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Iron Heart

Chapter Text

He looked down at the broken man in front of him and felt the fear and anger dissipate slightly, a twinge of pity tugged at him and he let his thrusters cool down.
All the fear, all the worry, all the pain, it was over. Yet he couldn’t feel relieved, just lost. He felt as if something inside of him had been taken away, the arrogance, the mirth, all those things that made him who he was stripped away from him by the harrowing fight that had just taken place.
The man sat up stiffly, his limbs nearly shaking with the effort, the man lifted his gaze and locked eyes with him.

“If it’s all the same to you, I’ll have that drink now.” He tried not to let it become a gasp.

Tony felt the side of his mouth twitch; he felt the smirk as he stared back at the man.
Loki, so powerful, unhinged, dangerous. Even in the face of defeat his cool demeanour was still there. You had to admire that.

Loki did not miss the smirk, he liked the metal man, his courage was almost endearing. He had felt the fear coming off him in waves when they confronted each other. Unlike the rest, Stark was not a soldier, a fighter. He was the least experienced and possibly the weakest member when it came to physical combat, but, his genius and tactician’s brain more than made up for it and made him deadly. He had ignored the paralysing fear and made a good show, Loki had been wanting to utilise him, that raw talent for escaping danger, but his blue heart had stopped him.
He would find a way; he wanted that mind for his own arsenal. Had he had that man to help with using the Tesseract he felt sure he would have had a better outcome and he knew the beast would not go through Stark to get to him. That was one encounter he could have done without.

Sentiment, what a pleasing defect in humans.

Stark passed a glass to him, much to the scrutinizing gazes of his comrades.

“What? Can’t refuse a man his last request, can I call you a man?”

Loki narrowed his eyes at him, his lips curled at the edges as he sipped the bitter liquid. One thing could be said for mortals, their beverages were much more tasteful than those of Asgard.
He kept his eyes on Tony Stark, letting a plan form.

Chapter Text

Tony Stark paced the ruins of his tower as he gestured avidly whilst talking into a Bluetooth headset.

“I mean it, take a vacation, when was the last time you had one? Go now before someone else tries to take over the world.”

“I can’t Tony, you need me here, you are going to have so much press on top of everything else that has happened.” Pepper Pott’s voice crackled on the other end of the line.

“I can handle it; you on the other hand, can not.”

“What do you mean by that?”

Tony’s eyes wandered over his tower apartment and swallowed. Pepper had managed so diligently to help him repair it, but she became so distant, so quiet now every time she set foot in here. He understood why, he felt the same about things as he wandered about. The air was tainted in this city with the acrid tang of death and destruction, especially in this area. It permeated the walls and floors of the building.
Tony had not noticed it at first, he was just happy to be alive, but then the days became weeks and it became hard to breathe sometimes, flashbacks would run through his mind and his chest would tighten. Thanks to constant meetings Pepper spent a lot of the time away and he had been able to avoid letting her see. But because of that he was distancing himself from her and was at a loss to how to stop himself.

“Tony? Are you still there?”

“Mmm, oh yeah sorry, I was miles away.”

“I’m not going on vacation.”

“Baby, please…” He could hear the weakness in his own voice and he didn’t like it.

“Tony don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t call me that and act like this.”

“Act like what?” He feigned ignorance.

“You know very well Tony; I think it’s you who needs a vacation.”

“No, I’m fine here, but I hate seeing you here, where it all happened. I know what it does to you.”

“Me?” She sounded exasperated. “What about you? Tony, you nearly died! You need a break.”

“So do you.”

“Then let’s take a break together, at the very least?”

“No.” He said a little too quickly. “I mean…”

Pepper’s voice went cold. “What’s happening to us?”

“Nothing, I mean, I don’t know?” He winced at his words.

“Tony stop it, listen, if you want some time alone I understand, but please just talk to me.”

“I can’t honey, I just can’t.”

“I see, I hate seeing you like this Tony, you need time to heal, I’m not coming home until you figure this out, please take a break. Call me when you’re ready to talk.”

“Pepper I love-“ He tried to say, but she had already hung up.

He sighed and let his arms fall loosely to the sides, what on earth was he doing? He went over to the bar and gripped the sides of it, he could feel it coming, his arms were shaking and his knuckles went white as his chest constricted like there was a snake coiled around his lungs and heart. A snake with a green cape and a stupid helmet. He laughed at the thought but it came out as a gasping sob and he felt his knees start to buckle. He shut his eyes tight and begged anyone, anything, not to let him have an attack and realised he had nothing up here, not even a Xanax.

“Jarvis, do something, talk to me quick!” He shouted. No answer. “Jarvis? Ahh!” He clutched at his reactor embedded in his chest. “Oh God oh God oh God.”

“Yes?’ Floated a soft purring voice from across the room and Tony stopped breathing.

He buried his head into the marble and wood of the bar. “Oh God please it’s not real, it’s not real.”

“I assure you, it is real.”

The voice was closer now and Tony felt himself sliding off the bar, he tried to grab hold of it but his hands didn’t respond, his legs buckled and he fell.
Something caught his arm; a cold hand tightened around him and lifted him onto his feet with inhuman strength.

“Still think you are imagining things, Iron Man?” The voice was like sharp flint and Tony felt the breath leave his body as he was slammed back into the wall. “You do not look so good mortal.”

Hard eyes bored into his and his breathing became rapid, he could feel his heart slamming against his ribcage and he struggled to speak as he was lifted up off his feet against the wall, he grabbed at the wrist pinning him and gulped what air he could.

“You don’t look so hot yourself Rocky Horror.” He almost cried out as he spoke.

“Ever the comedian, even now. I wonder how long that pretty little heart of yours would last against my magic?”

“Jarvis!” He spat the words out past the constricting of his throat.

“Your technology cannot help you now, I have disabled it.”

“How?” He gasped.

“Magic, dear mortal”

He felt the grip around his throat slacken and then he was sliding to the floor. He rubbed the skin around his neck and took a deep breath as his head swam and his eyes blurred from lack of oxygen. He suddenly felt a tingling sensation come over his body, like sea water on a hot day lapping at you on the beach. The tightness in his chest disappeared.

He looked up at Loki and saw him smile. “What did you do?” He asked, stifling a cough.

I have need of you metal man, so cannot have your anxiety stop me from my purpose.”

“You need… What?”

Loki twirled his fingers and the pain on Tony’s neck receded and his mind became clearer.

“If you ‘have need of me’ why did you just strangle me?” He coughed.

“A small revenge on my part.” Loki smirked and walked away from Tony, he took a glass delicately off the bar behind him.

He placed it down and unstoppered the glass bottle of whiskey, pouring a small amount into it. He pressed his fingers against the glass and frowned, and then a minute pulse of light shimmered down his fingers and onto the glass. Ice crawled down the glass from his fingers and then he picked it up. He handed it to Tony, who was too bewildered to refuse, and as he looked at Loki he could have sworn his eyes were red. He took a quick sip and shivered.

“Christ that’s cold.”

“Drink.” Loki stated, icy as the glass in Tony’s hand, before picking up another glass and repeating the process then turning to Tony.

He brought the glass to his lips, ignoring the ice climbing down it. Tony took another small sip and tried to pull himself up shakily, he had to attempt twice before his legs held. Loki pulled the glass from his grip and waited before returning it to him and walking away. Tony stared after him and tried to think of something to say, when nothing witty came to him he opted for the obvious.

“Why are you here?”

“As I said before, I have need of you.” Loki continued to sip his drink, facing away from Tony.

“Yeah we American’s are a little on the slow side so would you mind not being so cryptic?”

Loki sighed as if it were causing him a great amount of effort to be polite and turned to him.

“You and I are about to be united in a common cause.”

“We are?” Tony raised an eyebrow.

“Unfortunately, yes. After you decided to detonate a nuclear weapon upon my army I had hoped I would be free of The Other and his kind but-“

“Hold up, explain?”

Another sigh, Loki pinched the bridge of his nose slightly. Tony thought he looked thinner than when they last met, and tired, very very tired.

“The Other was who I was using to get the Tesseract, he who gave me the army I unleashed here on Midgard. I had hoped you and your Avengers,” he smirked at the word, “would destroy him for me so I would not have too, but there was no such luck.”

“Destroy him? But he gave you an army?”

“Yes, against my will.”

Tony had to stop himself cocking his head like a confused puppy; he busied himself with his drink instead, which had not even warmed up fractionally.

“When I fell from the Bifrost,” he paused.

“Oh yeah I know what that is, your sparkly ga- rainbow bridge.” Loki narrowed his eyes at Tony’s comment but continued.

“When I fell, I expected to meet my untimely end but instead found myself trapped and alone on a distant world. My magic helped me to travel and I saw things no God should ever see, I was brutally attacked, captured and had to flee from many places that I tried to rest at. Finally I was found by them and was too weak to fight back, they wanted to kill me, but the Other stopped them, he knew I was an Aesir, an Asgardian,” he gave Tony a look of ultimate contempt, “and when he found out exactly who I was he gave me an offer, they wanted a galaxy to rule and had found the perfect one. They were connected to it through the Tesseract but they needed someone to lead them, someone who knew Midgard and could hold off its forces. If I would but lead their army I could have my revenge on the Aesir, on my foolish brother; and rule Midgard. If I would not they would kill me, so you see, what choice did I have? I was too weak to fight them or use my magic, I had no weapons, I was desperate...” He trailed off uncharacteristically.

“Don’t you mean unhinged?”

Loki shot him a venomous glare.

“But you wanted to fight; you wanted this; to cause your brother pain.” Tony replied sceptically.

“No, Midgard does not interest me like it does Thor. What I wanted was revenge on the Aesir, revenge on Odin Allfather. I wanted Asgard and I realised that if I brought the Chitauri to Midgard the Aesir would respond. What I had not planned upon were the bunch of misfits your Director Fury decided to bring into the equation; I would have thought Odin would have brought a force down to here but instead he sent the oaf Thor to go blundering about and ruining everything.”

“So this whole thing, all the lives lost all the fighting; it was just so you could get back to your planet?” Tony tried to hold the anger from his voice and gritted his teeth.

Loki studied his nails as if bored. “Yes, what on earth would I want with your pitiful planet? It was just a bit of fun; Collateral Damage and all that.”

“A bit of fun?!” Tony could no longer hold back. “Hundreds of people lost their lives!”

“Don’t exaggerate.” Loki replied curtly.

“You call Banner the monster, but the only monster I see here is you.” Tony reeled his voice in, keeping it calm as if stating a regular fact.

There was a crack as Loki crushed the glass in his hand, the shards and powder scattering on the floor.

“I am a God and you will do well to learn your place mortal!” He spun and advanced on Tony who felt his chest tighten again.

“Oh no, not this time mortal.” Loki waved his hand at Tony’s chest as he covered the space between them in long legged strides. He was a lot taller than Tony and though Tony was broader the man’s presence made Tony’s own quail in comparison.

“Touch a nerve did I?” Tony wasn’t about to let Loki frighten him again, he had had enough sleepless nights to last him a lifetime.

Loki stopped, almost as if he sensed a change in him and smiled, predatory, chiding smile.

“How easy it would be to kill you,” he purred and brought a hand to Tony’s neck, mimicking crushing it. The way Loki spoke was mesmerizing, even when he was threatening someone, he was like a lion, majestic, sure of himself and his power. Dangerous yet captivating, you wanted to run when he started to growl, but you stayed to hear the roar.

His words were like that of someone trying to seduce you, no matter the context they spoke of. What was it Thor had called him once, his nickname? ‘Silver Tongued’, accurate, Tony’s thought trailed off as Loki took his eyes away from his own.

“Though I fear it would be a shame to destroy you before I can use you.” His hand trailed down Tony’s chest, fingers hovering a few centimetres away from Tony’s arc reactor, he stared at it for a moment.

“My sceptre was the most powerful object on your pitiful planet, laced with my magic and the energy of the Tesseract. Yet faced with your blue heart it was useless… Why?” He looked back up at Tony, eyes blazing, demanding an answer.

“Oh no, you still haven’t told me what you want.”

“Isn’t it obvious?” He sneered, though it seemed half hearted.

Tony considered the information he had been given, then it came to him.

“They want to kill you, don’t they?”

Loki gritted his teeth, his hands tensing, but did not answer.

“And now, even though they didn’t want Earth, that was your thing, because we pissed them off they want to destroy us too?”

“Your powers of deduction are incredulous.” Loki drawled in reply.

“Why thank you, never refuse a compliment, sarcasm or no I always say.”

Loki almost smirked at that. Almost.

Tony knew that getting anymore information out of Loki before he spoke again were slim so he changed the subject until he could think of a way to get him to spill.

“How did you get here? And don’t just say magic Harry Potter because it is getting old.”

“Harry Potter?” Loki seemed amused.

“Yeah, Harry the teen wizard who fights bad guys and stuff with magic. Great book series, you’d love it. They have this bad guy, Voldemort, real creepy you’d like him. Oh and this crazy freaky chick, err, Bellatrix, you’d totally hit that, she might be more nuts than y-”

Loki silenced him with cold eyes.

“Okay geez, you keep coming to my planet remember? Either get the references or get out. Aren’t you meant to be in prison, chained up, locked away somewhere deep and dark never to see the sun again?”

“I was,” he turned away in a vain attempt to not look arrogant, it didn’t work, “but I escaped easily enough, the old man was foolish enough to believe I could not escape and therefore was not overly cautious; it was always his downfall. They have not even noticed I am gone.”

“So no big brother swooping in to save me then? Shame, I was looking forward to being scooped up in his big strong arms.” There he went again, deliberately poking the bristling creature in front of him, how did Bruce put up with him?

“Thankfully no, not yet. I shall leave him to you and your Avengers to get him. Now, do we understand each other?”

“Not exactly, let me see… You fucked up, fell out of sparkle land and ended up captured and who knows what else, you lead said captors to us for an impromptu party, you fuck up AGAIN and end up in jail. Only to be pursued by your captors who are really pissed off at you now and at us, thanks for that by the way, so you, intelligent as you are, come to the one place they’ll also be headed for instead of skedaddling out of here.”

“There is no where I can run to escape them, I have tried.” He drew himself up to Tony and pierced his gaze with his cold eyes. “I do not wish to run anymore.”

Tony suddenly became sidetracked. “Your eyes, did your little glow stick of destiny make them go blue? Because they are very very green now.”

Loki faltered before replying, just what was this man doing? He couldn’t tell if he was a genius masquerading as an idiot or the other way around, or just an idiot.

“Yes, the Tesseract could exert control over people’s minds, but in doing so had to connect to the one seeking control. It was… difficult.” He looked away.

“So that’s why you looked like shit?” Tony threw his hands up in what he hoped was a pacifying gesture. “I mean not that you look like shit now, umm… A little thinner maybe, a little tired, but, not like you’re hopped up on meth at least. Your hair’s longer, it’s a good look.” He spluttered out quickly, trying not to snark a would be Tony murderer.

Loki growled, actually growled Jesus fucking Christ though Tony.

“It was straining my psyche to keep control instead of letting it control me, but by the time we met in battle I had gotten over that particular issue. I think the Other was hoping to gain me as a pawn by indirectly damaging my mind.”

“Too late for that.” Tony coughed into his hand and Loki’s head snapped up to him, eyes burning. “Right, back on target.” Tony clapped his hands together and sidestepped the fuming God before he could decide to just kill him and be done with it. “So the Chitauri are coming to Earth to kill us, you don’t want to die so have come here to warn us?”
“Without the fine details,” he glowered as if he meant ‘no you’re totally and irrevocably wrong but I am sick of talking to you’, “now can we stop going in circles?”

“Don’t answer a question with a question it’s rude.” Tony barely stopped himself, “one thing still bothers me though… We, or should I say I nuked your army, I nuked the mother ship and every one of those fuckers dropped dead. Surely they need to recon and get some forces first?”

“Finally, an intelligent question… naïve and foolish, but intelligent none the less. You really though you could destroy their army even with such a weapon? I was given but a mere handful, an expendable resource for my take over. You could not even begin to imagine the forces the Other has behind him, unimaginable numbers of Chitauri and many, many more. You had but scratched the surface with your gallant attempt at self sacrifice.”

Tony’s eyes widened, but the fear that usually constricting in his chest could no longer manifest, he looked down at his heart.

“I left a trace of magic on you, I would prefer you to stay alive and that means I need your mind to be clear.”

“Darling, I didn’t think you cared.” Tony held his hand to his heart in what he hoped was a love struck, girlish expression.

Loki sneered and stepped away from him. He picked up Tony’s glass and downed it as though it were water, making Tony’s throat tighten, smooth bastard, and then he turned to him.

“I will return once I gather more information, speak to your Avengers.” He said without a hint of the expected malice Tony was waiting for. He raised an eyebrow but before he could reply Loki was gone, just empty air and the failing light.

Tony slumped down where he stood and stared at the spot the leather clad God had been occupying, wondering what the hell had just happened and what the hell he was supposed to do about it…?

“Jarvis, talk to me baby, are you back?”

“Sir, yes I believe so, I feel… strange...”

“That would be magic, what happened?”

“I felt a change in air pressure that I have come to recognise with the criminal Loki Laufeyson from when he took over Stark Tower, as I went to warn you my systems disappeared. I could do nothing but watch on; now I know how a security camera feels.”

Tony smiled at the slight comedic tone to Jarvis’s voice; if he were real he was sure they would be the best of friends.

“Okay powder-puff if your headache is better could you please get me Director Fury.”

“Already patching you through sir.”

“Good dog.”

He pushed himself up and went to grab his tablet off the coffee table and tapped the screen. There was the face of Nick Fury staring back at him, looking exactly the same as always, like a disgruntled goat.

“Stark, what do you want?”

“I just got probed by an alien.”

“Stark? What… is that a hand print on your neck?”

“Possibly, I haven’t checked, it was a lot worse though.”

“Just what is going on?”

Tony began to explain and had Jarvis send the video surveillance footage, thankfully that part of the system could exist without Jarvis and was not connected to him; he just had access to it. By the end Fury had turned from disgruntled goat to pre menstrual bear and was screaming at people around him to contact the others.

“How do we get to Thor?” Tony asked.

“We can’t, but I know someone who can… The only problem is she and I do not get on and she likes to threaten my agents.”

“She?”

“Doctor Jane Foster, Dr Selvig’s once companion and Thor’s… How do I put this? Girlfriend? Dr Selvig is on temporary leave to recover and I am not thinking it would be good to call him back yet.”

“Is she the girl Thor was pestering you about?”

“The very same.”

“Okay, I see where this is going; I guess I could drop in on her. Where is she right now?”

“London, England.” He smirked.

“England?! Oh jeez come on can’t you just call her?”

“We tried Stark, or I wouldn’t be asking.”

“You’re not asking, you are heavily implying, hinting to me to make me say it and think it was my idea so you don’t have to ask and make it look like you are relying on others.”

“Just find the girl Stark, Jarvis will have the file now.”

"You son of a, Jarvis?"

"It is transferring onto my system as we speak sir, they are getting better at getting close to my system."

"Problematic, hmm, ok Fury, I'll get the girl. You do the rest."

The screen went blank without so much as a goodbye and Tony put it down.

"Well, I am not going to sleep now and a flight to England seems to be in order, what do you say Jarvis? Shall we go visit the Queen?"

"I am sure she would be delighted sir, I hear she is a fan."

"Shut up, sometimes I think I made you too smart." He grinned before running to the elevator and hitting the button for the workshop.

Chapter Text

The journey to England was a cinch in the suit, though the toilet breaks were less than pleasant, but it was nothing compared to flying back to Afghanistan. He touched down in London shortly after dawn, Jarvis had directed him so of course he landed right by the London Eye and suddenly there were people screaming and pointing and camera phones were taken out. He stayed in his suit and watched the crowd converge upon him chanting Iron Man over and over.

“Official business here people, no need to get excited or frightened, the world is safe I am just dropping by to see a friend.”

'Tony Stark has friends in the UK!” One of them screamed excitedly.

“Err, actually she is American.” He winced.

He saw a flash of light and froze. “Shit, paparazzi. Gotta run kids!” He took off and hung low in the air, cursing Jarvis for thinking he should break first and go to Jane's after due to the time zone. “Jarvis, Dr Foster's house stat!”

“Yes sir, calculating coordinates now.”


“Never land me in a tourist spot again ok?” He chided.

“Anything you say sir, now please follow my directions.”

Tony set off the way Jarvis directed him, still grumbling.

“It's 5am what the hell are so many people doing awake, do the English enjoy lack of sleep or what? No one should be out at this time.” Lost in thought and flying almost on autopilot, confident Jarvis's directions would mean he would not hit a building, he dropped lower as he neared his destination. He was flying along a road when suddenly he heard a shout and looked down.

“Woah shit a horse!” He cried out and banked left. He almost flew right over the top of it and it showed its disgust by standing up on two legs and its rider, who had the large words 'POLICE' stamped across the back of his bright jacket, tumbled off the back of it and onto the floor.

“SORRY!!!!! We don't have you guys in LA!” He yelled back and returned to his muttering. “Jesus it is 5 fucking am and someone is riding a horse, what the actual hell. Seriously people don't come out of their house in LA unless it is to go to work.”

He finally descended to the apartment Dr Foster was staying in and suddenly wondered how to approach this. Turning up in full suit was probably not the best idea. He opted for taking his helmet off and giving what he hoped was a calm expression as he walked up to the flight of stairs and knocked on the correct door.

No answer, so he hammered on the door and waited until he heard footsteps.

A dark haired woman with bouncing curls answered the door, Darcy Lewis, Tony thought to himself as he recognised her from Jane's file. She was scowling and half dressed in a robe and t-shirt and looked like she was about to let hell rip when she looked at Tony and stopped dead.

“Oh fuck, oh fuck oh fuck oh holy crap JANE JANE WAKE THE FUCK UP IRON MAN IS AT THE FUCKING DOOR GET UP NOW!”

“Hi there, I'm Tony Stark.” He offered a gauntleted hand.

“Oh shit Mr Stark, can I call you that? I am a huge fan.” She took his hand and wrung the life out of it, Tony was glad it was covered in metal. Before he could break the handshake she pulled him inside.

“Mr Stark,” “call me Tony,” “Tony, right, um, Mr Tony, um. Are we in trouble? Because seriously the stuff that disappeared from SHIELD had nothing to do with us.”

Tony frowned at her but decided to ignore the remark, from what he had found out, SHIELD probably deserved it. Scratch that, definitely deserved it.

“No, you're not in trouble, I need to speak to Dr Foster Miss Lewis.”

“OH MY GOD you know my name?! Wait did you read my file? Seriously most of it was a huge misunderstanding I mean-”

“It is fine Miss Lewis,” “Darcy,” “Darcy, I found it hilarious, loved the part about you tasering Thor, there have been more than a few times I wished I could do that myself.”

Darcy blushed in embarrassment and then a door creaking signalled the entrance of Dr Foster. Tony turned round and beamed as Jane came out with hair like a haystack.

“Holy crap Darcy you weren't kidding, I thought you were fucking with me to get me awake.”

“Nice to meet you too Dr Foster.”

“Oh shoot sorry hi, I'm Jane and you're well, you.” She looked at him in undisguised awe.

“Tony Stark at your service.” He took her offered hand and shook it firmly.

“Are we in trouble?”

“I was just telling your friend here you are not. I actually need your help, so far as we know, you are the only one who can contact Thor. We really, really need him.”

“Thor, right, what time is it in Asgard I have no idea. Ok well it is easy enough to contact him.”

“It is?” Tony cocked an eyebrow at her and she smiled blearily.

“Yeah come on outside.”

Tony followed Jane in confusion with Darcy trailing after him like a puppy. Jane went out onto the streets and stood in the middle of the thankfully deserted road.

“Heimdall!! Heimdall!! I need you, please hear me! SHIELD needs Thor to come back to Earth, we're,” she turned to Tony, “are we in danger?”

“Shitloads.”

“We're in serious danger Heimdall and we need Thor's help.” Jane took a breath and moved out of the road.

“So...” Tony started.

“Heimdall is the gatekeeper of the Bifrost on Asgard. He can see and hear everything in the 9 realms, so if you call to him he'll hear you.”

“Well that... Is interesting...” Tony stared at the sky in confused acceptance that everything was weird and he just had to roll with it.

The minutes ticked by and they eventually sat down, each tried to invoke some idle chatter, but it was strained and didn’t last. All of a sudden the skies began to darken and Jane's head snapped up, there it was, the distinct sound of thunder clashing over head. She leaped to her feet as a very bright beam of light hit the ground with immeasurable force and out of it stepped Thor.

“Jane, my love, what news?” He let her jump into his arms and pulled her close, kissing her so passionately Tony felt he should be looking away.

Instead he thought, why can't all the Asgardians, what was it Loki called them? Aesir? Be so unprejudiced, sure he didn't want them all kissing but, if Thor could love a mortal after all he was brought up to know, why couldn't his father be a little less stuck up and a bit more helpful. Not going to get started on his brother though. Bag and cats sprang to mind.

When Thor finally tore himself away from Jane he looked over to see Tony and smiled wide.

“Tony Stark, it is good to see you, though it is darkened by the circumstances we must meet under.” He walked over and clasped Tony's hand before pulling him off his feet into a rib crushing embrace, again he was glad to be in his suit.

“Woah ok Hercules, breach of personal space here, what is it with Aesir and that?”

“How do you come to know that term?”

“Not important, what is important is getting you all up to speed with what is going on. Jarvis, tell Fury we have the big guy.”

“Fury? Oh no he is not coming here.”

Wind was buffeted in their direction as a jet came over the tops of the buildings around them.

“I'm afraid I'm already here.” Came a voice projected from the carrier as it landed.

Once the dust settled down the back of the jet came down and Fury stepped out onto the concrete. “Stark, we brought you a ride.”

“Oh how thoughtful of you after it took ALL NIGHT for me to fly here by myself.”

“We had to hang back in case our dear Dr Foster decided to be difficult.” He looked over at her and nodded and she promptly turned away.

“Why a jet, surely big guns here and I could have flown back ourselves, I was looking forward to seeing what he was made of actually.”

“Because we need Dr Foster as well, and I doubt she would enjoy being carried over an ocean.”

“Well there is that.”
“What need have you of Jane?” Thor pushed her behind him protectively.

“Her mind is what I need, she may prove useful to us.”

“It's ok I'll just stay here whilst you go save the world.” Darcy said sarcastically.

“If I go, Darcy goes.” Jane replied without looking at Fury.

“Does that mean you will cooperate?”

“Maybe, I haven't decided.”

“Good, now please step aboard the carrier and let’s get back to New York.”

Fury turned in a flourish of black trench coat and walked back inside the carrier before Thor, Jane and Darcy marched in behind him. Tony followed quietly, wondering what Fury's plan would be this time. As they sat and stood inside the plane Fury showed them the footage from Tony's encounter with Loki, much to Thor's outrage.

“I have been played for a fool! I told Father he must take precautions but he told me no one could escape such a cell. I told him if Loki can use his magic in it he could get out but my Father said it was contained.” He gritted his teeth and looked like he was trying very hard to stop himself punching something.

“Where Loki is concerned we have all been played, and played very well.” Fury stated. “No one could have guessed any of this would happen.” He finished in a tone that suggested the Aesir should have known damned well it would.

Thor looked up from where he was trying to burn through the floor with his eyes and let out a deep breath.

“I am sorry my brother has done, what he has done all for the sake of getting home. It was a lot easier to justify before this information.”

“Yes because at first we put it down to him being mentally unhinged, but now we see he is mentally unhinged and smart as fuck. A bad combination.”

“I understand your feelings Stark but please remember of whom you speak.”

“I remember well, seeing as I still have a hand print on my neck where he pinned me against a wall and strangled me last night.”

Thor looked at him before sighing resignedly.

“So what do you need Jane for exactly?” Darcy piped up as silence fell.

“We don't have enough information to know that yet but Dr Selvig is on leave until he recovers, so you are our best hope in any matters concerning Thor's kind.”

Thor threw him a dirty look but said nothing and went to sit next to Jane, wrapping her tiny hand in his giant mitt.

“The others are waiting at base for us and have been debriefed.” Fury said nonchalantly.

“Please tell me this base does not float.” Tony growled.

“No, we have a new headquarters now, very much on the ground.”

“Thank the gods, actually scratch that.” Tony threw his hands up in mock prayer.

Now it was Fury's turn to throw a dirty look.

The rest of the ride consisted of discussing possible ways this new threat could come about and figuring out exactly how screwed they were. When they got to the base even Tony was impressed. It was a good size and not conspicuous for once, they were led through a series of rooms, stopping briefly for Tony to get out of his suit and put it in an alcove in the armoury, next to Steve's patriotic spangle suit, until they came to a large room with a curved table inside of it.

“This is where all debriefing and meetings will take place; the others will be here shortly.” Fury gestured to them to sit down.

Tony took his seat; he knew it was his seat as it had his name on it. 'Stark, T', thank god they didn't try to use his real name.

He looked at Thor swivelling the padded chair round in undisguised elation whilst it sagged underneath his bulk and watched Jane and Darcy awkwardly take up unmarked seats at the edge.

Captain Rogers was the first to enter, clasping hands firmly with Thor and before clapping Tony on the shoulder. Tony grabbed his hand and shook it heartily before enquiring after him. Ever since New York he had come to like Steve greatly and they had met up with the others to eat a few times since.

Black Widow and Hawkeye entered shortly after, both looking out of breath and Hawkeye sporting some fresh bruises on his arm.

“Natasha don't tell me you finally gave into his advances.” Stark cheered in way of greeting.

“No, he just lost to me 5 times in a row in a fist fight in the gym.”

“Wouldn't be right to hurt a woman.” Clint called over as he shook Thor's hand and greeted Jane and Darcy, who then had their hands kissed by Steve as he introduced himself. Darcy looked as though she were about to faint and Tony smirked.

Clint came over to Natasha and pulled Tony up into a rough embrace whilst Natasha stood with her arms folded and a faint smile on her lips.

“I had to let her win, would only be right.”

Natasha stomped on his foot. “Either concede that you lost or we fight here and now and they will announce the victor.”

Clint howled and hopped away from Tony.

“God I’d forgotten how vicious you are Romanoff, I love it!” Tony laughed.

“Man up Clint.” She smiled at him before greeting the rest and going to sit down on her chair. Each chair had a little insignia underneath Tony noticed, Fury had really gone all out with the room. His had a mask, Thor's a hammer, Natasha's a spider, Clint's an arrow, Steve's a shield and Banner's a radioactive warning symbol. God he must have loved that. Though granted, since New York Bruce seemed to have found inner peace with his demons, he had dropped by often to come and poke around in Tony's workshops and laboratories.

Dr Banner scuttled in last, still slightly nervy but Tony noted with joy that he seemed a lot more confident in himself.

“Bruce Banner my favourite Avenger!” Tony cried out, and Hawkeye made an offended noise behind him.

“Tony, how're you doing. You really need to stop getting manhandled by gods, it's, uh, becoming a habit.”

“Hey between getting manhandled by Capsicle and manhandled by the Asgardians I'd say I should feel privileged. Not everyday you get molested by the stuff of legends.” He put his hand on Bruce's shoulder and walked to their chairs together, he was overjoyed to have seen Bruce was situated to his right and Steve to his left. He could provoke on one side and discuss science on the other. Fabulous.

“Don't you guys just love these chairs? I mean wow Fury I feel spoilt.” He exclaimed loudly once everyone was settled, purposefully as Fury opened his mouth to speak.

Fury glared at him through his good eye for a split second before pointing a remote to a large screen opposite them. It flashed up with a still screen of Tony being strangled up against a wall by Loki.

“Not my most flattering photo I'll give you that.” He offered, hoping to hide his embarrassment.

“Gentlemen, and ladies. We have a serious issue on our hands, had anyone else come into contact with Loki?”

“It seems to be just Stark.” Steve replied.

“We need to know why?” Fury turned to Thor.

“I do not know Director; I could hazard a guess or two. Either Loki sees Stark as the weakest threat to him, something I do not believe. Or my brother has interest in him, maybe for his weaponry?”

“He did seem very interested in my arc reactor?” Tony raised his eyebrows at Thor.

“Your arc reactor rendered his sceptre useless to mind control, it is only natural that Loki should develop an interest in it.”

“Peachy, I'm not telling him a damned thing about it. I value my life too greatly.”

“Don't be too hasty Stark, Loki has information to give and it is clear he will need some persuading to go into detail about any of it. We could use information that he wants to barter for information.”

“Um, hello? No, I do not want him knowing how to kill me easily. Nor do I want him knowing anything about the arc reactor. So far as we could figure out he didn't actually figure out exactly what it is, though he obviously wants to know. I do not like the idea of a war criminal knowing about the power of that. Especially seeing how easily he wielded the Tesseract.”

“What we need is to know more about this, we need information. What kind of forces are we up against, what kind of weaponry, how many, how long do we have, can we counter them?”

“My brother may not know all of this.” Thor suggested meekly.

“You can bet your ass he does,” countered Tony, “and, he is not going to tell us without fucking with us first.”

“So, we have two ways we can do this,” came Natasha's voice from beside Bruce, “either, we can try and make him tell us, and we all know how well that turned out last time, plus we have no idea where he is and he is not about to show himself like he did in Stuttgart. Or we can bargain with him, I'd say try to reason with him-“

“But there's no reasoning with Loki.” Steve cut in. “First thing we need to do is find him, Thor, can you contact him?”

“The only one who could find him is Heimdall, and if Heimdall has not realised he is free then he cannot see him on Midgard. Loki will not be found unless he wants to be.”

“Heimdall?” Clint asked curiously.

“Gatekeeper of Asgard wears a sparkly gold suit, big guy. Can see everyone and everything in the 9 realms.”

Everyone stared at Tony.

“Does no one ever do the reading?” He asked incredulously.

“So what you're saying is we have to wait for him to show up again?” Clint asked.

“He'll show up again, he made that pretty clear in the footage.” Natasha answered for them.

“I have an idea but Stark, you might not like it.”

Crap.

“I want to send you back to Stark Tower, I don't think Loki will show if he knows Thor is around.”

“And what if he doesn't, or just plain kills me.”

“He will not kill you Tony Stark.' Thor said, almost angrily. 'He says he needs you, until your usefulness runs out you will not be in danger from him.”

“My throat says otherwise.” He reached a hand and rubbed the skin, but it was no longer sore.

“That was but a warning not to trifle with him, you know well that he has a foul temper.”

“So what, you want me to tiptoe around him?”

“No, I think he finds your arrogance amusing, otherwise he would have probably put you through the wall instead of onto it.” Natasha said as she looked to the screen. Thor nodded to him.

“Oh wonderful and I was beginning to worry that he didn't like me.”

“It's your own fault; you gave him that drink when we caught him.” Clint's amusement rippled through to the rest.

“I will not let that bite me in the ass, I offered him a drink and he accepted. I was only stalling so he wouldn't kill me, I just didn't expect him to accept after he tried to kill me.”

“Still your own fault.”

“Oh I'm sorry who gave up all the information on us Barton?”

“Hey I was brainwashed don't you dare!”

“Stark that was uncalled for!” Romanoff spat at him.

Thor merely glared at him and Tony put his hands up to them.

“Ok sorry, you're right, that was out of order Clint I'm sorry. I am just a little rattled at being turned into Loki's punching bag for Fury's amusement.” He narrowed his eyes at Fury who had an amused look on his face.

“Yeah no, sorry I shouldn't be fucking with you on this one.” Clint answered quietly.

'No, no you're right; I made myself less of a threat.”

“No Stark, I think Loki is very threatened by you. Loki is not interested in the weak; you are an anomaly to him. He cannot figure you out like the rest of us.”

“Great, just great. Always me.”

“Stark, will you do this? I could make you.”

“I'd say you and what army, but we ARE your army Fury so your threats don't hold much ground.” He looked from one face to the other and sighed.

“I'll do it, but so help me god if he tries to turn me into a pulp I am blasting his ass until he never walks again, information or no information.”

“Deal, ok, Stark go home. The rest of you get some rest, we will meet back here in 5 days, with or without Loki's Intel. You're dismissed.”

They all got up and went to set about their business when Fury called to Jane.

“Dr Foster, we have a laboratory set up for you, well, we have a very large underground laboratory and part of it is set up for you, any tools you need can be gotten from where ever it is they are, just tell us. You'll be sharing with Dr Banner and eventually Stark if that is ok?”

“Oh really wow yeah that, that's great.” She glanced over at Banner and he smiled.

“Don't worry, there will be no more incidents from me in the foreseeable future.”

Jane looked relieved before grabbing Darcy and following him with Thor looking slightly lost trailing after her.

“No awesome sleepovers without me ok!” Tony yelled after them and then waited until everyone had left but him and Fury.
“Loki can override my system, I suggest, for now, you install a second system, separate from Jarvis's interface in case he figures out how to disable my cameras and security. But, try and hack my system and I will break yours into a million pieces and enjoy watching you running with no security systems.”

“Duly noted Stark, consider it done.” Fury nodded to him and Tony went off to get his suit and go back to the tower. Home. Not that it felt like it.

Chapter Text

Four days had passed since the recon at SHIELD HQ and Tony was beginning to wonder if they had all been wrong and maybe Loki wasn't going to show. Maybe he just wanted to fuck with them and scare them, maybe he was bored.
He had taken to pacing the rooms when not in the workshop; he had been working on Jarvis so that now hopefully Jarvis could alert him of Loki's pressure signature even if Loki tried to disable him. He would have liked to make it so Loki could not disable him but magic was well beyond his skills.

He finally settled down to watch mindless television with a drink.

‘He was right about it being too warm' Tony thought to himself before getting up to the fridge and grabbing some ice.

He was a few minutes into a show about housewives when he got bored and flipped channels, he paused, his hand frozen on the remote as he came across the sci-fi channel. Spaceships battled and ray guns fired and he felt the familiar tightening of his chest. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard, waiting. But nothing happened. The fear was still there, the shortness of breath, but he could breathe and his mind was clear. It was just ordinary fear.

He breathed a sigh of relief and managed to coax his fingers to turn the television off. He flipped the bird at the blank screen and went back to his drink, contemplating ordering pizza, when there was a beep from Jarvis.

“Jarvis, what was that?”

“Sir, I have picked up the signature of Loki, he will be here in seconds.”

“Feel strange at all?”

“No sir, nothing out of the ordinary.”

“I felt no need to disable your machine this time, being that you are expecting me.” Came Loki's silky voice as he appeared in front of Tony, his body shimmering with magic.

“You took your time.”

“I had better things to do.” He said non commitedly.

“Right… So, the Avengers have been summoned and now we are awaiting your next move.” Tony tried not to meet his gaze; the blazing eyes burned him every time.

“I have come with a deal for you.”

“And that is?”

“Protection.”

“I knew you were going to say that, bit off a bit more than you can chew have you?”

“You know not what you speak of Stark. If you even had but an idea of what you are up against you would not take me for a coward.”

“No one called you a coward.”

“I can see into your mind Stark, you think I am just one mistake after the other. You are wrong.”

“And you are desperate.” Tony pointed out.

“Desperate? No, caught in a corner, yes. You have not seen me desperate, pray you never do.”

“You've come to ask your mortal enemies to help you, the same people you were intent on blowing up with your glow stick last time we met.”

“I will use my resources to my every advantage. I am not too proud to recognise others talents and their use to me.” He looked down his nose at Tony before going over to the bar and yet again helping himself to a drink.

“You know that is very expensive whiskey right?”

“You are rich, are you not?”

“Yeah, well...”

“So you can just buy more, for all Asgard's delicacies, their drinks are not as satisfactory as those on this planet.”

“What can I say, we have good taste.”
“Perhaps, but your food leaves little to be desired.”

“Your brother seems to like it.” It was like an electric shock ran up Loki's spine at the mention of his brother, like always.

“Thor would eat his own faeces if he was hungry enough.”

“Not a nice mental image, cheers.”

A ghost of a smile appeared on Loki's lips before it was gone and he continued to speak.

“The offer I propose to you...”

“Proposing so soon?” Tony took a slightly too large gulp of his drink, cursing his big mouth.

Loki merely glared at him for a moment before continuing.

“I offer information in exchange for your protection; I also offer my help in defeating The Other and his forces.”

“You, want to help us?”

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend, is that not how the saying goes.”

“I thought it went 'the enemy of my enemy is still my enemy and kind of crazy', or something like that. Who says we need your help?”

“I do. The fact that you did as I ask makes it very plain. You could try to win this war on your own Stark, but it will not be as easy as taking my sceptre and closing a portal, nor will all the enemies fall so easy if their leader is destroyed. You are no match for this alone, I will help you. All I ask is for your cooperation.”

Tony was silent; no witty comeback sprang to mind.

“I need rid of The Other just as much as you do, and I cannot take him down alone, his power is not greater than mine, but he answers to another.”

“And who is that?”

“Thanos the Mad Titan, probably the most deadly creature Midgard will ever cross paths with.”

“Really? I thought that was you, after two separate attacks devastated our continent.”

“You flatter me Stark, Thanos is brilliant, deadly and unfaltering in his quest, he has more forces than all of Midgard combined I expect. His lust for power exceeds even my own and he has many, many ways of making you cooperate with him against your will.”

“You sound like you know first hand.”

“I do, for it was he who captured me, The Other was under his orders.”

Tony stared blankly at Loki, trying to process this new information. After his ordeal in Afghanistan he would never wish torture or cruel captivity on anyone, not even someone as twisted as Loki.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“I, uh, carry on.”

Loki watched him, almost thoughtfully.

