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Loki waits for the slow, steady breathing of sleep. The old codger snores so its easy to tell when he's off to the land of dreams. The young arm candy either needs to slip out or fall asleep soon before she tries Loki's patience. 

But, ah, there it is. The hushed rustle of the bedsheets. The long sound of a dress zipper. She's quick. As practiced as slipping out silently as Loki, though presumably, for different reasons. He waits several minutes after the quiet snick of the door before he steps out of his place in the closet. 

This is the easy part. 

Mere seconds off a mayfly's life. 

 


 

He doesn't bother sending any kind of confirmation when he returns home. The ones who are paying him will find out tomorrow one way or another. If they are sitting by their computer waiting for him... well, it's certainly no concern of his. 

Because he doesn't bother checking, it isn't until the next morning that he receives the offer to kill Tony Stark. An eyebrow raises at the amount but then this is no easy target. 

And the requests are specific, if not difficult. 

Many people have asked that business associates or competitors meet an untimely end. Embarrassing ends aren't altogether uncommon either. Kill my cheating wife or get rid of that bastard and his harlot. People are all pretty much the same. They never change. 

Even this one with its I love him dearly but he's causing too many problems and please make it as painless as possible aren't new when you've been around as long as Loki has. 

The job is risky. 

Loki decides to take it anyway. If not for the challenge then the two and a half million dollar price tag. 

(The whole thing upfront, no refund if he's caught. A job like this? He's not an idiot.)

 


 

Stark's security is better than anything Loki has seen since, well, since. It makes sense that it would be, with the hefty sum he's been paid for the risk alone. 

Stark is paranoid. 

He tries sneaking in with the kitchen staff but there are none. He tries tainting delivered food but apparently Stark never eats. He plays bartender to drug Stark's drink at a party but either Stark has read The Princess Bride a few too many times or he has some kind of warning system for his drinks because he walks out the door hail and hearty at the end of the night. 

In the end, Loki finds there is only one hole. One way to sneak through all these layers of security. 

Every party he goes to he arrives alone and leaves with a one night stand. Men. Women. It seems he has resumed the habits of old full throttle. Loki only cares that it gives him his in. 

The suit and shirt he wears to the next party are chosen to attract attention rather than blend into the shadows unnoticed. Many an eye he catches, but frustratingly Stark's slides right past him.

It doesn't take much to sidle over to the conversation Stark is having. He listens to get a feel before inserting himself, however. It will do no good to place himself in Stark's bad graces because he couldn't have a moment's patience.

"-no money in just giving things away, Stark."

"I'm not saying give it away to everyone, just the people who can't afford it."

"But it devalues the products for the people who do pay for them. This is basic economics." 

The last line is said with the sort of parental condescension of I'm older therefore wiser, listen to me because you clearly know nothing. The murmur of agreement from around the circle and the annoyed look on Stark's face is enough tell Loki what he needs to know. 

This is no argument he's fighting as a devil's advocate.  He fights for his own beliefs, standing alone and expecting no backup. 

Loki can win points by being that (unexpected) backup. 

"Ah, but what you fail to take into account is that for most of the population, money is a finite resource. One already stretched too thin. If they don't have money to feed themselves, how do you expect them to have money for your products? That, I'm afraid, is also basic economics."

That earns him a few dirty looks from around the gathered group. He barely bothers to return a sharp smirk, they are irrelevant except that they have provided him an opportunity to finally get close to Stark. 

And oh, but there is a rare intelligence to his gaze. Oh, no, he isn't just accepting Loki's help at face value. There, in his eyes, is a calculating  mind buried under the facade a man pretending to be too drunk, too wild, too far gone. 

Loki is curious enough to let the evening drag out. And oh, the mind, the mind, he finds on this man. 

It is a breath of fresh air after far too long. 

Such a shame, he thinks as Stark downs whiskey after whiskey. It's no hardship to let himself be led to a discrete elevator near the back. Stark slips a key card in a slot, then types a code in a covered keypad. Loki tries to get a glance at the numbers but can't without being obvious so he doesn't try too hard. 

A man like Stark will have different codes for different reasons, possibly for different doors. There is no point in blowing his cover something that may be useless. 

