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A Deal

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"Stark."

Ah. Finally. Sending a winning smile at the person he's been talking to, Tony says something polite and dismissive and is already forgetting them as he turns around.

Loki looks elegant and whipcord-thin in a tailored dark blue pinstripe suit with a deep red tie. Tony has seen the footage of him at that party so he isn't surprised but damn. The grainy, low quality security cameras could not prepare him for this. There is no cane either; all Loki is holding is a glass filled with a golden liquid and crystal-clear ice cubes. All in all he looks razor sharp and thrillingly dangerous.

"Thought you'd never come," Tony says, and because he's always loved playing with fire, he takes Loki's hand and breathes a kiss to his knuckles. Loki watches him, eyes cool and focused.

"I did have to ensure this is not a trap, I am sure you understand," Loki replies silkily, the corners of his eyes crinkling in what might be amusement.

Tony smiles. "It's not, as I'm sure you have found. I see you have a drink already, enjoying the party?"

"Not in the least," Loki replies sweetly. "My patience is limited, Stark, and it grows increasingly so the more time I spend in the company of these mindless apes."

"Aww, charming as always, this is why you're my favorite villain," Tony says. "Private room, then?"

Not waiting for a reply, Tony turns around and leads Loki off the party and into an elevator. Loki raises one eyebrow at him when Tony winks, then rolls his eyes and takes a sip from his glass. Apparently it's not to his tastes, because then he grimaces and frowns at it.

"Don't like it?" Tony asks. "What is it?" He takes the glass from Loki and sips at it, finding a nice, smoky scotch, absolutely nothing wrong with it.

"Midgardian alcohol is not good for much," Loki sneers.

"How can you say that," Tony protests, putting a hand on his heart. "You can only say that if you've tried everything. I bet you I could find something you won't mind."

"I highly doubt it," Loki returns. They exit the elevator and head over to Tony's suite. Once inside Tony gets them both drinks – water, seeing as he doesn't have anything else, making sure that Loki can see him pour it out of the same bottle for both of them. Loki accepts the offered tumbler without comment and takes a sip.

They stare at each other silently, Loki the picture of elegance with his suit in that armchair, Tony watching him with a faint grin playing around his lips, both sipping their water. Eventually Loki raises an eyebrow and says conversationally, "If you have only invited me to stare at me, Stark, I will fillet you alive."

"Can't blame me, you're hot," Tony shrugs. "But no, as I said, I actually do have a proposal to you."

Both of Loki's eyebrows fly up. "Careful, now, the filleting offer still stands."

Tony smiles. "Nothing like that. No, it's about Idunn's apples. I want one."

"Then you should ask Idunn very nicely," Loki says.

"I could ask her nicely until I'm blue in the face and I'd never get one," Tony returns. "I figured my chances with you are better."

Loki raises one eyebrow, looking at Tony carefully. "Flattering, but I do not have any."

Yeah. Tony's done his research, he knows that it's an automatic death sentence to possess one of Idunn's apples without Idunn's (and consequently Odin's) permission, but he isn't stupid. Loki has gotten injured enough to have required an apple or three by now, and he's banned from Asgard so there is no way he could have gotten them through legitimate means. And Tony wants one.

"Right." Tony raises an eyebrow. "How about I give you my counter-offer first." He leans forwards. "I offer you Thor."

Loki goes completely still, eyes turning icy. "Elaborate." He looks pissed, confirming Tony's suspicions – very good. Everything's going perfectly according to plan.

He smiles. "I can give you an alibi for the whole Chitauri invasion business. From that, you can build yourself a defense for the past couple of months of wrecking things up around here."

Loki stares at him.

Smug, Tony continues, "With that alibi and me defending you, you'll get at least one or two other Avengers in your corner, and definitely Thor. From there it won't be difficult to get Asgard to exonerate you."

"What gives you the impression that I would want that?" Loki asks haughtily, closed up completely, but it's nothing Tony didn't expect.

He shrugs, pointedly nonchalant. "I have no idea whether you do or not. But I know for a fact that it's something you can't get by your own power."