“He who gave me the sceptre and the Tesseract and my army. The Other is but his servant. This is not a battle that can be one by sheer force; it needs to be dealt with quickly and by going straight to the ones who command the armies. No doubt they will not attack all at once, they do not want your dull planet, they just want their vengeance.”

“And you.”

Green eyes glowered at him.

“So why don't you high tail it to the other end of the universe? Give them a nice distraction, maybe they'll forget about us.”

“I am too self preserving,” ‘so modest’ Tony quipped and was ignored, “and as I have said before, I do not wish to run any more. There is nowhere left to hide, not here, not in another galaxy.”

“If you had told me, a few days ago that I would be talking to you in my apartment, bargaining to protect you, I would probably have shot you.!

“Then it is good that I did not tell you then.”

“Still deciding that one, so far, I have not been manhandled or maimed so I guess today is a good day.”

“I am sure I can find some time to maim you in between plotting The Mad Titan's demise.”

“Oh wonderful, hooray for me.”

“All your sarcasm aside, do you accept my offer?”

“Here's the thing, much as you have chosen me to be your go to guy, flattered as I am, I cannot make such a call.”

“Surely your Director Fury can, I know he will be watching us right now, along with your friends.”

“He could, but he will need to talk it over, preferably, and I use the term lightly here, with you, big fella.”

“I'm not interested in conversing with your fellow Avengers or your leader.”

“Then I can't really help you, you can either speak to them, or we go back to playing cat and mouse until you decide to stop being difficult and talk, or we catch you. Seeing as you don't leave us much choice here I leave it up to you to make the call.”

Loki looked at him incredulously for a moment; he wasn’t used to not getting his own way. He narrowed his eyes at Tony and for a minute he thought he was going to be put into a wall again, instead, Loki took a large gulp of the drink and stepped right up to him. Tony tried to keep what he hoped was a calm expression and met his gaze.

“You want me to speak to your Avengers, fine, but first, you do something for me.”

“Err that is not how a deal works, you've already made your offer.”

“I am the one making the deal here Stark; I will barter as I wish.”

It was Tony's turn to look incredulous, and then he sighed.

“Ok, what do you want?”

“Tell me what this,” he leant down and touched his fingers to the arc reactor in Tony's chest, Tony barely managed not to flinch away, “does?”

“I'd rather not, why do you want to know.”

“I have already told you, it foiled my plan to use you against your own friends. I want to know why.”

Tony took another sip of his drink and ended up draining the glass, wincing as the liquid slid down his throat, and then tried to figure out exactly what to do.

“So, if I answer your question, you will speak to Fury?”

“Yes, you give me something, I give you something, this will be how our little game works.”

“Just an FYI, I don't like this game.”

“Good, that was the point.”

“Right, great, fantastic. So um, take a seat?”

“I'd prefer to stand.” He replied with a bored expression and straightened up, moving away, but Tony could see his eyes lighting up, son of a bitch.

“Suit yourself.”

Tony put down the glass now he could move without entering Loki's personal space.

“So, seeing as you did your homework on all of us during our brief interactions a few months back, what do you know about me?”

“I am the one asking the questions.” Loki replied coldly.

“I am trying to figure out where to start just answer it.”

“Anthony Stark, ex weapons expert and technician. Produced some of the most dangerous weapons mankind ever used. Your father died leaving you to take over the corporation very young. You are supposed to be a genius, though you have yet to prove it,” he smiled dryly at Tony, “kidnapped by men after your weaponry, to make a weapon for them. Held in captivity until you managed to create a suit of iron and kill your captors. Once you escaped and were found, you came back and stopped creating weapons, opting instead become Iron Man and try to create clean energy. A touching tale.”

“Right, well, that was unexpected, uh huh. So...”

He looked around wishing he could get out of his predicament.

“Ok, when I was kidnapped, I was in a military vehicle that was ambushed with my own weaponry, which had been sold to them by my best friend and father figure Obadiah Stane, in the hopes they would kill me and he would get his hands on my company.” Painful images swam in his head and he wished he had another drink. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then flinched when he heard a noise behind him. A glass was pressed into his hand and he opened his eyes to see Loki standing over him with his glass filled up. More ice crawled down the glass.

“Uh, thanks, okay…”

Loki stayed silent and moved away again.

Tony tip a sip and continued, “I managed to escape the convoy and as I was staggering about I stumbled upon a bomb with my name on it, literally, Stark Industries, I was so shocked I didn't manage to get away in time as it exploded. I was flung against a rock with pain searing through my chest. The shrapnel from the bomb had gone straight through my body armour and that was it. I was going to die right there. But instead the men found me and dragged me back go their lair, realising who I was they opted not to kill me and instead use me to create a Jericho bomb for them. There was a scientist there, already captured, his name was Yinsen.” More pain, he took a shaky gulp of his drink. “Yinsen created a magnetised piece of metal rigged up to a car battery and put it into my chest when he found that the shrapnel was making its way towards my heart. That was the only thing that kept me alive. When I recovered enough to start work I managed to find a spot where the cameras could not watch me and design a suit of armour so I could blast my way out of there, into the suit I made a small magnetised reactor to replace the car battery hook up currently keeping me alive. We then blasted our way out once they figured out what we were up to and Yinsen.” Oh god Yinsen… “Yinsen was killed and I escaped, killing all but a few captors and flying into the desert where I was found by my friend Colonel Rhodes. When I got back to civilisation I started work on replacing my reactor with a self sustaining energy source called an arc reactor. It's why it glows blue, kinda like a non magical version of the Tesseract. I then made my suit, using the reactor in my chest to power it and start killing bad guys.”

Loki looked him over, searching his face for something and Tony closed his eyes again. He wasn't interested in the mocking gaze or burning eyes as visions of Afghanistan wheeled through his mind.

“Thank you, man of iron.” Tony looked up, raising his eyebrows in surprise. “I will speak to your leader, I will return in a few days.”

With that he disappeared, leaving Tony confused and slightly shell shocked. That man had the worst case of bipolar he had ever seen.

“Uhhh, Fury did you get all that.”

“Yes Stark, well done, get some rest and we'll bring you in in the morning. Gather anything you need to bring with you.”
“Sure thing Director.” He paused as Fury left the screen. “Jarvis, sever the connection Fury has to my cameras.”

“Yes sir.”

Tony let out a breath he didn't know he had been holding and put the glass down, dropping his head into his hands. How on earth was he going to sleep now? His hand fell to his mobile in his pocket. Pepper. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose hard, trying not to feel too thankful to the creepy super villain for stopping his anxiety attacks. But it didn't stop the nightmares.

He went down to his workshop and tinkered with Jarvis's system until first light, then gathered his suits and anything else he felt he might need/want and waited for Fury.

Chapter Text

A few days passed and Loki did not return, in between gaming/movie marathons (in which Clint was determined to teach Thor how to use an Xbox) and eating junk food, Tony spent his time with Banner in the lab, usually shadowed by Darcy who was desperate to know everything they did. Despite her ditzy demeanour she was actually very intelligent and they often found themselves collaborating with her and Jane, Thor was always hovering so they used his scant knowledge of Thanos and the Chitauri to try to figure out if Jarvis could detect portals and energy signatures from them.

Days passed this way, with occasional sparring matches in the gym, so far he had had his ass kicked by everyone but he was pleased to find out that he could hold his own in hand to hand combat for a fair while with Clint and Steve. There was no chance against Thor even without his hammer and Natasha was as deadly as her nickname, she could sweep the legs out from under anyone, even Thor.

Bruce refused to participate, instead sitting on the sidelines placing bets with Darcy and Jane on the outcomes of the matches.

It was on one such evening, about a week and a half after his last encounter that he was flat on his backside staring into Natasha's eyes as she placed a heel on his chest and smirked.

”Game, set and match to Black Widow!” Darcy called excitedly.

”You all knew that was gonna happen! Come on my body is not what I use to fight. I have managed to outsmart everyone except Natasha and Thor and I think that is pretty good going!”

Natasha just stepped back and offered him a hand, which he took grudgingly and pulled himself to his feet, dusting himself off as the others laughed.

”Shut up Barton you haven't beaten her either.”

”She has the distinct advantage over me where she knows every move I will make before I make it.”

Clint walked over to Tony and clapped a hand on his back.

”Better luck next time dud-“

And with that Tony kicked his legs out from underneath him, grabbing his hand and flipping him onto his back.

”That was for laughing at me.”

”Foul! Foul! Someone give him a red card or whatever it is they do in sports.”

Tony chuckled and stooped down to pull Clint off the ground.

”For a guy named Hawkeye you sure didn't see that coming.” He laughed and rested himself on his shoulder.

They were all laughing together now when Jarvis's voice sounded from the intercom.

”Sir, I am detecting a change in pressure similar to the signature of one Loki Laufeyson.”

”Similar, what do you mean similar?” He straightened up and everyone went quiet.

”It is very weak sir, almost untraceable.”

”Where is it?”

”It is coming from your room sir, whoever it is will be there in seconds.”

”Everyone grab your weapons and meet me at my room.” Tony yelled and legged it from the room. They ran to the armoury and he grabbed a gauntlet, pulling it on and firing it up, not waiting for the others to follow him.

Rogers grabbed his shield, Barton his quiver, Natasha grabbed a gun and Thor (thankfully) already had Mjölnir so no walls would lose their life today. Bruce just followed behind, rolling his shirt sleeves up and steeling himself.

When they reached the door, Thor kept Jane and Darcy, who had point blank refused to be left behind, back from the door. Tony took the handle in his free hand and let his thruster fire up; ready to blow whatever it was to pieces. As he turned the handle Fury came running up, out of breath and one hand on his gun.

Tony pushed the door open and dropped back until it swung open fully, before entering. He checked left and right and advanced, he looked back to Steve and pointed him left, Thor and Barton right and Natasha to follow him.

”Jarvis,” Tony hissed, “is the signature still here?”

”Yes sir.”

”Turn on all lights.”

Jarvis did as asked and Tony blinked in the sudden brightness before moving around his lounge. He looked over to the kitchen where Barton shook his head and then advanced on the sitting area. As he trod lightly as he could along the carpet he heard a noise behind one of the sofas. He looked back to Natasha who had heard the same and she went round one end whilst he took the other. He thrust his hand forwards and got ready to fire as he ran round the back of the sofa.

”Stark?” Came a weak, familiar voice and Tony skidded to a stop to see Loki face down on the carpet, trying to push himself up on his hands.

Forgetting himself, he reached forwards to help him up, only to earn himself a hiss through Loki's gritted teeth. He managed to push himself up and lean back against the sofa as Thor came round and dropped to his knees at the sight of his brother.

”Loki.” His deep voice shook as he took in his brother's haggard appearance.

”They're coming.” He breathed quietly.

”They?”

”Sir, I am detecting another energy source, about 100 yards away from the head quarters.”

”Who are they Loki?” Tony asked hurriedly.

”Chitauri, they'll be here any second.” He seemed to regain some energy and staggered to his feet. “They don't know exactly where you are, so go, we must get outside before they find your base.”

”We?”

”You will need me to close the portal.”

”Can you walk?”

”Yes, I can walk, they caught me off guard, that is all, I took a shocking blow. I am fine now get outside, all of you!”

”Jarvis, coordinates!” Tony yelled before turning his back to Loki and running to the armoury, where his suit was already coming apart to allow him to step inside. Steve was already there, pulling his mask over his face and then chucking a wrist guard at Barton, who had opened his bow from its folded state.

They ran down the corridor and on the second floor, Barton yanked open a window and threw a rope out, attaching it to a pipe coming out of the wall. He slid down as Tony, Thor and Steve leapt down, Tony stayed off the ground and flew to the coordinates where he could already see figures escaping onto the grass from a shimmering hole.
He fired off a shot, feeling the familiar recoil and letting his adrenaline surge. A blur of silver flashed past him as Mjölnir connected with a figure in front of him and two fell to the ground with arrows protruding from the head and one from the neck.

Natasha fell behind a tree, Darcy and Jane next to her, it looked like she was giving them each a gun and pointing at the Chitauri's heads. Tony fired off a couple more rounds as Steve's shield knocked an energy gun from one of the creature’s hands before kicking it to the floor and catching his shield in one swift movement.

The portal had stopped shimmering now and more figures were coming out of it, Tony fired off a few missiles from his shoulder blasters and watched them connect with their targets as he took out some more with blasts from his palms. For each one they took down three seemed to replace it and Tony looked for a green cape in the swarm of purple and grey Chitauri, would Loki hold to his word and close the portal or would he disappear again. As he tried to blast a few more a worry crept over him, what if Loki had led them here and it was all part of a bigger scheme. It made more sense to him than Loki actually wanting to help. Distracted by the thought he took a blast to his abdomen and flew backwards into the tree Natasha and the others were crouched behind.

”Ahh shit.” He gasped as the wind was knocked out of him.

”Tony are you ok?” Natasha nudged him and he jumped upright.

”Let me know if you see Loki, I don' t trust that son of a bitch farther than I can throw him.”

Natasha nodded and he hurled himself back into the fray with added vigour.

”We've gotta close this portal, Stark can Jarvis do it?” Steve shouted through his ear piece.

”I don't think so.” Tony watched as a rather large green creature tore a Chitauri apart and smiled, Dr Banner.

”We need Loki, where is he?” Hawkeye replied to them both as he loosed arrow after arrow into the creatures.

Tony circled up high, loosing shots at anything he could as he looked for Loki. Nothing, they had been double crossed. Tony swept in closer as a fresh wave of Chitauri piled through the portal, only for them to be struck down by a bolt of lightning.

He watched the battle from overhead, despite the battle tipping in their favour, the amount of enemies pouring through was endless and eventually they would tire, the Chitauri were expendable, they would just keep coming.
Tony pushed the thought aside and landed back down, punching in the face of one of the creatures. Screw it, he thought, he was not going to let them win.

As his heart pounded and his arm ached from the continuous recoil he fought his way to the portal. “Jarvis, talk to me.”

”The portal is different to the one created using the Tesseract sir.”

”How?”

”The energy signatures point to some for of magical energy from the other side, something is holding it open.”

”Is the signature familiar?”

”If you mean does it match Loki's sir, I cannot say.”

”Right, so if we want this thing to close it has got to be done from inside the portal?”

”Again sir, I cannot say, it is beyond my technology.”

”Great, I hate magic.” He fought his way ever closer to the portal as a lapse in pouring enemies gave him a chance to look at it better. Around 20ft high and wide it was slightly shimmering and it moved like waves on a beach. The shimmering grew brighter each time the Chitauri came through.

”Thor, can you light this up for me, give me a chance to try and get through.”

”What do you mean Tony Stark?” Came his reply.

”I mean, create a distraction so I can get inside and try to find out who is holding the portal open.”

”That is beyond your power!” He cried.

”You don't know that!”

”You are not like to survive the trip, just as you almost lost your life the last time.” A grunt came through as something hit into Thor's side, he really needed to learn to use the earpiece and walk at the same time.

”This is nothing like last time I was carrying a nuke and low on power.” Tony argued, trying to convince himself more than Thor.

A pause, no sound, then…

”I will do this for you Tony, but if I feel you are taking too long I am coming in there to get you.”

”Fine, deal, now light these bastards up!”

Tony flew right up to the edge of the portal and looked into the cavernous landscape beyond. Draped in darkness he could make out nothing except the glowing energy of the Chitauri's guns.

”On my word Thor, 3, 2-“

”Not today Man of Iron!” Came a growl behind him just as Natasha's voice came over the earpiece.

”Tony you said to tell you...”

”I heard him Black Widow thank you.” He turned round to face Loki, who was kitted out in battle gear and holding a rather decorated staff.

”Finally decided to show up?”

”I had something to do first.”

”That was?”

”None of your business now get out of my way.” He leapt straight into the portal before Tony could stop him.

”Thor, no lightning, I'm following Loki.”

A grunt came in reply and Tony stepped through the portal, holding his breath as if he were diving underwater as he felt a freezing cold seep through his suit to his skin.

He dropped onto a rocky expanse, dust and dirt flying up wherever he touched and looked around into the gloom. Behind him the portal was a few feet off the floor and he could see the battle raging on behind it. He looked out in front of him and could see nothing, but he could hear noises up ahead.

A flash of light came across his vision and took out a shadowed figure to his left, then again and again and he realised it must be Loki. He powered forwards and shot down two of the Chitauri so he could land next to Loki.

”What's the plan?”

”The plan was for me to break The Other's concentration so the portal would close whilst you and the rest of your team distracted the Chitauri!” Loki hissed through gritted teeth.

”Well you see,” he loosed off another shot, “I don't trust you so that plan is void. How about I distract these bastards from here and you go do whatever it is you've got to do?”

Loki looked at him quickly before backing off and disappearing, leaving Tony to deal with the Chitauri.

”You'd better hurry up,” he said to the darkness, exasperated. For the billionth time he felt a trickle of fear at the idea that this could be Loki's scheme to get him and the others killed and he has just made himself an easy target. He hoped he was wrong and turned his mind back to the Chitauri, more were approaching now and he knew he could not keep this up for long. “Fuck I am so screwed.”

He continued to blast his way through the Chitauri, but soon he was taking almost as many hits as he was giving and it just kept on coming.

”Hey Thor can you hear me?” A crackle, then silence.

”Thor, if you can hear me, can you shoot some lightning into the left hand side of the portal?” He prayed Thor had heard him and backed off from the advancing Chitauri. A few seconds later an almighty sound roared up as a bolt of lightning hit a Chitauri manning one of the small vehicles that looked like a floating jet ski and sent it up in smoke, the lightning branching off and hitting others surrounding it as if they conducted it.

”Neat, cheers big guy.” He caught his breath in the split second lapse before the Chitauri converged again.

”Sir we are losing power rapidly, this suit was not made for such atmospheres.”

”Not helping Jarvis, how long do I have left?”

”Less than 10 minutes if my calculations are correct, less if you need to use the suit to escape.”

”Wonderful, exactly what I wanted to hear. Come on you alien bastard close the portal.”

Opting to try and prolong his suit he wrestled a gun off an advancing Chitauri and let loose on them with it, but they were gaining in numbers and Tony was being pushed back, he cursed Loki and himself for being so stupid as Jarvis indicated that his power was now in the red zone. He now had two choices, continue fighting and hope Loki proves good on his word, or high tail it out of there. He wanted to do the latter, but he couldn't just leave Loki behind in the highly unlikely scenario that he actually was helping them.

”Shit, Jarvis put power into the thrusters; get me to a vantage point quick.”

”Yes sir.” Even Jarvis's voice sounded strained.

He powered up and got himself to the nearest large overhang of rock and tried to spot Loki. His breath was coming in gasps and sweat trickled down his face. He could see the massing Chitauri in the far distance and a glow that said something was going on above it on an outcrop of rock much like the one he was on. He knew the Chitauri were below him and they were almost upon the rock face but he didn't take his eyes off the mass in the distance, he was searching for a flash of green, a beam of light, anything to indicate Loki being there. Then it happened, a glint of gold helmet, a flash of bright light and an almighty explosion that stopped the Chitauri in their tracks.

”Stark can you hear me?”

”Loki?! Yes I, where are you?”

”I am speaking through your mind, get to the portal, it is closing.”

”Right ok, Jarvis you heard E.T., time to phone home.”

”Sir...”

”I don't want your pessimism Jarvis just do what I say.”

He felt his thrusters flare up and blasted off the rock face as the Chitauri broke ranks, some tried to go after him but most tried to get back to their base in the distance, which seemed to be on fire. Red lights flashed inside his suit and he gritted his teeth.

”Almost there!” He groaned from the strain his suit was coming under.

As he came upon the portal he nearly let himself take a breath in relief, but instead searing pain lanced up his back as something hit him from behind and knocked him out of the air. He hit down hard underneath the portal, which was decreasing in size rapidly. He turned over onto his back, glad he had no breath to be knocked out of him and gulped in air. A small group of Chitauri were standing over him, one lifted their gun and fired it at his chest, warning signals flared through his suit and his navigation system and screens inside his mask started to flicker.

”Argh!” He cried as he shot backwards into the dirt from the force of the blast, he lifted up a hand and tried to shoot, but his thrusters merely started up and died.

”Jarvis, Jarvis come on, we are so close.”

No reply came and he uttered a gut wrenching cry as an armoured foot stamped down on the hand he was using to prop himself up.

Guttural laughter rippled through the group, a choking, hacking and feral sound. Tony steeled himself and went to grab the foot but the creature had already raised its gun and shot him in the wrist, the force of the blow flung him backwards once more and he heard a crack as his armour shattered, and another as his wrist connected with the ground. He tried to hold back a scream but it had already escaped him. Another Chitauri placed its gun against his leg and fired, at such close range and with no shields to protect him his armour shattered, then they flipped the gun round and drove what could only be the barrel straight into his exposed leg. A sickening crunch could be heard and he felt the blood drain from his face and black dots appeared in his field of vision as pain lanced through his body. Ribs, wrist, leg, what next. Before he could finish his thought he felt the foot come off his hand. Flexing his fingers he lashed out, only for something to connect viciously with his head. His mask flew off and more laughter echoed around him. He dropped back to the floor, fighting against the pain to stay conscious until another blow, from a foot he guessed, connected with his head. He blacked out for a few seconds, but pain in his leg and wrist brought him back and he looked up to see the portal close. He felt a hand grab his unbroken wrist roughly and start dragging him away before he blacked out again.

He didn't know how long he was out, seconds, minutes? But he was jolted into consciousness when he was dropped roughly to the floor, a thud next to him signalled something else dropping and he tried to see what it was; some kind of figure was slumped next to him. Then something heavy and solid landed on his leg and he was out again.

”Must I do everything myself.” Snarled a voice, he couldn't tell if it was in his mind and he was still out of it, or if he was awake again. Something grabbed him, gentler than before and he was pulled up in one swift movement. He was pulled onto something, shoulders, maybe. Was he being carried off to the burning base? He was held in place as whatever was carrying him stood up and he felt a rush of cold come over him, like water, before he lost consciousness once more.

Chapter Text

“Stark? Stark can you hear me?!” Steve shouted into his earpiece. “Damn it!” He kicked a dead Chitauri on the ground. “How long ago did they go through?”

”It was not too long ago Captain.” Thor answered unhelpfully.

”I spotted Loki about 15 minutes ago Cap, then they both disappeared through the portal shortly after.” Natasha said as she picked her way across the body strewn battlefield with Jane and Darcy in tow.

Steve turned to Banner, who was back normal size now.

'How long can his suit last out of Earth's atmosphere?'
”Not long, even powered up as it was compared to Manhattan.” He looked down at the ground as he spoke.

”What are we going to do now the portal's closed?” Clint was pulling arrows out of corpses.

Steve turned to Thor, “is there anything we can do?”

Thor shook his head and knelt down on the ground, closing his eyes. Jane made her way over and rested a hand on his shoulder, which he covered with his own.

”Please tell me you did not let Stark go after Loki into outer space.” Fury strode over with a handful of SHIELD agents kitted out in body armour, guns slung over their shoulders.

”I should have tried harder to stop him, but I was surrounded by enemies.” Thor straightened up and let out a deep, shuddering breath.

”This is no one's fault.” Steve cut in. “Stark is capable of making his own choices and very capable of being too bull headed to stop himself doing it.” Steve sighed and picked his shield up off the ground, at a loss for what to do.

”Captain Rogers.” Came a voice from his earpiece.

”Jarvis?” Steve spun round and walked away from the ground, touching a hand to the comm.

”Yes sir, my systems have had to reboot, Mr Stark's suit lost power about 5 minutes ago, he is unreachable. Just before it happened Loki managed to destroy the base and told Mr Stark to make his way back to the portal, but he was attacked before he could reach it.”

Steve turned back round and relayed the information to the others.

”So what you're saying is Stark is dead in the water on a hostile planet with only an alien war criminal as an ally?” Fury seemed to grow a few inches in anger. “Don't answer that was a rhetorical question. What the hell are we going to do about this? Assuming he is still alive, he could be captured, killed or dropped off a planet. And as for Loki, I don't like this one bit, it has worked out a little too well, Stark separated with no power and us blind to what is going on. What if he is picking us off one by one? What if this is all part of a plot he has hatched with his friends the Chitauri to try and take over the Earth again. It seems to me we have been double crossed.”

”Director Fury, you wound me with your words.” Came a breathless purr from behind them. They all spun round and Steve flung Fury out of the way to get to the voice. Loki appeared on the grass, staggering to keep upright with Tony's bulk draped over his shoulders.
Steve grabbed Tony as Loki stumbled, barely managing to keep on his feet. When Tony was safely off of him he collapsed into the grass, pulling off his helmet and letting his hair fall around his face.

”Many of his bones are broken and he is unconscious.” Loki gasped.

”What happened!” Fury demanded.

”I suggest you see to your friend first, I did not have time to see if his injuries were life threatening.”

”Thor, help me put Tony down, watch his leg, it looks pretty mangled.” Steve called out.

Thor helped him to angle Tony's body down gently onto the ground and then looked him over, Fury shouted to the agents to get a stretcher to get him inside. One came up and handed him what looked like a small tablet and he held it over him.

”God damn it I can't see anything through his suit, we may have to chance taking it off.”

”Wait.” Loki put a hand up and pushed himself onto his knees. He pulled himself over to Tony and placed a hand over his chest.

”What are you-“ Fury started, but Thor quieted him. “Loki knows what he is doing.”

Fury folded his arms and grunted.

A trickle of green light came from Loki's palm and went through Tony's suit, rippling across his chest. Loki closed his eyes and everyone fell silent.

”A fractured skull, 4 broken ribs, countless bruised, a cracked sternum, 3rd degree burns to the chest, shattered wrist and his leg broken in two places. No internal bleeding or life threatening injuries.”

”Can we put him on the stretcher now?” Fury spat impatiently.

”No, let me work.”

Green light coursed from Loki's arm into Tony's chest and Tony's body seemed to come off the floor slightly. Light pooled out from beneath his suit and the others watched on as the exposed skin knitted itself back together as the light grew ever brighter, changing from a dark green to gold and finally white.

After a couple of minutes Loki slumped back into the grass, flexing his wrist and fingers.

”Now you may move him.” His voice was ragged and breathless.

”What did you do?” Steve's voice was full of disbelief.

”I healed him, what did it look like!” Loki growled, meeting Steve's gaze with unfaltering rage.

Steve looked away and back to Tony who was being placed on the stretcher and carried away. They followed sedately leaving Loki in the grass. He eventually got up, grabbing his staff and helmet which de materialized in his hands and following in silence. Tony was taken through to the infirmary where under Jarvis's instruction his suit was removed, everyone was ushered out to wait in one of the lounges, all except Fury and Loki, who made it very clear anyone who came near him would be reduced to ashes. He stood back from them and watched them work.

”Director, he is completely healed.” One of the surgeons said quietly. Loki didn't miss the trace of relief in the voice, as if they had expected Stark to be a mess of internal organs and blood underneath his healed skin. Loki smirked, good. He did not want their trust.

***

Tony awoke with a jolt and groaned out loud as pain lanced through his head, he touched his fingers to if gently and felt the pull of tubes, he squinted in the gloom to see an IV needle in his hand. He felt his face and could feel more tubes up his nose. He looked into the darkness and seeing no one, he pulled the tubes out, choking slightly as they brushed his throat. He then pulled the IV out and cursed as he nicked the skin.

”Can you try not to damage yourself after the energy I expended to heal you?” Came a dark voice from the shadows and Tony jumped.

”Jarvis, lights!” He called out hoarsely and almost gagged as his throat was so dry. The lights flickered on to reveal Loki leaning upright against the wall by his bed and Tony pushed himself up as his heart hammered in his chest. He looked down to see his arc reactor safely in his chest before looking back to Loki.

”Why are you here?”

”I am unwelcome anywhere else.” He stated dryly.

”Why am I here?”
”Because I hauled your lifeless body back from… What is it you people call it, Outer Space?”

”You, wait what?” Tony looked around, fumbling with his hands until he found a glass of water, he choked on it as he tried to drink it until finally he stopped sputtering and managed to down it all. His limbs felt heavy and unresponsive and he looked up at his IV. Morphine, of course.

”Are you done trying to drown yourself?”

”Yes, I am thanks for your concern, now would you mind explaining to me what happened?”

”You were shot out of the air when you reached the portal, then pounded into a pulp by the Chitauri.”

”I remember that, where do you come in?”

”I managed to commandeer a vehicle from the Chitauri I had just blown up and was racing back to the portal when I saw you being dragged back to the base, so I slew the few who surrounded you and as the portal had then closed, teleported us back to Midgard.”

”I seem to recall many grievous injuries, how long have I been out.” He panicked, suddenly thinking about 6 weeks being unconscious whilst his body healed.

”2 days.”

”2 days… But my wrist, my leg?” He moved each on in turn, stiff but not broken.

”I used magic to heal you once we were back on Midgard.”

”So... Not only did you save my life, but you healed me as well?”

”Try not to get overly emotional, leaving you behind would have caused me more grief than it was worth.”

”Could have just told them I was dead.”

”And then be incarcerated and charged with your murder, I think not.”

”Well being that you can easily escape what should it matter?”

”I came here to seek aid, not start another war.”

”Ok, but why use up all your energy to heal me?”

Loki fell silent and Tony felt cold under his glare. After a couple of minutes Loki took a breath.

”It seemed the proper thing to do.”

”Since when do you abide by proper?”

”Since you distracted The Other's forces long enough for me to get close enough to destroy the base.”

”Did you kill him?”

”No, but I managed to take away his powers, so he will not be opening portals for the foreseeable future.”

”You what?”

”Too complicated for a mortal mind to understand.” Loki waved his fingers through the air and looked away.

Tony's first thought was to argue, but he couldn't bring himself to do it.

”Thank you.”

Loki turned his cold gaze back to Tony and narrowed his eyes.

”For saving my life, unbusting my busted ass and for stopping my anxiety attacks, something I should have thanked you for ages ago.”

Loki just watched him incredulously and Tony wondered when the last time anyone had ever thanked him was, and when he had given anyone reason too. A few heartbeats later Loki pushed himself off the wall and sank down into a chair so he could face Tony.

”I still don't understand what is going on in that unhinged head of yours, but, still. Thanks.”

Loki pursed his lips and looked away, back to brooding.

”I do not want your thanks, it was all to serve a higher purpose.” He did not look at Tony as he spoke.

”The correct answer is 'it's fine, or no problem’.”

Loki looked back to him slowly.

”Just try it? No. Problem.”

Green eyes narrowed.

”Come on, be friendly, just this once, look I am lying in a hospital bed and,” he picked up the covers. “Oh god someone has given me a sponge bath, please tell me the nurses were female?!”

Loki tried to keep his eyes narrowed, but Tony's petrified face caused him to let a laugh escape, it was a musical, gentle sound that made Tony smile.

”See, that is more like it.”

Loki composed himself and went back to watching Tony with calculating eyes. Tony stared back, Loki's dark hair was out of its usual slicked back style and instead fell messily around his face, framing his narrow cheekbones and causing a stark contrast between his pale skin and hollow green eyes, his eyes had dark red bruises underneath them as if he had not slept properly in a while. His armour was forgone in the stead of his usual leather attire, but without the overcoat and cape, he almost looked casual, in a renaissance fair kind of way.

”You look like shit.” Tony tried to sound light hearted.

”So do you.” Loki replied quietly.

Tony's next words were drowned out by a mass of footsteps sounding down the hall. Loki stiffened and looked towards the door.

”Don't go.” Tony said weakly, but Loki merely looked at him before he disappeared into thin air.

At the same time the door burst open and all the Avengers, alongside Jane and Darcy, filed into the room in a raucous symphony.

”Tony Stark! You are awake!” Thor cheered through a mouthful of what looked like hot dog. He was the first to reach him and hold out a hand.

”Screw the handshake give me the hot dog.” Tony laughed and snatched it, stuffing it into his mouth before Thor could react.

”That was mine!”

”Sharing ishf caring bith guy.” He said through a mouthful of bun and sausage.

Thor broke into a wide grin and sat down on the end of the bed. Steve came round the other side and pulled up the chair Loki had been sitting in, if he noticed it had been moved he said nothing.

”We asked Jarvis to notify us as soon as you were awake, but Thor here was too busy hounding down food with Barton and Romanoff.”

”And no one thought to bring me any?”

”You've been out of it two days, you need something more substantial than hot dogs and pizza.”

”There is nothing more substantial than hot dogs and pizza!” He cried in mock disbelief. He shook hands with Steve and pulled himself up to clasp Banner's arm and clap Barton on the side. Natasha came down and in a rare lapse of judgement kissed him on the cheek.

”Wow, you all really thought I was de- done for huh.” He touched his hand to where Natasha's lips had touched his skin and felt almost humbled by the faces around him. “Surely you know by now you can't get rid of me that easy.” He laughed, trying to stop the tension mounting between them all.

”We feared the worst at one point.” Fury came striding in and stopped beside his bed as the other's moved aside for him. “Welcome back soldier.” He wrung his hand hard. “For a moment there you had us fooled, you and Loki both. We all thought he'd taken you out for the count.”

”For a moment so did I, but I was wrong and I am very glad I was. I was really screwed back there; they were dragging me back to their master when Loki found me.”

The others looked away and Fury said nothing, obviously no one would give up their hatred for Loki that easily. Was that what he had done? He searched himself, he was frightened by Loki, yes, more than a little unnerved and creeped out, yes, he pitied him a bit, not that he would ever let Loki know that, and he was grateful. He didn't trust him, but he didn't hate him, in fact he couldn't remember ever hating him. Now he knew how Thor must feel, if on a stupidly smaller scale, he knew he should hate him, he wanted to hate him, but he couldn't.

”Oh-kaay silence over came someone please give me some clothes and I want to make it very clear that no one is EVER to let a nurse sponge bath me again, am I understood?” A chorus of laughter broke out and he was handed a pile of clothes by a hovering doctor. “Ok go on everyone shoo, I mean it. No free show today.” He waited until everyone left before climbing out of bed and dressing stiffly, his limbs starting to regain their usefulness.

He sat on the bed a while, wondering what the hell to do with himself before he finally managed to make himself leave and go find the lounge. He was lucky enough that a lift was nearby as all the rooms the Avengers used were on the 6th and 7th story, top story for bedrooms, second to top had commodities. Each floor had its own usage, bottom floor was labs, workshops and medical rooms and that was where he was at now. He went up in the lift and came out on the 6th floor to the smell of pizza drifting down the corridor and his mouth watered. He stopped himself sprinting the short distance to food and as he approached the door he could hear laughter and banging.

He walked in to find Thor with Clint in a headlock, Steve and Banner sitting at a counter watching, Jane and Darcy on the sofa cheering and Natasha sitting cross legged on the floor putting a game into the Xbox.

”I swear we left kindergarten years ago.” Tony laughed and they all turned to face him.

”Clint has been teaching me how to use your technology box and now has resorted to cheating because I am winning.” Thor grinned as Clint struggled uselessly against him.

Tony looked from him to Natasha.

”They're busy so I want to play my game now.” She smiled before turning back to a first person shooter. He waved to Jane and Darcy before walking over to Steve and Bruce.

”I see they have resorted to a childlike state due to crisis.” He pointed over at the others and chuckled.

”Aren't they always like this?” Banner lifted his eyebrows as Clint finally got free and slumped on the sofa nursing his pride.

”I seem to be missing a good party, give me some pizza Rogers.” He motioned with his hands and Steve passed him the box, he smelt it tentatively and upon smelling pepperoni he whipped it open and grabbed a slice. As he put the box down and went to take a bite.

”Tony, has Loki spoken to you?”

”Uh uh, can't talk, eating.” Tony took a large bite of the pizza and took his time on it.

”Stark.” Steve warned.

”Oh can I at least eat first before you interrogate me?” Tony said, swallowing his bite and wincing as the lump slid down his throat.

”It's important.”

”And my health isn't?”

”Just answer the question.” Steve pulled his eyebrows together and waited.

”Ok, fine.” He pulled up a bar stool and sat down. “Yes, he was there when I woke up, he told me what happened then disappeared when you lot came blaring in, that's it.”

”He never left the room you were in according to the doctors.”

”He said he was unwelcome anywhere else.”

Steve furrowed his brow.

”What do you expect, everyone hates the guy he isn't going to come in and be glared at, I expect he gets enough of that on Asgard.”

”You sound like you’re defending him.” Bruce remarked pointedly.

”I guess I am, a little. I don't trust him, but he has saved our backsides and my life in one night. It doesn't make up for what he did but it's a start.”

Silence. Great, you and your big mouth Stark, just pretend to share everyone else's view and be done with it, he isn't there to be liked.

”Do you know where he is now?” Steve finally looked up.

”No, like I said he disappeared.”

”Can Jarvis find him?”

”He could, but maybe he doesn't want to be found?” Tony offered.

”We need to hear his information, he said he would speak to Fury.”

”Technically he did when I was lying on the grass, and it is getting late, can they not speak tomorrow?”

Steve sighed and pushed the pizza box towards Tony.

”There you go, that’s better.” Tony gushed mockingly and started to eat. “I will cooperate better once I have some food, I am starving.”

”You'd better, we can't have a mass murderer floating around our building unattended.”

Tony’s eyes flicked to Natasha and back again, weren’t they all technically mass murderers? He pushed the thought from his mind. “He probably isn't even here, more than likely is in one of his temporal space bolt holes he seems to disappear into a lot.”

”Space holes?”

”A guess, he has to hide somewhere and sometimes Jarvis doesn't think it is on Earth and it sure as hell isn't on Asgard. I think he has lots of little crevices in dark corners of the universe that he can hide for short periods of time.”

Steve just nodded, so did Bruce.

”Makes sense I guess.” Bruce said thoughtfully.

”So, instead of badgering, you're just going to have to be patient, this guy is like a coiled snake, provoke him and he strikes you, or slithers away. Wait him out and he'll eventually lose interest or relax.”

”We don't have time to wait him out.”
”We're going to have to if we want his information.” Tony picked up the pizza box and dropped himself onto the sofa next to Clint making it clear the conversation was over.

They continued to watch people play, play games themselves, talk and joke well into the night. When everyone finally started getting up and going to bed, only Tony and Natasha were left. She bid him goodnight and left him to his thoughts. He had a lukewarm beer still in his hand which he didn't really feel like drinking, he got up and went over to the fridge by the kitchen area and looked inside. Ready meals, candy, beer, soda, plastic containers of cooked food marked with days of the week, vegetables and various tins. He opted for a Hershey bar, wishing he had grabbed some chocolate on his stop in at the UK, American chocolate sucked.

He sat back down and swirled the contents of his can around.

”Jarvis, can you detect where Loki is?”

”No sir.”

”I knew it I knew it.” He took a gulp of his beer and instantly regretted it.

”Eugh warm piss. Why do they make drinks that turn to piss when they get warm.” He shoved the rest of the chocolate bar in his mouth and put the drink aside.

He sat there quietly for a few minutes and then Jarvis made a beeping noise, he recognised it from the other night.

”Jarvis?”

”I have detected Loki's signature sir.”

”And?”

”You may not like this, it is heading for this room using teleportation.”

”Shit, no sleep for me.” He turned around and looked over the back of the sofa, waiting for the tell tale shimmer of magic.

”Do you even know what a door is?”

”I do.” He heard the silky voice before he saw him appear on the tile floor before him.

”Where have you been hiding?”

”That is none of your concern.”

”It kinda is seeing as you said you'd talk to Fury and everyone thinks I am the official Loki babysitter.”

Loki narrowed his eyes at him, “and I will.”

”Not if you keep disappearing to your bolt holes.”

Loki looked at him coolly.

”They no longer exist, there are no safe places for me any more. The last time I used one of my 'bolt holes' as you put it I was attacked and ended up here.”

”So then where have you been?”

Loki sighed. ”On the roof, mostly.”

”Isn't it really cold out there?”

”I do not feel the cold like most.”

Feeling the conversation thinning, Tony grasped for a subject.

”Is it nice, on Asgard?”

Loki turned to Tony, his expression unreadable and Tony wondered if he had said the wrong thing.

”It is beautiful.”

”What is it like?”

Loki crossed the gap between them in a few long strides and came to stand near the sofa, his hands clasped behind his back.

”There is a great, golden palace above the sea, the citadel stretches almost as far as the eye can see around and behind. Magical fires light up cobbled and paved streets worn smooth by horses and people. Beyond the citadel are meadows, criss-crossed with rivers that stem from the mountains beyond. Bountiful woodlands border the mountains and the air is always warm in the summer and cool in the winter, the winds blow off the mountains and keep the heat at bay during the hottest times. It is peaceful, the courtyards are always full of people selling fresh fruit and vegetables. Young soldiers practice fighting together inside the castle grounds and everyone is free to come and go as they please, there is no great divide between the King and his people.”

”Sounds like a great place; we don't have anything like that here, Kings, castles. All that stuff we read about as kids. Sure they do over in Europe, but we have the Wild West and presidents. Not a lot of magic in that.”

Loki looked at him curiously.

”You know, it still weirds me out that I can go to my local library, get a book about mythology and find you in it.”

Loki smirked half heartedly and looked away.

”It's pretty cool, weird, but cool. I used to read about the Norse Gods as a kid, not a lot, too into my science and my dad wanted me to learn about weapons, but still.”

Loki didn't look back.

”I'm trying to keep a conversation going here but I need your help with that.”

”I have nothing to say.”

”Then think of something, you come here to give us help, you're no help to us shutting yourself away or disappearing and only resurfacing when you need something. You say you are unwelcome, then make an effort. You have burned a lot of bridges, not just burned; you exploded them into tiny pieces. It isn't going to be forgotten in a hurry, it won't be forgotten at all without you trying.”

