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sharp pittances of years

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In Tony’s defence, he had no intention of anyone ever finding out.

And of course, knowing Tony’s luck, it would be Thor who figured it all out first.

It all starts with Amora, the bitch, who decides to kidnap Tony to lure Thor out, because, apparently, according to her, Tony is the weak link in their little love kibbutz.

She paces in front of him, hands on her hips, her face cut in a deep frown, while Skurge keeps watching at the front of the abandoned warehouse.

“Why isn’t he here yet?” she demands, in an ugly tone, her entire beautiful face contorted in something horrid and jealous.

Girl, you need a life and therapy, like desperately.

“Perhaps he’s unaware of the human’s disappearance, my love,” Skurge offers.

Amora curses under her breath. She speaks in Asgardian, a tongue too high and too grating for a human to process without their ears bleeding, but Tony is no normal human, and he understands every word she says.

He doubts Thor would appreciate being called the bastard spawn of a bilgesnipe. For all of Amora’s talk of eternal love, she doesn’t seem to have a high opinion of her beloved.

He hides what he’s understood to himself and keeps his mouth shut, refusing to react, content to hang from the rafters like a dead animal in a freezer, because the Avengers will come; they’ll come and save him, because that is what they are to each other.

Amora doesn’t like his face, however; she doesn’t like how placid he is; she doesn’t like how he makes her feel – vulnerable and self-conscious and powerless. He’d been mouthing off to her, as he usually does, a while ago, and she had reacted badly, her face going a blotchy red, and she’d taken her anger out on him, leaving his face a mottled canvas of bruises, all peach and yellow and purpled; unfortunately for him, her fists are just as deadly as Thor’s, only where Thor wouldn’t dream of touching him in anger, she has no misgivings.

He licks off the blood that lingers on the mouth, swallows down the copper taste, like he’s swallowing pennies, and lifts his chin, giving her a steady look.

He bruises and bleeds as any human does, but he won’t die, not with Anubis’ shade lingering between him and anything that would come at him, and he won’t give her the satisfaction of any weakness.

She leans down before him, her eyes needle-sharp, and runs a long finger down the length of his face.

He doesn’t flinch.

What does he have to flinch about?

“You seem too calm for someone I could squish under my boot without any worthy fight from you,” she drawls.

Tony shrugs. “Maybe I don’t consider you a worthy opponent,” he says, loftily.

The anger dots her cheeks with delicate red, and her fingers curl into a fist.

“You stupid little-”

She backhands him across the face, sending him swinging to the side. The pain flares up hot in his cheek, and he spits out the blood that pools in his mouth beside him on the dirty floor. She makes a sound of disgust and takes a step back, as if blood and other bodily fluids is the line she won’t cross.

Give me a fucking break.

He takes a wheezy breath, and the pain fades, the flesh stitching back together. He jerks his head and sends her an ugly, visceral look. 

He’s decided: he doesn’t care what Thor says, or any of his other lovers say; he’s going to kill Amora. He’s going to split her skull and watch her brains spool out on the ground, like he wished he had done to Set all those eternities ago.

There’s a loud, booming crack, like the sky is coming apart above them, and the eyes of all three comically drift upwards to the ceiling which is shaking, little slivers of plaster raining down on them.

“I think your time’s up,” he rasps.

“Shut up,” Amora growls, her eyes flashing.

She storms towards him, grips his throat in an indomitable grip that he could’ve freed himself from if he had chosen to, if it wouldn’t have blown his cover.

“Thor’s going to kill for this; you know that, right? And the rest of the Avengers won’t be far behind. A little perk by virtue of fucking the most powerful beings on this planet,” he wheezes. “The redhead, especially. She’s going to pull your eyes out of your skull. She and Thor have a deal.”

“Amora!”

Amora leans in so he can see the white of her teeth in stunning technicolour.

“Well, perhaps, I should leave a gift for him, if I only have these last minutes,” she bites out, her voice and her face ugly.

She twists, and he sees black.


When he wakes up, Thor is leaning over him, the lines of his face stretched out in worry.

“Tony, beloved,” he begins, earnestly, smoothing back his hair with a big, deft hand. “How do you feel?”

He swallows hard and looks around, and sees Anubis lingering in the shadows, tall and dark and slender, like a predator. He wants to smile, to reach for him, but he keeps his hands by his side. Anubis nods at him and drifts away.

“I’m fine,” he groans, pushing himself to a seated position in Thor’s giant arms.

Thor pauses, stares down at him, unfathomably.

