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Silver Lining

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Things hadn’t gone as planned for Loki. Not that they had ever had, but being sold into slavery by his supposed father had never come into the picture.

Not even in the worst moments of depression, but here he was now, a slave in the palace of Alfheim.

A bed slave.

In the best moments he was treated as a servant, other times… He had acquired many enemies in the Nine Realms, and word of his new status had spread quickly. While other slaves there enjoyed sometimes even full days of calm in the first months of his servitude there had seemed to be a line at his door.

More than enough to break him.

He had just come out from the room of the latest guest of the palace, drying some fresh blood from his lips, when he heard a familiar voice.

A voice he hadn’t heard in years, and that he would’ve liked not to hear again. Not there.

“… We shall discuss the terms later, for now I just want to rest for a… Loki?” Tony Stark stopped abruptly in the middle of his sentence, doing a double-take when he came to face the god.

Loki froze for a second, and after a moment of hesitation he spun on his heels and tried to exit the room as quickly as possible, only to be stopped by a rough hand on his forearm.

“What do you think you are doing?”

A violent slap almost made him lose his balance, and Loki would have probably fallen to the ground hadn’t the elf been gripping his arm with such strength.

“Apologies,” he was forced to mutter, new blood spilling from the freshly made cut on his lip.

“What the hell is going on?” The mortal inquired, taking in Loki’s completion and their surroundings. He would’ have liked to punch the god in the face himself – it seemed an almost gentle payback for being thrown out of a window – but that seemed too much.

“Nothing that deserves your attention nor your time, Mr. Stark,” the elf shoved Loki to the side to make way for the human, “If you desire, a meeting will be arranged.”

Stark nodded, still rather confused by the encounter, and allowed the rest of his group to lead him to the next scheduled meeting; he definitely wanted to discuss a few things with Loki, maybe get even with the maniac, but most of all he wanted to know if his hypothesis about what had happened in New York were true.

“Go to the human’s quarters. You’ve heard the orders, godling,” the elf kicked him in the sheen for good measure before Loki even had the time to move as he had just been instructed.

Loki reached the guest’s chambers and went inside, waiting on his knees as he had been trained to do. For such training to take roots much blood had been spilled, and his wounded pride could only bask in the fact that it hadn’t been only his own.

He didn’t want to be there. Not at all.

He would’ve rather returned to the latest guest, and that was saying much since his body was starting to get covered in always more evident bruises.

He didn’t want to face Stark.

He had been taken by many of his enemies by now, but somehow this was different; for all those men, all he felt was hatred and disgust, he loathed them with all his strengths and somehow he was able to accept that those lesser beings could enjoy their revenge by temporarily subduing him in the most humiliating way possible, but he didn’t feel that for Stark.

During their short encounter he had been intrigued by the man, appreciated his sass and the banter the human could show even when facing extreme danger, and he had had to admit to himself that he had felt kind of relieved when he had found out that the mortal had survived the fall from his own tower. Not that he cared about his life, but he didn’t like to waste potential, and someone who could humour him was indeed a rarity.

But if Stark was to enjoy his revenge in that way, that meant Loki had also been wrong in judging him, and Loki was past being forced to accept things he didn’t like.

And yet, even though he was feeling his stomach churn at the prospect of the mortal entering the room to laugh at his face and humiliate him some more, there was no way he could avoid that. For how much the prospect of the mortal fucking him out of pure revenge made him feel sick he knew that the alternative at obeying at the order of being ready in his room was so much worse he hadn’t even considered it.

He had already learnt that lesson a long time ago, when the idea of rebelling to his horrid fate had still been alive in him. The third time he had been in the hands of his gaolers for two entire days had managed to suffocate that last spark of defiance residing in him.

Even he couldn’t understand why the thought of someone using him as a piece of meat for their pleasure upset him so much, and he didn’t want to let his mind wander to the fact that when he could still decide of his actions he wouldn’t have minded ending up in bed with the mortal, because there was no way he would’ve ventured down that road.

All that time spent by himself was both allowing to get his thoughts in a sort of order and at the same time to dwell on them way too much.

At least three hours must have passed when he heard the door opening.

“Oh, hey, Reindeer Games, what are you doing here? And why are you, of all people, kneeling?” Stark burst out laughing, closing the door behind his back.

“You requested my presence, master,” he answered softly, as he had been instructed to do. For once he was glad of the fact he wasn’t allowed to look the guests of the palace in the eyes unless specifically told to do so. At least Stark couldn’t see him glaring.

