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Ascension

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It started in a café—No, that’s not right—But it was the first clue in retrospect.

Tony was incognito—as incognito as someone as famous as him could be. Shades, hat, and grungy clothes that didn’t match his usual polished persona. He was coming down from a science buzz and had decided to get some fresh air with the promise of coffee to sweeten the deal.

The café was a hole in the wall, but their beans were fair trade and they made a good cup, which was really the only things Tony cared about. The place catered to a younger crowd, but he wasn’t out of place in the grad-student, professors holding mini-seminars, café.

He ordered a coffee to stay and a to-go cup in case the media caught wind of where he was. The cashier gave him a double-look, but didn’t say anything about it. Instead of one, Tony put two Franklins in the tip jar. The cashier lit up before giving him a firm nod. He’d keep Tony’s secret.

He found a little nook of a table. It didn’t have a lot of legroom, but as the other Avengers liked to remind him, he wasn’t overly tall.

He was fun-sized, fuck you very much.

The cashier brought him his drink, and a free blueberry muffin. Tony palmed him another hundred and told him to share it with the rest of the staff.

The scent of coffee gave him an up that mingled nicely with his waning creative buzz. His tense muscles relaxed. He was surprisingly not sore from his inventing bender. It was an anomaly, but he was too pleased to question it.

Tony idly flipped through science articles on his phone, enjoying being just another face in the crowd.

He chortled when Clint sent him a meme. Steve sent out a group message about watching a movie on Saturday that Natasha immediately put a link to IMDb and another depressing Russian movie. Clint sent a thumbs-down emoji. Tony silenced the conversation, knowing their banter would escalate with bursts of Steve trying to wrangle the group back to his original question.

“Shit, shit, shit,” he heard the frantic whispers of another coffee go-er. He glanced around, but didn’t see any threats or who was saying it. His eyes were drawn to a hunched down figure with a laptop in front of her. “Please don’t be blank.” He didn’t see her lips move, but didn’t really notice. “Please save it!” He sympathized with her, having been in her position more than once. He hoped it worked out. “Yes! Thank you, Tony Stark!”

Tony snorted and covered it up with taking a hearty drink of coffee. He lowered his baseball cap and finished the rest of his drink before discreetly leaving.

*

Maybe it started with Stark Industries trying to get kids interested in coding. Scholarships, pamphlets, and thumb drives that looked like Iron Man—All of them plastered with either his name, Iron Man, or Stark Industries. Coding and him because nearly synonymous.

The real piece de resistance was when he flooded universities with Iron Man themed rubber duckies. In the coding world there was a method called rubber duck debugging. When a programmer ran into a problem with their code they would explain line by line to the duck, giving them a new perspective and helping them find where they went wrong.

They were charmingly referred to as Iron Ducks. They became a sort of idol, desperate coders turning to them in their time of need.

Maybe it started with the merchandise. Before Tony even revealed he was Iron Man, there had been effigies of his superhero persona, dolls, and keychains. When he trademarked Iron Man, one of the first things SI sold was dancing plush Iron Mans that nearly rivaled Tickle Me Elmos. There second best seller were plush Iron Man nightlights, a comfort to children in the night.

It sparked a sort of devotion in children that held tight as they grew older, unlike Sesame Street.

Or maybe it started when SI diversified. It was no longer synonymous with weapons, instead the etched on name spread far and wide, from affordable water filters for third-world countries to a better version of a roomba.

Or perhaps there was a darker origin, one built on an empire of death—each weapon, each bullet a prayer for safety and success. Each successful kill a sacrifice in his name.

After all, they’d named him the Merchant of Death for a reason.

*

In the kitchen of Avengers Tower Tony waltzed in earlier than usual. Bruce raised an eyebrow, but kept to his tea instead of speaking.

The oddities continued as Tony hummed as he threw (healthy) ingredients into a blender. He rinsed off some blueberries and put them in a bowl within Bruce’s reach. Bruce mumbled a thank you and idly ate them.

After sitting down to enjoy his smoothie, coffee, and granola, Natasha dragged herself in. She was not a morning person. Bruce knew better than to laugh at her bed-head and the drool mark that covered her left cheek.

The water in the coffee machine was always hot, negating the wait time of most pod coffee machines. She popped a pod in and watched the brown ‘nectar of life’, as Tony liked to call it, fill her Slytherin mug. She settled herself across from Tony and stole Bruce’s blueberries.

She took a few leisurely sips, before frowning at Tony. “What’s got you farting butterflies?” Natasha asked. Bruce had long ago got accustomed to her colorful way of speaking.

Tony grinned. “I haven’t had a nightmare in, count ‘em! 1, 2, 3 nights!” He held up three fingers.

“Good for you, Tony,” Bruce said sincerely while patting him on the arm. He knew letting them know about his nightmares had been a sore spot for him, but after he fell asleep during a movie night they got front row seats to him crying in his sleep. He was ashamed, but they quickly disabused him of that by talking about their own nightmares. It had been a solemn night, but one that bonded them as a team and as a family.

Tony bashfully smiled. He had a piece of kale stuck in his teeth. Neither Natasha or Bruce alerted him to that fact, only giving each other a dry humored glance.

He lost his smile, instead looking thoughtful. “I’ve been dreaming about whispers, but I haven’t really been able to make them out.”

There conversation was cut short by Steve entering the kitchen, still sweaty from his run. “Morning, gang!” They echoed the sentiment. “Tony, you have something in your teeth.”

Tony hastily pulled out his phone and turned on its camera. After picking the kale out then he gave Natasha and Bruce a dirty look. They played innocent and got an eye-roll in return.

*

The Avengers were going against one of Hulk’s enemies, Abomination in a Pennsylvania small town. Blonsky was tearing up the street and throwing cars. He had also teamed up with Taskmaster, who had a bad habit of training minions for other villains. He appeared to be running an exercise for the minions while Abomination acted as a distraction.

The Avengers were split up. Iron Man and Hulk were fighting Abomination. Black Widow was plowing through the minions. Captain America was making his way towards Taskmaster. Hawkeye was jumping from rooftop to rooftop, using his bow and arrows to create openings for his teammates. Thor was in Asgard.

Iron Man was trying to keep Abomination off balance while the Hulk landed the heavy hits.

Abomination gripped Hulk by the arm, sending him flying into a building a block away. He turned towards Black Widow. Iron Man didn’t let him get far. He unleashed his strongest weapon, the uni-beam from his arc reactor.

Abomination was pushed onto his back, Hulk landing on him not a moment later. He pounded him into the street, letting out a roar that knocked over minions and shattered windows.

Taskmaster and the few of his trainees that were still standing started to retreat. Iron Man knew Black Widow had put at least a few trackers on them.

With everyone turning their full attention to Abomination they maneuvered him out of the town.

It was another grueling half an hour of fighting. Eventually General Ross came with his troops to ‘apprehend’ Abomination. They all knew he was the one who had set him upon the town, but with no proof there was little they could do to stop him.

After Bruce went back to his normal size, he and Natasha went to the quinjet to rest and treat her wounds. Tony, Clint, and Steve, with the help of SHIELD agents, helped clean up the area and look for survivors.