With the code entered, the doors open immediately and Stark leads Loki in by the hand. He's shoved against the back wall of the elevator by a warm whiskey-flavored mouth against his own. Questing hands spread over Loki's chest, under his jacket to push it away, his moves more steady than the alcohol on his breath would hint at. Not for the first time, Loki wonders how much of the drunkenness is an act, a pretty show put on to distract from something else. 

Loki grabs Stark's wrists to stop them either way. 

"I have no desire to become a peep show for your security staff," he mutters, leaning down to nip and suck at Stark's neck as a promise for what is to come when they are away from prying eyes.

"Private elevator," Stark groans at a particularly vigorous suck. "Privacy mode."

Loki hums, low and deep in his throat. "Is that so?"

Regardless, Loki has no desire to do this in an elevator. From experience, that just leads to more trouble later from unforeseen complications. He has had enough unforeseen complications for one lifetime. 

Fortunately, Stark technology is many things. Fast happens to be among them. They're already at Stark's floor before Loki has to come up with another excuse to get into the actual bedroom. Loki uses his hands on Stark's shoulders to spin him. 

"Why don't we take this somewhere more comfortable?" he suggests with a pointed brush of his fingers. 

"Yeah," Stark says. "Yeah, this way."

From there it is a short walk to one of the doors. Loki makes sure clothes don't come off until he's right next to the edge of a comfortable looking bed. There's a particular item he's going to need easy access to later. 

Stark easily loses the jacket. His vest and shirt follow with a scramble of buttons. Loki reaches for the hem of the tight undershirt. Stark grabs his wrist to stop him. 

"That's gotta stay on."

"I have scars of my own," Loki assures him despite the round object in the center of Stark's chest that is far more likely what he is hiding. It is the sort of reassurance people make though, so Loki makes it. 

"It stays on or you go back downstairs," Stark says firmly. He's tense. Pushing a second time will verge on suspicious and, truthfully, Loki doesn't care one way or the other so he allows his hands to drop away from the hem. Loki moves around Stark's trim waist instead. The hands around his wrists loosen but brush over his forearms as they glide past, ready to stop him at a moments notice. Untrusting.  

Once Loki has his arms around Stark, he slips his hands down and uses a firm grip on his arse to bring their hips together. 

"Then I suppose it's staying on for the evening," Loki concedes. And it's only then that Stark sets in on Loki's clothes. Nimble fingers make quick work of the row of buttons down his shirt. 

Stark is efficient. A warm mouth plays an excellent distraction to the slow peeling away of Loki's layers. There is a point Loki needs to take over, however, lest Stark find the syringe. So Loki kisses that much harder, grinds his hips deeper, and gives the impression of desperation. 

It works because Stark only chuckles and follows his lead when he scrambles for his own belt. Pants, socks, shoes, and syringe fall in a pile conveniently within reach. 

Then they are both naked and there is grinding, panting, biting, ah ah ah I'm- I'm-!

Afterward, Stark pulls him close, kisses him one more time, and promptly falls asleep. 

Loki waits a few minutes, just to make sure Stark is good and under, before he flings his arm over the edge of the bed. He doesn't even have to maneuver himself out of Stark's arms to do it. When they'd moved away from the wet spot, they'd conveniently landed on the side with Loki's clothes. 

He grabs the syringe and uses his teeth to tug the cap off. Carefully guides it under the sheet to Stark's thigh. 

All he has to do is press it through the thin layers of skin and press the plunger. It will take less than a second then a still-sleeping Stark's heart will slow and stop and he will painlessly slip into the eternal slumber. 

But Loki hesitates. 

He remembers the intelligence in those eyes, even falsely dimmed by drink he shone brighter than any in the room. He remembers the plans the man had established for the betterment and protection of the entire realm, even against all the naysayers and opposition who plotted for nothing but to fill their own pockets. 

For the first time in a long time, Loki thinks about his Father's words. 

You think you know what it means to rule?

Loki had. He was so sure he had. 

But now, looking at this man, he truly begins to doubt for the first time. 

He pulls the syringe out from under the covers, caps it, and slips it back into his pants pocket. He's still pretending to sleep several hours later when Stark wakes. 

The sigh Stark releases as he start to extract himself from Loki almost sounds like disappointment but presumably that's because Loki isn't awake for round two. 

Loki lets him sneak out and follows soon after. 

