Work Header


Work Text:

Fear is instinctual to all human beings, just as much as, if not more than, it is to animals. Almost every sentient creature knows fear, takes advantage of the fight-or-flight response when in danger, experiences paranoia when confronting the unknown. Humans may have learned to do more than just fight or run away in the face of fear, like break hearts and destroy civilizations and tear themselves asunder, but they aren’t above or beyond fear, not truly, just like they aren’t above and beyond love or above and beyond death.

He’s scared. Even after being honest with himself and staying relatively level-headed for the better part of a week, he’s still scared. Fortunately, there are pros right alongside the cons in this situation. Shall I tell you what they are?

The good news: He’s not scared enough to stop what he’s doing. Loki has more than made up his mind about Tony, and he will be upfront about his feelings. At least… he’s pretty sure he will.

The bad news (which will forever and always be decidedly more important): Loki’s thirty-percent certain that something will go wrong tonight. He’s lived long enough (and that’s not very long at all, really) to know that he has a propensity for getting himself into situations that end in broken spirits. Tony is going to change his mind or Loki will do the wrong thing or they’re going to get in a car accident or the world is going to end or buildings will collapse or people will die or –

You get what I mean. Almost every sentient creature knows fear, and although it may be a bit fanciful or farfetched of me to say this, Loki quite possibly knows it better than any of them.

Tonight begins with happiness, though, Loki discovers as he finds himself face-to-face with the birthday boy, who looks just shy of ecstatic when he sees him waiting on the opposite side of the doorway, present in hand.

Finally!” Tony exclaims, grabbing Loki by the wrist and borderline yanking him into his house. Loki lets out a noise that’s halfway between a gasp and a laugh, watching his friend kick the door closed behind him in such a hurry it’s almost hilarious.

“C’mere,” Tony demands, and it’s not like Loki has time to protest or move away or whatever, because Tony’s just pulling him into one of those hugs, the kind where he’s got Loki off of the ground and trapped in the very best of ways, holding him closer than ‘close’ could hope to describe.

“Happy birthday, Tony,” Loki chuckles, wrapping his lanky arms around his friend’s shoulders and squeezing. A shiver of warmth courses through him when Tony squeezes him in return, and oh God, if only moments could last forever, if he could just grip this sliver of time tight enough so that it’d never leave him.

“Thank fuck, you’re here,” Tony breathes, lowering Loki to the floor but refusing to let him go, “I was going crazy without you.”

“I’ve heard,” Loki hums, playful and teasing and everything fiendishly delightful in the world. He sways bit when Tony pulls him even closer, and suddenly, his body’s all hot and electric and his fingertips have gone numb and he can’t feel his head anymore (not that he wants to when his heart’s the one steering him at the moment).

“Really? I never would have guessed with how much I’ve seen of you this week,” Tony retorts, and even though his words are harsh and reprimanding, his mouth is smiling and his eyes are full of light and love and wanting so deep Loki feels like he could drown in them. Jesus Christ.

If he lives through tonight, it’d certainly be a miracle.

Loki smiles in a way that manages to be both shameful and wicked, slides his hands off of Tony’s shoulders, down his chest, and to his sides (is he cheeky or what?) and says, “I’m sorry. I was just trying to sort some things ou–”

Shh,” Tony cuts him off, tightening his arms around Loki’s torso almost possessively. He’s leaning in real close to Loki, now, and Loki just knows he’s going to kiss him, knows by the constellations that seem to be shining in Tony’s dark eyes that their stars are definitely in line, that something cosmic and melodramatic, or just plain cardiovascular and respiratory if theatrics don’t cater to your tastes, is happening in accordance with this small, vaguely insignificant little moment. My, my, would you take a look at all the pheromones at work here?

A minty gust of breath hits Loki’s lips when Tony laughs, nudges their noses together like an affectionate puppy dog, and says, “I’m just happy I have you now.”

And then Tony actually kisses Loki, closemouthed and airtight and safe for the most part. Their eyes stay open even as their lips meet, and there’s this moment after they part where they just take each other in, their proximity and the heat between them and the unsaid realization that yes, something’s changed.

“That was okay?” Tony asks, his voice scarcely more than a soft, hopeful murmur. Loki doesn’t even respond verbally, just lets his eyes and his face do the work, makes a soft noise of assent in the back of his throat, and lets Tony catch his lips in yet another kiss, and another, and another, each one more eager than the last, and before he knows it, Tony is crowding him against the door and holding him there (as if he really needs to), kissing him deeply and slowly and so longingly it’s almost heartbreaking in the most uplifting way imaginable.

And wouldn’t you know that Loki’s never been kissed like this by anyone before Tony, and that up until now, he’s always only ever known how to kiss back in ways that said both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in the same brush of lips and tongue? I mean, it’s not like anyone ever showed him how to do otherwise. Nobody ever taught him how to just say ‘yes’. Nobody ever taught him how to love straightforwardly and honestly. And if you thought all this couldn’t get any more profound, you’re pretty damn far from the truth, my friend. Why do I say that?

This right here isn’t like every other time Tony’s ever decided to claim Loki’s lips, nor is it just one kiss in a sea of identical ones – oh no. This is different, deeper, something he can feel in his bones just as much as he can on his lips, and Tony’s like a typhoon trying to break him up into a million tiny pieces, and isn’t it terrifying that Loki’s beyond ready to let him do just that? It’s fucking scary, handing over your heart and hoping its holder won’t abuse it, and how peculiar is it that people like to call this sort of blind exchange love?

Loki presses into Tony almost too keenly, returning his kisses with only an inkling of the hesitation he ever had before (he can just barely remember it now, the first time Tony ever kissed him and all he could do was sit there and wonder why his skin was crawling so much). Tony smiles and hums against his lips, evidently pleased with his reaction.

“I love you,” Tony sighs, pulling away from the door and grinning when Loki follows him like a curious toddler, leans in his face, and drops a brief kiss on his bottom lip.

“And I love you,” is Loki’s simple, sweet reply. He watches the happiness in Tony’s face turn into something less subdued, something more excited in an adorably childish sort of way (which is kind of ironic and funny considering that this is the man who was sending Loki over the moon with pleasure just moments ago).

“You slept last night like I told you to, right?” Tony asks, and when Loki gives him a tiny nod of acknowledgment, he grins, cries, “Great! I’ve been worrying about you all day, you know? I thought you might’ve been overworked or sick, maybe, and I was so scared we’d have to stay in or postpone this whole thing altogether, and you know that would have been aw–”

“I’m sure you would have found someone else to waste your time with if I wasn’t available,” Loki cuts his friend’s tangent short, and even though it sure does sound like it, no, he’s not being a rude, vindictive little bitch (for once). He keeps his eyes, emerald green and full of mischief, on Tony’s as he walks around the man to sit on the sofa, smiling impishly and cradling his present in his lap so casually it’s nearly comical. Tony tilts his head, silently questioning.

“Someone better than you?” he challenges, sauntering over to stand before Loki and planting his hands on his hips (this man can be sassy as hell when he wants to be). “Try me.”

And Loki doesn’t even know why he says what he does. He really doesn’t, not when he’s supposed to be vying for Tony’s favor (which he basically already has, but let’s just pretend like he doesn’t in the context of this brand new Fucked Up Situation™). He’s not trying to be argumentative or cutthroat or passive-aggressive or whatever, but fuck does it sound like it when he says, “Steve,” like the jealous cow he is.

Tony blinks, perplexed, watching Loki for a few careful seconds before asking in the most cautious of tones, “What makes you say that?”

(FYI: In all honesty, Tony knows exactly what made Loki say ‘Steve’. He knows. It’s just that he wants to pull everything prideful and envious and selfish out of Loki to prove that yes, Loki does have a pocket of self-worth somewhere inside him and that yes, his feelings for him are more than just friendly, nevermind the fact that there are better ways to go about discovering your true love’s… love, ahem. This is understandable, yes?

Is this a little dramatic and a bit like a soap opera? Yeah, maybe. Does this actually happen to people? Sometimes. Should I go on with the story and stop pestering you with arbitrary questions? Probably so.)

“Nothing,” Loki bluffs, always ready to evade questions that rub him the wrong way. He lies because one – it’s all he knows how to do in the face of a threat, and two – he’s not going to win this semi-fabricated competition by playing dirty and trashing his opponent (which is Steve if you hadn’t noticed).

Bull,” Tony retorts, smirking in that shrewd, smug manner that seems to be inherent to him in moments like this. Loki scowls.

“It doesn’t matter, Tony,” he insists somewhat impatiently – knowing full well that yeah, it actually does matter – and before the man can argue with him any further, he holds his present in the air and asks, “Are you going to open this?”

(Leave it to Loki to use tactical distraction to his advantage. What a coward.)

Almost immediately, Tony’s face brightens to a degree that puts the sun’s to shame, points at the small box in Loki’s hand, and asks, just to be pretentious, “For me?”

Loki’s expression simultaneously conveys both endearment and exasperation, all upturned eyes and pursed, smiling lips, when his hand darts out to grasp Tony’s wrist and pull him onto the sofa beside him. He says, “You’re the only one getting older here.”

Tony laughs freely (god, what a beautiful noise) as Loki passes his present to him, jesting, “Twenty-one years and I’m already being treated like a senior citizen.” He scoffs. “Kids these days.”

“You’re too silly,” Loki chuckles, his mood rapidly returning to its previously elevated state. He leans into Tony’s side and nuzzles at his jaw like a playful kitten, and is it obvious how much more open to affection he is now? I mean, he thinks it is, in his own slightly antisocial, awkward little way.

“That’s me,” Tony agrees with a smirk. He starts to slide his thumbnail beneath a piece of Skotch tape securing the wrapping paper around his gift before he suddenly goes still and uncertain, casting Loki a sheepish, sideward glance. He doesn’t even have to say anything for Loki to know why he’s hesitated.

“You can rip the paper,” Loki concedes, smiling with a touch of fondness, “It doesn’t matter to me.”

That’s all the permission Tony needs. Much like an overexcited, overzealous child (which he basically still is, in a lot ways), Tony rips the silver paper concealing his present off and practically tears the dark little box open. His face splits into a grin so brilliant and luminous it makes Loki want to cry with glee, and the noise that comes out of the man is just shy of euphoric.