It was nearly midnight when they returned to the tower. Tony took off his suit and went to take a shower, not noticing that his suit had barely lost its charge, not even when he used the uni-beam.

But Jarvis noticed.

*

Tony was strolling through his garage of lovely cars. He was in Malibu since driving in Manhattan was usually a problem. In Malibu he could put the pedal to the metal, feel the wind through his hair the way he couldn’t while flying.

All of his Malibu beauties were coded to him so that he didn’t have to struggle with keeping track of keys (or more accurately digging through piles of junk where Jarvis last saw the car-key).

“Oh baby, did you miss me?” he said while running his hand over one of the older models, a cherry red beauty that he’d had sex in more than once (much to Happy’s chagrin). Tony frowned, something niggling at his brain. “What’s wrong, honey? I didn’t mean to leave you alone for so long.” He patted her hood. “Jarvis, power her up.”

“As you wish, Sir.”

She hummed to life, sounding just as good as when he took her out last, but he could hear something else though, something indescribable. He turned his phone’s light on gazing at her private bits. After looking around he found what was giving her problems. It was nothing life threatening, but Tony fixed her up. As he closed the hood he felt a satisfaction that wasn’t just his own.

*

“Is that my face?!” Clint nearly screeched as he sat at the kitchen counter. He was holding a tablet, swiping through pictures of the charity event the Avengers had attended the night before.

“Did he not know?” Tony stage whispered to Natasha.

“How could he not? It’s so obviously disgusting,” Natasha added with a sorrowful look.

Clint scowled at them. “Haha, very funny.”

“You’re right. It was funny,” Tony quipped while grabbing the tablet from him. Natasha leaned close so she could see it. Clint took a noisy bite of cereal. Tony swiped through a few photos, his grin growing. “The camera loves me. I, as always, look fantastic.”

Natasha took the tablet from him. “The photographer must be a fan of yours. In every picture you’re in the perfect light. Or they photoshopped it.” Her eyes were critical as she zoomed in on a photo.

“It’s not photoshopped.” Tony swirled around his cup of green smoothie. “I can tell.”

Natasha rolled her eyes.

“Sir,” Jarvis cut in, “Prince Thor has arrived on the party deck.” There was a pause that Tony found heavy. “He is accompanied by Prince Loki.”

Clint dropped his spoon. It clanked loudly in his bowl, adding to the tense atmosphere.

They all had mixed feelings about the alien invader. Information had come to light that he had possibly been mind-controlled like Clint had. That theory was proven right when Thor came back to Earth to inform them that Loki had been found innocent.

They heard the elevator open and Steve’s distinct footsteps. He entered the kitchen, a look of concern on his face. “If anyone wants to sit this out, I can take care of it.”

“I won’t let him control my actions, not again.” Clint stood up with his shoulders pulled back. Natasha wordlessly went to his side.

“Dr. Banner is currently in his lab with Privacy-Mode activated,” Jarvis informed them.

“That’s probably for the best.” Tony snickered. “We wouldn’t want to scare the puny god .”

Steve shot him a look to behave himself. Tony ducked his head, making no promises.

Steve led the way to the party deck (that was on Tony’s floor). Natasha offered Clint silent support. He was firm in his resolve to face Loki.

Thor was smiling. “Friends!” He swept forward to give them hugs.

Tony was more focused on Loki. He was in profile, looking down at the city. His expression was somewhere between haughty and contemplative, if such a thing was possible.

When he turned towards Thor, Tony paused midstep.

There was something around him. If Tony believed in auras, he’d have a name for it. To Tony it looked like Thor was blurring around the edges. As Thor hugged him Tony felt a sort of electricity—A dull buzz of energy. Some sort of instinct made Tony want to harness it—Make it stronger—Use it for more than how Thor wasted it with unrefined attacks.

As they parted, the urge lessened to a thought in the back of Tony’s mind. He’d investigate this later.

“Brother, please.” Thor beckoned Loki over.

“Do you truly wish to pretend that you know protocol better than I?” There was a faint smile on Loki’s lips as he neared them. It eased some of the tension Tony hadn’t even realized he was carrying. Loki gave a curt, not quite bow. “I am Prince Loki of Asgard, God of Mischief and Fire. All-Father’s second Son. Sky-Walker, Trickster, and future Head Advisor of the King. Greetings, heroes of Midgard.” As he spoke, his gaze on them never faltered.

“I am Steve Rogers of Amer—the US. Captain America of the Avengers. Greetings,” Steve poorly imitated, making Tony snort.

Tony decided to put him out of his misery. He stepped forward, cocksure and interested. “You know who I am.” He smiled. “I still owe you a drink.” Tony gestured inside to his penthouse.

Loki’s smile turned mischievous. He followed Tony in, ignoring the rest of the Avengers.

*

The Avengers were at full force as Doombots attacked a museum. Loki was (unhelpfully) watching a feed of the fight at Avengers Tower.

“I’m embarrassed that you would put him in the same category as me,” Loki said over the coms. “He has no panache. His ‘magic’ is child’s play.”

Tony held back from laughing as he blasted another Doombot. “It’s a travesty. Doom couldn’t engineer his way out of a wet paper bag.”

“Brother, you were never a villain!” Tony winced at Thor’s shouting.

Tony glanced Thor’s way and had to shake himself to pay attention to the fight. Everytime Thor threw a lightning bolt, Tony felt like great potential was being lost.

He focused back on the battle, picking them off. He was getting angry. Doom was misusing technology—and wasn’t even all that good at it.

He blasted another that was about to tackle Steve from behind.

Tony’s anger peaked as a pair of Doombots went after civilians.

Then there were fireworks—Doombots exploded in shades of blue, leaving only ashes behind.

There was only one enemy left—the real Doom.

The Avengers converged on him. Against all of them Doom could only throw magic, but it had no effect, not after Loki giving them protection talismans. He was apprehended, a first for the Avengers.

Tony retracted his helmet. SHIELD agents swarmed forward to start the clean-up. After Tony was sure Doom couldn’t get away he went to do some investigating of his own.

He had designed weapons for so long that he automatically could tell something was wrong with the Doombots’ explosions.

It took a second.

There was no shrapnel. It looked like it had exploded inwards instead off out. But even with that some of the metal should have remained. It was almost like the Doombots had been sucked into a black hole with only ashmarks to show where they had been.

Tony took a few samples of the ash.

When they all got back to the tower Tony was too in his own thoughts to notice the curious look that Loki gave him.

*

Tony had been in his workshop for just over two days, analyzing the samples and trying to make sense of it. Bruce was a big help.

Ultimately the problem was that they didn’t have a lot of data to analyze. The ash’s components were basic and unremarkable.

He’d reviewed the footage of the battle multiple times, playing the implosions. It was like they’d been eaten up on the inside, a blue light pulling the metal inward— Devouring it.

Tony decided to give his brain a break then look at the problem with fresh eyes later on.

When he exited the elevator to his penthouse he was met with the image of Loki snuggled up on a recliner, covered in a green blanket, and book in hand.