The angry email he gets when Stark decides a trip around The Circuit De Monaco the next day is both expected and not. 

They've left him alone to plan his plans until this point but it seems Stark is getting brasher. They need results soon

(Loki can't help but wonder... if Stark is so set on killing himself, why bother hiring a hitman in the first place?)

 


 

Of course, it doesn't take long for Loki's anger at himself to set in. He has long since given up hope that he will understand his Father's words or meet those expectations. He cannot allow that seed to blossom once more. It is a weed. Like ivy. Once it takes root it will creep into every little crack it can find and wear it away until it breaks him. 

When Loki is angry enough he knows he will follow through the second time, he slips the syringe into his pocket and goes to the birthday party at Stark's Malibu house. 

"Some people ask, 'Tony, how do you go to the bathroom in the suit?'" Stark says, standing on a dais. He makes a face Loki has seen on dogs and babies alike but rarely a grown man. "Just like that."

Loki can't help but curl his lip in distaste. This is not the same classy drunk he met before. This is a stumbling, out of control drunkard. 

Stark only proves his point when he laughs and uses the device on his hand to blow out the glass of the decorative waterfall. People scream. People cheer. 

Loki decides this was a wasted trip, someone will interfere any moment and he will have no opportunity to get close enough. 

And yet. 

The sound of the device charging once more is nearly drowned out by the people cheering but it's there. Someone throws a bottle and it explodes. 

One after the other, people throw objects. Stark himself turns his back, throws and shoots something -- a plate? -- and once more Loki is forced to doubt the blood alcohol level of the man putting on the show. Because it must be a show. No drunk has that kind of aim. 

Loki waits for someone, anyone, to step in and lead away what at least appears to be a drunk wielding a dangerous weapon in a room full of civilians but no one does. Everyone in the room appears as drunk as Stark is pretending to be or they are content to sit back and let him make a fool of himself. Are these truly the sort of people Stark chooses to surround himself with? 

It is the opportunity Loki needs. Something tugs at him. Whispers wrong wrong wrong as he curls his fingers around the syringe to check it, before he makes his way up to the dias and places a hand over an armored wrist. 

"Enough," he says calmly. 

"Pffff," is the eloquent response he receives from Stark along with several boos from the crowd. 

"I think you are done for the night, Mr. Stark," he tries again this time he presses down, lowering the wrist. He takes the mic, flips it off and leaves it on what's left of what used to be a table. Loki has little doubt that Stark is allowing him to put a stop to this but he'll take what he can get. 

He needs Stark alone. He was hoping Stark would be looking for sex but perhaps the offer of support will be enough. A needle will go through jeans as easily as skin after all. 

"Which bedroom is yours?" Loki asks as he guides Stark up a set of stairs. 

"Hmm, sure. Ok. You're hot," Stark mutters, pressing him against the wall and mouthing sloppily at his neck. He's taller this time, the suit of armor adds several inches. 

"And you are apparently covered in your own piss," Loki tells him, making sure to allow his distaste to color his tone as he shoves him away. 

"Ah, you saw that."

"It was rather hard to miss, yes."

Stark grunts but at least he pulls away. Loki wipes at the slobber left behind on his skin. 

"Private floor is upstairs," Stark says walking up the stairs on his own. No longer being lead but leading. "Bedroom is there."

"The whole house is yours, I'd have thought the whole thing would be private."

"You'd be amazed the traffic that goes through a billionaire's home unasked for. Journalists. Business associates."

"Friends?" Loki prompts when that appears to be the end of the list. 

Stark doesn't answer for long enough that they reach the top of the stairs but he doesn't continue into the room. Just looks around it mournfully. 

"No," Stark says finally. "None of those."

Well, never let it be said that Loki was good at comforting. 

"Go shower, Mr. Stark," Loki sighs after an awkward pause. 

He's surprised that Stark does so without protest but, then again, he doubts the urine that is no doubt squelching with every step is particularly comfortable. 

Loki finds himself unsure what to do with himself while he waits. He had not thought he would be left alone in Stark's personal quarters. Stark had waved a hand vaguely at the kitchen so Loki takes it as an invitation to prepare food. 

The first container he opens makes him recoil at the smell. Trash. Trash. Trash. He stares in horror at what he thinks was once an onion but has rotted to the point there is more liquid in the bag than solid matter. Trash.