Loki…” Tony starts to say, only to cut himself off and begin prying the watch sitting in the giftbox from its confines. It’s got a stainless steel wristband and a shiny black face encased in a silver-plated bezel. Mickey Mouse smiles at him through the watch crystal.

“Do you like it?” Loki asks, watching Tony hold his new wristwatch up to the light to examine it better. An abrupt, ridiculous twinge of anxiety strikes him as the question leaves his mouth, probably because it’s a bit unsettling to be so much at the mercy of another person (even if that person happens to be the one who means the most to him).

“I love it,” Tony replies, his voice a bit dazed and husky and so full of a naïve sort of wonder. He admires his watch for a few long moments more before turning to Loki whiplash-fast and demanding, “Help me get this on.”

When Loki smiles and takes Tony’s left wrist in his hands, Tony gets this look on his face like he’s about to have a heart attack or stop breathing or do something fatal and/or dramatic, and his eyes go all wide and shimmery with happiness, and his lips twitch ever so slightly, almost like he’s dying to laugh or say something or just kiss Loki again, just kiss him on the lips until he can’t breathe anymore, and then kiss his face, and then his neck, and then every single part of him for a decade or two, and you know what? Loki’s pretty sure Tony’s never loved him more, and even though that’s a selfish little thought to have, I’m fairly certain you’d be thinking the same thing if you were in his position and Tony hadn’t ever looked at you quite like that before, even after a year of being painfully head over heels for you.

“What would you do without me?” Loki jokes, quickly and meticulously fastening Tony’s watch around the man’s wrist. He immediately decides that he likes the way it looks on him, that he made the right choice when he saw Mickey Mouse sitting behind the jewelry counter at Fossil, Inc., just waiting to be picked up, and caved.

Die,” Tony automatically answers, and when Loki glances up at him, his eyebrows raised incredulously, he snorts and adds, “Or I’d just be really depressed and helpless all the time.”

Loki laughs, bowing his head a bit as Tony moves to cup his face in his hands and press a tender kiss to his lips, then his chin, then his lips again. He reciprocates the third kiss, draws it out a few seconds longer than is absolutely necessary and watches the way Tony grins like the sun emerging from behind a cloud when they pull apart for air.

“I’m really fucking happy you’re here,” Tony announces like a breath of fresh air, kissing Loki’s left dimple a few times before practically murmuring against his skin, “And I really fucking love you.”

“You told me that already,” Loki purrs. He snickers when Tony nips at him, swiftly adjoining, “I love you too, Tony.”

Oh, I love you, I love you, I love you,” Tony reiterates in a hyper-affectionate croon, giving Loki one last kiss on the lips, a real smacker at that, before planting his hands on the man’s shoulders, sighing a rather histrionic sigh, and asking, “Be mine?”

Where such a question would have made him uncomfortable and ashamed a week ago, it only amuses Loki now. “Of course,” is his indefinite, inexplicit, unassuming response. He punctuates it with a smirk.




“You look nice,” Tony comments as he ushers Loki out of the passenger seat of his truck, taking the man’s hand like he’s some kind of princess or duchess or something. Good Lord, they are weird.

“I thought you were above lying to me,” Loki quips. He grins when Tony releases his hand to chuck him under the chin and peck a brief kiss to his cheek (he’s been doing that a lot in the short half-hour they’ve been together, hasn’t he?).

“I’m serious!” Tony chuckles, winding his arm around Loki’s torso and holding him against his side as they walk the twenty-foot distance across the parking lot.

Really, Loki is incredibly appreciative of his friend’s embrace for reasons including, but not limited to, the fact that any kind of physical contact with Tony is sort of heavenly right now. You also have to consider that he hasn’t gone out to a club or a bar with the intention of drinking ever before, and that while Tony may be more than comfortable with the night life, Loki is definitely a homebody for the most part. He’s only doing this whole drink-dance-live thing in the first place because of the man who’s turning twenty-one tonight and has an arm wrapped tight around him as well as his heart hooked on a fishing line. Isn’t that novel?

“Oh, look,” Tony says as he reaches for the door handle, nodding towards the chalkboard sign propped up next to entrance, “It’s oldies night.”

Goodie,” Loki playfully coos. He earns a rather audacious bite on the ear and pinch to the side for that, and holy cow, the two of them might as well just get a room and be done with it all already, but life doesn’t work out that way and Loki is an insufferable tease and Tony is (just barely) conscious of the near nonexistent boundaries that lie between them and patience is a virtue and sex doesn’t happen if it isn’t drunken and kisses are so common and so fleeting and the wine tastes better if you drink it slowly and life doesn’t work out that way.

“Behave yourself, you treacherous hussy,” Tony reprimands, drawing a wholehearted laugh out of Loki in response. The man smirks, leading Loki into the threshold of the infamously extravagant Joie de Vivre and threatening, “I’ll bite you again if you don’t.”

“I wouldn’t mind,” Loki replies despite himself. He can’t help but giggle (giggle) when Tony keeps his word and nips at him once more, this time on the tip of his nose.

“You’re twenty-one, okay?” Tony says, and after Loki gives him a vaguely dirty look, he pokes his stomach and adds, “With your legs and that face –” he accentuates that by running a finger along Loki’s jaw, “– they won’t ask any questions.”

Loki blinks, unaffected, as the door swings shut behind him (oh shit, no turning back now).

“You’ll be fine, baby. You’re only a month away, anyways,” Tony assures him, smiling an encouraging, beautiful little smile that Loki can only just make out in the darkness of the entryway (Honestly, it was brighter outside, which is kind of hilarious and unusual when you remember that it’s like, nine o’clock. Also, who the hell goes to clubs at nine o-fucking clock? People who stay there for hours, that’s who.). “Plus, if we do get found out, I’ll have us out of here before they can even pick up the phone to call the cops.”

“I forgot all about your obscure talent of running from police officers,” Loki sighs, “Thank you ever so much for reassuring me.”

Instead of scolding Loki or defending himself, Tony just stares at him for a few moments, eyes full of interest and hunger and thinly-concealed amusement, and Loki is seriously wondering why the man’s not just walking him out of here right the fuck now (he really, really wants to go, if you hadn’t noticed), taking him back to his house, leading him into his bedroom… We all know where I’m going with this, don’t we?

But Tony just laughs, leans in close to kiss him on the lips as if to say ‘stay here with me’, and murmurs, “Let’s have some fun, hm?”

Loki presumes he can do that, despite how very bad he may be at accomplishing that supposedly simple task (and isn’t it somewhat pathetic that he’s been here countless times before, standing on the borderline between safety and fun while someone else tried to coax him over and he insisted on stasis?).

Eurythmics pulses over the loudspeaker as Loki and Tony move out of the entryway and into the body of the club. Everything is aglow with violet and blue and red, radioactive darkness and acidic air all around, and it might just be the fact that Loki’s never been to a legitimate, full-blown nightclub before, but the atmosphere is kind of daunting in a flamboyant, colorful sort of way, almost too thick to breathe and tangible enough to wrap around his throat and head like a sheet of purple gauze.

Tony, however, seems to be extraordinarily (and ironically) at home.

“Alright! First, we’re getting some drinks in you,” the man all but announces, drawing a few pairs of incurious eyes his way as he slings his arm about Loki’s shoulders and fixes him with a rather penetrating look, “Then we’ll dance.”

Loki blanches a bit (is that even possible with his complexion?), but doesn’t say anything in response. He just lets Tony sit him at the bar (oh god, the bar, where there are people just waiting to find him breaking the law because he’s not-quite twenty-one, just waiting to sell him beverages that will impede his judgment), which is lined with garlands and purple Christmas lights, like something pulled straight out of an adult’s fairy tale.

Easy, Loki. Let yourself feel good for once. Remember Tony. Drink, dance, and remember Tony. Yeah.

“What do you want?” Tony asks him. Loki crosses his legs, much like the queen Tony was treating him as earlier (isn’t he the most faggoty thing you’ve ever seen?).

“I don’t care,” is his initial answer, and when Tony’s expression takes on a slightly worried air (like ‘oh shit, Loki’s depressed now, let’s shut this motherfucker down’ worried), he smirks, does this sexy thing with his eyelashes that would make most people look high or incredibly stupid, and adds, “Whatever you want is okay.”

Yeah, that’s right. ‘Okay’ is the only word he can use and be telling the truth for the most part (the most part constitutes thirty percent honesty, sixty-five percent bullshit, and five percent advantageous sexual tension).

Tony narrows his eyes at Loki like he’s seriously onto him (oh, how fucking scary, and did I mention that it’s probably a great idea to check out chapter seven’s spread on fake intimidation in the latest volume of How to Flirt Your Ass Off right about now?) before turning to the bartender, who looks just a bit amused by the pair they make as he wipes a stripe of the counter clean, and proclaiming, “I’ll have two White Russians, thanks. Open a tab for me, will you?”

Loki shoots Tony a dark look as discreetly as he possibly can. A tab? A fucking tab?

The bartender, head shaven and expression puckish, slips his damp rag off of the countertop, looks Tony up and down, and retorts, “For you? Of course.”

Whoa, now. Is… is this guy flirting with Tony? Loki relocates his piercing gaze to the bartender, only to be ignored in favor of guess who? Tony Stark, of course.

(FYI: Really, it wouldn’t be untrue or misleading of me to say that Loki’s been jealous of Tony lots of times in his life before. At first, he was envious of the man’s happiness with everything about life and the world, envious of the way Tony could glide through existence like a knife cuts butter. There was also the fact that Tony didn’t have to deal with his family, at least not physically.

After Loki became more educated on the subject of Anthony Stark, though, he came to learn that it was both unfair and not worth his time to be jealous of the man for things like this, mostly because they were as insubstantial as the oxygen they’d share when they leaned their heads close enough together to tell each other secrets, like how Tony never actually met anyone in his family besides his mother and father, and how Tony sometimes thought that if he arranged a surprise meeting between himself and the front-end of an eighteen-wheeler, nobody would care or even try to muster up the energy to miss him. That’s when Loki resigned himself to envying the man simpler things, like the effortless attention Tony always got and the lack of awkwardness he had around anyone besides Loki himself.

