technology again.

"Never mind," Barton says after a minute. "It was some drunken billionaire."

"Hey," Tony says.

"Boys," Natasha says. "Let's focus, please."

Tony mumbles into his glass. It's later in the night, and Tony doesn't remember when exactly these things end, but he just wants to go home now. It's not his fucking job to wait for super villains to show up, last time he checked. Tony goes to take another swig of his drink and realizes that it's gone. He turns back around, and that's when he sees her. She definitely wasn't there a minute ago, he would have fucking noticed. His first thought is hot, followed by god damn. She's tall, draped a green dress that drops dangerously low down her back. Her hair is black, falls a little messy to her breasts, which are also delightfully perky. And then there's her skin—pale enough to be inhuman. Tony knows exactly what he's doing after this stakeout is finished.

"Gin and tonic," she says, with a voice that Tony imagines is what velvet might sound like if it could talk.

"That will be eight dollars, ma'am," the bartender says, and that's when Tony steps in.

"Actually, she's with me."

The bartender stutters an apology, and then the woman turns to look at Tony. Her face is every bit as gorgeous as Tony expected it to be, even though she's watching him with a pretty sour expression. Apparently, not everyone enjoys a free drink.

"If it means that much to you, you can leave him an eight dollar tip," Tony says.

She doesn't answer. The bartender sets her drink down and she picks it up, taking a small sip before turning away.

"Whoa, hey what a minute." Tony stops her with a hand to her shoulder. "In this circumstance you normally say thank you or leave your number on a napkin."

"Is that so?" she says.

She reaches up and grabs Tony's hand with her own before squeezing hard. Tony thinks his bones are about to fucking crack as she removes his hand from her shoulder, and damn is she strong. When she finally lets go, Tony's hand is throbbing.

"Thank you," she says, and then walks away.

Tony decides he's never been more turned on in his life.

So he does the only logical thing: he follows her. She doesn't go far, just to the other end of the room, dress trailing lightly behind her on the floor. Everyone else notices her before trying not to. Some men stare open at her, others just bow their heads. Tony doesn't do either. He follows right behind her so they all know he's going for her, and it's enough to make them back off. Miss Green Dress leans against the far wall, drink to those red lips, face set in this awful death glare that Tony can't help finding kind of hot. When she notices he's been following her, the glare gets even darker.

"I highly suggest you leave," she says.

"Kind of can't do that. See, this is my event, it would be pretty rude of me to leave my guests unattended." Tony looks her up and down. Her legs go for fucking miles. "And I think you really need to be attended to."

There's this split second where her eyes almost go wide, like she's just realizing now that Tony is hitting on her. Then her lips curl. It's not a smile, not really, but it's a lot closer than what Tony's gotten from her so far.

"Really now," she says, and then chuckles low and smoky.

Tony braves a step closer. He can smell something on her, some kind of perfume, and it's making his mouth water. He wants this woman in his bed, her dress on his floor. The woman smiles wider, like she can hear what he's thinking.

"Really, really," Tony says.

"Believe me when I tell you, Mr. Stark, that that is the last thing I need from you." She throws the drink back and Tony watches her neck. "Now leave me be. I'm busy."

She doesn't even give him a chance to respond, she just walks away. Tony stands there. He tries to think very hard about the last time he was rejected by a woman. Actually, he's not sure it's ever happened. When Tony blinks again, she's gone completely, like she disappeared. It's unnerving, and it makes Tony want her even more. Now that's thrilling. Chasing after someone—that's something Tony hasn't had to do in a long while—most women just fall right into his lap.

"Okay," Steve says. "Let's wrap it up here. Tony, you can go back to the tower. Thor will take a shift watching the expo overnight."

Tony almost forgets to answer.

--

The second night of Stark Expo, Tony doesn't even look for a sign of Mephisto. He introduces a prototype for recycling plastic in home before booking it to the bar room again, signing autographs along the way. He may accidentally sign a child's head, but Tony doesn't care. He wants a stiff drink and for Miss Green Dress to be back at the bar.

He deflates pretty visibly when he doesn't see her there. He does see Donald Trump, which pisses Tony off to no end, because the guy always talks nonstop for hours about how Tony should shave his goatee. It's not happening. It's never happening. Tony does a fancy kind of spin backwards and hides behind a basketball player for a bit while trying to simultaneously be on the ready for Mephisto and find that woman again.

"Tony."

Rhodey is behind him without any warning whatsoever, holding what appears to be a cranberry juice and lime. He also looks mildly concerned.

"Is there a reason you're hiding behind Dwight Howard?" he says.

"Avoiding the Trump," says Tony. He steps away over to Rhodey, slapping his shoulder. "Always good to see you, though."

"Always good to see you when you're not getting me shot at."

"That is rude," Tony says. "You may buy me a drink as an apology."

Rhodey snorts a laugh. "This is your expo, you drink for free."

"Oh, right." Tony starts leading them to the bar. "I'll buy you one, then."

"Not while I'm in my uniform," Rhodey says, but he follows Tony anyway.

Tony gets himself a drink, and another cranberry juice for Rhodey. He's got Steve gabbing away in his ear again, but Tony tries to ignore it when Rhodey asks him how things are going.

"I'm on a stakeout right now, but you don't know that."

Rhodey glances around. "Serious? I should probably leave."

Tony grapples at his arm and pulls him back against the bar with him. When Rhodey looks at him, Tony gives him the doe eyes, the kind that scream don't leave me here alone. Rhodey hangs back.

"I hope this isn't some crazy shit you're in," he says.

"Not yet."

Tony does another survey of the room to try and find the woman from last night. No dice. But then Rhodey starts to look with him, like he thinks Tony is looking for the bad guy or something.

"So what does this perp look like?"

"Eh, you know," Tony says, shrugging. "Red."

Rhodey blinks at him.

"Excuse me?"

