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Tony had joined the Revengers out of necessity, at first.

They had some problems with their ship and Thor had pleaded with Tony to give them a hand. He’d hopped on board, only planning to spend a few days there.

But, everything was fascinating. He’d never had such fun. It was like discovering robotics all over again. He enjoyed spending time with Bruce, but, much to his surprise, he also enjoyed his time with Loki too.

Loki was the one to help him work on the ship. He had a better understanding of how everything worked and what he didn’t know, he was curious and determined to figure out. They had fun. Tony actually started to consider Loki a friend.

He didn’t realise how absorbed he was until Pepper literally flew to Norway (where the ship was staying for repair) and told him he’d been there for two weeks. He hadn’t realised it had been so long.

Loki had disappeared to let them talk, and Pepper had sat down on the vacated seat and started asking him questions about what he was fixing. Her eyes had been shrewd as she listened to him talk and gesture.

She was the one who told him to stay, that SI would be fine without him.

And, when the ship was ready to leave a month later, Pepper was the one to tell him to go.

You’re happy here, Tony. I haven’t seen you this happy in years. Go, explore the universe. Help Thor save the realms. You deserve to do something for yourself.

He’d still hesitated, but when Rhodey encouraged him and Bruce weighed in saying he could always come back, Tony hadn’t been able to resist. He’d packed some things, including the suit, and moved on board.

And, it had been one of the best things he ever did.

Loki helped him set up telecommunication with Earth, so he still spoke to Pepper and Rhodey. He signed documents for SI, he got all the latest gossip from FRIDAY, and he was able to explore the universe. It was amazing. He was also friends with everyone in the Revengers. They acted not just like a team, but a family.

It was surreal and it made Tony happy to wake up every day and go see what everyone was doing. He got along well with everyone, but his favourite was Loki. They clicked and worked together so easily. He’d never met anyone he so effortlessly gelled with, and Loki seemed just as enthusiastic about their friendship. A day never went by where they didn’t spend a few hours together.

But, just because they were friends, it didn’t mean Tony wasn’t aware of Loki’s innate ability to attract trouble.

Normally, Tony liked a little bit of trouble, chaos and mischief. Hell, he was just as likely to cause those three things as Loki.

The problem was when Loki’s past reputation got the better of him. Loki was recognised and tackled in a marketplace by the planet's guards who put him in chains and dragged him to the local prison. Tony had been with him and instantly tried to fight back but Loki told him to stop.

He didn’t want Tony arrested too.

Tony had radioed the others and got everyone to meet him at the local courthouse. Loki was to be sentenced to life imprisonment for his myriad of universal crimes. Thor had argued that Loki was no longer a criminal (and as King of Asgard, it was his decision as to what happened to Loki). They didn’t listen.

Tony and Bruce spent about ten minutes trying to sort out the complicated and confusing laws that the planet had (which, luckily, they were allowed access to) but one had stuck out to Bruce and he announced, “Loki’s allowed a visitor.” Tony’s eyes jumped to the passage Bruce had highlighted. Bruce was looking at the large, imposing guard. “He’s allowed to see his chosen advocate.”

“What does that mean?” Valkyrie asked, peering over their shoulder.

“The terms are flowery as hell,” Tony muttered. The planet’s law was written like Shakespearian poetry. “I think… Bruce, does this say what I think it does?”

“Yes,” Bruce agreed. “It’s based on affection. The one Loki loves most strongly will be allowed to visit him.” He frowned, reading further. “Not unlike how family members or spouses can visit intensive care back home.”

Thor instantly turned to the guard. “I am Loki’s brother! I demand to be allowed to see him based on this law!”

The guard frowned. He looked over his shoulder and called to another guard. “Where is the examination?”

Tony frowned. “Examination?”

Bruce was already flicking frantically for a reference. He alighted on it and read it quickly. His face instantly fell. It made a jolt of fear go through Tony. “Bruce? What is it? What the hell is that?”

“It’s like a lie detector,” Bruce whispered. “It sounds sophisticated. It has programmed information it extracts. It can take everything from innocence or guilt over listed crimes to what allergies they might have. It’s obviously intended as a way to avoid bias or lies since it’s used through mind-reading. Either way, it would have extracted what Loki’s emotional connection is to potential visitors.”