What I’m trying to say is, Loki is jealous of Tony. He loves the man to death, don’t get me wrong, but he’s not beyond begrudging him.)

Tony tilts his head in the most non-awkward, suave way of all time, asks, “I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?”

The bartender shrugs offhandedly, a terribly infuriating smirk plastered across his stupid, slightly scarred face. He notes, “You are a regular, Stark.”

Loki’s left eyebrow slowly travels up his forehead, an obvious expression of distaste, and he suddenly realizes what perfect sense it makes that Tony would be so nonchalant towards the difference between his age and the legal drinking one, not to mention the law in general. If this bartender is right and Tony is a regular, of course it doesn’t matter how old he is. Tony’s probably had his head hitting this bartop since he flew in from California, and then, he only had nineteen years under his metaphorical belt of life.

It could be because he’s rich and semi-famous. Perhaps the bar staff is just foolishly irresponsible. Whatever it is, it’s made sure that Tony has never been asked for an ID in Joie de Vivre. And you know what that means?

There isn’t a goddamn thing Loki has to be worried about, at least not concerning his age.

Tony smirks, obviously won over by the bartender’s really-not-all-that-charming words, and says, “I never got your name.”

And then, like a ray of sunshine with the only intention of penetrating a few thousand thunderclouds, Tony glances at Loki and gives him an inconspicuous, deliberate little smile, like he knows (he probably does, the shrewd bastard) just how irritated the man is getting with this whole exchange. Loki blinks, just a bit moved, when Tony reaches for his hand and squeezes his fingers, a whole lot like he was getting them squeezed a month (so long) ago, beneath the bartop.

The bartender’s expression shifts the slightest bit at the brief break in eye contact between Tony and himself, morphs into something knowing and pleased (dear God, why must everyone and their mothers be interested in the ever so fucking fascinating relationship between Tony and Loki?) as he replies, “It’s Wade.” Wade turns his gaze onto Loki. “And what about you, Mr. Mime? What’s your name?”

Loki watches Wade grab a couple of lowball glasses from an illuminated shelf behind the bar as he replies, only a little hesitantly, “Loki.”

“No last name?” Wade questions without missing a beat. Loki blinks for what has to be the millionth time tonight (but is really just the third, and when I say ‘blink’, I mean ‘crush hard indignance and spiteful acrimony between the eyelids in a fairly subtle display of ugh’), taking his time to reply to the query in a clipped, short voice with, “Skywalker. My last name is Skywalker.”

Loki reminds himself that it’s not a good idea to be rude to a bartender (also known as ‘that guy who’s handling my drink’) and that Tony exists and is living and bleeding and breathing within inches of him as he watches Wade mix their drinks somewhat clumsily, almost like he’s not quite used to doing it. The bartender makes a vaguely amazed voice at Loki’s answer, asks, “Like in Star Wars?”

He should have been waiting for that.

“Yes,” Loki says a bit lamely, and he’s suddenly struck with the most awful amalgamation of frustration and exasperation, because isn’t it just so fucking annoying when you get asked questions that are one – stupid and unnecessary, and two – leave no room for an answer much bigger that ‘yes’ or ‘no’? He thinks it is.

But every ounce of irritation in him goes unnoticed and unexpressed as Wade slides he and Tony’s drinks over to them with a genuine-yet-flippant-sounding, “Enjoy!”

There’s no hesitation when Tony grabs both glasses, shoves one into Loki’s hand (because he knows Loki’s not going to take it without being told or forced to), and holds his own up in the air to request, only a bit tentatively, “A toast!”

Okay. Loki would have to be a heart of marble not to be warmed by that, and even though he’s more than halfway there already, the combination of Tony’s puppy dog eyes and oh-so cavalier smile is enough to melt him to his core, to have him smirking just slightly, clinking his glass against the man’s, and saying, “To Anthony Stark, the only man who could ever put me through this bullshit and live through the night.”

Tony laughs openly in response, drawing Loki’s smirk wider across his face. Loki lowers his glass, peering into it for just a moment before meeting Tony’s eyes once more and adding, “Happy birthday, love.”

A smile usually only found on the faces of infant children and movie stars blossoms over Tony’s at Loki’s words. He downright gazes at the other man, his eyes all illuminated with longing and love, and Loki doesn’t think he’ll ever forget this violet-tinged moment or the exact tone of Tony’s voice when he instructs him to, “Drink it fast,” or the sound of the blood rushing in his ears over the Spice Girls’ incessant cry of ‘I wanna, I wanna, I wanna’ or the way his heart hammers nails into the inside of his ribcage as he tips his head back and downs his White Russian in one smooth, long gulp (Fun Fact: Loki discovered his apparent lack of a gag reflex at the age of eleven.). The drink burns its way down Loki’s throat like sweet snake venom, and Loki gives himself a second to swallow thickly around the taste of alcohol, Kahlúa, and cream before returning his eyes to Tony’s face, which is just shy of moonstruck.

“Are we soulmates now?” Tony questions with a smile, grinning playfully over the rim of his now mostly-empty glass. Loki just laughs, leans closer when Tony beckons him to, and smiles against the alcohol and mint-laced kiss Tony presses against his damp lips. Wow, that’s sexy.

And then all of a fucking sudden, Wade is back and asking, “Ready for two more?”

(Remember that fuck-you letter to the universe that Loki was going to write? He’s composing it in his head right about now.)

Tony turns to Wade, his hand wrapped around Loki’s wrist like an anchor, and replies, “Sure.”

Wade refills their glasses in a rather leisurely manner (oh my God), and as he pours, he glances between Tony and Loki with subtly curious, impish brown eyes and asks, “So are you two together?”

Loki should have expected that, too, because really? Who wouldn’t ask a question like that when he and Tony are sitting at a bar making bedroom eyes at each other and practically on the verge of making out? Such knowledge brings him no comfort, however.

There’s this moment where everything is awkward and the air is frosty, then, and Loki kind of feels like he’s smack-dab in the middle of one of those intentionally uncomfortable sitcoms where nobody knows how to speak to anyone, or an indie movie where long silences are common and still incredibly cringe-inducing, or a hidden camera show designed to gauge the reactions of normal people being surprise-outed by their friendly neighborhood bartender. Even Tony looks like he’s at a loss for words, which is both unusual and sardonic when you consider the man’s talent in such areas.

But Loki’s got talent, too, remember? (Also, it’s not like there should or would be any uncertainty about this – at least, not now, and not to him.)

“Yes,” is what Loki ends up answering, and that simple three-letter word sets the world in motion once more and brings a smile back to Tony’s face and makes him feel electric again, like love and confidence come in the same pretty package. Wade mirrors the smirk Loki gives him, and suddenly, they’re perfectly fine with each other and Loki doesn’t see Wade in such a predatory light.

“Just wondering,” Wade offers up as a sort of excuse. He moves away from the counter to tend to another group of customers on the opposite side, says, “Don’t be afraid to give me a holler if you want another refill.”

Tony watches Wade go with a slightly awed, appreciative expression, and Loki takes advantage of the man’s inattention by scooting his barstool closer to the other’s and smacking an affectionate, attention-grabbing smooch against his cheek. It’s almost hilarious how fast Tony turns to him and transforms the kiss into a proper one, an insistent collision of lips, a cupping of jaws and a grasping of wrists and a nudging of noses and an exchanging of breaths.

“Come dance with me,” Tony demands once they’ve parted for air. His eyes are deep and heady with something that looks a lot like wanting, and Loki is just losing himself in them when the man grins and punctuates his statement with a playfully emphatic, “Soulmate.”

Loki smiles, briefly touching the tip of his nose to Tony’s before pulling one hand away from the man, grabbing his drink from the bartop, and replying, “Sorry, but I don’t feel quite ready to rock down to Electric Avenue just yet.”

Tony pouts a bit, tilting his head and whining like a spoiled child, “Loki, this is the first time in my life that I can do this legally.” When Loki aims a dull, unimpressed look at him, he breathes out a laugh and adds, “Plus, I’ve seen the way you dance. If you’re shy, you really don’t have a reason to be.”

“I’m not… shy,” Loki counters a bit lamely as Tony nurses his cocktail, lowering his head and struggling to put his honest feelings into words like he’s usually so terrible at doing if he isn’t sitting in front of his laptop or confronting the blank face of a sheet of paper. “I’m just not a huge fan of putting myself out there in front of people I don’t know.”

“I thought you didn’t care about all that,” Tony muses. Loki can hear the ice cubes clinking at the bottom of the man’s glass, so he starts to sip at his drink in a somewhat vain attempt to catch up.

“You know how I lie,” he points out, giving a small, bitter smirk. All that bravado Loki had a few minutes ago is long gone now, and all because he sort of-kind of despises dancing/singing/showing off any talent he may or may not have in public. Now, can we change the subject, please and thank you?

Tony watches Loki inquisitively as he finishes his cocktail, as his eyelids flutter just slightly and he starts to actually feel his blood buzzing with alcohol. The man waits for Loki to look at him again before saying, “You could just pay attention to me.”

Loki laughs despite himself, covers his mouth with the back of his hand and chuckles, “Oh, and you know how awfully hard that is for me to do.”

“You tramp,” Tony scoffs, and Loki’s laughter only intensifies in response. The man seizes Loki’s hands once more, pressing a firm kiss against his lips and furthering his argument with, “Just pretend I’m the only one there.”

“You make it sound so easy,” Loki rejoins, and honestly, he’s only being so difficult because he knows he can get away with it. He can’t say much more than that, though, because Tony’s kissing him again, harder and slower and deeper than he was before, and he’s starting to not mind the idea of tripping the light fantastic quite as much, and this isn’t even about him– it’s Tony’s birthday, after all.

Please?” Tony implores, nuzzling at Loki’s nose. He’s doing that adorable, canine thing with his face and his eyes again, something Loki’s decided is the gods’ hand-delivered curse to him because of the way it makes him do things like a marionette would after its strings were pulled in all the right ways.