"Red, you know, like the devil." Tony shakes a hand dismissively. "Don't even worry about it, he probably won't show up. Besides, it's not him I'm looking for right now, anyway."

Rhodey doesn't really relax at all next to him, but he does stop looking like he's about to go for his gun. Tony knows he shouldn't have even told Rhodey about this whole deal, but to be honest, Tony doesn't know much about it himself. It's a vague tip from SHIELD intelligence, and they aren't the most reliable bunch Tony has ever met. Yes, Stark Energy Model could power some really bad shit if it fell into the wrong hands, but that's why Tony isn't introducing it until the last day. As far as he's concerned, this is busy work.

"Okay, then, so who are you looking for?" Rhodey says.

"A woman I met last night." Tony doesn't have to look at Rhodey to know he's rolling his eyes. "Don't do that, okay? If you saw her, you'd understand."

"I don't understand half of what you do," says Rhodey.

They share a quiet laugh under their breath, because Tony and Rhodey have that kind of relationship. Rhodey even stands in front of him when Donald Trump walks by, just so Tony can avoid having to talk to him. About five minutes later, when Rhodey is telling him a story about an old recon mission, Tony sees her again.

And damn if she doesn't look just as gorgeous as he remembers. She has a different dress on this time, still a dark green, but it cuts lower in the front, and there's a huge gold necklace draped around her neck. So far, she doesn't seem to have noticed him. Tony elbows Rhodey.

"There she is," he says.

"What?"

"The woman." Tony motions with his head. "Green dress. On your left."

Rhodey looks and then says, "Holy shit," without missing a beat.

Tony just nods like he's already slept with her. Though in Tony's mind, he's pretty close to it. It's enough for him that she even showed up again the second night. Rhodey's mouth is hanging open so Tony shuts it with his index finger, listening to it click. This is about the time he needs to bid Rhodey farewell, because he's not about to lose this woman a second time.

"I understand," Rhodey says, taking a gulp of his cranberry juice like it's alcohol. "I should probably head out, anyway."

He pats Tony's shoulder.

"Don't get into any trouble."

"Me?" Tony says. "I would never."

He watches Rhodey snake through the crowd before turning his attention back to the woman from last night. She's nearly gone again. Tony can barely see her dress as she slips through the mass of bodies in the room. That's fine though, he doesn't mind a chase. He works his way through the crows behind her, trying to follow her path, completely avoiding Donald Trump as he tries to flag him down. Tony is a man on a fucking mission, and she's close to leaving. A few minutes later, he finds her again, only this time she isn't alone. Some guy is chatting her up. For a second, Tony thinks he's someone she's met there, and his heart kind of wilts.

Then he realizes that she doesn't want to have anything to do with the guy. Her arms are folded, face murderous. It looks like she's trying very, very hard not to make a scene. This is actually a better situation than Tony could have hoped for. He slides over.

Whoever this guy is, Tony doesn't recognize him, but he can tell he's pretty rich by the tailoring of his suit. He's also old and she is way out of his league. By this time, the woman practically has steam coming out of her ears, but the guy doesn't seem to get it. Tony steps in.

"Oh my god, you found her," he says, stepping so his body angles in front of her own. "Sweetheart, I've been looking for you everywhere."

"Mr. Stark," the guy says, stuttering on the name. "You know this young woman?"

"Know her?" Tony slips an arm around her waist and feels her tighten. "She's my very, very dear…cousin."

There is a moment where the guy looks so shocked by that idea that Tony is almost offended. But then he starts blubbering apologies, telling Tony that he had no idea. Really. Tony just nods along, pleasant-faced and thoroughly enjoying having his arm around this woman's waist. The man eventually makes an excuse and walks away, still looking bewildered at the fact that Tony Stark has a cousin that gorgeous and maybe also because Tony's hand is dangerously close to his cousin's ass.

The second the man is out of sight, the woman wrenches herself from Tony's grip. She looks ready to vomit, Tony hopes not because of him. She doesn't say anything. Nothing. She just starts to move back into the crowd like nothing happened, a shadow, an apparition—but Tony really doesn't want that to happen a second time. He reaches out and snags her wrist, trying to keep her there. Her face melts into a death glare.

"What," she says, enunciating the syllables into a perfect hiss.

Tony grins. "You have a real problem with the word thank you, don't you? It's very simple to say."

She's still glaring.

"I could have security remove you," Tony adds, and suddenly she's less hostile.

"Is that what you're after?" She inhales and then exhales. "Thank you."

The word sounds foreign on her tongue, and Tony wonders if she's ever said it before in her life. Probably not sincerely. She doesn't follow the rules, that makes her even sexier. Tony hasn't had to chase this hard in possibly ever. It's exciting as hell.

"You'll excuse me," the woman says, turning again.

She smells like a fucking candy factory. Tony keeps his hold on her wrist.

"Whoa, hold on there. At least let me buy you another drink. You are a dear cousin after all."

"Clever," she says. "But I'm not looking to be showered with attention."

"Too late." Tony motions to the crowd. "You think any guy in here hasn't noticed you? With that neckline?"

She glances down at her own breasts like she forgot they were there and Tony is having a really, really hard time reading this woman. It really does seem like she's oblivious to the men fogging up the room by breathing heavily over her, too lost in her own agenda, whatever the hell that might be. Surely she's not actually interested in anything scientific.

"All those guys are just waiting for the chance to talk to you," Tony says. "But when you're seen with me, they assume you're off limits. So, you can let me buy you a drink, or you can go to the dogs, so to speak."

"I'm sure I can handle it," the woman says.

"Are you?"

Tony gives her a skeptical look, and she glances behind them. When she turns back around, her face is set in something that looks like defeat. Tony mentally high-fives himself.

"They won't bother me," she says, almost a question.

Tony nods, and then she says, "Fine. A drink it is."

