Tony decided, with an addict's logic, that the first one was a freebie.
Because, okay, the thing was, just for a start, he'd been pretty drunk, and people know better than to let him get that drunk, right? And furthermore, Loki was Thor's...sibling, sibling was probably the best gender-neutral word, and what was Thor doing letting his sibling consort with men of low moral character like Tony Stark? And on top of that, okay, yes, Loki was technically the enemy, but he -- rather, in the moment, she -- wasn't quote-unquote evil. Dogs bark, cats scratch, Loki causes trouble. It's in his (/her) nature. Tony had long held the belief that you have to actually choose to be evil, in order to be evil, and he just couldn't see how that applied here.
And, and! As far as trouble went, this was minor. Minor! It wasn't actually trouble at all unless she was going to give him some kind of terrible otherworldly STD and he was at least eighty percent sure they'd remembered condoms.
Also, what the hell kind of god gets STDs? So probably no problem there.
But the point of all of this was that Tony was only a mortal, and when Thor's very-hot-currently-female sibling showed up in his doorway he did not remember that this was a bad idea (Tony's morality consisted more of remembering rules than actually believing in or understanding them) and so yes. He had sex with Loki.
And it was fantastic.
It was at this point that Steve, who had been patiently listening to Tony's monologue while wrapped around a cup of coffee as if it was the only constant in his horrible changing world -- Steve, who had actually tried to understand Tony's angle on this -- said, "Which is why I am not sorry for you. At all."
"Well then a lot of good you are!" Tony said. "What do I do now?"
"How many women have you slept with?" Steve asked, squinting at him. "You'd think you'd have some kind of computer program written for this by now."
"Half the time she's not even a she! She's a god, Steve, the god of mischief with whom we are currently...are we at war? Or is this like...a debate with explosions? Am I allowed to send flowers across enemy lines? Flowers are usually what I do. Flowers and then never calling. Is that going to work here?"
Steve stood up and patted him on the shoulder. "I have two pieces of advice for you, though I want you to consider the irony of me giving you advice on your love life."
"I truly despise you," Tony said.
"One, do not call Loki. Ever. Two, do not tell Thor."
Tony took a moment to consider what would happen if Thor found out he'd banged Thor's sibling, and then a moment to do some counting, and yelled "FIVE HUNDRED AND FORTY THREE WOMEN FIFTY TWO MEN AND ONE GOD OF MALLEABLE GENDER," over his shoulder, in reply to Steve's half-forgotten question. Steve laughed from the hallway.
Once was a freebie. He was drinking alone, a god showed up naked, he rolled with it.
Twice, he didn't really have an excuse for, except that again, people knew better than to let him get this drunk. Especially at a party.
The thing about being powerful and rich and kind of promiscuous was that nobody ever had the good sense to stop him. Except Steve, and Steve was busy being mauled by a bunch of society people. Okay, and Pepper, but Pepper was trying to rescue Steve from the black-tie-and-pearls crowd at the moment. So he was standing on the balcony of this fabulous hotel, while inside a lot of wealthy people were giving money to some cause he was supporting (it was a Stark party; Tony didn't go to other peoples' parties, they came to his) and he was enjoying the top-notch champagne. It was a nice night, the breeze was doing awesome things to his hair, and as he looked down at his half-full champagne flute he heard a voice say, "Hello, Mr. Stark."
Surely, surely even in his insane life that included hanging out with Captain America and being best lab buddies with a guy who regularly turned into a rage monster, surely his champagne was not talking to him.
On the other hand: crazy life. Anything was possible.
"My eyes are up here," the voice said, and Tony's head jerked up.
"Oh, thank god you're wearing clothes," he said. And then, because Tony was a truthful drunk, he added, "Kind of."
You'd think Loki would wear a green dress, green was kind of her thing, right? But she had this amazing black hair (so thick, tangled in his fingers) and skin so pale it was almost blue-white, and she'd gone for a black dress, slit almost up to her hip, cut above her knees, hugging her breasts (soft and heavy, smooth under his hands) beneath an emerald choker, and the only spots of color in the whole horrifyingly erotic ensemble were her eyes and that emerald.
And he just knew, with the clarity of the drunk, she wasn't wearing any underwear. Only fair, as he wasn't either.
"Like what you see?" she asked, leaning on the railing next to him. She plucked his champagne from his fingers, downed it in a single smooth swallow (oh god, the slim beautiful line of her throat), and threw the glass over the edge. He heard it shatter on the decorative rocks below.
"This is a bad idea," he said, more to convince himself than for any other reason. "I have a thing...policy...about not sleeping with people a second time. Especially malevolent gods."
"Why?" she asked, and for the life of him he could not think of an answer.
She tucked a black-polished fingernail under his bow-tie, tugged him forward with it, and turned so that she was pinned between him and the railing.
Well, hell, he couldn't think why he shouldn't do this, and he was a genius, so...there probably wasn't any reason. Not one that would hold up, anyway.
He bent forward and kissed her neck, enjoying the shiver that ran through her when the bristle of his beard brushed her skin. She clenched a hand in his hair, a moan catching in her throat.
"I do like that," she murmured in his ear, and of course she did -- he was awesome at this, already sliding a hand up the slitted edge of her dress, fingers tracing over her hip under it.
"I have a room," he murmured into her collarbone, as she twined a leg around his. He didn't, but this was his party -- he might even own the hotel, he wasn't sure -- and he could get a room.
She nipped at his earlobe, the corner of his jaw, his lip. "Lovely, do you not remember?" she asked, lifting her other leg, rolling her hips against his. "God of illusions."
"Mm?" He was seriously not about to fuck Thor's sister on a balcony during a party.
Oh wait, yes he was.
"Nobody can see us," she whispered, raking her fingernails down the back of his neck. He closed his eyes and hummed. "Not that we wouldn't make a fine show."
He tugged one of the slim straps of her dress down her shoulder, followed it with his mouth and pulled it gently past her breast, enjoying the way the nicks and calluses on his fingers caught her smooth skin, stiffened her nipple. She kissed him hard and undulated, laughing when he inhaled sharply.