”Then why do you speak to me, you haven't forgotten.”

”Because you saved my life and I can tell you're a pretty lonely guy,” Loki went to speak and Tony put a hand up to stop him, “don't try to deny it. I don't think you're all bad news, unhinged, borderline psychotic and a total bastard yes, evil, no.”

”I did not come here to be psychologically assessed.” Loki growled half heartedly.

”Why did you come here then, and don't say to me you're unwelcome anywhere else as you could have stayed on the roof.”

”I do not know! To see if you are still alive maybe?”

”Very kind of you, as you can see for now I am still in one piece.”

”How fortunate for you.”

”Back to square one with you again, you know if you dropped the condescending tone when you spoke to people you might turn out to be a likeable guy.”

Eyes narrowed at him and Tony shrugged at him. “Just a suggestion.”

”I do not wish to be likeable.”

”And why is that?”

”Friendship is a useless thing that brings sentiment, sentiment is a useless bi-product of feelings and keeps one from reaching full potential.”

”Spoken like someone who has no friends. By full potential you mean mass murder and intergalactic war? Doesn't seem like such a good thing any more does it?”

No reply.

”I know the sound of my voice probably irritates the hell out of you, I know I am annoying at the best of times but I am trying here, can't you? Do you have anyone you could call a friend?”

Loki turned away from him, Tony could almost feel him seething.

”I take that as a no, not even on Asgard?”

”No one, once I had my family, but no more.”

”You have issues, I get it, but so does everyone. Mass murder is generally not the option, psychiatrists are.”

A cold look, tinged with confusion.

”A psychiatrist is someone you talk about your problems to, someone who is qualified to help you through them.”

”You mortals tell your problems to strangers and hope they will fix them?”

”See when you put it that way it doesn't sound so good, but, they help. Talking about it helps.” Tony felt a guilty tug at his heart as he said that and thought of Pepper, who he had so carelessly shut out, who was he to be giving life lessons?

Loki watched him curiously now and Tony raised his eyebrows in concern.

“What, is there something on my face?”

”You say talking about your problems is good, yet you and I are not so different in that aspect. You have shut your heart away too and do not let people help you.”

”Difference is I do not go around starting wars.”

”No, you kill the mortals you call the 'bad guys'. People's perspectives of right and wrong differ, even between your own Avengers. Who is to say you are right in how you handle your situation in adverse to how I handle mine?”

”Because I help people, and you ruin people's lives?”

”For all you know the humans my army killed were murderers, killers pretending to be normal humans.”

“Or they could have been decent human beings trying to live a good life.”

”But there is the question, right there, how do you know?”

”If you want to play that game, what about Coulson?” Tony barely stopped his breath hitching when he felt the pain of losing him hit anew and he looked away.

Loki stiffened before replying.

”He was going to shoot me.”

”You're a God, that hit did nothing to you.”

”I did not know it would, the weapon was untested. Had I not had the Tesseract's protection I expect it could have killed me, being that it harnesses the same power as Asgard's Destroyer, which can kill anything.”

”But you had the Tesseract.”

”I did not know if its protection would work against it.”

”Were you scared?”

”No. I had nothing to fear.”

”You're a really bad liar.”

”What do you want Stark? I do not feel remorse for my actions, I do not want retribution. Did I enjoy what happened? Yes, would I do it again if I needed to? Yes, I do what I must to survive and if it means killing others I will do so with ease. Do you know how many people your Agent Romanoff has killed? How many innocents?” He hissed.

”Don't make this about someone else, she has decided to change, she made the leap to make herself a better person and regrets her actions. You could do it too, it's called learning and very easy to do. Staying on the path your on will just get you killed, you know that or you wouldn't be here right now.”

Tony expected an argument, or anger, or a sarcastic reply. Instead Loki walked over to the other sofa and sat down on it, as he did his body shimmered and his leather clothing disappeared, in place appeared a green v necked shirt of some very soft material and fitted cotton trousers. He was barefoot and stretched out on the couch as if he had not known comfort in some time.

He pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers and squeezed his eyes shut as if battling some internal battle and did not speak again.

Tony waited, he could play this game. After a few minutes he got up and went to the counter, grabbing a bottle of his favourite whiskey he had stashed in one of the drawers. He pulled out two glasses and poured them both a drink and walked over to Loki. He stopped in front of him and the god looked up.

”Here.” He passed him the glass, which Loki took delicately. “Would you mind?” He brought the other glass closer to Loki. With his free hand Loki touched a finger to the glass, ice crystals fanned out from his finger and stopped mere millimetres away from Tony's fingers on the top of the glass. “Cheers, neat trick, I suppose magic isn't all that bad.”

He sat down on the other sofa and positioned himself so he could watch Loki and raised his glass.

“To awkward acquaintances, or whatever you would call us.” He brought the glass down to his lips and drank, shuddering as the ice cold liquid hit his sore throat. Loki merely watched him with narrowed eyes, but eventually took a sip after icing his own glass.

”If we're going to sit here in silence I am going to put on a movie.” He grabbed the remote and turned on the obscenely large flat screen tv that was more like a small cinema system and flicked through Netflix until he found the one he wanted.

He glanced over to see Loki watching the screen curiously.

”TVs are a god send, I don't know how you live without them!”

Loki looked away, seething and took another sip. “We prefer pursuits that challenge our minds and bodies.”

”That is all well and good, but you always need an escape from the real world.”

”Well you see Stark, on Asgard there are these things called books.”

“That's what this is!”

Loki glared at him.

“This brings books to life, using real people or animation to tell the story so you can see it with your own eyes, imagining is great, but this is something else.”

Music started up from the TV and Loki looked back at it, the music became more powerful as the movie started.

“What is this?” Loki asked, then looked away horrified that he had.

”You'll see, and I bet you'll like it too.” Tony replied smugly.

They watched in silence as the scenes unfolded in front of them and Tony couldn't help smirking. Loki watched with mock boredom as a cat turned into a woman with a pointy hat.

”This is what you mentioned to me the other day is it not?”

”Yep, Harry Potter, you like magic so watch it and don't complain.”

”So they can choose any form they wish yet the woman chooses to shape shift into a cat...”

”She likes cats ok.”

”But out of everything?”

”I suppose you could do better.” Tony looked over at him, expecting a curt reply but instead Loki shimmered. Oh shit, he paused the TV and winced.

Before the transformation had finished Loki leapt into the air and landed on the other sofa, Tony pulled his legs out of the way as the creature advanced on him. Green eyes tinged with gold bored into his as sharp canines glinted in the dim light. Tony watched the wolf in frightened awe, pitch black and a lot larger than a regular wolf, it panted and bared its teeth before releasing a low growl.

”Ok ok I get it point taken you're better than the people on the TV. Please put the fangs away.”

The wolf, or should he say Loki merely cocked its head in a puppy like fashion.

”Don't act cute or I'll pet you.”

That earned him another threatening snarl and he backed into the sofa as much as he could.

“Point taken, you can go back to your own sofa now!”

Loki growled once more before backing away and stepping lightly off the sofa, he looked back at Tony and shimmered again, Tony let out a sigh of relief but stopped halfway as the figure in front of him turned blue.
Red, white and blue in fact.

”Does this more suit you Stark?” Came the undistinguishable voice of Captain Rogers.

”Ok now that is creepy, can you change into anything you want?”

”Shape shifting is my speciality.” He shimmered again and this time became Natasha.

”Anything, any creature, any gender, anything I want.” Natasha spoke but the nuance was Loki

“Weirding me out now.”

”You challenged.” The voice changed halfway through into a male voice, HIS voice. Tony looked back at himself incredulously.

”Do I really look like that? God I'm short.”

Loki-Tony smirked and walked away, back to the other sofa, he dropped down into it and by the time he was stretched out again he was back to his normal self.

”Er, thanks for the show, you enjoyed that way too much.”

“I enjoy using magic.” Tony’s own voice answered back.

”Not cool!” Loki merely raised an eyebrow and looked back to the tv screen. “Right, lets get back to the movie before I pass out.”

They continued to watch in silence, Tony expected Loki to ask questions constantly, but, apart from pointing out that wands were too fragile in a real battle and a true sorcerer should not need one, he watched quietly.

When the first film was over Tony asked if he wanted to see the second one, but put it on before he could give an answer saying 'we're watching it anyway.' Loki scowled but said nothing and Tony had to wonder if he was actually enjoying himself but too proud to admit it. He had gone from being stretched out on the sofa to curled up against one arm, even though he was all legs it made him look very small and a lot less threatening. Here was the guy behind the leather and bravado, quiet and broody, the mass murderer curled up on the sofa watching Harry Potter with a guy he tried to kill more than once. Go figure. The world works in seriously mysterious ways.

Chapter Text

“Tony wake up.”

Tony jolted awake with a start and looked up into the face of Doctor Banner.

“Jesus Bruce you scared me.”

”Sorry.” He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “You fell asleep down here.”

”I did, why yes I did.” He looked around as last nights events came flooding back, he looked over to the other sofa, now completely empty, and back to the TV which was switched off, the remote was on the coffee table along with his empty glass, the only glass around.

”Did you turn the TV off?”

”No it was off when I came in, I'm the first one up.”

Tony cocked an eyebrow at the TV then got up.

”I'm going to make breakfast, are you hungry?” Bruce asked quietly.

”Sure let me help.” He came over and grabbed some eggs, passing them to Bruce and then putting some bread into the toaster.

By the time the rest filed in, Steve first, freshly showered and obviously straight from the gym, Natasha and then Clint shortly after. Thor, Jane and Darcy came down together and everyone crowded round, grabbing plates and settling around the counter.

”How're you feeling Stark.” Steve asked as he tore into his food.

”Chipper thanks, nothing some pizza and alcohol couldn't fix.”

Steve scowled half heartedly at him and he grinned back.

”Has anyone seen my brother?” Thor asked quietly, eyes on his food.

All faces turned to Tony and he decided it would not be good to tell them about last night.

”I did, I told him to talk to Fury, he said he would, that is about it.”

Bruce watched him closely and Tony got the feeling they didn't all believe him, but no one pressed the matter.

“Yes, I will speak to your Director, as promised.”

Everyone whipped round to see Loki standing in the centre of the room, kitted once again in leather, how did he not turn into a baked potato Tony thought to himself.

”I thought you said you knew what a door was.” Tony chimed in and he felt eyes turn to him, Loki's lips twitched slightly in amusement.

”Brother.” Thor started but Loki turned his gaze to the thunder god, cold and reproachful, he regarded him for a few seconds then turned away and Thor sat back down, he hadn't even noticed he had started to rise from his seat. He looked crushed.

Bruce sat up a bit straighter and looked at Loki.

”Do you want something to eat? There's more than enough.” Tony could almost feel Bruce forcing the words out and Loki's piercing gaze turned to him, but give Bruce his due he didn't quail like he once would have. Loki seemed to like that.

He stepped over carefully and picked up a plate before taking a slice of toast and an egg. He waved his hand and an extra stool appeared next to Tony and he sat down on it, conjuring a gilded fork and knife out of thin air like the stool. Tony barely managed not to wince as everyone looked from him to Loki then back again. Tony had wanted Loki to try and be sociable but had not expected this. They ate the rest of their breakfast in silence; Tony could feel the silent questions hanging in the air and lost his appetite, pushing the food around his plate.

”Are you going to eat that?” Thor asked before reaching forwards at Tony's nod and grabbing his plate unashamedly, earning an eye roll from Loki.

Freed of his food Tony had nothing to do with his hands and sat there awkwardly as the others ate. The tension descended and settled over them uneasily, Tony wondered if he should start a conversation but one look from Steve said all he needed to know. 'Do not involve him in our life.'

Tony barely suppressed a sigh, he almost wanted them to talk to Loki, see that he wasn't just a crazy murderer, he was actually intelligent and if you got more than a few words from him he was good to talk to. Tony shook his head and pushed back off the table, getting up off his stool.

”Not doing this, Jesus. Can we either agree to completely ignore Loki, or involve him?”

”What so he chooses you to use and suddenly you're in his corner?” Clint said through gritted teeth, leaving Tony at a loss, Clint had more reason than any of them (except maybe Thor naturally) to hate Loki.

”I... What, no, I just think that we're stuck in this situation so we have to address it.” Loki merely looked at them with a bored expression.

"Tony's right.” Bruce said and then seemed to shrink under the gaze of the others.

”No, actually, he is.” Everyone stared at Natasha, including a bewildered and betrayed Clint.

”What?” He spat, his eyes burning at Loki.

”Seriously, guys. We have struck a deal with him, I've had to collaborate with a lot worse than Loki in my time and yeah, Loki has done a lot of bad shit and he has hurt all of us but, I've got red in my ledger but you all managed to work with me, what because it wasn't personal it doesn't matter what I did? That is a pretty stupid way to play hurt, Loki is here, Loki has saved Tony and in doing so saved our asses with the Chitauri attack, and YES before you say it it is his fault the attacks are happening! But, do you really think the Chitauri would have abandoned the war for the Tesseract if they had not found Loki, or killed him? No I don't think so, they were just lucky to find Loki to speed their mission along. You don't have to like him, you don't have to forgive him, but push past it and carry on. Remember, Clint was sent to kill me because of what I did. People deserve a chance to prove themselves, this might be Loki's.”

If the stunned faces around her were bad, they were nothing compared to the look of astonishment on Loki's face. He quickly composed himself into his trademark sneer.

”My thanks to you, Agent Romanoff, but as I told Stark, I am not here for retribution nor do I wish for peace or friendship. It is a means to an end and it is easier if it is kept that way.”

”You say that but you're down here eating breakfast with us.” Bruce pointed out.

”Magic can only sustain me for so long.”

”You're just a bundle of warmth aren't you.” Brownie points to Bruce for use of sarcasm.

Loki scowled at him.

Steve had gone very quiet through out all of this, Darcy and Jane were just sort of pretending not to be there and Thor was staring at his hands.

“Thank you Natasha.” He said quietly, but still loud enough to make Loki snort indignantly.

Tony moved around Bruce and pulled his whiskey out of the top draw and went to get some glasses, before he could Loki waved a hand and 9 glasses appeared before them.

“Thanks Prongs.” Tony cheered and Loki gave him a dirty look. “You'll understand the reference when you watch the third Harry Potter film.” He grinned uneasily, hoping the tension was not showing in his face as he poured out the whiskey. “No whiny crap about it is too early to drink, everyone, drink the god damn drinks and relax a bit. I can sing High School Musical if you like, how does it go? We're all in this together!” Tony put on a high fake falsetto voice.

”I don't know what worries me more, that you know what that is, or that you know the tune.” Natasha remarked.

”When I was trying to set up the TV in Stark Tower I managed to fuck up and got stuck with kids TV channels for 2 days, so, I watched the Disney channel and I liked it.” Tony tried his best to look aloof as he picked up the glass, he hesitated and looked at Loki.

Loki nodded and he put his glass back down, pushing them all together. He waved peoples hands away and Loki touched the glass closest to him. Ice crystals formed from under his fingers and crept along the glasses until it reached the end, Tony could have sworn his fingertips took on a bluish hue by the time it was done but he may have imagined it.

”See, he does have his uses.” Tony picked up his glass and raised it.

”To, well shit I've got nothing.”

”To possibly life threatening bad decisions involving murderers and bargains.” Clint raised his glass.

”To second chances.” Natasha raised hers.

”To new beginnings.” Bruce raised his glass.

”To stopping a war.” Steve raised his glass but didn't look up.

”To having no idea what we're doing here.” Jane raised hers.

”To being legally allowed to use a gun!” Darcy cried gleefully.

”To hope.” Thor said, looking at Loki with desperate eyes, Loki looked away.

”To Harry Potter!” Tony grinned and got a slight curl of one side of Loki's mouth. “Your turn big guy.”

Loki surveyed him carefully for a few seconds before letting out a long breath.

“To finding Midgard to actually be a bearable place to stay.”

”There you go, everybody, cheers, down it.” Tony smiled and chucked the drink down his throat then watched everyone do the same. He turned his drink upside down and slammed it back onto the counter.

”See, we can do anything.” He smiled, and this time, he really meant the smile.

”Sorry to break up the mothers meeting everyone but it is time to get down to business.” Fury pushed open the door and came in, a stern look on his face.

”And you thought Loki was a bundle of warmth.” Tony whispered to Bruce who gave him an elbow in reply.

Everyone got up and Fury motioned them to follow him, they came to the meeting room and Loki was already there.

“Doors!” Tony warned half heartedly, Loki merely sniffed at him and folded his arms.

Everyone sat in their allocated seats and looked at Loki, standing centre stage as Fury swept around him and up to the screen.

”Tell us what you know.”

”There isn't much else to tell after what I have told Stark.”

”Oh there is always more to tell, especially from someone like you.” Fury said coldly.

”Tell us what happened the other night; we still haven't managed to debrief about that.” Steve's voice was flat and robotic as if he was addressing something inanimate.

”I went through the portal and Stark followed me, so I left him to distract the Chitauri whilst I made my way to their base, unaware of my involvement I managed to get very close to The Other before I was discovered and meet him head on. I am fortunately a much more accomplished sorcerer than he is and managed to strip him of his powers using my magic, I also managed to cut off his hand which gave me a good window to destroy the base and break the Chitauri's ranks. Before I could kill The Other the Chitauri converged upon us and I had no choice but to escape, I managed to commandeer a craft and fly back to the portal when I noticed Stark was captured. I slew the Chitauri and managed to get to him but by then the portal had closed so used the power I had taken from The Other to transport us back to your planet.”

”So, now you have taken his powers what happens?”

”He will return to Thanos and regroup, if my spell worked he will now barely be able to grasp even the most basic spells for some time but I could not stop him permanently. He will heal and then find another way to get to Midgard, Thanos is a mastermind, this will only delay him, not stop him. The Chitauri are an expendable force, he will send them in droves to weaken us. He doesn't care how many are slain, he has other forces, even the Leviathans are expendable to him.”

”Leva-whats?” Darcy asked.

”The creatures that attacked New York carrying the Chitauri.”

”The giant worm things?”

”Yes, Captain, as you so delicately put it, the 'giant worm things.”

Steve gritted his teeth but didn't reply. Sass was not his strong point.

“So who are these other forces he has?”

”That I cannot tell you for I do not know myself. I have only had contact with The Other, Thanos contacted me through him, I never saw him, never spoke to him. Only had what he said relayed to me. All I know is he is extremely dangerous, probably the biggest threat this planet will ever face. I could only glean small pieces of information from my surroundings and talks with the Chitauri, nothing more.”

”So we are facing an unknown threat and no way to brace ourselves against it.” Nick looked very angry.

”You will know soon enough, they will not attack all at once, the attack the other night was but the opening act. Thanos will pick at the Earth bit by bit, an attack here, an attack there. He will use the attacks to find out weak spots, to get information. He knows the Avengers are a serious threat and will not meet them head on. The best bet would be to force his hand and take the attack to him, trying to defeat him with sheer strength will prove futile. But right now I cannot see how you could accomplish this.”

”So you think if we could draw him out we'd stand a chance?” Natasha looked thoughtful.

”Yes, this needs to be a battle of wits, not force. Without a leader the attack will fail, just as it did for the Chitauri. Not all forces will fall if the base is destroyed but these forces are mindless. They stay in rank and kill until they are told to stop, without orders they are useless. And if it looks to be turning from their favour I wouldn't doubt they would panic and break ranks.”

”So what do we do?” It was Barton asking this time, stony faced.

”We wait Agent Barton, it is all we can do.”

Chapter Text

Back in the lounge the team were beginning to ease up together, Loki was still outcast and no one, even after the speeches, was ready to change that. But there was less of the tension and less of the expectancy of a knife between the shoulders every time Loki was around. Which wasn't often, again Loki was nowhere to be seen and so the laughter came back. More fighting games on the Xbox, Tony managed to convince Thor to watch one of the Hercules movies and kept comparing them. More pizza was called in and soon everything was back to normal. Well, as normal as everything can be when faced with the threat of Global Destruction.

The only difference was that everyone except Bruce was ever so slightly cold, was that the right word? No, wary, yes wary of Tony since he defended Loki. No one argued with Tasha and they could understand her reasoning, but not Tony's. Even though Loki had kind of saved Tony's life, even he wondered what the hell he was doing but Tasha was right, everyone deserved a chance. Even homicidal maniacs.

Tony could handle it though, he was used to being the odd one out, treated differently, especially treated warily and he knew the team would get over it. They had too if they wanted to come out of this thing in one piece.

The day passed unceremoniously, they talked tactics, they played games, ate junk food, they went over the information again and again until Tony's head hurt. Darcy pestered them for stories and they obliged, Tony and Banner spent a fair portion of the day down in the lab with Jane. Tony was making more suits, he hoped they would work of their own accord so he could control them whilst flying and both Doctors actually had some really good input.

Day turned into night and Tony and Banner were still in the laboratory, eventually it got to 3am and Bruce left to go to sleep but Tony's mind was still buzzing with possibilities for his suits. An hour passed with Tony tinkering away before his stomach decided to let him know he was hungry, so he left the lab and went up to the lounge.

He found Thor sitting on the sofa looking very tired and grabbed himself a drink before sitting down next to him, Thor in casual clothes was still a sight he was having trouble with and he bit back a smile at the thought.

“Has my brother spoken to you Tony?” Thor asked without looking at him.

“No, haven't seen him at all.”

”He will not talk to me, I have tried, but he will speak to you.”

”See I'd rather he hadn't spoken to me so can't really help there.”

”It worries me that he has chosen to single you out Tony, I do not want him to turn the others against you, they are already unsure of what to think.”

”They'll get over it, they don't have a choice.”

”But will you? It is unfair, how they look at you now. You did not ask for this.”

”Not a truer word has ever been spoken my burly friend.” He clapped a hand on Thor's shoulder and Thor looked at him, almost managing a smile. “Don't worry about it, I understand now why you feel the way you do, Loki isn't completely evil. He is still in there somewhere, he may not be trustworthy but maybe the guy he used to be will find his way back to the light.”

”You truly think so?”

”I do, and I think he is one lucky guy to have a brother who won't give up on him, when he finds his way back the others will understand.”

Thor smiled this time, his blue eyes lighting up, he placed his hand over Tony's that was still on his shoulder.

“Thank you, Tony Stark.”

”No problems Thor, now surely you should be in bed lying next to your wonderful Doctor Foster?”

”I believe you are right,” his eyes softened, “thank you.”

”Heard you the first time, now get out of here you big lug.”

Thor pushed himself up off the sofa and walked away and Tony watched him go, he was pretty shit at heart to hearts but he figured he managed that just fine. He sat there for a few moments, contemplating sleep but then decided against it and instead got up, stretching and figured he would go for a walk, maybe he would find Loki on his travels and convey to him that his brother was concerned. Or maybe not, depending on how sure he felt of not being stabbed.
He made his way through the building slowly, giving himself to chance to talk himself out of it but so far not managing it. As he climbed the steps to the roof he wondered what he would see.

He opened the door and stepped out into the cool night air and shivered. The night sky was lit up with stars; luckily the base was slightly away from the street lamps and neon-ness of the cities so you could actually see the sky. He wandered aimlessly out onto the roof and looked around, nothing to be seen and so he stepped up to the roof edge and looked down. After Stark tower the distance almost looked jump-able and he laughed to himself before stepping back.

“I almost thought you were going to do it.”

Tony spun round to see Loki step out of the shadows by the door and cursed himself for not noticing.

“Hey, didn't see you there.”

”That was the plan.”

”You knew I was coming?”

”I know everything that goes on in this building.”

”How?” Tony almost slapped himself for that stupid question.

”Magic.”

”Ok Professor Snape I knew that was coming.”

Loki just watched him closely.

”See you finally got a reference!” Tony clapped his hands together in mock applause and Loki smirked evilly at him. “Why're you up here? After your show this morning I figured you might be hanging around inside making Cap feel uncomfortable.”

”There is only so much pleasure I can get from toying with your Avengers, if I continually show myself they will become immune to me, I can't have that.”

”God of mischief suits you to a tee.”

Loki grinned, always that feral smile.

“But why are you up here? It is freezing and boring.”

”I can see the stars from here.”

”But it’s cold?” Tony rubbed his arms, feeling his hairs stand up on end.

”I do not feel it.”

”Lucky Asgardian.” Tony muttered and then felt a weird sensation, like cold water washing over him and he flinched, recognising the feel of magic. A fur mantle draped over him and he pulled it round him, surprise written all over his face.

”Thank you, that is much better.”

”You keep saying you don't feel the cold but you spend 90% of your time in full leather, surely you must be boiling in it. Is that why you're up here, to stop yourself overheating? Can't look like a rock star without paying the price.”

”This clothing suits my needs for I am always cold, that is why I do not feel it.”

”Always cold?”

Loki looked away and Tony stepped closer.

”How can you be always cold?”

”It is just who I am.”

”Right that makes total sense. So you can wear your crazy get up because you won't overheat, god how the guitar legends would envy you.”

Green eyes narrowed on his own and Tony took a tentative step closer, he was only a foot or so away from Loki now and it made him slightly uncomfortable as all close encounters with the god had ended badly, but he steeled himself. He was determined to try and get through to Loki, for Thor, for everyone. A stable Loki would be a lot more helpful to them.

”What is it you want Stark?”

”You to be sociable?'”

A sigh and Loki closed his eyes, leaning back against the wall.

“Why?”

”Because we need you, some of us more than others. Your brother is pining like mad in there.”

”Let the great oaf do what he likes.”

”Yeah but it is kind of putting a bummer on the rest of us to have him moping about.”

“He has his mortal to cheer him up, he can leave me be.”

”That's just it, he can't, he's your brother.”

”He is not my brother.”

”Whatever, he told us you were adopted, doesn't stop him being your brother.”

”He told you what?”

”He mentioned it in passing once when you were trying to destroy New York.”

”Is that all he mentioned?”

”Yup, why?”

Tony swore he could see anger in Loki's eyes, and then it dissipated and he looked away thoughtfully.

“No reason.”

”So, will you be sociable?”

”Why on Earth would I want too?”

”I can be very charming and persuasive?” He gave him his most winning smile.

Loki looked terribly unimpressed.

“Ok maybe not. Seriously I shouldn't have to barter for your cooperation, just come inside.”

”What need have you of my company?”

Tony winced internally, it was a fair question, why did he have to be the one to answer it.

“I think you need it more than me.”

Loki looked at him again, but the anger was gone and instead it was replaced by intrigue, barely visible behind his mask of uncaring. Tony waited a few seconds before it became uncomfortable and he decided to change to subject.

“So why are you always cold, is it a magic thing.” He reached out, almost through impulse and before Loki could stop him he touched his hand.

A jolt shot through him like being struck by lightning and Tony was flung backwards, landing in a heap against the roofs border.

”Holy christ what the hell just happened.”

”You touched me.” Loki snarled.

”Yeah and ended up on my ass in the dirt, what the hell?”

”I dislike being touched, so I used my magic against you.”

”So you zapped the fuck out of me, over one little touch?”

Loki said nothing and instead let his eyes burn into Tony's.

“I only wanted to see if you really were cold, generally when you are close enough to touch you are trying to kill me and I am not really paying attention to body temperature.”

He pushed himself into a sitting position and took off the fur mantle, giving it a shake.

“Boy do you pack a punch, I learnt my lesson. Do not touch the crazy god.” He laughed as he pulled the mantle back over his shoulders and arms, revelling in the warmth. He looked back at Loki to see him smiling.

”You are a strange being Stark, risking my wrath to satiate your own curiosity.”

”If it makes you happy then it was totally worth getting fried.”

Loki stepped forwards and offered his hand tentatively to Tony.

“I'd rather not.”

“You will not be shocked this time, I promise.”

”A promise from the god of lies, hmm.” He mused sarcastically, but he reached out and grasped Loki's hand regardless, bracing for a shock.

When nothing happened he opened his eyes and let Loki pull him up.

“Woah steady there you are a lot stronger than this mere mortal, and cold wow!” He laughed as he staggered upright. 'See, I knew there was a nice guy in there somewhere.”

Loki looked away, the smile disappearing from his lips.

“You know nothing Stark.”

”Don't bail on me now, we were making such progress.” He tried to sound light hearted.

Another sigh, this guy sighed way too much.

“Come on, lets go inside or I'll touch you again.”

”I would not advise it.”

”Never been one to take advice.”

Loki growled quietly but followed Tony, waving a hand in the air. Tony felt the mantle disappear from around his shoulders and shivered once more, wrapping his arms around them.

“Hey that was really warm.”

”You have no need of it inside.”

”Yeah but still.” He shrugged his shoulders under his arms and hugged himself in a mock pout and walked inside. He looked back and Loki was gone.

”God dammit!” He raced down the steps and jabbed the elevator button.

By the time he got to the lounge Loki was already sitting down on the same sofa he was on last time with a drink in his hand.

”We have had this conversation before.”

”You're telling me you would use doors if you didn't need too?”

”Point taken, so, what shall we do to while away the hours.”

”Being that I do not understand your technology it would be fruitless for me to have an opinion.”

”Harry Potter it is then, I think you like it really.”

Loki gave him a dirty look and Tony chuckled before turning the TV on. He found the movie and put it on, the now familiar music starting up.

“You'll love this one, lots of shape shifting and bad shit, right up your street.”

”What they can do is pitiful compared to a real sorcerer.”

”Well we don't even have magic here on Earth so give us our due yeah?”

He settled down onto the sofa and called to Jarvis.

“Jarvis, don't let me fall asleep and be woken up by someone again.”

”Yes sir.”

”How do you talk to it?”

”Jarvis? He is an AI, an artificial intelligence, basically a robot without a body. He can learn, has his own personality and runs pretty much everything through the computer systems.”

”And you just talk and it answers?”

”Yeah, that's right isn't it Jarvis.”

”You are correct sir.”

”Go on, speak to him, I am sure he has forgiven you for turning him off.”

Loki looked up at the ceiling in wonderment and spoke.

“Computer?”

“Yes Mr Laufeyson.”

”How does it know that name?”

”It's on your file.”

Loki humphed and looked back to the screen, silent and brooding again.

Tony sighed and found a comfortable spot on the sofa, as did Loki, stretching out like a cat until his legs hung off the sofa and shimmering until he was back into casual clothing. Tony nearly laughed, Loki said his suit matched his needs but he bet it was damned annoying when the leather squeaked.

“I think we need clothes like that, magical appearing and disappearing clothing, how easy life would be. Do you have like a storage space you keep it all in and just summon it?”

”No, I materialise it, when not being used it merely doesn't exist.”

”And is it like, durable, real clothing?”

”Did the mantle seem real to you?”

”Well yes.”

“You have your answer.”

”Neat.” Silence fell again and Tony went back to the movie, Loki seemed a lot more interested in this one, he seemed to find the first one boring, but then Tony had to admit they got better as they went along.

Night stretched into day as the movie wore on and Tony managed to stay awake this time, he was used to not sleeping, he was more comfortable with less sleep.

”Do you ever sleep?”

Loki looked sideways at him. !I prefer not too.!

”Magic sustains that too?”

”Only for a short period and then I must sleep.”

”Jarvis says you haven't touched the room set up for you.”

“Keeping track of me Stark?”

“Someone has to.”

”I have not.”

”When was the last time you slept, allowed yourself some comfort?”

”Sleep does not comfort me.”

Bingo, he has the same sleep issues Tony has.

“Know the feeling.”

They lapsed into silence again and the movie was almost over as the skies lightened and the sun began to rise. Tony put on the 4th film and watched Loki out of the corner of his eye. He really did look tired, he looked how Tony felt. Again, Tony wondered what the hell he was doing, feeling slight concern for a mass murderer, but, he opted to just roll with it.

“Do you doubt yourself often?”

Tony looked over to him in surprise.

“Do I what?”

”Doubt yourself often?”

”Uh, can you read my mind? This is not the first time you have seemed to pick up on what I was thinking.”

”Sort of, yes.”

”Sort of?”

'My magic can trace moods, emotions and thoughts as they are energies. If I tried hard enough I could read your thoughts very sparsely, it would be like reading a language you can only half understand as I am not telepathic. Now I am merely picking up on your feelings and that feeling is self doubt. That is because you are wondering why you are talking to me is it not?”

”I, yeah kind of.”

Loki looked at him and Tony could see him withdrawing like a wounded animal, though his pride kept him still.

“I keep asking myself why me, why am I the one. And I always end up on the answer that aside from the crazy we are sort of similar. Plus, like Tasha said you're here so we should give you a chance. What was it you said before? You intrigue me.”

Loki gave a half smirk and looked away.

“Plus, you're not too bad company when I can't sleep.” He tried to smile but it came out awkward, Loki nodded slightly to him and looked back to the movie.

After what must have been a short period during a lull in the movie Loki spoke up again.

“Do I frighten you Stark?”

“Err, is this a trick question?”

Loki merely looked at him.

“Well jeez,” he tugged at his goatee uncomfortably, “um, hmm. A few weeks ago I would have said you fucking terrified me, right. Hmm, kinda I guess. I mean, when you do all your voodoo shit and change form or get angry and pin me against the wall you're pretty frightening, but, since I've started talking to you I can see you're not all that bad. Before you were just this crazed super villain who wanted to kill everyone and we had no idea just how powerful you were or how far you'd go. Now you're at least approachable on a basic level and less likely to throw me out of a window.”

Loki looked at him for a moment, considering his words.

“I cause you night terrors do I not?”

”Sort of yeah.” Tony decided to be honest; trying not to hurt Loki’s feelings would only end badly.

”And your panic attacks are caused by what I did?”

Tony raised an eyebrow and looked around in case anyone was listening.

“Correct.”

”So why do you talk to me?”

”Like I said, you're not really all that bad.”

”You wouldn't say that if you truly knew me.”

”Thor truly knows you and he still fights in your corner, I think you severely underestimate your non volatile self. Yeah you may have lost their trust, but not their love.”

”Their?”

”Thor told me about your mom, not much before you get angry. Just that she believes you can redeem yourself.”

Loki let out a long breath and turned away quietly. After a few minutes he broke the silence.

“I am sorry.”

”Sorry for what?”

”Causing your anxiety attacks and night terrors. It is not something anyone should go through.”

”You speak like you know from experience.”

Loki was silent again, his entire talk quota obviously used up for the night. Tony sighed and went back to watching the movie, his head trying to get around the fact that the God of Lies had just apologised to him.
Dawn came and went as the movie continued and Jarvis let them know when each of the Avengers awoke and moved about, Tony half expected Loki to disappear but he didn't, instead he continued to watch the movie in silence, but he was no longer as relaxed as he was earlier.

Chapter Text

The first person down in the morning was Bruce, whose good graces meant he did not mention that Tony and Loki were watching a movie on the sofas and instead sat down next to Tony and joined in.

“I haven't watched these in years.” He commented as he made himself comfy. God bless Dr Banner and his way of getting over shit other people didn't want too.

Natasha came in next; she looked from Tony and Bruce to Loki in bewilderment, then shrugged and made herself a drink. Clint came in as she came over and Tony saw her prod him in the side when he tried to stop dead. He nodded stiffly to Tony and came and shoved him over so he was sitting as far away from Loki as possible. Natasha sat down on the floor and rested against Clint's leg and Loki looked more and more uncomfortable but he stayed put.
Tony greeted them and then stuck on the 5th film to everyone's delight and they huddled together to watch. Tony wondered if anyone would ever be able to sit next to Loki, who was sitting there radiating his own 'fuck off' barrier, not that anyone would have dared especially as he was taking up the whole sofa.

Thor, Jane and Darcy came in next and Thor literally stopped in his tracks when he saw the procession before him. He opened his mouth to speak but Jane nudged him forwards. She pulled him over to the fridge and they got some milk and cereal from a cupboard and sat down to eat at the counter in silence. Thor constantly cast glances towards them like a puppy dog waiting for food and Loki ignored him completely. Steve came in last and you could feel his distaste when he took in the scene before him.

“Howdy Cap, please tell me since being unfrozen you have watched Harry Potter?”

“No.' He said stiffly, but relented. 'But I've read the books.”

“Good man.”

Steve joined Thor, Jane and Darcy on the counter and Tony turned back to the movie. Everyone was watching intently, except Loki who was pretending to be bored, but Tony could see he was watching it all the same. As he watched Loki from the corner of his eye he wondered just how far pride had pushed him in his endeavour to conquer Earth.

After the 5th movie finished Tony got up and stretched, the lack of sleep finally making him drowsy and decided coffee would be a good idea. He went over to the worktops and made himself a cup, then in an 'ah fuck it' moment he shouted out to the others to see if they wanted any. Clint, Natasha and Darcy did so he made them a cup, making one extra and taking it with him. He placed his down on the table and walked over to Loki, ignoring the eyes boring into the back of his skull from the others. Loki looked at him uncertainly and he offered him the cup, one looked from Loki said 'what the fuck is that?'

“Nectar of the gods, just drink it.” He shoved the cup at Loki, forcing him to take it lest it spill all over him.

Tony sat back down, avoiding Clint's burning gaze and flicked through some channels, Loki stared at the cup for a few moments and then sniffed it. Just as Tony was about to call him a Princess and tell him to drink it he took a large sip. He muffled an exclamation and took the drink away from his mouth in disgust.

“No you did not just give that look of disgust to coffee! Alien or not, coffee is the most perfect beverage in the universe.”

“That was the foulest thing I have ever had the unfortunate grace of trying, and I have been served bilgesnipe.” He huffed before falling silent; suddenly remembering he was around people.

Tony bit back a cry of 'it speaks!' And instead was interrupted by Darcy.

“Actually, British Hot Chocolate is the most perfect drink in the Universe.”

“That's a lie British stuff sucks.” Tony called back.

“Shut up, how would you know, we've spent the last few months there and I brought some with me.”

“You did?” He looked over to her; she was rifling through a cupboard and pulled out a purple jar labelled Cadbury's Hot Chocolate.

“Can we try it?”

“Not now, it is breakfast time.” Bruce called over his shoulder from next to Hawkeye.

“Aw mom!” Tony cried to their amusement.

“We can all try it tonight, how about that?” Darcy chirped and everyone cheered.

“Put it on the list of 'things the alien demi god needs to try'.” Tony replied, noticing Loki stiffen at being mentioned in the conversation before actually relaxing slightly. Progress.

“Ooh a list we totally have to make one, he needs to try so much, and not give it looks of disgust. Thor here loves coffee.” Darcy exclaimed.

“Thor would eat a Nidavellir if he was hungry.” Loki commented snidely, then his eyes widened comically and he looked down at the floor.

“Laugh not brother, I am told they go good with roast boar.”

“Did mine ears deceive me? Thor was that sarcasm! And Loki made a funny! What's a Nidyvallar?” Tony shouted at the blonde god.

“I've been teaching him.” Darcy put in proudly.

“A Nidavellir is a dwarf.” Thor replied.

Tony snuck a glance at Loki to see him smirking, ever so slightly; he flicked his eyes to Tony and swiftly composed his face, eliciting a grin from Tony so wide he turned away from it. Everything went quiet after that.

After much arguing from everyone and almost losing the remote to Natasha twice he went back into the movies and put on Die Hard, getting a cheer from Clint who then swiftly shut up remembering where he was.

“We cannot spend all day watching movies and playing crap again today guys, after breakfast I say we get our backsides outside.” Tony commented.

“That actually sounds like a good idea; we have a training ground outside.” Barton replied without looking.

“We do? Why was I not told? Scratch that why did we not get a tour of this place?”

Clint ignored him and got up, so did Bruce and they went to the counter, rifling through the cupboards for something to cook for breakfast.

“I'll have a prime steak and chips Dr Banner.” Tony called, only to get the middle finger from Clint and a half hidden smirk from Bruce.

Tony jumped up and made his way to the counter, pausing the movie and eliciting a collective moan from everyone.

“I know you guys like your proper hearty American breakfasts but, fuck that, it's Cheerio’s time!” He exclaimed and pointedly pulled a packet of cereal from a cupboard and grabbed a bowl.

As he busied himself, the others came up to the counter as Bruce and Clint started putting toast into the toaster. Tony watched as Steve got up from where he sat and took Tony's place on the sofa, he trained one ear on them, noting Loki tense up but not acknowledge Steve's presence. Steve clasped his hands in front of him and watched Loki, measuring his words carefully before speaking, he cleared his throat, but Loki ignored him.

“Why are you here?”

The others looked over to the soldier, but swiftly looked away once Loki raised his head. He looked at Steve carefully, green eyes holding the man's blue gaze with ease.

“I would have thought we had no need for these pleasantries Captain.” He sneered.

“What do you really want?”

“You seem confused about what you ask, why is that?”

“You want the truth? Because the first time we met you knocked me almost for six, and each time after that you left a trail of chaos in your wake, and now you sit before me acting the innocent. I don't like it, neither does anyone else but we're playing along with your charades in exchange for your information. But no one said we had to accept all the lies you tell us.”

“What lies are these?”

“That you only want protection, that you aren't planning something, that you won't kill us as soon as we have done what you need.”

“Why would you think I can kill you, after you so easily defeated me before?”

“You wanted to lose, you let us defeat you, didn't you?” Tony didn't think he'd ever heard Steve sound so, menacing...?

“If I hadn't, do you truly believe we would be having this conversation?”

“No, I don't, and that is something I take a great dislike too, I believe you could kill us without breaking a sweat if you really wanted too.”

“You flatter me, is that your plan? Pretty words to make me reveal my plots?”