“Master? Is this some sort of joke?”

Loki kept glaring at the floor, his hands neatly folded in his lap.

“Hey, Mischief, answer.”

That was a precise order, there was no way to dodge it, but being the Silver Tongue was not something one could simply forget, “No, master, this is not a joke.”

“This is ridiculous. I know it’s hard for you, but don’t lie to me.”

“I can’t lie,” he said through gritted teeth, “Master.”

“Okay, Lolo, I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all.”

“Apologies, Master,” Loki said quickly, seeing Stark’s feet moving closer on the floor. He hadn’t already started to banter about how he would’ve made him pay for what he had done through the years, but Stark’s approaching could only mean one thing, and Loki wasn’t ready.

He would’ve liked to get to know that man, he had been one of the few creatures in the last couple of centuries who had stirred his interest, and here he was, kneeling in front of the man as a good obedient slave.

If he didn’t want to make things worse for himself though he had to play along, to swallow what little pride had remained him and brace himself.

“Look at me. What the hell is going on?”

No, no he wasn’t ready. Not when the person in front of him was someone he had almost considered at his level.

“Loki.”

He took his chance and kept staring at the floor; he was sure he would’ve paid for that, but he was in way over his head. He could feel the mental breakdown surfacing, stirred only by the presence of someone he had thought he could have enjoyed.

“For fuck’s sake, at least get up.”

What surprised Loki the most was that Stark’s tone wasn’t angry; according to his past experience he should’ve been bent on the bed right now with someone forcing himself inside him, but that could only mean the night would have been longer.

“Tell me what’s going on,” the man requested once more.

“I’ve been sent because you requested my presence, master.”

“What? No, I wanted to know what the hell are you doing here, why you were bleeding and why Legolas over there survived slapping you, not being catapulted into an odd version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

Loki didn’t even realise he had raised his head to try give a meaning to that gibberish.

“Oh, finally. Okay, what the fuck is going on?”

“That is entirely up to you, master.”

“Stop calling me that!”

“That’s the rule, master.”

“Rule. You listen to rules now? And why are you covered in bruises?” Stark came closer, inspecting his bare chest.

“I apologise for my look, master.”

“What? No, it’s not what I… Loki, what the bloody hell is going on right here?”

Stark’s tone was what made Loki eventually snap. He seemed almost concerned, as if he truly cared about the marks on Loki’s skin, and he couldn’t take it. He could take violence, humiliation, all of that shit he had been through for years now, but that false concern no.

There was a line he had to draw somewhere, and mock pity was the point where he had to trace it.

“They mistake you for a genius on Midgard. It’s more than evident what’s going on here, even the dumbest dwarf would see that. And stop pretending of not being aware of it. You requested my presence, that only means one thing here.”

“Okay, that’s more like you. But I’ve no clue. You’ll have to tell me,”

“You even want me to say it out loud?”

“Since I’m no mind reader I guess you’ll have to, Bambi.”

“Did you come here to gloat? From prince to whore, is that what you want to hear?”

“What the…?”

“And stop this little show of not knowing what’s going on, of being surprised of finding me here. You think you’re the first one of my enemies to show up here to get things even now that I’m nothing but a bed slave, deprived of my powers and my very freedom? You pathetic mortal, I’ve lost count of the people who have come here for that purpose.”

Stark was gaping at him. It was clear he was trying to school his face in a more neutral expression, and it was equally clear he was failing at that.

“You…?”

“Yes. A slave, of the lowest sort. Are you happy now? Is your ego satisfied? Or part of my punishment from you is making me tell you what I’m forced to do here? Do you want to listen to the tale of me being turned in something that is even less than a whore?” It was humiliating saying all those things to Stark, and at the same time that rant was the most pleasant thing Loki had felt in what could have easily been years. He was finally snapping at someone as he was used to, as a prince was allowed to do, and even though he would’ve dearly paid for that is was a relief to lash out at someone like Stark.

Until it was not anymore.

The door flung open, and one of the elves who stationed in the corridors to make sure things ran smoothly in the palace barged in, staff ready in hand.

“I thought you had learnt your lesson, godling,” he snarled, hitting Loki in the ribs before he had the time to move away, “Do we have to refresh it? Maybe this time we’ll make it a week.”