" -- don't know where he went," he heard, off in a hazy corner of his mind, and Tony turned his head (Loki bit his earlobe again) enough to see Steve and Pepper stepping out onto the balcony. He froze, but their eyes drifted past him carelessly, like he wasn't there entwined in Loki's pale arms. He felt one of her hands at the waistband of his pants, flicking the zip down, sliding inside --
He bucked helplessly, turning his face back into her skin, even as he heard Pepper say "Well, I need the fresh air anyway," even as he saw them sit down on a nearby bench out of the corner of his eye. Loki laughed, grasping one of his hands to help him slide her dress up further, pulling him in closer with her thighs.
"Condom," he mumbled.
"God," she answered back. "I think we're okay."
"You say that now -- "
She pushed forward, one hand at his hip, the other on his dick, and well, there went that idea. Wet, tight, rippling against him -- how did she even do that?
Tony was pretty sure he was one of the foremost experts on sex with Asgardian gods on the planet, unless Loki got around more than she let on, and the thing he had noticed in his extensive (one time) experience was that basically once they had you, all you could really do was hold on and enjoy yourself. She was going to take what she wanted regardless of his experience or skill, which was in some ways a relief, because it meant he could just rut and touch and kiss until she threw back her head and cried out yes --
He wasn't sure where she ended or he began, coming for what seemed like ages, curled into her, panting and careless. When he finally opened his eyes she was cradling his face and looking down at him with an almost...tender expression. At least for her.
"You mortals," she said gently, and kissed him, and disappeared so fast he almost fell into the railing. He was still catching his breath when he heard a startled exclamation from Pepper.
"Tony?" Steve asked.
Tony pivoted, blinking.
"What happened to you?" Steve said, looking vaguely bewildered.
Pepper looked him up and down. "I think the question is who," she corrected.
Tony looked down at himself -- tie undone, tuxedo shirt rumpled but tucked in, fly fortunately done up, nice of Loki to make him presentable -- and then back up at them.
"You are going to be so disappointed with me tomorrow," he announced, and went inside to get another drink.
"Get drunk and make bad decisions" was practically a Stark family motto. Tony felt legitimately that not all of this could be pinned on him. At least some of it had to be genetic.
Also, she was a god.
"Maybe she has a thrall," he said, eating scrambled eggs and trying not to move too much. Hangovers were something that happened to other people right up until he turned thirty-five, which was much too old to be coping with this kind of crap. No more champagne. Scotch or nothing from here on out. Scotch had never betrayed him this terribly.
"A thrall," Steve repeated skeptically.
"It's possible," Bruce said. Tony wasn't sure why Bruce had been brought in on this discussion. They might just not have noticed him until they sat down to eat. "She could be controlling his mind."
"Would it really take that much to nudge it in that direction?" Steve wondered.
"I am getting downright tired of you calling me a manwhore," Tony said, head hanging low over his eggs. "You think just because you make me breakfast you can judge me?"
"Yes," Steve said. "Me and the five hundred and forty-three women and fifty-two men you've slept with."
"Please tell me you made those numbers up," Bruce said.
"Five hundred and forty-five," Tony mumbled. Steve dropped his cutlery. "Sorry. I got bored after the battle last Tuesday."
"You missed a debrief to have sex? Twice?" Steve asked.
"But then how..." Steve trailed off weakly. "Oh."
"I got the brunette's number, if you want it. The redhead left before I could get her business card."
"You know, when they told me you had a bum heart, I thought you'd probably be a quiet, calm, unexcitable sort of person," Steve said.
"There's nothing wrong with my heart," Tony said around a mouthful of egg. "It's the shrapnel trying to get into it, we've been over this."
"Where does Loki go in your numbering?" Bruce asked curiously. Tony approved. Bruce had the mind of a scientist.
"Technically I guess she'd make five hundred and forty-six, since she's been female both times, but she's not always female so she gets her own special classification," he said. "God of malleable gender."
"That's appropriate, I suppose."
"I don't feel I'm doing enough judging, here," Steve said.
"Stop slut-shaming, it's very old-fashioned."
"No, I think shame is precisely what's called for in this situation. Who you...avoid debriefings with is your own business, Tony, but you gotta stop having liaisons with Loki. I mean, even if she is mind-controlling you, what's going to happen when she puts the whammy on you in the field?"
"Well, so far she's only shown up when I'm drunk," Tony said. "And I don't drink and fight, you know that."
"It's about the only thing you don't drink and do."
"There seems to be an obvious solution," Bruce said. Both of them looked at him. "Next time she shows up, stop drinking and call Steve."
Tony glanced sidelong at Steve. Steve was blushing faintly.
"It does make sense," Steve admitted.
"Great. It's a plan. Can I die in peace now?" Tony asked.
"No. Drink your orange juice," Steve ordered.
The phone rang at three in the morning.
"So, when we made that plan where I'd call you...that was supposed to be before I had sex with Loki again, right?"
"Wait, so, I have a new, better plan," Tony said, hands held up defensively.
He was standing in front of the couch in the communal living room. Cap was on the end, next to Bruce, and for some reason they'd brought in Clint and Natasha, Tony wasn't sure why. But at least now it wasn't just him, this was officially a conspiracy and Thor couldn't possibly kill them all if he found out. Well, he could, but he wouldn't. Probably.
"Man, bros before trickster gods," Clint said. "This is uncool, Tony."
"But you understand this isn't some sort of...chastity drive," Steve said. Only Steve could say that kind of thing with a completely innocent expression. "Tony, we're genuinely worried that you are being..."
"Taken advantage of," Bruce supplied. "I mean, mind control has been mentioned."
"No, sorry, at this point I'm pretty sure this is a hundred percent me being just that easy," Tony said.
"Have you tried not being easy?" Clint asked.
"Worst six months of my life. But okay, hear me out," Tony tried again. "Here's my plan: don't get that drunk. At least not until, you know, she's not a problem anymore."
