1999, Bern, Switzerland, New Years Eve Party
There was a lot of that evening - that night - that Tony didn’t fully remember. He had gotten drunk sometime around his celebration of New Years in Australia, and by the time he decided to crash the technical conference in Bern he was full on wasted.
He couldn’t fully recall why he had thought Bern, Switzerland was a better idea than Barcelona, Spain or Milano, Italy, but the moment he had appeared at the conference he had been begged to give a lecture on something, even though he was barely standing straight.
Fine, he might be overestimating his drunkenness a little bit, but he had sincerely hoped that seeing him a step away from keeling on the ground would dissuade anyone from trying to talk to him.
Even the hottie Maya Hansen was trying to talk to him about something she was working on.
“... which would quite possibly help at a cellular level...” she was saying and Tony stopped her with a huge smile.
“All right. I’m getting a drink? Do you want a drink? You need a drink,” he decided, walking away from her as quickly as he could without making people think he was somehow sober than he looked.
To be honest, Maya’s work was fascinating. But it was the eve of the new Millennium! Surely she didn’t want to waste it talking about possible cell regeneration?
He finally arrived at the bar, leaning over the counter and giving the bartender a patented Tony Stark smile. “Bartender! Can I have...” he started, then paused.
Uh. He had totally forgotten to ask Maya what she wanted.
He eyed the people standing around him and that was when he saw him.
Despite what he acted like, Tony was very good at faces. Names might escape him every now and then, but like Happy, he didn’t often forget a face.
Which was why his curiosity was immediately piqued when he saw the young man sitting a little secluded from everyone else, giving the drink in his hand an almost reproachful look, like it had betrayed him.
He had medium to long raven hair, and when Tony moved to sit next to him, he looked up with the most breath taking green eyes ever, squinted in suspicion as they might be.
“Bartender,” he repeated, his attention fully on the guy now. “A rum Martinez for me and another of whatever the pretty gentleman here is having-”
“No thanks,” said the man, looking at the drink in his hand with disdain. “It’s foul.”
“Foul?” asked Tony, suppressing a smile from his face. “How so?”
“Not sweet enough. Not enough alcohol. Not enough anything,” he informed Tony, with a shrug.
“Then why did you order it?” questioned Tony, finally sitting down next to him.
The man looked at Tony sitting down next to him with a small frown, then pointed at one of the menus. “I liked the picture.”
Aw, he was adorable. “You’re not from these parts then, I assume?”
There was a little smile on the man’s face now. “You could say that.”
“Oh, mystery,” said Tony, clapping his hands a little. “I like it. Let’s see if I can guess what you would like. You said that the Sweet Seacrest Blue wasn’t ‘enough’ right?”
Tony peered at the offers in front of them for a second before smirking once more. “A Pink Raspberry Cosmo for my new friend...” His eyes dropped on the card taped to his shirt. “Loki.”
“Yes,” he said, looking at Tony’s card with a small frown. “And I apologize, but I do not know who you are.”
Even the bartender stopped shaking his drink for a second, looking at Loki in surprise. Tony would have called bull, but Loki truly did not seem like he was from around here and the question in his voice sounded genuine.
He gave him a lopsided smirk. “You might be the only person in this joint who doesn’t. I’m Tony. Tony Stark.”
There was no flicker of recognition in Loki’s eyes and Tony had to admit, it stung that there was any part of the world where his name didn’t immediately mean something. “Wow, Loki, you’re wounding my pride here. How did you get into a technical conference without knowing anything about me?”
Loki scrunched up his nose. “I did not mean to cause offense,” he said and who talked like that? “Where I come from... there is not much interest in matters such as technological or technical advancement. I am fascinated by different... degrees of knowledge, and upon learning of this gathering, I couldn’t resist inviting myself.”
“Where you come from... Like Norway?” asked Tony, curious. He was pretty sure he had a base in Norway but that was the crap Obie paid attention to, not him.
Another small smile appeared on Loki’s lips. “Not exactly. I do come from North, but I live in a rather secretive kingdom. It’s extremely isolated and not everyone can go in or leave as they wish.”
Was he pulling Tony’s leg? “Like Wakanda?”
Loki blinked at him. “I do not know who that is.”
Tony did laugh at that, just in time for both their drinks to be delivered. “Oh, you’re cute.” He watched Loki eye his drink with interest and caution and clinked his glass with his. “Oh don’t let the girly appearance frighten you. It’s a great drink.”
“And yet yours appears different,” pointed out Loki, still not picking up his drink.
“Well, we have different tastes. You’re welcome to try my drink, if you want. I have to warn you, though: it’s way more bitter than the Seacrest.”