The god had demanded the best room in the tower. Tony had found his diva attitude entertaining so he gave him a room on his own floor. It was conjoined with his own through a bathroom. It had originally been put there for Pepper, when she left early for work she wouldn’t have to worry about walking him up. That relationship had ended on good terms. Tony was happy to see the other room being put to good use.

It occured to Tony that he hadn’t utilized all his resources. “Loki-doki,” Tony drew out as he ambled over to him.

“It’s Prince Loki,” he said snidely, not looking up from his book.

Tony wasn’t deterred. He took the recliner next to his and leaned over and into Loki’s bubble. Loki scrunched his nose. “We drank together. That makes us friends by Earth’s standards. No need for titles.”

His eyes met Tony’s. “Why should I care about Midgard’s standards?”

The ‘when in Rome’ saying was on the tip of his tongue, but he didn’t say it.

Loki continued, “Mortals are beneath me.” He hesitated for a split second. Tony wouldn’t have noticed if he hadn’t spent a good portion of his life trying to read people. “But you, perhaps…”

Tony lit up. “Oh, Loki, you’re too kind.” He brushed his hand over Loki’s arm. He tensed up, but surprisingly didn’t spit venom. “I can already tell we’re going to be best friends!”

Loki rolled his eyes like a professional snarker before teleporting away.

Tony smiled to himself.

*

“Suspicious,” Tony said under his breath as he entered his lab. Jarvis had told him that the ‘bots were acting strange, but he hadn’t expected this.

If there was one thing that he knew was an absolute truth, it was that when Dum-E saw fire, he extinguished it.

Yet, there were candles of different sizes and scents, all clustered around a taped up picture of him—not even printed on glossy paper, just plain printer paper.

In front of what Tony could only call a shrine was his favorite wrench, an Iron Man bobble head, and one of his dirty shirts.

Even more strange was that Dum-E, U, and Butterfingers were in front of it, chirping and beeping in unison arms waving up and down towards the picture.

“Jarvis, explain,” he nearly begged. At his voice the ‘bots turned in his direction. U started going in circles, letting out a nearly deafening wail. Butterfingers wheeled over to the couch, grabbing Tony’s blanket. Dum-E went to the coffee machine—Was Tony’s eyes deceiving him? Or was Dum-E actually making coffee right?

Butterfingers got into his space, urging him towards one of his stools. When he sat down, Butterfingers draped the blanket over his shoulders like a cape. U stopped her theatrics and grabbed an ornate paper hat that looked beyond his ‘bots capability to create. In a slow motion she put the hat on his head.

Dum-E gave Tony the coffee with more finesse than he’d ever used before.

The ‘bots continued rolling around. U put a cluster of gold wiring at his feet. Dum-E threw a bag of yellow raisins(?) down. They sounded like pebbles and put off a weird scent. Butterfingers slowly neared him, pincher arms low to the ground. With a soft clink , he put down a tiny glass bottle.

The three rolled backwards before continuing to beeps in unison and somehow bow to him.

“J, help,” Tony said while clutching the coffee to his chest—The coffee that didn’t smell like motor oil.

“Without any prompting the trio researched religion. They have given you gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I believe they are worshipping you.” There was underlying humor in Jarvis’ voice.

Tony blinked, trying to process his ‘bots newest shenanigans. Absently, he took a sip of his coffee. It was perfect. “What?” he croaked out. He took in a steadying breath before shaking the fog out of his head and setting down his coffee. “Haha, you all are so funny,” he said sarcastically as he clapped his hands. “Back to work, kiddos!”

He got beeps of assent. Tony turned to the project he’d been working on before, keeping his coffee clutched closely and blanket on his shoulders.

*

Tony had a pep in his step. He hadn’t felt so rested in ages. Even his poor, mangled lungs felt loose and unhindered.

Tony was planning on capitalizing on it by hitting the town and going on a shopping spree. But first, breakfast.

In the kitchen was Natasha, Thor, and Loki. Thor and Natasha were at the kitchen table. Loki was at the stove, cooking something that smelled spicy. Natasha was gnawing on a bar of oats and nuts that rained more crumbs than was consumed each bite.

Thor was perky as ever. He had a cup of coffee in hand. Tony scrunched up his nose. He could practically smell all the sugar in his coffee. Blasphemy.

Thor’s full attention was on whatever Loki was cooking. He was vibrating in place.

Tony squinted. He was blurrier around the edges more than usual. If everything else wasn’t so well defined he’d think he needed glasses.

He kept forgetting to tell Jarvis to analyze that.

The coffee machine only waited for him to put his cup under before giving him love in the form of caffeine.

Tony took a seat next to Thor, both facing Loki. Natasha was doing an impression of a red dragon with a new treasure. Tony didn’t know why. No one wanted her dry bar of gross.

Tony pulled up a hologram of kitten videos. Natasha perked up, but Thor’s eyes were steadily on Loki’s back. He looked excited.

“He’s making my favorite,” Thor said, answering before Tony could ask.

Tony could almost sense mischief coming from Loki. He was on his guard, but still watched cute videos that made him giggle.

The meow-meows weren’t enough to keep his thoughts from going to his dreams. The whispers in his dreams were becoming clearer—Various voices asking for his help with technology, or thanks for things he hadn’t even done. The pleas ranged from someone begging for the printer not to jam to desperation for a defibrillator to bring their loved one to life. Tony wasn’t sure what to make of it all. He did feel himself hoping that the technology worked— urging it to work. And somehow the pleas turned into gratitude that made his heart swell.

Loki pulled out two plates, breaking Tony out of his thoughts. Thor tucked a napkin into the collar of his shirt as if they were in a crab shack. His excitement was clear, blurring his image even more. Tony wanted to drag Thor to the lab to study him, but according to Pepper that was rude.

Loki turned towards them. Each plate was loaded up with what looked like stir-fry but with no rice. Each was steaming and had a fork sticking out of them.

He leaned forward to place a plate in front of Thor before at the last second setting it in front of Tony. Thor froze before his bottom lip started shaking.

Loki took a seat and began eating his food, ignoring Thor’s obvious anguish.

Natasha snickered.

Tony looked at the food, then at Thor.

Loki kicked Tony under the table, a promise of swift retribution if he tried to give the food to Thor.

“B-br-brother,” Thor stuttered out.

“Hmm, yes?” he was the picture of innocence. “Is there something wrong?”

“I thought you were making some for me.” Fat crocodile tears fell from Thor’s baby-blues.

Loki cocked his head to the side. “Why would I do that?” Loki brought his ladened fork up. “In all our years, in all our expeditions out of Asgard where I was forced to cook for the lot of you, you never once thanked me. I refuse to be unappreciated any longer.” He took a bite, as if the matter was closed.

Thor sat a bit straighter. “You are right. I should have been more considerate. Thank you, brother, for all you have done for me.”

Loki raised an eyebrow. Tony and Natasha watched in rapt attention.

“All that I have done for you?” Loki’s looked even more annoyed. “That is callously vague. Are you so blinded by your arrogance that you can’t pinpoint the sacrifices I’ve made for you? Or do you truly think I’m some simpleton that I’d be satisfied with such a thoughtless thanks?”