Whatever this woman's endgame is, Tony doesn't know, and doesn't care. The crowd parts easy for them as they make their way back to the bar. If she didn't want to attract attention, she could try looking a little less gorgeous, not that Tony is complaining. He orders a scotch on the rocks and she gets champagne, holding the stem of the flute between long, slender fingers. For right now, Tony is content to just watch her, the way her form bends at beautiful angles and her eyelashes sweep across her cheeks. She keeps checking the crowd like she's looking for someone.

"What's your name," Tony says.

"Not your concern, Mr. Stark."

"Uh-huh." Tony takes a drink. "And who are you looking for so intently?"

"Again, not—"

"My concern," Tony finishes. "Yeah, I heard you. I hope he's good looking, at least."

The woman smiles. "He's not."

Tony laughs. "So let's get out of here, then. I've got a private jet. We could fly to Rome."

Two different voices slice into his ear at once, hissing, "Tony, you're on a stakeout."

Well, shit, he almost forgot about that. Still, it's worth a shot, only this woman doesn't seem interested in the slightest. She wants to stay here at the expo, which really isn't that exciting, Tony will admit, and it's his expo.

"Why do you insist on following me?" the woman says finally.

Tony stares for a second, and then blurts out, "Because you're hot."

"Interesting," she says, and then holds her empty champagne flute out. "I'd like another of this, I think."

"You heard the lady!"

She sticks around for a good thirty minutes, in the end. Tony flirts with her, unashamedly and a little lewdly, but she doesn't bat an eye. It's progress, and Tony knows it's progress because she doesn't give him the death glare once the whole time, she just looks thoroughly amused. Eventually, Tony turns his back on her, and when he turns back around, she's disappeared.

"Shit."

He should have known better than to get that comfortable with her. A quick check around finds no trace of her. So when the night ends, Tony goes back to the tower, more alone than he wanted to be.

--

"This is a serious waste of time," Clint says. He's organizing his arrows in a manner that Tony thinks may be slightly obsessive compulsive. "We've wasted two nights on a tip. A bogus tip."

"We don't know it's bogus," Tony says. They're all gathered in his penthouse to go over the night, which has been horribly uneventful—for them, at least. "We can't afford to take any chances, think of the children."

Clint does a half scoff, half laugh. "You're only saying that because you get to drink and chat up hot women."

"Who was that, anyway," Natasha says, smile coy. "She seemed to love you, Tony."

Tony grabs a handful of pistachios from the table, cracking a few open in his palm. "She's warming up to me."

"You need to be alert, Tony," Steve says from the side. "If Mephisto shows up—"

"He is not an enemy to underestimate," says Thor. "And he's had dealings with Loki."

"I know, I know. Less flirt, more alert." Tony waves their concern off. "I can handle women, and Mr. Red and Scary."

There's a few more words exchanged, mostly with Thor lamenting about his brother again. Loki has been off the radar for a while, which absolutely no one is complaining about, even if it is a bit odd. Still, they've got bigger things on their plate right now, things named Mephisto. They haven't ruled out Loki being involved with him but so far, there's nothing to point to it. All they've got is what SHIELD is giving them, and it's not much. Tony doesn't mind so much anymore, though. He has a good feeling the woman is going to be at the expo again tomorrow night. She's looking for someone too, and she definitely hasn't found them yet.

"Tomorrow is the last night of the expo," Steve says. "Expect anything."

--

He finds the woman again pretty early in the evening. Tony goes out on a limb to say she's not avoiding him, this time. Her dress is different tonight, but still green, which is fine because it's a great color on her. The moment she sees him, her lips curl into a smile, eyes wicked. Tony's groin goes a little tight, but he walks normal, chin lifted a bit higher. If he had to bet on it, and he would, he'd say she's almost happy to see him. Tony slides close, leaning in just enough to get another sniff of that candy factory smell. He doesn't know why she's suddenly warmed up to him, but who is he to question?

"Fancy meeting you here again," he says.

The woman hums behind her glass.

"Is it true that you made a self-sustaining energy prototype?" She locks eyes with him from the side. "The Stark Energy Model?"

Well, how about that, she does have some interest in science. Tony nods.

"Still working on the name bit, but yeah, that was me."

"But it's unstable," she says. "In the wrong hands, it could be a weapon."

Tony stares at her, because suddenly she sounds like Nick Fury, which is a) not sexy, and b) a little suspicious. She cocks her head.

"Or so I've heard."

"Mildly unstable," Tony says, which isn't actually true, but. Well.

He turns to order a drink, silently sizing this woman up in a new light. There's no way this woman is working for someone, is there? Someone like Mephisto? He should know better than to trust beautiful women after Natasha. But the fact that she so ardently avoided him for most of the expo makes it seem unlikely. Tony grabs his drink and takes a long sip. He hasn't seen her anywhere else but the main expo room, hovering by the bar trying to be left alone.

Tony slides his finger up to his ear, gently pressing on his comm.

"How's the outside world looking?"

"Quiet," Steve says.

Tony swallows. He's not about to let paranoia ruin what is looking to be a pretty promising evening. He clears his throat, gets his shit together, and turns back around the face the woman. She's still there.

"So what else have you heard about me?"

"That you're quite a womanizer," the woman says. Her eyes roll up like she's thinking. "And rather smart, for a…man."

"Yes," Tony says. "It is rather impressive."

She grins. "I wouldn't say that."

"No?"

"No." She leans back on the bar with her elbow and leans closer to Tony, body angled so that he can see the way her hip curves out, sinful as anything. "You think you're doing good, as all men do, but really you're just fueling your egos, your desire for control. Isn't that what you desire most, Mr. Stark?"

Tony feels kind of drunk all of a sudden, so he just leans further into this woman until her champagne breath is ghosting closer to his lips, hovering and threatening.

"I honestly can't tell at this point whether or not you want to sleep with me," he says.