But instead of just giving in without any sort of complaining or bitching (doing so would be characteristic of everything he truly isn’t), Loki smiles like the fox he is and concedes, “One more drink and I’ll dance with you. I promise.”

He keeps his word, he does. After slowly (slowly) finishing off a third White Russian and rendering himself officially drunk (not whacked-out drunk, but drunk nonetheless), Loki lets Tony drag him out onto the oh-so scary dance floor and forces his legs to get moving to Duran Duran and Cyndi Lauper. It actually isn’t that hard to do, especially with Tony guiding him by his hands like a dance instructor and leaning in to kiss his lips or cheeks or jaws or chin every so often, not to mention the haze of alcohol fogging his mind. By the time Girls Just Want to Have Fun (which is possibly the gayest thing in the universe for two grown men to be dancing to) is over with, Loki is winded and Tony is thirsty and Wade is ready to get them even more inebriated than they already are.

“Having fun yet?” the bartender questions as the two of them return to the bar, arms slung about one another’s torsos and shoulders.

“More than,” Tony replies, his face a bright mask of drunken delight.

Wade grins, amused, crossing his arms, leaning over the bar, and asking, “Another round of the usual, or are you interested in something new?”

“What would you suggest?” Loki retorts with a smirk. He drums his fingers along Tony’s side almost subconsciously as he speaks, humming softly when the man squeezes his shoulder and leans over to kiss his temple in a purely affectionate manner (and honestly, sometimes he thinks kisses like that touch him more than anything sultry or sensual ever could).

Wade’s expression turns rascal at Loki’s question, and he starts to say, “There’s a shot we like to call the ‘blow job’–”

“Oh, I’ve heard of those!” Tony exclaims. He reclaims his seat at the bar a little too eagerly, pulling Loki against him (and I mean ‘between his totally non-suggestively spread legs and flush against his body’ against him) and crowing, “A round of those would be great!”

“What are they?” Loki asks, a laugh apparent in his voice, as Wade turns away to mix their shots. “And why are they called ‘blow jobs’?” He can’t even say that with a straight face (at least while he’s drunk, he can’t).

“Kahlúa, Baileys, and whipped cream,” Tony chuckles in response, moving his hands to rest against Loki’s hips (And believe me, in spite of all the friendly making out they’ve done in the past year, Tony’s never touched Loki in a place as risqué and potentially erotic as his hips. Yeah – this is kind of a big deal, even if they aren’t really just friends anymore – or are they? These are things to be pondered, my dear.) “I have no clue why people call any cocktail what they do.”

“Are you implying there’s worse?” Loki questions, palming Tony’s shoulders like he owns the man or something (and he practically does, what with all the power he has over him and his heart). He nearly has the audacity to feel ashamed for his relative lack of knowledge when it comes to alcoholic drinks outside the realm of wine (which could really only be considered flattering to his parents, and that’s mainly because it’s probably one of the few things that liken him to the pure, chaste little Christian boy they wanted him to grow up to be).

“There’s the ‘screaming orgasm’,” Tony pipes. Loki almost dies from laughter right then and there.

“And the ‘bald pussy’,” Wade adds, sliding two shot glasses over to our favorite lovebirds.

“And the ‘cocksucking cowboy’,” Tony adjoins, his face splitting into a wide, pleased grin when Loki claps a hand over his mouth and makes a bunch of noises that sound an awful lot like a baby seal.

“Why, though?” Loki asks once his involuntary cackling subsides for the most part. He starts to reach for one of the shot glasses waiting for him, only to get his hand smacked away by Tony.

“Publicity tactic, maybe?” the man replies, and when Loki gives him a somewhat offended look for being rebuffed without any clear reason, he explains, “You’re not supposed to use your hands when you drink those.”

“How are you supposed to drink it, then?” Loki questions with a nervous little laugh. Really, you must excuse his low alcoholic intelligence quotient.

Tony smirks, devious and knowing and so damn sexy it should be illegal. Without a word or a warning, he turns away from Loki, clasps his hands behind his back, wraps his mouth around the rim of one shot glass, and throws his head back like the professional he is. Loki gawks, a bit awed and very surprised, as Tony takes the shot down in a few gulps, after which he plucks the glass from his mouth and drops it on the bartop, watches it spin on its base a couple of times before it settles.

And then Tony redirects his attention back to him, takes hold of his hips once more, and says, “That’s how you’re supposed to drink it.”

Okay then.

“Like hell am I going to do that,” Loki huffs, just this side of vain. It’s not that he’s, say, embarrassed or anything, because come on, guys – dignity in the face of love and inebriation is so overrated, wouldn’t you agree?

My money, Fred Astaire,” Tony rejoins, angling his eyebrow in the perfect, puckish way he has.

“All million dollars,” Loki counters. He tilts his head to the side and narrows his eyes in a display of mock-wonder, adds, “And if I’m Fred Astaire, wouldn’t that make you Ginger Rogers?”

Tony grins and ever so boldly reaches up the front Loki’s shirt to pinch (pinch, that knave) the skin of his stomach, orders in a voice that’s simultaneously oily and adamant, “Do the damn shot.”

“Will you punish me if I don’t?” Loki asks like he’s some kind of coquettish schoolgirl, and goddammit, this brand of flirtation needs to be banned or fined or something. He smiles and chuckles when Tony trails his cold, teasing fingers down the center of his abdomen like they’re completely alone and not in the middle of a fucking bar at almost ten o’clock in the evening, hooks them in his waistband and tugs, slight and inconspicuous and so very provocative.

“Terribly,” Tony replies, his grin growing wide enough to be considered Cheshire in nature.

Loki doesn’t doubt Tony for a second, nor does he mind all that much (after all, the only people that will be remembering this are Tony and himself, which isn’t that terrifying to bear). So he smiles, pulls his hands off of the man’s shoulders, and turns to the bar. Tony’s still got a fairly tight grip on his hips as he carefully mimics his drinking procedure, as he bends at the waist and takes the top half of the shot glass into his mouth as elegantly as he possibly can, as he tips his head back and downs the sweet, rich cocktail in one quick, smooth swallow. It’s a little too sweet on his tongue, but he’s not planning on complaining about it.

And then Tony’s suddenly just right there behind him, reaching around him as soon as he’s got that silly shot glass out of his mouth to take it from him and drop it against the counter, order, “Two more,” and laugh when Loki reaches behind him, just a bit clumsily, and slaps his side.

“Are you trying to get us completely smashed?” the now-younger of them asks, a touch of forced heat in his tone. Loki sucks in a sharp, short, nearly unnoticeable breath when Tony rests his hand at that spot just below his navel and just above his groin, and the gesture is so openly sexual, so possessive, so cheeky and so fucking (for lack of a better word) hot that he’s not sure whether he wants to accept it or reject it, and if he wants to accept it, how would he go about doing that?

Would he be forward and nervy, saucy in a way that's both confident and earnest? Would he push into those kisses and touches with a fire in his gut and a deep breath in his throat – or would that make him too loose? Has he already been too promiscuous with Tony, too wanton to be considered normal or healthy in regards to himself and their relationship? Does that matter now that they're drunk? Should it matter? Is it too late for such things to matter?
Or would he be passive in his acceptance? Would that be more appropriate of him, or would that make him standoffish and cold and unreliable and capricious? Would that equate to rejection? Would rejection make sense? Would any of these behaviors be in accordance with Loki's personality, with that thing that sits inside him and dictates who he is as a person – passionate, emotional, unstable, contradictory? What would Tony think? (These are more things to be pondered.)
Tony pretty much makes Loki's decision for him when he cranes his neck and nuzzles into the side of Loki's face, when he sucks-nips-brushes a warm, sultry kiss against his cheekbone (and really, gestures like these make Loki wonder, completely despite himself, where and when Tony learned to touch and kiss like magma coursing beneath the earth's surface or a lion feasting on its prey). Loki doesn't stop the pleasured sigh that escapes him when Tony rocks against him – so close in such a different, animal way than before – and echoes his earlier taunt of, "More than."

"What a dog you are," Loki laughs a bit breathlessly as Wade gets two shots in from of them. The bartender's brows are angled and his mouth is smirking and his eyes are light in an expression of total amusement, which is absolutely fitting in the face of such blatant sexual tension (and I think we can all agree that Wade is exceptionally representative of y-o-u at this very moment).
Tony growls a canine sort of growl into Loki's ear in response, punctuating it with a playful, nearly drool-inducing bite on the lobe. Word Up, What A Feeling, Gloria Gaynor, and 2Pac later, and the two of them have plowed their way through over ten shots each, gifted Wade with way too many chuckled thank you’s, severely decreased the likelihood of any kind of physical separation between them ever again, and gotten back to the floor, where Whitney Houston, The Vapors, Elton John, and George Michael push their arms and legs into motion once more, and they're like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers again – or, more accurately, like a man who was born with rhythm in his legs and another who found it much too early and much too fast in nightclubs all over Malibu and with a billion-dollar empire under his thumb to pave his way. None of that really matters, though – not now, when they’re both so present and so alive and so madly in love that the past is rendered obsolete every time their atoms collide (is love a chemical reaction?).

“I don’t ever want to stop watching you move,” Tony hums into the kiss he’s pressing into Loki’s temple once they’ve stopped to take another breather. All Loki can taste and smell is alcohol and the man who’s nuzzling sweet paths of fire down his jaw, and he can’t help but smile like the drunken idiot he is because of it.

“Is this what you wanted?” he questions instead of giving Tony’s comment an unambiguous reply, and he watches the man with inquisitive, hazy eyes. He’s got his cranium cradled in the curve of his arm, which is resting atop the bar and curled over his head like a canopy.

Tony brings his arm over to hook around Loki’s torso, tilts his head much like a curious puppy would, peers into Loki’s face, and asks, “For my birthday, you mean?”

Loki smirks, soft and dazed and obviously inebriated, laughs, “Yeah. This is what you wanted, right?”

And then Tony smiles his golden, glowing, perfect smile for the thousandth time tonight, pecks the crest of Loki’s cheekbone, and says, “Of course. You’re here.”

“Don’t be so romantic,” Loki chuckles, the end of his statement turning into a breathy hum when Tony bows his head and catches his bottom lip in a soft, easy kiss.

