Loki, shackled with ornate cuffs connected by a thin chain and silenced by an invasive muzzle spanning across his jaw, was reclining against the wall farthest away from the broken window, where Thor stood imposingly.
"Hey Lightning McQueen, what are you doing up?" Tony greeted.
A frown creased Thor's forehead as he processed the new nickname then decided against pursuing an explanation. "I am to stand guard over Loki until our journey home."
"You know JARVIS monitors the whole tower and with your fancy schmancy Asgardian handcuffs suppressing magic and might, Loki isn't going anywhere."
Thor nodded, acknowledging Tony's point. "The care you paid to my words is heartening and appreciated."
Tony approached the two gods, keeping his posture relaxed and hands in plain sight. The thrumming tension between them was practically audible. Appearing as non-confrontational as possible, he leveled a quizzical look at Thor. "So why are you here? Not liking the guestroom I've prepared?" He didn't miss the indirect slight against SHIELD. If Thor found their repetitive doubt to be an affront, then he would surely consider disrespect, such as forsaking the provisions of his host, to be an insult as well. It could work well in Tony's favor.
Immediately, Thor looked mortified. "Man of Iron, I meant no offense. I thank you for your kindness in providing me accommodations for the evening and have full faith in your JARVIS." He bowed his head in apology. "I, however, would like to inquire the same of your visit."
"I owe Loki Doki here a drink." Tony waved cheerfully at Loki. "As I'm sure you heard him so thoughtfully reminding me earlier today." JARVIS projected the time on the wall, it was after midnight. "Um, yesterday."
"You are a man of your words." It was a statement said with great admiration. "A most honorable trait."
"It's just a drink." Tony shifted, discomforted by the unexpected compliment. "Do you want to join us?" Thor didn't seem keen on letting his adoptive brother out of his sights, which was rather inconvenient for Tony's plans of speaking with Loki alone.
There had been a moment shared between them earlier. A flash of awareness. A gleam of interest. A spark of curiosity. Tony was never very good at resisting something shiny and neither was Loki, judging by the mischief glittering in those green eyes. Loki was also a renowned mage familiar with Chitauri technology and knowledge of the portal, making him the ideal candidate to discuss the hypotheticals of what could have transpired in the wormhole. The fact that Loki was someone Tony had no foreknowledge of was a bonus too, there was no need for him to maintain a façade of a man he hadn't been in four years.
Tony chose not to examine how a supervillain who had, possibly involuntarily if his theory proved correct, defenestrated him and nearly destroyed his planet was somehow his preferred company. Instead, he focused on removing Thor from the penthouse. "A drink will probably take the edge off and help you sleep. I'm guessing the bed isn't quite what you're used to on Asgard." Tony said apologetically, mentally counting down to when Thor would relent.
Five. Four. Thre-
"Many apologies, Friend Stark. The lodging you have provided is outstanding and I need not additional incentives to utilize them." Thor flushed with embarrassment. "I shall retire to my chambers and meet you at sunrise or until such time my brother leaves your custody."
Loki narrowed his eyes thoughtfully.
Tony gaped as the fluttering cape disappeared in the elevator, confused by the emphasis Thor placed on his word until the clinking of chains and snapping of fingers drew his attention.
"Hold on, Reindeer Games." Tony strolled over to the bar, disappearing from Loki's line of sight when he ducked down to rummaged through the mini-fridge. He emerged with two bottles, one in each hand, then strolled to the steps where Loki sat and pressed one into the trickster's shackled hand.
Loki examined the drink with a furrow in his forehead and likely a matching downward curl of his lips, except it was hidden behind the muzzle.
Tony cursed colorfully, earning an inquiring tilt of Loki's head, when he realized his oversight. He was reaching for the metal before he realized the impulsiveness of his action and its associated consequences. "Um."
Green eyes danced with mirth before they closed slowly as Loki moved forward and tilted the side of his chin into Tony's palm. When his eyes blinked open, they held a hint of challenge.
Cautiously, Tony trailed his fingers across the ridges and grooves of the pieces of metal that made up the elaborate muzzle. He was torn between wincing in disgust at the invasiveness and admiring the intricate Asgardian engravings. He settled on neither and concentrated on locating a release mechanism, tangling his fingers in the dark strands of Loki's hair and angling his head to get a better view.
Loki, in an unexpected display of tolerance, allowed for the gentle manhandling.
"Ha!" Tony grinned when his thumb brushed past a raised circular shape and applied a bit of force. The metal instantly unlatched and fell away, tumbling down Loki's leather-clad chest and landing with a clatter between his sprawling legs. Tony's triumph was short-lived as a pair of cool lips pressed against his pulse point followed by a brush of an equally cool tongue. "Gah!"
Loki smirked as he leaned away. "You taste of the abyss."
"I showered!" Tony huffed defensively, instinctually deflecting. The spot on his skin tingled pleasantly when an evening breeze washed over it.
"That would explain the hint of–" There were little crinkles at the corners of Loki's eyes, even if his expression and tone remained disinterested.
"Nope! I'm too sober to have this conversation." Tony twisted off the cap of his bottle. "Now drink up."
Loki acquiesced magnanimously and mimicked Tony's movements with the cap. "This is quite different from the drink you poured yourself." He studied the glass bottle, reading aloud the label. "Who is Mike?"
"Someone who clearly believes that when life gives you lemons, make alcoholic lemonade." Tony took a long drag of the Mike's Hard Lemonade in his hand, affecting a pleased hum to hide his cringe at the overly-sweet flavor.