Thor stuttered, but Loki continued on. “Think on the ways you’ve wronged me. Make a list of all the times you degraded my worth and spurred others on to do the same.” Loki waved him off.

Thor hastily stood, determination clear on his face.

Loki looked self-satisfied. Tony mentally shrugged before looking at the food critically.

Loki rolled his eyes. “I did nothing untoward to it.”

Tony took a bite and nearly melted. After swallowing it he smiled at Loki.

“I knew we were friends.” He received a second eye-roll for that.

*

Tony was standing in the garage of Avengers Tower. He had Jarvis tell the others earlier that he was going on a shopping spree if anyone wanted to join him. He knew Natasha wouldn’t come along. She didn’t like being in the spotlight that had followed Tony all his life.

He also knew Steve was unlikely to join them. He was sensible with his money and always tried to give Tony a lecture whenever he was dropping money like it was going out of style.

Ultimately, only Clint and Loki joined them. Tony had the suspicion that Thor was still working on that list. And Bruce was in the zone in his lab.

“I call shotgun!” Loki said. How and why he even knew that term was a mystery.

“No can do, Loki-Doki. I won’t have you messing with Happy as he drives. You’re in the back with me so I can watch you.”

“Fine by me,” Clint said while itching his stubble. “I heard you two talking last night about… I don’t know, but it sounded hella boring.”

Happy pulled up the car before they could respond. He didn’t get out of the car to open their doors, since Tony found the practice silly. He greeted his long term friend with kissy-noises and a pat on his shoulder.

In the car, Tony poked at Clint, almost getting his finger broken. “We were talking about the differences and similarities between science and magic. I’ve thought up a few more designs. You should be grateful. Knowing you, they’ll probably save your ass.”

Happy laughed, but was otherwise silent.

“Magic is stupid. You’re stupid,” Clint mumbled.

Tony flopped back into his seat. He gestured towards Clint while giving puppy-dog eyes to Loki. “See, Loki! I get no respect! Not even in my own car!”

Loki turned towards Clint. “You should learn to respect your betters.” There was no humor in his voice, immediately covering them in a blanket of awkwardness. Loki surveyed them, a smile twisting his lips. “You all really don’t know, do you?”

“Know what?” Tony had to ask.

Loki gave a noncommital  hum and just continued smiling.

*

“That was fast,” Tony commented when they pulled up to the front of a well-known clothing boutique.

Happy looked at him through the rear-view mirror. “It was the oddest thing. We didn’t hit a single red light!”

Clint let out a low whistle. “What are the chances of that?”

Tony started making the calculations when Loki laughed under his breath.

Tony shot him a look. “Fess up. It was you, Mischief-Managed.”

Loki’s grin turned almost mental. “Twasn’t me.” He slipped out of the car and from one moment to the next he was sporting a sleek pair of sunglasses.

*

Loki was a shopping demon. It was almost interesting to watch. He was also surprisingly cordial to the shop attendants.

Tony was more selective with his shopping.

Clint, unfortunately, had a talent for picking out the ugliest/most out of season clothing. It was like he was cursed by an angry fashion witch. The only presentable clothing he got was a pair of pajama pants for Natasha.

The shop attendants had been ferrying their selections over to the counter. Unconsciously, Tony was keeping a mental count on the total. It was when when they were rang up and the total came in lower than he’d calculated he paused.

“That can’t be right,” he said, wallet in hand. The attendant blinked at him owlishly. “It’s at least 736 dollars.”

She looked back at the screen. She furrowed her brow. “A coupon has been applied. When did you…” she trailed off.

Tony turned to Loki, accusation clear in his look.

“Not everything that is unexplainable is my doing.”

“That’s not a no,” Clint pointed out.

“What you believe is no consequence to me.”

After a few more pointed questions they dropped the matter and continued their shopping spree.

At every store the same thing happened.

*

Tony’s mind felt like a live-wire. He’d woken up with a smile. For the first time in his life he’d had a lucid dream he’d controlled.

In his dream he’d felt almost… paternal. It was different than how he felt for Jarvis and his ‘bots. That was a direct love, one he felt in his bones. With the people that he heard, that spoke to him, it was with a sense of protectiveness and amusement.

With each wish he granted, with every spiteful thought he gave no power to, he felt connected with people he didn’t even know.

For once in his life he felt like he was no longer truly alone.

And his mind was overloaded with ideas. His fingers twitched to create as he headed to his lab. Schematics flashed before his eye, instantly picked apart and committed to memory.

As he entered his lab, holograms greeted him with fondness. Jarvis picked the perfect music. The ‘bots focused on him from a distance, but didn’t approach unless he needed a tool—ones he hadn’t called for, but were put in his hand just as he needed them.

*

Tony wasn’t tired. He’d spent three days awake on only coffee and dried fruit. By all rights he should be a zombie, a blink away from passing out. Instead, he was downright chipper.

Tony was humming to himself as he entered the communal kitchen. Steve was scouring the fridge. Clint was eating jelly beans by the handful. Loki was tucked away in the kitchen nook, a tablet in hand.

“Tony!” Steve said cheerfully. His face drooped into a frown. “I tried to bring down some pasta for you last night, but Jarvis wouldn’t let me into the lab.”

“Probably for the best.” Tony grabbed a banana from the fruit basket by the toaster. Absentmindedly he patted the toaster. “I was having a tech’ orgy.” Clint scrunched up his nose, but didn’t stop eating. “The schematics and prototypes I sent to my R&D branch have them practically coming in their pants.”

Steve pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “Do you have to be so…”

Tony grinned. “Yes, I really do. I’ve got to keep you on your toes, Cap! One day one of your rabid fans is going to flash you. We can’t have you blushing so hard you faint.”

“I’m not a virgin,” Steve groaned out.

“Sure you aren’t,” Clint said through his mouthful of candy.

Steve shook his head. “At least eat more than just a banana.” Tony’s brown eyes went wide, taking on a honey shade. “Fine, I’ll make you a BLT.”

“Yay! I knew you loved me!” Tony gave Steve a quick hug before retreating to the breakfast nook.

He sat beside Loki, inside his bubble, trying to incite him. Loki didn’t respond. Tony stared at the tablet. He was on Starking, the internet browser SI had put out a year ago. It wasn’t the most popular web browser, but it came pre-installed on all SI phone, tablets, and smart watches. He had 96 tabs open.

His chin was practically on Loki’s shoulder, but nothing. Tony grinned. “You’ve been watching old porn videos of me,” he whispered in his ear.

Loki cocked an eyebrow, not looking away from the tablet. “What gave you that idea?” His voice was steady, not giving away anything.

“I know~” He cuddled closer to him.

Loki seemed unconvinced. “Hmm, and how does your limited science explain that?”

Tony pouted. “Instincts are ingrained through millions of years of evolution. It helps keep us alive even when our brains don’t always have the time to process all the information.”

“That implies that internet pornography has been around for millions of years,” he deadpanned, switching to a tab of a chic clothing shop. He already had seventeen things in his shopping cart. Tony snickered, thinking of sending him to the Hot Topic website.