By the time a throat clears behind him, there is pitifully little left in the fridge. Some leafy greens, several packages of blueberries, strawberries, blackberries. Stark likes his berries, it would seem. 

"I have a maid's outfit, if you want," Stark offers as he drags his eyes up from Loki's arse. It would seem sex may be on the table after all. "I mean, no one's ever actually worn it for cleaning but, hey, first time for everything, right?"

"I doubt I have the figure for a women's outfit," Loki scoffs

"Who said it was for a woman?" Stark asks. 

Loki pauses, glancing at the self satisfied grin that sits on Starks face as he leans on crossed arms on the breakfast bar. He’s changed out of his formal clothes, limited himself to a tanktop and jeans. Loki walks over to lean across from him, intending to mimic his pose on the other side of the bar but he approaches as he gets close. Loki sniffs. Burning. He smells something burning. With the state of Stark’s fridge, he wouldn’t be surprised to find the man had left something in the oven and forgotten about it. 

(Actually, he would, but only because he’d be amazed the man used the oven in the first place.)

Loki leans down, sniffing.

“‘S fine. Leave it,” Stark says. 

“And let us die by glorious fire?” Loki clicks his tongue. “I think not.”

Loki has just leaned down to open the oven, the empty oven, when arms wrap around his stomach and pull him away. He sniffs again. The burning smell is stronger. 

“It’s you,” Loki complains. 

“I always smell like burnt electronics,” Stark explains nosing at his ear. “It’s from the suit. Ignore it.”

So long as the entire house isn’t about to burn down because the fool genius couldn’t figure out an oven, Loki decides not to push. He doesn’t need to get thrown out, after all. He needs to get Stark relaxed. Asleep. He didn’t come here to take care of him, he came here to kill him. 

So Loki lets his head fall to the side, granting better access to the neck that Stark is starting to nibble on. The response is a low, rumbling hum deep from Stark’s chest. A finger traces the edge of his slacks so Loki leans into the chest at his back, granting permission. The same circular object presses into his spine but he knows better than to question it. Let Stark have his secrets. If Loki is truly curious, he can simply look under the shirt once Stark is dead. 

The clasp of his pants is undone with a skillful hand and Loki leans his head back to let it rest on Stark’s shoulder. Stark’s right hand comes up and threads through Loki’s hair, scratching his nails along his scalp as he does. Loki can’t help but let out a groan at the sensation. He barely notices what Stark’s left hand is doing until it slips into his pants to squeeze him. He tenses with a gasp, his hips automatically moving to press harder and seek friction. 

“I got you. I got you,” Stark shushes him. Loki hadn’t noticed he was making noises until Stark had said anything but now he tries to swallow them. The hand from his hair comes down to trace lightly over his throat. “Oh, don’t do that. Let me hear you. C’mon. No one to hear you but me.”

The next noise Loki releases sounds strangled but seems to please Stark nonetheless. 

“There you go,” Stark encourages. The hand on his throat dips down and pops the button on his shirt. Then the next. And the next. All the way down until his shirt tails hang at his sides. He’s wearing an undershirt but Stark rucks that up as his hand creeps upwards. 

The pinch, tweak, pull from his chest and the steady rhythm on his cock is almost enough to distract him from his purpose here. Almost but not quite. Loki shoves a hand behind him, trying to work it between them. It doesn’t take much, Stark has been steadily grinding his hips against Loki’s bottocks and at the first sign of a hand he makes room for that instead. 

Loki doesn’t bother undoing his belt or pants, he doesn’t have the angle for that kind of maneuverability. He just shoves his hands down Stark’s waistband and is rewarded by a full body stutter the moment his fingers wrap around him. 

“Bed,” Loki gasps. “Bed.” 

“Not the counter?” 

“I’ve seen the state of you’re fridge. I don’t trust your counters.”

Stark chuckles. Loki mourns the contact as he pulls away but follows as he’s lead into another room. Once there, Stark starts unbuttoning his jeans so Loki finishes the job Stark had started with his own clothes in the kitchen. His pants with the syringe end up slightly further from the bed this time but hopefully within reach as long as Stark doesn’t collapse on top of him. 