“What?” Tony asks, warily.

“Tony!”

The rest of the Avengers come rushing up, sinking beside him on the ground.

Steve grips his shoulders, checks him over like a mother-hen. “Are you okay, Tony? I’m sorry we took so long to get to you, but Amora and Skurge are in our custody, I promise.”

“Yeah, bitch went down easy when Thor shot lightning at her,” Clint says, casually. “And her fuck buddy wasn’t so threatening.”

Natasha snorts. “Easy for you to say, from your perch on the opposite building. You didn’t have to deal with the bastard’s battle axe.” There’s a bruise blossoming on his cheekbone, already a supple purple-black.

Tony’s brow furrows in concern. He reaches for her, touching her gently on the cheek, where the bruise mottles over the bone. He could heal her; it wouldn’t take much, not even in this mortal form of his. The universe would do as he willed, pull together like a flurry of stars to make Natasha stop hurting.

He should heal her. She’s a part of him now, after all.

But he’s too much of a coward to out himself so completely, just yet, anyway.

“Does it hurt badly?” he asks, worriedly.

If it hurts badly, he’ll fix it for her.

Natasha smiles down at him, a gentle quirk to her mouth. “It’s fine, Tony. Not the first time I’ve gotten a bruise like this. It’ll be gone in a couple of days.”

Tony makes a face. “If you’re sure.”

Clint and Steve are busy reining the Hulk in, as he stomps around, wanting some more playtime in the warehouse before he turns back into Bruce. When he turns around, Thor is staring down at him, grimly.

Shit.

He places a hand on Thor’s considerable forearm. “What’s wrong, big guy?” he lowers his voice, soothingly.

“I saw her, Tony,” Thor says, lowly. “I saw her snap your neck. I heard the crack of your spine. You went limp in her arms; you died, and then, there was light in your eyes again. We must investigate; there’s something afoot here.”

Natasha frowns, wrapping her arm around Tony’s neck so that he can rest against her warm side. “Maybe Amora did something to him.” She turns her attention onto him, then, needle-sharp and unforgiving. “Do you remember anything? Anything suspicious she may have done while she had you?”

“No.” He shakes his head, quickly. “No, nothing.”

Natasha narrows her eyes, as if she’s trying to catch him a lie; there’s a part of him, a very old part, that wants to tell her to save her breath; he’s been lying a lot longer than this planet has been in existence – she won’t get anything out of him that he doesn’t want her to get.

Just as he predicted, her face smoothens out, softening in sympathy, and she nods.

“If you’re sure.”

Thor doesn’t let it go, though, set in his stubbornness. “We should investigate. I will go and speak with my mother. She is most knowledgeable about such matters, especially matters that involve seidr. She will be able to help us.”

“There’s nothing to help with,” Tony argues, gently enough so as to not arouse suspicion. “I’m fine, Thor. I promise. I don’t think you saw what happened properly. I don’t think she killed me. I think she just knocked me out.”

Wow, it sounds stupid, even to him.

“I know what I saw,” Thor insists. He softens, gripping Tony’s jaw with a big, deft hand. “You do not have to fear anything, beloved. I will fix everything that witch did to you. I will not allow any harm to come to you, I swear it by the Norns,” he says, passionately.

Oh, hell.

He loves Thor, he really does, but sometimes the alien’s protectiveness really bugs him.

“I fine, Thor. Stop stressing,” he says, dismissively. He rubs his head just to make sure. “I think she just shoved me down really hard.”

Thor looks like he wants to argue, but Natasha fixes him with a stern glance, just as Clint and Steve and a now de-Hulkified Bruce join them.

“Maybe we can talk about this later,” Natasha says, her voice brooking no argument. “Back at the tower, instead of a roach-infested warehouse.”

Clint shudders. “Yeah, good idea. I fucking hate cockroaches.” He eyes the ground like a speck of dirt’s about to turn into a fifty-foot cockroach and he doesn’t think he can deal.

Tony snorts. “Unbelievable. You’re a bow-and-arrow wielding assassin-slash-superhero and you’re afraid of cockroaches.”

“Hey, everyone’s afraid of something,” Clint says, defensively. “You hate the pressure cooker.”

“The loud whistles hurt my ears,” Tony argues, folding his arms across his chest. “That’s not fear; that’s common sense and self-preservation, okay.”

Steve gives him a cotton-candy-soft look. “Of course, it is, Tony,” he says, sweetly.

Tony eyes him with suspicion. He can spot a half-truth four ater away.