“Fuck,” Tony hissed.

It sounded horribly invasive, especially to someone like Loki, who guarded his secrets closely.

They all had to wait as the guard was finally brought a similar device to a tablet (it was the same thing Bruce and Tony were using to try and work through the planet’s laws). The guard began reading over it.

“Well?” Thor demanded impatiently. “Allow me to my brother!”

But, the guard already shook his head. “You are not the one listed.”

Thor’s face fell, he looked like a kicked dog. Thor and Loki had spent a lot of time rebuilding their relationship. It wasn’t perfect, but it was obvious they both cared for each other. Tony would have bet that out of everyone alive, Thor was the one most likely to be listed.

“Who is listed?” Bruce asked, but by his tone of voice, he was as worried as the rest of them.

The guard’s eyes turned to Tony. He gestured at him. “You.”

“Me?” Tony asked, shocked. “What? Why?”

The guard shrugged. “You are his most significant.”

Oh,” Bruce breathed. His eyes were wide. “I was wrong.” He swallowed and looked down at the law. “It doesn’t mean family members.”

“Wait.” Valkyrie said. “Are you saying Loki loves-?”

“Val,” Bruce cut in, sending her a glare and stopping her from saying the words. “Loki didn’t have any choice in this, remember?”

Valkyrie winced and nodded. After all, they had all just accidentally learned something incredibly precious and personal of Loki’s.

Tony was still reeling. Loki loved him. He was the one Loki cared about over all others. Loki had romantic feelings for him.

And while a part of him was completely shocked, another part of him was aware that this was good. As long as he was the one Loki wanted, that meant he could visit the mage and give him something to help him escape.

They could work with this, and then, when Loki was free and they were all off the planet, they could talk about the fact Loki was in love with him.

But, priorities.

“Let me see him,” Tony said quietly.

The guard, unlike all the other times they’d tried to get to Loki, merely nodded and gestured for Tony to walk around him. “You will be led to his cell.”

Tony only paused long enough to give the others a reassuring smile before he was doing as directed. He slipped his hands into his pocket, fingering the devices he and Loki had made and which he never travelled without. They looked like a usb stick, but if you cracked the small crystal hidden within, a burst of Loki’s seidr would break free. It was ideal for Loki when he was in magical bindings and needed to break free. It also would allow Loki to track Tony if he was ever kidnapped or out of contact with the rest of the Revengers.

Tony knew that Loki would be able to escape with this. He just had to get it to him without anyone noticing.

He was led down a series of corridors past a dozen doors before he finally reached a grey one. The guard pressed his hand to a piece of brick, it beeped and the door slid open. Tony gritted his teeth at the sight he found: Loki was cross-legged on the floor of his windowless, entirely grey room. His hands were behind his back while chains wrapped around his body from shoulders to hips. A gag was in his mouth while material covered the lower half of his face. Additional manacles cuffed his wrists and ankles together.

He didn’t seem hurt at least. His green eyes were full of fury (and beneath that, relief at seeing Tony).

Tony stepped into the cell without hesitation. The door remained open and the guard watched him which was irritating, but Tony knelt down on the ground in front of Loki, putting them eye-to-eye. Tony slipped the device into the palm of his hand before quickly bringing his hand up to touch Loki’s arm. He shifted closer and saw Loki’s brow furrow in confusion.

Has to be convincing, he told himself. Have to distract them from my hand. He still had to let Loki understand.

“The guard let me in here,” Tony said quietly, “because I'm the one you love most out of anyone.”

Loki’s eyes closed; pain, resignation and regret visible in the way he slumped. Tony’s heart ached. He shifted even closer and slid his hand down more. Tony pressed his lips against Loki’s hair and down to his ear.

“We’re going to talk about this, but right now, it’s a good thing.”

He moved his hand down and behind so he could grasp Loki’s hand in a parody of affection. He pressed the device against Loki’s fingers and felt them unclench to take it. They would look like they were palm-to-palm and trying to hold hands.

“You’re not hurt, are you?” Tony asked, his lips brushing Loki’s temple.

Loki shook his head and Tony let out a sigh of relief. He pulled back and held Loki’s eyes; they were very carefully blank. Tony wished they weren’t; he preferred to see Loki’s eyes full of laughter, happiness and affection (because it was affection. God it was love, wasn’t it? And how had he been so blind?).