The woman throws her head back and laughs, all the little cords and tendons of her neck pushing out against that pale skin. She regards Tony like he's really, truly amused her, and not necessarily in the bad way. But before Tony can even fathom her response, voices start coming into his ear from everywhere at once.

"Tony, we've got trouble, do you copy? Three security guards down at the south pavilion."

Right as he goes to respond, there's a rumbling from outside, like canon fire going off—like an explosion.

"Shit! There was an explosion, did you—"

"Uh, yeah," Tony says. "Heard it. On it."

Mephisto would do this right when he's about to possibly get laid. Next to him, the woman has disappeared again, but this time Tony is glad for it. He pushes through the crowd of people to get to open space and call the suit to him. Everyone is already panicked, but they aren't moving, just watching Tony to see what he'll do.

He looks at them a moment.

They're all waiting for Iron Man.

Funny, so is Tony.

--

He gets to the south pavilion in a matter of seconds, not that everything isn't already chaos. Most of the area seems pretty clear, and luckily for everyone, Mephisto is kind of hard to miss. The energy model is behind a reinforcement that Mephisto is about to destroy, and the other avengers are nowhere in sight, but Tony isn't too concerned about that at the moment.

"Hey, Big Red, why don't you step away from the expensive stuff?"

Mephisto just turns to him and grins. Tony knows he's about to get hit with some serious magic, so he figures he better fire first. Only before either of them can do any damage to each other, Mephisto gets hit with a blast of green light that sends him rolling backwards into the wall. Tony turns, looks, and then looks again. It's her. It's woman in the fucking green dress. A million different thoughts fly into his head at once, but all he can think is that she has pretty good aim, and is also kind of relieved she doesn't appear to be on Mephisto's side.

"You retch," she says, stalking forward. "You really thought I wouldn't find you?"

As she says it, her body starts to change, fade away. And then suddenly, she's Loki.

She's Loki.

The woman Tony has been hitting on for the past three nights is Loki.

"What the fuck—"

"Be silent," Loki says. "This does not concern you."

Mephisto laughs as he pulls himself upright, dusting bits of wall off his shoulders.

"So touchy." His eyes glow. "I won fairly, you will recall."

"You won nothing," Loki says. "I want back what is mine."

Tony is still digesting the fact that Loki has been disguised as an incredibly hot woman that Tony may or may not have jerked off to twice in the shower thinking about.

"For someone who likes tricks, you certainly don't enjoy being the recipient," Mephisto says. "But I am rather enjoying this, Loki."

Loki is absolutely furious. His teeth are bared, his body is drawn tight—he's ready to attack again, and Tony almost does nothing, but then he remembers that Mephisto is still the enemy here, and right now he's being distracted. Tony raises his arm, aims, and fires right at Mephisto. Just as he does this, Loki charges forward for Mephisto as well.

The whole fight is kind of a blur. Tony just knows that the avengers show up about two seconds after and there is a lot of yelling, mostly from Thor to Loki. What he also knows is that Mephisto gets away—he just disappears from the scene like he was never there, prototype in hand. Tony is left staring at Loki across the rubble as he curls his hands around the mess left behind. He looks at Tony strangely, like he's going to say something, but ultimately he doesn't. He snarls and then he's gone too.

--

Clint is laughing, which Tony doesn't think is very funny. And yeah, okay, if the roles were reversed, Tony would be laughing too, but they're not so it's a lot less funny.

"You spent three nights hitting on Loki in drag," Clint says.

"Not drag." Tony feels this is a very important point. "He was a full-fledged woman, there's no way I could have known."

"But Loki."

Seriously, how the hell was Tony supposed to know? With tits like that, anyone would have been fooled. He slides further back in his chair, watching Steve and Thor as they talk in the corner. Something is up, Tony just isn't sure what. But it's obvious from their interaction that Mephisto and Loki aren't exactly pleased with each other. I want back what is mine, that's what Loki had said. Surely he didn't mean the prototype. If he had been interested in that, he would have snatched it the first night. No, Mephisto took something from him, and Loki went there to confront him about it—obviously it was something important to him. It's a shit situation either way.

Thor and Steve finish their little powwow, and then Steve approaches Tony, arms folded.

"You're sure Loki wasn't after the Stark Model?"

"Positive," Tony says. "It doesn't make sense. Anyway, he was looking for Mephisto to begin with."

"He wanted something from him, you said." Thor strokes his chin. "You are sure of this? Did he say why?"

"We didn't exactly talk about that."

Next to Clint, Natasha suggests he was after the prototype himself. But Tony tells her exactly what he's thinking—which is that he really, really wasn't.

"It honestly doesn't matter if he was," Natasha says. "Mephisto has what he came for. We need to find him before he uses that thing."

Tony looks down into his lap and then smirks, "Actually, he doesn't."

"Come again?" Steve says.

"As a precautionary measure I removed the core from the model two days ago." Tony stands so he can grab the bag of potato chips on the table, and pops a few into his mouth. "So really all he has now is a tin can."

One by one, everyone turns to look at him. For some reason they don't look too happy.

--

Tony doesn't usually tell everyone his plans, or rather, anyone. Benjamin Franklin said three can keep a secret if two of them are dead, and Tony agrees. He took the core out just in case, and it was a good just in case. What the others don't understand is why they had to keep staking out the expo if the core was taken out.

"If you had told us from the beginning, that would have been real swell," Steve had said, arms crossed.

He could have, but then Tony wouldn't have gotten to hang out with the hot lady all weekend.

This is, of course, before he knew she was actually Loki.

Tony spends the rest of the night in his penthouse on the phone with Pepper while she does damage control. No one besides the security guards was injured in the incident, but it will cost insurance a pretty penny. Mostly, Tony is just drinking and tinkering with a loose bolt in his desk.