The elf tried to hit him again, and despite knowing that would’ve only angered him more Loki couldn’t resist the instinct of crawling away, a hand covering the point where another bruise would’ve soon appeared.

“You little slut,” the guard growled, and he would’ve hit Loki again since now he had nowhere else to retreat to, hadn’t Stark finally came back to himself.

If something was so dangerous to scare Loki into a corner it was definitely wise to get out of the way.

So obviously Tony stepped between them.

“Hey, Thranduil, easy there,” he raised a hand to prevent the staff from descending on Loki once more.

“My apologies for the horrid behaviour of this slave, Mr. Stark. I’ll personally make sure he’ll be punished for the trouble he has caused you,” he lowered the staff and curtly bowed his head.

“What about no?”

“Excuse me, sir?”

“Whatever punishment or other bullshit you’re talking about, it won’t happen.”

“You’re saying he wasn’t misbehaving, sir? That the slave was obeying to your orders?”

“Yes,” he answered promptly, thanking years of business meetings that had trained him to lie so quickly.

“The slave wasn’t answering rudely?”

“Do I have to repeat myself?” He recurred to the tone Howard had often used and that he had always avoided like the plague, but he recognised that it could do wonders when one wanted to be obeyed without question.

“I apologise for the interruption, Mr. Stark. I’ll be in the corridor if you need me.”

“I’d prefer not having someone lurking behind my door.”

“Sir, it’s only for…” the guard was forced to stop under Stark’s dark glare, “Of course, sir. I’ll leave.”

Tony waited for the elf to close the door behind his back before turning around, “What the fuck has just happened?”

“Thank you, master,” Loki was kneeling in front of him, eyes not leaving the floor. It was also clear he was trying to hold his back straight in the right position despite the pain the last blow had caused him.

All the defiance was gone, that moment of stupid rebellion was over, and now Loki would have had to face the consequences of his mindless act.

He already felt sick.

“No, Loki, stop. I don’t want to hear any of this.”

Loki paused for a second, then he nodded and simply made for the fly of Tony’s pants.

“Oh, hey, what’s that? That’s not what I meant, not at all,” he stopped the poor creature kneeling in front of him, almost shocked.

“Apologies, master, I thought…”

“No, Loki, enough with this bullshit. Stop calling me master, you’re making me cringe.”

“Apolog-“

“And stop that. I can’t even hear this from you.”

“Then what do you want me to do, m- sir?”

Tony didn’t know if he had to ignore the sniff in Loki’s voice or do something, like gather the poor thing in his arms and tell him everything would’ve been fine; since last time the god had touched him he had feared for his life to end in a very messy way on a pavement he settled for the first option.

“I want you to tell me the truth. No lies, not even if we’re talking about you. Understood?”

The former god nodded.

“Good. Let’s start from the less crazy shit happened, then we’ll get to what’s going on here: New York, what happened?”

Loki seemed to shiver at the thought, so Tony decided to make things easier for him.

“I’ve been thinking about everything, obsessing over it if you are to listen to my friends or to anyone who had to talk to me in the last years, and I truly can’t understand what your strategy was. I mean, it was a shitty strategy. Anyone could’ve done better than focusing all of their force in the place where the people capable of fighting it were. You could’ve been sneaky, done things without us knowing until it wasn’t too late, and instead you have drawn our attention from the very beginning, as if you wanted to make sure we would’ve followed your every move. What’s behind that? It can’t just be egocentricity.”

Even in the state of almost terror Quennar had thrown him into, Loki had to admit he was impressed for the human’s deductions. It made what was about to come more difficult to him, but his confessions would have been easier.

“I planned to lose,” he murmured, “You were the lesser of two evils.”

When he finished explaining what the Mad Titan had done to him to make him compliant, how he had intruded in his mind to manipulate his actions, and how he had managed to regain that little control that had allowed him to come up with that ill made strategy, his throat felt dry. And he felt raw, more exposed than he had in years during which his body had been on display for anyone who wanted to see.

He was on the verge of tears, if he had to be honest with himself.

All of that, only to end up as a pleasure slave.

“I’ve told you not to lie to me.”

“I’m not lying!” He dared to protest, because he had never been more honest in his life and at the moment he couldn’t even think about the consequences of Stark not believing him.

“This can’t be true.”

“I swear. I can’t lie, they’d know,” his voice started to quiver.

“You lie more often than not for what I’ve gathered from your brother, and all this…” Tony waved his hand, but stopped in the middle of the gesture when Loki seemed to break before his eyes.