While his original plan had been to pour two tumblers of his finest scotch, the burn of hard liquor simply didn't appeal as it used to. He had searched the fridge on a whim and knew instantly what his drink selection would be when he spotted the six-pack of malt liquor. Loki's expression would simply be hilarious. The bottles were likely leftovers from Rhodey's last visit, whose commanding persona belied a love for sugary drinks favored primarily by college girls. Thinking about his best friend seized Tony with the sudden urge to see him, see his Rhodey walking. Perhaps he could invent a new upgrade so War Machine would need to report to New York, maybe a secondary power source or a built-in deceleration device.
"This is vile!" Loki's angry sputter snapped Tony out of the beginning of a designing frenzy. "Revolting!" He took another sip and scowled. "Appalling!" He tipped the bottle to his mouth again. "Horrid!"
There was a laugh, joyous and unbidden, ringing through the penthouse. A foreign sound. It took a few seconds before Tony realized it was his.
Maybe it was the sleep deprivation that caused their jumbled and jagged conversations, though they understood each other perfectly.
Maybe it was the drinks that led to less careful words, though they were spoken with great care.
Maybe it was the post-battle euphoria that loosened tightly-reined emotions, though neither exploited the other's tender spots.
Maybe it was all and more of the above.
"You know your brother– Did you just hiss at me?" Tony narrowed his eyes in warning. "Wow, and a growl. Fine fine, adopted brother. He never said why he was here."
"Thor is, shockingly, capable of a modicum of obfuscation."
"Good to know." Tony muttered, filing the information away. "Wait, was that a pun? Shocking? Because Thor is the God of Thunder?"
"Cease your inane babbling." There was a slight upward curve at the corners of Loki's lips.
"You are not the same crazy god who tossed me out a window."
"You are not the same irritating mortal who promised to avenge Midgard."
"What's the deal with this adoption business?" Tony asked casually, peeling off the bottle's label with an exaggerated look of concentration.
"I was born Jotun and raised Aesir." Loki said softly, heavy words floating precariously on a sigh. "A secret not meant to be known."
"Ah, those." Tony inhaled sharply. "They tend to make themselves known at the worst possible time."
"Why was Thor here?"
"I fell once before, after my defeat."
Loki stared at the crater in the floor while Tony eyed the shattered window. The night air felt colder.
"JARVIS, have DUM-E bring up some pizza."
Loki peered inquisitively at the ceiling. "You need not trouble yourself, I am–"
"It's not for you–"
"–not inclined to sample to your questionable Midgardian cuisine."
"–I'm feeling peckish."
"You were privy to my words as I spoke them. How?"
"I saw the future or maybe lived it." Tony swallowed tightly. "But here I am, in the past."
"An anomaly in time." Loki mused, accepting Tony's words without question. "However you came about it, know that prescience is a formidable yet fleeting power. Knowledge prompts change yet change negates knowledge."
"Huh." Tony pondered this. Because he had known how his tenure with the Avengers ended, he purposefully distanced himself from them. Which somehow led to Bruce seeking him out and this new strain between Thor and SHIELD, both he did not foresee.
Loki's brows lifted in pleasant surprise. "This is quite good." Tomato sauce stained his lips red.
Tony mumbled his agreement through a mouthful of pizza, strings of cheese caught in his beard.
The two large pizzas were devoured promptly.
DUM-E removed the boxes with a cheerful beep.
"Your eyes are green now but they were blue. Like Clint's." Tony stifled a yawn with a click of his jaws, blinking rapidly to clear away the drowsiness. "And the Scepter."
"An astute observation." Loki's emerald eyes dulled but were no less striking. "What is your conclusion?"
"The Scepter isn't yours and neither were you."
"Yes." The affirmation sounded more like a hiss than a word.
"Thanos is coming for all nine realms." Loki forced the name out with a shudder. "He has an army."
"He had an army." Tony lifted his arms above his head and made a whoosh sound followed by a loud boom. "I threw a nuke at it." There was a tremor in his hands.
"The Chitauri was merely the scouting party." Loki corrected with a harsh grimace.
"Well, that sucks." Tony stated succinctly.
Loki didn't disagree.
"What will happen to you when you go hom–" Tony amended when he felt Loki stiffen. "–back to Asgard?"
"I will be called to stand before the All-Father and await his judgment."
"Need a lawyer? Or ten?"
"The All-Mother will likely speak on my behalf." Loki spoke of his adoptive mother, the queen of Asgard, with a melancholy-tinged fondness and wavering faith. "Though it will not be enough."
"Am I boring you?"
Tony yawned, his eyes drifting close. "Not at all, I just haven't slept in, like, a week." He hadn't slept since he presented the Accords to the unwilling group at the compound, the loss of consciousness between Siberia and New York notwithstanding. His body was careening toward the inevitable crash of unconsciousness and he couldn't stop it.
"The fragility of mortals." Loki mocked. Emerald eyes softening as they traced the lines of exhaustion, curving under clever eyes and framing a smart mouth, on Tony's face.
"I think I'm holding up pretty well considering I got pummeled by two super soldiers yesterday." Long lashes fluttered, signaling a valiant, but hopeless, fight against the pull of sleep.
Loki understood. His voice was soothing and tender when he spoke his next words. "Rest, Tony. Slumber will not take you from this place or time. What is done is done."
"Alright, I'm trusting you here."
Loki murmured. "You would be the first."