"I mean, when all is said and done the repairs will cost much less than we made, but there are security questions being raised," Pepper says.

"If they have ideas on how to keep out red-skinned psychopaths, then I'm all ears." Tony swirls the scotch in his glass. The ice has started to melt, and the amber liquid is going clear. "They do know it was Mephisto, right?"

"Of course they know."

There's a sound like a flutter, and when Tony looks up, Loki is standing in the center of the room.

"Hey, Pep? I'm going to have to call you back."

"What? No, Tony, do not hang up this phone, we still have—"

Tony hangs up. Strangely enough, he doesn't find Loki that threatening right now. Maybe it’s the fact that he can't look at him without remembering his female form. Loki may be male right now, but Tony can remember every detail of him as a woman—every curve, every slice of skin. He supposes the last few days won't stop Loki from killing him though.

"You have something I need," Loki says.

He steps forward, still holding the grace Tony remembers from the expo. His response is to take another drink.

"Sorry, I'm all out of horned helmets."

"Spare me the chatter." Loki is now standing in front of the desk, and the only thing separating them is a measly piece of wood. "Give me the core, and I will allow you to keep your life."

"Wow, that's a hard decision," Tony says. "I think I'll go with no."

Loki has him by the throat the next minute, desk knocked aside like it was paper and not twenty pounds of mahogany. Tony knows he should have expected this, and he did. What he did not expect was for Loki to have the same smell as a man as he does as a woman. He breathes in without meaning to.

"I have no qualm with you, Tony Stark, but I will kill you if you get in my way. Now, where is the core?"

Tony grabs Loki's wrist for some form of leverage as the god suspends him above the floor.

"Why do you want it?"

"Not your concern," Loki says.

"Well, actually, it is. It's my core, first of all, and second of all, I spent three nights following you around in a woman's body. I feel I have some rights here." Just as Loki looks like he's about to snap his neck, Tony speaks again. "If you kill me, you'll never find the core."

Loki stares. He's most likely trying to decide how true that is. In the end, he looks unwilling to risk it. He drops Tony, who just barely manages to land on his feet. His neck is raw and sore—how many times is he going to get throttled by the neck? Loki turns from him, form tense, frustrated. There's something more going on here, and Tony wants to know what.

"Why do you need the core?"

Loki doesn't answer.

"You want to lure Mephisto out of hiding with it, is that it?" Tony says. "I saw your little interaction, you're not exactly besties right now."

"He has crossed me," Loki says. He turns back to face Tony. "I want back from him what is mine."

"What did he take from you?"

"Why are humans so nosy? Is what I've already told you not enough?"

Tony shrugs. Loki hasn't told him anything, as far as he's concerned. What he really wants to know is how Loki managed to shift himself into a woman, and also why. And maybe if he can do it again.

"So let's just say, hypothetically speaking, I give you the core. You go to Mephisto, get…whatever it is you want back…what happens to the core?"

"I'll return it to you, of course," Loki says.

Tony would like to believe that, he really, really would. Except Tony isn't an idiot, and Loki is a notorious liar. He probably doesn't care what happens to the core after he gets what he wants. Tony supposes he doesn't blame him, but still, he has a duty to protect the earth and stuff.

"If you were anyone else, I might almost believe you," he says.

Loki's face molds into an almost terrifying kind of sincerity, lips twisted into a smile.

"What can I do to earn your trust?"

He knows two things: he can't earn Tony's trust and he can't kill him if he wants the core. Tony can see it in his face as his smile slowly drops off. He still seems willing to make the effort though, or at least pretend to, and that has Tony intrigued. Whatever Mephisto has is important enough to Loki that he's willing to even stand in Tony's presence, rather than solve the problem on his own. And Tony is absolutely itching to know what it is—a weapon? Some kind of currency? He's having trouble imagining what could be so important to Loki.

"You want to earn my trust," Tony says, stepping around the overturned desk. "This thing must be really important to you."

"That much is obvious."

Tony can tell by his tone that Loki is running out of patience.

"I can't give you the core," he says. "As much as I love bad ideas, that one is too bad, even for me."

"Of course," Loki says. "I understand."

Then, he grins.

"Would it help if I took on a more appealing form?"

And just like that, he shifts back into a woman. It's amazing to watch, a transformation so complete that you almost would never know. Only now Tony does. Still, it doesn't stop him from appreciating the view—Tony's jaw relaxes just a fraction.

"You're rather fond of me in my female form, aren't you?" Loki's head cocks and her (his?) hair sweeps across her neck. "I do recall you paying me a few compliments."

"Before I knew you were you," Tony says, because that is an important point. So important. "You could have disguised yourself as anyone, why a woman?"

He doesn't know what sort of answer he's expecting, he's just honestly curious—and not just because he was ridiculously attracted to Loki's female form. Tony likes to have all the variables.

"I enjoy it," Loki says, so simple, and also the absolute last answer Tony was expecting.

"You enjoy—"

"Humans are so dull." Loki snaps once. "Please, Mr. Stark, eyes up here."

Tony's gaze drifts from Loki's breasts to his face. Loki is still smiling, but it's thinner, exhausted. Tony is so many levels of confused he doesn't know where to start unraveling the situation. But his answer remains the same.

"I still can't give you the core."

Loki grabs him again, this time not the neck, but the shoulder, fingers digging into the juncture there and squeezing the pressure point. Tony breathes in sharply and then holds his breath. Loki's front is pressed against his, and this is a position Tony had been fantasizing about the moment he first saw Loki, so he can't help kind of enjoying it. Loki's breasts are pushed against his chest, a drag of skin and silk. Tony remembers to breathe.

"Will you be a woman every time you threaten me now, or—?"

"I should kill you," Loki says.

He doesn't, though. He studies Tony for a few seconds, eyes sweeping over his face and neck before simply releasing him. Tony just stands there, a little shell-shocked. Loki takes a step backwards.