“You’re just trying to make me feel better, aren’t you?” he accuses.

Steve makes a face. “Yeah, sorry.”

Tony sighs. “I suppose I’ll have to forgive you.” He gives the super soldier a coquettish look from under his fine, dark eyelashes, fluttering over his eyelid. “If you make it up to me.” He waggles his eyebrows.

Steve laughs and leans over his body, kissing him hot and damp and firm until his lungs stop working in his chest and his vision goes blurry. He’s hard in his grimy jeans, and when he pulls back, he licks his lips.

“Yum,” he breathes.

His entire body is thrumming.

Steve, on the other hand, is even more affected by their kiss, his eyes hazy, a dark flush on his ears. He looks like he can’t even begin to think words, let alone articulate them properly.

He wonders if this is how Hathor feels, when she goes to bed with someone. No wonder she can’t keep her hands off anyone.

“We should get you up off the ground,” Bruce offers, holding out a hand for him. “It can’t be comfortable down there, and I can check you over back at the tower.”

Tony nods, grimacing a little at the thought of being examined, and grips Bruce’s hand, hefting himself off the ground.

However, the second he lands somewhat balanced on his feet, he blacks out. When he comes to, he’s resting in Clint’s lap, head lying on his firm thighs, while the other four surround him like a concerned television audience.

“Tony, what happened?”

“Are you okay?”

“Can you talk?”

“I thought something would be amiss. This proves that I should consult with my mother.”

Tony grips Thor’s wrist before he can disappear off into a wormhole in the middle of a semi-busy warehouse district, and leave them to deal with the geoglyph that will inevitably form.

They’re always such a mess to clean up.

“Maybe we should give him some room; stop crowding him like a bunch of close fielders,” Clint says, sending the rest of them a stern look. He smooths back Tony’s hair like he’s a baby bird (Tony quite likes how it feels). “You feelin’ okay, baby?” he soothes.

Tony swallows hard and nods, unwilling to move just yet.

Clint’s arms feel nice.

But his moment of peace fades very quickly after that, because Shai is a royal bitch and conspires with the rest of the universe to make sure he never gets what he wants.

Anubis forms into existence, the shadows splitting apart like little bursts of starlight to allow his tall, slender body emerge, just behind the huddle the Avengers have formed. He glares down at Tony, eyes dark and exasperated.

“Hi?” Tony offers, half-heartedly.

He’s so in for it now.

The Avengers turn at his voice, to where his eyes are trained, and their hands go for their weapons, Clint to the knife at his hip, Steve to his shield, Natasha to a gun, widow bite poised, Thor to his hammer, while Bruce leaves impressions of his nails in his naked thighs, skin flowing and ebbing a dull green.

“Who are you?” Steve growls, his voice lowering to a threatening, authoritative edge.

Anubis gives him a look of scorn, thoroughly dismissing him, instead fixing his glare on Tony, who wishes he could fall into the earth and escape this very awkward situation.

“Do you think it’s easy to put your soul back into your body before it reached the scales?” he demands.

Tony winces and reaches for him. “Look, I’m sorry, okay,” he says, pitifully.

“This little jaunt as a mortal is more trouble for me than it is for you,” Anubis grumbles.

“I said I was sorry, okay,” Tony snaps. He stumbles to his feet, squaring off against his erstwhile stepson. “It’s not like I asked to be killed by a psycho ex-girlfriend.”

Anubis glowers at him.

Tony groans. “Oh, leave me alone.”

“If I left you alone, I’d be driving myself insane with thoughts of you somehow managing to pick a fight with Apophis,” Anubis says, snidely.

“Hey, that happened once,” Tony retorts. “It’s not my fault Ra fell asleep on the job. I’m always picking up after you idiots.” He narrows his eyes. “And don’t you sass me, munchkin. I am still your stepmother.”

Anubis rolls his eyes. “There’s only an extent to which you can keep saying that before it loses all meaning.”

Tony snorts. “That’s what you think.”

“Excuse me.” Clint’s voice comes out strangled. “Can someone – preferably, Tony – explain what the fuck is going on here? Who the fuck is this guy?” he eyes Anubis with no small amount of dislike.

Anubis rakes his eyes over Clint, and then the other four Avengers, and his eyes glimmer with disinterest, like he’s looking at all of them right through to their ka and ba and akh, and found all of them wanting.

His dark, pupil-less eyes drift back to Tony.

“Osiris will not like this.”

Tony raises an eyebrow. “Osiris has been in the afterlife for what seems like an eternity. He will never return.”