The rest of the Avengers, sans Thor, looked speculative.
"You can't really argue with its simplicity," Natasha said finally. "It's very motivational for you, too, to get Loki...behind bars?"
"Are we putting him behind bars? Can we do that, even?" Bruce asked Steve.
"You know, he's not even an A-list villain, as they go," Tony said. They all looked at him. "I'm just saying. He shows up, he causes mischief, he goes away. It's not like I'm doing von Doom or something."
"Until Loki is contained," Steve said firmly, "this seems to be the best idea we have going. Tony, you give a call if you need any help with your more-or-less sobriety plan, and the rest of us will do what we can."
It worked great for about a month.
The thing was, they had neglected to tell Darcy about this plan. Partly because she was close to Thor, partly just because, well, who thought Darcy would deliberately get Tony hammered?
But Darcy was about five feet tall and ninety pounds soaking wet (he wasn't going to lie and say he didn't find that image appealing), and when she challenged him to a shots contest he had to defend his manhood. It was an issue of honor.
"Nooo, you can't leave," he said, around the twelfth shot.
"It's okay, you win," she replied. Tony pivoted on the bar stool slowly, mostly to make sure he didn't fall off it.
"We need a cab."
"I need a cab. I'm going home in shame," she proclaimed.
"Better men than you have lost faster to me," he said, scribbling a blurry signature on their bar tab. "It takes decades to get this good at getting this drunk. Trust me. No! You can't leave me here, it'll be all bad. Loki will show up or something."
She gave him a vaguely surprised look. "You're threatening me with villains?"
"She's not a villain! She's a terrible sexy seductr...seducing...thing," Tony waved his hands, trying to explain.
"You are making zero sense."
"Split a cab," he implored.
"I'm going to Brooklyn!"
"I'm a billionaire, I will pay your fare!"
So they ended up in a cab on the way to Brooklyn, Darcy mostly sleeping on his shoulder while Tony watched the lights of the city go past. He supposed he could be using this time for meditative reflection, but honestly he was mostly telling himself that a) he couldn't sleep with Darcy, even when they were no longer drunk, because it was like sleeping with a best friend's little sister, and b) if Loki showed up he was absolutely not going to sleep with her, either, because that would be actually sleeping with a best friend's little sister.
Though the odds of Loki appearing in a cab on the way back to Manhattan after Tony had dropping Darcy off at her apartment were pretty slim. Loki, whatever else you could say about her, had style.
So Tony left Darcy in Brooklyn and the cab turned towards home, and he dozed off and on in a pleasant, floaty kind of place until they stopped somewhere quiet and dark, and he heard a door slam.
He lifted his head and opened his eyes, which was about the time he saw the cabdriver open the passenger's door across from him and slide onto the seat.
"Wow. You're a man," Tony said, and Loki grinned at him. Long black hair still, yes, but coarser now, and his face was sharper, jaw more defined. Definite lack of breasts but broad shoulders; slimmer hips, but longer legs.
"Hello," Loki said, crawling on top of him.
"Oh, man, I can't not do this," Tony managed. "I'm not supposed to do this but seriously, okay, once-in-a-lifetime chance here. And you only live once..."
"If you're unlucky," Loki replied, kissing him.
"So," Loki said. He was lying across the backseat, legs bent, head in Tony's lap, smoking a cigarette that had appeared from nowhere (and didn't smell like anything, so Tony couldn't really complain). His pants were still unzipped, shirt hitched up, and he looked like debauchery made manifest. "Preferences?"
Tony considered this, brain fuzzed from alcohol and orgasm. He petted Loki's hair clumsily.
"Not the helmet," he said. "Never wear the helmet. Otherwise, I'm good."
"Yes you are," Loki replied, exhaling smoke. "You don't like the helmet?"
"You have to stop doing this," Tony managed, and then corrected, "We have to stop doing this. We're not on the same side."
"No, we don't," Loki replied, and reached up to brush the backs of his fingers over Tony's cheek, arm warm against his chest. Tony closed his eyes, leaning into it --
And woke to someone shaking his shoulder.
"Tony?" Steve's voice. "Tony, do I want to know why you're asleep in a taxicab in your garage?"
Tony flailed awake, stared up at him, and blurted, "Are hand jobs considered sex?"
Steve gave him that stupid Captain America grin. "Don't look at me, I've never had one." Then a furrow appeared between his eyebrows. "Where's the cabdriver?"
Tony staggered out of the cab, sore all over. "Loki. No, shut up, say nothing. I have now had sex with the same person as two different genders, you're not ruining that for me."
"It's not a goal, you know, they don't give out merit badges for that," Steve remarked, following him through the garage to the workshop, looking a little hapless.
"Well, they should, because it was awesome." Tony's brain caught up with him around then, and he turned. "You've never had a hand job?"
"I was protecting the free world from the Nazi regime," Steve reminded him.
"Do you want one? Because apparently I'm giving them out like candy and it sounds like you've earned it."
"No, thank you, I'm fine," Steve said firmly.
It might have come as a surprise to some people, but Tony had played football in college.
Not for the school team, of course; he wasn't even sure MIT had a school football team, and if they did he wasn't going near it. He'd only been fifteen but he was strong and fast, and the local intramural team was, well, local to MIT, so it was a couple of professors and a lot of nerds like him. It didn't matter how well you played; he was on a team with Reed Richards, for God's sake, who'd blow over in a strong breeze. But that just meant that for a couple of hours, a couple of times a week, Tony could put on a jersey and run around like an idiot and feel normal.
It wasn't that Tony didn't play well with other people. He just didn't play well with stupid people.
In football, they had a saying: nobody shot my gap. By definition, every defensive player had a gap, and it was the offense's job to get through that gap. If the offense did get through, then they'd shot someone's gap. When the coach got cranky, that was the default every defense player fell back on: nobody shot my gap. Football was a very good preparation for life as an Avenger, because everyone had a gap.