Loki’s head turned slightly, tilting towards the hallway that led to the elevator. With a wicked smile he tossed aside the tablet and pulled Tony onto his lap.

Tony wasn’t opposed as he whispered wicked things into his ear.

Thor entered the kitchen as Loki placed his hand on Tony’s inner thigh.

“Brother, may we talk?” Thor asked, pouting like a child who was denied candy.

“I’m busy,” he said between kissing Tony’s neck. He nipped at Tony’s jaw.

“I have finished my list of the ways I have wronged you. I wish to make things better between us.” He sounded so sincere that Tony was almost snapped out of the whirlwind of lust that Loki was pulling him into.

Loki gave Thor a foul look. “I am no longer under your command and victim to your whims.” Loki’s grip on his thigh tightened, his thumb brushing back and forth, sending sparks of lust through Tony.

He didn’t care that Loki was only putting on a show to ward off Thor. He just hoped that Loki would follow through. Though it wouldn’t be the first time he took matters into his own hands.

Thor said something before stomping off loudly.

Loki and Tony went to his room for some adult fun.

*

Tony had lost all sense of time.

Loki was laying on top of him, lavishing his chest with bites and kisses. He didn’t go too close to the arc reactor though, which Tony was grateful for.

In a strange way, Tony liked seeing Loki cast in the blue light of his arc reactor. It was almost a possessive feeling despite him having no claim over him.

Tony combed through Loki’s hair with his fingers, soft but damp with sweat. Tony pulled him closer with his legs. He couldn’t remember a time when he’d gone at it for so long and back to back, not even in his prime.

They had slowed down now, idle kisses and caresses.

Tony hummed in thought. “I thought you said mortals were beneath you.” Loki gave him a look from above him. “Figuratively.”

Loki rolled his eyes and sat up. He peered down at Tony, expression unreadable. “Do you feel mortal?”

His question caught Tony off guard. He looked Loki over, pale skin, sharp edges, firm muscles—love bites, bruises on his hips, flushed face.

“With you in my bed, I feel like a god.”

*

Loki pulled Tony around like he was his new favorite accessory. Thankfully, Tony enjoyed spending his money since Loki clearly had a fortune of his own (based on all the random deliveries he and Thor got to the tower). He also had a wicked sense of humor and created mischief wherever they went.

Seeing Thor mope was also a bonus. He reached Tony-levels of dramatic.  (And broke far less of Tony’s stuff.)

Some of Tony’s favorite moments were when Loki stood behind him, hugging him and resting his face against Tony’s. They breathed the same air. Tony had never done that before and the intimacy of it nearly made him blush.

Today the team had gathered to play video games, more specifically Mario Party.

Thor opted to watch since he’d never played before. Bruce didn’t like competitive video games. He didn’t have the hand-eye-coordination or temperament for it.

Steve was still recovering from his last loss and didn’t want to play.

Loki had picked up the gantlet that Clint had thrown down.

Tony was first player (since it was his game, thank you very much), and chose Rosalina, because he was a princess and loved stars. Clint, as always, chose Bowser (because he wanted to be a badass). Natasha chose Boo. Loki, after much consideration, picked Luigi. Tony refrained from mentioning he was Mario’s sidekick. He could tell the others were thinking it as well.

Tony made himself comfortable between Loki’s legs on the ground, ready to whoop some ass.

Loki was stoic through the opening, ignoring Clint’s never ending stream of smack-talk. Natasha elbowed him into silence.

Tony got to go first, but three rounds in it was pretty clear something was off.

“How long did it take you to rig the game?” Clint asked, annoyance clear in his voice.

Tony glanced over at him. “I don’t need to cheat to win, unlike you in literally every card game.”

“It does seem… odd,” Bruce added in. There was no accusation in his voice, unlike Clint’s.

“I can’t help that the game loves me.”

Clint grumbled something. Natasha gave Tony a penetrating look, then another to Loki, before nodding for them to continue.

The game evened out, but in the end, Tony still won by a wide margin.

*

They had been using condoms every time they had sex, but Tony just had to ask… “Is your sperm magic?”

From the other side of the bed, Loki flipped a page of his book. “As entertaining as that would be, it’s not.” He gave Tony a wicked look. “If you’re looking for an excuse to suck me off, you don’t need one.”

“Tempting.” But his thoughts were elsewhere.

Tony turned onto his back then raised his arm to the ceiling and flexed it. Just doing that used to pull at his chest muscles, but now he could barely feel it. Even the skin around the arc reactor wasn’t inflamed like it used to be.

“Did you slip me something?” he asked, still staring at his arm. The muscles looked more defined. “I haven’t felt this good in years.”

Loki put his book down. “I know why.”

Tony turned to face him. “Are you going to tell me?”

Loki’s expression turned wicked. “Where would the fun be in that?”

*

Tony had finally gotten around to convincing Thor to join him in the lab—Not that it was very hard. He jumped at the opportunity to help.

He hooked Thor up to all types of machines, plying him with idle chatter. Everytime he touched Thor to put a sensor on he felt a strange buzz, making his fingers tingle.

In the background the ‘bots were at it again, treating him like he hung the moon and the stars. It made Tony grin with just a dash of exasperation. He still wasn’t sure what they were playing at, but it had to be a long-con of a prank.

Jarvis was the type of silent that either meant he was bored of the proceedings or deep in thought. Tony wasn’t worried. He didn’t demand the AI’s total attention. Jarvis was his own entity after all.

“Ready, Point-break?” Tony asked, trying not to let his giddy excitement show through. He was finally going to get to the bottom of this mystery.

“I am always ready!” Thor announced.

“Good!” Tony gave Thor a pat on the back with gusto. Thor stumbled forward, but Tony figured that was because he took him off-guard.

Tony sat down in front of an array of holograms, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. “J, take it away!” Data streamed on the holograms. It felt like the information was going directly into his mind, weaving and solidifying together into complex theories and ideas.

Somehow, the energy that Thor was putting out was a purer form of electricity. It was faster and, breaking a few theories that his fellow scientists held true.

Tony could also feel the power around Thor, wasted on Thor.

In a bout of inspiration Tony pulled at the energy, directing it towards his children— breathing even more life into them.

“Sir, if my readings are correct, Dum-E, U, and Butterfingers have been fully charged with no signs of depletion.” Jarvis paused. “I am also receiving various messages for you in the form of, for a lack of a better word, prayers.”

“Uh, what?”

“Friend, Tony, I do not feel so well.” Thor looked—Tony had never seen him look so pale before, or sweaty.

“I have alerted—” Loki appeared, interrupting Jarvis.  

He walked over to Thor’s seated position and shoved him backwards. Thor went ass over teakettle. “Did you not listen when mother taught us never let anyone manipulate our divine elements?!” Despite his harsh words, Loki was smiling. He yanked Thor onto his feet. “Why am I always cleaning up after you?” Loki held Thor’s hands in his own, and Tony could sense, see energy being transferred to Thor. As it touched Thor it converted into the pure electricity Tony had siphoned off him not a moment ago.