“You're a murderer and a psychopath and I cannot keep playing house like this!”

Loki grinned, feral, vicious. Just like he had back then during the attacks on New York.

“I think I may blush, you paint me in such a beautiful light.”

“What are you hiding?”

“Oh, plenty, but nothing that concerns you believe it or not.”

Steve sat back and sighed, dropping his hands to his knees.

“You're up to something; you don't get a name like the God of Lies for being a good guy. I can't and won't trust you, regardless of the others here I have no choice in letting this continue. Know this, I don't care how powerful you are, how much magic you have. If you turn on us, being turned into pulp by the Hulk will be the least of your worries.”

“Why, Captain America, is that a threat?”

“A promise.”

“Oh I like this, Midgard's golden boy trying to frighten a God, I have underestimated you good Captain.” Loki narrowed his eyes gleefully at Rogers.

“It is good to be underestimated; it means you can surprise your enemies.”

“And am I your enemy?” His eyes shone at this, it wasn't a question.

“You will always be my enemy.”

“Ah Captain, my Captain. Good, for I have no use for friends, especially mortals.” Tony cocked an eyebrow at Loki’s reply, Earth Poetry? The man was full of surprises.

“You say that, but even if you wanted friends, you'd never get any.” Barton spoke up from beside the counter.

“You truly must let go, Agent Barton, your distaste is no longer amusing to me.”

“My distaste?!” Clint exclaimed and Bruce put a wary hand on his shoulder.

“Oh-kay!” Tony got up, his appetite lost. “So now we know even gods get a little cranky in the morning, Capsicle you truly have awful timing, seriously, breakfast interrogation? Right, Barton, calm your tits, Loki, stop being an ass, Steve, put your righteousness away and lets all enjoy ourselves!” Tony looked from face to face and waited, a wide, shit eating grin upon his own.

Steve turned to him, anger contorting his features.

“Would you listen to yourself Stark?!”

“No, would you listen to yourself,” he put emphasis on the last word, “we are facing a threat with the potential to wipe out the world, we were actually lucky last time to have this fucker against us or who knows what might have happened. I don't give a shit if you don't like him or this situation, you think we do? He is right now our only lifeline in this. Until such times as he turns on us, which I am sure he will, no offence Bambi.” He nodded to Loki.

“None taken Stark.”

“Until such times, he is our ally and trying to get a rise out of him is a sure fire way to fuck up this alliance and leave us one card short of a full hand. Barton, fuck man I know you hate him and you have every right but seriously, we need him. Deny everything else but not this, even Fury knows when to shut up and take what you can get. What do you want Rogers? Him destroying things? Killing people? Causing chaos? Just because your hatred is temporarily unfounded and you'd very much like a reason to keep hanging onto it? It's like fucking Kindergarten in here, and not in the fun food fights and drawing moustaches on sleeping people kind of way. Either learn to get along, or ignore each other.”

“Easy for you to say Stark, you're getting pretty cosy with an alien who tossed you out a window.” Clint spat.

Tony flinched and hoped to god it wasn't noticeable before he pulled his mask back into place.

“Yeah, it's called trying, we can't exactly get rid of him so why shouldn't we try and get along? Fuck we were all watching fucking Harry Potter together a minute ago. Get over yourself Barton, we all got fucked over by him, yeah, some more than others but holding a god damned vendetta won't solve anything. Have you tried actually talking to him? When he isn't being a pompous ass or ignoring you you can actually have a decent conversation. Don't forget he is storm boy's little brother,” a snort from Loki, “and once upon a time I tried to plaster his ass into a rock face, now I am stocking up on Pop Tarts in case he comes over for lunch. We are all here for a higher cause and that is keeping our planet, or in some cases, ourselves,' he zeroed in on Loki, 'safe.”

Tony took a deep breath; somehow he had managed to get to the middle of the room and was breathing rapidly. He looked around at the sea of surprised faces.

“Here here Man of Iron.” Thor raised his cup of coffee.

“Well said Tony.” Chorused Jane and Darcy.

Tony nodded to them and looked to Clint, who pushed his plate away and got up, bumping shoulders with Tony harshly as he passed. Natasha stood up, nodded to Tony and went after Barton, Bruce turned back to his food quietly. Steve stared at Tony for a moment before standing up; he stood before Loki and glared at him.

“I hate to say this, but Stark's right.” He offered his hand to Loki.

“Oh no Captain, I think not.” Loki stood up so he could look down at Steve. “Through all your good boy intentions, you lie just as well as the people you serve, lie to yourself if you wish but do not involve me. You hate me and rightly so, one little speech from your shield mate does not change that. I am not here to make friends, this is a means to an end and you are correct, if the opportunity arose where I no longer needed to rely on such an unstable team to help me I would kill you all and enjoy doing it. But for now, as Stark said, we have an alliance, fragile as it may be. Keep it at that.” He was towering over Steve now, even though their height difference wasn't that great, Loki was born and bred royalty and knew how to use his presence.

“I don't believe you.” Answered someone other than Steve.

Tony whirled round, not trusting his ears, to look at Banner.

“You're the God of Lies, make no mistakes, but you need us. You don't know if you could defeat us and can't afford to take that chance. Even if you didn't need us any more, you wouldn't risk trying to kill us.”

“And what makes you so sure, monster?”

“This, all this. People rub you the wrong way, or expose you, or don't believe you and you immediately use your words to hurt them instead of your fists. You won't let anyone get close to you, and you've let your guard down whilst being here and now you're trying to right that, to keep the fear in us, to keep some semblance of control over the situation. You want us to hate you, but you want us to need to as well, you have some serious issues in that head of yours.” Bruce trailed off before realising everyone was looking at him and went back to his now cold food.

“You speak of me, but why do I feel you also speak of yourself doctor.”

He sighed heavily. “You're not wrong, I can see it so clearly because I have done it myself, still do if I'm honest. I don't like people getting close to me, when people get close to me they get hurt and it is all my fault. I know you know the feeling. But, these people here, if anyone, anywhere could have a hope of helping, it's them. Don't turn them away from you Loki, not when they're trying to see past the monster in you. Just like they did with me.”

“You dare speak to me as if you were my equal.”

“Like it or not you're on my planet now, you've got no throne here, no King for a father,” Loki's hands balled into fists at the mention of Odin, “you're asking for our help so acting like you're above us is pretty childish. You're an alien, not a god.”

“I am the rightful King of Asgard and I am a god! You are all of you beneath me!”

“Last time you said that the other guy put you through Tony's floor, really not a clever move repeating yourself. Your brother has learnt what it means to be true to yourself, liesmith or not, you need to as well. None of this is about us, it is all about you.”

Loki was literally trembling with rage, his eyes burning as he stared down everyone defiantly. His eyes met Tony's for a second and he could almost see something, guilt? Regret? Before it was replaced with anger and his gaze passed on.

“You should learn to hold your tongue beast, one day I will not hold back and I shall bathe the surroundings in the blood of you and your comrades if you cross me.”

Before Bruce could reply Loki shimmered and disappeared.

“He's beginning to grow on me.” Bruce shrugged with a small smile and emptied his food into the trash can under the sink.

“I think he likes you Brucey.” Tony replied with a half hearted smirk and joined him, tipping away the last of the mush that was once cereal.

He turned to leave only to have Steve try to follow.

“Where are you going?”

“To go and see if I can stop our local deity from ransacking the local villages or whatever it is Vikings do when they're pissed.”

“I don't think that's a good idea.”

“And you thought pissing off said local deity was? Yeah not trusting your advice right now.”

“Stark!”

“Captain?!” He imitated Steve's tone.

“I don't know just what he is planning, but he is planning something and I just know it has something to do with us, to do with you. Don't keep putting yourself in the line of fire; a good soldier always watches his back.”

“Now why would I need to do that when I have such wonderful 'shield mates' to do that for me.” He drawled before letting himself out, leaving Steve stewing in the lounge as he headed for the roof.

Chapter Text

He came out onto the roof and looked around a few times, only to find no sign of the Nordic God.

“Yo, Reindeer Games are you up here? I know you are? Come out come out!”

He walked around to the edge of the roof, hearing a muted thud. Down in the courtyard he could see Clint firing arrow after arrow into multiple targets.

“Hmm, so that’s the training ground.”

“What do you want Stark?” Growled a voice in his ear.

“Jesus Christ on a bicycle don't do that, especially not so close to the edge.” Tony leaped back from the side of the building.

“Purely unintentional I assure you.” His face stayed blank but there was mischief dancing in his eyes. “What do you want?”

“To make sure the city is still standing after you left in a rage.”

“You're hilarious.”

“Why thank you, but seriously, you're not going to go all 'here's Johnny' on us are you!”

“Again your Midgardian humour is lost on one such as I.”

“It's a movie reference, we can watch it if you like, I think you'd enjoy it with all your bathing in blood talk.”

Loki glared at him.

“C'mon, don't be like that, seriously you can act cranky all you like but I am not going to leave.”

“What if I insist?”

“I have been told I am incredibly stubborn.”

“What if I throw you off this building?”

“Good luck with your future plans after that.”

Loki hissed through his teeth and turned away, reminding Tony terribly of a stroppy teenager. That made him think…

“Hey Loki, how old are you?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Curiosity.”

“I heard that killed the cat.”

“Hey you do know some Earth terms!”

Loki rolled his eyes before replying. “I am just over a thousand years old.”

“You're shitting me.”

“I jest not.”

“A thousand years? What do you do for a thousand years?”

“I found plenty to do to pass the centuries.”

“Like?”

“Battling, feasting, chasing fair maidens...”

'You, not your brother.”

Loki pinched the bridge of his nose and took in a breath. “I studied.”

“Oh my god you nerd.”

Loki shot him a filthy look. “Dedicating ones life to harnessing ones craft should not be a joke to one such as yourself.”

“One was not saying it was a bad thing.” Tony replied haughtily,

“That was a poor imitation of myself.”

“Sorry we can't all have a sexy European accent and speak like the Queen. Do you lift a pinkie finger when you drink from your golden goblets?'”

“Did you just call my accent 'sexy'?”

“Just repeating what everyone else says, don't flatter yourself.” Tony felt his cheeks fill with heat and willed himself not to turn red, god sometimes he wished he had a filter on his mouth.

“Everyone else?”

“Well by everyone I mean Darcy and Jane.”

Loki lifted one eyebrow and regarded Tony, making him want to squirm.

“Apparently accents from Europe are really hot to chicks ok? You would not believe how obsessed girls are here for British people, it's weird.”

“I'm not British.”

“No, but you sound it, why is that?”

“It is merely how my accent adjusts to your tongue.”

“My- wait English isn't your native language.”

“Of course not.” Loki replied incredulously.

“But you speak it perfectly, I mean, you're not just copying our language, you're speaking the Queen's English.”

“We prefer Europe to the rest of Midgard; it was only natural to adopt their tongue when we wished to converse but what you are hearing is the Allspeak.”

“Allspeak?”

“I can understand and converse in any language in the Nine Realms and beyond.”

“You can what? No don't say it!” Tony mimed plugging his ears.

“Magic, Stark.”

“So you can speak any language, oh oh oh! That’s how the people in Germany understood you?”

“That is correct in a way, they will hear me speaking the language and I will understand it, the words will naturally come to me when I reply in my own tongue.”

“Wait so right now you’re speaking another language… And I’m hearing it translated? But why do you sound British?”

“I have never had dealings outside of Europe before, I only dealt with America during my attempt on New York and I only chose America as it was where the Tesseract was. We were worshipped in Norway alone and yes, you are hearing the Allspeak like I said.”

“Why didn't you see the rest of the world, with an ego like yours I am astounded that you didn't try to enlarge your fan base?”

“We only came to Midgard to protect it, not to reveal ourselves and bask in the people's admirations.”

“But yet you did.”

“They held feasts in our honour, claimed us as their gods, it was only polite.”

“Bullshit you fucking loved every minute of it.”

“That I did.” He grinned, staring off into the distance as if lost in his memories.

“Why Norway?”

“The Frost Giants found a pathway to your world through the branches of Yggdrasil.”

Tony looked at him stupidly, hoping it would get him an explanation.

“The world tree, the tree that connects the Nine Realms together.”

“Oh that's how you pronounce it, fuck now I feel stupid I was trying forever to say it correctly.”

It was Loki's turn to stare stupidly, not that anything he ever did could be described as looking stupid, he always moved with airs and graces, pompous dick.

“I bought a book on Norse Mythology, so shoot me I just found out you guys were real no way I wouldn't look up the Prose Edda.”

“You bought books about us?”

“Sure did, though they all seem to vary so I had to track down an old one. Some books say you're a ginger.”

“Red hair would look terrible on me.”

“So vain, so vain.”

“You're one to talk.”

“I am aren't I?” He beamed.

“As I was saying, they found a path to yours, it so happened that the path led into Norway, they attacked and we had to respond. We couldn't conceal ourselves and save the townsfolk so we let them know of us. They in turn chose to worship us, who were we to deny. Odin swept through, rectified the wrongdoings of the Jotuns and then went back to bask in their adorations like a true king.” He laced venom into the word king. “As the years went on he made many a trip back to Midgard, finding kinship amongst the warriors, it was just at the right century where our realm and yours were at the same peak. Fighting, monsters, ballads, feasting and the like were rife, our two races fit together well and they welcomed us like the gods we are. But as the years went on the Midgardians became closed off, wary and sometimes dangerous, any displays of anything unnatural became branded as harmful and we have been attacked more than once upon visiting, in more than one country. So we distanced ourselves from them, allowing us to fade into legend. I had not thought our legacy would still be around.”

“Oh yes, seriously some people still worship you guys it is pretty strange.”

“That is... Good to know.”

“Hey deflate your ego before I fall off the roof.”

That surprised a laugh from Loki, again that musical sound cut short by his composure.

“You need to laugh more often man, takes years off you, and being more than a thousand years old you need that you old timer. So, this all speak, if I spoke to you in another language you'd understand.”

Loki nodded.

“Parlez vous Francais?”

“Oui, je parle Francais.”

“You still have a British accent.”

“I keep telling you it is not British, at best it could be classed as European but it is Asgardian.”

“What's your native tongue?”

“You would know it as 'Old Norse', but in fact it is Asgardian, the Midgardians merely adopted our language through their worship, though it changed over time it is still the same basic language.”

“Say something in Old Norse?”

“Must I?”

“Sil vous plait?”

“Foutre le camp.”

“Vous ete un ane!”

“Guðs you are annoying, but at least you used 'ass' in the correct context, now kikna fyrir minn.”

“What did you say?”

“How is it you Midgardians call it? My 'catchphrase'.”

“You said kneel before me didn't you.”

“And here I was wondering how people thought you a genius, I was mistaken.”

“Don't get cute.”

“I feel I should be offended.”

“You should be, you're about as far away from cute as you can get.”

“Flatterer.”

“Not a compliment. So, back to my original question, not that that wasn't fantastically enlightening, it's just that my poor mortal brain needs to digest all that information, how old are you?”

“I told you, over a thousand years old.”

“Not going to put a precise number on that? Vain.”

“Says the person who still claims to be in their thirties to your news concessions.”

“Touché, ok, so... How old are you in 'Midgardian' terms.”

He studied Tony for a minute as if debating whether to answer, his silver tongue obviously won as he spoke again. “Embarrassingly young it would seem.”

“Young as in?”

“How old would you say I was, if you did not know me.”

“Geez, well, a lot younger than me, twenties, late twenties?”

“Close.”

“Come on, spill.”

“Why do you insist on knowing.”

“I hate not knowing things.”

“What use could my age possibly be to you?”

“No use at all, I just want to know.”

“You're insufferable.”

“That's me, Tony Insufferable Stark.”

“I thought it was Tony 'Fucking' Stark.”

“God you even sound regal when you swear. I might change my name to that, Tony Fucking Stark; it does have a nice ring to it.”

“Insufferable, like I said. Fuck is a European term after all, so are most curses in your language.”

“Except ass, that one's all ours.”

“Arse is the correct term; an ass is a type of Equidae.”

“It's a donkey, smartass, and that's what you meant about context earlier...”

“That's what I said.”

“No, you went all super nerd and used the Latin name for it.”

“Your point being.”

“You're a pompous ass.”

“Pompous arse, thank you very much.”

“Ass ass ass.” Way to go on the mature mark Tony.

“You like that word.”

“Stop changing the subject, how old are you?”

“It is just a rough calculation.”

“How old?” Tony wasn't quite sure why Loki was even still talking to him, or letting him press him for answers, but he took it as a sign to carry on, probably a bad idea but hey he lived on bad ideas.

“I would be considered what you Midgardians call a 'teenager'.”

“You're shitting me.”

“I shit you not.”

“Funny guy, so when you say teenager?”

“In the realm of 17 to 21.”

“Holy crap that's hilarious, so what this whole hostile takeover bit is just your emo phase?”

“I know not this word.”

“Emo, 'emotionally hardcore', when your teenager dyes their hair black, shuts themselves in their rooms and says they hate everyone.”

“Your comparison irks me.”

“Who says irks?”

“I do.”

“You're so weird.”

“We played a big influence on Midgardian culture; I would say it is you who are 'weird'.”

“Still feel like bathing the area in our blood?”

“More so than ever.” He smirked slightly.

“I'll take that as a no and say one up to Stark.”

“Is this all just a game to you?”

“Could ask you the same question.”

“Everything is a game; you just have to make sure it is the correct game.”

“And what game are you playing?”

“The game of kings.”

“You gotta help me out here, dumb American remember.”

“How could I forget. Chess, Stark, Chess.”

“How very fitting.”

“It is, the king stays protected whilst he moves his players as his need suits, sacrificing the lesser pieces, even his Queen in his desire to win.”

“Sounds pretty lonely.”

“And what pray tell are you playing?”

“Right now it feels like snakes and ladders.”

Loki snorted, actually fucking snorted with laughter.

“Take it you know that game.”

And then Loki was laughing, loudly, unashamedly, wholly laughing. Tony couldn't help but laugh too.

“I am the snake then I take it?” Loki asked once his laughter died down.

“Yeah, and you keep sending me to the bottom of the board every time I think I am getting somewhere. Just like everything else in my life.”

This sobered Loki up and he regarded Tony quizzically.

“Can you not look at me like that, every time you do I feel like this time at college when I was really hung-over and walked down to class butt naked. Everyone stared at me, seeing everything there was to see.”

“No wonder you and Thor get along.”

“Thor went to class naked?”

“Many a time he would awaken in a drunken stupor and turn up to his tutor's rooms in less than amicable clothing or none at all. Once he came down in the young maiden's dress he had bedded the night before.”

'That's fucking hilarious my god! I am so using that against him somehow.”

“I have plenty of pieces like that stored away in case I have need of them.”

“Did you ever do something like that?”

“Forget my clothing?”

“No, bed young maidens, of course that.”

“Sarcasm is so endearing.” He jibed. “I possibly may have, though I do not remember such times. Of the other I have done many a time.”

“No well you wouldn't, and get you.”

Loki ignored him. “Unlike Thor I was not a fan of damaging my mind through alcohol.”

“You are missing out then.”

“Do not think me a straight edge, Stark, I enjoy mead and wine as much as the next man, it was more the company I kept that put me off dulling my senses. Thor would get himself into all kinds of trouble I was glad my sober mind kept me away from, I also was not too proud to think the lady Sif above putting a dagger in my ribs if I let my guard down.”

“Shit that was something I wanted to ask! In the book I got it mentioned Thor having a wife and that was her name!”

“Truly? I can understand how the Midgardians would come to that misconception. Sif has never been able to hide her longing for Thor very well, I would not be surprised if she told them they were partners.”

“Thank god, I was dreading having to have a talk with Thor about monogamy, not exactly my strong suit and I don't know if you guys even have that over there.”

“We do, though it is not uncommon in high societies to marry to strengthen ties and have a mistress or a 'true love' as they call it on the side, when Thor met his mortal woman everyone believed he would take Sif to be his Queen and many suggested he have the girl as a,” he smirked evilly, “side dish.”

“Speaking of side dishes, in my book you have quite the reputation.”

“I do?”

“I mean, heck everyone sleeps around in Norse Mythology, it is great, a damn sight better to read that the boring old Bible, so much sex and gore. But you, you are the worst.”

“Guilty as charged, though may I point out some of it may not be true.”

“You have a wife?”

“No, name?”

“Sigyn.”

Loki groaned. “Of all the Aesir, they had to choose her, she is slightly, shall we say, obsessed with me, Odin tried to marry us more than once, said she would be good for me, I needed grounding and settling.”

“Ouch, but, there is someone who prefers you to Thor, see!” The cold look Loki gave him made him hastily change subjects before his balls froze.

“So if you don't have a wife, you can't have a mistress?”

“Correct.”

“So you didn't shack up with a giantess.”

Loki's mask faltered and Tony pounced.

“Aha! So, you have kids?”

Loki sighed. “Must you ask such things?”

“Do I take that as a yes?”

“You should take that as a suggestion, no, a command to desist whilst you still breathe.”

“Sore subject?”

“It is none of your concern.”

“You know I have a book full of stuff that is 'none of my concern’.”

“Then I suggest you go and read it and leave me in peace.”

“You're no fun.”

“Your idea of fun and my own seem very different, are you finished?” He folded his arms, tapping his fingers lightly across his forearm.

“I guess so, don't think this is over I am not done with you yet.”

“Thank the Norns that was gruelling.”

“Payback for saying you'd bathe in our blood.”

“Must we focus on such trivial things?”

“Not sure about where you come from but here on Earth it is rude to threaten mass murder to your hosts.”

“Seeing as none have been very host like I feel I am well within my rights.”

“Hey I have been very host like.”

“You have made me watch movies, drink foul beverages and speak about matters I would rather forget, very ungracious.”

“My planet my rules and you could have easily told me no, regardless of all your denials I think you enjoy my company.”

“Not really, though it is preferable when compared with that of the rest of the Avengers.”

“Whaaat? Rubbish you and Barton would have a wonderful time together.”

“It may end up with his body parts littering the headquarters.”

“You're being cute again.”

“You're being insufferable.”

“It's my job.”

“Are we done here?”

“I don't know, I've forgotten the original conversation point.”

“I am not going to kill someone.”

“Oh yeah, that, well, that's good! That's progress, proud of you big guy. I feel like a pat on the back would get me killed...”

“Your feelings are correct.”

“You're such a buzz kill Loki.”

“I take it that is not a good thing.”

“Mood killer, so, we're good here? I can leave and not have to worry about any explosions, blood baths...”

“I am fine Stark.”

“That is never a good answer, like when a woman says they're fine it means you're in so much fucking trouble.”

“I am not a woman.”

“The hair says differently.”

“In our culture, long hair signifies wealth and status.”

“Remind me never to go to Asgard then. Seriously though, if anyone can pull it off, you and your brother can, Barbie may have the guns to flex and prove his manliness but you have this regal air about you that makes us look like crap.”

“I believe somewhere in your ramblings was a compliment.”

“Possibly, I don't really think before I talk, I just sort of word vomit everywhere and then clean up the mess after. I like to be as surprised by what comes out of my mouth as everyone else did.”

Loki's lips lifted up at the edges into a smirk and he shimmered before disappearing.

“Hey no fair, you need like a meter on you or something so I know when you've used up your talk quota for the day, or a timer fuck man.”

Tony stomped off, though in reality he was thoroughly amused and surprised that he had just held an entire conversation with the crazed god. Sure, it entailed jibing his brother, blackmail and a lot of annoying questions but he managed it none the less.

“Score one for Tony.” He murmured to himself as he made his way down the stairs, figuring he'd go out into the training area.

Chapter Text

By the time he got down there Barton was picking arrows out of the target and looking cooled off. Natasha was leaning against one of the chain link fences looking bored as usual. She looked up when Tony approached.

“Is our resident psychopath still on the straight and narrow?”

“So far as I know, not going to be committing murder right now at least.”

“So you're the resident god watcher now, how's that working out?” Spat Clint without looking at Tony.

“Amusing, I got him to tell me a story about Thor going to class in a dress.”

Natasha huffed a quiet laugh but Clint remained quiet. He turned to Tony once he had gathered all his arrows, anger burning in his eyes.

“I know why you're doing it, but, fuck Tony how can you be so chummy with him? Some death threats and a breakfast date later you two are best fucking buddies. It is seriously freaking me out.”

“Hey I resent that, if I were going on a date I would insist he dress nicer.”

Clint pulled a face and Tony grinned, but it fell short.

“We're all pretty weirded out by this Tony, I am just waiting for him to kill you or turn you into a puppet.”

“If he had wanted to do that I wouldn't still be here, none of us would. I honestly believe him, the guy we fought for control of the planet is not the same guy holed up on the roof. I mean yeah, he is totally fucking unstable, dangerous, psychotic and a royal jackass but he has been through some rough shit. Maybe there is a nice guy under there somewhere, maybe the guy Thor always goes on about is still there.”

“Or maybe, he is playing us all and just waiting for the right moment.”

“You could be totally right I am not denying that.”

“But you are Tony, Jesus. Your little quest to save Loki won't change anything and won't erase your past, what the fuck are you trying to do?”

Woah, line crossed there. Clint seemed to realise it too as he took in the look on Tony's face.

“Is that how little you think of me? We all have our demons Clint, sorry that I don't run from mine like everyone else. But this is about Loki, please dear God explain to me why Loki's eyes were blue when we fought him, and green now?”

“A trick to get us to trust him.”

“Or, like you he was under some semblance of control from the Tesseract. You had that shit in your head Clint, I'm not going to even try and guess how it felt but you of all people should understand how fucked up it is to be used like that.”

“Don't you dare compare me to him.”

“I'll do what I fucking well please.”

“Come with me, now, both of you.” Romanoff moved away from her spot on the fence and walked past them. They followed her after a sharp glare and she took them inside to one of the meeting rooms.

“Sit, both of you, and shut the fuck up or da pomozhet mne Bog I'll shut you up myself.”

Both sat down swiftly and kept quiet, no one underestimated the Widow, especially when she started to talk Russian.

“Jarvis, play the footage from when Loki arrived at PEGASUS.”

“I don't have access to those files Agent Romanoff, Shield data is strictly classi-”

“Cut the shit Jarv.” Tony snapped at the machine.

“Very well sir.”

Natasha smirked at Tony before turning to the projection on the screen. Tony went to speak but she raised a hand without looking. The scene before them was one they knew well, having seen it in many debriefings in the lead up to the battle.

“Okay Jarvis go back to where Loki stands up and looks around.”

The scenes zipped back.

“Now pause and zoom in on Loki.”

The image zoomed in.

“Can you make it clearer?”

“Yes Agent Romanoff, I can.”

The image refocused three times until the image looked like it was off of a professional camera, not security footage.

“Now boys, tell me this is the face of someone in their right mind.”

“Holy crap, I mean I knew he looked like shit, but, he really looks like shit, also his eyes are blue I told you!”

“Jarvis, play in slow motion focusing on Loki only, can you keep it at this definition?”

“I believe so Ms Romanoff, please give me a couple of minutes.”

Silence fell as the AI worked and then the image began to move once more, silent, in slow motion and in high definition.

Tony was staring at the picture before him, wondering why he had never noticed before. The God looked exhausted, frightened and beaten up. He had heavy dark circles under wild blue eyes, he was sweating as if he had a fever and he seemed to not know where he was and almost looked like he kept losing track of what he was doing, as if he was fighting some inner battle whilst trying to concentrate on the fight around him. His breathing was laboured and he seemed to be completely unsteady on his feet, if Tony didn't know better he'd say Loki was actually in a lot of pain and masking it.

“Hey Jarv, can you play this alongside the timeline of the Loki footage? All in a line, all high res, all zoomed in on him?”

“Of course sir.”

Barton stayed quiet still, his face a permanent grimace.

The footage showed as a timeline from the first appearance to his last, footage from PEGASUS, the helicarrier and Stark Tower, as well as his holding facility afterwards all made one thing very clear. The first appearance showed Loki to be sick, incredibly sick and each time he reappeared he looked healthier.

“Jarvis, can you focus in on Barton escorting Loki out of Pegasus.”

“Yes Agent Romanoff.”

“There, right there, Loki can barely walk and the agents are helping him along.”

“I’d never even thought about it at the time, but whilst I was with Loki he just didn't seem all there. I put it down to his crazy evil overlord thing but looking back on it he just looks fucking exhausted.” Clint looked like the words pained him to say.

“And pretty terrified, don't forget that.” Tony shut up after receiving glares by both assassins.

“Now, you both know what my line of work is, and I feel confident in saying that Loki looks like he has been beaten up pretty badly in those first clips. He also looks as if he hasn't eaten or slept in a very long time. Now, this Thanos guy doesn't seem like a nice person if he has Loki running to us with his tail between his legs.” Natasha folded her arms and looked at the scenes from PEGASUS still replaying in front of them.

“You don't think?”

“I'd say it was a definite yes.”

“For fucks sake, can't you just let me be angry in peace Nat?”

“Honestly Barton, we have talked about this, we all want to hate him but it is getting harder and harder to justify hating him. You don't have to like him, or spend time with him but seriously this is worth looking into. Something really bad happened to him to make him end up here and you can tell, even when he is curled up on a sofa that he is frightened. We're taking the threat seriously so we should be investigating every lead and Loki is the one who knows about him but he is not going to just spurt it all out to his Agony Aunt over here.”

Tony just wiggled his fingers at Barton in a cutesy wave.

“Ok now the speech is over would you two mind telling me what your spidey sense is telling you as I don't have a psychic connection with either of you.”

Natasha threw Tony a bored look.

“I think Loki was tortured by whoever gave him the cube, listen to his words in Pegasus, 'burdened with glorious purpose', does something you chose to do willingly normally get described as a burden? We know Loki was forced to come here for whoever was pulling the strings, that much is obvious, but he looks like he wasn't just made to do it, it looks like he was tortured, starved and generally just beaten into submission. This guy is not someone easy to manipulate, he is intelligent, stubborn and a master manipulator himself. To have him cowering at someone's feet is not something I can see being an easy task. I think one of the reasons Loki went along with it was to get away from his captors. The Loki Thor has told us about is not the guy we see in the footage. Why doesn't he use his magic? He is a powerful sorcerer yet not once does he use his own magic, he relies solely on his staff apart from changing his clothing. He honestly could have killed all of us in one go, I don't doubt it. So why didn't he?”

“This whole thing stinks.”

“Hey come to think of it, that second appearance in Stark Tower, when he made the deal, he mentioned something about Thanos having ways to make people do what he wants that aren't nice, and looked pretty upset when I told him I had been tortured. Jarv play the clip.”

“At once sir.”

“Skip to a bit before I tell my whole sop story.”

The clip zipped forwards and played.

“There, right there! He said I had never seen him desperate as well, that day. I think you're spot on Natasha.”

“I fucking hate you all.” Grumbled Clint.

“Tony, I want you to find out what happened during his time in captivity with Thanos, tell him whatever he wants in return. If we can figure this all out we'll have a better chance of preparing and also, maybe, just maybe make Loki more cooperative.”

“Aye aye Captain!” Tony saluted.

Tony got up and told Jarvis to close off the projections, instead of heading to the roof; he headed to the weapons area, grabbed both gauntlets off his suit and went out into the training area. He placed his right gauntlet on and turned the power down to low before aiming at one of the targets. Without his HUD he knew his aim was piss poor, but, he figured it might entice a certain dagger throwing god out of hiding if there was a chance to ridicule and show off.
Tony made sure to purposefully swear loudly with each near miss, he wasn't too shabby close range, but the training area was large and some of the targets were stupidly far away, all of them had arrow marks in the centres of course.
Tony wasn't sure how long had passed but he figured about half an hour, and his aim was getting slightly better. He thought maybe he was wrong in his deduction of Loki when he felt something behind him.

“Your aim is atrocious.” Came a quiet voice behind him.

Tony yelped and turned around.

“Rudolph I have warned you about sneaking up on me.”

Loki merely snickered at him like a naughty child and in a movement too fast for Tony to track whipped out a dagger and flung it at the nearest target.

“Oh it is so on!” Tony turned and aimed, letting out a long breath as he fired and hit the dagger square on, reducing it to pieces.

“Ah hah!” Tony cheered only to feel something fly past his face. He watched a dagger hit square into the middle of a target about 30 metres away.

Tony squared up and aimed again, letting his breathing slow down like Barton had taught him. He released a breath and fired, and singed the side of the dagger.

“Not bad Stark, all most people ever need is a bit of competition.” Came a whisper in his ear and Tony fought back the urge to shiver. Loki had a way of making anything sound seductive and it was incredibly unnerving. He turned round to find Loki clad in his leather/metal get up and looking deadly once more.

“Competition my ass, I'm going to wipe the floor with you Reindeer Games.”

“Arse, Stark, Arse, and I would like to see you try.”

He grabbed a handful of daggers and in a flourish hit three targets at once.
“Hey that is just cheating.”

“Not at all, you are just untalented in that area.”

“I really want to see you and Romanoff go at it, I could make loads of cash off of bets.”
Loki smirked at him and waited for Tony to face the targets.

“This is a lot harder without Jarvis.”

“You rely too heavily on your technology Stark.”

“You're telling me magic has nothing to do with your aim?”

“Absolutely nothing.”

“You son of a bitch.” Tony huffed.

“My mother was an Aesir, not a canine.”

“It's a Midgard saying.”

“There are similar on Asgard, now shoot the targets.”

“Okay okay pushy.” Tony faced the first target and squinted, how the fuck did Harry Potter over here do it. He took a deep breath and fired. The dagger shattered and a small plume of smoke curled up from it.

“Hey I did it.”

“Two more to go, do not celebrate prematurely.”

“You're harshing my buzz.”

Loki gave him an exasperated look.

“You're dulling my good mood, better? Look buzz means mood just accept it.”

“Much better,” he replied, ignoring the second part of Tony’s comment, “now aim and fire, the more you think about it the poorer your aim will be.”

“Yes sir Professor.” Tony grinned and turned to the next target. As soon as he fired the repulsor he knew he had aimed too quickly and cursed.

“Fuck shit prick!”

“I did not mean to not aim at all.”

“Fuck you and your house.”

“Your sayings get ever stranger.”

“And your dog, and your cat, and your car.”

“I have none of those things.”

“Fuck them anyway.”

Loki huffed a small laugh, almost like someone watching a child make a fool of themselves and Tony turned to the last target. He was determined to get this one dead on. He aimed, controlled his breathing, checked his stance, readied for the recoil and let the repulsor fire up. He listened to the comforting high pitched noise it made. He would not let that smarmy leather clad British wannabe bastard win.

“You're blushing Stark.” A cool breath blew on his neck just under his ear and Tony let the blast go in surprise. It flew past the target and into the wall at the far end, leaving a slightly smoking hole in its wake.

“That was so not cool dude.”

Loki chuckled evilly in his ear and drew away, this time Tony did shiver, traitorous body.

“A good soldier makes use of all his talents, mine happen to lie in deception.”

“No kidding, I thought you were the god of rainbows and puppies.”

“I believe you mistake me for my brother.”

It was Tony's turn to huff a laugh.

“I have a way to make this more interesting for you Stark, shall we try moving targets?”

“I err, sure?” Tony watched Loki with confusion. Loki flicked a hand and a perfect double of him appeared about 40 feet away, holding daggers ready.

“Shoot me before my daggers reach you.”

Tony gave Loki the most obvious 'what the fuck?!' look he could muster before turning back to the other Loki. Sure as day the other Loki released a dagger at Tony, they sped towards Tony before he had time to react and he flinched. It reached him and Tony felt the tell tale water like feeling of magic as the daggers just went right through him and disappeared.

“That was creepy as shit Reindeer Games.”

“Shoot the clone Stark.”

“Well fuck okay boss, let’s do this!” Tony turned back to the clone of Loki who was preparing another dagger. “Hey Rock of Ages, how about a deal; if I manage to shoot all your clones, you answer a question about yourself?”

“Or you could just shoot the clone?”

“I could, but, where would be the fun in that Bambi?”

Loki seemed to smile to himself before taking his eyes off his clone and looking at Tony.

“Indeed Stark, where would be the fun? I accept your challenge.”

“Well super duper lets get right on it.”

Loki merely rolled his eyes, making Tony smirk. Tony watched the clone square up to him, daggers ready, then it dropped into a defensive crouch.

“That is so damned creepy.” Tony snuck a glance at Loki, who was watching almost over his shoulder with barely concealed glee. Tony would bet good money that he didn't get to show off much back in Sparkle-land.

The clone turned sideways and Tony turned his attention back to it, the clone released the daggers in a flourish and took off, Tony danced sideways and stumbled, letting out a curse as he regained his balance. His eyes never left the clone and letting off a blast he was overjoyed when it hit the clone and it disappeared in a shimmer of gold, his blast going through it and hitting the wall behind.

“Impressive, though I cannot fathom how you can even survive walking down the street with such poor balance.” Loki shook his head light heartedly.

“My balance is no concern of yours; I survive on dumb luck, who needs balance!”

“Honestly, how are you still alive? Even the most mundane of tasks must be fraught with danger for one such as yourself.”

“Just because you were a ballet dancer in a former life doesn't mean everyone else can be as graceful.”

Loki gave him a look that was on the edge of exasperation and Tony grinned at him.

“I didn't know you cared so much.” He teased.

“I would quite like to live out the rest of the year, you will be a key factor in that, don't flatter yourself.”

“Don't be an ass; I know you really mean to say 'you need to be more careful honey'.”

It was Loki's turn to grin as Tony felt the trickle of magic across his head; he jumped back as he felt a weight on his head and reached up his un-gauntleted hand tentatively. He felt something long and furry twitch under his hand, and could feel another one beside it.

“Jarvis wake up, what is on top of my head?” He winced.

“I believe they are donkey ears sir.”

“Donkey... WHAT THE FUCK?!” His other hand flew up to his head and he grabbed them. “Ow they even hurt if I pull them.”

“I thought you'd appreciate it, being as fond of asses as you are.”

“There is only one type of ass I am fond of and this is not it!”

“Such a crude little man.” Loki teased.

“I'll be more than crude in a minute!”

Loki started to laugh and then caught himself, he flicked his hand and Tony felt a trickle of cool water down the back of his head, he shivered as the ears disappeared.

“That was so not cool.” Tony patted his hair.

“I disagree. I believe that was very cool.”

“Don't try to be hip old man.”

Loki laughed again, and this time didn't stop himself quickly enough, but Tony couldn't even feign irritation when he watched Loki laugh, it took years off his face, all that stress wiped away for a few seconds, it was almost captivating. Tony looked away, not good thoughts at all.

Loki composed himself easily and another clone appeared, he was suddenly back to focused Loki, as if the past few minutes had never happened.

Tony squared up to the clone and it poised itself ready to attack, Tony retaliated, mirroring its advances, watching for its feints and then leaping back as it rushed him head on, Tony cursed and caught himself, knowing he should have leapt to the side but instinct kicked in. He jumped sideways and the clone released a flurry of daggers at him, he almost danced away from them as he fired his repulsor at the clone, it leapt easily away and he spun round as the clone tried to circle him, he fired two more shots, each one getting closer but still missing. The clone produced more daggers and Tony grit his teeth before taking a breath, frustration would make him miss. The clone released the second flurry and Tony dodged, shooting one of the daggers out of the air and then firing at the clone, he hit it bang on and it shimmered and disappeared. Tony ignored the smoking holes in the courtyard left by his repulsors and grinned.

“Much better Stark, much better.”

“Gee thanks teach.” Tony grinned wider despite himself, and found Loki grinning back for a split second before resuming his usual serious demeanour.

Loki flicked his hand once more and two clones appeared this time, Tony was almost surprised to see them acting independently to each other.

“You know, all creepiness aside, it's a pretty neat thing, magic.”

“It certainly is Stark.”

Back to work, Tony readied himself, one clone shot off across the courtyard, the other rushed at Tony.

“Fuck how does Jarvis do this!” Tony rushed as well, running at the clone that had pulled out a long, thin blade, the same style as its daggers, it leapt, releasing a cry of fury and held the knife in both hands, ready to plunge into Tony.

Tony rushed forwards and dropped to one knee and skidded under the clone, shooting it in the stomach. His smile was quickly lost as he realised the first clone had been a distraction and rolled to the side, he'd put himself in a vulnerable position. The second clone was beside him and Tony instinctively pushed off the ground with his arms and kicked out, he almost had a heart attack when his feet connected with the clone and flung it back a few paces. He was so surprised he didn't use the momentum to get to his feet and instead scrabbled up with the help of his gauntlet. By then the clone had regained its position and his window was gone.

“Why didn't my feet go through it?!” He yelled at Loki without looking.

“Magic Stark, Magic.”

“Son of a bitch!” He hissed as the clone feinted forwards.

Tony readied his repulsor and matched the movement of the clone, feinting one way and then the next and then rushing the clone, the clone easily leapt aside but Tony reached out his free hand and grabbed its long leather coat. The clone looked back in surprise and Tony shot it. It disappeared in the now familiar golden shimmer and Tony let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding.

“So you're telling me those clones can be just as real as you?”

“Yes, though it takes more concentration to make them solid.”

“So if you wanted, instead of using them as distractions you could use them as fighters?”

“Yes, if I wanted, but the cost of energy would be great after a while.”

“The cost?”

“Magic is not something to be toyed with Stark, it is why you must learn to master it before you can do more than lift up a pebble. The more you use, the more energy you consume, it is similar to fitness, if you keep practising, you can do more for longer.”

“But you do it all so effortlessly.”

“I have mastered my craft, well, as much as I can for now, there is still much to learn.”