Loki had been up to tricks, small harassing annoyances that seemed to be his reason for living these days, and they'd gone out to scare away whatever big bad he'd dragged in to try and trash the city and see if they couldn't, this time, dig their hooks into the trickster. But Thor and Cap had been distracted with giant clumsy robots, and Bruce wasn't really a great strategist when he was Hulked out, and Clint and Natasha were busy watching each others' backs, so nobody saw.
Tony saw the gap. He saw Loki's gap, he saw a weak point, and --
He might have done many things in his life, but he had never, never ever, hit a lover. Not even when one of them had taken a swing at him. He had never hit a lover and he never would, and so he hesitated just for a second. He hesitated because you just didn't do that, you didn't, and by the time he was getting past that and raising a repulsor to fire, the gap closed.
Nobody else even saw. Nobody saw the hesitation, except perhaps JARVIS in the flicker of Tony's eyes, and JARVIS kept his secrets.
Maybe that was the real trick -- not mind control, but manipulation. Loki didn't need to control him if he could create a situation where Tony would hesitate, because Tony Stark never hesitated. All in or all out, that was him, and now here he was. Hesitating.
He got through the rest of the fight without incident, watched Loki laugh and vanish per usual, followed the others back to HQ, shed his armor and showered away the sweat from battle, joked and exchanged insults with Clint and Steve and Thor as they dressed (Bruce was still out cold, would be for another hour or two), and headed for debriefing. He survived debriefing, made it home to the mansion, and poured himself a stiff drink.
Two hours later, with the bottle empty and a tablet in front of him, he was tucked in the corner of his couch and clumsily programming some new auto-targeting software for the armor (he did some of his best coding half-conscious) when the tablet was tugged out of his hands and a warm body settled in the curl of his. He looked down at the lapful of naked female god and said, "I'm feeling a little used."
Loki nuzzled into his throat, breasts pressed against his shirt. "And?"
"And I told you, we have to stop."
She shook her head, ass rubbing against his thigh. "And I told you, we don't."
"Okay, it's a given that I'm going to fuck you, because..." he gestured to her body, to his. "But, so, uh. Not stopping: present your rationale."
She turned into him, molding her body against his, hands sliding under his t-shirt.
"You have it backwards," she said into his shoulder, squeezing her thighs around his hips when he bucked. "We don't have to stop, and I definitely don't have to stop. Baby, my lovely little pet, my beautiful bright spot -- "
"Flattery," he managed.
"I don't have to stop, because I'm the bad guy," she said, nibbling her way along to his neck. "I don't have to stop doing anything I don't want to. Surely you understand that."
He kissed her forehead, the smooth soft skin of her temple, her high cheekbone, ignoring the little voice that said yes, he did indeed understand what it was like to have so much power you didn't have to do anything you didn't want to.
"So the only person who has to stop is you," she finished, stretching up, twisting her shoulders. He bent to lick at one hard nipple, entranced. "And you aren't going to either, I think."
He wanted to shove her away, knew that if he could just get her off his body he could probably say no and at least halfway mean it. Instead he gripped her hips and held her still, both of them breathing hard.
"Lovely, lovely pet," she repeated, her hair falling around his face like a screen against the world. "The shiniest boy I ever knew."
He knew he should ignore it because she was, after all, a liar god. That was part of his rationale for why this kept happening in the first place. He should remember that he'd risked his life that same day to prevent the chaos she was determined to wreak on New York.
But a warm flush of pleasure filled him, to be special in a way that meant attention and love instead of odd looks and quick fucks and loneliness.
"I was always the smart one too," she said in his ear, and he groaned and lost himself in her body, in the quick sly words and the soft warm clench of her. He'd have plenty of time to ignore all her praise tomorrow.
"How many plans does this make now?" Steve asked the next morning. He looked amused. Natasha leaned around the edge of the table and poked Tony's jaw where a bite-mark stood out in livid purple.
"Okay, genius, and I use the word loosely, you come up with one," Tony said.
"Steve doesn't need a plan, because he keeps it in his pants," Clint said.
"And thereby misses out on at least half of the fun of existence," Tony retorted.
"Hey! I have fun!" Steve protested.
"You know I offered him a hand job?" Tony said to Clint, who squinted. "You know what he said? He said no thanks, I'm fine. Who does that? Who is fine with no hand jobs?"
Clint looked at Steve. "He has a point. That's just weird."
"It's not weird," Steve argued.
"Cogently put," Tony observed.
"He's saving himself," Natasha said. All three men looked at her.
"Suddenly way less interested in Tony getting dirty with the bad guys," Clint announced.
"For who?" Tony demanded.
"Who said that?" Steve asked.
"I notice things," Natasha said airily.
"I'm sorry did I not ask for who loud enough?" Tony repeated, verging on gleeful. The true mark of a good team was when you could subtly shift attention away from yourself without anyone batting an eye.
"Pepper," Natasha answered.
This time Clint and Tony's heads swiveled back to Steve, who was blushing.
"My Pepper?" Tony asked, way beyond gleeful now. "My Pepper Potts? You're keeping yourself pure for Pepper?"
"They're two entirely unrelated things!" Steve insisted.
"Has anyone told her? She should know. Because first, she hates it when men suffer for her, unless it's me, and she has good reason there," Tony said, while Clint fell off his chair laughing. "Second, big guy, she will climb you like a tree. Like a tall blond tree."
"Let's bring this discussion back around," Steve said calmly, even though his face was now red. "Let's circle back to the very real threat to national security that is your -- "
"Penis? How kind of you to say," Tony said. "No, no. We're not abandoning the Steve and Pepper ship quite so soon."
"Is Tony talking about his dick again?" Bruce asked, yawning as he walked into the room with a giant mug of coffee. The others looked at him. "Did I miss something?"
"Tony slept with Loki again and Steve's saving his virginity for Pepper," Clint said, crawling back into his chair.
"Can we please not discuss relationships before I've had coffee?" Bruce asked. Then he glanced at Steve. "Not that I disagree with your taste."