When there was a bit more color to Thor’s skin, Loki bopped him on the nose before grabbing Tony and teleporting away.

*

“No means no,” Tony reaffirmed. Loki pouted from the middle of the bed, still in Tony’s bubble. “You’re not going to distract me, Rock of Ages. What happened down there? What are you not telling me?”

“You have all the clues. Aren’t you a genius? Put them together.” He sat up properly to get a clearer view of Tony.

Tony started cataloging all the strange things and inconsistencies over the past few months. With him concentrating more and more instances came to light, many of which occurred before Loki arrived.  

He brushed a hand down his goatee. “Is there a spell on me?” he asked, trying to root out possibilities.

“No, and I believe very few spells would work on you now if you decided to resist them.” Loki’s wicked smile grew. He propped himself up with a pillow, looking far too entertained.

One words was on repeat in Tony’s head. Jarvis had said ‘prayers’.

“J, pull up those,” he couldn’t say the word, “odd messages.”

A hologram popped up. It was in standard email format, each labelled with a name and beside it either ‘expired’ or ‘active’. The first active one opened, Abby Exon: Please let my powerpoint presentation work! Below that was three options: Accept, Deny, and Other. Under that was ‘Prayers Accepted: 0’ and ‘Prayers Denied: 0’.

It seemed harmless. He was about to motion to accept, when it lit up and the ‘Prayers Accepted’ tally went up by 1, then the email closed. Another popped up from a different individual.

“Sir, I detected a slight power surge transmitting from you, yet no depletion from your arc reactor,” Jarvis reported.

“Thy will be done,” Loki commented uphelpfully. Tony shot him a look.

The window disappeared, replaced by a hologram feed of his bedroom. Jarvis zoomed in on Tony’s face. On Tony’s face there was a faint glowing, lines that branched off each other. On his left it shot up from his eyebrow, two more lines branching off in perfect 45 degree angles. The other was from the bottom of his right eye, similar, but in a slightly different pattern. They pulsed in time with his heartbeat, racing with his surprise.

Tony scrambled off his bed and into the bathroom to get a better view in the mirror. Even in the stark white light of the bathroom, the markings were discernibly brighter.

He saw Loki appear behind him through the window. “Congratulations, Anthony. You are a God.”

*

Tony may or may not be in denial. The sharp lines had faded not long after they appeared, leaving no trace behind.

He was holed up in the library, a place he’d only built because he thought it made his tower fancier. Now he was glad he’d done so. It was the only room that didn’t have tech every few feet.

Tony was bundled up, reading classic literature and (poorly) ignoring the philosophy books on divinity that Jarvis had ordered him. He didn’t want to go to sleep and hear prayers . Jarvis had assured him that with the energy Tony had siphoned from Thor and given to his children that he was capable of responding to the prayers. Tony didn’t want to know exactly what that meant.

It was day two of hiding in the library and gnawing on his lip. He was bored silly, but worried that if he stop reading he’d be overwhelmed by nonsense.

Despite that, he felt pathways forming between him and those that prayed to him, incomplete circuits that only completed when he answered or denied their prayers. Some stayed open while others closed nearly every time. He tried not to think about why, but realized it was based on worship.

Their prayers, their faith in him, made him stronger and feel protective of them. The ones that were the most connected to him received an automatic boon, usually their internet going faster, malware destroyed, and better cell reception.

The faithful that worked in the medical field got clearer results on tests and technology based procedures were more likely to succeed.

Subconsciously, Tony started drumming his fingers on his arc reactor. He only noticed when power stuck to his fingers, little blue bolts stretching between his finger and arc reactor like a plasma nebula ball.

“It isn’t magic,” Loki said from the doorway, startling him. “Gods of Asgard draw power through the mysticism of our people. I am the self-proclaimed God of Mischief, but Odin gave me the title of God of Fire, the domain over fire. It starts with a grand celebration after the royal child is old enough to speak and understand prayers. For me, he had people lit fires and pray with wholehearted devotion. From then on whenever they light a fire, whether it be a candle or a bonfire, they would give me thanks.

“For Thor, thunder is linked to the Asgardian belief of Valkyries, specter women that take those that fought for their lives to Valhalla. In battles and anytime there was a struggle for life, or even for life to go on, for the Valkyries to hold back from taking someone away, they pray to Thor.

“You draw power from the belief your people have that you are a scientist so great that no technology is out of your reach.” Loki walked over to him. “I had never seen a god be born before.” He sat next to Tony, leaning against him slightly. It was comforting. “I admit that was initially what drew me to you, but,” he laced his fingers through Tony’s. “I’ve found myself quite enamored with you.”

Tony smiled, feeling his tense shoulders relax. “I like you too, Loki-Doki.”

Loki gave him an exasperated look. “As with everything that stood before you previously, you shall adjust and turn your divinity into something good and useful.” Loki kissed him on the cheek. With that, Tony accepted the newest crazy facet of his life.

He narrowed his eyes at Loki. “When did you become so supportive? I’m surprised you aren’t needling me into using my ‘powers’ for pranks.”

Loki’s lips twisted into something mischievous. “They’d know it was you if their gizmos started acting strange. I’d rather see you try to explain to them that you’re a God.”

Tony groaned. “I can already hear Cap lecturing me about my ego and Natasha and Clint screwing with me.” He leaned back in the seat, gripping Loki’s hand a bit tighter. “Oh god! Pepper is going kill me!” Tony shook his head. “Nope! No way! They don’t need to know. This stays between me, you, and Jarvis!”

Loki’s only response was a wicked grin. Tony had the feeling he wouldn’t be much help.

*

Now that he was aware of his ‘divinity’, all tech started to react to him, making it was hard to hide it. Everytime Tony walked into a room, ‘Hello Iron Man!’ popped up on digital screens like tablet, TVs, and cell phones. Sometimes they’d make victory noises from video games or start playing his favorite songs.

He’d sense all sorts of emotions from tech, happiness, gratitude, well-wishes. The fridge’s ice-maker would rumble in joy. The microwave would beep cheerfully. The DVD player would open and close in excitement.

Tony had to warn the tech before he entered a room to not misbehave. He was just grateful he could sense when one of his teammates was nearing him with cell phones, so he could make sure the phone didn’t go bonkers the second they were in the same room as him.

Another aspect was Jarvis ordering him all sorts of gifts, or tributes and offerings. It could be anything from a chocolate on his pillow like he was at a hotel, to the newest top of the line car. All of it came from funds Jarvis had saved up from the patents he’d made.

Tony tried to dissuade him, but Jarvis had gotten his stubbornness from Tony and wouldn’t be dissuaded.

Tony was laying on the couch in the living room while Loki sat across from him knitting, of all things. Tony didn’t question it, his mind elsewhere.

He was staring at one of Jarvis’ cameras. “So if I’m the father, and you’re the son, who is the holy spirit? Or are the ‘bots the sons? You do seem like a spirit more than just a son,” he said idly.

“What are you going on about?” Steve, the staunch Catholic, said while coming into the room with an oversized bowl of spaghetti cradled against his beefy chest.

