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Victory or Death

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It was a very long time since Tony had last stood opposite Loki on a battlefield, yet it felt more than familiar as they stared each other down. Loki’s green eyes were blazing with determination to see this all the way through, and Tony knew there was no chance of Loki backing down– and he wasn’t about to surrender, either.

They were at an impasse, their weapons pointed forward– knowing that they both possessed reflexes fast enough to assure mutual destruction, regardless of who pulled the trigger first. Tony knew that if his finger so much as twitched, he would be shot dead in an instant. Neither were the kind to stand down, or negotiate a truce. It would be victory or death, with anything in between impossible to palate– and even the fact that the likelihood lay in the latter for both of them changed nothing.

Lokes,” Tony said, stretching the name with a grin on his lips that he knew probably looked a little feral. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Do not assume that because I love you that I will hesitate, Anthony,” Loki said, his hands impossibly steady, his eyes narrowing to dangerous slits. “I will end you.”

Tony’s grin twisted into a snarl. “I’d like to see you try.”

“Is that a challenge?” Loki asked. “You should know by now that will only make things worse for yourself.”

“You couldn’t do it,” Tony replied. “You couldn’t shoot me.”

“Oh, Anthony,” Loki drawled. “You have no idea of what I could or could not do to you.”

The desire in Loki’s gaze now was geared more than just toward being the winner, and Tony swallowed dryly. Loki didn’t move any closer– his feet remained planted, his back straight and perfectly poised. Yet Tony felt Loki’s presence as if the god were looming over him, and he felt the urge to move closer himself, to take Loki into his arms, and—

But he recognised the distraction for what it was, and he pinned Loki with an even harder glare.

“Don’t try me, sweetheart,” he snapped. “You know that I give as good as I get.”

The tension was at an all time high, both of their breathing a little too quick and heavy to be considered calm. No more was said– they just stood, staring, waiting to see who would be the first to pluck up the nerve—

The sound of two shots cut through the air in quick succession, and Tony gasped as a capsule of paint exploded against his shoulder. When he glanced up he saw that Loki had been hit as well– but Tony knew he hadn’t fired his gun. The paint that had splattered them both was the same colour, a light blue that looked ridiculous against the black padding they were wearing.

Both he and Loki stared at each other in confusion for a moment before their gazes snapped to the direction that the shots had come from.

“You know,” Peter said, his grin irritatingly bright as he lowered his paintball gun. “You’re never going to kill anyone if you keep distracting each other.”

Tony was about to respond, but then another shot rang out– and a splotch of red blossomed over Peter’s chest.

“And you won’t survive if you gloat over every win without checking your surroundings,” Natasha called from behind one of the barricades. “And boys, please. Keep the flirting to the bedroom.”

“Boys?” Loki asked, turning to Tony incredulously. “I am over a thousand years older than her—”

“And looking rather good for your age, considering,” Tony said cheerily, and Loki snorted in response.

“Aw man, this sucks,” Peter groaned, glancing down to the red paint. “I was doing so well. I killed Loki.”

“Serves you right for taking such a cheap shot,” Tony fired back.

“It wasn’t cheap! It was strategic!”

“You chose your moment well,” Loki said, and Tony shot him a glare. Whose side was he on, anyway?

“See!” Peter said smugly. “Loki agrees with me.”

“However, Agent Romanoff was right,” Loki added. “Gloating was foolish. Had this been a real battle, you would have been dead.”

“Okay, yeah, but you would have been dead first,” Peter pointed out.

“Dead is still dead,” Loki said.

“That doesn’t matter, I still beat you guys.”

“And you’re going to lord that over us for the next month, huh?” Tony sighed.

“Well, I wouldn’t lord it over you, Mr Stark, I’m not that cruel,” Peter said, and his voice was solemn enough that Tony almost would have believed it– if Peter then hadn’t followed it up with a– “However, it isn’t every day that I can claim to have beaten a god in a fight to the death—”

“Hey,” Tony complained. “Why is it only him that matters? You beat Iron Man too, is that not as important?”

Loki drew in a breath, his lips pressed tight together—

Ha!” Peter exclaimed, pointing. “You admitted it!”

“I did not—”

“You did,” Loki said, almost shaking with mirth.