"MY FRIENDS!" Thor's voice boomed from the hallway. "WHO WOULD LIKE SOME STOLEN EGGS?"
"POACHED, THOR," Clint yelled back.
"I'll go help," Steve said, standing up. He leaned over Tony with all the menace he could muster, which was a surprising amount. "You mention a word of this to Pepper and I swear I'll tell Thor about Loki," he hissed.
"This is better than television," Clint remarked to Natasha.
"Fewer ads," Natasha agreed.
"So he is nursing a deep, abiding crush on you," Tony said, when Pepper showed up two days later to update him on 'his' company and make him show her the designs for the new tech he was working on.
"Steve Rogers," Pepper repeated. "Captain America Steve Rogers."
"Yep. He burns for you."
Pepper tapped a nail against her lips. "You know, I don't think I've ever been adored by a national icon for truth and justice before."
"Not true," Tony grunted, heaving a pile of scrap metal off the printouts he'd been scribbling on for her. "I know at least three Nobel Peace Prize winners who would hit that."
"Hit what, exactly?" Pepper asked, a razor-sharp edge on her voice.
Tony looked up. "Um. And by 'hit that' I mean enjoy an evening of your scintillating company."
"Better." She leaned against his workbench. "How did this even come up? Were you boys having a sleepover and playing truth or dare?"
"Uh." Tony paused.
Pepper sighed. "Who did you sleep with and why was Steve bothering you about it?"
"Okay, you know what, the first time was a freebie and the second time I blame the champagne and the third time, well, that just happened, and the fourth time Darcy got me drunk -- "
"You slept with Darcy? Isn't she about twelve?"
"I didn't sleep with Darcy!"
"Did you try?"
"No! I haven't been trying anything at all! It just happens!"
"Loki! Happens! It's like being in a landslide. A sexy landslide," Tony said, while Pepper gaped at him. "She just...happens."
"Mostly," Tony said. "Sometimes he."
Pepper sat down. "Only you, Tony."
"Look, it's not like I asked her out for drinks. I don't even know why she's doing it," he added plaintively. "I have theories, but...it's like a natural disaster. An act of god. Literally."
"And you don't see any problems with this?"
"Yes, yes, I know it's morally wrong to sleep with -- "
He broke off, because Pepper had concealed a snort of laughter, badly.
"What?" he asked.
"Well, I'm guessing everyone's worrying about what you'll do when you have to fight her," she said. "Or him."
"Pep, I'm worrying about that. Yesterday..."
"How many women have slept with you more than once?" she asked.
Tony paused and did some math.
"Five," he said.
"How many women have wanted to sleep with you more than once?"
"I don't know, that's a lot of variables. At least five? Probably less than fifteen? Not to imply I have low self-esteem, but most women...personality and sexual prowess..." he made a balancing motion. He was well aware that his inability to give a damn post-conquest was a hindrance to repeat business.
"And why do you think you keep getting the celestial booty call from Loki?" Pepper asked.
He looked at her, confused.
"You think on that, genius," she said, patting his shoulder. "Just turn it over in your mind. I'm going to go flirt with Captain America."
"Don't be cruel to him, he's delicate."
"I wouldn't dream of it. Just testing your hypothesis."
They were at a bar.
Admittedly not the best place for Tony's shaky 'Don't get THAT drunk' plan, but he was sticking with beer, and he knew Steve was keeping an eye out in between horrifying attempts to flirt back with Pepper and turns at the pool table with Clint, because if there ever was an epic battle in the making, it was billiards between the supersoldier and Hawkeye. A Vegas bookmaker couldn't give odds on that.
This kid who looked too young to even be drinking slid onto the stool next to him, and Tony was prepared to be all yes, I am Iron Man, here's an autograph but instead the kid leaned back and said, "Can I buy you a drink, mister?"
He had short dark hair and that too-smart look on his face, even under the sunglasses he was wearing. Tony knew that look, because it was a look he often had, and okay, he'd give the kid a pass on wearing sunglasses in a dark bar because he'd been young and douchey once too.
"Nice try," he said with a grin. "No."
"Aw, man, it's not like that," the kid said, wrinkling his nose. "I just want to buy you a drink."
"Out of the goodness of your heart?"
The kid leaned forward, frowning. "Mr. Stark, what if I said I was here on an urgent mission to buy you a drink in order to save the world as we know it?" he asked. And the thing was, he honestly looked like he meant it.
Tony turned to study him. "The world as we know it, huh?"
The kid nodded. Tony turned back to the bar.
"Scotch on the rocks, double up, on the kid," he said, and the bartender poured out and took the kid's cash and when Tony looked back, the kid was gone.
"Weird little fucker," he muttered, and shot back the scotch before Steve got out from behind the eight-ball and came over to be the morality police.
What happened next was probably inevitable: Pepper whispered something in Steve's ear that made him turn pink, and Clint got a mysterious phone call and fucked off, and then Pepper and Steve slunk out like it was possible to be casual when you were two of the hottest people in the room.
And so Tony had another drink (or three) and went to the bathroom, where -- of course -- the lock flicked without him touching it, and Loki stepped out of the shadows.
"Now you're buying me drinks?" he asked.
She frowned at him. "What?"
"Was that you, at the bar? That was you, wasn't it?"
She kissed him, fingers sliding around his neck. "I'm sure a lot of people like to buy you drinks. I don't need to."
The world went a little blurry as they kissed, as he propped her against the counter and hitched up her dress, fucked her with his pants around his thighs.
"You have," she said, as he rolled his hips slowly, gaze steady on hers, "the widest blue eyes, pet."
"Not your pet," he muttered, closing them, bending over her shoulder to get better leverage.
"Well, you do come when I call," she answered, hands sliding up his arms, fingernails digging into the soft skin there. Tony hissed and tightened his grip on her thighs.
"Let me see them," she urged, reaching out to tip his chin up. "Let me -- oh, let me see -- "
He lifted his head and opened his eyes, looked straight into the unearthly green of hers, and came so hard he had to lean into her just to keep upright.