Finally Loki picked up his drink still eyeing both Tony and it like it expected it all to be some sort of practical joke. Tony just sipped his own, loving the aftertaste of Vermouth that it left on his tongue, but kept equally keen eyes on Loki too.
So he had a front row seat to the way Loki’s eyes widened the moment the taste touched his tongue, even though he was very quick to make his expression turn blank again.
“Ha! You loved it,” said Tony, very much gleeful.
Loki did not give him the satisfaction of a smile, but he had to - begrudgingly - admit that it was, “Passable.”
“Passable!” let out Tony, affronted and amused at the same time. “Admit it, you’ve never had something so good.”
“Now you’re simply getting ahead of yourself, Anthony,” he said, tongue poking out as he took another sip of his drink.
Tony had never quite liked the name Anthony. Not even his father, who had given him the name called him that. It took a minute to convince Jarvis to call not him that, but he had managed it.
Yet, the way his name came out of Loki’s lips, all tongued up and foreign sounding... Tony would have to allow it.
“You say that now, but I know I’ve got you hooked now, little trickster,” he said taking a sip out of his own drink.
Loki looked at him with a frown. “Little trickster?”
“Your name,” explained Tony. “Loki. He’s the trickster god in Norse Literature. Did your parents not tell you the history behind your name?”
The other man appeared to relax slightly. “I simply wasn’t aware that anywhere other than Norway was still aware of the old gods.”
Now it was Tony’s turn to narrow his eyes at him. “Is that some sort of ‘all americans are stupid’ joke?”
“Not at all. As I’ve said, I don’t often find myself travelling around Midgard,” he said, finishing his drink.
“Midgard? I thought we were in Bern.”
Loki actually laughed at that, which was just another score for Tony.
“Bartender, fill us up!”
Tony wasn’t quite sure how they ended up on the balcony of the penthouse he had booked. He remembered laughing at something Loki was saying and then Happy coming to tell him Maya was looking for him.
Loki had just looked at him, like he wanted to see what Tony would do, if he would leave with Maya or stay and have fun with him.
Like it was a hard choice.
And now they were on the balcony, Happy in the main room for the time being, making sure no one managed to sneak in/figure out Tony was there.
“So,” said Loki. He wasn’t as drunk as Tony, but his cheeks were a delightful pink and his hair was a little in disarray from the wind outside. “You pride yourself in being well known. For what, exactly?”
“I am so glad you asked,” said Tony with a little smirk as he pulled out his phone. “Jarvis, you up?”
“For you, Sir, always,” answered his AI, much to Loki’s surprise.
“What is that?”
“Oh that? It’s my AI. Artificial Intelligence. I made him, more than 10 years ago, and he’s a learning program. He is sort of my butler, but also my confidant, and many other things.”
“Including your nanny,” snarked Jarvis immediately.
“How dare you!” gasped Tony, but he wasn’t actually offended.
Loki’s eyes were glittering. “It is artificial? Man made?” He looked like he wanted to take the phone and open it just to check that there wasn’t a real human inside of it. “You made a soul reside inside a portable phone?”
A soul. “He doesn’t reside inside the my phone, no. He’s connected to it, like he’s connected to most of my stuff.”
“Remarkable," he said, meaning it too. It made Tony feel... something. "And this is what you’re known for?”
Another smirk. “Not exactly. J, hit it.”
In seconds, a small video appeared on the phone, the one from when he had been given a medal following the help his weapons provided Operation Uphold Democracy during Clinton’s presidency. It was a list of his various achievements and some of his ‘funniest’ scandals that had both embarrassed and delighted Rhodey and Obie when they were watching him receive the piece.
However the video was barely a minute in when Loki pressed pause on it, looking unappeased. “That’s not you.”
Tony felt both his eyebrows raise to his hairline. “I thought you didn’t know me.”
“Allow me to rephrase. This is what they say you are. I don’t care what they have to say,” he put the phone on the ground and pushed it towards him. “I want to know what you have to say about yourself.”
It made him pause. Tony had not told Loki that he didn’t like to be handed things. But he was walking with him when one of the attendants had tried to hand him the keys to the penthouse, and Happy had grabbed it for him and explained.
It was just a little thing, but it struck to Tony. Because it spoke of someone who truly did not know him and was not drinking with him because they wanted anything out of him. Not funding, not a story in the paper... nothing.
So he found himself opening his mouth and speaking. He would blame it on the alcohol and the attentiveness Loki showed him, but the words spilled out of his mouth without any thought or rule.
He told him about his father, who had created Stark Industries from nothing up and how the mantle had fallen on Tony once he died. About inheriting a company he had never particularly cared about, but still wanting to prove to Obie, the memory of dearest dad and the media how much better than Howard Stark and everyone else he could be. About his best friend in the US Army and focusing on how much the weapons he was delivering would help him. About sometimes wanting to stop weapons production but knowing that Obie would strangle him and that he would be leaving his people unsafe if he didn’t do that.