“Are there different types? I noticed sometimes you use hand movements, sometimes you don't, and sometimes you say things.”

“Is this your question?”

“No, I just thought of this one.”

Loki sighed and seemed to deliberate. “There are many in a way, only very skilled sorcerers can use magic without some way of concentrating it. Magic is easiest to use when you wield it alongside something, whether it be an instrument or your hand.”

“Like a wand!” Tony interrupted.

“No, too brittle, more like a staff.”

“Like your sceptre.”

“Correct, the magic of the Tesseract was powerful and volatile, the sceptre gave me a link to the magic and a way to control it without it consuming me, not that it didn't try.”

“So when you use your hands, you're concentrating the magic into one part of you, which makes it easier to use?”

“Correct, it is similar to speaking; using words means you cannot accidentally use too much or too little, or stray off what you originally wanted. Magic is tied with emotion, as it is tied to your very soul, the more emotional you get, the stronger the magic gets and the harder it becomes to control, you can literally lose control of your powers through highly emotional situations.”

“Have you ever lost control?”

“Many a time.” He admitted quietly.

“So these other types?”

“They are not so much types, more ways to use the same magic. There is written magic, writing down spells, rune magic, using certain runes, writing, carving and so on to focus the magic into, rune magic is a very old form of magic and very powerful. There is spoken magic, magic done through movements, magic wielded through instruments, and then the hardest to do which is silent magic. Using thoughts to do magic takes a lot of concentration and strength as the mind is so easily distracted. Many a time I have been concentrating on doing something and that oaf Thor has burst into my room and I have set something on fire in surprise or broken something.”

“Wow, setting your drapes alight, kid Loki must have been so much fun to be around.” Tony' s eyes glittered mischievously.

“Better than setting the object of my irritation alight, I have done that before.”

“You're such a rebel Loki, you know that right. This whole magic thing is sounding a lot less Harry Potter and a lot more Lord of the Rings.”

Loki looked at him blankly.

“We'll watch it, you'll love it, you and Saruman would totally hit it off, maybe better than you and Voldemort.”

“You are such a child Stark.”

“Says the person who totally enjoys Harry Potter.”

Loki ignored him. “So what was your actual question?”

“I'm saving that for later.”

Loki scowled at him.

“I bet you're not a fan of surprises either are you?”

“Not even minutely.”

“Where is the fun in knowing everything?”

“Knowledge is power, and power is something I crave.”

“I knew your evil genius was just desperate to come back out sometime, how can you go from mischievous little prince to power mad psychopath and back again so easily?”

“Talent.”

Tony laughed and Loki joined him quietly.

“So are you done for the day or...?” Loki gestured at the empty courtyard.

“I'm up for it if you are Reindeer Games!”

“Shall we begin?”

Tony found himself enjoying the afternoon more and more, and his aim vastly improved under Loki's influence, try as he might, he couldn't help feeling hopeful about breaking down some of Loki's walls.

Chapter Text

Tony walked into the common room feeling pretty pleased with him, he'd won 8 out of 12 rounds against Loki, though he could have made his clones go easy on him. He strutted in with his usual smirk in place and all eyes turned to him, Clint was lounging on the middle sofa with Natasha. Bruce was at the counter and Steve was in an armchair nodding off, bless the senior citizen, but looked up as Tony entered.

Clint paused whatever he was watching and turned round with the hugest grin on his face. Tony went to say hi but was quickly interrupted as Clint let out the loudest 'HEE HAWWWW' he could and everyone burst out laughing.

”Jarvis!” Tony yelled out the ceiling.

”I'm sorry sir, they were watching a live feed.”

”We recorded it too, before Jarvis could delete it!”

Tony looked at the screen and stifled a yell of frustration as Clint rewound and then played the recording. He paused it as Tony was panicking holding his ears.

”I'm gonna blow this up and put it on the Christmas Cards this year.” He managed to say before collapsing in laughter, even managing to snort in his hysterics.

”Smooth Clint.”

”Do you think if we put the Virgin Mary on your back it will count as seasonal?” He croaked before guffawing with laughter once more.

Tony folded his arms and waited for everyone to compose themselves, he wasn't going to live this down for a while he expected. Whilst Clint was doubled over the recording rewound itself and started playing again and the volume rose exponentially. Tony heard himself cry out about the ears and stared at Clint, the recording once again rewound itself.

”I get it Clint, I had Donkey ears.”

”It's not me I swear.” Clint sniffed, tears running down his cheeks. He raised both hands showing no remote.

”Jarvis cut it out!”

”It isn't me either sir, my systems are being overrode.”

”By what?”

Tony spun round as he heard a familiar, musical peal of laughter behind him which quickly faded away, he glanced back at Clint and the others who didn't seem to have heard anything, and despite his irritation, found himself highly amused as the recording once again replayed itself, at least someone was having fun. Clint looked up at Tony and noticed the smile on his face and barely stopped himself from groaning, it was no fun if Tony laughed too.

”What's so funny?”

”Oh nothing, nothing.” Tony laughed as he spun on his heel and left the common room, leaving Clint looking very confused and quite put out.

Tony meandered down the corridor and then had an idea and headed for the laboratory. Sure enough Jane and Darcy were hunched over a computer, heads together and Thor was fiddling with Mjölnir’s strap. He looked up as Tony walked in and smile.

”Tony Stark, what brings you down here?” At the sound of Thor's voice Jane and Darcy looked up and greeted him.

”I'd like to talk to you big guy if that's alright?”

”But of course, what is it you need of me Stark?”

”Err, could we go somewhere private? No offence ladies.”

”None taken,” Jane replied, “you can go to our room if you like?”

”Perfect!” Tony clapped his hands together and Thor got up and together they walked out of the lab and towards the floor with the rooms on it.

Once they were inside Thor sat down on the edge of the sofa and eyed Tony with a confused expression.

“What is wrong Man of Iron?”

”Nothing, it's just. How to put it? I need to talk to you about your brother.”

”Loki, is he alright?!” Thor straightened up.

”He's fine he's fine, but I need to ask you about him. Do you know anything, anything at all about what happened to him?”

Thor cast his eyes down and his shoulders sagged.

“No, I do not.”

”Does anyone on Asgard?”

”No, Loki was imprisoned without trial.”

”So no one spoke to him or anything?”

”Our mother perhaps, but he would have told nothing to anyone, even her. Weakness of any kind is something Loki despises. I fear I am partly to blame for that, had I not been so foul to him as a child, or allowed my friends to be so cruel, he might be more open.”

”Hey, no need to get into the heavy stuff right now, I just need to know some things. So no one knows what happened, no one even thought to ask?”

”Loki was his usual arrogant self, even when faced with life imprisonment, so no mercy was shown, no enquiries headed. He made it quite clear he was behind it and he had enjoyed it.”

”Woah hold up, LIFE imprisonment?!”

”Yes, such was the punishment from the Allfather.”

”But you're fucking immortal?”

”We are not immortal as your stories may say.”

”How long do you guys live?”

Thor mumbled something into his hands.

“Say again?”

Thor cleared his throat. “Five thousand years or so.”

”Five thousa...” Tony's breath left him. “You're telling me he was imprisoned for what would have been something like four THOUSAND years without an enquiry into what happened? Where is the justice in that?”

”The Allfather's word is law.” Thor replied quietly.

”I am really beginning to understand why Loki is so fucked up.”

Thor glared at him and Tony glared back.

“Ok, back on track, I need to know what happened to make Loki snap, why did he come to Earth the first time? What happened in Asgard to make all this happen, the way you speak of him paints a picture of a guy who wasn't a psychopathic serial killer, but we've all seen him so something obviously happened. I've been charged with figuring your brother out and he isn't exactly going to tell me, and I'd really like to know when I am being lied to.”

Thor slumped back onto the sofa and Tony sat down as Thor took a deep breath.

“What I am to tell you must never be told to anyone, do you understand?”

”Is it that bad?”

”No, well, yes, but it is not because of that. This is a private matter Stark, a matter known only to our family and I do not wish to regret telling you. I trust you, and hold you in high regard, but you cannot seem to control your words sometimes.”

”Well spotted, I agree. I won't tell anyone, I swear.”

”I am glad to hear it, please, when I tell you Loki's story, do not judge my family too harshly. Our world differs greatly to yours and what we do may not always seem right.”

”You're telling me.” Thor shot him a dirty look. “Sorry, shutting up.”

”You remember that I said to you once that Loki was adopted, and you know that Loki's file contains a family name that is not the same as mine.”

”Laufeyson, go on.”

“Loki was adopted over a thousand years ago, but not in ways you would expect. Loki is not of our race.”

”You mean he's not an Aesir? How does that work?”

”Loki wears a spell to change his appearance, to all he looks like an Aesir, and always has, but his true form is quite different, for you see, Loki is a Jotun, a Frost Giant in your tongue.”

”From Jotunheim right? I read the book, now, why does Frost Giant sound so familiar...”

Tony paused for a second as he thought and his eyes widened.

“Holy shit, you're telling me that Loki is from the same race your father had a field day slaughtering, the race that attacked Earth?”

Thor let out a long breath.

“Yes, that very day, after the battle was won and the Frost Giants vanquished my Father found a baby cast aside in a temple, left to die. It was the child of Laufey, King of the Frost Giants and it was a runt, so Laufey abandoned it.”

Tony smacked his hand to his head, his mind reeling as he tried to process the thought.

“Loki was brought to Asgard, I found out only recently that Loki was even adopted, only because of an idiotic trip to Jotunheim.” Thor explained the events that led to Loki's fall from grace, every so often interrupted as Tony tried his best to get his head around it, when Thor had finished Tony was almost beside himself.

”He tried to kill himself? Jesus Christ no wonder he is like this. He tries to commit suicide and instead of dying ends up on his knees to this Thanos dude and forced to be a puppet for him. And then when it is all over your dad just chucks him in the dungeon and doesn't even discuss the fact that his son is suicidally depressed? Fuck! What is wrong with your dad man!”

”Once I would have defended my father, but no longer am I blind to his actions. I tried to speak to him about Loki's punishment but he would not listen, you may think him cruel but I think Loki's betrayal has wounded our father more than we will ever know. Regardless of everything, I know he loves Loki, even now.”

”I really don't know what to say, I mean, I want to slap you, and I want to do worse to your dad, and I still want to slap your brother but fuck he really is turning out to be the victim here. A victim that doesn't help his situation at all, yes, a victim who brought a fair bit of it on himself, yes, a victim who is too fucking arrogant to help himself, yes, but a victim none the less. He really, really needs a psychiatrist.”

”I fear Loki is beyond help sometimes.”

”No, you're wrong there, or at least I hope you're wrong. I don't blame you buddy, I mean, it was pretty shitty but you've accepted it and you've changed and Loki knows that deep down, but he is way too proud to admit it. I think more than anything he needs his big bro around and one day he'll show it.”

”I hope you are correct.”

”Me too, right, that was a very long talk my friend and now it is time to go figure out the big guy.”

”It would be best if he did not know of our discussion.”

”I can't make any promises there, if you like I'll lie and say I forced you to tell me, I'll even say I threatened to tickle you.” Tony winked and Thor's sadness seemed to alleviate slightly.

”Thank you, but be warned, Loki will not see reason when it comes to his parentage, nor will he discuss it.”

”He's gotta come to terms with it sometime. God, just, everything he does now makes sense, even tiny little details like how cold he is or his little ice trick with the glasses. I thought he was just weird or it was his magic but now...” Tony trailed off and got up, Thor followed him out and they parted ways in the corridor.

Lost in thought Tony meandered down the halls and wasn't surprised when his feet took him right to Loki's so far unused room. He was still thinking of how best to pose his question and rapped on the door loudly. He didn't expect an answer and when none came he went to knock again for good measure before heading to the roof, when to his surprise the door unlocked itself. He pushed on the door lightly and stepped inside the dark room.

”Oh Reindeer games? Are you in here?”

Candles suddenly alighted all around, casting a bright glow about the room and Tony gasped. Tapestries hung from the walls, the drapes were black and the floors a deep emerald green. The walls were golden in colour as were the large candle holders. The sofas were gone and in their stead were gilded armchairs, plush and very old looking.

“Been decorating I see? Love what you've done with the place, very gothic, very you.”

”What do you want Stark?” Came a voice from the bedroom.

”There you are sunshine!” Tony walked in to find Loki stretched out on the bed reading a book, but he was holding it very carelessly, as if he was putting on a show. The room was decorated much the same and the silken bed sheets were forest green and black with gold trim.

”Can I hire you to do my room? I'm thinking Ferrari red and Thor gold.” Tony threw out his hands, pretending to imagine his walls.

Loki threw him a bored look. “What do you want?” He repeated.

”Can't a guy just come over for some company?”

Green eyes narrowed at him.

“Okay fine! I'm here to have my question answered.”

”Brilliant.”

”And you say you're not British, that was such a British answer!” Tony beamed.

Loki glared at him. Tony sucked in a breath.

Well, lets do this shit, Tony thought as he flopped onto the bed as far away from Loki as possible, if I'm going to die, I'm going to die in comfort.

”You know that technically the bargain was that if you shoot all my clones, you get a question answered, and you didn't win every round.”

”I won 8 out of 12 and nothing was specified, I know my rights!”

Loki rolled his eyes and flicked his hand in the air.

“Fine, ask away.”

Tony held back from bouncing gleefully on the bed and pondered for a minute, how the fuck should he approach this.

“I'm waiting Stark.”

”You promise you'll tell the truth?”

Cold green eyes stared at him.

“Come on or I'll make you pinky swear?”

”I'll tell the truth.” He huffed.

”And you'll answer me, no matter what the question? No backing out?”

”Just ask the question Stark.”

”Nuh uh, I want your word that you'll answer truthfully and properly to whatever it is I ask.”

”Should I be worried about your question?” Loki's gaze faltered slightly now under Tony's words.

”Not at all now swear.”

”Fuck.”

”Very funny, come on, say it!”

”Must you be so childish?”

”I'm being clever actually, being that I am dealing with the god of lies.”

Loki stared Tony down for a moment before conceding.

“Fine Stark, I give you my word that I will answer you truthfully and properly, no matter the question.” He seemed to drop his voice an octave at that last part of the sentence.

”Perfect!”

”Well?”

”Well what?”

Loki pulled his hands across his face in mock exasperation. “Ask the question?”

”I'm trying to figure out how to ask you and not be killed.”

”I thought you said I had naught to worry about?”

”I did, but I never said I had nothing to worry about.”

”What could you possibly wish to ask me that I would want to kill you for?”

”Really? You need an answer for that?”

Loki smirked.

“It's about Thanos.”

”I've told you all I know.”

”Bullshit have you, but, no, not about him as such.”

Loki closed the book and placed it down on the bedside cabinet silently without taking his eyes off Tony.

“What do you wish to know?”

”What...” Tony took a deep breath. “What did he do to you? What did any of them do to you? When you were held captive, and don't lie to me.”

Loki looked at him and for a second a pained expression flitted across his face before he got up, the curtains pulled apart to reveal the darkening sky and Loki looked out of the window, the dim light from the candles making his casual attire look black.

”I've seen the footage of you arriving at PEGASUS, and I saw you first hand at Stuttgart and New York. I've seen the change you went through. Christ you looked like hell when you arrived at the base through the Tesseract, you looked sick, freaked out, traumatised even, and exhausted. You also looked pretty starved and were really unsteady on your feet. At Stuttgart you were a different person and I know that is down to being away from the Chitauri and whatever, Clint confirmed as well how you changed whilst he was with you. By the time we fought you in New York you were a different person. You've been through hell and back and if I'm to help you I need to know what exactly happened to you and what we're up against.”

Loki took a deep breath but didn't turn away from the window, he bowed his head and stood there for a while, placing his hands on the window sill and gripping it tightly. Tony waited, watching the internal battle before him as Loki struggled to answer him. For a moment he thought Loki would simply not answer him, he'd done a lot worse than just breaking his word before.

”I see now why you made me give you my word.” He took a great breath and he seemed to be trembling. Tony stood up, facing him across the bed. ”Why must you ask such things of me Stark, can you not just be content to hate me like the others?”

”I've never hated you, Loki.”

Loki turned around at the sound of his name, a puzzled expression on his face and Tony knew he realised it was the first time Tony had used his name when speaking to him.

“How could you not?”

”Because I've been there, I've been the bad guy, I've been used as the weapon, held captive. I've fucked up my life so many times, even just recently. It was only after I fucked up enough to nearly get myself killed that I realised I needed to change. I want to help you do the same.”

”I don't ask for your help.”

”Not in this area, no, but you need me, you need all of us. If you want us to trust you you've got to give us something to go on. Let me help you? Please?” Tony's voice was barely audible now and Loki turned away from him once more.

Loki straightened up and took another shuddering breath, then grasped his shirt and pulled it over his head.
Tony barely stopped himself from gasping as Loki revealed his smooth, pale back to him. He watched on in confusion as Loki turned around to face him.

Tony looked over Loki's chest and found himself staring; he blinked rapidly, trying to clear his brain of images of the Aesir's sculpted body. Fuck why did they all have to look like Greek fucking gods whilst he was a short nerdy guy. And why could he not stop looking. Tony wasn't ashamed to be known as a lover of beautiful things, mainly people, and the tabloids loved to report on it, he expected that somewhere were a few stories about how that didn't just pertain to women. Beauty was beauty regardless and Tony could never deny that Loki was beautiful, he was absolutely stunning with clothes on and he knew it. And now he had to go and show that underneath the clothes he was just as good looking and now Tony was having trouble remembering what he was doing here.

Thank god he isn't watching my reaction and instead seems intent on his little internal struggle, Tony thought as he regained the use of his brain.

”What's with the strip tease? I'm flattered but I asked a question.”

”Oh shut up Stark.” Loki replied, but not quite as harshly as he had intended. Tony grinned, glad to release some of the tension in the room. “You see me now as I wish to be seen, for I am using magic to cover up that which I do not wish to show?”

”You're being cryptic again.”

Loki sighed, though it was more of a choked sob if anything and Tony was really starting to wonder if he'd pushed Loki too far with his question when Loki's body shimmered.

As his body glittered with magic it changed, scars were revealed across his muscled chest and arms, he turned around to reveal long welts across his once smooth back, raised and snowy white. They criss-crossed the entirety of his back and around his ribs, scars ran down his arms and across his hands, as he turned back to face Tony the enormity of the damage struck Tony full on.

”Jesus Christ Loki, what did they do to you?”

”I knew you'd figured out some of what I'd gone through from our conversation in your tower, I almost knew you would but couldn't seem to stop myself.”

”But, you can heal yourself with magic?”

”I can't get rid of them.” Tony could swear Loki was on the verge of tears. “Nor would the Allfather allow the healers to see to me, not that I would let my mother send for then without his permission. I did not want her to know.”

”Christ Loki, no wonder you looked like hell when you arrived, and no wonder you let yourself be imprisoned on Asgard.”

Loki pulled his shirt back on shakily and wouldn't meet Tony's gaze.

“I hoped I would be safe there, and I was for a short while, but he found me. I knew I couldn't escape him then. The Allfather has defeated Thanos once before and that kept him at bay for a while, but Thanos believes himself to be powerful enough to no longer fear our forces. I was not content to sit there and while away the time until he attacked, and Odin was too blind to see the threat upon his doorstep. Whatever torture I endured at the hands of Odin would be nothing to what I would suffer if I was to be caught again,” he paused for a moment, “I will not let that happen!” He said through gritted teeth. “When I fell from the Bifrost-“

”Did you really fall? Some things Thor said and you said don't add up.” Tony chanced whilst this rare vulnerable Loki was before him.

Loki looked up at him and finally met his eyes.

“What did he tell you?” Loki narrowed his eyes. “I know you spoke to him Stark, do not think you can hide anything from me.”

“He told me what happened, I made him tell me, he didn't want to. Regardless of what you believe he is very protective of you.”

Loki looked away, glaring at the floor before looking back to Tony.

“I did not fall, I let go.”

”Why?”

”Surely someone such as yourself knows exactly why.”

”Well shit, you've got me there.” Tony looked down and ran his fingers through his hair, finding it hard to keep looking into the green eyes filled with such absolute pain.

”I wanted to die, and instead suffered a fate worse than death, the fates are cruel to those who most need kindness it seems.” Loki mused.

”I hear that. You know what we need?”

Loki looked at him and tilted his head to the side; a grown man should not look so adorable, it wasn't right. Tony ran his hand through his hair again at the thought.

”Harry Potter! Come on, there's a TV in the other room, or there was, what did you do with it?”

”It's still there, just hidden.”

”Great, let’s go make it reappear.” Tony got up and hurried from the room without checking to see if Loki followed him.

Tony sat down as Loki waved his hand and the TV appeared.

“So this is all an illusion?”

”Yes, I expected your Director would not take kindly to myself refurbishing a room I am only to use temporarily.”

”What happened to the 'I'm Loki I do what I want' attitude?”

”I felt it best to be polite, also that it would be a waste of energy when one would not exactly be using the room much.”

”How often do you use it?”

”Today was the first time.”

”So you spend most of your time on the roof?”

”I've spent too long locked away from the stars, it is a comfort to see them.”

”Do you sleep there?”

“On the rare occasion that sleep finds me.”

”When was the last time you slept?”

Loki looked thoughtful for a moment and swept his hand across the room. The armchairs moved aside and two sofas appeared.

“I can't remember, a few nights ago maybe for a short while.”

”How can magic sustain you for so long?”

”You forget I am not human, I can withstand much more than your fragile race can.”

”Hey less of the fragile.”

”But you are! You are so fragile, so breakable. So mortal.” He put emphasis on the last word. “It is almost a shame to look down on a race such as yours, to wonder why you were so unlucky in your evolution. The only thing you can claim is just that, your evolution, your progress. The older races of the nine realms may not change for thousands of years merely because our life spans are so long that we do not need to seek desperate progress in a short while, we enjoy being leisurely in our lives knowing we have so long, and knowing our great strengths. How it must be for you I could not imagine, you and Barton. For Banner, Rogers, even the Widow are superhuman, they'll live longer, last longer, be more durable and strong. You are but a fleeting moment to them, to us.”

”Wow way to make me feel breakable.”

Loki chuckled stiffly.

“My apologies, I seem to have gotten lost in my own thoughts. You should be proud Stark for you have achieved so much in such a short time. Most mortal beings and most immortal beings even, do not ever realise their full potential. But you, not only did you realise it, but you went beyond it, you created more potential for yourself. I wouldn't doubt that your blue heart could even extend your lifespan if you figured out a way to use it as such. Incredible, for a mortal.”

”I think that was a compliment.”

”It was.”

”Why thank you, first a strip tease and now a compliment, I am a lucky boy today.” Tony felt his cheeks flush slightly and was glad of the dim lighting.

Loki laughed quietly. “Must you always be so childish.”

“I really dislike emotional, awkward or stressful moments, I like everything to be light and silly, it helps me to not drift off into dark places.”

”You are a very intriguing being Stark, I believe in another life I could have even found friendship with you.”

”You know, you could still find it in this life, you've just got to stop threatening to kill me and stuff.”

Loki huffed a quiet laugh. “I do not need friendship in my life.”

”You may not need it, but if you've never truly known it can you say you don't want it, and not be lying?”

Loki's smile dropped and he looked over to Tony, who busied himself instructing Jarvis to play Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

“Does it ever get boring?”

”Does what ever get boring?”

”Trying so hard.”

”Eh?”

”Does it not get tedious, trying to talk to me? Trying to convince me to let down my walls? Does it not seem a fool's errand? Surely it must be hard, I've seen the way your friends look at you when you're with me. I'm alienating them from you.”

”Pun not intended.” Tony chuckled half heartedly. “It doesn't, actually, and they can go fuck themselves really because I'll do as I damned well please. You're a puzzle Loki, and I'm going to solve you. We're talking right now so I must be doing something right. Plus, I love a challenge.”

Loki looked away from him, watching the television with unfocused eyes, deep in thought. He stayed quiet for a while and Tony let his mind wander as he watched the teen wizards do their thing. He was feeling acutely embarrassed of his reactions to Loki of late and was finding it very distracting. He squeezed his eyes shut and resisted the urge to shake his head. Get a fucking grip Stark.

”I don't know why you bother.” Loki's voice was so quiet Tony wasn't sure if he'd really spoken.

He looked over to Loki and raised an eyebrow at him.

“Has it ever occurred to you that I am beyond those sorts of things?” He whispered, his eyes still fixed on the screen.

“Nope, it actually hasn't. I don't think anyone is beyond help, you've just got to want it. Sometimes the only way for that to happen is to be shown by someone else.”

Loki fell silent again and Tony allowed himself to sneak glances at him as he curled up on the sofa. He looked exhausted, the dim light didn't help matters, casting long shadows across his narrow face, making him look like a skeleton. As the sky turned black outside the silence continued, both men watching the movie unfold, as it neared the end Tony stifled a yawn and looked at Loki once more, he was surprised to see the Aesir was barely awake and looked ready to drift off at any moment. He really was exhausted. Tony stayed quiet, checking on Loki from the corner of his eye and was actually pleased to see him drifting off. He hoped he'd fall asleep, he knew too well how awful it was to not be able to sleep.

Chapter Text

Tony awoke to a noise on his right, and wondered where he was, he didn't remember falling asleep. He looked at the TV screen and saw it had gone into standby and looked around, trying to make his brain cooperate. He heard another noise and looked beside him to see Loki asleep on the sofa.

Oh right, now I remember. He thought.

Loki made another noise and Tony looked at him properly, and noticed one hand was balled into a fist, the other was clutching at the sofa cushion.

“No.” He whispered so quietly. “No more.”

Tony sat up as he looked at Loki, he was dreaming and it didn't look like a good dream. Tony looked at his watch and was shocked to see it was 4am, they'd both been out a while. He looked back to Loki and wondered how much he'd regret waking up, and then jumped back as coffee table in front of them started to shake. Shortly after the sofa Loki was on moved slightly and Tony started to get worried, Loki had spoken about losing control of his magic before. Could it happen whilst he was asleep?

Tony looked around and nearly had a heart attack when he heard the sound of glass breaking, he looked up to see the TV screen had cracked and now he stood up, anxiety creasing his brow. Before he could react further an ear splitting scream pierced the air and the TV screen shattered. No wonder Loki slept on the roof; there was nothing to break up there.

”Fuck! Loki! Loki wake up! Hey Bambi come on!” He shouted and moved over to where the sleeping trickster was writhing on the sofa, his screams getting ever louder.

”Shit what do I do?! Fuck fuck fuck!” He took a deep breath and leant over the sofa, he grabbed Loki by the shoulders and tried to shake him.

Not even a second had gone by before he was flung backwards as if electrocuted and crashed into the far wall. Loki shot up onto his feet and looked about wildly before seeing Tony crumpled on the floor. He jumped over the coffee table and grabbed Tony by the shoulders just as Tony had done to him.

”Stark? Stark are you alright?” He waited but there was no reply and Tony's head slumped onto his shoulder.

”Stark answer me! Stark!” Loki looked about and saw the cracked TV screen and cursed. “I knew this was a bad idea from the start, by the nines! What was I thinking? Stark!” He shook Tony roughly and still got no reply except a change in Tony's breathing.

”Stark, answer me before I make you! Fuck why did you have to touch me, you'd think you would learn you foolish mortal! Stark! Stark!” Loki panicked and shook Tony again, frightened at the damage his magic could have caused. “Stark wake up! Anthony!”

Tony's eyes flickered and he raised his hands up to hold Loki's forearms and try to push himself up. ”Did you just call me by my name Rudolph?” He mumbled, slurring his words as if drunk.

”Stark? Are you alright?”

”You totally did, you're actually concerned about me.”

”Of course I am, it wouldn't end well for me if I managed to kill you, accidentally or not.”

”Aha!” Tony laughed curtly and pulled himself into a sitting position using Loki's arms.

”Fuck Loki I have the worst hang over ever and I haven't even been drinking, what did you do to me?”

”My magic was reacting to my emotions, I told you it could happen.”

Tony scrunched up his eyes before opening them and coming face to face with Loki.

”Fuuuuck my head hurts.”

”You utter fool, why did you touch me? You'd think the last time would have been enough. It is a reflex and not to be taken lightly.”

”I can't help it, you're just so touchable.” He laughed and then groaned. “Shit don't let me make a joke, my poor head.”

”Here.” Loki pulled one of his arms from Tony's grip and placed his hand on Tony's forehead. He closed his eyes for a second and then went to take it away.

”Is that better?”

Tony grabbed his hand and held it upon his forehead for a moment and Loki flinched before relenting as Tony squeezed his eyes shut.

“Leave it there it's cold, you weren't kidding. You're like a popsicle.”

Loki felt himself laugh involuntarily and quickly composed himself before trying to pull away.

“Staaaay here a moment whilst I regain consciousness, it's the least you could do after electrocuting me, fuck it was like touching a power cable. You need to do something about that it is dangerous.”

”I don't normally have people touching me when I sleep.”

”You're missing out on life then.” Tony chuckled and Loki realised what he had said.

”Be quiet Stark you child, hurry up and recover.”

”You said it not me, maybe you'd be nicer if you got touched when you slept more often, when was the last time you got laid? There are some great strip clubs round her-“

”Shut up before I break your hand off.”

”Oh lighten up, you really need to get laid.”

”Is that all you ever think about?”

”Maybe... Yes...”

”You are a child, how do the others live with you?”

”You haven't seemed to notice the preschool that Fury calls Headquarters then?”

”Point taken.” Loki chuckled lightly before managing to pull away from Tony and standing up.

”Thanks, I know you could have easily pulled me off you, Mr Super-Strength-You're-A-Puny-Mortal.”

”I'd rather not break you, as I said your Avengers would not take kindly to it.”

”Just heal me a bit and dump me outside Banner's with a bottle of whiskey, they'll be none the wiser, it's happened before.”

”How have you lived so long?”

”Like I told you, dumb luck, help a guy out?” He sat up as much as he could and lifted a hand out to Loki.

Loki hesitated before grasping it and pulling Tony up. Before Loki could move away Tony stumbled on his unsteady legs and he was forced to grab him before he fell.

”Woah shit my legs don't work.” He cried out and grabbed Loki's arms. Once he was steady he realised how close he was to Loki and sprang back.

”Lets not mention this at the next meeting okay?”

”Agreed Stark.”

”Why is it that not only do I feel like I have been electrocuted, but that I am completely drunk?”

”The after effects of magic, I guess that is how it affects you.”

”Well that's just great.” Tony replied as he wobbled slightly.

He tottered over to the sofa and collapsed into it.

“I'm staying here tonight, fuck it. It's your fault so you can deal with it.”

”How wonderful for me.”

”That's the spirit! Well, that was... Interesting, to say the least. Never a dull moment with the god of mischief.”

”I guess not.”

”Was it about Thanos?”

Loki stopped mid step as he walked over to the other sofa.

“Your nightmare?”

”I'd rather not talk about it.” He carried on walking and sat down quietly.

”Are you sure? Sharing is caring and all that.”

”As I have said before, I don't care.”

”Could have fooled me.”

”Everything I do serves a higher purpose, do not mistake it for kindness on my part.”

”Oh for fuck's sake!”

Loki looked over at Tony in surprise at his tone.

“Really Loki? Come on! Stop this, stop shutting yourself away and pretending you don't care when it is obvious you do! You could have killed us all so many times, now and back when you had your little psycho party over at Stark Tower. You don't really want to spend your entire life hating everyone and brooding away do you? Sometimes it feels like maybe, just maybe I've gotten through to you and then boom, back to square fucking one. This self loathing and pity has got to stop. You don't hate me, you hate yourself and you take it out on others. Don't you see that you've got people who want to help? Who want to show you that you don't need to be like this?!” Tony groaned and slumped back onto the sofa.

”Desist in telling me what I should be acting like and feeling Stark, you don't know me.”
“You're right, I don't, and whose fault is that? Not mine, I'm trying very hard to know you Loki and times like this make me wonder why I even bother when it seems obvious you're too stuck up and proud to allow it. But I know you want to be liked, to be accepted, you've spent your whole life being put down and ignored and now you feel that you should never even try as it is less painful to just ignore it all. I'm sorry, I'm sorry that all that fucking awful shit happened to you, I'm sorry that you couldn't have had it different, but for all the shit you've still had a pretty damned good life Loki. You never wanted for anything except companionship and acceptance. People out there have got it much much worse. At least, when all of this is over, you've still got a family whether you choose to acknowledge them or not, at least you've still got a home to go to, and even after all the shit you put people through they're still there fighting in your corner! Do you even realise how lucky you are to have a brother like Thor, no matter how fucking stupidly he has acted in the past. He is trying to make up for it! He is trying to be a better person why can't you?”

Loki glared at him and went to speak but Tony put his hand up and stopped him.

“Ah ah ah, zip it, just think about it okay? Fuck this, I'm going to bed, I know when I'm not needed. Like you said Loki, it's getting tedious, all this trying. But I'm not giving up!”

Tony stood up and strode to the door as Loki stared after him in disbelief.

“Stark!”' He called, not quite knowing why, but Tony ignored him. “Anthony!” The door slammed shut and Loki was left with a feeling he hadn't felt properly for a very long time. Remorse…

Tony seethed as he stomped down the corridor to his room, glad not to find anyone on his way who he could direct his anger at. He went into his room and straight to his bed, pulling off his clothes and flumping into the soft covers. He rolled into them, pulling them around him and curling up. He shouldn't have lost his temper with Loki; he'd probably just fucked up all the progress he made.

”Dammit!” He spat and punched his pillow.

He tossed and turned for a bit before sleep finally overcame him and he drifted into an uneasy sleep.

Chapter Text

Morning came and it was late when Tony finally woke up, feeling more tired than ever he blinked drearily and wiped his hands over face.

“Oh god what time is it Jarvis?”

”It is 11am and your comrades are soon going to be coming to your door to find out when you're getting up.”

Tony sat bolt upright to see Loki sitting in an armchair across the room from him.

“Jesus fucking Christ what the hell are you doing here.”

”Looking for you.”

”Whilst I'm a sleep?”

”A small setback, after searching for you I found your signature in here and expected you to be awake already.”

”So you decided to watch me sleep until I woke up?!”

”I decided you would not take kindly to being awoken, least of all by me.”

'You're right about that, what do you want?' Tony mirrored their conversation yesterday, this time he was the one irked and in bed.

”I came to apologise.”

”You're fucking kidding me?”

”No, I'm not.”

”You know I should be the one apologising right?”

Loki raised an eyebrow at him.

“I'm the one prying into your personal life and expecting answers about shit you obviously don't want to talk about.”

”You're right to ask, you're right about most things actually. You do need to know what we are up against, what I have brought upon your planet through my actions.” Loki looked away from Tony then.

”I'll admit it's your fault, but, you know the whole Bifrost thing should have been the end of it, what happened afterwards wasn't exactly planned was it. And like Tasha said, they'd probably have come after Earth with or without you so we're probably lucky that we got you instead of someone who actually wanted to win. I don't doubt that had you wanted to win we wouldn't be here now. So the pity party really needs to stop, and the anger. It is a continual loop with you, you talk, you don't like what people say, you get pissy, throw a fit, sulk and repeat. All of us here have gone through some shit; you know that you've probably seen all our files. Maybe if you tried talking to the others, they wouldn't hate you so much, though I don't think they hate you as much as you think they do. I've talked to you, I don't hate you.”

“You're a fool.”

”Hey I'm an A+ Fool actually, I passed idiot school with flying colours.”

Loki gave a little, forced laugh but kept his gaze away from Tony.

“You can shut yourself away all you like, I'll get it out of you, even if it means being electrocuted by you until you give in.”

“Can you not just let me be alone?”

”If you reaaaaally wanted to be alone you wouldn't be sitting here right now apologising for PMSing at me.”

”I- What?”

”Pre Menstrual Stress, you stress like a fucking woman Loki.”

“How dare-“

”Oh my god your face, lighten the fuck up! Take a jab, take a joke. You dish it out enough, is your claim to fame not being the world's greatest prankster?”

”You really need to learn to curb your tongue Stark.”

”You've only just noticed now? Like I said before, I like to word vomit. I'll say whatever comes into my head, whether it offends you or not. I'm not the master manipulator like you, I'm the clown.”

Loki looked up to Tony properly now and stared at him as though trying to work out a puzzle. He really could not understand Stark in the slightest.

“You are the first person in many centuries that I have not been able to read like a book. My talent lies in deception and so I use people's own minds against them. I can read every one of your Avengers except you Stark. I can certainly glean information off you, read your expressions, you're literally an open book and yet I cannot fathom your motives for anything you do.”

”That makes me feel proud, I mean you even managed to fuck with the Widow for a small amount of time, even though she played you right back.”

”That day in Stark Tower, you were so frightened I could feel it and yet you stood there as bold as brass and provoked me. You didn't care what I would do to you, so confident you were that you'd manage whatever I could throw at you.”

”Or throw just me, literally.”

Loki shot him a dark glare and carried on.

“You pretend you're not the hero type, but your actions that day proved beyond a doubt that your courage was greater than all of your friend's. You weren't just willing to die for your shield mates; you were willing to die for your city, your country, your world. People you've never met, people who don't even know you exist outside of the suit.”

“Well shucks you're making me blush. I did what I had to do and it wasn't an entirely selfless reason. I live my life every day to try and make up for all the fucking awful things I've done in my life. All the people I've killed through my war mongering. I didn't care who I hurt as long as I made lots of money and got drunk and threw parties. It took the whole cave thing to show me the error of my ways. I wish you could do the same.”

”Have you ever thought that I don't want to change?”

”Bullshit! I call bullshit!”

”You seem to forget Stark that unlike you I enjoy what I do. I enjoy being dangerous and I enjoy fucking with people. I want to be taken seriously for once in my life, and I want the power I should have had had Thor not gone and ruined my plans.”

”And back to raging psychopath we go. Why do you want the throne so much? Do you really want to rule in a place where as you said yourself, nobody likes you, how is that fun? What, you'll put fear into them and rule them as a tyrannical god? How are you any different from Odin then? Take take take and no give give give.”

”Do not compare me to him.”

”I will when you act like him.”

”I do not act like him.”

”Yes, yes you do, and this is it, you try so hard to prove you're like all the rest, have you ever thought that your strength comes from the fact that you're not like them? You're not like Odin and you're literally the fucking opposite of Thor. You can pretend all you like but I'd bet your closest likeness is to your mom, but you're still so very different to her. Do you really know why you freak us all out so much? Because we don't know just how strong you are. Sure we could make a good guess but we'd still probably be way off base if the only thing in this fucking universe that scares you is this Thanos dude. I bet that no one, not even Odin knows just how powerful you are, seeing that he thought he was strong enough to lock you away I'd say that my guess is spot on. I'd expect you're way more powerful than Thor, he got the muscles but you've got all this shit going on with you.” Tony gestured avidly at Loki. “All this magic and deadly weapons and what the fuck ever else you have. You're a fucking genius at that and a tactician. You could easily rule Asgard, and probably do a better job of it than Odin. But you're not the Golden Boy so they'll just resent you. A wise author once said ‘always remember that the crowd that applauds your coronation is the same crowd that will applaud your beheading. People like a show’. Ruling isn't all it is chalked up to be. You ask any ruler on any planet. You'd have been better off in your original position advising Thor, well, now that he'll listen anyway.”

Tony took a breath.

“You should be pulling the strings and getting your way whilst Thor smiles and waves. Because unless you make a drastic change in your life you'll never win anyone's love and you have made sure of that. And don't just blame Odin you've got to take a bit of responsibility here. No it wasn't fair how you were treated growing up and whatever but life isn't fair. Shit happens, it's how you deal with life once you're grown up that really matters. All those nerdy kids who got beat up in school; they're some of the most powerful people in the world now. Not because they snapped and went on a murderous rampage mind you, but because they utilised their strengths to their advantage. When I was a kid I fucking hated my dad and did everything I could to piss him off and rebel. What did that get me? Two dead parents, a company that I was practically drinking away and everybody literally wishing I was dead. I took everything for granted and fucked it all up and nearly lost my life over it. I had one person I could really talk to and I took him for granted too. When I came back from that cave it was such a wake up call for me. I was one of the most hated men in America I wouldn't doubt. The people I trusted most wanted me dead and the people I gave no fucks about were the ones trying to save my life. I nearly died without being able to rectify all my fuck ups, I'd have gone down in history as that prick that let the terrorists get weapons of mass destruction. The same weapons that would have been launched onto American soil and started another world war. I'd have been fucking Hitler Mark 2. Is that what you want? To be known as the guy who committed mass genocide and patricide? To just be another war criminal? Say this Thanos dude had attacked Asgard, now Thor told me about the way you treated your mom when you were imprisoned, what if Thanos had killed her? And you'd never told her just how much you loved her, or how grateful you were to her for sticking by you?”

Loki's hands balled into fists as soon as Tony mentioned Frigga and he gritted his teeth.

“Is that really how you want to go down? You're on a precipice Loki, a turning point. You can carry on this path to self destruction, and end up being killed or really killing yourself one day and leaving a trail of destruction in your wake. Or you can be serious about what you've come here to do. You can prove to us that you're not just another war criminal. You can help us, talk to us, better yourself and help us kick the enemy’s ass and then you can go home and fucking apologise for being such a grade A cunt because you know they'll forgive you, I'm not going to give you it all sugar coated and say you'll all live happily ever after because the world doesn't work that way, but it's a start. And now I really should get out of fucking bed.” Tony stretched and hopped out of bed, incredibly conscious that he was wearing a pair of Iron Man boxers, and started rummaging through his clothes with his back to Loki so he couldn't see how embarrassed he was. By the time he'd grabbed a Black Sabbath t-shirt, some clean underwear and jeans Loki still hadn't moved an inch.