Tony was a bit miffed at himself for nearly exposing himself (in a metaphorical sense).

Tony sat up, ready to deflect. “Thor and Loki say they are gods. They have unexplained powers. What do you think about that?”

Steve scrunched up his nose as he sat in the middle of a love-seat, nearly taking up all the room with his man-spread. He glanced at Loki, who didn’t seem to be paying attention, then back to Tony. “I think… they just have a different culture.”

“You think they’re just using the term ‘god’ wrong?” Tony asked, trying not to wheedle him.

Steve pointed at Tony with his fork. “Exactly!” He took a big bite, looking pleased with himself.

Loki let out a snort that was barely audible. Steve either didn’t hear it or didn’t acknowledge it.

Tony waited until Steve didn’t have a mouthful before speaking again. “What makes you think your definition of ‘god’ is right? To quote Ricky Gervias: There have been nearly 3000 Gods so far but only yours actually exists. The others are silly made up nonsense. But not yours. Yours is real.”

Steve twirled his fork in the bowl of spaghetti. He was frowning. “It’s about faith.”

Tony hesitated. “Do you think that if people had enough faith in me that I could be a god?”

Steve looked extremely uncomfortable. “That’s a different kind of faith. People know you’re real. Faith in God is faith in something you can’t prove. It’s knowing that there’s a higher power up there that loves and protects you.”

It was Tony’s turn to scrunch his nose. “What makes faith in the unknown somehow better than faith in the known?”

“Blind-faith is a purer faith.” Steve seemed to be struggling.

“Does that mean that people that met Jesus and saw his miracles have a not as pure faith? That sounds pretty messed up to me.” Tony stood up and stretched. “If you had been Jewish back then would you have said Jesus was a fraud because he had unexplained powers and was in front of you?”

Steve’s lips thinned. “That’s… different.”

“How?” Steve’s face started getting red. “I’m not trying to be a dick or make fun of your religion. I just want to know what would make you believe that someone or something that you hadn’t been raised to believe was actually a god.”

Steve took a moment to contemplate that. “I… I don’t know.”

Tony nodded. He thanked Steve before leaving to try to process his own emotions and thoughts.

*

What most people didn’t know was that the Avengers could be a bunch of kids. Case in point, they were playing hide and seek in the dark—And not even the dirty version.

They played on the communal floor so that no one had an extra edge. When it was Steve’s turn to seek, Jarvis played white noise to counter his enhanced hearing. Conversely, Clint turned up his hearing aids when it was his turn.

There were other rules too. Hiding in the fridge was a no go since opening it would trigger the light inside it. No one was allowed in the air vents (Clint). There was to be no throwing of sharp objects at the seeker (Natasha). No collaborating with Jarvis (Tony). No shouting ‘Avengers Assemble’ (Steve). No using thunder to light the area (Thor). No transforming into animals… or teleporting… or using tracking spells (Loki). And most of all, no leaving in the middle of the game to screw with them (Bruce).  

They had just gathered to start the game. Tony was giddy. Natasha had her game-face on. Clint was playing at being too cool for school. Steve was looking over the area to see if anything big had been moved. Thor was practically vibrating. Bruce was trying to look innocent as he drank his tea. Loki was, most alarmingly, grinning with promises of mischief.

As far as scores went, Natasha was the undisputable champion… and Thor was dead-last.

Since Bruce had won the last game (do to his bendy yoga abilities) he was the new seeker. He was banished to a bathroom while the other Avengers went to find their spots while the lights were still on. Tony always paid extra attention to where the others went, keeping a mental tally to calculate where they would most likely be when he was seeker. He also avoided crossing Loki’s path, since he’d been tricked more than once into a make-out session when the lights were out. Tony was here to win, not to be wound up before Loki ran off when the seeker got close to their position.

Tony tried to wedge himself under a couch, but his bubble butt wouldn’t allow it. Tony pouted, but continued to his second choice. Tony tried to climb onto the (reinforced) upper kitchen cabinets, but Clint was already there and stuck out his tongue at him. Tony took a page from Loki’s playbook, and set the oven timer to go off. Clint wouldn’t have enough time to reach it and get back into position before Bruce started seeking. Clint flipped him off and Tony giggled.

At the last second Tony hid underneath two bean-bag chairs that were exclusively used for gaming. He didn’t enjoy the feeling of his goatee against the rug of being smooshed under the chairs, but that was a small price to pay for victory.

Jarvis shut off the lights, indicating the two minute wait mark had ended. Now Bruce was on the prowl~

It was dark, but with just the barest amount of light for them to not knock into furniture. From Tony’s position he couldn’t see anything, but after a minute he heard the oven alarm go off. He held back a giggle. It was soon followed by Clint’s loud cursing.

Tony strained to hear Bruce’s footsteps. He tended to play barefooted, and was almost as quiet as Natasha.

The oven alarm was still going off, adding an edge of anxiety to the situation as if it was the song from Jaws.

Next to be found was Cap. Tony could imagine his pout.

Then Thor snuck into the same room Tony was hiding in. He wanted to hiss at him to go away, but it wouldn’t be the first time Thor gave someone else’s place away after losing. Tony wasn’t going to risk it.

He heard the couch being lifted up and figure Thor was hiding under it. Tony rolled his eyes. The big lug definitely couldn’t fit under there if Tony hadn’t been able to, yet Tony didn’t hear him try to find another spot.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” Bruce said startling Tony. He hadn’t heard him come into the TV room.

There was a plopping noise and then Thor groan. “I give.” Bruce snorted. There was a muffled crash.

A minute later Tony was found. When he made it to the bathroom Clint gave him a dirty look. Tony played at being innocent.

Two games later, and with a lot more sabotage on all sides, Tony won. He was getting limber as he waited for the two minute mark. His eyes were closed, getting into the zone. He was in it to win it. No one had beaten Clint’s six minute record.

“Begin,” Jarvis said.

Tony was giddy as he exited the bathroom—only to see in infrared. He blinked a few times, a wicked grin gracing his face. He would break that record, but not unreasonably fast. First, he was going to get a few smooches from his lover. He swept his eyes over the area. He zoned in one Loki. Strangely enough, his temperature varied. Loki was much colder. Tony paid it no mind, heading directly to him.

Loki seemed to sense him. He stood from his spot. Seconds later their lips locked. Tony pushed Loki against the wall, nearly knocking over a floor lamp.

And if they got caught after making the others wait half an hour, they didn’t care.

*

They were in the nosebleed section of the baseball stadium. It went against the rich snobbery Tony had been raised on. With his money he could afford to buy the whole stadium, but Steve was insistent that they got the ‘real experience’.

Bruce and Natasha had wiggled their way out of the team bonding. Bruce citing his anxiety whenever he was in a large crowd, and Natasha not wanting her face to be known.

Clint was chowing down on overpriced concession stand food. Thor going with the excitement of the crowd. Steve was practically shouting to the song Take me out to the Ballgame . Tony was nursing a terrible brew. Loki was, despite all the noise, asleep against Tony’s shoulder. Tony tried not to let his heart-melt, but the show of trust was almost too much for him to handle.