Loki had taken the lead the last time, though it seems Stark has no recollection of the event at all. This time, Stark seems to have a preference for leading, guiding Loki to the center of the bed once he’s stripped bare and eyeing him hungrily. Loki lets him look, lets Stark take the time to enjoy his last evening. Loki throws an arm behind his head, elongating his neck and stretching his spine. He knows precisely what he looks like and just how to emphasise it. 

Fingers trace lightly from neck downwards. At his sternum they make a detour to the side and pinch, tug, twist is back. What matters more is the warm, wet mouth that encloses the head of his shaft and oh, yes.

Loki closes his eyes as he carefully threads his fingers through Stark’s short hair. He closes his eyes but a tap on his hip draws his attention back down. Stark holds his gaze with a distinct air of don't look away as he swallows him to the root in one go. Loki lips part and a quiet haaa escapes him. The sound makes Stark smirk. 

He adds a twist and suction and oh, oh

The muscles in Loki's stomach begin to twitch as he fights against curling into that wet heat. Warm brown eyes hold his, don't look away don't look away, as he coils tighter and tighter. Until, until, until-

Loki lets go.

He flings his head back. His fingers twist in the short hairs threaded through them though he is careful not to hold. His hips jerk once, twice. 

Then he collapses back, loose and sated. 

Stark climbs up from between his legs to hover over him, still hard but patient enough to wait for Loki to catch his breath. 

Loki smirks. 

If it's going to be Stark's last night, he might as well make it a good one. 

 


 

The next day, Stark announces a free energy program for the impoverished and Loki receives another angry email from his employer. 

He has one last chance before they will expect a refund and will hire someone else. 

 


 

The evening of the third party, Loki studies the syringe in his car. 

Wrong, the very fabric of the universe seems to whisper. Wrong.

He slips it into his pocket anyway. Stark's death will be a blip. A heartbeat, a mere blink early. 

You think you know what it is to rule?

And then Loki can move on and go back to his life as before. 

Wrong.

Loki shakes his head to clear the distractions. He has a job to do and he will do it. If only to prove that he is no longer willing to bend to the whims of anyone. If this man, this brilliant shining king who cares more for his people than himself or his reputation, must be a sacrificial pawn to keep the freedom he has convinced himself is his own choice... 

Well. 

Pawn to E7.

Getting in the party is easy as ever. Getting Stark's attention, however, is not. The man is distracted, his eyes sliding over Loki as easily as they do the rest of the partygoers, and while he makes no move to dismiss Loki he makes no move to keep him close either. 

The change is mind boggling. 

Stark had given no indication of recognizing him the previous time, there is no reason he would recognize him now to avoid him. Loki is dressed similarly as before, no different cologne or hairstyle to differ him. The style he had used the first time had worked, there had been no reason to change. 

Did he, perhaps, brush his fingers against the syringe when his hands in Loki's clothes before? Why not bring it up then?

The rebuff is annoying and Loki is unwilling to look overly desperate. He opts to allow for a bit of distance. If nothing else, perhaps it will allow him better perspective. 

And perspective it does grant. 

Stark is clearly looking for something specific tonight. Loki is not the only one being met with a cold shoulder. Men and women alike are turned away. Some after one or two sentences, some after not even that. 

Loki contents himself to wait.

Towards the end of the even, Stark clearly hasn't found what he wasn't looking for. The frustration is hard to see but it's there. Loki pats his pockets, pretending to check for his phone and wallet but truthfully reassuring himself of the syringe's presence (an amateur mistake, unlike him, but the whisper of wrong wrong wrong is distracting). 

Loki makes his way to the now much smaller group of people gathered around Stark, intending to insert himself unnoticed but Stark's eyes dart to him immediately. They study him in a way they didn't before. A slow, calculating gaze that tugs at a piece of Loki he thought lost long ago. 

Stark smirks. 

Loki considers playing the rebuffed maiden. You have offended me and now you must win my affection once more. But that is not his part in this. This is no relationship. 

Loki smirks back and lets Stark lead him to his car, to his house, to his bed. 

He ignores the sense of wrong wrong wrong as he reaches over the edge of the bed for the syringe. He remembers that feeling from before. That part that has been out if his reach for so long. 

You think you know what it is to rule?

He had helped others once. Hold on to their land, their crowns, their power. Thinking it would be his way home. Stark is so different, not only because he has no actual crown. 