”You okay there big fella? I didn't break you did I? As speeches aren't my strong point I think that was pretty impressive. If I had a star chart I'd expect at least two gold stickers for that.”

Loki stared at him incredulously for a couple of minutes and made Tony very uneasy.

“You're doing that whole staring at me like I'm naked thing again, which is even worse this time as I am one boxer short away from being very naked.”

Loki furrowed his brows and looked down at the ground with unfocused eyes.

“Thank you, Stark. You've really made me think about certain things. Not just today, but every time I speak to you you say something that ends up haunting me and you're right. I truly am as you would say, 'fucking up'.”

”Big time dude.”

Loki looked up at Tony once more and Tony hastily pulled on his shirt, feeling instantly better about those burning green eyes on his person. And then Loki shimmered and disappeared.

”Oh what! Hey that's not fucking fair, god damn it USE A DOOR LOKI!” He yelled into the empty air and ran off into the bathroom to get dressed. He went straight down to the gym, his mind was almost painful with reeling thoughts and he figured some mindless exercise would take his mind off it.

Chapter Text

He almost ran into the gym and went off into the locker rooms, he grabbed a couple of bandages and wound them around his palms and changed and headed for the punching bag. He was amused to see the trail of sand around it that Steve had missed when clearing up after breaking another bag. He started slowly but soon wasn't able to keep controlled and started punching the bag as hard as he could. It felt good to just let go, all the confused feelings inside of him just mixing together into something he could hone into his punching. God, what the fuck was going on with him, the others were right, why was he playing house with the resident psychopath. He should hate him; he killed Coulson for god's sake!

Ah shit!” Tony shook out his hand as he punched the bag particularly hard and jarred his wrist.

As for the other things he couldn't quite seem to ignore, he didn't think he could even try and think about them, especially after last night. Best to lock them away and ignore them, it would do him no good at all thinking about Loki like that. Shit, what if Loki had noticed his reaction last night, what if he'd done it on purpose, just fucking with him for amusement. Fucking drama queen. He could read his goddamned mind, how could he not have noticed!

”Soon Steve's not going to be the only one known for breaking punching bags.” Came a voice that nearly had Tony falling over in shock, he grabbed the punching bag for support, feeling the sweat dripping off of him as his heart rate calmed down.

”Jesus fucking Christ Banner! You scared the shit out of me.”

”Sorry. I didn't want to disturb you; you looked disturbed enough as it was. Are you okay?”

”I'm just peachy.”

”Anything you want to talk about? I'm all ears?'”

”I'm fine, really, just needed a little exercise.”

”A little exercise is going for a jog round the block.”

”Really Brucey, I'm fine.”

”Is it Loki?”

Tony straightened up and then cursed internally at his reaction.

“I thought as much, come on Tony I know you're not enjoying this as much as you pretend. You're not fine.”

”You're right, I'm not. I'm not fucking fine at all.” Tony gave the punching bag one last whack for good measure. “I'm at my wits end with this whole thing. 'Find out what's going on Tony, he'll talk to you' and then when I do I get the fucking cold shoulder and 'how could you talk to him Tony he's a criminal', well fuck make up your fucking mind people! They act like I fucking chose this, like I'm cosying up to him because we're best fucking buddies. They might not say it but they're all thinking it. As if they needed anymore reasons to doubt me, I've always been the outcast, the livewire. The one who doesn't fit in and doesn't play nice and now this comes along and just smacks me right in the face and leaves a stamp on my forehead that says 'douche bag'.”

”Come on Tony you know that's not true, we all trust you.”

”You may do, but even Thor gives me these looks like, 'what the fuck are you doing?', I don't even know what I'm doing Banner.”

”You're doing what you think is right.”

”Since when have I ever been a good judge of that?”

”So you think what you're doing is wrong, trying to get through to Loki. I was so shocked when I came down and found you two watching a movie, and when he came down and ate with us. Haven't you noticed how gaunt he's been looking, but he is looking better every time he has spent time talking to you.”

”Hah!” Tony laughed self deprecatingly. “He fucking hates talking to me.”

”No he doesn't, otherwise he wouldn't talk to you.”

”Why is he talking to me? Actually, why am I talking to him? Why me Bruce? God everytime I look at his face I see Coulson and I just want to scream at him for what he did, and at myself. I can't deal with all this shit!”

”It sucks Tony, but, that's the way it is and you've got this chance to prove everyone wrong. Clint proved Fury wrong about Natasha, he was sent to kill her for all the horrible things she'd done, all the lives she'd taken, all the innocent people she'd killed. Clint made a different call and changed her life, look at her now. We'd be so fucked without her. They both can't understand why they're here and they don't realise just how important they are to this group. We're all outcasts Tony, but together we do amazing things and you can make Loki see that he can do amazing things too. He came to you because you're probably the one that is least likely to stab him for it. Because you can understand him and all the shit he's been through. He knows everything about us and he came to you. He trusts you Tony, he really trusts you. Even if he is an ass about it.”

”But how can I do this Bruce?”

”Do you hate Tasha for what she did?”

”Well, no.”

”Do we hate you for what you did?”

”No.” He mumbled grudgingly.

“So let’s give Loki a chance to atone for what he did. I can't just forget what he did, or forgive, but I can look past it. I can sort of see that guy that speaks to you like you're an equal instead of an ant. I think he needs this, and you, more than he'll ever admit. You're getting through to him and you're probably the first person to actually try to and he doesn't know how to handle that so he's going to be stroppy. He likes to be in control of everything and you're taking away his control.”

”He showed me what those bastards did to him when they captured him Bruce, he's a fucking wreck. He hides it all with magic but he showed me. It's awful.”

”You think he'd have shown you if he doesn't want you to try and help him?”

Tony let out a long sigh and rested his head against the punching bag.

“You're right, you're fucking right. I'm not going to give up, I can't. Regardless of anything the fucking princess saved my life. We all trust each other in this group even if we don't always agree with the choices made, and that is why we're so strong. We don't have to always agree, no one can always agree, but we trust each other to make the right choices regardless.”

”That's exactly it, I mean, if you can help me Tony you can help any body. Seriously Tony you just about saved my life because you didn't treat me differently and you weren't afraid of me. Loki needs the same. You don't seem to realise just how great you are Tony.”

”God Banner!” Tony choked out and then regained himself. “I'm fine, I'm fine, just got something stuck in my throat.” Bruce chuckled beside him. “Shut up Banner. This is why you're my favourite, come here!”

”Oh no you're all sweaty.” Bruce backed away with a laugh.

”Shut up and take it like a man Banner!” Tony grabbed him and pulled him into a rough hug.

”Don't tell Barton I hugged you.” Tony mumbled into Bruce's shoulder.

”My lips are sealed.”

”Okay, I need a shower and to show myself to the group before they decide that Loki has killed me and get the pitchforks.”

”He's not a vampire, I think torches and pitchforks would be pretty useless against him.”

”Not a vampire, psht, have you seen the guy? He's fucking Count Dracula with all his leather and slicked back hair and psycho rages. I bet if I touched him with a cross it would burn him.”

”Actually it probably would knowing the Lord of Darkness as we do.”

”I might have to try that out, right, okay, shower time, I'll see you in the common room Brucey.”

”See you there Tony.” Bruce walked away laughing to himself and Tony went off to the showers.

When he came into the common room shortly after he found everyone eating sandwiches that Bruce was preparing in the kitchen area.

“Bruce do you do all the cooking?”

”Except when we order junk food, yeah, someone's got to take care of these children.”

”Hey I resent that.” Called Natasha from where she was beating Clint on a fighting game.

”Where's the big guy?”

”In the lab with Jane and Darcy, they're still having no luck on finding a way to close the portals.”

”Of course they won't, they don't have me to help them. I really ought to spend more time in the lab. Jarvis, tell Jane, Darcy and Blondie to come up here for lunch, poor Thor must be starving watching them work.”

”Right away sir.”

”And you can tell Loki to come too.” Tony ignored the stares he was getting and continued to watch Banner cook.
Bruce nodded to him and put some more bacon in the pan and whisked it about in the butter.

”What would we do without you Brucey.”

”Starve? Or order pizza every single day.”

”Hey we order Chinese too, that has vegetables in it, it's healthy!” Yelled Clint over his shoulder.

A cheer came from his direction and Tony looked over to see Clint's person on his ass and Natasha's punching the air in delight.

“God Clint even on a game you can't beat her.”

”You try to beat her! It's impossible.”

”I accept the challenge, gimme the controller!” Tony strode over and jumped over the back of the sofa to land with a thump beside Barton, who handed him the controller with a smug look on his face.

”Are you ready?” Natasha smirked.

”Hey let me choose my own chara- Holy shit Barton that's you, no fucking way!” Tony grabbed the empty disk box and laughed out loud. “You are so not playing an Avengers game, this is fucking awesome! Please tell me I have a character?” Tony pressed the back button until he got to the menu and went through the characters.

”Holy crap, there's Thor, and Steve, and Hulk, and Me!!!!!! Why did I not know about this.”

”Tony your company made it, like all other Iron Man merchandise.”

”I probably wasn't paying attention at that meeting.”

”Like every other meeting.”

”Who else is there?” Tony flipped through the characters, he saw Chitauri, Black Widow, what looked like a crude representation of Fury and one you could customise yourself, until he came to the last one.

”No fucking way, are you kidding me?”

”Nope.”

Tony grabbed the box again and stared at it.

“Holy fucking shit.”

”Just choose a character!”

”I need to talk to my staff I think, this is mental.”

He heard the door open and hastily moved back to the Iron Man character. Then felt silly because only non magical people use doors.

“Hey I can change the colour of my suit, now why would I want to do that?”

”Because red and gold is so last year.” Came Jane's voice from the kitchen

”Dr Foster! How lovely of you to join us, did you know there is a game about your boyfriend.”

”Sadly yes, Darcy won't stop playing it.”

”You can go on missions and everything in one player mode!” Darcy chimed in behind her.

”Really, man I am so playing this more often, who needs Super Smash Bros when I can play Avengers.”

”Tony, you are an Avenger, you don't need to play it.”

”That is where you are wrong Miss Foster.”

”Oh my god.” She said dramatically before sitting down.

Darcy came and sat next to Tony and pressed the arrow button.

“Hey don't change the colour!”

”This is how I always play it.”

”Black and red so does not suit me.”

”Yes it totally does!” She pressed the enter button.

”Hey!” Tony pulled the controller away.

”Children can we please shut up and play the game.” Natasha drawled.

”Yeah Tony.” Darcy stuck out her tongue at him.

”Oh what? Fine! If I lose it is Darcy's fault for changing my colours. Black and red, seriously.”

”Excuses excuses!” Natasha teased and pressed enter.

”Hey look even in the game you've got a great ass Tasha.”

Natasha shot Tony a death glare and he held his hands up defensively.

“Just saying!”

”Just play the game Tony.”

”Jeez, touchy. She has got a great ass, hasn't she Darcy.”

”She really has, I just look like bleuch compared to you Widow.”

Tasha couldn't stop herself from laughing and so Tony saw his chance and attacked her.

“Cheaters never prosper Tony.”

”I wasn't- argh- cheating, I was using everything to my advantage like a good soldier.”

”You were cheating.” She smiled and flipped Tony's character onto the floor, he blasted her with his repulsors and before he could even move she'd sprang back up and kicked him in the chest.

Three rounds and three losses for Tony later and everyone was watching avidly.

“I swear you've handicapped me in the settings or something, why is your character so much faster, seriously mine is refusing to obey my commands.”

”It's just being true to character Tony.” Called Bruce from the counter.

'Thank you Bruce.'

“No probl-“ Bruce stopped short and Tony froze when he heard a silky smooth voice behind him.

”Being beaten by a woman Stark.” Came a dark voice in his ear.

”Holy fucking crap.” Tony jumped from his seat and turned to face a smirking Loki. Everyone had gone quiet and he heard a loud noise from behind him, he spun round to see a tiny Natasha shaking her fist in the air.

”Hey that's cheating!”

”I thought it was using the situation to my advantage?”

”Fine! It was cheating.”

”What on earth are you playing Stark.”

”Avengers Assemble!”

”You have got to be kidding me?”

”Nope, Tasha let me change my character.”

Tony pressed the buttons on the controller with a smug look and selected the last character on the menu.

“This is not funny Stark.”

“'It's hilarious actually!”

There on the screen was a green and black character wearing a golden horned helmet.

“How did we even get away with making this?”

”I do not look like that!”

”You really, really do, look you're even crouching in the same way this is amazing. Come on Tasha!”

Tasha moved her character and Tony made his jump lithely out of the way, true to form it moved gracefully and with deadly seriousness, it twirled its sceptre around and shot at the Widow with great precision.

“Why is Loki stronger than me in this game? He's the bad guy he should be easy to defeat.”

”I expect it is just being, what did your Doctor say, true to character.”

”How long have you been here?”

”A few minutes.”

”Why did no one say anything?”

”Because they could not see me.”

”You can turn in-fucking-visible?!”

”Well of course.” He raised an eyebrow as if it was completely obvious.

”You can turn invisible! How often do you sneak around here invisibly?”

”Not often so you may relax yourself.”

”Oh my god I'm getting a nosebleed I swear to god.” Tony pinched the bridge of his nose.

”Don't be so dramatic Stark, you told me to come for lunch and so I did.”

”Yeah but, visibly.”

”You should have specified.”

”I didn't kno- Fuck it, whatever, lets do this Romanoff.” Tony turned back to the screen and felt Clint get up and walk away muttering to himself.

He started to attack the Widow, with Darcy pointing out certain combo moves Loki could make.

“How do you know all this?”

Tony felt to sofa move beside him and out of the corner of his eye saw Loki sitting beside him. Loki glanced at him as if to say 'what?' and watched the screen.

“I know all this because apart from Black Widow he's the character with the best attacks. He's my favourite.” Darcy's eyes suddenly widened and she blushed and looked down at her hands, Tony glanced at Loki to see him smirking. Tony looked back at Darcy and smiled easily.

”Well if he beats the Widow he'll be my favourite character too, come on!” Darcy shot him a relieved look and Tony managed to blast the Widow backwards with Loki's sceptre and then knock her over with it. “Yeah!”

”My god this is so accurate, like a little ballet dancer Loki, go Prancer!”

”I do not prance!”

”Yes you fucking do Loki, plus, Prancer is another name of one of the 8 reindeers Santa has, you remember the name Rudolph right, that's another.”

”Is Bambi also one?”

”No Bambi is from a Disney movie, I have it if you want to watch it.”

”Oh my god Stark.”

”Stop hating on Disney Romanoff!”

”What is a reindeer?”

”It's a prancy creature with big horns.”

”Who is Santa?”

”You don't have Santa on Asgar- Shit! Haha you nearly got me there Widow!”

”No Stark, we do not have Santa in Asgard.”

”Then who brings you presents at Christmas?” He could hear Darcy sniggering beside him and now she burst out laughing.

”What on earth is Christmas?”

”Exactly that, it's on Earth. Christmas is the one day a year when everyone gives everyone presents. We get presents, we drink, eat roast turkey, put up a Christmas tree and decorate it with tinsel and flashy lights, it's the best time of the year for parties.”

”And why, pray tell, do you do that?”

”It's a celebration, do you guys have birthdays on Asgard?”

'Birthdays, from the sounds of it, yes. We have name day celebrations and coming of age ceremonies.'

“Yeah! Well over here on your birthday people give you presents and throw a party. Christmas is meant to be the day Jesus Christ was born.”

'The one whose name you like to shout when you’re surprised?”

Tony cracked a huge grin. “Yeah! That dude, according to the Bible, which I know you’ve heard of being a god and all,” Loki rolled his eyes, “he is the son of God.”

“So technically Loki and I are Jesus Christ?” Said Thor loudly from behind him.

“Uh wow, never thought of it that way but no, Christianity is a whoooole different religion to the whole Norse Deity thing. Anyway Christ wasn’t actually born on the 25th December but the idiots in the church decided it was more symbolic and so changed it. The years went by yadda yadda yadda and the tale of a priest called Saint Nicholas became part of the story, St Nick became Father Christmas and soon the presents thing came about and Father Christmas became Santa Claus. Now Santa is a jolly fat guy in a red suit with a beard and on Christmas Eve his 8 reindeers pull a sleigh and he flies around the entire world giving kids their presents by dropping down the chimney and putting their presents under the Christmas Tree.”

“How realistic.” Loki drawled.

“Hey magic shouldn’t even exist nor should aliens they’re all just stores here on Earthgard so shut up he could totally be real.”

“I will not be grouped into the same category as a fat man with a red suit and a sleigh.”

“He has a beard too, oh my god! It could totally be Odin! Maybe that’s why he is such a sourpuss, because he has to dress up every year and deliver presents, you said bilgesnipe have antlers, they must pull his sleigh!”

Darcy, who had quietly been struggling to keep herself together could now no longer control her laughter and fell off the sofa, much to everyone’s amusement.

“That’s so it! Your dad is Santa!”

Everyone was trying not to laugh now except Thor and Loki (and probably Clint but Tony no longer cared).

“I don’t understand, how could father fly around the entirety of Midgard in one night?” Said Thor, a look of total confusion on his face, Darcy snorted and guffawed from the floor where she was still sat in a heap.

“Oh my fucking god!” She wiped one eye. “I’m actually fucking crying!”

“This is ridiculous.” Loki growled.

“I’ve never seen father in a red suit Tony, you must be mistaken.” Thor paused, crinkling his brow as he thought.

“Oh! My! God!” Darcy cried and now even Jane was laughing and tugging at Thor to try and make him shut up.

“Thor, baby your daddy’s Santa okay, it’s official.”

“But we do not celebrate Mass of Chris.”

Tony dropped his controller and slid down to join Darcy, grabbing his face with his hands. “Oh fuck,” he gulped in between breaths, “now you’ve set me off.” Darcy buried her head in his shirt and laughed as loudly as he could, Tony put his arm around her and howled with laughter.

“I’m surrounded by idiots.” Loki scowled and pursed his lips.

“You really are!” Tony laughed. He continued to laugh as Darcy slapped her knee and tried to get herself back under control.

“Hey!” Shouted Natasha and Tony looked up to see the Loki character battering her with its sceptre.

Tony looked up to see Loki had picked up the controller and was now easily using it to beat Tasha.

“Holy shit how’d he manage to do that?” Darcy managed to force out between giggles.

“Wow yeah how did he do that?” Tony joined in.

Loki raised one eyebrow without taking his eyes of the screen. “This is very easy, how do you struggle so with it?”

“Can you just stop being good at everything for one fucking second?!”

“Let me think about that… No.”

Tony gave Loki an incredulous look and went back to the TV screen.

“Shit Widow he is taking you down.” He whistled at the screen.

“I can’t get a move in!” She replied as she hammered the buttons on the controller frantically.

Her character was flung flat on her back and Loki’s character placed his sceptre at her throat. The TV declared ‘winner!’ in typical arcade game fashion with a great red flashing word popping up on the screen.

“I believe that is check mate, Agent Romanoff.” Loki put down the controller with a barely concealed grin and sat back, folding his arms proudly.

Tony pulled himself back onto the sofa and daringly clapped Loki on the shoulder.

“Ow, hey I was congratulating you!” Tony pulled his hand back and shook it as it tingled.

“I told you not to touch me. I could have done a lot worse.”

“Fair point, right, all that laughing has made me hungry, Banner is there any food left or has Thor eaten it all?”

“That is an unjust assumption metal man.” Thor pouted.

“No it’s not big guy.” Tony snapped back.

Tony got up and offered his hand to Darcy, who was still on the floor, she took it and he pulled her up to her feet then motioned for Loki to follow.

“Mmm bacon, tell me Loki have you eaten bacon?”

“What is bacon?”

“That delicious smell wafting on the breeze is bacon my friend, budge up folks, Santa’s Little Helper is coming through.”

“Another reference I am sure to not get, but I know enough to understand I should be offended by it.” Loki sighed half heartedly.

“Santa’s Little Helper is a character on a TV show called The Simpsons aka the only good thing to come out of America except Iron Man.”

“Your modesty is heart rendering Stark.”

“Isn’t it just?” Tony grinned and sat down on a stool next to Darcy.

Loki waved his hand and once again a stool appeared.

“You know there are other stools on the other side of the work surface right?”

“This is easier.”

“Lazy.”

Loki shrugged and sat down. Now that they were around everyone else Tony could almost feel the tension coming off of Loki. It reminded him of one of those nature documentaries, but now it was like a lion surrounded by hyenas instead of a lion approaching the water hole around prey animals. The lion could easily kill the hyenas, but if they ganged up on it there would be trouble.

“Three bacon sarnies coming atcha!” Banner plonked the plates down in front of each of them.

“Thanks mom.” Tony flashed Banner a winning smile and Banner shoved him in return. “Where’s the ketchup at?”

Loki went to prod his sandwich and Tony waved a finger at him.

“Not without ketchup.”

“I’ll get one out of the fridge, Thor ate all of the last one.”

Thor shrugged but looked away guiltily and Tony had to laugh at his expression.

“How many sandwiches did he eat whilst we were over there?”

“Seven.” Thor mumbled at the ground.

Tony laughed louder than every, accompanied by Darcy.

“Okay, ketchup has arrived.” Banner dropped it over Tony’s shoulder.

“Sweet, okay Loki, watch and learn.” Tony peeled the bread off the bacon and smothered it in ketchup before replacing the bread and passing the bottle to Loki.

Loki took it gingerly and opened the cap, giving it a sniff and furrowing his brow. He prodded the top slice of bread and then peeled it off before squeezing the bottle. The ketchup came out with a great farting noise and Loki nearly dropped the bottle in surprise before composing himself and Tony roared with laughter, earning himself a dirty look.

“Okay, you give me that.” Tony snatched the bottle from Loki and gave it to Darcy before turning back to him. “And let’s eat!” Tony grabbed his sandwich and took a big bite out of it, chewing happily. He watched Loki who stared at his sandwich for a moment, then looked at him.

“I have to eat it with my hands?”

“Yep.” Tony mumbled through his sandwich.

“How ungainly, like eating with Thor.”

“Just shut up and eat it.”

Loki narrowed his eyes at him and picked up the sandwich with disgust, then took a tiny bite out of it.

“If you react the same way you did to coffee I’m going to have to ask you to leave my planet. Don’t you have sandwiches on Asgard?”

“Bread is used for mopping up the sauces of food, and sometimes we place cheese upon it.” Replied Thor, who was now watching Loki chew.

“Verdict?” Tony raised one eyebrow.

Loki swallowed then gazed down his nose at the sandwich. “Bearable.”

“I knew you’d like it!” Tony went to clap him on the back and received a zap before he even came into contact. “Hey that was mean.” Tony rubbed his hand.

“I have given you enough warnings to desist in your childlike behaviours.”

“Not going to make me stop.” Tony retorted sulkily.

“Then enjoy being, how did you put it, electrocuted.”

“Hmph.” Tony went back to tearing apart his sandwich as Loki took delicate bites out of his own. “So, apart from the cheerios and this sandwich what have you eaten since you’ve been here?”

“Not a lot.” Loki didn’t look at him, Thor and Darcy turned away and began to speak quietly amongst themselves.

“That can’t be good for you Bambi.” Loki ignored him and went back to his sandwich. “From now on you’re eating with us, can’t have you wasting away when the evil dude comes to destroy us.” Loki stiffened then went back to eating as if he hadn’t heard what Tony had said.

“Your concern for my brother is warming Stark.” Thor said quietly.

Loki snorted indignantly.

“Yeah well,” Tony rubbed the back of his hair awkwardly, “someone’s gotta do it.”

“Never the less, I thank you.”

“Err, no problems big guy.”

“Touching Thor, touching.” Thor seemed to balloon out in joy as Loki spoke to him.

“I am surely allowed to be concerned for you brother.”

“You may do as you please.” Thor beamed at him and Loki rolled his eyes. Tony mused that one day they’d roll the entire way round if he didn’t stop.

“I am glad someone other than myself worries for you.”

“How wonderful for you.”

Tony leaned in to Loki conspiratorially, “Your brother really doesn’t get sarcasm does he?” Loki smirked in reply.

“I do friend Stark, I merely choose to ignore it in favour of enjoying that my brother is speaking to me.”

Tony dropped his head and Loki chuckled beside him, then went on ignoring everyone and picking at his sandwich.

Once they had eaten they went back to the sofas where Clint was once again trying to beat Natasha at the game.

“How about a movie you guys?”

“Sure.” Replied Tasha, pausing the game.

“What one?” Clint asked.

“Well we need to educate our resident magician here so how about Lord of the Rings?”

“I love those movies!” Darcy cried and jumped onto the sofa beside Romanoff.

“Can’t we watch something with a bit more action in it?” Clint grumbled.

“Hey Lord of the Rings has plenty of action in it, plus, Darcy has spoken so unless you want to break her heart…” Tony trailed off.

Darcy pouted from beside Tasha and Clint relented. “Yay!” She cheered, earning an eye roll from Natasha. “Put it on put it on! Aragorn is so hot!”

“What? No it’s all about Legolas, right Clint?” Clint scowled at Tony. “What? I compare you to him in a good way! Jarvis, put on The Fellowship of the Ring I can’t be bothered to use the remote.”
“Yes sir.”

“Good boy.” He blew a kiss up to the ceiling.

“Thank you sir.” Tony chuckled as he heard the sarcasm in the AI’s voice.

Jane pulled Thor over to sit beside Darcy and Natasha.

“Banner, get your butt over here and where’s the old man?”

“He had an early lunch and went out for a run, he’s probably in the gym now.”

“God, what a fitness nut, well, his loss. Come on Loki, you’ll like this.” Loki barely concealed his distaste as Tony shoved Clint over and sat down. Clint almost hissed at him and went and sat down against Nat’s legs.

“More room for us then, suit yourself.” Tony slid down onto the sofa and Loki hesitated. “Come on, you sat next to me earlier, live a little.”

“I do not define this as living.”

“Oh just sit down princess.” That earned him another scowl but Loki came and sat down at the other end of the sofa, head held high whilst the others pretended not to watch them. Banner pulled an armchair over and sat in between Tony and Natasha. “Okay Jarv, play the movie.” He then added in an undertone to Loki. “Seriously you’ll like this one, it’s better than Harry Potter magic wise, the wizards are much more powerful.” Tony settled into the sofa and put his hands behind his head, throwing a smirk at Loki as the movie started.

Loki rolled his eyes once more but said nothing, instead shimmering until his clothing changed into his casual wear.

“Again, so jealous, I wish I could do that, just shimmer into my pyjamas.”

Loki’s lip curled at the side Tony could see and Tony felt a cold sensation wash over him. “Uh oh. Woah what’s happen- Well fuck.” Tony looked down at himself to see he was now sporting his Iron Man pyjamas. “How did you know I had these?”

Everyone looked at Tony now and Loki just smirked.

“Nice jammies Stark.”

“Just because you don’t have Hawkeye pyjamas doesn’t mean you should take it out on me Legolas.” Clint’s jaw dropped ready to retort but Darcy shushed them.

“Guys, the movie is starting.”

“Alright alright, Aragorn doesn’t enter for like twenty minutes yet chill lover girl.”

“I wish he was my lover.” Darcy sighed dramatically and Jane laughed beside her.

“Shut up Jane you’ve got your medieval hero where’s mine?”

“Hey we have another right here!” Tony went to point at Loki and instead got a zap that made him yelp.

“He’s on the tv so shut up and watch the movie.” Natasha said with a small smile.

As the movie went on Tony spent more and more time watching Loki for his reactions, the god revealed nothing but his eyes were lit up.

Is something wrong Stark? Tony jumped when he heard a voice in his head.

Holy shit you scared me, um, no are you speaking to me with your thoughts?

Are my lips moving?

No…

Why do you keep staring at me?

Do not

Really? Tony could hear the condescension even in Loki’s thoughts.

I just want to see what you think of the movie. You never laugh or smile or get scared or whatever normal people do.

Loki glanced sideways at him and let out a quiet breath. I like it better than the others you have shown me.

You’ll break Britain’s heart, Harry Potter is practically their flag.

Woe is me, this is a great deal more believable and set in a time and place I am more familiar with.

You need to get with the times grandpa.

Who’s your favourite character so far?

I could not say, the villains are sadly lacking in charm and intelligence.

Hey now Saruman is pretty clever and sneaky.

But he’ll still be defeated.

How do you know?

Is this not what humans thrive upon? Good overthrowing evil, can you not see the contrast in both movies between light and dark? In the other movie, the Voldemort character and his follwers, and now Sauron and his armies, such foolish mortals to believe that one can only be good or evil and that good will always triumph, even in the most bleak of situations.

We’re optimists, so shoot us.

But it is a fallacy, I liked that speech of the shapeshifter in Harry Potter, that everyone has both light and dark inside of them, that everyone was capable of good and evil.

I guess you’re right there, so does that mean that you’re capable of good?

There was no answer and Tony turned to Loki, who was now looking down at the ground, everyone else was still focused on the movie and the light had been dimmed. The screen light flickered across Loki’s face, but it was blank and unreadable. He looked up and met Tony’s gaze.

I believe we shall find out.

Tony looked back to the movie and replayed the conversation in his head, that was not what he had expected.

“Are you okay Tony? You look kind of constipated?” Clint said, almost making Tony jump again.

“I’m fine Barton just enjoying the movie, as should you.”

“I’m a better archer than Legolas.”

“You wish.”

“Fuck you.”

“Shut up!” Darcy yelled and Tony snickered.

“When the movie was finished they played the second one and by the time the moon was shining in the sky they had the third one playing and everyone, including Loki was watching intently.

“This one is long as fuck I should warn you now,” Tony called out as he and Darcy made hot chocolate for everyone in the kitchen area, but Darcy won’t mind as it is an Aragorn spectacular.

“What can I say; the heart wants what the heart wants.” Darcy replied as they walked over and handed out mugs to each of them.

“Indeed.” Tony mused as he offered a mug to Loki, who took it delicately, looking Tony straight in the eyes.

“Thank you Stark.”

“No problems Loki, now don’t you dare turn your nose up at this. Sugar and milk is on the table folks so mix till your heart’s content.” Tony watched as Loki took a small sip and hmm’d to himself before reaching for the sugar, he heaped four teaspoons into his mug, mixed and sat back against the sofa.

“Fucking hell Loki, got a bit of a sweet tooth?”

“Maybe.”

“Perhaps.” Loki sipped, closing his eyes pleasurably.

“We’ll have to introduce you to candy then.”

Darcy lit up at that and jumped off the sofa, somehow not spilling her mug. “Oh! I have some chocolate digestives to go with this!”

Jarvis paused the title sequence and Darcy rushed back with a red biscuit packet in her hand. She sat down, put her mug down and looked at the packet.

“Two each, these came all the way from London, England so I won’t be getting anymore. Do the honours Tony?”

“Sure thing babe.” Tony reached for them and pulled the tab to open it, he took out two and gave them to Loki.

Loki looked at them for a second then took them in his finger tips.

“Break them in half then dip them in the mug and eat them, but do it quick or they’ll go sludgy and drop into your mug and it’ll be gross.”

Loki cocked an eyebrow at him then looked back at the biscuits, Tony took two out of the packet for himself then passed them to Bruce. “You know Darcy I can just order these in right? Perks of being me.”

“It’s not the same though.” She shrugged.

Bruce gave the packet to Natasha, who took out two and placed the packet on Clint’s head, much to everyone’s amusement. Tony broke one biscuit, dipped it into the mug and ate it, then motioned at Loki, soon everyone was watching the movie and munching and even Loki seemed to be slightly enjoying himself.

When the movie ended and everyone had gotten up to clean up after themselves Tony got up and stretched, wincing as his back cracked.

“Why is it that you’re like a thousand years older than me and by most reasoning I’m the youngest Avenger alongside Barton but I feel like the oldest.”

“Probably the large consumption of alcohol you partake in.”

“Isn’t that what Vikings do best?” Loki just looked at him. “You could be right there Bambi, any who, are you going to tell me who your favourite character is. If you don’t I’m just going to assume and tell everyone it was Gollum.”

Loki scowled at him and thought for a moment. Whilst he was quiet everyone filed out of the room with goodbyes and good nights and several yawns.

“I think in terms of the most realistic I liked Boromir and his brother, so easily swayed from the path of righteousness by temptation, so true to mankind. The villains were all cowards, too frightened to do what they must. The elves were a fair representation, we have elves in the 9 realms, that must be where your kind got the inspiration from.”

“You should try reading the books, they go so much more in depth about the characters.”

“I thought your television was better?”

“Not always, try cramming a 700 page book into 2 and a half hours without chopping bits from it. They have to leave a lot of stuff out. That is why the third movie was so long, they just couldn’t leave stuff out or it wouldn’t make sense.”

“Surely they should just make the movie as the book intended regardless of length? Plays can take several hours to finish properly.”

“But then no one would watch the movies.”

“True connoisseurs would.”

“Yes, but the people who make the movies have to make back the cost of making it, so when the movie comes out you pay to see it in a cinema, like a theatre, and then you can buy the movie once it is finished in cinema, those sales need to max out the money spent, if they made the movie several hours long they’d go broke. So they make a choice between it being a great movie for just the book lovers, or for fantasy lovers in general, they can’t please all the fans.”

“That’s preposterous; surely these fans as you call them will be outraged at the changes made.”

“Yeah they usually are but that’s life.”

Loki took a good look at Tony for a moment. “Why have they not made a movie about you yet? Being that humans are so obsessed with super heroes.”

“Because they can’t find an actor fabulous enough to play me.” Tony grinned like a prat.

“How vain.”

“You’re one to talk, how long did it take to design that get up you wear, and not to mention that armour? You love being flash.”

“Certainly, I never said I wasn’t, I was merely commenting on yourself.”

Tony huffed a laugh and Loki followed him quietly with his own. With a flick of his hand his mug was clean.

“You smarmy bastard.”

Loki merely raised his eyebrows and snapped his fingers at Tony’s foamy mug, which immediately became clean and dry.

Tony narrowed his eyes and put on his best southern dame accent. “Why thank you kind sir, my heart is all a flutter that a Prince would help someone as low and humble as myself.”

“Oh be quiet Stark.”

Tony burst out laughing and took Loki’s mug and his own and walked across to the kitchen area to put them away.

“I’m sorry but I find this all very comical, you’re a total fish out of water for some things yet a total cool cat for others. It’s hilarious. You’re a wizard and I’m a muggle and I am having the time of my life introducing you to the modern world.”

“I am glad it amuses you so.”

“Granted you’re not half as funny as your brother, you can give him anything and it is in his mouth before you can tell him what it is, I haven’t found anything he doesn’t like yet. I once gave him ground coffee on toast and he asked for more.”

“That is disgusting.” Loki wrinkled his nose.

“It was hilarious! You on the other hand are such a princess about it, sniffing everything you hold so delicately, glaring at things as though if you stare at them hard enough they’ll reveal all their secrets.”

“How did we get to this conversation.” Loki twitched his jaw from side to side.

“Me rambling of course.”

“Of course, isn’t it high time you retired to your chambers?”

“Are you trying to get rid of me Rudolph?”

“Obviously.”

“Ouch, that hurt, right here.” Tony pointed to his arc reactor.

“If you wish I can wound you somewhere else to take your mind off of it.” Loki dragged his eyes up and down Tony’s body with a devilish look.

“So cruel, I’m going to tell Bruce and the others about how you bully me.”

Loki looked at him for a moment as if wondering if he was being serious or not and Tony laughed.

“Still a bit concerned about Brucey are we?”

“Not at all.”

“Bullshit, I see the way you look at him, I’d look at him the same way if he busted my as-arse into the floorboards. My apartment still hasn’t recovered from that you know. Though I was tempted to put in a little fence around the indentation shaped like your body and leave it as a little shrine.”

“How flattering for me.” Loki scowled.

“Does he scare you?”

“Why ever would he scare me?”

“I’m not talking about Bruce, I’m talking about Hulk.”

“No, I merely did not factor him into my plans, I had hoped he’d stay away after I turned him loose.”

“Oh ye of little faith.”

“It almost worked, I blame you for that.”

“Just doing my duty.” Tony gave a mock salute.

“Did your little group not get into trouble for the destruction that monster wrought upon the city?”

“You obviously haven’t been outside have you?”

Loki raised one eyebrow at Tony.

“We’re going to take a walk tomorrow, just you and me.”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“Because I said so, you’ll see, now good night Princess.”

Loki watched him go with a furrowed brow and Tony walked hastily back to his room, tomorrow may turn out to be sheer disaster, but it might be just the push Loki needs. Once he was in his room he locked the door using his code and got undressed.

“Hey Jarv do me a favour and pull up Amazon.”

“At once sir.”

Tony grabbed his tablet from the bedside table and typed the word ‘Loki’ into the search bar. “Holy shit there’s a lot of crap containing him on here.” He flicked through the various books and DVDs then called Jarvis again. “Jarvis, order me these things from England would you, they seem to have the best stuff.” He listed off the things he wanted and told Jarvis to send them straight to his room express delivery.

“They should be here within 24 hours sir.”

“Perfect, now dim the lights, I’m going to try and get some sleep.”

Chapter Text

Tony woke up in the morning to the feeling of being watched and sat up quickly, sure enough there was Loki in the same chair he’d been in last time. “Fucking hell Loki you’re like fucking Edward Cullen or some shit. You even sparkle sometimes.”

“As per usual your references are lost on one such as I.”

“I’m not going to introduce to you Twilight it is a pile of shit so you’ll never get the reference.”

“Wonderful.”

“What are you doing here?”

“You said you and I were to go for a walk today, but you sleep much longer than anyone I know except Thor.”

“That is because I like my beauty sleep.”

“I am glad you were able to find some rest, now get up, the roof can only do so much for one such as I accustomed to the open air.”

“Yeah well the air out there isn’t exactly the nicest to breathe. Gimme a minute.”

“Why aren’t you wearing your pyjamas?”

Tony looked down at his chest and hissed through his teeth. “Because I don’t normally wear clothes to bed, I’m not right now as a matter of fact so you’d best skedaddle on out of here.”

“You seem embarrassed?”

“Uh yeah, hello? Walking around naked is not the done thing around here.”

“Why ever not?”

“It’s not polite.”

“How so?”

“Oh my god you’re like a 5 year old, do I really need to answer that? Normally people don’t walk around showing off their junk on Earthgard.”

“Not even during bathing times?”

“If you haven’t noticed we bathe alone here.”

“I have, it is a strange custom, you humans are so obsessed with your privacy.”

“And you’re not?”

“Not in that way, it is normal upon Asgard to share bathing with others and to dress and undress in front of others, usually it is only women who feel the need to cover their modesty.”

“That’s gross.”

“How so, surely it is the same as you humans going to your swimming pools?”

“I don’t know the reason why, it just, is okay.”

“You people are incredibly strange, surely having lived with Thor you’d be more accustomed to our customs by now.”

“I’ve had to tell your brother to put on some pants more than once.”

“The naked body is not something to be ashamed of Stark. It is art in its purest form.”

“It’s not shaming, I mean, I’m not ashamed, I just like my privacy, we all do.”

“I noticed that you went to dress in the bathroom yesterday, even though you were the only one in the room, is this normal behaviour in your species?”

“How did you- Never mind, yes it is, we like to get dressed in the bathroom so we can use the mirror and have a wash and use deodorant. Not all of us are lucky to be aliens who seem to smell fragrant no matter what they’re doing.”

“We too use perfumes and such, we bathe in them before special occasions.”

“We use deodorant and aftershave and manly smelling things.”

“Manly smelling? You like to smell of musk and sweat?”

“What? No!” Tony grabbed his covers and pulled them around him haughtily, then went into the bathroom, leaving a confused Loki on his chair. “This is manly smelling, ever heard of Lynx? Of course not even though you’re British,” Tony ignored the scowl, “it smells great, stand up.”

Loki eyed the canister of deodorant warily before standing up.

“Close your eyes and don’t breathe for a minute.”

“Stark.” Loki warned.

“Just do it.”

Loki stood up and shut his eyes, closing his mouth and Tony sprayed the deodorant across his leather covered chest. Loki flinched back and opened his eyes as soon as it was over. “What ever was that?”

“Deodorant, an aerosol in a can that smells good when you spray it.”

“Is it meant to taste so foul?”

“You’re not meant to breathe it in, you’re meant to smell it!”

“It smells queer.”

“You smell queer.”

“So childish.”

“We can’t all naturally smell wonderful thank you.”

“That’s magic for you.”

“Magic?”

“Yes, although as a race we certainly smell different to you humans who seem to sweat constantly I prefer to use magic, it makes me smell a certain way.”

“And how is that?”

Loki lowered his eyelids and and grinned seductively. “Appealing.”

“God you really are Edward Cullen.”

“It really is helpful when I wish to manipulate people.”

“Well that is just peachy Bambi.”

“Do I smell appealing to you Stark?” Loki purred.

Tony thought about answering, then thought better of it, he didn’t trust his tongue.

Loki grinned once more. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

Tony shot him a glare. “Can you leave now? I’d like to get dressed, also, unless you wish to get hunted down by an angry mob you’d better dress normally too.”

“This is normal.” Tony looked down at his leathers.

“Midgardian normal you dolt.”

“You wish me for me to dress human?”

“If you want to go outside yeah.”

“How embarrassing.”

“Just do it.”