“I’m being honest,” Tony insists, leaning back and tugging at Loki’s hand until the man raises his head off of his arm and follows him up. He sways in close to Loki like a tidal wave drawn by the moon, adds, "You're the one that I want."

And Loki can't muffle the note of hurt that plays on his heartstrings at that, can't keep himself from scowling darkly and pointing out, "You're drunk, Tony," as if he isn't equally so, and suddenly, he's not so sure about how confident he's feeling, if it was a good idea to let himself feel this way, or if he has the right to say or do anything when his emotions are as changeable as the seasons on octuple time.

"And?" Tony counters, and Loki can immediately tell that the man is turning into that mouthy, indiscriminate creature he so often gets to be when he's intoxicated. “Love has nothing to do with my blood alcohol level,” he cries, ever the modern-day Romeo.

“Yeah,” is all Loki can muster up in reply. It’s a resigned, halfhearted reaction, and Tony must be able to notice that, because it only takes a second for his brows to knit together and his mouth to pucker up into a frown and his face to go all pinched and wretched with worry.

“What happened?” the man asks, frantically searching Loki’s face. “I said something wrong, didn’t I?”

“No,” Loki murmurs, his eyes easily finding a spot on the floor to focus on. He’s fucking terrified, now, terrified that he’s on the verge of falling into a quicksand of depression, and all because Tony told him that flippant, lovestruck, not very self-conscious little lie of ‘you’re the one that I want’.

“Then what’s wrong?” Tony urges, and when Loki fails to say anything or look at him, he’s right there, kissing the corner of his mouth and all along his jaw and borderline pleading, “Tell me. I need that frown off of your face.”

And what would Loki say, hm? That he wants Tony completely to himself. That he’s an awful, selfish bitch and he won’t be content until Tony only has eyes for him, even after he’s gone nearly a whole year telling the man that he ‘just doesn’t feel that way, sorry’, and oh Lord, let’s not forget the fact that this is Tony’s day, that it shouldn’t matter what Loki thinks or feels or wants even if Tony swears up and down that it does and even if Loki’s a human being and his kindergarten teacher told him that every single one of those silly things was special in some way, shape, or form. Would he tell Tony that? Would he even dare?

The answer to that question is an abridged, slightly distorted yes, because even though Loki’s a liar, Tony’s always believed in him for some reason. Loki turns his face into Tony’s, his throat tightening at the way their noses collide and how the alcohol in Tony’s breath fans over his features like a summer breeze, and he says, only a little lamely, “I just want you.”

“You’ve got me,” Tony retorts, his voice a breathless, warm chuckle.

All of you,” Loki clarifies in an emphatic sigh, like that will somehow incriminate him or augment his nonexistent state of guiltiness, when in all honesty, it’s exactly what Tony wants to hear (and goddamn, you guys – when did this turn into a Hallmark movie?).

Tony just repeats himself – “You’ve got me.” – and it’s almost enough to have Loki falling in love with him all over again, have him mistaking coincidences for angels, have him a bit too short of oxygen, have him believing that yes – he does matter, he is important, he is the only one.

And then Tony grins, and this sweet, husky voice comes out of him like thunder dipped in honey, and it takes Loki several delayed moments to realize that the man is crooning into his skin, singing along to the song reverberating from the loudspeakers, nearly too voluble to hear over – “Roxanne, you don’t have to put on that dress tonight.

“Tony, you’re killing me,” Loki exhales, leaning his forehead against the other man’s and breathing through the sweep of heat that rushes over him.

“Softly with my song?” Tony ceases his singing to quip, and before Loki can respond with a similarly clever crack, or even with a glare, or even with a smile, the man’s got his arms wound tight around his torso and he’s pulling him up and off of his barstool, dragging him back onto the floor like the overeager child he is. Loki doesn’t fight him or his inhibitions, just drapes his arms about Tony’s shoulders and lets the man lead him, because he’s too damn blown away to nuzzle their noses together or nudge his legs into action or start his hips moving without Tony there to help him. He gets his fingers into the long-ish hair at the nape of Tony’s neck, listens to the man sing against his temple, “You don’t have to put on the red light, you don’t have to put on the red light…

It doesn’t take much longer for Tony to catch Loki by the mouth again, and now, he’s kissing him like he was a few hours ago, when Loki was just stepping into his house and when they were truly alone and when Tony wasn’t being a lion or a wolf and when Loki actually knew what he was doing and when he could look at Tony without instantly thinking about how nice he’d look in bed and when Tony could do the same and when there was nothing like alcohol to blur their judgment, and even though it’s there, thick and bitter on Tony’s lips when they’re pressed against his, Loki doesn’t enjoy the taste any less than he did the first time. The intimate, yielding grip he has on the back of Tony’s head turns just a tad bit desperate when Tony parts his lips with his own, breathes into his mouth, sucks sweet, short kisses to his lips and licks along the seam of them, hungry and firm and oh, God – they could have stayed home and done this, they could have stayed home and started this hours ago and still be going at it now, and the very thought of that has Loki tightening his arms around Tony’s shoulders, pulling himself closer to the man, scratching his fingers through his hair, shuddering with excitement.

“You’re scaring me, Loki,” Tony purrs, moving to brush his lips against the sensitive skin of Loki’s cheek. This low, uncontrolled groan escapes him when Loki’s teeth scrape at his jowl, when Loki squeezes his shoulder almost painfully hard.

“And why do you say that?” Loki asks.  The tail end of his question gets muffled in Tony’s mouth, which is so suddenly on his again, and jeeze, you’d think they were in a vacuum or something with the way they’re on each other.

“I don’t know where you are right now,” Tony huffs once he can pry their lips apart, the tip of his nose bumping with Loki’s as he moves them to the music. His voice is winded but undeniably serious when he says, “You’ve been gone all week, and now that you’re here, you’re all over me, and I don’t know if you’re playing around or you’re just doing this because it’s my birthday, and I don’t mean to upset you or anything, but I’m scared that you’re going to walk away once this is all over with, and I’m scared that I’ll have to let you go, and I–”

“Tony, stop,” Loki interjects, and the words come out of him an octave higher that they normally would, because ouch – honesty may be a virtue, but boy, can it hurt, especially when it’s coming from the person who’s got your heart in their hands and they’re barely aware of it beating there, especially when it’s a mirror specifically designed to show you some of the shittiest things you’ve ever done as a human being and a friend, especially when you know it’s your fault that the truth is what it is, and that it’s up to you and you alone to change that T into a great big, gratifying F.

Tony’s eyes go wide and round at the interruption. He lets out a tiny gasp when Loki brings a hand around to cup his jaw, traces his fingertips down the side of his face, gives him a faint, pianissimo smile that has Tony wincing with emotion.

“I’m not toying with you,” Loki chuckles, and his smile grows like tree roots burrow into the ground, like stars collapse, soft and breathtaking and ironic in the weirdest way. He watches the way Tony’s face pinches when he adds, “I’m done with that.”

It takes Tony a few long seconds to respond with more than just an alarmed pair of eyes and a stunned silence, and when he does speak, his reply is inept and uncoordinated and so goddamn stupefied it’s almost sad – “I don’t understand what you mean.”

Loki can’t stop himself from making this frustrated, impatient sort of noise. He shoves his hand back into Tony’s hair and presses their faces together again, says, “I mean I’m not running away this time.”

No?” Tony retorts in a sharp, somewhat frenzied tone, his hands squeezing around Loki’s sides. Loki kind of wants to cry at the way Tony says that, at the way it makes him look and feel like the most awful person to grace the earth, and fuck – he doesn’t even blame Tony for asking such a question, because he can be pretty damn dreadful.

No,” Loki asserts just a bit frantically, fixing Tony with a look to end all looks. He’s pushing their foreheads together, kissing at Tony’s lips like pebbles skip upon water, praying to some god of love and kindness that Tony believes him, that Tony didn’t choose the most inopportune moment to realize how dishonest and fickle he truly is.

“Really?” Tony asks, softer and not as harshly as he did before.

Loki nods and smiles as eagerly and genuinely as he possibly can (that’s something he hasn’t had much practice in, mind you). “Yes,” he replies, the entirety of his heart in that singular word.

The expression on Tony's face brightens into something magnificent and luminous, something a whole lot like the look he gave Loki when he first showed up on his doorstep. He still looks pretty shell-shocked and awed, but at least he's not outright disbelieving anymore, not when he gets his arms wrapped tightly around Loki's slim form, not when he secures their lips in another heated kiss, not when he laughs, joyous and completely despite himself with glee, and it’s like he’s five years-old and just been handed the world or something, and hot damn – it’s some kind of terrible-amazing that Tony would think of Loki so grandly, isn’t it?

“Please, pleaseplease tell me I’m not dreaming,” Tony says as he nips a trail up Loki’s jaw. Loki simply pinches the nape of Tony’s neck in response, and Tony chuckles, moors a hand at the base of Loki’s back, sucks at the spot where Loki’s cranium meets his mandible, and pretty much succeeds at being the most orally talented man in the history of the world (scratch that – universe).

“Let’s get out of here,” Loki manages once he can scoop the remainder of his brains off of the ground. Tony fixes him with this look, this puzzled, inquisitive, Are you saying what I think you’re saying? look that Loki just wants to kiss straight off his face, if only to prove to him that yes – he is saying what he thinks he’s saying, that he’s saying all that and more.  He attaches a coy little, “Please?” to the end of that imperative when Tony neglects to break his infuriating, dubious silence, kisses the corner of the man’s mouth, nudges his hips into his in a somewhat blatant expression of come the fuck on, asshole.

