Sometimes Tony feels like he wants to rip out his beating heart, not the blue glowing metaphor for one, but his actual heart with shrapnel and a few scars around the edges.
Thanks to the acts of Yinsen in a dark cave deep in the Afghanistan desert he even has one to rip out, it has shrapnel so it’s not perfect but it’s a heart and if it wasn’t for Yinsen it wouldn’t be beating. And yeah, wouldn’t that be easy, to wish it had stopped right there in that cave, but in the end Tony values a life and he values the man who gave him one. A new one, a shinier one. Anyway, Yinsen was the first one he wanted to rip out his heart for, in the very same cave. He watched him die right there in front of his eyes and he wanted to rip it out so bad, look, this is how good you did, please don’t leave me now, but in the end even the heart of one Tony Stark, still raw from the shrapnel, wasn’t enough.
Then there was Pepper and sometimes Tony thinks he should have realized earlier how much he actually loved, loves, Pepper. Maybe in the cave, or staring into the red-rimmed eyes cracking jokes like only they knew how, somewhere along there he should have known, or maybe way back earlier, before Afghanistan. When there was a real heart, no shrapnel and no blue glow, but that would have been in another life, different Tony, different Pepper, and there is a headache when he thinks that far into something that never was, only might have been. So he doesn’t consider that. He knows what he feels for Pepper is love, at least he wants to believe it is, and if they weren’t their fucked up selves, if Tony’s heart didn’t have shrapnel designed to stop a heart, maybe he could have actually given his heart to Pepper and they would be a thing. But giving out a heart embedded with shrapnel is way too much, and Pepper deserves all the good in the world and everyone knows Tony is not on top of that particular list so in the end they fall apart because giving Pepper his lame excuse of a heart along with all the other crap would have simply been too much.
His heart wasn’t enough for Yinsen. His heart was too much for Pepper.
And somewhere inside Tony hopes that somehow he could still be able to fall in between, like he isn’t always too much and way too little at the same time, like that isn’t exactly who he is. When he turns of the lights at night all he sees is the blue glow that reminds him of how he is borderline amazing and a danger to everyone around him at the very same time. But he wants to fall in between, he wants to be able to rip the beating lump out of his chest and throw it to someone’s feet with here, take it, because I know you can handle it, like is that too much to ask for?
And then the god of mischief throws him out of a window and he is pretty sure there is also glass in his heart now, but he gets a glimpse of Loki’s eyes and what he sees is different from Yinsen, Pepper, Steve, anyone really, because he sees himself just a little bit, and yeah maybe he should be concerned about seeing himself in the eyes of a god of chaos, but he is Tony Stark, he is chaos. The eyes are green and for the first time in a very long time he is scared out of his mind, and not only because he is just a pathetic mortal against a god.
It’s something broken, like cracks on the mirror that affect the reflection every time you look into it, it’s deep in those green eyes for only a small moment, right after which he sees the blue sky more clear that ever, but it’s there, it’s in Loki’s eyes and never has he wanted to take something, someone apart this much just to see what lies within. To think of pulling apart the god of lies to see what’s inside, what a glorious plan, it’s so very wrong but at the same time, for that brief moment something feels right for the first time since…Yeah.
A man with shrapnel in his heart, shrapnel from something he himself designed to stop hearts, Merchant of Death everyone, and the god of lies and chaos with mirrors for eyes and then his back hits the glass and he is f a l l i n g. Yeah, there is definitely glass in his heart.
Later, in another time they lay on his bed, a man and a god in the tangled sheets and by now he knows why the god has mirrors for eyes and Loki knows why there is metal in the mortal’s chest. And Tony understands why they fight like they do, how stripped down they both just take power and create a safe place around themselves so no one could never touch them again. So Tony wouldn’t notice how he left a piece of himself into that cave and how Obie took about a hundred pieces more. So Loki wouldn’t lose himself into the screams of death in his head, the hooks in his mind. And who knows, maybe neither one of them should be alive considering how they have been to places they shouldn’t have walked out alive of, but that again is another life, and in this one they still live.
Sometimes Loki looks at Tony like he maybe understands, or like Tony is something of actual value. It’s a look Tony can’t pull apart like he wants to, and that makes his heart itch in his chest just a little bit, and oh how he wants to pull it out just to get rid of the feeling. For a god of lies there is something very honest in that look, Tony being almost completely sure the god is not aware of the honesty showing from the cracks in his eyes, and Tony doesn’t lie a bit when he says it hurts, and oh how he wants to pull it out. He wants to throw his heart with metal and glass sticking out of it to Loki, to scream, look at me, I am nothing more than this ugly thing, and maybe Loki stomps on it just a little so he wouldn’t have to feel a thing and Loki would never look at him like that.
Yet at the same time it’s a look no one has known to give Tony ever before and fine, maybe he craves it, needs it a little, and maybe he wants to pull his heart out again just to hand it to Loki because god knows he doesn’t know how to live anymore without the attention and the green eyes, mirrors and cracks, so he wants to hand it out to the god, please, and maybe he would pull the shrapnel out, making his heart a real thing and maybe Loki would finally be someone in between. It feels wrong, and again the thing with the hurt, probably a very bad decision but that’s what the good old Tony Stark is made of, bad decisions, and there is most certainly glass in his heart.
But Loki just stares at him like that, like he has the right to.
“Stop looking at me like I matter.”
The god of lies stills for a minute, and Tony is sure he has just thrown the ugly thing into Loki’s feet but then the god sighs quietly. Sighs and places his hand on Tony’s chest, right where his real heart is and it feels like he is pulling it out just a little.