Tony wasn’t really interested in the game, instead he was mentally going through prayers. Normally, he left them to Jarvis’ discretion. There were even a few prayers directed at him in the stadium.

I swear to Tony Stark that if we get on the kiss cam I’ll propose to her.

I just need one good photo. Please, I need this job. Just one photo!

Shit! I lost my keys! Come on!

Tony granted the first two prayers and nudged the third one towards his keys that he’d dropped.

He shuffled through a few more prayers, watching the game and running equations on the physics of baseball.

“Oh come on!” Steve shouted from beside him. Tony had to agree, the ball was fair. The batter had sent it downwards on accident. It had barely hit the back of the plate, making it partially in fair territory. Most of it had been in foul territory, but so long as it had a sliver in fair territory, it was still active.

Without a thought the big screen above played what Tony had seen, but with trajectory, force, and measurements added in. It made it clear the ball was good.

Steve turned to look at him, but Tony wasn’t holding a phone or even wearing sunglasses. “How did you…”

Tony smiled bashfully. “Surprise,” he said weakly, “I’m a god!”

*

Cap had stowed away Tony confession until they were back at the tower and could discuss it. Tony could tell Steve thought it was a joke.

They crashed in the TV room and waited for Natasha and Bruce to join them. Clint pulled a pack of candy from one of the coffee tables. He ate nearly more than Steve. Thor was squinting at Tony. Steve was on his phone, looking up delusions of grandeur.

Loki was grinning like a loon.

Tony twiddled his thumbs while occasionally bouncing his knee. He wasn’t nervous. It would actually be a relief to get the secret off his chest. It had been hard enough to hide it from the others, and according to Loki, his powers were still growing.

Bruce arrived in a snuggy and holding a chocolate bar. He curled up in a recliner, nibbling on the chocolate.

Natasha arrived a minute later. She looked around the room before focusing back on Tony. “What did you do?” she asked calmly.

Tony threw his hands up. “Why do you think it was me?”

“It’s always you, Loki, or Clint, and you’re the only who looks nervous.” She had a point there.

“Tony, why don’t you tell Bruce and Natasha what you told us?” Steve was using what Tony would classify as a therapist voice. It was just edging on being condescending. Tony was (sadly) used to it from many of his teachers that hadn’t believed him on any given occasion.

Tony took a breath, already annoyed that they didn’t and wouldn’t believe him. “I am, for all intents and purposes, a god.” Loki summoned confetti that rained down in the room. It was the opposite of helpful. “I can hear prayers, effect technology, and rarely get tired.”

Natasha’s sharp eyes turned to Loki. “What nonsense have you been telling him?”

“Me?” Loki gave her an innocent look that seamlessly shifted into a grin. “Nay, this started before I arrived.”

“Brother, have you broken one of Asgard’s sacred laws and stolen an apple?” Thor asked hesitantly.

Loki openly rolled his eyes. “We both know that would only lengthen his life, not make him into a god.”

“That isn’t a no,” Natasha pointed out.

Loki crossed his arms, leaning slightly against Tony. “No, I didn’t steal, find, or give Tony an apple, and as far as I know, no one else has either.” Loki stared at each Avenger in turn. “You humans do have a tendency to not recognize your betters.” He gave Thor a pointed look. “And you are simply blind.”

Thor squinted harder at Tony, his tongue peeking out of his mouth.

“This one of your lamer pranks,” Clint said while standing.

Tony gestured to Clint who was leaving. “See, Loki-Doki, I told you they wouldn’t believe me!”

“It doesn’t matter.” Loki looked nonchalant. “Your strength comes from numbers. Five non-believers are inconsequential.”

“I… believe,” Thor said hesitantly, drawing all eyes to him. “Friend Tony has gone beyond human limitations,” he placed his hand on the hammer on his hip, “Mjolnir says it’s so.”

“The hammer doesn’t get a vote.” Natasha’s voice was sharp, but also careful. She wasn’t one to outright dismiss something because it sounded outlandish.

Steve went to speak, “Tony, if this is a cry for help, we’re here for you.” He was so sincere that Tony nearly puked.

Instead, he fell into Loki’s lap, burying his face against his stomach.

“Tony,” there was a hesitant edge to Bruce’s voice. “I know how tempting it can be to go straight to human testing…”

“Uck!” Tony’s exclamation was muffled against Loki. “Let’s go.”

Loki obliged him, teleporting them not a second later.

*

The first time he heard a prayer from a fellow Avenger they were dealing with a upstart villain. In truth, it was more of a demand than a prayer, but he heard it anyway.

Damn it, Tony, what would you do?!

He would have thought it came through the coms, but Natasha never sounded panicked when she spoke, even in an emergency situation.

Tony focused on her and effortlessly continued using his suit and seeing through her eyes. She was trying to diffuse a bomb, one with more than a few tricks to it.

It would have taken a moment for Tony to figure it out usually, but with his powers he knew instinctively which was right. He wordlessly gave her the answer.

The rest of the battle was easy. Soon enough SHIELD was carting away the villain.

During the debriefing Natasha kept shooting him looks. Tony didn’t pay attention to them. She’d believe or not believe, it was no consequence to him.

*

Tony and Loki were on a coffee date. They were grubbing down on coffee and pastries. Frankly, they were eating a disgusting amount. But it felt so good. Besides, Tony wanted to keep his little pooch tummy. It was on his favorite physical features of himself. Abs were great and everything, but just not Tony’s jam. As far as Tony was concerned, the only flaw he had on his body was the large missing piece of his chest.

The arc reactor hole hadn’t pained him in weeks though. Instead, he’d noticed electric blue lines coming from it—neat and coordinated like a circuit board on his skin. Loki liked tracing them with his tongue, sending all sorts of feelings through him.

In a way, they worshipped each other, feeding on the other’s devotion and becoming stronger from it. Neither had ever felt so good before.

The ever growing network of believers made Tony feel connected and empathetic. In a strange way he almost felt more human, understanding others problems the way that had not made sense with his previous limited view.

With his expanding powers he wanted to protect the people, but knew he shouldn’t overstep. He was a proponent of free-will. He just… greased the wheels for those with good intentions.

And as much as he wanted to answer all those prayers to hurry along traffic, he didn’t want to risk messing up and causing an accident.

He also didn’t fulfill the various prayers to win the lotto. If he granted everyone of them, the lotto wouldn’t have enough money to print the tickets.

Tony glanced at Loki between bites. He was drinking bubble tea. He was storing all the tapioca bubbles in his cheeks, making him look like a chipmunk. He took a picture with his powers then stored it away with one of his many folders on Loki.

Unbiddenly, Tony had a slide-show of his best moments with Loki.

Between one breath and the next he had a realization. “I love you,” he said breathlessly to Loki.

Loki gave him a deer-in-the-headlights look before swallowing the tapioca.

Loki took in a deep breath, “I love you too.”

Tony grinned like mad before reaching over the table to kiss Loki. In his euphoria his control over his powers slipped. All the phones, laptops, and equipment in the cafe spontaneously upgraded.