"This is wrong," Tony said, hovering above the chaos. "This is seriously wrong."
"Thanks for stating the obvious!" Natasha yelled down the comms.
"No, this is..."
Tony twisted, scanning the skyline, dodging stray chunks of masonry as Loki turned downtown Manhattan into a war zone.
"I hate to say this," Clint grunted, "but your girlfriend's a bitch, Tony."
Which was the problem, when you got down to it.
Tony didn't know exactly what had gone down in Asgard when Loki made his bid to be king. He knew Loki had trashed a small town in New Mexico as part of that bid, but he'd been going through some things, working out issues with his dad. Everyone had issues. Tony probably would have trashed a small town in New Mexico himself, if he'd thought about it when he was younger. Had to be cheaper than therapy.
And yes, after that Loki had somehow gotten himself banished to Earth and been a pain in everyone's ass, but he was a trickster. He pulled pranks; he did stupid shit that the Avengers rarely had any trouble stopping. He wasn't exactly an international headliner, though. He was like the super-evil city councilman that everyone in the zipcode knew was on the take but nobody outside the city was even aware existed.
This -- what was happening down there now -- it wasn't Loki's style. It nipped around the edges of his consciousness as he ferried people out of buildings and caught flying cars and vaporized monsters: last night she'd held his face in her hands and admired his eyes and today she was standing on a rooftop cackling about destruction and threatening to enslave the human race.
This wasn't their song. This was a whole symphony of chaos, but the closer he looked, the less anarchic it seemed. Fire bloomed, but only momentarily; buildings fell, but...small ones, and he had yet to see any actual casualties. A battle with Doom, they'd be up to their elbows in the wounded and dead by now.
The girder of a particularly ugly parking garage creaked, snapped, fell --
And, as Tony watched closely, stopped a few inches from the ground. A terrified woman scrambled into the shelter of an alley, and the girder crashed into the street.
Tony cocked his head. Interesting.
"Little help down here, Iron Man!" Cap said, and Tony twisted in the air, dropping fast. The monsters, whatever they were, nine feet tall and ugly as sin, tended to vanish pretty quickly when he fired on them.
He caught Clint mid-fall from a building, tossed him onto another one, checked that Natasha was secure, and then said, "Going off comm briefly."
"Tony don't you dare -- " Cap got out, before Tony flicked his comm off and jetted straight for the high ground, the tall tower Loki was standing on top of, conducting the destruction. There was a force-field surrounding the roof that Cap's shield, about a dozen of Clint's arrows, and the Hulk had already bounced off --
But he slid through it like it wasn't even there, landing lightly.
Inside the field it was quiet. He could hear servos in his armor whine as he stood from his crouch and yanked his helmet off.
"Tony," Loki said, giving him her best smile.
"You," he replied, tossing his helmet aside and coming forward. He pulled his gauntlets off next, dropping them as he went, and then flicked the catches on his breastplate. It dropped with a crash, the back falling away naturally.
"Tony -- "
"I am this close to kicking your ass so hard it comes out your front," he snarled, still advancing.
"But you won't," she said with a smile, right before he picked her up by the front of her cloak and held her in the air.
She didn't struggle. She might even have kicked off a little as he lifted.
"Stop it now," he growled. She gestured with a hand, gently; all movement outside their little bubble of silence ceased abruptly. He gave her a little shake.
"Did you seriously do all this to get my attention?" he demanded, as she gripped his wrists.
"Well, it worked," she replied.
"People are dying out there!"
"Nobody's dying," she retorted. "I made sure of -- "
She broke off when she saw his feral grin.
"Oh, clever pet," she murmured. "You knew. You saw."
He set her down. She dropped to the gravel on the roof, legs tucked under her, cloak pulled around her breasts.
"Why?" he asked, honestly bewildered.
"Sit down," she said, pointing to his feet.
"Tell me why."
"Sit down," she repeated.
Tony dropped to his knees, the armor on his legs clanking lightly.
"This is not acceptable on any level at all," he said. "My friends are out there risking their lives so you could -- what, flaunt that you can whistle and I'll follow? Is this considered flirting on Asgard? Because let me tell you it does not go over well down here."
"Nobody died," she said rebelliously.
"They could have. I could have."
"Well, how else was I going to get you to look at me?" she asked, pulling the cloak tighter across her shoulders. Tony stared at her. "I'm the fallen heir. I'm the little brother. Don't you get it, pet? I'm the bad guy. And I just wanted someone to look at me."
"Okay, so out of the young horny archery master, the virginal supersoldier, the incredibly hot assassin with commitment issues, and the nerdy desperate scientist, you picked me?" he asked. "The fucked-up drunk engineer?"
"I told you, you didn't even listen -- "
"Sorry if I wasn't paying attention while hammered and staring at your amazing breasts, my bad!" he yelled, spreading his arms.
"I'm the smart one too," she said desperately.
"Oh my God," he said, covering his face with his hands. "You're even more fucked up than I am, it makes sense now."
"You shine so brightly," she said, tugging at his wrists. "That wasn't a lie, I could see you across miles, you don't understand how we see things -- you don't know -- "
"And I wouldn't go near you sober," he said, allowing her to pull his hands down. "That's what you thought."
"Was I wrong?"
He pulled his arms back, trusting she'd keep her grip on them, and she did; it tugged her forward and he kissed her.
"Why all this, why now?" he asked, feeling her fingers tighten. "You never did this before, it's like a hell party out there -- "
"I just wanted -- " she twisted, resting her forehead on his shoulder. "I don't know. There was a reason I chose you -- "
"The bright spark thing, okay, I get that, I'm magnetic -- "
"Last night, I felt it," she said. "Don't be afraid, the child will be brilliant, child of a god -- "
"Yes, I'm familiar with the myths," he managed, untangling the two of them enough to look her in the face. "If you're lying, so help me, I will sic Thor on you."