He pushed all of that to the side to focus on the important part.

“Will you be okay?” Tony questioned, knowing that Loki would understand what he meant: will the tech be enough to bust you out?

Loki gave a small nod and the relief made him slump forward, their foreheads brushing. Tony heard Loki suck in a sharp breath through his nose. Tony pulled back just a little, his eyes wide and staring at Loki. There was something soft and yearning in his gaze and Tony’s lips parted, unsure what to do or say.

But there was a clearing of a throat and a rapping on the door. Tony looked over his shoulder to see the guard was frowning with disapproval. A quip was on his tongue; ‘what, prisoner bondage is okay, but you frown on conjugal visits?’ but he swallowed it down, knowing it wouldn’t be fair to Loki.

He turned back, unable to mask the frustration and worry from his face. “They want me to go, and I don’t want to get you in trouble.”

We can’t risk them finding the device on you.

Loki nodded, understanding. Tony didn’t want to pull away and leave Loki alone, but he knew that he needed to. He pulled back his hand slowly, giving Loki the time to curl his hand in a fist around the device and keep it hidden.

“Okay,” he said. “Well, I’ll-”

But, before he could finish, Loki surged forward and pressed his cloth covered lips to Tony’s. Tony gasped, his eyes wide. Loki’s were closed tightly, not looking at Tony as he stole a kiss that Tony could barely feel.

Tony didn’t have to think twice before he pressed his lips back, offering Loki as much of a reciprocation as he could with the material between them. The kiss couldn’t have lasted more then five seconds before Loki was pulling back. He dropped his head the moment he was able, his eyes on his feet and black hair obscuring his face.

Tony’s heart was pounding. Loki had kissed him. Loki loved him and Tony still didn’t know what to do about it.

But, Loki was bound, gagged, and forced to reveal things he’d never chosen to share. Tony couldn’t stop himself from bending down and kissing the top of Loki’s head. He lingered there for a long moment before he stood up. Loki still didn’t look at him.

“We won’t leave without you,” Tony promised, keeping his voice fierce and determined for the guard watching.

Yet, with any luck, Loki would be out of their clutches within the next half hour and they’d be getting the hell off the planet.

But, either way, Tony’s words were true; they wouldn’t leave without Loki. It didn’t matter if Loki broke himself out or they smashed the walls down for him. One way or another, they wouldn’t be leaving without the mage.

The device did exactly what was needed and Loki was able to free himself and put an illusion in his place. He then sent an additional illusion to tell them to leave the courthouse. They put on a show so no one would be suspicious, but the moment they could, they were back at the ship.

Loki was there and he gave them all a tight smile and a nod. He didn’t look at Tony, choosing to speak directly to Thor. No one said a word about what had happened. The tension was thick, but they all pretended it didn’t exist as they hurriedly got the ship into the air and left the planet.

The moment they were free and there was nothing else to focus on, awkwardness filled the air. Valkyrie was looking at the ceiling, Bruce was cleaning his glasses. Thor was looking between Loki and Tony like he wanted to fix it but didn’t know how. Tony was staring at the guidance system and watching Loki from the corner of his eye.

It was why he was the first person to see Loki turn and leave the room. Tony’s head snapped up, but while his lips parted, he didn’t know what to say. He also knew better then to stop Loki. It wasn’t a conversation that should have witnesses.

But, it was a conversation that needed to be had.

Sighing, Tony ran a hand through his hair before pushing away from the guidance system. It was on autopilot anyway. No one tried to stop him and when he entered the hall, Loki was already waiting for him.

The resignation from the cell was still present, but he was also determined. He gestured for Tony to follow him, and he did as Loki requested. The air between them was tense and uncomfortable, the complete opposite of what they normally shared.

He hated it.

They’d always fit so well together and this just felt… wrong. He wanted to fix it; but that was easier said than done. This wasn’t a fight or an argument this was… this was love, and those feelings coming out without Loki’s permission.

Tony was still trying to get a grip on the situation when Loki opened one of the empty storage rooms on the ship and stepped inside. It wasn’t where Tony expected their conversation to happen. He’d imagined the lab, maybe somewhere with a strong bottle of alien alcohol.