Loki got up and went to the full length mirror doors on Tony’s large walk in cabinet and looked at his clothes for a moment before letting out a deep sigh. He shimmered into a suit and looked at Tony.

“Casual dress only, plus, people saw you at Stuttgart, the footage was shown on national television.”

Loki shimmered once more, and this time he was wearing a slight suit, with a black shirt and tie and black dress shoes.

“Casual! That is not casual!”

Loki took a deep breath. “I know not your casual wear.”

“Go look in the street.”

Loki walked over to the window that served as a wall to Tony’s room, across the green and yard there was a street running parallel, Loki studied it for a moment, then stepped back and flicked a hand in the air. The wall became a projection of the street below and Loki observed it carefully.

“That’s pretty neat.”

Loki hmm’d and went back over to the mirror, he shimmered and his clothes turned to a jeans and t-shirt, he tsk’d and waved a hand and they were back to his normal leathers.

“Hey I wear stuff like that.”

“I know, it is very plain and unbecoming.”

“Plain is good, you blend in better.”

He shimmered once more, his boots changed to fashionable jodphur boots that stopped past his ankles, his leather pants became skin tight black jeans and a black belt, his upper half changed into a tight black tshirt with a green low neck on it and over that came a leather trench coat with green inside and studs across the shoulders. His hair changed and came apart from his usual slicked back style and fell down across his shoulders, straight and neat as if he’d brushed and straightened it. Then for the final touch he flicked his hand and dark aviator sunglasses appeared on his face.

“Is this normal enough for you?”

“Can you even do normal? No, you know what Bon Jovi, nice rocker wear, very inconspicuous.”

Loki pulled his sunglasses down slightly with one hand and peered over them at Tony, Tony felt the tell tail cold trickle of water down his body.

“Hey what the?!” He looked down and dropped his cover, he was fully clothed in his trade mark jeans and a tight t shirt. He grabbed the cover and threw it back on his bed and pulled at the shirt, half expecting it to disappear. “Where’s my usual shirt?”

“I told you it was unbecoming, you’re an attractive human, you should show it off more often.”

“I uh, thanks, I guess.” Tony reeled in his mind which was hastily latching onto the vision of Loki calling him attractive.

“I expected you would not take kindly to me choosing your clothes for you, but, being that I must go out in public with you I felt this was the safest option.”

“Wait, what would you have me wear?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“No way, show me.” Tony said in an affronted tone.

Loki rolled his eyes and flicked his wrist.

“Woah that is a weird sensation, you like tight shit huh?” Tony stepped beside Loki and looked in the mirror. He had black boots on with a small heel, tight, stretchy black pants and a leather belt, a white shirt with buttons up the neck which were done up, a well fitted brown faded leather jacket with a collar that ran down the shoulders and the chest and a trilby hat. It reminded him of his days before his suits, before his slice of humble pie and before he was brought back down to earth by what his life had become.

“Well, the fedora is a surprise; you know a lot more about Midgardian clothing than you let on.”

“I lied; I didn’t want to change my clothes. I was a frequent visitor to Midgard in the 80’s.”

“That explains a lot, and why you didn’t remark on my Bon Jovi comment. So that was all for show, that whole magic thing?”

“No, I merely wanted to check that I wasn’t too extravagant.”

“Yeah, you being extravagant would be weird.”

“Would you like me to change you back now?”

Tony eyed himself in the mirror once more. “Actually, no, I’ll stay like this, you have good dress sense, I look like me back in my Playboy days.”

Loki seemed to find that greatly amusing and Tony tweaked with his jacket in the mirror for a few moments before going to his door. He looked outside and then walked out into the hall.

“Glad no one’s around, Barton would love to see me come out of my room in the early hours with another dude, especially you.”

“Why would he love that, is he so inclined?”

“What? No as in he’d rib the shit out of me for it.”

Loki looked at him blankly.

“Oh right yeah you’re British-“

“I am not British!”

“Look you are British okay just get over it, you look like a British 80’s rocker, seriously you’re so fucking British. Like some rock star on his day off, hey, you must like rock music right? You got my Bon Jovi reference right?”

“I liked the music played in the 80’s certainly, it was interesting.”

“Oh I have so many things to show you.” He started walking and Loki didn’t. “Right shit yeah, Barton would ridicule me over it, better? Comprendé?”

“Ci, and why would he do that?”

“Oh Christ, are you the God of Whys this morning?”

“I’m merely trying to learn about your culture, be more ‘open minded’, is that not what you wanted?”

“Well shit you’ve got me there.”

“So why? Why would Agent Barton find it amusing or strange for you to come out of your room with another person, I thought you had a well known reputation?”

“Yes, a playboy, I have a reputation with women, not men.”

Loki gave him a strange look.

“I’m not gay Bambi.”

Loki ignored his comment, “what’s ‘gay’?”

“Fuck me you really are from another planet. Do I really have to have this talk with you this early in the morning? Shouldn’t this be your mom’s job or something, you know, the birds and the bees.”

Another blank, if this time slightly grudged, look from Loki.

Tony sighed and scratched his beard. “A gay person is a guy who sleeps with other guys. Well, a guy who only sleeps with other guys.”

“You have a name for something such as that?”

“Yes, because there are different types of people.”

“Again why should that warrant a name? Surely a person may take to bed whoever they please, be attracted to whatever they are attracted to and that is that, what other types of people are there?”

“Well, that’s very uh, new age of you,” Tony clicked his tongue and thought of how to go on, “there are straight people, which is the norm, people who like the opposite gender like men who like women and vice versa. Then there are bisexual people, who like and sleep with both men and women, and then there are gay people, women who sleep with women and men who sleep with men.”

“Why does sex have to be so complicated with your species?”

“Err it just is.”

Loki looked him over unashamedly, making Tony struggle not to blush. “Which one are you?”

“Me? Well I’m straight.” Tony batted back several other words, banishing them to the recesses of his mind.

“How unexpected.” Loki mused.

“Unexpected?” Tony stared at him, trying to keep his face straight.

“Yes, your reputation for bedding so many people would lead to the assumption that you did not choose between genders.”

“Wait, do people assume that about me?”

“It seems to be the obvious conclusion.”

“Really? Damn.”

“Is that a bad thing to you?”

“It’s uh, it’s not it’s just complicated.”

“Complicated as in?”

Lord give me strength, Tony had wanted Loki to talk to him and be more open but boy this was a doozy so early in the morning. “Can’t you just google it?”

Loki looked intently at him.

“Google is the internet, never mind ask Thor, men who sleep with other men are not looked upon kindly here on earth; in fact, in some countries it is illegal.”

Loki cocked his head slightly. “Why ever is that?”

“Homophobia my good fellow, it all boils down to that awesome thing I mentioned yesterday called Christianity, well religion in general, in religious texts is it seen as a sin for two men to sleep together, so most of the world see gay people as an abomination, people get killed over it, it’s crazy. If people assume you’re gay, whether you are or not, they can become pretty nasty about it, or just shun you.”

“There are those like that upon Asgard, but not unto such a scale, the general consensus is that what you do within a bedroom is your own choice.”

“Really? So you’re not all just sex loving hippies without the peace obsession like the myths say.”

Loki chuckled as they came to the elevator. “Certainly not, there are many upon Asgard who see the gender of the person one chooses to sleep with as either a weakness or a strength, to lay with a man can be seen as a weakness, as it means one of you accepts to be the female in the coupling.”

“See, our planets aren’t so different after all.” They fell silent as they stepped into the elevator and Tony went to press the ground floor button, then thought better of it and pressed the sixth floor button. “I’m proud of you Rudolph, you’ve used doors twice today, I supposed we’d better tell the others what we’re doing so Fury doesn’t send out someone to round you up. Can you take those sunglasses off until we go outside, why are you even wearing them?”

“I like how they look, and they dim the shine of your infernal unnatural lights.”

“You’re nuts.”

“Possibly.”

“You can wait outside if you like.”

“No need.”

They walked out of the elevator and down the corridor to the lounge and Tony could already hear the noises of other people. “Jarv what time is it?”

“You have a watch sir.”

“Quit being smart.” Tony snapped as Loki chuckled beside him.

“9am sir.”

“Fuck it is early.”

“Sunrise was hours ago, it is late.”

“It’s early shut up.”

Tony opened the door and walked in and barely managed not to cringe back as all eyes turned to him.

“What the fuck are you wearing?” Clint laughed.

“Clothes dumbass.”

Loki walked behind him and suddenly all eyes were off of Tony.

“Holy shit Thor your brother is fucking hot!” Darcy exclaimed and then seemed to realise she’d done so out loud. “Well um, I mean, he’s always hot but damn.” She seemed to decide ‘fuck it’ and just stood there leaning on the back of the sofa as if she’d planned the whole thing, Jane had her hand over her mouth to stop herself laughing and Thor was staring open mouthed. Loki was grinning, showing his teeth, the shades shielding his eyes from view but Tony knew they’d be alight with mischief and arrogance.

“So Tony, that’s a great look, better than your normal wear.” Darcy carried on, as if oblivious of the last few moments.

“God dammit what is wrong with my normal clothes.”

“A great deal, as I told you.” Came Loki’s voice from beside him.

“Oh my god did Loki tell you what to wear? Way to go Loki, you know, for a homicidal maniac you have great dress sense.” She put emphasis on this compliment so that Jane buried her head into Thor’s shoulder, Thor, whose casual wear ideas were actually normal and casual.

“Thank you Miss Lewis.” Loki peered over his sunglasses once again, the man knew how to wear them that was for sure.

Darcy seemed to lose her balance when Loki spoke to her and that amused him to no end

“What’s the special occasion?” Natasha asked, her face a mask.

“I’m taking Loki out for a walk around Manhattan.”

Tasha cottoned on straight away and nodded at him, but Steve looked horrified from his seat at the counter.

“No way, that is much too dangerous.”

“Rogers he could leave here or kill any one of us at any given moment, have a little faith.”

“What if someone recognises him?”

“Would you?”

Steve hesitated.

“Exactly, we’ll be fine. I’ll keep my comm on so that Jarvis can keep an eye on things okay Dad?”

“I don’t like it Stark.”

“You don’t like work on a Sunday, I never asked for your opinion.”

“Does Fury know?”

“You can tell him if you like, it won’t stop us going.”

“Just because he gave you some fashion tips doesn’t make him safe to be around.” Clint growled.

“None of us are safe to be around; we spend every day confined with a man who can turn into a big green creature than likes to smash things”

Everyone was silent, except Banner who just went ‘cheers’ and raised his cup of coffee.

“I think it’s a great idea, have fun you two.”

“We sure will, come on David Bowie.”

“Will the list of nicknames never end?”

“Not if you keep doing things that I can make comparisons with, no.” They walked back out of the lounge and Tony groaned. “I am never going to live this down”

“I thought you didn’t care what people thought of you?”

“I don’t, but that doesn’t mean I should go out of my way to make people think badly of me.” They walked back to the elevator and stepped in, Tony pressed the button to the ground floor and then stepped back, looking at himself every now and then in the mirror. Damn Loki for having better fashion sense than him, and damn these trousers for making his junk look amazing. He looked better than he did in his suits. And people could see how cut he was, he worked hard on that.

As the elevator passed from floor to floor Tony cast around for subjects to start a conversation but eventually decided fuck it and asked the question he wished to ask. He thought he knew the answer but those Norse myths can be misleading.

“So, which one are you?”

“Hmm?” Loki looked over to him, he had clearly been lost in his own thoughts.

“You asked me and I answered.”

“Ah, the answer to that is simple, I am none of those.”

“Right, sounds totally simple, so what are you?”

“I am myself.”

“Spare me the we’re all who we are’ bullshit, everyone is something, everyone has a type, a style, like your little goth style.”

“I believe the phrase is punk rock, and I like what I like.”

“Meaning? Without being cryptic.”

“I don’t differentiate between genders or races.”

“So you’re bisexual?”

Loki narrowed his eyes slightly, or as much as Tony could see between the side of his sunglasses. “No, that is too specific a name for it, for we do not just have one species we are involved with.”

“Again, meaning?”

Loki sighed. “Meaning I like what I like and I do what I want.”

“So, did you really fuck a horse?”

Loki, give him his due, did not even flinch. “Please tell me that is not in the book you read?”

“Holy shit you so did!”

“Do not mention that again.” Loki pulled his sunglasses down and fixed Tony with a glare.

“I’m afraid I have no choice,” Tony threw his hands up, “I have a bet with Agent Romanoff.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“Nope, I have been waiting for the right moment to bring it up and seeing as we are on the subject of your sexuality.”

“Do not speak of this again Stark.”

“If you don’t tell me I’ll ask Thor, he’ll tell me, especially if I offer him poptarts in exchange for information.”

“I should kill you right here.”

“But you won’t, so come on, spill the gory details.”

Loki glowered him and moved over to the door. “It was a means to an end.”

“It was a horse.” Tony emphasised each word.

“Do not remind me, I have suffered greatly for it thanks to Thor, I cannot approach a mount anymore without some jibe towards my nether regions.”

Tony snorted into his hand. “This is too much, I’m waiting for a guy in a stupid hat to jump out and let me know I’ve just been Punk’d.”

“Punk’d?”

“Pranked, you should totally watch it being the God of Mischief and all, right up your street, they could make a tv show after you.” Tony pushed his palms out into the air. “They could call it ‘Loki’d.”

“Loki’d, I like that.” He looked away thoughtfully. “It was a means to an end, which resulted in a gift to smooth the rift betwixt myself and the Allfather after I nearly got Thor married to a giant.”

“Thor married, to a giant? What? And did you just say ‘betwixt’?”

Tony was sure the look Loki gave him singed his goatee.

“Surely it is in your book? It is in the nature of some of the Aesir to mate with uncommon things, a horse is quite mild compared to some of the others.”

“Haven’t finished it, it isn’t exactly in a timeline, did you really just say mate?”

“Must you always judge the way I speak?”

“I’m American, it’s like an unspoken rule, we can’t deal with people who talk correctly, we can’t even spell correctly, it makes us uneasy.”

“I should have tried to take over Europe,” Loki seethed, “and the story is a tale for another time, preferably when Thor is in the room”

“Oh you tease.” Tony scrunched up his nose in a grin.

“Are you done with your interrogation?”

“Not by a long shot, did you really tie your balls to a goat?”

Loki humphed and folded his arms and now Tony was sure he was going to be unable to stop his hysterics. This was unbelievable, he took a deep breath. “Okay fine, enough for now.”

“That was fun, we’re learning oh so much about each other!”

The elevator came to a halt and Loki breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank the nines for that.”

“Come on, the fact that it is in a book means you’ve spoken about it before.”

“No, it means that oaf Thor cannot keep his mouth shut, especially when drunk.”

“Hey it’s not every day that your brother goes off and has little horse babies.”

“You should really desist upon this conversation, I do not want to speak of it.”

“Well sorry, you sure are touchy about your kids huh, surely it is better for me to ask you than just assume, I mean the books did say you were a ginger.”

“That was merely the Vikings way of putting us into story, by making us more appealing to them. I expected once upon a time we were described correctly, but red hair is a sign of beauty and power in their time, so of course they wanted their gods to look a certain way.”

“Come to think of it, Thor was described as a ginge too.”

“There you have it, now may we please discontinue this conversation.”

“Okay I get it, geez, touchy god.”

“Some things are better left untold.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I once fucked a girl who looked like a horse, but I was very drunk.”

Loki growled into the sky and stalked off out the doors and down the path.

“Hey wait, oh come on it was a joke!” Tony jogged up to him, “anyway we’re going this way.” He turned around and walked back to the building and around it.

“Why are we going underground, I thought you said we were going for a walk?”

“We are, just not in this area.”

“Where are we going?”

“You’ll see, now shift it.” Tony led Loki into the underground car park where he was pleased to see that Happy had brought over one of his favourite cars from the tower, a fire red Ferrari F355 Spider. It unlocked as they approached and Tony saluted the security camera closest to them.

“Loki, meet my baby.”

“You fathered a car.” Loki drawled sarcastically.

“Better than a horse now get in and be nice to her.”

Loki scowled and walked around to the passenger door, as Tony got in the dashboard lit up and Jarvis’s interface lit up on the customised modern screen he’d had installed.

“J baby, pull the top down and let’s go.”

“As you wish sir.”

The soft top whirred and pulled away from the windscreen and the windows dropped, Loki watched them curiously from behind his shades.

“This is the only way to drive.” Tony called out as the engine roared into life, Tony put the car into gear, probably the only manual car in the car park, but Tony was a stickler about cars, the only Ferrari was a manual Ferrari with the special gear stick. He pulled out of the parking space smoothly and drove out into the sunlight.

“Where are we going?”

“Patience is a virtue.”

“I dislike not knowing.”

“Hush, J, put on rock’s greatest hits for our rocker boy here will you?”

“Yes sir.”

The rock music poured out and Tony cranked up the volume as they gained speed, the gates opened up in front of them and Tony slowed enough to pull out then put his foot down.

“What is this?”

“Rock music, I thought you knew it?”

“My knowledge is very limited. I have never heard this.”

“It’s Judas Priest, just listen and enjoy.”

Loki glanced at Tony and then looked out onto the sidewalk, enjoying the feeling of the wind in his hair for the first time in many moons, Tony took more turns than Loki thought possible, smoothly navigating the roads as Loki tried to gage the many lights and signs they came upon, he had to really force himself to just listen to the music, which was quite tolerable, and not ask questions, instead he tried to focus on where they were going and controlling his growing restlessness.

Soon a building came into view that he recognised from what seemed like a long time ago, a great ‘A’ on the side of it. Stark tower.

“Why have we come here?”

“To talk a walk like I said.”

“Why here?”

“There’s something I want to show you.”

“Why do I get the feeling I will not enjoy this.”

“You’ll be fine trust me.” Tony turned into the drive and was let in by security, he pulled up and parked in a spot that said ‘Tony Stark, Owner/CEO.

“Why have you not fixed the outside of this building?”

“I don’t really feel up to it anymore.”

“How so?”

“I’d rather not talk about it.”

“Yet you wish me to be open?”

“You won’t like it.”

“Ah, it is because of what happened here is it not?”

“I just… I can’t live in there, I tried to fix it but sleeping in there is almost impossible, I’ve had more sleep at headquarters than I’ve had since the whole New York thing happened.

“You have night terrors?”

“And panic attacks as you saw. I still get them elsewhere but here it is like, multiplied ten fold. I was so freaked out by it that I drove away the only person I’ve ever loved.”

“That is the woman you were paired with? Miss Potts, I saw her file.”

“Yeah, Pepper, I was going to ask her to marry me one day.”

Loki took his shades off, tweaked them slightly and put them back on. “I’m sorry”

“Can’t do anything to change it, it’s my fault.”

“Have you spoken to her since?”

“No, I’m trying to give her some space until my head is screwed back on right.”

“Do you not wish to rectify your relationship?”

Tony got out of the car. “I don’t know what I want anymore, one near death experience made me so sure of what I wanted in life, the second one seemed to turn that upside down.”

Loki joined him and looked at his hands as he spoke. “I truly have caused you a great deal of grief.”

“Look, Loki, I can’t deny what happened, but, I’m still here kicking and that’s the main thing okay?” Loki looked up at him, “so there’s no sense on dwelling over my misfortunes, come on Slim Shady.”

“Another nickname?”

“It’s those aviator shades sorry, let’s walk.”

Tony led Loki back out into the open air and walked off purposefully, leaving Loki to follow, which was pretty easy for him considering the guy was 90% legs. Once they came out of the shade of the tower Tony made a beeline across the road and down the street.

“It’s been what, half a year since you attacked us here?”

“Several months have passed yes.”

As they walked down the crowded street Loki noticed that many shops were boarded up and many buildings vacant, he looked around him and saw much the same on the other side. Soon they came to a corner and Tony turned down it until the street opened out. They came to a halt across from a large, multi storied white building and Tony hurried across the road at the lights with Loki at his heel. They came to a large metal fence that had hundreds of things tied to it. Tony walked up to the closest one and lifted a piece of laminated paper up.

“Dear Jamie, we’re so sorry we couldn’t protect you, we hope you like it in heaven and find grandma and grandpa, love Mum and Dad.”

He moved onto the next one. “To my beautiful Susanna, I’ll never forget you and all the wonderful things you did for me, I’ll love you always, your Tom.”

He then knelt down and picked up a stuffed bear, worn and dusty, that had the words ‘for a beautiful daughter’ stitched onto its belly. Loki moved closer now and lifted up a large poster with a photo on it.

It read ‘Missing, please help us find our son, he ran away from school on the day of the attack and has not been seen since, he is…’ Loki looked away from it to Tony. “What is this?”

“You know very well what it is, come on.” Tony walked through the open gates and into the car park of a large hospital, there on the right hand side was police caution tape and metal barriers to stop people from entering that part of the building. The entirety of the right hand side of the building was burnt, some of it was crumbling and some of it was no longer standing at all.

All the windows were smashed and there were some workmen clearing away rubble. “Over 100 people died in this hospital due to your attack, 30 people died from this wing catching fire in an explosion, part of this wing was a children’s ward, see all the flowers and things laid over there? Just like on the gate those are in memory of those who died.”

Loki pulled off his sunglasses and stared at the rubble, his face blank.

“Stark Industries has been paying to repair most of the city, to help cover the costs of the damage; I’ve been to more fundraisers in these last few months than I probably have been my entire life. Come on, this way.”

Tony backed away from the hospital and walked out onto the street. They walked down the street and came to the site of the explosion that must have set the hospital on fire. The entire front of the building across the road was gone and had police tape across it, the road had new concrete across it and a street lamp was bent diagonally towards to sidewalk.

“You see that lamp post? That was hit by a woman driving here when the Chitauri threw some kind of grenade at Police officers outside this building. She hit the lamp post and died in the car before anyone could get to her because the Chitauri were shooting down everyone in sight.”

Loki still had nothing to say so Tony carried on walking, every so often they’d come across workmen repairing a building, or a vacated building, sometimes burned inside, sometimes boarded up, and one area they came across was nothing but foundations, bricks and an empty space. Tony took a right at the end of the road and walked down the street, now Loki was trailing behind him with wide eyes. They came to a road that was completely closed off and Tony ducked under the tape flashing a Stark Industries badge at a workman with a clipboard.

“Mr Stark what brings you here?”

“Just checking up on you fine gentlemen.”

“Who’s your friend?”

“He’s a benefactor from Europe, he’s been helping to cover the damage costs and has come to see how his money is being spent. His name is Laurence.”

The man offered Loki his hand and as Loki took it he noticed a slight tremble in his fingers.

“Can you tell Laurence what happened here?”

“Well sir, one of those giant creatures was shot down above this street, when it hit down it destroyed all the buildings and a fair bit of the street, any aliens what was left on it came onto the street and started shooting at everything. It took us weeks just to find all the bodies from inside the collapsed buildings.”

“How many survivors were there?”

“Out of the 175 people who lived on this street there were 20 survivors, some were trapped under the debris for days.”

“155 dead on just this street, it’s heartbreaking, isn’t it Laurence? How many women and children?”

“About 40% of the bodies recovered where children and about 30% were women Mr Stark, they would have been trying to get safe from the attack by hiding inside.”

“That’s a lot of young, innocent lives lost.”

“That it is sir, a terrible tragedy for all involved.”

“Thank you for your time, Laurence let’s keep going.”

Loki followed him without a word, his mask was slipping every now and then when his eyes fell upon a bunch of flowers or a candle or toy left on the floor. They continued on down the road and ducked under the police tape at the end and around the barriers, then Loki asked if they could stop for a moment.

“Sure thing.”

Loki backed up and sat down on the steps of an entrance to a building and put his head in his hands, dropping his shades onto a step. “Do you truly think I do not know the consequences of my actions Stark?”

“No, but there is a difference between statistics and actually seeing it first hand.”

“I had no choice in the matter.”

“I’m not saying you did, we’ve discussed that, I merely wanted to show you why you need to start again, why you need to start helping us. I mean, regardless of anything, you did a good thing in keeping the fight focused on us, you were so hell bent on us that this area took most of the damage, but that doesn’t change the fact that there were casualties, there were a lot of casualties. The Chitauri didn’t care if you were a man, woman or child, some people are still missing, they’ve never been found.”

Loki took in a ragged breath and stood up; Tony nodded to him and continued towards their next destination. They walked in silence for a long time, taking certain turns and occasionally crossing the road, surveying the damage that had or was being repaired.

“They’ve made huge progress in repairs over the last 2 or three months, once the bodies were cleared it was hard to know where to begin at first. Steve and I spent 3 weeks where every day we’d be called in or already out here moving rocks or holding up a building so they could get the people trapped inside to safety. There was this one point where Steve and I were holding up a part of an underground car park where some kids got trapped, I had some of my suits here just holding it up by remote. We’d got most of them out, Hawkeye and Widow were on recovery duty whilst Cap and I steadied the building. As some people ran past we heard screams and then Steve just bolted into the gloom as a horrible sound echoed out. I propped up a few cars on end to hold the building and flew over to see what was happening and the ceiling had fallen in where the people were being pulled out from. Steve was sitting there on the rubble holding the hand of a little boy who was telling him how cool he was and how he wished to be just like Captain America when he grew up. When he saw me his face lit up and he shouted ‘Iron Man!’ then coughed up blood, a large section of the building had crushed his lower body and he couldn’t feel anything so wasn’t in much pain, we just stayed there with him until he died, too afraid to move anything. No one survived, we were pulling bodies out of the wreckage well into the night, we managed to get them all out before everything collapsed and I had to blast our way out so we could get the bodies to the ambulances. Your big bro came down a few times and helped us, Mjolnir was a great help.”

Loki was looking at him now and no longer trying to hide his emotions.

“Ah, here we are.” Tony crossed over the street once more and came to a large sign that was split down the middle, half of it was on the floor, the part of it on the fence clearly said ‘school’.

“This was a school for little kids, the Chitauri attacked it full on and shot most of the kids in inside it when the police tried to get to them, then they let off another one of those energy grenades just to make sure they’d go out with a blast.”

The gate to the school was literally covered with flowers, candles and teddies, the candles had melted onto the pavement and there was chalk etchings across it Tony picked up a card from under a small stone.

“Dear Sally, we’re going to miss you, class won’t be the same, I wish I’d been there to hold your hand, lots of love from your favourite teacher, Miss Harroway.” He went to another one. “Laura, ever as the days go by, I try to not let myself cry, for when I think of you within the clouds, I know I must try to be proud, though you weren’t with us long, you were wonderful, brave and strong, and now whenever I’m feeling sad, I can look at pictures and be glad, just as I once looked after you, you’ll be my angel, the one who, will care for me in that same way, I know you’re with me every day, my beautiful girl, I love you so, I just wish you hadn’t had to go. All my love, mummy.”

Loki reached for a heart shaped card and read aloud in a shaky voice. “Fly away my angel, spread your wings and fly, take the beauty of your soul and share it with the sky, love from mummy, daddy, granny and grandpa and daisy the dog.”

“Dear Callum, words cannot describe how I miss you, the way I feel about losing you, I just hope that one day when I reach those pearly gates we can be together again, love Daddy.” Tony read from a small card attached to the dirty paw of a well loved bear.

“To the class of Macey Raye, we all miss you, Macey talks about you all very much, especially her teacher Mr Penbar, we hope you’re having lots of fun in heaven, love from Macey and her family.”

Tony picked up one more and handed it to Loki, and nodded for him to read it out loud. “Dear Lacey, mummy will be with you soon, I love you.”

“Her mom committed suicide after attaching this to the fence and going home, the card underneath it is from her dad, the mom’s widow.”

Loki stepped away from the fence and looked over the at the school and raised his hands to his face, he pressed his fingers into his eyes and let out a strangled cry before composing himself and taking a deep, unsteady breath.

“Have I not gone through enough tortures in my lifetime?!”

“You’ve got to face this Loki.”

“You think I haven’t already? You think Thanos is the only one who haunts my dreams?! Every time I close my eyes I see the faces of people running from me on the street, the people dropping dead on my command, the endless murder in my name as I grinned and stood on high and watched like a coward. But even more so I see the ones that fell by my hands, more than once I came down onto the streets and commanded the gathered people to kneel, when they did not I shot them down just as I tried to before in Stuttgart, but there was no Captain America to save them this time.” He sneered shakily, “they cried for their heroes and wailed when no one came to save them. But they always held out hope, right until the last second they believed someone would save them. During my fight with Thor he landed a heavy blow onto my head that shook me away from my revelry just long enough to get away from the Tesseract’s influence to look around at the destruction and feel horrified before I was overtaken once more. Once your Doctor Banner battered me I was freed from its hold on me, but it was too late. By the time I healed enough to drag myself out of the floor you had all converged on me. What was I to do but continue my charade, for no one would ever give me fair trial. I knew that, I wasn’t going to beg.”

“You’re wrong there Loki, we would have listened, from that very first night in Stark Tower after the attack I guessed something was off and had been discussing it with the others, some of them believed me, some didn’t, but still helped me. We sat in the board room and had a timeline of all your appearances on earth and all your conversations. I mean, we could see you’d lost your marbles, but we wanted to know why.”

“And that is why you asked me what happened during my captivity.” It wasn’t a question.

“Yeah, others may have condemned you but like I said, I’ve never truly hated you, even an idiot could see you were scared out of your wits. Thor said that when he spoke to you you seemed to believe a lot of things that hadn’t happened?”

“Yes, Thanos had broken into my mind and distorted my memories to fuel my rage, it made my hatred and lust for vengeance even greater. I believed Thor had tossed me from the Bifrost, among other things.”

“I thought as much, this is what I’m telling you Loki, we could have helped you so much faster had you said something, but you were too proud, too set in your ways.”

“I would have still had to face Asgardian justice.”

“But maybe we could have convinced Odin to have a trial, heck I’d have travelled to Asgard to give evidence, I would even now if it was needed.”

Loki looked at him incredulously, his eyes raw. “Why? How can you stand here and look upon this testament to my cruelty and destruction and still offer me aid?”

“Because like I said, you’re not completely evil Loki. I don’t doubt that you get off on being the bad guy, and I bet you enjoy some of it quite a bit, but I can see your reaction here plain as day, a true villain wouldn’t be horrified by seeing what they’d done.”

“I am still evil, I am still a monster.”

“So is Bruce and we still love him.”

“He became a monster by accident, I was born a monster, my entire life was just leading up to me allowing the monster out.”

“You really believe that?”

“I know it.”

“Fuck! If I ever meet your dad I’m going to sock him in the mouth.”

“What?” Loki once again looked upon Tony incredulously.

“Thor told me a bit about you being ‘adopted’ and that Odin treated you differently because of it, lavished attention on Thor whilst being disappointed in you for being a pansy.”

“ A what?”

“For doing magic instead of slinging an axe.”

“That is not even the half of it.”

“What then?”

“I can’t, I just can’t.” Loki balled up his hands and pressed them against his face.

“Come on Loki, you can tell me.”

“Surely that bumbling oaf has already told you about my true parentage?”

“I’d rather hear it from you.”

“Then you’ll be waiting a long time!”

“Come on Loki, please, just talk to me!”

“Gods of Valhalla! I am a monster!” Loki dropped to his knees as he once again looked at the school, “Odin was right, I should have died in that temple, then none of this would have happened.”

“Hey Loki come on.” Tony reached out and Loki pulled away.

“Please do not touch me Stark.”

“You’ve got to stop shutting me out.” Tony knelt next to him and put a hand on his shoulder, bracing for the shock, when it didn’t come he let out a breath and squeezed Loki’s shoulder lightly. It was like squeezing rock. Loki flinched but didn’t move away.

“Why can’t you hate me like all the rest, it is no small wonder that the Captain hates me, and Agent Barton, why can you not hate me as well?”

“I’m just not like that Loki, I don’t want to ever be like that, to condemn a man without a chance. Redemption is one of the few things in life pretty much everyone should have a chance at.”

“Monsters don’t deserve redemption.”

“Yes, they do.” He squeezed again and this time Loki didn’t flinch.

“No they don’t, if you truly saw me you would turn away in disgust and withdraw your hand.”

“And you know that for a fact do you?”

“Yes, for I have seen it. I have seen the horror in the eyes of the man I called my father, seen the disgust upon the faces of those I had known my entire life. Some never trusted me, from the day I was taken from that frozen temple I was already condemned.”

“Why? Why was that?”

“Why? Because I am a monster, I am the one mothers tell their children about at night, the one that haunts their dreams, the one that is written into our history in the red hue of blood. The one that any Aesir, no matter how old, would slay without a second thought, I am the one who would be killed where I stand if I appeared before them in my true form.”

“Loki, please, tell me why? Help me understand?”

“Why Stark? I know you know, you think you can hide your thoughts from me? I know you asked and I know he told you, why must you try to make me speak of it?”

“Because I want to hear it from you, I want you to trust me, to let me trust you.”

“How could you ever trust me, I thought you’d read the stories. I am the God of Lies, not trust, Lies!”

“I do trust you Loki! Heck I’m out here on my own with you, surely that counts for something when you could kill me so easily and disappear off to wherever you wanted.”

“Now you tell me, tell me why so I can understand Stark!”

“Because I can see you Loki, behind the lies and the mask I can see who you want to be, I want to help you Loki.”

“I don’t know what you do.”

“Of course you fucking don’t, you’ve spent your entire life being treated like shit and not knowing why, and when you finally do find out instead of being able to talk about it people act like you’re a wild beast that’s escaped its cage. But I’ll tell you what to do, let me.” Tony gave Loki’s shoulder one more squeeze and stood up. “You’re going to take my hand.” Tony offered his hand to Loki and after a moments hesitation he placed his cold, trembling hand in Tony’s warm, steady one. Tony pulled him to his feet and placed his hands on his shoulders. “Now you’re going to calm down and tell me what you want to do, not what you should want or pretend to want or what anyone else wants, but what you want to do.”

Loki took a great breath and closed his eyes for a second. “I want to stop Thanos, I want to stop him from destroying this planet.”

“Atta boy! Feel better.”

Loki scowled half heartedly and nodded and Tony withdrew his hands before Loki recovered enough to zap him

“Right, let’s go home, let’s start a new leaf right here okay?”

Loki just looked at him, his mask back in place.

“Hi there, I’m Tony Stark aka Iron Man.” Tony offered his hand to Loki once more.

Loki looked from it back to Tony and folded his arms.

“Hi there I’m Tony Stark, Billionaire, Genius, Playboy, Philanthropist. Aka Tony Fucking Stark or Tony Insufferable Stark, owner of Stark Industries and some kick ass suits. I have great taste in clothes, although some may not think so, and I would like to be your friend.” He held his hand out once more and Loki’s face softened slightly. “Just shake my fucking hand you jerk.”

This time Loki gave a little laugh and took Tony’s hand in a crushing grip.

“Ouch okay, puny mortal here remember?”

Loki smirked but relented slightly.

“Come on, talk.”

“Really?”

“Yes really come on!”

Loki threw his head back for a moment then looked at Tony. “Hello, I am Loki of Asgard.”

“Good to meet you Loki of Asgard. That’s a strong grip you’ve got there.” Tony wrung his hand and Loki tried to pull away, feigning disgust. “Will you be my friend?”

“What are you Stark, 5?”

”I’d go for 15 actually.”

“Of course.”

“Will you be my friend, Loki of Asgard?”

“This is outlandish.”

“That it is, but then I’m talking to an alien right now so I think we’re way beyond outlandish, ridiculous or stupid. Now, will you be my friend? In case you haven’t noticed I’m sorely lacking that department no thanks to you, I could really use a friend.”

Loki sighed half heartedly and looked at Tony strangely. “I accept your offer of friendship, Anthony Stark.”

“Yay you did it! Call out the fanfare!”

Loki glared Tony down to miniscule size. “Sorry I’m composed, honest, right, let’s go home!” Tony clapped his hands and turned away, he began to walk away from Loki, but Loki’s voice stopped him.

“Thank you, Anthony, truly. You were right, and I have never had a friend before. I believe I shall have need of one to face this.”

“No problems Loki, I’d offer you a hug but you don’t seem the huggy type, but hey, what better way than to start having friends than by having me, Mr Awesome, as your friend hey?” Loki once more burned his eyes into Tony. Okay, come on then, time to go home before the others believe you’ve killed me. I left my comm in the car so they’re probably having a fit back at headquarters.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time.”

“Well, hanging around with a homicidal maniac has that effect on people.”

“Maybe I should kill you then, wouldn’t want to disappoint them.”

“No no no, that would be bad, we’re making progress at this point in the Villains Anonymous program, normally you’d stand up and say ‘I am Loki and I admit that I have a problem’ at this point and everyone would stand up and clap and pat you on the back and maybe cry a bit.”

“Your ramblings never cease to be confusing.”

“Psychiatrists, therapy, all that shebang.”

“A load of bollocks.”

“Excuse me have I not just proven that talking about it helps?”

“You’re not a professional, nor a stranger.”

“No, I’m better, I’m Tony Stark.”

Loki rolled his eyes and they walked back in silence to the car park, Loki looking around himself at the destruction he had left. When the car started up Jarvis announced that every Avenger except Agent Romanoff had tried to contact him and soon was connected to Fury. He put his ear piece in and spoke as Fury appeared on the screen.

“Hey, hey relax I’m fine fucking hell take a chill pill we are both fine. Loki baby say hi to Daddy. Or not, whatever, we’re on our way back now, you really need to have a bit more faith in me I can handle this guy.”

“You’d better be back in headquarters in ten minutes Star-“ Fury suddenly looked behind him and Tony heard Jarvis’s voice. “Stark get back here now there’s an attack!”

“Jarvis coordinates!”

“Central Park sir, programming it in now.”

“Shit I’ll go straight there, I’ve got a suit in the tower.”

“Hurry Stark!” Fury closed the link.

Tony looked to Loki then scrabbled out of the car and ran to the elevator. He turned back to Loki as Loki got out of the car. “Do you know where Central Park is?”

“How could I forget?”

“Great, “ Tony threw his ear piece at him, “take the comm, stick it in your ear and Jarvis will tell you where to go, suit up!”

Loki nodded and shimmered into full armour. Tony had a split second to appreciate this before he bolted into the elevator that was now open and waiting.

“I’ll be there Stark!”

Chapter Text

Tony jumped into the elevator and pressed the workshop floor button, by the time he got there, having had Jarvis override the system and shoot the elevator up at lightning speed, his suit was already open and waiting for him. He jumped in and flew straight out of the shaft and through the opening where he did a U turn and headed for Central Park. Before he knew it he could see people running for their lives, screaming and pointing, he could see the portal easily in the air and headed straight for it, loosing a repulsor blast as he did so. He saw golden armour and landed beside Loki and shouted to him.

“What’s the score Bambi?” Tony yelled as he shot down two Chitauri who were opening fire.

“More Chitauri and a temporary portal which is worrying, this won’t stay open long, it could be a distraction.” Loki shouted back as his sceptre appeared in his hands.

“From what?”

“Another attack, anything!”

“Well fucking great, tell Jarvis!”

He heard a noise from behind him and spun round to see Thor thudding to the floor in a cloud of dust, then launching himself into the fray hammer first. “The others are coming!” He roared as he split a Chitauri’s skull with his hammer.

Shortly after as Tony was blasting his way through the Chitauri he heard the engines of the approaching Quinjet.

“Nice of you to join us, Tasha, fire that birdy straight at the hole.” Tony said into his mask link.

The others dropped out of the back of the plane but as soon as they did the flow of Chitauri ceased.

“What the?” Came the voice of Barton.

“It’s a distraction, the portal is closing!” Loki’s voice sounded in their ears.

“Avengers, we need you back and headquarters now, a portal is opening right out side, we’re under attack!” Fury’s voice crackled.

“I’m going through the portal, the rest of you get back to your base.” Yelled Loki and Tony turned to him in surprise.

“I’m going to close it again! Now go!” He looked straight at Tony.

Tony stared at him for a heartbeat longer before tearing himself away and leaping into the air, he chanced a look over his shoulder to see a green cape disappearing into the shrinking portal then put all his power into his thrusters. “Wanna race big guy?” He called to Thor as he flew beside him.

“You’re on Man of Iron!” Thor spun Mjölnir round and Tony flung himself forwards.

“Last one back to base is a girl!” He cried out and sped off towards the SHIELD headquarters.

Tony shot off like a rocket with Thor hot on his heels. “Jesus Christ you’re fast for a big guy.” He laughed as he hit the dirt hard and running, he was outside the base and a portal had opened in the middle of the street, more people were screaming and there was a huge blast hole in the side of the base, Chitauri were pouring into it from the portal and some were dropping from being shot by agents.

“Fury do you copy?!”

“Stark! The base is crawling with Chitauri, who’s with you?”

“Thor, the others are on their way!”

“Loki?”

“He went into the portal to try and close it.”

“Right, let’s take these motherfuckers out!”

Tony leaped into the air and released a flurry of missiles from is shoulder plates as Thor brought lightning down from the sky, they lit up the portal as the Quinjet arrived and pelted the area with bullets as Rogers, Hawkeye and Banner dropped out from it, Bruce hit the ground green and flew forwards in a blur, smashing Chitauri into the air where Tony took them out one by one. Tony fired round after round into the hoarde but once again it was seemingly endless. What must have been an hour passed as the fought closer to the base, desperately trying to stop the flow from getting into the building, agents upon agents were running about the halls, firing shots from the windows and roof and being taken out by energy weapons.

Romanoff was on the ground now, the Quinjet was flung sideways, smoking and hit the street with an almighty crash, Hawkeye was somehow on the roof knocking arrows to his bow rapidly.

“Loki, Loki! He can’t hear me!”