"However, you did buy me several drinks the other night." Loki shifts again, male now, and perhaps slightly paler, Tony realizes. "But if you stand in my way again, I will not show you the same courtesy."

Tony can't even open his mouth before Loki is gone. He rotates his shoulder a bit to get the feeling back, staring at his overturned desk. He has three missed calls from Pepper.

--

The full impact of Loki's words hit him about two hours later.

He enjoys being a woman sometimes.

Tony has another drink.

--

He debates telling the others. Especially Thor, who is always anxious and droopy-eyed whenever he doesn't hear from Loki for a while. But in the end, Tony knows it's a bad idea. They'd ask too many questions that Tony doesn't have the answer to. The other trouble is he almost wants Loki to succeed. Almost. He doesn't get much sleep that night.

In the morning, Thor corners him in his workshop.

"My brother came to you," he says.

At first, Tony feels guilty, but he doesn't know why. He has absolutely no reason to.

"Uh, yeah. He did." Tony sets his drill down. "Don't worry, I didn't aid or abet him."

"I am aware of this," Thor says. "For he came to me after, seeking my help."

Tony has this weird sense of accomplishment at the fact that Loki came to him first, not his own brother. Thor frowns in front of him.

"I fear I could not do what he asked of me. Giving Loki such a thing is too dangerous, though I did wish him well on his quest."

"To get the thing back," Tony says. "Did he tell you what it was?"

Thor shakes his head. Of course he didn't, that would have been too easy. Tony just wants to know. He hates not knowing things, even if they potentially hold no meaning whatsoever. Honestly, he's just nosy.

"So I guess now it's either we get to Mephisto first, or he does," Tony says.

"It would appear so. I tried to convince my brother to join us, but he would not."

"Shocker," Tony says.

Thor smiles. "Do not count him out yet."

Tony tries to smile back.

"I'll keep that in mind."

They leave Tony's workshop together to meet up with everyone else and discuss the plan. Mephisto definitely knows by now that he doesn't have the core to the model, he's going to come after it, and when he does, the avengers will be ready. Realistically, he's going to know it's a trap—Mephisto is crafty as fuck and very, very powerful. So Tony decides not to leave anything to chance.

"You're going to destroy the core," Bruce says. "That way Mephisto has no chance of using it."

"Bingo," says Tony.

They're all crowded in the main room devouring the pizza Steve was so kind to order them all. Bruce seems to like the plan, but everyone else seems wary, and rightly so.

"How is that going to work, exactly?" Natasha says.

"Easy." Tony licks grease from his fingers. "He comes for it and I blast it—then Thor throttles him."

Thor makes a noise of agreement around his slice of pepperoni.

"I don't know," Steve says. "That could be risky if he gets to it before you blast it. What if Loki shows up again?"

"He'd help?" Tony shrugs. "Do we have another option?"

Steve sits silent for a moment.

"No, I guess not," he says.

"It'll work," Tony says. "Trust me."

--

He wakes up in the infirmary.

"This isn't right."

Tony shifts and realizes there's an IV in his arm. Then he remembers being in absolute darkness.

The details are fuzzy, but Tony can remember hitting the core with his guns just as Mephisto reached for it. And somehow the combination of the red bastard's magic and Tony's own science got him bitch slapped by his own invention into an area of space that probably doesn't exist. He could breathe, and that was strange enough. Everything around him was darkness and stars, a rumbling in the background he was afraid to turn and look at. Besides, there were more important things to worry about, like Mephisto, who was floating dangerously close to him, core between them.

He'd hit it with his own guns, Tony knew that much, because the core was glowing too bright, all the energy suspended in an oblong circle. Maybe the space around them was holding it together, but Tony couldn't be sure. He had no clue where they were, no ideas of how to get himself out of this one. When Tony opened his mouth, he was pleased to find he at least had a voice.

"I hope you know directions home," he said.

"You've lost," Mephisto said.

Tony stared at the core. It was barely holding together. If Mephisto grabbed for it, it would explode. They both would. Of course, there wasn't really another option, was there? Mephisto didn't seem to know how unstable the thing really was, so that was it. That was his out…his permanent out.

"I'll be taking what is mine now," Mephisto said, and reached forward.

"Wait." Tony didn't think it would stop him, but Mephisto hesitated. "Just for curiosity's sake, since I'm going to die and all—what did you take from Loki?"

Mephisto found that hilarious for some reason, and he laughed, buying Tony more time before he was incinerated by his own invention. How fitting. There was a dagger in Mephisto's hand suddenly, the hilt filled with the jewels and wrapped in fine twine. The blade looked sharp and clean as ice.

"He claims to lack sentiment, but I know him better." Mephisto admired the dagger a moment, smirking as if remembering how he got it from Loki. "Beautiful, isn't it? But, it's of no use to me."

He threw the blade and Tony caught it by the hilt, feeling something like electricity crack from it.

"A gif to take with you to Hel," Mephisto said, and then he grabbed the core.

The world exploded.

Tony shifts in the bed. He shouldn't be alive right now. Even if the resounding blast sent him back to earth, the heat from the core should have burned him alive, maybe sent his body to a few other dimensions, but Tony knows where he is right now—his own tower, his own infirmary. His own earth. Tony sits up and feels fine, a little sore maybe, but otherwise unscathed. He calls for Jarvis.

"Sir."

"Jarvis, what year is it?"

"2012, sir."

"And I'm on earth?"

"As far as I know."

"Okay, then…" Tony glances to his left. On the table beside him sits the dagger. Loki's dagger. "Jarvis, will you get Thor down here?"

"Right away."

A few minutes later, Thor comes in, kneeling at Tony's bedside before standing again.

"We have been victorious," he says.

"I guess so. As far as I know, Mephisto got sent somewhere that will take him a long time to get back from. Or he's dead, if that can even happen."