He stepped inside and shut the door, ensuring their privacy.

Loki was facing him, his expression drawn and pained, yet beneath that, resolved, “Before we do this, Anthony, I ask, as your friend, for a single favour.”

Tony didn’t have to think. “Of course, Lokes.”

Loki gave a small, wry smile before he took the few steps needed to close the distance.

Tony probably should have expected it after what happened in the cell, but somehow, it never crossed his mind. By the time he understood, Loki was already cupping his cheek and pressing their lips together in a second genuine kiss. There was no gag, no slip of material to hide the feeling of soft lips against his own.

It was longer than their last kiss, and yet, it still didn’t feel long enough before Loki was pulling back. His breath came out in a trembling sigh and he lingered close, his fingertips stroking Tony’s cheek in a gesture of aching affection.

“Thank you,” he whispered while pulling back. His lips formed the saddest little smile. “I’m ready for this now.”

The words were some of the most painful Tony had ever heard; Loki’s expectation couldn’t be anymore obvious. He knew he was about to be rejected and he was accepting the inevitable, and even knowing he couldn’t have who he wanted, he’d asked for a favour.

He’d stolen a second kiss, this one lip-to-lip; a fraction of what he wanted, but the only thing he imagined Tony would give.

And that hurt.

This whole situation had hurt, from the moment Loki got captured and would rather be tackled to the ground, his face scraping in the dirt than have Tony fight back and get thrown into prison too.

When he’d stolen not one, but two kisses using the type of underhanded tactics that came from someone who knew that to ask outright would get a denial.

Tony stared at Loki. The man who had loved him quietly for who knew how many months.

There were so many things he could ask: Why? When? How?

But, none of them seemed right. In fact, only one thing felt right.

Tony closed the distance that Loki had opened between them. The mage frowned, looking wary, but Tony lifted his hand and placed it on Loki’s neck. He could feel the other man’s thundering pulse and his thick swallow.

“Anthony…” he whispered.

When Tony tugged him down, he came willingly. Their lips connected in a third kiss, and this time, Tony closed his eyes and kissed Loki back. Tony’s response made Loki groan. His hands touched Tony’s hips and when he wasn’t rebuffed, he wrapped his arms around Tony and drew him close. The kiss was anything but chaste, it involved firm presses of mouths and, when Tony encouraged it, the brush of tongues and a hint of teeth.

They only broke apart to gasp for breath. There was colour high in their cheeks and Tony’s hands had moved to Loki’s hair. Loki was holding him in a tight embrace that hinted at a possessive need to never let go.

Loki’s nose brushed Tony’s temple before he admitted, “I’m not sure I want to know why you did that.” He gave a desolate laugh. “I’m not sure I am ready for you to break my heart.”

“I don’t want to break your heart,” Tony told him. “I don’t want to hurt you anymore then I already have.”

Loki’s lips pressed to Tony’s cheek in a soft, lingering kiss.

“Then, indulge me a little while longer?” He asked hopefully.

“No,” Tony said, ignoring Loki’s small flinch. “No, Loki. I’m not going to indulge you.”

His tone made Loki go still, he seemed to be holding his breath. Tony pulled back to stare into green eyes swirling with hope and disbelief. Tony slid his hands down to cup Loki’s cheeks.

“I’m going to make up for missing this. I’m going to be with you, because you’re already one of the most important people in my life. Because I like kissing you, and because my heart dropped the moment you were taken away from me on that planet.” He stroked his thumbs over Loki’s cheeks. “I don’t love you yet, but I can already tell that I could.”

It took a moment for the words to sink in, but then Loki laughed, the sound incredulous yet happy. He cupped Tony’s cheeks in a matching embrace and when Tony leant into the touch, Loki smiled. It was a small upturn of lips, but it flooded his face with so much joy.

The kind of delight Tony had missed seeing on Loki’s face (the kind of delight Tony had never seen so much of; Loki had never been this happy before, and that made him squirm pleasantly to think about).

“Yes,” Loki murmured, “yes, I like that far better.”

Tony grinned back, and this time, when Loki leant in and kissed him, Tony wasn’t surprised at the gesture, instead, he was pleased by it, and excited.