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Bound By Symmetry

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When Tony approached Stark Tower, he spotted a man tinkering with something metallic at the very top of the building. As he prepared to go and confront his fellow engineer (probably Doctor Sëlvig), he saw Loki himself on the penthouse's terrace, pacing around like he owned the place, and changed his mind. He had a speech he was just itching to deliver, and Sëlvig's work looked like it would take more than five minutes to complete.

His speech, if he had to say so himself, was fantastic, but his guest-slash-squatter didn't seem particularly impressed.

“... and you, big fella, you’ve managed to piss off every single one of them.”

“That was the plan,” Loki said with a boyish grin that worried Tony more than pretty much everything else that had happened lately.

“Not a great plan,” he replied, projecting a confidence he didn't feel, like he did every day of his life. “When they come, and they will, they'll come for you.”

“I have an army,” Loki replied.

“We have a Hulk.”

“Oh, I thought the beast had wandered off,” Loki said, mock-surprised.

“You're missing the point.” Tony walked closer because, what the hell. It wasn't as if five yards would save him if it all went so shit. “There is no throne. There is no version of this where you come up on top.”

Loki's lips twitched. Really? A supervillain with a taste for innuendo? Tony thought that was his schtick. Bastard wouldn't throw off his stride, though.

“Maybe your army comes, and maybe it's too much for us, but it's all on you.” Tony allowed himself a dramatic pause. “If we can't protect the Earth, you can be damn well sure we'll avenge it.”

Having delivered his best line, Tony rewarded himself with a sip of scotch and told himself not to react when Loki advanced towards him, spear in hand.

“How will your friends have time for me,” wondered the demigod, “when they're so busy fighting you?”

The tip of Loki's spear came to rest almost gently on Tony's chest, not even piercing his t-shirt. There was a flash of blue and Tony closed his eyes because there was ice forming inside his chest, frost settling on his bones and over his heart. He had a moment to wonder if the arc reactor would stand the temperature shock, and then it was gone -both the speartip and the cold- and he could breathe again.

When he opened his eyes, Loki was watching him, spear held loosely at his side.

“So, that's your plan? Make me fight The Avengers?”

“I need to give them a distraction,” Loki said after a moment, and started pacing again.

“While you do what, bring over your army for a sleepover?”

Loki favoured Tony with another thin smile.

“I mean it, that's a terrible plan,” he insisted. “Trying to take over Earth is the galactic equivalent of starting a land war in Asia. You'll never get away with it.”

Loki made a vaguely affirmative sound; he didn't seem to be paying attention at all.

“Listen.” Tony moved to stand in the way of his pacing; Loki stopped just before crashing into him and raised an eyebrow. “Really not a great plan.”

Loki gave him a considering look, tilting his head to one side and smiling slightly.

“You think you can come up with a better one.”

“Give me ten minutes and I can come up with ten better plans.”

“I still need the so-called Avengers distracted.”

“And making me fight them might distract them for a while, yes, but it's a bit obvious, isn't it?”

“You've never struck me as particularly subtle, Stark.”

Tony bared his teeth in what could pass as a grin under in bad lighting conditions.

Fuck you too, Loki, he thought. I'm not the one who goes out wearing antlers.

“Putting me on the opposite corner isn't going to break Fury's heart or make S.H.I.E.L.D. agents cry. You should have poked dear old Cap for that. Half of them are expecting me to go rogue anyway.”

Under any other circumstances, what Loki gave him then would have been an indulgent smile; Tony preferred to think that was what a 'fuck you' looked like in Asgard.

“Fine,” drawled the demigod. “Pour me a drink. You have ten minutes to convince me of your plan before I give Sëlvig the order to go ahead.”

***

Tony Stark had many, many regrets in his life, but he thought that one of those that would haunt him the most was not having at hand the supplies to make Loki a ridiculously colourful, disgustingly sugary drink (tiny umbrella included).

“Rum, grenadine, maraschino cherries, sirops, and definitely tiny umbrellas,” he said.

“Noted, sir,” said JARVIS. “Is there anything else?”

Tony met his own eyes in the mirror. They were brown. Mostly brown. Brown enough. He put on a pair of sunglasses just in case.

“You trust me, JARVIS, don't you? It'd be a damn shame if my own AI didn't trust me, but you do, of course you do.”

There was a pause. JARVIS had enough processing capacity to make NASA weep; it couldn't be anything but intentional.

Another regret for the list, thought Tony. Giving my AI a sense of the dramatic.

“I do trust you, sir,” said JARVIS. “When you're being yourself, of course.”

Tony turned away from the mirror and smiled.

“That's the sweetest thing you've said to me since you said that my greying temples make me look distinguished.” Tony lowered his voice to a murmur, on the brink of what JARVIS' sensors could pick up. “The glowy alien technology hasn't been invented that can make me do what I don't want to do. The later our guest realises that, the better.”

“I see, sir,” said JARVIS, pitching his voice low to match Tony's. “What will you tell Miss Potts when she arrives?”

“Shit, Pepper!” Tony winced and absently rubbed at his chest. “Pepper is not going to approve of this plan.”

“I doubt it, sir.”

“Pepper should be nowhere near here,” Tony decided. “JARVIS, divert her flight back to DC, find a way of keeping her there. There are things I'm going to have to do that I'd rather she wasn't here.”

“Understood, sir. I'll try my best, but surely I don't need to remind you that Miss Potts is both persistent and resourceful?”

“Yeah, no, I have that very present, believe me. But if we can keep her away for a day or two...”

“Stark!”

“And speaking of demanding vixens with a weakness for one-of-a-kind outfits and telling me what to do with my time.” Tony walked out into the living room. “Yes, Your Highness?”

“Don't test my patience.”

“You should have thought of that before you decided to mind-control me,” Tony answered. “You would've liked Rogers better, I bet. At least he would be quiet. Or does that get boring?”

Loki gave him a baleful look.

“Not as boring as your mindless chatter.”

Tony grinned, happy to have scored a hit.

“So, tell me why you chose me. My winning personality? My dashing good looks? My good taste in architecture?”

“You have more resources than the rest,” said Loki with a languid shrug. “You are more reckless, too. Easier to catch alone. You came to me, not the other way round.”

It was Loki's turn to grin at Tony's discomfort.

“You're smarter than the rest, too,” he offered offhandedly, like someone petting a dog in passing. “The captain would have been unspeakably tedious, I know the type.”

“Finally something we can agree on,” muttered Tony, fixing his tie to cover the glow of the arc reactor.

“Stark.”

Loki was standing right there when Tony turned around to face him, and from up close, and without the suit, Tony felt more sharply the differences between them. The skin around the arc reactor tingled unpleasantly and Tony had to force himself not to flinch when Loki reached up to slide his sunglasses down to the tip of his nose.

“I can feel you, Stark,” said Loki, his voice low, his eyes on Tony's. “I'll know the moment your thoughts turn away from me. And you will not like my reaction if you do.”

As if there was a chance he'd forget, even for a second, what he was doing.

“Possessive, aren't we?” Tony forced himself to say through a suddenly dry throat.

“More than you'll ever know.” Loki slid Tony's sunglasses back into place, then rested his hand gently against the side of Tony's face. “Go and show me what you can do. I'm willing to be impressed.”

Fucking bastard, thought Tony, feeling his heart beat a crazy tattoo inside his chest. I'll be damned if I let you see how much you scare me.

“Don't wait up,” he said, making himself move away. “Oh, and try not to break anything. In doubt, ask JARVIS to tell you which button to push, I know you alien types aren't great at working the microwave.”

And with a jaunty wave, Tony fled.