“He is your husband,” Anubis reminds him, as if that isn’t a fact of his existence that has lingered with him like a shade of death.

“What do you want from me?” he grits out. “Do you have any idea what I have done for him, the sacrifices I have made, the pieces of myself that I have given up? I have mourned him for what seems like an eternity. I raised his sons. I fought for his throne. No more, Anubis. I have done my duty, and I have earned my happiness.”

“You could do better, stepmother,” Anubis says, gently.

Tony hates that; he hates that someone, anyone, even Anubis, whom he’s loved so much for so long, looks at these wonderful beings that he loves and finds them wanting.

“Whom I love, whom I share my bed with is finally my choice. No one else’s,” Tony says, firmly. “You are my son, Anubis, and I have always loved you as my son, but don’t ever presume to question my choices.”

Anubis inclines his head. “Very well.” He hesitates. “Set will not like this either.”

“Set never likes anything,” Tony grouches. “Ra, my life sounds like a shitty soap opera.”

“My condolences,” Anubis drawls.

Tony eyes him, carefully. “I’m watching you,” he threatens.

Anubis shakes his head, gives him a gentle look. “This is just like that boy king, five thousand years ago, isn’t it?” he sighs, his eyes narrowing. “I would not have it end like that,” he warns.

Tony looks down at his feet, feels the sting of grief, but puts it away, because he cannot look back, he won’t ever look back – how could he press on if he kept looking back?

“Neither would I,” he says, simply, his voice growing soft.

Natasha steps into his field of vision.

“I think we need an explanation, Tony. Now,” she says, coldly, crossing her arms over her chest.

Tony sighs and backs away. “Look, it’s complicated, okay,” he says, defensively, hunching over a little.

“That’s what people say when they’d rather just keep their mouth shut,” Clint points out. “You’re not getting away that easily.”

Tony pinches the bridge of his nose. “Fine,” he says, gruffly. He exchanges a look with Anubis. “How the fuck am I supposed to do this?” he sighs, frustrated.

Anubis rolls his eyes. He looks at the Avengers, pointedly. “Are you aware of what you mortals term ‘ancient Egyptian mythology’?” he demands.

Natasha raises an eyebrow at the odd question. “Somewhat,” she hedges.

“Are you aware of the pantheon involved, so to speak?”

“Don’t say somewhat,” Tony cuts in, just as Natasha opens her mouth.

Natasha scowls and nods. “Yes, I am.”

Anubis looks at the others, expectantly, to which only Bruce raises a tentative hand, Steve, Clint and Thor looking terribly lost.

“To be concise, I am Anubis, God of the Dead.” Anubis inclines his head in a show of respect that Tony knows he doesn’t feel. “And the man that you so affectionately refer to as Anthony Stark is, in reality, my stepmother, Isis.”

“Stepmother?” Clint echoes, his eyes going wide.

Tony grits his teeth. “It’s complicated.”

“Bullshit,” Natasha snaps, causing Tony to blink at the unexpected show of anger (he wonders if he’s ever seen Natasha angry, as in really angry, before – he very much doubts he would forget it if he had). “Why don’t you fucking uncomplicate it, then? Because whoever the hell this is,” she stabs a thumb in Anubis’ direction, who simply looks down at it, with a furrowed brow, like it offends his very existence. “He just fucking appeared out of nowhere, and now he’s saying you’re an Egyptian goddess? Either he’s completely stoned out of his mind and you’re buying into his shtick for some reason, or he’s telling the truth. Which is it, Tony?”

Shit, shit, shit.

“Look, can we please sit down for this conversation?” Tony begs. “My head’s still ringing since I was about ready to be embalmed like ten minutes ago. I can’t stay on my feet for that long.”

Bruce is the only one to take a brave step forward, or maybe his kindness wins out over his doubt and frustration, and he holds a hand to Tony, leading to a stray pile of wood against the wall where Tony can sit down.

Tony squeezes his neck, just over the tendon, and it aches. “He’s telling the truth,” he says, wearily, gesturing to Anubis, who folds his arms across his face and nods like he’s silently saying damn right.

Natasha stares at him, careful and weighty. Her jaw tightens. “So, you’re Isis.”

“I am,” Tony agrees.

“So, you’ve been lying to us this whole time?” Steve demands, his face already blotched red.

Tony makes a face. “To be fair, I didn’t lie. Nothing I ever told you about me wasn’t true. I just didn’t tell you this whole other side of myself, but it’s not as significant as it sounds.”