Eyes narrowed, Loki leans forwards menacingly. "There is nothing I can't get if I truly want it."

"Really?" Tony crosses his legs, leans back. "Because from what I know, you pleaded your case with Odin and he didn't believe you. Instead he gave you some sort of draconian punishment and threw you into a dungeon to wait for it. No wonder you got out of there as soon as you could."

"You are well-informed," Loki says silkily, eyes cold. He's never looked so dangerous.

"Of course I am." Tony leans forward. "I really want that apple."

"Why?"

Tony raises an eyebrow. "Why would I want an apple that gives me eternal youth?"

"For about a hundred years," Loki mitigates, "less if you keep up your current lifestyle. You have one last chance to tell the truth."

Damn, Tony didn't want to have to do that – but he's prepared to, if he must. Loosening his tie, he undoes the top buttons of his shirt, pulling it open to reveal the arc reactor to Loki. "See this? It's not just an awesome energy source that powers the suit. It keeps me alive. Someone takes it out, I die, and I'd rather not have to rely on that." Especially since he can't make another without SHIELD finding out, and if they know they'll take it. Tony can keep himself and his stuff safe for a while but there is only so much he can do if SHIELD comes at him with full force.

Loki looks at him – he seems calmer now somehow, though Tony couldn't say why he gets that impression. "For the sake of the argument, say I could get you an apple. What will you do then?"

"Present my findings to the Avengers," Tony replies promptly. "Basically, you were coerced if not outright controlled by the Glowstick of Destiny. You'll have to find an excuse yourself why you're doing now what you're doing currently, but the invasion business is taken care of, and as far as I'm concerned that's by far your biggest crime here." Ever since his escape from Asgard, Loki has taken to bother them – really small stuff, lasting for a couple of weeks before he's not heard of for more weeks, and then he returns to annoy them again before vanishing once more. Often he forms an alliance with somebody who attacks them, or he just shows up during a fight and plays tricks on both them and whoever they're fighting against. He's really been living up to his moniker as Trickster.

"And you think you can be convincing enough that your team believes you?" Loki asks skeptically.

"Yes," Tony says firmly. "They won't just believe me, I can guarantee that Steve will be on your side, as will Thor and possibly Bruce. Odin will have to open the trial again, and in light of the new evidence – which I will present – and with us arguing for you, you'll be fine. Where this matter if concerned. If you do it well, you might even get off well for the rest of it, and something tells me you're an expert at doing things well."

Loki looks at him for a moment. "You sound very sure of yourself."

"You're not the only one who always gets what he truly wants," Tony replies calmly.

"So you propose one of Idunn's apples in return for exonerating me with Asgard."

"Where the invasion is concerned," Tony clarifies. "The rest is up to you. Yes."

"Well." Loki lets his eyes wander up and down Tony's body. "You surprise me, Stark. To lie to your allies like that in return for an extended life."

Except it's not a lie. Loki used the very same excuse Tony is going to use in front of Odin, but nobody believed him. But Tony has the suspicion that if he mentions that, Loki's going to be out of here; he has more pride than sense, clearly. So he just shrugs. "You gotta do what you gotta do."

Loki takes a sip of his water, all the while staring at him thoughtfully. Eventually he sighs. "Very well. I agree to your proposal."

Tony smiles. "Awesome. You'll understand if I want an oath, though."

The look that earns him is withering. "Naturally. And I'm sure you understand that I will only fulfill my part of the deal when you have fulfilled yours."

Yeah, Tony thought as much. "I expected nothing less. So, oath?"

They do the oath, cutting their thumbs and saying the spells – Tony pays careful attention that Loki says the right words, and he does – before putting the cuts in their thumbs together and binding them with a string of red silk. When the spell is finished that string glows brightly for a moment before fading into nothing. Tony takes his hand back and licks the blood off his thumb. "All done."

Loki raises one eyebrow, a smirk playing around his lips. "I look forwards to seeing your part of the agreement unfold."

Tony just smiles.