"Oh, thank you very much!"
"God of lies! What do you want from me, I just found out my occasional hookup has a thing for me so hard she blows up a city to make me notice her, gimme a break -- " he cut off because she was kissing him again, laughing and kissing him.
"He'll be a king," she whispered, patting his cheeks, his shoulders and chest, kissing him, murmuring into his mouth. "Ice and iron and mischief, he'll be magnificent, you'll see -- "
"Oh my god, how is this happening," Tony managed.
"A lot of scotch and a very poor decision," she replied. "Honestly, aren't you used to this kind of thing by now?"
Tony pulled away slowly, stood up and offered her a hand. She stood without taking it.
"New rule," he said, pointing at her. "No blowing up New York. Not even for my babymommy will I refrain from beating down the next person who attacks my city so it had better not be you, understand?"
"Second new rule, no more hookups. We're going to do this right and destroy a relationship properly. If I'm going to traumatize my child it'll be the old-fashioned Midgardian way."
"Are you suggesting monogamy?" she asked delicately.
"Don't say that word," he warned, walking back to where half his armor lay discarded. He pulled his breastplate on, secured it to the backplate, picked up his gloves, and shook grit out of his helmet before pulling it over his head. "Comm on."
" -- have a damn good explanation for what the heck you just did, Iron Man, before I get Thor to carry me up there and start throwing rocks -- "
"Cap," Tony said, somewhat enjoying Steve's enraged tirade. "Iron Man here. I've secured Loki. Everything peaceful down there?"
"Can you repeat please?" Steve asked.
"Repeating, Loki is secured. What's the situation on the ground?"
"Uh," Clint said. "Dandy. We're just peachy keen. You did what? Is secured a euphemism?"
"Did anyone call SHIELD for cleanup?" Tony asked with a sigh.
"En route," Coulson's voice crackled over the comm. "Do you need secure transport for Loki?"
"No, but if you guys could make sure Thor leaves his hammer behind before coming to the debrief, that'd be awesome," Tony said.
"BROTHER IN ARMS," Thor yelled. "HAVE YOU CAPTURED MY PRINCELY SIBLING?"
Tony glanced back at Loki, who was grinning.
"Tell you what, big guy, I'll see you in the debrief. Seriously, don't bring your hammer," Tony said, and buzzed off the comm. He pulled the helmet's faceplate up. "So, do I carry you, or...?"
She shook her head. "I'll meet you there."
"Are you sure? Because -- "
She was already gone.
"NEW RULE!" he yelled at the sky. "NO MORE FUCKING DOING THAT!"
Tony was honestly concerned that when Thor saw his brother (sister) in the SHIELD debriefing room, he would try to beat the crap out of her. And frankly, while Tony was no slouch even out of the armor, he wasn't a match for an enraged thunder god.
Instead, before Tony could even react, Thor was across the room and sweeping Loki up into his arms in a fierce hug.
"I have missed you!" he roared, and Tony winced. "And you have turned yourself in! There is no dishonor in surrender, my broth -- my sister," he corrected, "when one admits one is in error."
He set Loki down. She shuffled to one side and her fingers drifted out for Tony's. Oh shit, he was holding hands with someone in SHIELD HQ. He was holding hands with their enemy in SHIELD HQ. Coulson was going to taser him.
Thor looked down at their hands. Looked up at Tony. Narrowed his eyes.
"Excuse me, should we not be restraining the villain?" Clint asked, barging in. "Because, no offense, fucking one of the Avengers does not give you free pass to wander unchecked around HQ."
There was a long, dangerous silence.
"Oh," Clint managed.
"Can I kill him?" Loki asked Tony.
"I'd say you should make it look like an accident but I'm a little worried you'd take me literally," Tony replied. "Rule: no killing Avengers."
"You have a lot of rules for someone who dislikes authority," Loki remarked. Thor was still...simmering? glowering? in front of them.
"You," he said finally, crossing his arms and looming over Tony. What was with all the looming? "You are intimate with my sister?"
Tony squared his shoulders. He wasn't the king of bad decisions for nothing.
"Once when she was your brother," he said.
"Thor, if you hit him, I'll tell father," Loki said. Tony looked at her. "What? I can't beat him, we've been over that already. Odin can."
"Father wouldn't care," Thor said, muscles flexing. Tony got ready to duck.
"Thor," Loki repeated.
He looked at her, and then he looked down, and apparently Asgardians could just sense that kind of shit, because he uncrossed his arms and pointed at Tony.
"You will name him Thor," he said.
"Seriously? One Thor in the family isn't enough?" Tony heard himself say.
"Thor Lokisdottir would be a lovely name for a girl," Loki said with an absolutely straight face. Which was of course when Steve and Nick Fury walked into the room.
"What the everloving hell is this?" Fury asked.
Thor turned around.
"I am to be an uncle!" he announced, beaming.
"I hate you so much," Tony said out of the corner of his mouth.
"You don't, really," Loki replied.
They held a secret meeting at the mansion once the official debrief was over, because there were some things not even Tony would say in front of Nick Fury.
"So, just for clarity," Steve said, rubbing his face. "Last night you got that drunk despite the 'don't get that drunk' plan, and then you showed up and the pair of you had tawdry relations in an unsanitary environment -- "
"Fucked in the bathroom," Loki put in.
"You don't get to talk, drama queen," Clint said.
"Don't make me punch you, I think I'd hurt myself," Tony told him.
"I'll do it for you," Natasha offered.
"Thank you." Tony smiled at her.
" -- without using even the most basic of contraceptive precautions -- "
"Oh, talk dirty," Tony said.
" -- and the mass havoc you rained down on New York today was because you wanted to get his attention?" Steve finished. "You know he has a cellphone, right?"
"You do know where he lives," Bruce added.
"I'm new around here," Loki replied calmly.
"I made rules," Tony offered. "No destroying New York, no random disappearing, that kind of thing."
"And out of all of the nominally responsible people in this room, you're the one who's going to be in charge of a tiny helpless infant," Steve said.