“Keeping something from us is tantamount to lying, Tony,” Steve snaps.

“Look.” Tony scowls. “Can you appreciate that I didn’t even know any of you two years ago? And this isn’t exactly something you tell anyone, even if you’re screwing them, without them wanting to have you committed against your will. I had my reasons; you can disagree with them, that’s your right, but I was protecting myself and I refuse to apologise to any of you for that.”

“You know everything about us, Tony,” Bruce points out, solemnly. “Can you see how this might put you at a slight advantage over us?”

“It wasn’t meant to be like that,” Tony insists. His hands clench and unclench around nothing, as if he’d like nothing better than to reach out for any of them, to feel something solid under his fingers. The world still spins around him. “I never wanted anyone to know. Not Rhodey, not Pepper, no one.” His eyes dart away. “It wasn’t meant for you, this part of me. I was trying to get away from it all. No one ever supposed to know. If only Amora wasn’t such a basket case, I would’ve gotten away with it.”

“You didn’t want us to know this part of you?” Steve says, quietly, his voice thick with hurt.

“I must say, Tony, I too am finding your revelations painful,” Thor interjects, his voice low. “A relationship, like the one that we have with each other, is built on a foundation of honour and integrity. You have proven you are willing to be dishonest with us if it suits your purposes.”

“You’re equating reasonable self-preservation with malicious intent,” Tony says, coldly. “That’s not fair. This isn’t an insult. It’s not a part of me that’s easy to acknowledge, nor is it easy for me to engage in. If Anubis hadn’t intervened, Amora would’ve killed me and I would’ve gone to the afterlife and that would’ve been the end of it. I don’t want to playing this game. I’m tired. I’m old. I’ve given enough. I just wanted a break. This was my break. Being Tony Stark was my break.”

His body feels heavy, like a graveyard.

When he looks up, their eyes are soft, like they want nothing more than to have a cuddle pile right here on the floor of a dirty warehouse, if it’d remove all that pain and hurt from his eyes.

Ra, he loves them.

“I’m sorry if I hurt you. I really am. I didn’t want to. The five of you are everything to me, do you understand? I’ve never had anything that’s mine, not really. I just wanted to keep you without any of this getting in the way.” He shakes his head, hates the way that his chest burns, his eyes prickle. “And it has. Fucking screwed it up, didn’t I?”

Natasha is the one that lopes towards him, her slim toes pressed over his foot. She sinks down onto the wood next to him, curls a hand around Tony’s thigh.

“We’ll deal with this,” she says, solidly. “Like we always do.”

Tony laughs, roughly. “You sure about that? I don’t think this is something that we deal with easily.”

“We’re Avengers, Tony,” Steve chimes in, his eyes soft as he smooths his hand over Tony’s hair. “It’s what we do.”

Tony looks away.

“There is no shame in being formidable, Tony,” Thor tells him, kindly. “You have always been so to me. Now I find you all the more indomitable.” His voice lowers. “I apologise, my beloved. I should not have been so hasty with my admonishment. You are a being of great honour and integrity. I should not have implied that you were not.”

“It’s okay.” Tony clenches his hands around his thighs. “I understand why you said what you said. If it’d been the other way around, I’d have been pissed too.”

“I should not have been so quick to judge your motives,” Thor offers.

Tony takes the big, deft hand offered to him and threads his fingers through Thor’s, pressing it against his chest where his heart beats like a jackhammer.

Bruce takes the seat beside Tony that’s free, bumping his shoulder against Tony. Tony leans into the touch.

“Everything’s going to be okay, Tony,” Bruce reassures, gently. “This, us, this isn’t changing. You still have us. You will always have us. You understand?”

Tony nods, if a little jerkily, like he doesn’t quite believe his words.

Bruce pauses. “Do you still want us to call you Tony? Because we can stop and call you Isis instead. It’s totally up to you.”

“I’m still Tony,” Tony says, quietly. “You can call me Isis if you’d like, but I’ve always been Tony to you. I don’t want that to change.”

I don’t want us to change. You don’t know what that would do to me. You don’t know what I’ve lost. I don’t know if I could lose one more time.

“Okay, then, we’ll call you Tony,” Bruce returns, gripping his shoulder, like that’s the end of that, like there’s no more flagellation he needs to put himself through, like there’s no other trial he must pass.

Nothing in his existence has ever been that simple.

“Did you really give a handjob to a corpse?” Clint asks, suddenly.

Tony grimaces.

The other four Avengers groan.