And then he spoke about his dreams. About all the things he wanted to do if he only had a little bit more time. About his passion for cars and the robots he created and made into his own little family. About life and death and the future.
And Loki... Loki listened.
Tony had been trained to spot a reporter in disguise since he was a kid, and with the way he was listening to every single word Tony was saying, you’d think he was preparing to write a piece from memory. He listened like Tony’s words were important, like he was hearing him and that was... that was rare.
Tony was listened to all the time, but sometimes, he wasn’t sure he was ever heard. Rhodey heard him. Obie... Obie heard him sometimes. Happy heard him every now and then. Ben used to hear him back when he was his driver.
“And what do you want?” asked Loki, once Tony had exhausted most of his words. He was sitting closer to him than before, his green eyes scintillating under the moon. “If you were free... what would you do?”
“Freedom is a dream and a social construct packed into one,” told him Tony. Loki just raised a single eyebrow at him and he let a little snort. “But if I was free. I’d like to go to space.”
Loki’s smile widened. “Space?”
In a turn of events that hadn’t happened in years, Tony blushed. “Don’t mock me.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” said Loki, still smiling. “Why space?”
“I’ve always wanted to go out there, into the vast unknown,” he said with a small smile. “I can’t help but wonder... who’s out there? We cannot be the only life there is in the Galaxy. In the Universe!” He gesticulated to the invisible stars in the sky with a hand. “Can you believe that in the entire vastness of space, a vastness we cannot physically comprehend because we don’t even know where and if it ends, we might be the only form of civilization advanced enough to exist?”
“No,” said Loki, shaking his head. “There is innate magic in the Universe that you cannot imagine.”
That you felt personal, but, “Magic?”
“Magic,” agreed Loki. And here Tony thought that he was a smart guy. Before he could destroy that ridiculous word, Loki continued. “Magic, science... it’s all about the Universe. It’s all about the latent energy present in the Universe and how we manipulate the essence of the world and its elements to benefit our continued existence. The universe is an energy force and we, the world, are its conduit.” He pointed a finger at Tony. “But only if we know how to harness and hack the code.”
“How do you make magic actually sound like a science?” asked Tony, eyes wide. “Isn’t magic what the human mind uses to explain the unknown?”
Loki was on his feet, pointing at the stars. “But that doesn’t make it any less real! Failure to explain a happening is not the same as the happening being fabricated. Magic is an art and a science at the same time. A brush for those who do not understand and a code for those who do. It’s now and then and always and never.” He was smiling brightly at Tony. “It’s me and you and us and them. A speckle of the Universe. Can’t you see?”
No. Yes. Maybe.
“You are the most fascinating person I’ve ever met,” he said and found that he actually meant it. Loki’s face was radiant in the light of the balcony and he actually blushed at Tony’s words. “Who are you, Loki?”
“I’m a traveller of the cosmos.” Loki handed Tony his hands to help pull him up. “I’m Thor’s little brother. I’m a researcher. I am the second heir to the throne. I am a sorcerer. I am the shadow prince. I am a dweller of the Universe.” He was standing right in front of Tony, a wicked grin on his face that softened once he finally said, “I’m Loki.”
And then their lips met into the first kiss of the night.
He felt buzzed, and yet not as drunk as he should be considering how much he had been drinking. Every kiss seemed to be a jolt of electricity and Loki’s lips tasted like raspberry, and sweet, and cold, and lime, and Tony never wanted to let him go.
Happy must have left at some point, but Tony never noticed. All he could do was listen to Loki speak of wormholes around the globe that connected parts of the Universes together if anyone was strong and willing enough to travel through them. He spoke of walking across the skies and looking for meaning and trying to prove himself in between kisses that left Tony feeling like it was his first time.
He spoke of worlds living parallel with each other and Tony alternated between calling him man and calling him a genius and he felt something. He didn’t know what he felt, but Loki had to be the most intriguing, complicated and interesting man in the world.
Tony wanted nothing more than for Loki to scoop him up - he was ridiculously tall and strong - and fly with him in space, and Loki’s expression when he told him that between moans and giggles was so pure that Tony actually considered doing that.
Considered giving up his company - Obie had been doing fine with it when Tony wasn’t CEO - giving up weapons and following him to the Asgard place he was talking about.
And Loki spoke of leaving the ‘Realm Eternal’ and just settling on ‘Midgard’ and help him achieve his dream of travelling in space, defying a father who only saw his faults, a brother who never saw him and a mother that loved him while being blind to his unhappiness.
They spoke, and laughed, and kissed, and for the first time in his life Tony felt heard, seen and understood.
But when he woke up the next day, Loki was gone.