Loki stares at the syringe. This feels like a scene from a painting, his head laid on his lover's chest the weapon of his demise held in his hand. 

Loki uncaps the syringe with his teeth for the third time. 

Wrong wrong wrong, the universe whispers.

What difference would the lifetime of one mayfly make to Loki? The only risk here is hope. 

You think you know what it is to rule? 

Loki considers. He lowers the point of the needle under the sheet to Stark's thigh. 

Wrong wrong WRONG 

Perhaps, Loki thinks. Remembering his mother's gentle smile and his brother's brash loyalty. Perhaps he has it in him for one last try.

He caps the syringe, already plotting how to maneuver himself into Stark's good graces. Loki's research indicated he needs a PA. Technically he needs a driver/bodyguard too but the PA is closer to the type of position Loki has held for kings in the past. 

Loki reaches behind him to put the syringe back into his clothes on the floor but is stopped, freezing suddenly at Stark's rasping, "Why won't you do it?"

Loki's eyes dart up to Stark's face, but the warm brown eyes, so brilliant and demanding before, stare flatly at the ceiling and won't look at him. 

"What?" Loki asks, hoping feigned ignorance will buy him enough time to play this off as no, no, you were still sleeping or if necessary it's my insulin injection. 

"I'm paying you a lot of money to do it," Stark says to the ceiling. Flat, uncaring that the words seem to cause the floor to drop out from under Loki. This is what happens when he allows the seed of hope to be planted, he reminds himself. “So why won’t you?”

Loki sits up on the bed and throws the syringe to the other side of the room, as though Stark might make a sudden lunge for it. He's shown no indication of doing so so far but then again, this is also a man that gave no indication he'd paid two and a half million to a contract killer to have himself killed so Loki isn't taking any chances until he decides whether he wants to save him or murder him afterall. 

It's about fifty-fifty at this point. 

"Is this ridiculously complex suicide attempt the result your excess money or is blowing your brains out like a normal person too boring for you?" Loki demands. It is, perhaps, more cutting than Starks deserves but it has been a long time since anyone managed to surprise Loki so unpleasantly. He dislikes it. 

"This isn't a suicide attempt," Stark says, far more calmly than Loki feels it deserves. He sits up so he's at least looking at Loki. Tank top still covering whatever that circular object is, sheets pooling around his naked waist.

"Oh, I'm sorry! I thought that's what it was called when you decide you want to die and then take action to ensure it happens!" Loki shoots from the bed and starts putting on his pants. He is far too naked for this conversation. "What would you call it then?"

"A mercy killing," Stark strips the tank off in one swift movement. 

Loki stares in horror. Embedded in Stark's chest is the arc reactor that most (Loki included) have always believed to be a part of the Iron Man suit. More concerning, are the dark lines creeping away from it. 

"What-"

"Palladium poisoning," Stark says. "It's an... unpleasant death."

"There is no fix?"  Loki asks, coming back to the bed. He can offer little comfort besides his presence. 

"Been through all the elements known to science already. Can't live with it, can't live without it," Stark tries to smirk, to give Loki a cocksure I know what I'm doing, trust me smile, but Loki has been around too long not to see the fear he is covering. 

"Then we shall make the best of the time you do you have," Loki instructs. 

Stark sneers at him, pulling away without warning and rooting around on the floor for his own pants. 

"What does it look like I've been doing? Sticking my thumbs up my own ass?" Stark demands. 

Welllll, Loki thinks but doesn't say. Somehow he doesn't think Stark means literally. 

"But if you die now, all you plan will but cut off. Put in jeopardy by those who follow after. Who will fight your decisions when you are no longer around to defend them."

Stark's eyes narrow in suspicion, Loki has pushed too hard. "What do you get out of this?" he asks. 

"I have my own reasons. Personal ones that won't interfere with yours, I promise you. And if you like, when you get to the point where that contraption begins to be a problem, I will fulfill my side of our contract. You get the most time you can -- to do what you need, to try to find your cure -- and when the time comes, the painless death you desire."

The calculating gleam is back in Stark's eye. 

"Deal." 

 


 

You think you know what it is to rule?
I take from you your powers!
I take from you your title! 
I cast you out!
When you have learned-
Once you know what it is to wear the mantle of a king- 
Only then may you return to Asgard.