“You are a traitor,” Tony told him, lifting an accusing finger and jabbing it in Loki’s direction. “This is betrayal of the worst kind. I am hurt, Loki.”

“I did warn you,” Loki said– finally, finally stepping closer, his hands coming to lightly brush over Tony’s hips. “If I wanted to, I could take you apart right now.”

“Oh yeah?” Tony whispered, his raised hand flattening and coming to rest on Loki’s paint-splattered chest. “I think I’d really like to see you try.”

Loki’s arms curled around Tony’s waist to draw him closer and Tony went more than willingly, tilting up his head in the same moment that Loki leaned down, their lips pressing together in well-practiced movements that never failed to take Tony’s breath away.

Tony vaguely heard Peter’s indignant suggestion that they get a room along with the accompanied retreating footsteps, but Tony was already lost as he buried his fingers into Loki’s hair, the feel of Loki’s lips on his more than enough to make the rest of the world melt away as they fell into their own little bubble.

Later, they would hear that Natasha won the game, which made them feel slightly better about how they had lost. Later, they’d join in the laughter and the light-hearted banter with the rest of the team. But for now, as they heard the final shots in the distance, all that it really meant was that their quiet moment was about to come to an end– but they lingered a little longer anyway, because even knowing that since the training-exercise-turned-bloodbath was over they could return to the privacy of their own room in the Avengers Compound, they still did not want to let go of this moment.

“Next time,” Tony whispered against Loki’s lips, “we’ll team up and take them all out.”

“Then it would be just the two of us at the end,” Loki replied, leaning back only far enough for Tony to be able to see his arched brow. “I suppose it would be interesting to finally see which of us would come out on top.”

“Well, it’ll be me, obviously,” Tony said. “I’m no Katniss, I would have no problems with shooting you at the end to claim victory—”

“Oh, please,” Loki teased. “You wouldn’t be able to best me.”

“Are you sure about that?” Tony asked, pressing closer again, aligning their hips and tugging at Loki’s hair just so– and the combination wasn’t quite enough to draw out a groan, but from the way Loki’s eyes closed and his breath hitched, Tony knew it had to have been close. He smirked as he leaned in a little closer, his lips brushing over the corner of Loki’s mouth. “I know your weakness, after all.”

Loki’s eyes snapped open. “I suppose you do,” he allowed. But then a deadly glint entered his eyes and he added, “But I know yours, as well.”

Tony barely had time to blink before he felt the muzzle of a paint-ball gun press into his side.

“Cheater,” he said fondly.

“Please,” Loki laughed, the gun vanishing once more as he leaned down to brush his lips over Tony’s cheek. “Do not speak as if you were not about to do the same thing.”

“I don’t have magic,” Tony pointed out. “How on Earth could I have done that?”

Loki frowned, but he responded to Tony’s kiss eagerly. Tony’s fingers threaded through Loki’s hair, then he stroked down over Loki’s shoulders– and as he flicked his tongue in distraction, he flicked the mechanism at his wrist before bringing his hand back up—

And the paint grenade in his hand exploded, covering Loki’s hair and even splattering Tony just a little, absolutely drenching his arm– but the look on Loki’s face was so worth it. Loki was frozen for a moment, and Tony used the opportunity to dance out of his grasp.

“You’re going to regret that,” Loki said– and the tips of his fingers began to glow green. That, combined with the crimson paint dripping down his temples presented a rather terrifying image, and Tony turned and ran. His grin was wide enough that his cheeks were aching, and he couldn’t contain his laugh as he heard Loki begin to make chase. They were both laughing as they began the competition anew, uncaring that the rest of the team were finished with the game.

If this had been a real battle, they would have fought tooth and nail to keep each other safe, but a competition between them? Well, all was fair in love and war. They had always kept each other on their toes and Tony loved every single minute of it, but none so much as when Loki caught him, pressed him up against a wall and – only after drenching him in green paint, of course – and then captured his lips in a searing kiss that left Tony gasping for more.

In the end, they called it a tie in about the same moment that Tony suggested Loki teleport them back home– but they both knew there would be many more battles in the future. The game had simply been too much fun for anything else.

And besides– neither of them were the kind of person to be satisfied with a draw. They’d have their rematch– and then? It would be victory or death.

Nothing in between.