That’s all it takes for Tony to pull Loki back to the bar, pay off the tab they’ve been running up for the past two hours, and get them out of there and into the cool October breeze, where they can breathe more than toxic air and vaporous heat. Every step they take is a torturous one simply because they’re not connected at the mouth as it’s taken, and by the time they’re within arm’s length of Tony’s truck (which isn’t a particularly long time, thanks to long legs and sheer enthusiasm), there’s this unheard timer going off somewhere in the atmosphere that tells Tony that yeah, it’s okay to grab Loki and push him against the passenger door (he sure does like to crowd Loki into large, solid objects, if you hadn’t noticed, and if this is a possessive, testosterone-driven display of dominance or merely an unreasonably common occurrence is something the jury’s still out on), and it’s okay pull him up and into his arms like something straight out of a romance film, and it’s okay to capture his lips again, hard and insistent and dear Lord – so impatient and so obviously pleased that this is actually happening, that Loki’s letting him do this, begging that he do this, clutching at him and kissing him back with none of that annoying, stupid guilt or uncertainty or no, let’s wait or sorry, I can’t. Their kisses are openmouthed and feverish in a way that manages not to be disgusting or sloppy, and Loki’s got his hand exactly where it needs to be – fisted in Tony’s hair, where it can drive the man crazy just as he does the same to him, with his fingers trailing up Loki’s spine like he’s a blind man and there are love letters written in Braille on every vertebra, exposing the stretch of sensitive, scarcely-touched skin there to the chilliness of the air, etching crescent-shaped shadows of his fingernails into that zone like it belongs to him, and honestly – that will belong to him very, very soon if they keep playing their cards the way they are now.

“Oh, God,” Tony laughs, breathless and strained, as he moves his mouth from Loki’s lips to his chin, sucking and biting like he’s marking his territory there. He’s still got Loki hoisted in his arms and somewhat off of the ground, then, and it has to be deliberate when he gets a thigh between Loki’s legs and anchors him in place, when he pulls a swift, spontaneous groan from his gut, when he traps him almost completely against his truck with his body and his kiss, and okay, it’s sort of-kind of beyond frustrating to a person as dominant as Loki (I’m being serious, too) when the most he can do is rock his hips into Tony’s leg and pant and squirm like an overheated dog. Ahem.

Tony,” he whines despite himself, far past caring about how ridiculous he sounds, beseeching Tony for mercy like he’s some kind of prisoner (which he basically is, in the most mild, pleasing way possible), his fingers tightening in the thick mess of Tony’s hair. His tongue presses against this underside of his teeth in something like tension or anxiety when Tony directs his attention to the length of his throat, pale and smooth and begging to be marred by an expert such as he.

“So eager,” Tony chuckles, the jackass. His teeth are like pure sin on Loki’s jugular.

Oh, fuck you,” Loki groans, digging his scarlet nails into the back of Tony’s skull and jerking his head back in one single, sharp pull. Tony lets out this satisfying little growl and eases up on the force he’s imposing on Loki, gasping in half-surprise when Loki presses a hard, painful kiss to his lips, bites at his skin, scratches at his nape, practically feral with desire and drunk on more than just alcohol. He’s a wild animal, now, emitting such desperate, wanton noises and kissing like it’s second nature to breathing and grinding roughly against Tony and doing anything and everything he possibly can to gain the upper hand in this situation, his fingers playing Beethoven against Tony’s cranium, his mouth a moaning, snapping thing, his teeth catching Tony’s lips between them and holding them until Tony’s just snarling with lust and bruising and burning and branding Loki wherever his palms decide to touch him.

And then Loki’s pushing a hand between them and up the front of Tony’s shirt, and it’s like they’ve leveled up or been sucked into some kind of vacuum, because suddenly, oxygen is so much more hard to come by than it was before and the pressure is almost overwhelming and there’s this electric current thrumming through them, a circuit that starts where their lips connect, loops around to where Tony’s grasping at Loki’s spine, continues to where Loki’s digits press into Tony’s abdomen like they’re dialing a telephone number – all positive, hot charge and energy and movement. Tony breaks and reconnects that current in a rapid relocation act, moving his hands up to cup Loki’s jaws, to brush his thumbs along the man’s cheekbones, to bring Loki’s visceral fervor to a slow, shaking halt with short, deliberately deep kisses. Loki inhales Tony’s air like he’s getting high off of it.

“You’re going so fast, baby,” Tony huffs against Loki’s parted, reddened lips. His dark chocolate eyes are blown out and dazed as they flick over Loki’s face, take in the flush on his cheeks and the sweat on his brow and the dilation of his pupils and how saliva-slick his mouth is, and fuck, Loki can’t help it, can’t help but let his tongue dart out to taste Tony and alcohol like the perfect cocktail on his lips, and he swears Tony goes fucking crazy right then and there, swears by the groan that comes out of the man and the way he raises his thigh between his legs so goddamn perfectly (oh yes, right where Loki’s just dying for more friction) that he’s driven him insane with a flick of his tongue.

“You expected me to be slow?” Loki challenges in a low, heady tone, and when he lunges forward to attack Tony again, Tony shoves him back into the vehicle half-trapping him, jerks his thigh up once more (that’d be one vociferous, gasping moan and a totally instinctual pelvic roll out of Loki, courtesy of Mr. Stark), and slips his hands down to cage Loki’s neck.

“I just don’t want you throwing yourself into something you don’t want,” Tony says, and the inflection of his voice is the only thing that keeps Loki from losing his shit completely and just going the fuck down on Tony (Jesus Christ, when did he turn into such a lustful creature?), the only thing that has him look Tony in the black holes of his eyes, the only thing that makes him slow his breathing and his heartbeat down by a few degrees. He’s remembering the conscientious part of himself, now, can hear his thoughtfulness echoing inside his head, and he suddenly knows that yeah, this particular moment is important for reasons other than the obvious ‘Sex is inevitable at the rate we’re going’ –

Tony doesn’t want to take advantage of him. Despite every other time Loki’s ever done that to him like it was absolutely nothing, and despite every other time Tony’s ever taken someone else to bed without even thinking about something so crucial – Tony doesn’t want to take advantage of him. And if Loki has to throw himself under a bus, metaphorically or literally, to do so, he’s going to prove for the nth time that he’s the greedy one here, that he wants Tony like water, like breath, like life, that he’d gone far out of his mind without a Tony to love this whole week, that every moan and pant and touch and kiss that comes out of him is one with meaning behind it, that the only reason his fingers might slip is because of the alcohol that’s made them clumsy, that there’s no such thing as Tony taking advantage of him when he’s so willing to let the man fucking claim him it’s disgusting, unhealthy, and whatever other adjective you can dredge out of your handy-dandy psychology textbook (another question – is love a psychological condition?).

This impulsive, lovely laugh comes bubbling from Loki’s throat, then (he tends to do that, you know – laugh in the face of Tony’s error, and really, he means it every way but a spiteful one when he does, even if it’s not immediately apparent that he’s capable of not being a bitch sometimes), throwing Tony into a squall of confusion. Loki’s hands turn tender and delicate in Tony’s hair, his fingers carefully padding along the backside of his skull and sending tremors racing down Tony’s spine, and his eyes are deep and soulful when he leans forward and nuzzles at Tony’s nose, the embodiment of gentleness (for now).

“You can be so dense sometimes,” Loki whispers, sliding his palms down the highway of Tony’s neck and shaking his head ever so slightly, just enough to have their lips brushing together and send tiny sparks flying at the minimal contact.

“I call it careful…” Tony retorts in a hushed pant. Any conviction that might have been in those words melts in the curve of Loki’s whip of a body, curling and rolling and surging into Tony’s at almost every possible point, every smooth curve and firm plane and jut of bone and depression of muscle, until all they can feel is each other.

“Tony Stark? Careful?” Loki taunts lightheartedly (because ‘careful’ is probably one of the last words you’d use to describe a person like Tony), and before Tony can shoot him a comeback, he’s pressing a soft, openmouthed kiss to the man’s lips, susurrating, “I want you,”, and smiling at the quiet groan Tony gives him in reply. He sucks at Tony’s bottom lip, fits their mouths together like he’s completing a puzzle, keeps them bound together with the ropes of his arms wound tightly around Tony’s shoulders, and every kiss is longer and damper and deeper than the one preceding it, and every breath is rough and mutual and bounced between them, and every sound that comes out of either of them is urgent and gusty and so full of need, and this goes on until they’re almost back to the same intensity they had before (never let it be said that it’s difficult to get Tony excited and keep him higher than a fucking kite, my friends), until they’re the very definition of what it is to be in love – a single soul sharing two bodies, moving and breathing and feeling like they’re one organism.

“I want you,” Loki repeats in a low moan, his head tipping back against the window of Tony’s truck as Tony mouths his way down his neck, a part of him Loki suspects he likes quite a bit. He can’t remember a time he’s ever craved something or been craved so fiercely, can’t remember ever feeling like this – so ready to get opened up and touched in such private places, can’t remember ever believing himself or another person to be so beautiful, and oh, there he goes – “I want you, I want you, I want you.”

And it might be because he’s drunker than drunk (drunk as a skunk). It might be because he’s bipolar II with a possible anxiety disorder. Maybe his emotions and desires really are so grand and so deep, and maybe he’s simply imagining the magnifying glass distorting and twisting his heart in ways that are both uncomfortable and breathtaking, and maybe love is just as powerful as people like to think it is. Whatever it is or may be, it is, and Loki left his forethought on Tony’s doorstep, had it kissed right out of him hours ago.

“Take me home, Tony,” Loki demands the second Tony’s lips find his clavicle and his hands bracket his hips. Tony looks up at him whiplash-fast, a wolfish, hungry expression plastered across his face. Loki’s arousal spikes at the sight.

“Which one?” Tony asks, and the question is just so flawless in its simultaneous thought and lack thereof. Loki plants a wet one on him for that.

“Either,” he replies against Tony’s mouth, grinning at the pleased hum the man emits. “Just take me there.”

“I’ll take you there, alright,” Tony chuckles, the Colossus of Rhodes once more. He nuzzles their faces together and drops a sucking kiss to the corner of Loki’s lips, croons, “I’ll take you anywhere you want.”

It’s corny and romantic and racy and simple and absolutely perfect for Loki. His grin grows as he echoes himself for the thousandth time, only a little lamely, “I want you.”

“What would you have me do?” Tony asks, and the impish note in his voice tells Loki right off the bat that the man is teasing and toying with him only because he’s a pest and a cad and he knows how to get people to say what he wants to hear.

“I’d have you in my bed,” Loki purrs, tone low and rich with meaning and fingers curling into Tony’s belt loops. He watches excitement flare in Tony’s eyes like a match being lit, smirks nearly imperceptibly (even if he’s somewhat exhausted of this game).

