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I Thought/Hoped/Assumed He Had Changed

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Tony sat slumped in his hair, feet up on his worktop. A dark frown and brooding eyes sat atop steepled hands. Fuck it had all gone wrong. He wished he had never left his bed this morning.

He felt the tall figure materialize behind him, something he had unconsciously learned to sense after such exposure to it. “Anthony, I have recovered the tome from my quarters in Asgard. From a cursory look I do believe it holds the missing key we have been searching for-” Loki halted in his speech. He had circled the mortal and was now facing him, taking in the glower with confusion. “Stark?”

The engineer chuckled, a dark laugh. “Nothing, huh?” He swung his legs off the desk and stood. “You’re just going to completely ignore this morning, are you?”

Loki sighed, a sound of annoyance, “Dear me, Anthony. Do not tell me you are going to act like a petulant child over such a trifle.”

“A trifle?!” Tony threw his hands into the air in disbelief. “You call that a fucking trifle?! Several buildings have been destroyed, five dead and tens more injured – and you personally broke Steve’s arm in three separate places!”

“His enhanced genetics will repair his wounds in mere days.”

“That’s not the point!” The shorter man whirled round in disgust, stalking off to slam his hands down on a workstation. He couldn’t bear to look into those unrepentant eyes any longer. He had thought-

But there was no time for thinking, not when he was back, looming over his shoulder once more. Tony closed his eyes as the soft voice rolled over his ears. “I was under the impression that this…arrangement that we have is purely intellectual. We both bound ourselves by magic not to use anything we may create on each other, but our vows spoke no laws upon our usual activities. What happens in here is separate from out there. Here we are simply two academics striving to meld my magic with your magic.”

“Science.”

A chuckle. “Fine, my magic with your science.”

The jovial tone and an echo of the old joke they had shared so many times made Tony’s fists clench. He turned, uncaring that this left him trapped between the table and Loki, less than a foot between the two men. The cocky bastard still looked half-amused. Nothing was funny about this.

“You may be a heartless asshole, but I find it rather difficult to go back to playing happy scientists after you punched me through a wall earlier today.”

“Oh darling,” Loki stroked a hand down Tony’s cheek, laughing when he slapped it away. “Want me to kiss it better?”

The billionaire growled, incensed, “This may all be a fucking game to you, but I actually have feelings!” He shoved the god away from him, and of course, it did nothing but paint a bemused face upon the taller man.

And then the bemusement turned to something far more calculating, the change causing Tony’s stomach to drop as Loki stepped closer until they were practically chest-to-chest. Green eyes shot to his Adam’s apple as Tony swallowed dryly. “Oh Anthony,” he purred. “You are not telling me the whole truth.”

“What do you mea-” his lips stilled as an elegant finger was placed against them.

“We spoke right at the very beginning of this possibility – of the fact that we were likely to face each other in battle again. And we both agreed we could keep the two parts of our lives distinct from each other. But for you, something has changed.”

Loki’s finger left his lips, trailing down his jaw to run along his carotid, pausing at the collarbone. Tony was immobile; body paralysed by the burning trail the touch left in its wake. “You began to believe that our…camaraderie would save me from the clutches of evil, did you not? You thought our burgeoning friendship would cause me to cast off the shadows and join your hallowed halls of heroes?”

Tony’s mouth was dry, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth as he weakly struggled for a denial, “Of course not, I-”

“Or maybe,” Loki’s velvet voice smoothly overrode his. “Or maybe you thought it was not just a friendship that would cause me to join your side.” A cool hand rested on Tony’s forearm, “Maybe it was because I touched you like this.”

On the small of his back. “Or this.”

A brush on the thigh. “Or this.”

A comforting hand on the back of his neck. “Or this.”

“Or maybe,” Loki leaned in, his cool breath caressing the shell of his ear as a sensual whisper ensued, “because I sometimes spoke to you like this.”

With great effort, Tony wrenched his head to the side, heart lurching in his chest as the movement caused a brush of lips along his cheekbone. He was breathing fast. “Get out.”

Loki leaned back, smirking at the superhero that refused to look him in the eye. “But don’t you want to see the book-”

“I said, get the fuck out!!!” His yell was followed by a vanishing chuckle, the remnants of the laugh echoing in the workshop as its owner disappeared. Tony’s muscles relaxed from their iron hold, and he collapsed back against the workbench, hands coming up to cradle his head as he swore.

“Sir?” The usual inflectionless voice was tinged with concern.

“I’m fine, JARVIS. I just, I…I need a moment.”

“Of course, sir. I will inform any visitors to the laboratory that you are currently handling a highly unstable substance and must not be disturbed.”

“Thank you.”

The voice was definitely softer now, “Of course, Sir.”

***

Tony did not know how much time had passed, but he had found himself on the floor, back against the workbench. An insistent prodding on his thigh interrupted his brooding. Looking down he saw it was Dummy poking him with a spanner. At his master’s attention, the robot lifted up the tool, making an insistent whirr. Tony laughed weakly, “Okay, okay. I’ll stop wallowing and get back to work.”

A pleased hum was emitted from the curious robot as he wheeled around and trundled off towards Tony’s latest project, clearly expecting to be followed.

Easing himself to his feet, Tony did just that. Well, he might as well indulge him.

***

It was nearly two weeks until he saw him again. Leaving a dinner in the communal kitchens with the Avengers, Tony had retreated from the loud atmosphere to the quiet solitude of his penthouse. Making his way directly from elevator to bedroom, he paused. A soft light was emanating from down the hall.

Stepping through into the main living area, Tony took in the New York night skyline through the huge expanse of glass on the far side, the solitary lamp alight on the table next to the sofa.

And a shadowed figure calmly sat upon it, slowly leafing through a heavy, ancient tome. His motions paused, and the god turned his head slightly, allowing the mellow light to illuminate his sharp features. There was a silence, but it was a peaceful one. Serious and quiet, a calm question. Finally, Tony answered.

Striding forward, he flopped down onto the sofa beside Loki. Pulling the book towards him, his sharp eyes darted over the text. “Hmm, you’re right – this is invaluable. It approaches it from an angle we never thought of before.” Tony flipped over the page, furrowing his brow as his mind raced with possibilities. “We could- no, they would never react, the cores are too incompatible. But maybe…” he turned back over to the previous page. “If we could find a medium to channel the current through, one that would be habitable to both cores – it might just provide a suitable environment for them to bind together without autolysis of the biological component…”

Tony rambled on, Loki offering insight and ideas as he listened, a flow of words and concepts passing between the two as they worked on into the night. At some point after a few glasses of wine, they moved down into the lab to conjure illusions alongside projected holograms, the two working in perfect harmony.

And when Tony woke up the next morning, equations automatically spilling from his lips, he was surprised to find himself tucked up in his bed.

He could have sworn he had drifted off to sleep in his workshop.