“Let him deal with it he knows what he is doing.” Steve replied.

“He should have closed it by now, what if something’s happened.”

“He knew what he was getting into, he can handle himself.”

“That is very unsoldier like Captain!”

“What do you expe-“ there was a grunt, “me to say Stark, what do you expect us to do?” Another grunt came through the line and Tony saw Steve fling his shield at the enemy.

“I don’t know, just not be such an ass about someone who is actually trying to help us?”

“Sure he is Stark, don’t you find it odd that every time an attack happens he goes off into the portal.”

“Not really seeing as he is the only one except Thor who can breathe out there and the only one who can use magic!” He pulled in his chest and flung himelf into the air, letting off a repulsor beam from his arc reactor and cutting down a whole group of Chitauri.

“Boys are we really doing this now?” Tasha’s voice came over the comm.

“She’s right Stark.” Steve called in a resigned voice.

“We’re not finished with this Cap!” Tony growled and resumed focusing on the invading creatures.

Tony took off and landed by Thor near a group of massing aliens.

“How’s it going Blondie?”

“The creatures seem stronger than before? Have you noticed?”

“Err no, been too focused on something else.” Tony loosed a blast at one of the creatures and it sprang back up shaking slightly. “Well I’ll be, it must be this second wave, the first lot were easy. Have you heard anything from your brother?”

“Nay, he is still inside the portal.”

“You think he’s okay?”

“I hope so, I should he can handle himself but I fear for him more than anyone Stark.”

“Know the feeling buddy, I don’t like it, him going off on his own when he is the one needing our protection.” Thor looked at Tony quickly, Tony met his eyes and had to look away, there was something in Thor’s eyes he didn’t like. “Fuck will these things just stay down?!” He yelled as more converged on them, “the ones we met in Central Park were totally different.”

Tony heard a crackling in his ear and chanced a look to see Thor taking off his comm, a stern look on his face.

“Stark, I must speak with you.”

“Now?! Kinda busy here unless you haven’t noticed!”

The look on Thor’s face caused Tony to ask Jarvis to silence the comm link on his end, he moved closer to Thor but kept up his relentless firing as he listened with one ear, pulling his mask up. Thor also kept fighting, using Mjölnir to cut down approaching hordes.

“Stark I fear for your safety.”

“I fear for it too have you seen these guys.”

“I do not mean now, I mean every day, every day you spend with my brother.”

“I thought we were over the whole he’ll kill us in his sleep thing?”

“Anyone who believes we can just trust my brother is a fool, there are many things he is not telling us.” He had to yell to make himself heard.

“You don’t think I know that, your brother is a class A bullshitter, I may trust that he won’t stick a knife in my ribs, but I’m not as foolish as everyone seems to think. Your brother is always ten steps ahead of everyone else at least.”

“But you do trust more than him Stark, you spend most of your time alone with him.”

“Yeah and? I spend a heck of a lot of time alone with Banner and no one seems to notice.”

“Doctor Banner is not a wanted war criminal.”

“Actually he is a wanted criminal!”

“You know of what I speak Tony.”

“You know you sound like a mom right now, ‘don’t hang out with that boy sweetheart he is a bad influence he sells drugs or hookers or what the fuck ever kids do nowadays.”

“Do not take my advice lightly Stark, I am not warning you, I am overjoyed that he has found someone he can speak to, can find friendship with. But I am voicing my concerns for how much time you spend with him and how comfortable you both are becoming in each other’s presence, do you truly think he chose you without a purpose?”

“I’m trying to get your brother to be comfortable around us, isn’t that the point? And don’t think I don’t know, he is interested in the Arc Reactor I’m not stupid.”

“I feel he is become a little too comfortable Stark, I saw the video of you and Loki sparring in the courtyard and I saw how he distracted you at one point.”

Tony felt his cheeks heat up and almost pulled his mask back on.

“Loki is not just dangerous for his silver tongue and magic Stark, Loki uses people in every way possible. He uses everything to his advantage, the way he talks, the way he looks, even the scent of him.”

“Yeah I get it he’s Edward Cullen, he told me about that, he’s a weird guy.”

Thor ignored his remark. “He is a predator Tony and I fear you are his selected prey.”

“That’s the angle you’re going for? Really?”

“Tony, tell me you feel nothing for my brother?”

Tony stayed quiet for a minute, putting excessive force into his blast whilst cursing internally, something glanced off the side of his helmet and he was glad for an excuse to pull down his mask. “Of course I feel something for him, like I do for all of you guys, we’re like a little super hero family and Loki is the moody teenager.”

“Stark, the only person you’re fooling is yourself.”

“And you are confident in this assumption about me.”

“I see the way you look at him Tony, and the way he looks at you, I can hear your heartbeat when you talk to him, so can he, I don’t think you even realise you’re doing it sometimes.”

“Oh horse shit Thor, what is this? Am I on camera? Is Loki watching?”

“Tony you need to realise what is happening to you!” The force in Thor’s voice hit Tony hard.

“Uh no, I know very well what is happening to me and it is not that.”

“You are wrong and you know it.”

“No, I don’t, I am not gay, I have a beautiful woman who one day might take me back if the world could stop ending up in mortal peril every time we get to relax.”

“I will say it again Stark, tell me you feel nothing for my brother.”

“I feel nothing, okay?!” Tony got him in the shoulder by a heavy blow and spun through the air, Thor grabbed his armoured hand and steadied him as he flung his hammer at the culprit.

“You are a terrible liar Stark.”

“So I’ve heard now let me go.”

“Just heed my words Stark, I’ve seen this before, you need to come to terms with it, if Loki is playing you it could be disastrous. He is not to be trusted.”

“Maybe he is just that, did you ever think about that, that if someone actually trusted him he’d have a reason to be trustworthy?”

“I wish I could trust him Stark, I wish every day I could have my brother back, the one I could tell everything to, the one who told me everything. Perhaps you can bring him back, but don’t lose yourself in this quest to find him. You are worth so much more than that.”

“I can handle myself Thor, even if I can’t handle your brother, and let’s be honest, I’m not an idiot he could kill me with his bare hands and not break a sweat, but so could you. I’m not going to be fucked over by him or by anyone else.”

“Very well Stark.”

“Can we go back to the mindless killing now?”

Thor nodded and put his comm piece back in his ear, instantly Fury was there. “What’s the situation, we think we’ve got it under control here?”

“The Chitauri are lessening but with each new lot coming through they seem to be getting stronger, something is happening inside that portal.”

“Can you handle them?”

“No problemos sir! Jarv, let’s get some air.” He blasted off into the air until he was at a good vantage point and away from Thor, he fired off at the thinning herd but soon he was taking almost as many hits as he gave out.

“Thor can you light them up?”

Thor spun his hammer round and let loose with his lightning, too late he realised he hadn’t told Thor to take his comm out of his ear and shot a light blast at Thor then pointed to his ear when Thor swung round. Thor touched his fried comm. “You moron!” Tony yelled at him.

“Not again.” He heard Thor grumble.

He looked back down and saw the portal beginning to pulsate.

“Hey muscles, the portal is closing!” Thor spun back round to look.

“Why is it glowing so brightly?” Tony landed beside him and shrugged.

“Maybe Loki is doing his voodoo shit in there.”

“I hope so.”

“Suddenly the portal radiated a bright blue light and something shot out of it. “Shit one of those flying jet skis.” Tony fired up this repulsors and went to let rip but Thor roared from beside him and yanked his arm down. Tony shot at the floor and looked at the craft.

“Loki!” They both shouted.

Loki was slumped across the controls of the vehicle and there was blood across his face, his armour and his hands.

“He’s losing control Stark!”

“Then let’s get him!” Tony shot off from his position before Thor could blink.

Tony flew up behind the craft and landed on it heavily, causing it to jerk under him, Loki was barely breathing and limp against the steering mechanism. Tony grabbed the controls and tried to fly it but found they were useless. “How the?”

Loki coughed and the craft rattled and swerved violently, flinging Tony off as Loki lurched sideways. “Thor! He’s controlling it with magic and losing consciousness, we’ve got to stop him!” Tony screamed at Thor as he used his repulsors to pull himself back up from his fall. Thor shot past him and landed on the craft as Tony regained altitude and shot after him, as Thor braced himself Loki slid off the side and plummeted towards the ground.

“Shit Jarv, emergency manoeuvres, we’ve got to catch him.” The screen before him changed and Tony’s suit rippled as he plunged after Loki, he was vaguely aware of the craft spiralling out of control and Thor yelling but he kept his focus on Loki, they were very high up, Jarvis told him they were around 25,000 feet, above cloud level, too high to guarantee even a God making the ground okay. He was gaining on the lifeless figure but he wasn’t going to make it, would he survive a fall like this in his state? Tony wasn’t about to take that chance.

“Jarvis, full power, get me to Loki!!”

“Sir, the suit is losing power; you’ve taken a lot of damage.”

“I don’t give a shit just get me there!” Tony felt himself speed up and he felt the suit heat up as they raced towards the compound, he willed himself to go faster. “Come on!”

Tony could see the ground coming up fast underneath them as he came closer, he reached out his hand and stretched towards the now unconscious god. Finally he made contact, then he saw the approaching ground, he pulled Loki’s wrist and yanked him towards his suit, he pulled him into him and turned his back to the ground and tried to power himself away but it was too late. “Brace for impact!” He cried and his suit let out panels to try and slow him down. He closed his eyes and held Loki as tightly as he could, knowing he wasn’t going to hurt him, even in his suit. Warnings flashed in his suit and flickered on and off as Jarvis tried to keep the suit in one piece. Tony hit the ground and felt himself plough through the earth, the breath was knocked from his lungs and stars burst in front of his eyes, something smashed to pieces and there was pain burning through his back, he felt pieces of his suit breaking off around him and then it went black. Then there was nothingness, the world ceased to exist, the pain was gone. Tony was gone.

Chapter Text

Blackness, Tony was floating in the void, he was out, he no longer knew what or where he was. Seconds raced by like they were hours, then he felt himself slow and halted in a spray of dirt and pavement, the first thing he was aware of was a ringing sensation in his ears, it radiated from his head with ear splitting speed, he opened his eyes and the world swam around him, he didn’t know where he was or why, he blinked several times, opening his jaw, then closed them again when nothing made sense, the ringing abated and he could suddenly hear shots and voices, mostly shouting.

He opened his eyes to see no lights in his suit and a crack in his helmet filtering in light, he squinted and lifted his head and intense pain rocked through him, he dropped his head back down, took a shuddering breath and then tried to sit up but that terrible pain came again, now lancing through his back and neck. He became aware of a weight on his chest and it all came flooding back to him, the Chitauri, the craft, Loki’s lifeless body plummeting to earth, Loki. He tilted his head and sure enough there he was, sprawled across his chest, blood everywhere. He pushed Loki’s body off his and slowly turned his head so he could see him. “Oh shit, god, Loki are you okay?” He tried to lean forwards but instead coughed up blood. He reached one arm towards him, barely noticing that the suit was in pieces and he could see blood and proud flesh through it. “Loki, Loki can you hear me?”

Tony tried to open up his mask but his systems weren’t working, the suit was dead, he ended up wrenching it off with a hand, crying out as more pain seared through him, he spat the blood out onto the ground and placed a shaking hand on Loki’s chest. He could feel a heartbeat, and the faint rise and fall of Loki’s chest.

“Oh thank fuck.”

He tried to sit up again, but yet again the pain kept him down, now he started to panic, this was bad. As he struggled to keep himself still Loki started to cough violently, a hand came down on the arm that was still reached out to him and dripped blood down into the cracks of his armour, Tony had to squeeze his eyes shut because for a moment there it looked like Loki’s nails were painted black.

“Thank god you’re awake!”

Loki opened his eyes, dirt mixed with the blood smeared across his face and down his chest, the blood started to crack as Loki started to cough again, he pulled himself up onto his elbows and spat, his hair falling lank across his face, more blood dripping from it. Tony could see his arms trembling as he tried to hold himself up, and then he dropped to the ground and rolled over onto his back, then looked back at Tony. Tony could see the hair matting into the blood at Loki’s temple and he pulled his arm back and wrenched off the gauntlet, the reached back and brushed the hair from Loki’s face.

“You had me scared for a minute there Loki.”

“Stark.” Loki smiled weakly, blood dribbling from the side of his lips.

“Yeah, I just saved your arse from becoming a Loki pancake.”

Loki laughed but it turned into a violent cough. “You said it right this time.”

“I guess you’re rubbing off on me.” He tried to shrug but instead cried out.

“Stark!” Loki rolled over and attempted to sit up, he let out a breath and dragged himself over to Tony. “Can you move?”

“Uh, not really, no.”

“Where is the pain?”

“Everywhere, sorta.” He tried to grin but faltered when he saw Loki’s face.

“Stay still.” Loki pushed his hands onto his chest and they glowed, first green, then gold, then white. The magic fluttered this time instead of pulsing, it looked weak. “You’ve broken your spine Stark, can you feel your legs?”

Tony tried to move his toes and found he couldn’t, he looked from his body back to Loki. “Can you fix me?”

“I can, but not yet, my energy is almost depleted. I’m sorry Stark.” Loki’s eyes caught his own, and the reality of the situation crashed down on Tony.

Tony swallowed past the lump in his throat and tried to grin. “Hey, we’re alive right?”

“Thanks to you Anthony, you may have just saved my life, I guess we’re even.”

“I guess we are, no biggie. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more chances to get me out of trouble.”

“How joyous for me.”

Tony tried to laugh but pain racked his body and he stopped, he could feel himself starting to shake and he tried to hold himself still but he couldn’t. “Oh god.”

“I’m right here.” Loki wheezed weakly, attempting a smirk. “Is the pain bad?”

“Shut up, and uh, kinda, the adrenaline is wearing off.”

Loki closed his eyes and pushed himself closer, dropping his forehead onto Tony’s suit. Tony could hear others approaching now, and the real panic started to set in, had it not been for Loki’s spell, he would have lost himself to a panic attack right there. As he thought of that he felt a weak trickle of cold water and the pain lessened by several degrees. “That is all I can do for now.” Loki gasped between breaths and rolled off of him once more. This time at least he was awake.

“Stark! Brother!”

“Don’t touch him!” Loki howled and sat up, one hand reached out as if to stop him as Thor went to grab him. “His spine is broken!”

Thor looked from Loki to Tony and back again. “You are too weak to heal him brother.”

“I know, I have lessened his pain.” Loki dropped back down and his eyes rolled up in his head before closing.

“Loki!” Thor shook him. “He is unconscious. Captain! Fury! Help!” Tears sprang into Thor’s eyes and Tony tried to reach a hand to him, Thor took it and squeezed. “Can you feel that?”

“Yeah big guy, it’s all gravy from the waist up.” He smiled, but inside he was screaming, what if it was permanent, what if Loki couldn’t heal him, he felt a tear run down the side of his face as the shaking started again, his teeth started to chatter and his head swam, the pain was incredible even through Loki’s magic, he tightened his jaw and gritted his teeth, balling his hands into fists and willing himself to stop shaking and making the pain worse, he pulled his eyes shut for a moment, feeling fresh tears roll down his face, this couldn’t be happening.

Footsteps pounded and Steve and Natasha reached them, Tony opened his eyes and blew out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding, Natasha was covered in gore and looked like she’d climbed through Chitauri to get here.

“Tony, we were overwhelmed, what happened?”

“Be still Steve, his spine is fractured, he is paralysed.” Thor placed a steady hand on his chest and Steve’s jaw dropped and his hands came up behind his head, he turned around and crouched down, Tony could see his gritted teeth and jaw from where he lay. Tasha touched a fleeting hand to Tony’s cheek then turned and ran towards the building. Steve came over and knelt beside Loki.

“What happened? We saw the craft and you both falling.”

“Loki was unconscious and plummeting back to earth, so I grabbed him and we both hit the deck.”

“You idiot Tony, you absolute fucking idiot.”

Tony’s eyes widened, it wasn’t often that the golden boy swore.

“You said a bad word.” He grinned half heartedly.

“Why’d you do it Tony, he’s immortal, you’re not.”

“I’d do the same for you Steve, super serum or no super serum.” Tony held his gaze and gulped, trying to clear his throat. Steve touched a hand to Tony’s cheek and Tony leant into it. “We’re a family here.”

Thor let go of Tony’s hand and moved to Loki, he shook him and Loki started to once again cough. Loki got up and knocked Steve’s hand aside, he placed both on Tony’s arc reactor, splaying his fingers out across Tony’s armoured chest, the only light still on was now under his hands and suddenly Tony felt a horrific feeling, like needles splintering out from his heart. “Loki, Loki! What are you doing?!”

“Be still!” Light burst out from Loki’s hands and Tony’s arc reactor seemed to ring in his ears. The splintering pain shot down Tony’s back and he cried out. Loki dropped his forehead to Tony’s suit once more.

“Uh, Loki, what the fuck did you just do? Loki.” Loki’s body was now slumped across Tony’s, his arms over his chest slid down to touch the ground the other side, his hair spilling out across the suit. Tony could feel warmth spreading out from his chest and suddenly one of his legs kicked involuntarily.

Tony gasped and moved his leg, then the other. Thor grabbed Loki and Steve grabbed Tony by the shoulders. “What did he do?”

“I don’t know, Steve, I will never ask this of you again, but please, rip this fucking thing off me, and my shirt, get me out of these clothes baby.”

Steve nodded and reached down and ripped the chest of Tony’s armour apart, he had to get through two layers of metal until he got to a blood soaked shirt, he ripped it apart and Tony had a moment to think on how surreal this was before he looked down. His arc reactor was glowing furiously and the skin around it was raw and bleeding, blood was teeming down his chest, dripping down the sides of his body and pooling into the back of his suit. He could feel his heart running double time on him. He sat up with a groan and touched his bare hand to his chest, a spark hit his finger and he flinched before trying again. This time he was able to touch the reactor, it was searing hot, that was what was making him bleed right? He let out a small breath; he hoped that was what was making him bleed.

He staggered to his feet, Steve grabbed his arm to steady him and he felt a burst of pain, Steve let go, a piece of Tony’s suit embedded in his palm. He pulled it out and looked back to Tony. “We have to get you to the medical wing Tony. Both of you.”

Tony nodded and went to pick up Loki, the hydraulics in his suit screeched and then he felt them give and he went down on one knee, feeling fresh warmth as his suit once again splintered into his skin. Steve grabbed him and pulled him into his arms and up over his shoulder and Thor gathered up Loki in much the same way.

“Great, how fucking embarrassing. No pictures please.” He coughed as the blood rushed to his head.

By the time they reached the blasted hole in the side of the compound Natasha and several paramedics, some already bloodstained, were rushing towards them, he felt himself be dropped onto a trolley and looked over to see Thor shake his head. “He is too heavy, let me carry him.”

“Ha fat!” Tony wheezed as they strapped him down and told him to be still.

Tony was wheeled down into medical and they took Loki past his door, Tony closed his eyes and took a deep breath as they pulled him onto a bed and jabbed an IV into his arm. “Hey ow.” The nurse gave him a look and carried on when he grinned at her. She went to touch his arc reactor and he stopped her. “Wouldn’t do that just yet, the wizard fucked with it.” Tony looked down at it and grimaced. Fury came into the room, bloody and sweating, his trench coat abandoned and a bullet proof vest on.

“Fury, call Happy, I think I need another heart.”

Fury looked at Tony’s chest and grimaced then nodded and made the call, then looked back to Tony. “What the fuck happened out there Stark.”

“A lot, but, I uh, well I broke my back, and then Loki tried to fix it and did something to my arc reactor in the process.”

“I thought his magic was useless against it.”

“No, the Tesseract’s power was, Loki’s clearly isn’t.”

“What did he do?”

“I believe he harnessed the energy from Tony’s metal heart to heal him, Director Fury.” Thor pushed open the door and came in, his cape and armour abandoned and several dressings around his arm and neck. “Loki is in a state of heavy unconsciousness, I believe you call it a coma.”

“He could have killed you Stark.”

“But he didn’t.”

“This time, but now he knows he can. Your reactor was the only thing that stopped him from controlling you last time Tony.”

“He also could have left me with a broken back but instead zapped himself into fucking coma.” Tony slurred as he felt the morphine start to take effect.

“When you’re released I want a full report, what happened with the Chitauri.”

“They were getting stronger as each regiment came out of the portal, if I were to hazard a guess I would say they were shielded by magic.” Thor replied as Tony started to grin at them both.

“Tony, I want you down in the lab with Dr Foster as soon as you can, we need to find a way to close these portals without relying on Loki.”

Tony saluted and laid his head back and closed his eyes, oh how he wished Fury would just fuck off.

Fury turned around and left the room once he realised Tony wasn’t going to open his eyes back up. Then it was just him and Thor left with the medical team. The nurses bustled around, pulling his armour off, occasionally Thor had to help with a particularly large piece. Soon Tony was down to the stupid clothes Loki dressed him in earlier, which were completely fucked. Thor turned around as the nurses bathed his wounds and removed his torn clothing and shards of suit that were embedded in his skin, once he was covered up once more and his wounds were seen to they left the room to go see other patients.

Thor pulled up a chair beside Tony, which creaked ominously as he sat his bulk down in it but it held.

“Thank you Tony, for getting to Loki in time.”

“Would a fall like that have hurt him?”

“I can’t say, in his weakened state, it could have done serious damage.”

“Then no problems, we both survived and I owed him one as I said.”

“As you said.” Thor nodded knowingly and Tony winced internally, how many times had he repeated that excuse now?

“Don’t look at me like that; I’d have done the same for any of you.”

“That is what makes you such an important member of our group Stark, I don’t know how many others would have put themselves in danger to save Loki, you risked your life for one deemed by many as unworthy.”

“You make it sound so heroic, he was falling and I wasn’t going to let him die right in front of me just because shit happened. I did what I thought was right and I’m sure others would have as well.”

“Do you truly believe so?” Thor raised his eyebrows at Tony disbelievingly.

“I would hope so, that’s the best I can give you.”

“I thought as much, I will see you in the laboratory.” Thor got up and placed a hand on Tony’s shoulder before turning and leaving the room.

Tony closed his eyes once more and let out a deep breath, the pain was almost gone now, greatly helped by Loki’s magic, he wriggled his body and it felt raw and abused, but it moved. A nurse entered and gave him a disapproving look.

“You need to stay still until we can get the power back on in the X ray section. We don’t know how much he was able to heal and you’ve lost a lot of blood, you’re going to need a transfusion.” She started picking at his bandages, some were already blooming and she bustled off to get something and came back with a needle and thread. She stitched up one long cut along his arm that went up onto his shoulder and several on his leg where the hydraulics failed. She also put some butterfly stitches along his hand and one across the bridge of his nose. Another nurse came in and hooked up a red bag to him, he looked away, cringing at the thought of it.

“Thank you, but it’s not me you need to be worrying about, it’s the others, like Loki. How is he?”

“He is still unconscious, but breathing is back to normal, there is possibly blood in his lungs but we can’t touch him for fear of messing around with his regenerating process, unless he starts to show critical signs we are just going to have to let him be, his body is healing at an incredible rate. We have no idea how he could react to our medicines.”

“Tony! Mr Stark!” An out of breath Happy burst into the room waving an arc reactor around.

“Happy, my favourite security guard, uh be a dear and give that to the nurse please.” He motioned to her with an arm that felt like lead and tried to shake off the grogginess. “Do you know how to put one of these in?” She shook her head. “Okay, actually keep it with you, Happy you’re up.”

Happy gave him a terrified look and then approached his bed. “You know what to do, just breathe.”

“Okay Mr Stark.”

“Nurse, please watch in case I break another heart.”

The nurse came over and watched intently as Happy started to unscrew his arc reactor with trembling fingers, within a few minutes he was screwing the new reactor back into the puckered skin and breathed a sigh of relief.

“Much better than last time Happy I’m proud of you.”

“Thank you Mr Stark sir.”

“Go on now, go home and have the night off.”

“Thank you sir!” Happy shook his hand and then left slowly, throwing a glance back over his shoulder at Tony, the look of relief of his face palpable.

Tony turned back to the nurse, “so what have you done to the comatose god?”

She looked up from his arc reactor, seemingly lost in thought then replied. “Same as you mostly, clean and dressed his wounds.”

“Ooh two sponge baths for the heroes, ladies you are lucky today, lucky he is unconscious, that god does not like people touching him.”

She pressed a finger down onto the bridge of his nose and he yelped. “Sexist comments will not help you heal Mr Stark.” But her eyes softened. “He’ll be okay and so will you, but you need to rest. He still has residual magic, so he will be pleased to know there were areas of him we could not touch. We couldn’t get a needle in him either.”

Tony burst out laughing and then started coughing. “Ow, Ow, that’s hilarious. Prissy little bitch. Him, not you.” The nurse turned away and left the room, leaving Tony to his thoughts, not that there was much of them, he felt the morphine making his eyes heavy and yawned stiffly before closing them, letting sleep take him.

***

Tony awoke and had that glorious split second where he thought he was in his own bed and everything was okay, then he moved a leg and it all came rushing back. “Ow fuck.” He hissed.

“Good, you’re awake.”

“Oh nurse thank goodness, please, give it to me straight, will I ever be able to sleep with people again? Will it ever work?”

The nurse rolled her eyes but didn’t quite manage to suppress a laugh and he grinned. “Hey I got you that time, so, what’s the verdict?” She pressed some buttons on a monitor and then went to the foot of the bed and took out the clipboard.

“You’re free to go Mr Stark, but right now you need to rest, you won’t save anything, let alone the world, if you try to rush back into battle like this, your body can’t take it. Not only did you sustain heavy damage but you also took a battering from magic.”

“That is just what I wanted to hear,” he glanced up at the camera, “you hear that Fury, I want a team of attractive nurses like this lovely lady here around my bed 24/7.” No reply over the intercom but Tony was sure the camera zoomed in on him.

Tony sat up and groaned dramatically. “Oh wow, that hurts, yep, right, everywhere.” He closed his eyes and went to pinch the bridge of his nose, his go to pose of pain, but then remembered the butterfly stitches and thought better of it.

“You need to return tomorrow to have the dressings changed Mr Stark, no amount of flattery will get you out of it.” He liked this nurse better than the one from yesterday.

“Thank you sweetheart, how is the horned hero?”

“Still stable.”

“Can I go see him?”

“There isn’t much to see but you may.”

“Super.” Tony went to get off the bed but the nurse stopped him, she thrust a pair of crutches at him.

“You’ll want these Mr Stark. Your suit and the adrenaline were the only thing keeping you on your feet after the battle.”

“I’m sure I can handle it.” He gave her what he hoped was a winning smile that ended in a wince, then stared her down until she shrugged and moved out of the way.

He gingerly placed his good leg on the floor and then his bad right leg, he pressed down and satisfied, put his weight onto it.

“See I told you s-“ Tony managed to jibe before his back gave a warning burst of pain and his legs buckled, he fell to the floor in an ungainly heap. “Shit okay, gimme a crutch.”

“Here you go Mr Stark.” She handed him both and he opted for one. “Right this way.”

“You can wipe that smarmy look off your face too missy.” He snarled and she smiled patronisingly before sauntering off. He waited until she had left the room and then pulled the hospital gown off and the ridiculous underwear they gave you and pulled on his clothes, someone had placed clean clothes next to his bed in the night and he smiled, then winced as his shirt tugged at the raw skin around his arc reactor.

Tony scrambled up using the bed for leverage and hopped after her feeling incredibly stupid, his whole body trembled slightly and now that the morphine was wearing off he ached like crazy, worst was a deep searing pain in his lower back, and he knew that was where he had broken his spine only a few hours before.

“You’ll want to sleep on your back for a few nights Mr Stark, keep your spine straight.” The nurse called back to him, noticing his discomfort. “Your back isn’t broken, we took you for X Rays last night once the power was back on,” Tony looked at her mollified, damn they gave good painkillers here he was out of it, “but your muscles and nerves will still need time to heal around the area that was fixed. Tomorrow morning the pain will be worse, here.” She produced a bottle of Vicodin as well as a packet of Percocet and gave it to him in a small bag. He fixed it onto his crutch and thanked her.

“Sleeping beauty had better wake up by then and he can heal me with his fairy powers.” Tony commented, more to himself than to the nurse.

In the next room Loki was lying on a large bed with his hands by his sides, a pulse monitor on one hand and his hair tucked into a pony tail.

“Holy shit he is going to flip when he wakes up.” Tony laughed as he saw the sleeves and legs of his leather armour had been cut off to get to his wounds as well as part of his chest, which was now bare with a dressing across it. His gauntlets, cape and armoured overcoat was folded on a chair and his riding boots and leg guards were on the floor beside it.

The nurse came in behind him with another clipboard and went and took down his pulse.

“How did you get his armour off? Even he can’t get out of it!”

“It was a group effort I can assure you Mr Stark.”

“I’d salute you but I don’t think I’m steady enough.” Tony hobbled over to the chair and unceremoniously dumped the clothes on the floor with one hand and sat down, pulling himself closer to the bed with great effort.

He placed a hand on Loki’s arm and almost felt sad when he didn’t feel a zap of magic, the skin was smooth and freezing cold, more cold than it had been whenever he had touched Loki before. It was like touching a sheet of ice.

“Hey Bambi, if you can hear me right now I’m touching your bare arm, feel free to zap me.” He looked down at Loki’s arm and was surprised to see the magic that concealed his scars was still there. He traced down his arm almost without noticing, knowing that underneath the layer of magic was criss crossing scars, ignoring the hovering nurse and the security camera that was almost certainly pointed at him. “You’d better hurry up and get better, god knows what we’re going to do if we get attacked again. And Fury is going to burst if he doesn’t find out what happened on the other side of that portal. There might be fireworks, do you have fireworks on Asgard? God that would suck if you don’t, fireworks are awesome.”

Tony rambled as he watched Loki’s half bare chest rise and fall rhythmically, he didn’t even notice the nurse leave, but he did notice when Thor entered quietly and hastily withdrew his arm, not before Thor shot him a knowing look. He ignored him and Thor came to stand next to him.

“Thanks for closing the portal and everything else you may or may not have done, I’d better go before your brother burns a hole into my head with his laser eyes.” He flashed a half hearted grin at Thor and got up, wobbling out of the door without a backward glance and over to the elevator. He got in and Jarvis took him straight up to the common room where the rest of the Avengers were doing whatever it was they were doing, Jarvis informed him it was 1pm and he realised he’d left his watch on the bedside table in the medical bay.

Chapter Text

Tony got into the elevator and Jarvis took him straight up to the common room where the rest of the Avengers where doing whatever it is they do.

“Miss me guys?” Tony cried as he half stumbled into the room, cursing the ungraceful crutch. Everyone turned around and greeted him, they still looked exhausted.

“Why aren’t you guys stuffing your faces full of pizza?”

“Because Chinese is on the way.” Barton replied.

“Marvellous I hope you ordered extra!” Tony went over to the sofa and sat down gingerly before letting out a deep sigh of relief.

“Always do,” Banner walked over from the kitchen area, “we have to try to feed Thor.”

“So do we call you peg leg now instead of Iron Man or what?”

“Shut up Katniss.” Was Tony’s curt reply, Clint sniggered at it.

After the Chinese was set out before them and swiftly consumed the other Avengers made their pretexts and slipped away to try and get a good nights sleep. Tony was once again left alone on the sofa and a small sadness tinged his fatigue when he thought of how usually Loki would appear now and curl up on the sofa for some meaningless conversation or half watched movie. That frightened Tony, how quickly he had come to expect and rely on Loki for company when he couldn’t sleep, and how he missed him now.

Get a grip Stark, he chided himself, you don’t need Loki and you don’t miss him. But there was no conviction in the voice in his head and Thor’s words came back to him with haunting conjecture.

I am voicing my concerns for how much time you spend with him and how comfortable you are both becoming in each other’s presence. You need to realise what is happening to you.

Thor was right of course, Tony may try to pretend otherwise, but his attachment to Loki was going beyond friendship now. Sure, Loki was incredibly attractive, undeniably so, even Thor was as well. It seemed to be an Aesir thing. But Loki… Loki was charming, witty, intelligent and well versed compared to his brother whose blundering sweetness held most of his charm personality wise. His brother was so good hearted that even though he made so many mistakes and acted a lot stupider than he actually was, you couldn’t help but find him appealing. Loki on the other hand was well… Loki, he was the wolf to his brother’s Labrador, he was so sultry and sexy and devilish and he knew it. The more Tony got to know him the more he wanted to know about him, the more he learned the more he found he had left to discover. He wasn’t just a pretty face and a hot body, he was so much more and Tony felt his cheeks redden at the thoughts going through his head. He didn’t want to be feeling like this, didn’t want to be thinking about someone this way, he hadn’t thought he’d ever think this way about someone again except Pepper. Beautiful, sweet, honest Pepper who was his anchor to the world. Now she was gone he was floating adrift and his rescue came in the form of a leather clad asshole with a penchant for being just as sarcastic as he was.

He had found himself, guiltily, thinking less and less of Pepper as the weeks went by; now he mostly thought about going to find Loki when he needed some companionship, even preferring his company to that of his friends sometimes. Sometimes it all got a little too much in here with them. He wondered at Loki, at the fact that Loki had, if not guessed his attractions, figured out how he could manipulate Tony with his own appeal. It was an almost painful thought to accept that it was very likely Loki was using him, and that they were going to get screwed over sooner or later. He wanted, wanted so much to believe in Loki, to trust him completely; to hope that the Loki he was getting to know wasn’t the Loki everyone thought him to be but if Tony were to be realistic (how boring being so was) it was highly unlikely. His thoughts swirled around him as he sat there in the dimmed lights and eventually found himself nodding off.

The ground was shaking underneath him as he ran through a dark cavern; he could feel the ground crumbling underneath him as he ran faster and faster. He could feel the panic in his chest overtaking his senses and tried to push it away and keep running, he stumbled as the ground dropped underneath him and he clawed desperately at the ground trying to keep himself upright. And then his feet found air and he dropped, grabbing at the opening ground and holding on for dear life.

Tony awoke with a start and for a few moments had no idea where he was, only to realise that the ground was still shaking. He rubbed his hands over his face and looked around blearily trying to shake off the dream but it didn’t work, the ground was trembling under his feet and the sofa was slipping. He jumped up only to need to grab the sofa as the ground shuddered and he stood upright, the entire room was shaking, the glasses toppled off the coffee tables and half drunk coffee spilled across the floor. As Tony stared in disbelief the great window at the end of the common room cracked down the middle. Tony sucked in a breath; he’d seen that kind of split before.

“Jarvis?” No answer came. “Jarvis talk to me!”

“Sir… magic… can’t… pressure… danger…not…safety.” The AI stuttered out as the system struggled, only confirming Tony’s fear, it was Loki.

He hobbled from the room, his crutch all but forgotten on the floor by the sofa and flung himself out the door, the lights started to flicker on and off and he cried out for Jarvis. “Sound the alarm Jarvis wake everyone up!” He continued to run and got to the stairs, he leaped down them ignoring the pain in his leg as the building shook violently and he grabbed the railing for support.

As he got partway down the stairs he cursed being up on the third floor, finally Jarvis managed to set off the alarm and he heard the elevators lock down, he’d made the right choice and he spun round the steps as fast as his damaged body could take him. Sirens blared in his ears and made his head hurt as he heard shouting and voices above him, suddenly the railing split as did part of a step and he plunged forwards, landing on his elbows barely in time to save his face, he scrabbled up as the floor began to move under him and continued to run, heedless of his own pain. He burst into the corridor and down the hall, one hand grabbing his jeans and practically pulling his leg forwards as it attempted to seize up on him.

The door to Loki’s room was hanging off its hinges, paint and plaster falling from cracks in the wall, Tony ran inside to see the God hovering off the bed, his hair and fingers trailing out underneath him. The chair was against the wall, smashed into pieces leaving a great dent, Tony could feel electricity crackling in the air and the hairs on his arms stood up, he looked up at Loki in utter disbelief and wondered what the hell to do.

Thor burst into the room behind him, slamming the battered door into the ground. “Stark!” He called.

“Thor, he’s lost control what do we do?”

“We must wake him up, but I don’t know how, he is in the allsleep, a type of regenerative coma, I have no magic as our healers do upon Asgard, our mother would be the one to wake him when he struggled.” The shaking was starting to create a dull roar and they had to raise their voices as the wall was wrested in two and a crack sped along the floor.

Tony ran to the bed and grabbed Loki’s hand, a shock ran through him but he held on and tried to pull Loki back down to the bed, a cry of pain escaped him as he struggled to keep a hold of the god as the shock hit him hard. “Help me!” He yelled at Thor, who joined him on the other side and pulled Loki’s heavy frame down, after moment of resistance it fell onto the bed, which collapsed under the weight and Tony was knocked down, “Loki!” He cried out as he landed on the floor hard and felt the crack underneath him widen, his blood ran cold and before he could react the ground opened up underneath him, he had a split second to remember his dream and then he was grabbing for the sides of the fissure. “Loki!” He screamed as wind started to whip around him from the hole in the ground.

Then Thor was there, reaching down to him. “Stark grab my hand,” he called down to him.

Tony grabbed for Thor and their hands met, his feet came off the side of the wall and trod air as Thor hauled him out with almighty force, he stumbled forwards and grabbed the edge of the bed that wasn’t twisted underneath Loki, the whole frame was now teetering on the verge of going down into the gaping maw beside them. He took Loki’s wrist, once again ignoring the faint shock he received and then Loki’s eyes were open, a hand closed around his arm as the bed tumbled into the abyss below and Tony felt himself be dragged forwards, he went to cry out but at that moment Thor’s arms were around his chest, one reaching for Loki’s shoulder pad and taking hold. He was launched backwards and Thor hit the wall with Tony, he landed in Thor’s lap and then Loki landed on him. Suddenly everything around him was silent, time seemed to stop.

Then the blaring of the sirens and machines started up again, but the ground was still. Tony leaned down to look into the crevice and saw it only went down to the tunnels below the compound and breathed out a sigh of relief. He turned his attention to Loki, grabbing his shoulders and shaking him.

“Loki you’re awake!”

“Barely, leave me, I must recover.” He gasped and shimmered before disappearing. Tony looked back at Thor, who gave him an ‘I don’t know’ look before pushing himself and Tony up the wall and onto their feet.

“Talk about gratitude, thanks for the lap session Thor, and you know, saving my life and shit.” Tony brushed himself off and looked around the wreckage of the room that was once a hospital bay.

“Loki does not like to be seen as weak, do not take it to heart Stark.”

“Oh I don’t take much anything to heart big guy don’t you worry.”

Thor gave him a half smile and clapped him on the shoulder, Tony raised his arm up and held onto his bicep and together they walked slowly from the room.

“Stark! Thor!” Fury came barrelling towards them with his gun out. He looked into the room behind them and stared in disbelief. “What in the world?!”

“My brother lost control of his magic due to his unconscious state Director, but he is awake now.”

“He… awake…?” He looked from Thor to Tony, the shock plastered all over his face, he lowered his gun and once again looked into the flickering lights and beeping machines behind them. “Just what in the sam hell is wrong with your brother Thor?!”

“A lot, but for once this wasn’t his fault Nick.” Tony cut in, still holding onto Thor’s steady frame.

“Wasn’t his fault? Are you kidding me? He damn near ripped the side of the building off!!”

“And Thor once went straight through the wall and into the staff quarters during a training exercise in the courtyard.”

Thor grinned, out of breath and Tony nodded to him, patting his arm that was still holding Tony up.

Fury stood there for a second and then holstered his gun. “Where is he now?”

“He has withdrawn himself to recover, lest this happen again.”

“So now he’s unstable, out of control and on the loose?”

“You were just whinging that he damaged the building could you make up your mind Fury!” Tony cried out in frustration.

“At least here it is controlled, we took all the damage; the folks of Manhattan just thought they’d had a little tremor.”

“Nothing is ever good enough for you is it.” Tony gave him a seething look.

“Stark! Mind yourself.”

“Oh bite me.” He snapped and pulled Thor back down the corridor, leaving the Director to stare at the mess.

***

Later, as the elevators were back online and Tony took himself to his room, reunited with his crutch; to lie down, he wondered where Loki was. “Hey Jarv, any idea where the princess is?”

“There is no trace of Mr Laufeyson in or around the building.”

“Shit, wonder where he’s crawled off to.” He muttered to himself as he coded his door and hobbled in. He threw the crutch down the in door way and closed the door, locking it behind him. He went over to his bed and dropped into it face first, then rolled onto his back, he looked at his bedside table and saw a fruit basket sitting there as well as a box labelled Amazon. “Forgot about that.” He grinned to himself and lifted up the tag on the basket.

‘To Mr Stark, get well soon from Happy and Stark Enterprises.’

“Soppy bastard.” He grabbed some grapes and popped them into his mouth then grabbed the box and pulled it over to his bed, grunting with the effort as he ripped the tape off and opened it up. “Alright what have we got here,” he rifled through some books, tossing them behind him on the bed, Tales of Norse Mythology from Barnes and Noble, the Elder and Poetic Edda, Dictionary of Northern Mythology, Gylfaginning, The Norse Myths: A Guide to Viking and Scandinavian Gods and Heroes… until he found the one he wanted, “here we are.” He smiled as he lifted up a hardback book. “Jarvis, reading lights.” Two lights flickered on above his head and he opened the book. It read ‘The Gospel of Loki’.

He was soon asleep; the book on his stomach face down and open, one hand sprawled into the covers, his shoes on the floor in front of the bed. As he drifted off his last thought that for a fiction book it was pretty accurate.