“You would?” Tony chuckles, and that’s when all the energy building up between them peaks again, when Loki turns aggressive and fiery and needy, snaps at Tony’s mouth, yanks insistently at his waistband, and growls, so suddenly and so boldly, “I’d have you fuck me.”

Tony blinks hard and fast at that admission, his eyes going all wide and round and shocked, and he gasps-groans, “Fuck, Loki,” like he’s lost the leash on his mouth and can’t even fathom the thought of trying to find it after Loki’s said something like that (and damn – what a thing to say, huh?).

Yes, please, would you?” Loki rejoins, reaching one hand behind him to tug on the door handle and pull the truck cab open. His expression is both dark and amused, both tigerish and playful, both hypnotic and nearly frightening in its magnitude as he tears away from Tony, refusing to break his gaze, and starts to lever himself into his seat, a process Tony finishes in a rush by grasping his hips and lifting him the rest of the way.

“You’re a devil, you know that?” Tony scolds him, leaning up to press an adamant kiss to Loki’s lips.

Loki’s smirking again at that, kissing Tony back and replying with his smooth, easy laugh, “That’s me.”




Tony ends up taking him back to his house, a decision that immediately strikes Loki as both interesting and potentially catastrophic for reasons that will become apparent very soon. That kind of perception doesn’t really matter when Loki’s being pulled out of his truck and spun around in the air, though, when Tony’s kissing his neck and carrying him to his front door, when he’s fumbling with his keys and Tony’s nuzzling his shoulder and sucking at his nape and pressing against his backside and generally making it exponentially harder for him to get his fucking door open.

“Behave yourself,” Loki giggles (he’s a giggler when he’s drunk and/or manic and/or excited and/or hormonal), finally finding his house key among the not very large number of things on his key ring (house key, car key, old house key, Tony’s house key, library box key, Minnie Mouse – six really shouldn’t be such an intimidating number, but three White Russians and thirteen odd blow jobs definitely seem to make it so).

“After being good for so long?” Tony retorts, digging his teeth into the junction of Loki’s neck and shoulder hard enough to have Loki half-stumbling into the door and nearly dropping his keys again. Thanks, Tony – you’re doing a stellar fucking job of getting Loki to bed when you’re preventing him from simply entering his house. Thanks.

“You call your behavior good?” Loki challenges as he seeks out his house key for what has to be the eight time in the past minute and a half.

“I call it exceptional,” Tony huskily replies. He kisses and nips at the underside of Loki’s jaw, winds his arms tightly around his middle, possessive and playful and everything that gets skin crawling and mouths watering.

Loki lets out this sound that’s a hybrid between a growl and a moan, roughly jamming his key into its keyhole (at fucking last, and how about a round of applause for some good-old, unintentional sexual innuendo?) and turning his head to throw Tony a sharp, meaningful look over his shoulder.

“Thor and his friends are in there. Behave,” he asserts, and the ‘for now’ that follows goes unsaid, but not unheard.

Tony’s face does that weird thing only it can do, that thing where there’s three emotions playing ball on it and a whole other expression entirely being conveyed. This time, his features are a splay of dread, mischief, illumination, and wonder, and he’s pressing the side of his face to Loki’s when he asks, “You mean we can horrify them with our love? Vengeance time?” He gets a jab in the gut for that.

Loki plants a sideways kiss reminiscent of old Hollywood on Tony’s cheek, concedes, “Perhaps,” and smirks a wicked little smirk before pushing the door open and suddenly emerging into a world very different from the one that exists outside of Thor White and the Four Dwarves.

The five of them are crowded around the television when Loki opens the door, Hogun being the only person occupying the couch while Thor, Fandral, Sif, and Volstagg dominate the floor. Both Thor and Fandral look up in unison at the arrival, and it’s almost hysterical how fast and how much their faces turn into these masks of shock, excitement, and confusion when Loki drags Tony (who is pretty much attached to Loki and a person these people have somehow come to consider to be a threat, remember?) into the house. Sif, Volstagg, and Hogun follow their gazes a bit more slowly, but their expressions aren’t any less bewildered (Loki? Happy? What?).

“Hey, Loki,” Thor blurts, and the greeting comes out of his mouth in an abrupt burst, like he wasn’t even expecting himself to eject it.

Loki’s eyes land on Thor almost by accident, and he gives his brother this grin that’s all alcohol and enthusiasm and not one bit voluntary and replies, “Salutations.” It’s a far cry from the sarcasm-packed reception he threw at him just weeks ago, and it’s even accompanied by a small wave (wow).

And then Fandral, Sif, Volstagg, and Hogun are repeating after Thor like children in a first grade classroom, and even though it’s all very sweet and amusing and plain fucking weird, the only thing Loki really notices is the fact that nobody’s addressing Tony. So he points that out.

“I’m not the only person here,” he laughs, and within the next few moments, the puppeteers of the universe manage to get Tony’s arms around Loki’s waist, his middle and index fingers in the air (deuces, anyone?), and all ten of Thor White and the Four Dwarves’ eyes bugged out and surprised. While we’re here, might I pick your brain and ask why people are so goddamn awkward?

“Oops,” Tony snorts, and without warning, he and Loki just start cracking up like that single word is the best joke anyone’s ever told ever in the world and ever in life and ever period, ha ha ha ha ha, hardee-fucking-har har. It’s actually pretty nice to act disrespectful and laugh at things that aren’t all that funny, but only if you’re drunk and about to have mindblowing sex and making the most of the extraordinary opportunity to fuck with your brother and his friends.

As soon as he can stop laughing enough to breathe like a normal, sane human being (everything he isn’t), Loki turns to Tony, giggles when their noses bump together, and implores him to, “Come feed Fenrir with me?” Because he knows that once his back hits his bed, he’s not getting up until tomorrow morning, possibly afternoon.

Tony gives Loki a wry smirk, squeezing his hands around his hips and replying, “Only because I love you.”

This sniveling, affronted sort of noise that sounds a whole lot like something Thor would make comes from our dear grade-schoolers, but Loki is much too intoxicated and enthralled with the soulful, lustful way Tony’s looking at him to care that much (if at all). He completely disregards their company and leads Tony into the kitchen with his fingers in the man’s waistband, a laugh in his throat, and a remarkably graceful skip in his step.

The moment they’re somewhat alone, Tony spins him around and claims his mouth again, and he’s pushing Loki in the general direction of the fridge, and he has his hands beneath Loki’s shirt in a way that threatens to have the man just flying apart right then and there, and goddammit, what is responsibility and why does it matter so much?

“Tony, wait,” Loki laughs once he can pull his mouth away from said man’s, pushing against his chest without any sort of conviction. He manages to get the Tony, who’s watching him like a hunger-crazed animal, at arm’s length after a somewhat brief, intense struggle, and they’re both breathing in short pants by the time they’re separated.

“Oops,” Tony echoes. Loki can’t help but giggle again at the quip.

“Be patient, you dog,” Loki hums, reluctantly slipping away from Tony to retrieve the bag of dog food sitting under the kitchen sink. He’s aware of the man’s eyes on him, aware of the fact that Tony’s taking in every move he makes with desire and anticipation, aware that he’s killing Tony softly when he bends at the waist to reach into the cabinet beneath the sink.

“For you? Please,” Tony retorts. Loki turns just in time to discover the man leaning against the refrigerator with a bottle of water in his hand, his gaze dark and voyeuristic.

“Only a few minutes. My other pet needs love, too,” he jests. He reaches a hand out to brush his fingers along Tony’s bicep on his way to the double-doors that will lead him outside, chuckles quietly when he gets his digits squeezed and kissed in an awfully sweet display of affection.

“Don’t take too long,” Tony whines rather childishly, crossing his arms over his chest. “You know how I get without you.”

(They should get married now, right? Right?)

Loki doesn’t let himself dally too excessively on his mission to get Fenrir fed, and the only reason why he dawdles at all is the maternity that sits inside of him like a queen on a throne, demanding he smother his husky – his baby – with love every time he sees him. He practically drowns Fenrir in kisses when he comes trotting over to him, dropping to his knees and totally bear-hugging the dog like he’s just as human and sensitive as he is after he gets barreled in the legs and assaulted with fur and saliva. Of course, he doesn’t take a dreadfully long time to fill Fenrir’s bowl with food, coddle him until he’s pretty damn irritated (because food is food and food is king and food is food), and tell him goodnight as if he really understands him, because Tony is a very real, very important presence in his mind and in his house, and Loki’s blood is still boiling at the thought of the inevitable.

Loki doesn’t say anything or make any noise when he walks back in the house, but the second he’s in Tony’s sight again, he’s being yanked into a strong pair of arms and squeezed very close and deprived of all his oxygen, and yeah, he can definitely see himself getting used to this kind of relationship between them. He semi-accidentally drops the bag of dog food in his hands to the floor, then, preferring to place his palms on Tony’s shoulders and hold on for dear life.

It just so fucking happens that Fandral (oh my goodness, Fandral) walks into the kitchen in the same instant the sack of Blue Buffalo hits the tile, and this moment would be like, perfect if they all lived in a soap opera, because it’s just so damn picturesque in such a beautifully awkward fashion, the way Loki and Tony are locked together, the way their lips catch on each other when they break for air, the way Fandral’s just forced to stand there and take it all in. Loki’s not exactly sure how deep that man’s feelings for him run, but on a scale from the Thames to the Nile, he’s guessing he’s somewhere near the Mississippi.

It takes a relatively uncomfortable period of time for Loki, Tony, and Fandral to acknowledge each other’s presence, and when it happens, Tony just gives Fandral this cursory, nearly-threatening-but-really-just-kind-of-apathetic glance before turning back to Loki and nuzzling against his temple, kissing a trail down the man’s jaw as though he were telling both the person in his arms and the person across the room ‘He’s mine’. Loki watches Fandral’s face pale and his cheeks tighten the slightest bit in reaction to the gesture, and suddenly, he’s not so interested in the good behavior he was asking of Tony only seconds before they entered the house.

Suddenly, he’s remembering exactly what made him such a menace to Thor, Freyr, Freya, and Balder throughout their childhoods – his penchant for troublemaking.