"All things are possible," Thor says. "What do you require of me, Stark?"

Tony has the dagger tucked next to his arm. It feels warm even though it's been untouched.

"I found out what Loki was after." Tony holds the dagger up. "I'm guessing it holds sentimental value or something. Did you give it to him?"

Thor's face falls when he sees it. His expression is sad, but also regretful, nostalgic. He knows exactly what this is. When he reaches for the dagger, Tony lets him take it so he can examine it. Thor runs a finger gently across the blade, remembering something. A memory that will hurt him to speak of. Tony waits for him to start talking.

"Many hundreds of years ago, when Loki and I were but children, our father fought the dark elves on Svartálfaheimr—"

"Svartawhatnow?"

Thor holds up a hand.

"Listen, please. Our father was gone for many weeks, but when he returned, he returned victorious. He gave Loki and I gifts from the realm, two daggers forged by the high priests, bound with powerful magic. We treasured them greatly." His finger presses harder into the blade now. "I did not think Loki would hold onto such an item, but he has."

When Thor looks up, his eyes are suspiciously shiny.

"It seems some of my brother is still there after all," he says.

With what looks like some regret, he hands the dagger back to Tony. It feels much heavier in Tony's hand now for some reason. He shouldn't have this. Tony starts to hand it back, but Thor stops him.

"You retrieved the dagger, Tony Stark. Please return it to him."

"I don't think that's such a—"

"He will be grateful, I am sure," Thor says.

If by grateful, Thor means he won't kill Tony, then maybe. Tony stares at the dagger, the way it shimmers even without light reflecting off it. He looks back to Thor.

"You said these were forged with magic?"

"Aye."

"What kind?"

"Protection. Whoever wields the dagger is blessed with its protection."

That would explain why he isn't dead. Tony sets the dagger back on the side table and slips his IV out. The heart monitor starts beeping wildly before Tony kicks the plug out.

"I was told you need rest," Thor says.

"I'm fine." Tony slaps Thor's arm like this proves it. "Loki's little magic dagger thingy left me feeling pretty good."

His clothes aren't anywhere to be found, but Tony isn't the least bit concerned about that right now. He walks out of the infirmary with Thor, ass bare in his hospital gown. He does feel pretty fucking good.

--

After Coulson and Fury make him recount the story five times over, Tony sits at his bar, eating a steak sandwich and drinking a beer. He has Loki's dagger tucked into the waistband of his pants. Thor told him to return it, but Loki doesn't exactly leave a trail as to where he's going. Still, Tony has a feeling he'll show up for it.

He's right, of course. Loki appears in the center of the room like he was always there, hands folded behind his back. It should be a little disconcerting, knowing that Loki can teleport just about anywhere he likes, but Tony isn't too disturbed by it at the moment. He shoves the last of his sandwich into his mouth and washes it down with his beer before standing up.

"Drink?"

"Please," Loki says. "You know what I like."

Tony makes him a gin and tonic, sliding it across the bar into Loki's open palm. Loki takes a sip, watching Tony through his lashes. Tony finishes his beer and then grabs for another.

"So here's a funny story," he says, "I saw Mephisto the other day."

He reaches for the dagger hilt and pulls it from his waistband, holding it up.

"Heard you were looking for this."

Loki moves forward, at first swiftly, and then he corrects himself and slows his movements, walking like this isn't one of the most precious things he's ever possessed. Tony releases the dagger just as Loki grabs it, watching the way he holds it tightly, staring at the blade of it so intently it reflects in his eyes.

It's weird, seeing Loki regard this as something so meaningful to him. It's weird to remember that he has a mother and father, both of whom love him, that even with all his cruelty, Loki still feels.

"Well I suppose I won't kill you," Loki says, and Tony realizes that up until this moment, he was seriously considering it still.

"You're insane," Tony says.

"Oh you already knew that."

Loki slips the dagger into his coat; it disappears beneath the folds of it.

"You didn't say it was a gift from your dad," Tony says.

Loki flinches.

"He is not my father."

"Still, it's important to you, otherwise you wouldn't have gone through all that trouble trying to get it back." Tony's mouth feels dry, so he takes another sip of beer. "Who knew you could be so sentimental."

"Do not make me kill you," Loki says. "I am grateful to you for retrieving it, Stark."

He didn't technically do anything, not that he can really remember at least, but Tony isn't going to deny credit.

"No sweat, seriously. I just traveled dimensions, I think."

Loki takes a step towards him, swirling the liquid of his drink.

"What do you require in return?"

Tony waits a minute before talking.

"…Come again?"

"I won't repeat my words, you heard them."

Tony doesn't even know, hasn't an inkling of what to ask for. A pony? He wasn't expecting Loki to offer him anything, wasn't even expecting a thank you. The idea of Loki giving him something is bizarre. What could he have to give?

"Perhaps I can help you," Loki says, as if reading his mind. He shifts, just like that, female. Female and gorgeous. "Or do you prefer another form?"

Tony, who was taking a drink mid-shift, loses control of his mouth. Beer slips out the sides of his lips and dribbles onto his t-shirt.

"Are you—"

"Tell me, Tony Stark, which do you prefer—the honey or the tar?"

He doesn't say anything right away. For once in his life, Tony is stunned into silence, but that doesn't mean he's not interested. Of all people, Loki is offering Tony anything he wants. He's offering him his body…and Tony is kind of interested. Hell, he was definitely interested back at the expo before he knew Loki was, well, Loki. But when he thinks about it, the interest never really left, it was just kind of put on the back burner for a bit. After another minute, Tony remembers to speak, but his voice comes out less sure than he intends.

"Both?"

Loki's eyebrows rise.

"As you wish," he says.

And then they're in Tony's bed and Loki is extremely naked. Tony's throat goes dry at the sight of him—currently her—underneath him like this. Loki's breasts are huge and kind of perfect, nipples soft and pink. He feels soft all over, Tony realizes, running his hands over the flat expanse of his stomach, the curve of his hips.