"I save the world on a regular basis," Tony objected. "Besides, if you want to be the one who gets up with Junior at three a.m., be my guest, I won't stop you."
"Do Midgardian babies do that?" Loki asked, looking alarmed.
"Oh, this should be fun," Bruce muttered.
"This was so much less stressful when we had a plan, even when it was a bad plan," Steve groaned.
"Hey, you're Captain of the Avengers, not Captain of me or my relationships or my sudden but inevitable paternity," Tony said. "I'd like to point out that I took a dangerous criminal off the streets of New York armed only with a bottle of alcohol and my virility, and you're welcome."
"Captain," Loki said. She was holding Tony's phone out across the table. "There's a woman named after a condiment on the other end of the line who wishes a word."
"You can't deny she's smooth," Clint said, as Steve eyed the phone.
"She's very interested in your reaction to my capture," Loki added. Now Steve just looked hunted.
"This isn't over," he said, but he took the phone and left the room. "Pepper, listen -- "
"She was always the clever one," Thor said to Bruce, in a somewhat noisy undertone.
When Tony stumbled into the nursery at one in the morning, woken by intermittent wailing, someone was already there. His first instinct was to attack, but he stifled it; he was pretty sure it was his night to get up with the baby (thirty seconds ago Loki had poked him in the ribs and suggested as much) but it could very well have been Clint's or Bruce's turn. Steve had a rota, somewhere.
The man standing next to the crib looked up, nervousness evident in his body if not his features.
Tony had thought a lot about the kid at the bar, since it all went down. Loki swore it wasn't her. While she wasn't above lying to get out of a tight spot, Tony had begun to learn her tells and he thought she was being truthful. But someone had shown up in the bar and bought him a drink with the intent of altering (or possibly restoring) reality -- because if they hadn't, he probably wouldn't have kept drinking, meaning no filthy drunken sex, meaning no son now lying in that crib, snuffling noisily.
So he'd had reason to make sure he remembered the face, and to wonder about who the kid was, and to form some deeply unsettling theories.
And here he was.
This time Tony took a moment to really look at him, illuminated by the moonlight coming in through the window. He had a narrow, handsome young face, with the first hints of a sharp jawline; his skin was pale but not unhealthy-looking, and he was slim, like he was built for speed. His short black hair was nonetheless messy, sticking up in tufts here and there like he'd been running his hands through it. He wasn't wearing sunglasses this time; his eyes were vivid green, but they didn't glow in the night the way Loki's sometimes did.
"So," Tony said, because someone had to talk and perhaps his son inherited Loki's ability to be silent, "time travel."
He could see his theoretical conclusion hit home -- could see the surprise and then amusement cross his face. The man -- his child, holy shit, grown to manhood -- executed an elaborate bow. "T. Stark Lokason, time-traveller, at your service."
"Went with the middle name, huh?" Tony asked.
"You named me Thor."
"Blame your uncle. He threatened dire consequences. You should feel lucky you weren't a woman; Loki was very attached to the name Mildred."
"Didn't get any say in it, did you?"
"I thought Oops would be a nice gender-neutral name. Voted down."
Stark laughed, Tony's laugh through and through. "Fair enough."
"Here on business, or is this a social call?"
"Oh, just checking in. And I know what you're going to say, so don't bother. You get one question. Use it wisely."
Tony lifted an eyebrow. "I thought we weren't supposed to know about the future."
"My parents are a god of mischief and you, and you raised me in a superhero commune," Stark reminded him. "Does any of that scream conformist to you?"
There was another wail from the crib and Tony brushed past him to pick up the baby, bouncing him lightly, carrying him to the chair in the corner. Stark folded himself gracefully into another one.
"I want two," Tony said. "Two questions."
"Yep, that's dad," his son murmured, amused.
"They're harmless enough."
"Okay, fine. Two questions."
Tony decided not to push for three. "Did you save the world?"
Stark looked taken aback. Perhaps that wasn't what he was expecting.
"You said the fate of the world was involved. Taken care of?" Tony prompted.
"Ah," Stark nodded. "Yep, got that covered."
"Awesome." Tony curled his infant son against his shoulder, then shook his head and laughed. "You caused your own conception. You bought me that drink. Look at the cojones on you."
"What can I say?" Stark relaxed languidly into the chair. God, it was like looking at himself in his twenties, youth and arrogance and cleverness. "That's one question..."
Tony stroked his son's hair, ruffling it a little in the back. He liked that -- everyone said you couldn't tell what babies liked, but Tony knew.
"Are we good parents?" he asked. "I mean, we didn't fuck you up too badly or anything?"
Stark's reaction was -- strange. When he heard the question his smile went broad and unguarded and bright, like it made his day just to be asked; then Tony saw him actually register that he had to answer, and it dimmed just slightly.
"You did fine, Dad," he said, still smiling.
Not perhaps entirely honest, Tony thought. Then again, everyone screwed up their kids, and at least Stark liked him enough to sugar the truth. Couldn't be easy, being the son of a billionaire and a god.
"Good." Tony wiped at some drool on his shoulder ineffectually. The baby burbled and sniffled. "I do the best I can by you."
There it was again, the smile like the sun. He had probably taken smiling lessons from Steve or something. Tony settled back and let the silence settle around him, until a thought crossed his mind.
"I haven't had a drink in three months," he said. Stark cocked his head. "Every time I think about it I think, what if I have to pick him up and I drop him? What if he gets sick and I have to take him to the hospital?"
"You miss it?" Stark asked.
"No. Don't really have time to. Besides, you know. Priorities," Tony said. He glanced at Stark. "Okay, I have a third question. Did you invent time travel or did you steal it from someone?"
Stark snorted. "Never can put one over on you." He shook his head. "I stole it. From you, if that makes a difference. Which reminds me, I should go. See you in a few," he added, laughing, and disappeared.
"You get that from your mother," Tony told the baby in his arms, giving him a thoughtful look. "I'm taking credit for the rest. "