“Please, master, don’t tell them you think I’m lying. Please, I swear this is the truth. I swear, master! Please, don’t tell them this, I don’t want to end up in the Cell again, please,” Loki found himself begging, really begging the man in front of him because no, he couldn’t end up again in the hands of his gaolers, not when one of them was so pissed at him and had threatened to keep him in the Cell for a week.

“Whoa, Lokes, calm down. What are you talking about?”

“They train you to become like this, and if you don’t seem to have learnt your lesson, if you keep disobeying them, they do it all again and again, and you have to thank them because they’re helping you not to be a useless piece of shit and to be worthy of what is being spent on you,” he almost gagged on the words, “Please,” there was no way he would’ve been able to stop the tears that were falling down his cheeks, but he was surprised when they were blocked by the fabric of the shirt against which his face was being pressed.

Apparently Stark had crouched on the floor with him, and was now holding him close.

“I won’t tell anyone anything. Now take some deep breaths, good, listen to me. Some deep breaths, follow my breathing pattern, it’ll be alright.”

Loki was debating with himself whether he should’ve listened to the man or not; it wasn’t the first time he broke in front of a guest of the palace, and when he didn’t directly receive a kick for his behaviour or was ignored, they came close to him, reminding in a mocking tone what he wasn’t anymore, that the God of Mischief now wasn’t anything but a crying whore.

This time it felt different though.

Stark’s voice wasn’t derisive, his hands were gently stroking his hair and his back not venturing anywhere else, and his breathing had indeed become slower, as if to to truly help him regain control.

“If you need to blow off some steam, that’s fine, but then you should really start to breathe more slowly, or you’ll never put an end to this attack. Trust an expert in the field.”

That was the moment Loki decided that it didn’t matter what would have come next, what Stark would have decided to do with him later, he could pretend that the man truly cared for him in that moment, that he was trying to comfort him because he thought that what he had endured was horrible and that he didn’t deserve it.

If he couldn’t lie to others he could still lie to himself.

He curled up against the other man’s chest, almost collapsing in the arms that were circling him.

“Okay, Lolo, that’s better. I hope you won’t bite me or something, because in that case I think I’m allowed to hit you back, but if you don’t attack first you are perfectly safe here, so it’s up to you. I think it’s an implicit rule of fighting, or maybe a cultural one. Or it’s something like the ‘hunt or be hunted’, I don’t know. Never been one for outdoors, me. I grew up in a building, the wildest place my nanny brought me to was a park. Oh, look, I’m talking about my Nana with you, who would’ve ever guessed something like this would’ve happened. If someone had told me I’d have never believed them.”

Loki was rather confused by that nonsense, but then he realised what Stark was doing when the pressure on his chest eased a bit: the man had managed to distract him from his panic by talking about whatever came to his mind, and Loki couldn’t but feel grateful for it.

He let Stark ramble some more, drawing comfort from the simple kindness in his voice, and in a short time sobs stopped shaking his shoulders.

“… so that’s how a blender works, basically.”

The man’s train of thought was something fascinating indeed.

“Thank you, “ Loki croaked, wiping his cheeks with his thumb, “I shouldn’t have reacted like this, I’m sorry.”

“It’s not exactly something you can control, Rudolf,” Tony patted his shoulder, not sure whether to let go of him or not; maybe Loki needed a little more time. He would have eventually had to ask him what had brought him there, how he had been sold into slavery and if what he had gathered from his behaviour and his words was worse than he already thought, but that was a question for another moment. He was already feeling sick enough witnessing at his former enemy crumbling in front of him.

Because yes, if that was what had happened to Loki – and Stark didn’t question his honesty on the matter, he had seen how scared the god was at the mere thought he believed he was lying – he couldn’t consider him an enemy anymore. Not more than he could blame Barnes.

Loki had acted on the decisions taken by another, it wasn’t really his fault.

It wouldn’t have been so easy for Tony to discharge Loki of his crimes hadn’t he already been inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt after his many reasonings on the matter; he was kind of prepared for Loki’s confession.

“Okay, Bambi, what about getting up now? The floor isn’t the most comfortable place in the room. Go, uhm, sit on the bed, or whatever,” he waved his hand in the general direction of the part of the room, and took a moment to collect himself before venturing further with his questions.

When he turned around Loki was bent over the edge of the bed.