"Wow," Tony says. "You—"

"I know." Loki flicks his finger and Tony's clothes are gone. "That's much better."

Oh, Tony thinks. How convenient. His hands are shaking a little even though he knows exactly what to do. The idea of bedding a villain is more exhilarating than Tony first realized and he isn't sure where to start. Loki helps him out by spreading his legs. Tony settles between them, licking a trail from Loki's bellybutton down to his cunt before slipping his tongue in. Loki sighs above him, hands lazy in Tony's hair, encouraging. He eats Loki out until he's good and wet, heels kicking painfully into Tony's back. Loki doesn't taste like any woman Tony's ever had before, and maybe that's the god thing, probably is. Either way, he tastes like fresh air, and he tastes cool. Tony could do this all night, but he's got so many other plans. He pulls his mouth away and Loki turns on his stomach, goes up on all fours. Tony slips into him and it's that easy. Loki makes a pleased noise right from the throat, a whine that's high and feminine. Tony grips his hips and presses his thumb into Loki's back.

"That's very good," Loki says, purring. "Is it all that you imagined it to be?"

"Way fucking better," Tony says.

He feels his orgasm building, that twitchy, fluttering feeling in his groin. Without thinking about it, Tony reaches for the thick long hair of Loki's female form and tugs gently. He realizes instantly what a fucking awful mistake this is, but Loki doesn't seem to mind in the least. In fact, he lets Tony pull so he's forced to arch that beautiful back further, neck exposed. Tony leans in to bite it because how could he not? That seems to please Loki further.

They go at it like that for a few more minutes until Tony is pretty sure he's about to come—then he's pushed flat on his back. When he gets his bearings again, Loki is in his male form and fingering himself.

A gender change mid-fuck is definitely going down as the kinkiest sex Tony's ever had. Loki is beautiful as a male; Tony will freely admit that now, especially when Loki is three fingers deep in himself, spread out for Tony to see. It may be one of the hottest things he's seen in the last six months, so Tony reaches down to touch himself.

"Don't," Loki says, voice still smooth but deeper now. "You'll release before you're inside me again."

Tony freezes with his hand wrapped loosely around his cock. The idea of being inside Loki again sounds great, but it's been ages since Tony's been fucked.

"Are you sure you don't want to switch? I think I can handle sex with a god."

Loki doesn't seem to think so, because he laughs in his throat before removing his fingers. He crawls on his hands and knees over to Tony.

"I weigh over five hundred mortal pounds, Mr. Stark." Loki leans in to whisper in Tony's ear. "If I took you, I would kill you."

Tony shivers. Strangely, it almost sounds worth it, but tabloids would absolutely have a field day with that story, so maybe they'll save it for another time.

"Fair enough," he says, and pushes Loki back down so he can settle over him. "But if you ever do decided to kill me, let's make it that way."

"I can oblige that," Loki says, and wraps his legs around Tony.

He's tighter, this way, Tony knew he would be, and also inevitably knows he won't last long. He latches onto Loki's throat again because it's there, pale and long and just asking to be marked. Loki takes that opportunity to rake his nails all up and down Tony's back, whispering little words of encouragement that hit Tony like a spell.

"God, you feel…"

"Like a god?" Loki grins. "I am one."

Tony hits his prostate and Loki's grin melts into an 'o' of pleasure, features relaxing all at once. He looks so good like this that Tony kisses him. He doesn't know why, really, but doesn't stop either. Loki seems surprised by it. At first his mouth is lax and hesitant, but then he seems to allow the kiss, even kisses back.

So Tony comes with his tongue down Loki's throat, thrusting deep as he can through it. When Loki reaches down to touch himself so he can finish, Tony helps him without bothering to pull out. Together they work Loki's cock until he comes, and as he does the lights in the room flicker. It takes a few minutes for either of them to get their breath back, but when they do, Tony slips out of him and pads to the bathroom to clean himself up a bit. He comes out with a towel for Loki, only to find him as immaculate looking as when he came in.

"Right," Tony says. "God."

When Loki says nothing, Tony starts to feel a little awkward, so he keeps talking.

"This was interesting. Really great, but uh, interesting."

"Consider my debt to you repaid," Loki says.

"Um, sure," says Tony.

Hell of a way to pay back a debt. Loki dresses again without magic, takes his time getting into his clothes, so Tony wraps the towel around himself and takes the time to watch him do so. Halfway through it all, something occurs to him.

"You can't get pregnant or anything, right? Because I'm too young to be a dad, or too old, depending."

"Only if I feel like it," Loki says. "And I don't."

Tony lets out a rush of breath.

"Oh good. Yeah, that's good."

This should probably be more awkward, and it kind of is, but at the same time, it isn't at all. Loki is crazy, but he's hot and crazy, which Tony is now realizing spells out all sorts of trouble for him. When Loki finishes dressing, Tony takes the chance to approach him again, because something is still weighing heavily on his mind.

"You know, you could have paid back your debt any way you wanted. Hell, you could have chosen not to do it all." 

"You're asking me why?" Loki tilts his head like he's honestly thinking about it, then says, "I wanted to."

Tony stares. "You wanted to?"

"Yes," Loki says. "I do exactly what I want, when I want it. And I wanted you."

He slides a hand over his coat, presumably to feel where the dagger is. Everything is back as it should be. Loki takes a step backwards, eyes still on Tony.

"Farewell, Mr. Stark," he says, and then he's gone.

"Bye," Tony says to the air.

He doesn't even get dressed. He goes straight to his bar and has a drink, stares blankly out the window at New York below him. Tony wonders, briefly, what it will be like the next time he has to face Loki. Probably hilariously awkward. He grins around the rim of his glass. He's actually almost looking forward to it.