“Hey, you,” he greets, this grin that’s made of pure mischief splitting his face as he speaks. Fandral’s eyes quickly find his, and the man’s features take on an ambiguous expression that looks like resentment dressed up as nonchalance trying to pull off amusement. It’s actually kind of hilarious.

Meanwhile, Tony’s teeth are nipping at his earlobe, and he’s asking in a voice low enough to be inside joke-sort of rude, “What are you doing, babe?”

Loki ignores Tony when Fandral says, “Hi,” in the most dry, dour tone Loki’s ever heard him use. The blond starts moving towards the refrigerator, and he’s giving Loki and Tony such a wide fucking berth that Loki has to laugh, because he can’t help but think of every time he and Thor would get in a disagreement when they were children (stupid, stupid children) and Thor would act like being in the same room with him was tantamount to disobeying the word of God.

Someone’s unhappy,” Loki notes in his single most dickish act of tonight (so far, anyways, and for the record, Loki has no concept of empathy or remorse when he’s drunk or he’s manic), draping his arms about Tony’s shoulders and peering around the side of Tony’s head to survey Fandral as the man pulls the fridge open. The observation has Fandral going still and tense for a moment, has him meeting Loki’s gaze with eyes so stormy and irritated it’s almost frightening – in a humorous sort of way.

“And who might you be referring to?” Fandral inquires, notes of exasperation and bitterness riding atop the words coming out of his mouth.

You, of course,” Loki replies like he’s providing punctuation to Fandral’s question. He’s still smiling his devilish smile, still pressing into Tony, his left foot crossed behind his right and resting in a loose en pointe. Tony’s lips go static against his cheekbone, and Loki can tell that the man’s stopped because he’s interested – not because he’s indifferent.

Fandral fixes Loki with this severely agitated look that is just all kinds of ‘fuck you’ (oh Lord, this is exciting, and is it weird that Loki legitimately derives more pleasure from having people criticize and insult him than he does receiving compliments?), grabbing a six pack of beer from the refrigerator and grumbling, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Oh, yeah. Please let us all know how very macho and manly you are with your lack of feelings and psychology. Please emulate the behavior of a sociopath and act like you are incapable of responding to situations emotionally. Please let Loki take a metaphorical shit on your face and laugh at you while he does it. You are such a strong person when you stifle your passion – you really are, cher bébé.

It’s all okay, though. The possibility of no backlash and/or a reaction below Yosemite Sam on the angry scale out of Fandral is pretty much obliterated when Loki looks at Tony, completely fucking serious, and says, “I think he’s jealous.” And then Tony smirks. And then they laugh, and really, you may think that only people like Emma Frost and Clint Barton can be assholes, but our favorite lovebirds are just as capable as the Brat Pack is of such douchebaggery.

“Excuse me?” Fandral snaps, drawing both Loki and Tony’s eyes his way. “Who would I be jealous of here?”

“You tell me, sugar pie honey bunch,” Loki retorts, and Tony chuckles almost cruelly against his skin, presses a sucking, entirely too ostentatious kiss to his cheek, and tightens his arms around Loki’s body so visibly he should be fucking shot for being so vindictive.

Fandral kicks the refrigerator shut, an action that would normally call for a verbal smack-down if Loki were sober, glaring fiercely at the two of them (the short, pale one with the attitude in particular) and biting out, “Why don’t you take a guess?” Because all people can do is throw each other comebacks that guide conversations and arguments straight down the drain.

Loki smirks ever so slightly, asks, “Are you sure you want me to do that? I’m a hell of a guesser.”

Humor me,” Fandral replies. His features and his voice are identical portraits of bleakness.

(FYI: When this tale has been told many times over and has become a thing of legend, it should and shall be known that the events that took place tonight are everyone’s fault. It’s Loki’s fault for falling in love with Tony and being an asshole. It’s Tony’s fault for falling in love with Loki and being an asshole. It’s Fandral’s fault for walking into the kitchen at the precise moment he did. It’s Thor’s fault for being such an awful, inconsiderate, overprotective older brother. It’s Sif’s fault for not standing up for Loki, her fellow crusader on the tides of Fuck You, Thor, You Stupid Bitch. It’s Volstagg and Hogun’s fault for not doing a goddamn thing that’s useful. It’s Wade’s fault for providing Loki and Tony with alcohol and not asking for any sort of ID from either of them. It’s Howard and Maria’s fault for giving Tony a reason to think of alcohol and nightclubbing as an acceptable form of recreation. It’s Steve’s fault for apparently being an awesome, irresistible person. It’s Freyr’s fault for kicking Loki in the general direction of the yellow brick road, where you have sex with someone if they smile at you the right way.  It’s Freya’s fault for not telling anyone about the time Loki got bad-touched when she really should have, even if Loki didn’t want her to. More than anything, it’s Loki’s fault for falling in love with Tony, being an asshole, and existing in the universe, because everywhere he goes, things break and shut down and get heartbroken and angry and disappointed and abandoned, fifty percent of these things being himself most of the time.)

“I think you’re jealous of him,” Loki announces in a spectacularly proclamatory fashion, turning his face into Tony’s just a tad to illuminate exactly who him is.

Fandral’s expression contorts into one of indignation and distress, and he starts to argue with Loki, starts to say, “Now, why the hell would you say something li–”

“And I don’t think you’re jealous because it’s Tony,” Loki cuts the man off, watching with a morbid sort of satisfaction as Fandral’s cheeks redden the slightest bit. “Anybody in the living room could be standing here with me and you’d still be beating yourself up inside, just because they weren’t you.”

Can I get an ‘ouch, motherfucker’?

“Y-you think you’re so special, don’t you?” Fandral splutters once he can finally get his mouth to form words, and the look on his face is nothing short of appalled when this laugh, this provocative, insolent, invalidating laugh comes out of Loki in response.

“’Special’ is the last word I’d use to describe myself,” Loki clarifies, his tone only a little bitter as he pulls out of Tony’s embrace, taking the man’s hands and squeezing them as if to pacify him. “Try ‘coveted’.”

Fandral opens and closes his mouth a few times, his expression fluctuating between infuriated and confused and just downright rejected in the course of only a few moments. Loki doesn’t take his eyes off of him throughout any of it, just lets Fandral convince himself he can rise out of the sea of bullshit they’ve been swimming in for the past two or three minutes and solve the mystery of how he could still want to conquer someone after they’ve just torn him down before taking it upon himself to note, “I told you I was a good guesser.”

He knows he’s being absolutely awful about this. He knows that he’s going to wake up one morning in the near or far future and feel like the biggest asshole to walk the earth because of his behavior tonight. However, he also lacks quite a lot of fucks to give right this instant, and the part of him that has him looking in the mirror and seeing a sinner and a hypocrite and a liar is telling him that getting retribution for every time Fandral turned his ‘no’s into ‘yes’s just because they sound nicer and for every time he’s ever been treated like property or a prize to be won or a trophy to be fought over is so worth fear of his own reflection. He also has a dreadful tendency to crush the feelings of others and lament over the fact that honesty is a virtue until it offends someone. He also has a rather high blood alcohol level. He also just has a really shitty personality. I could excuse this boy’s actions forever, I could.

“Don’t let it bother you too much,” Loki says when it becomes obvious that Fandral’s not going to speak anymore. He gives the man a smile that’s two-parts pity, three-parts beguilement, and all-parts arrogance, something that gets an acute, dark glare in return. Normally, Loki might be more affected by such a reaction, but Tony’s leading him in the direction of the door, and he’s still contaminated with the purple haze of alcohol and adrenaline and lust, and Fandral really, really deserved the ball he just got thrown at him, and well – it just gets harder and harder to sympathize for people after they’ve been harassing you day-in and day-out for a little over two months, am I right?

In no time, Loki and Tony are out of the kitchen, passing through the living room (where eight eyes follow them like magnetic poles drawn together, intrigued and fascinated and almost wary), and rushing down the hallway. The moment Loki has his bedroom door closed, this invisible, impossibly heavy cloud of pressure drops down on the two of them, potent and humid and nearly incapacitating. It occurs to Loki – so fast he almost doesn’t notice it – that this is big, that when Tony has him by the middle, has his hands gripping his sides hard enough to bruise, has his mouth parting his lips so easily and so forcefully and so hungrily – it occurs to Loki that things aren’t going to be the same after this, not after they’ve both acknowledged their desire to make love until the sun comes up, not after they’ve said such powerful things to each other, not after they’ve touched and kissed and tasted one another for hours without regret or even an ounce of hesitation. Everything could either go perfectly right or terribly wrong from this point onwards, and the former outcome definitely seems to be the most likely one when Tony pushes his fingers into Loki’s hair and pulls their bodies flush together, sliding his tongue along Loki’s top lip like the molten lava lover Loki sometimes imagines him to be.

It’s almost too good to feel real.

“I need you closer,” Tony murmurs against Loki’s mouth, as if that’s a wish that can actually be fulfilled when they’re pressed together tighter than Vienna sausages. He slips a hand beneath Loki’s shirt, his fingers trailing up to the man’s navel and snapping the southernmost button of his top open in a way that’s both casual and assertive. “I need this off.”

“What do you know? I do, too,” Loki jests, the laugh in his windpipe turning into a deep groan when Tony makes quick work of unbuttoning his shirt the rest of the way with only a single hand. He isn’t at all surprised when his shoulders hit the door (oh, how acquainted his backside will become with such things following tonight is hilariously, infuriatingly wonderful), but he fears he may suffer a heat stroke and die when Tony pushes him up the wood and attaches his mouth to his neck, sucking and nipping a hot trail of hickeys down the column of his throat. Loki hooks his legs around Tony’s waist and winds his arms around the man’s shoulders – exactly where they most like to be – like boa constrictors embracing a tree branch, and he finds that every move he makes is almost compulsive in nature, as if he’s actually good at this, as if his body was built for this kind of thing, for Tony.

And then they’re battling again; Tony with his teeth biting everywhere that will have Loki making noise, Loki with his scarlet nails digging into Tony’s back and his nape and his scalp; Tony with his mouth kissing Loki’s until the man’s chest is close to bursting from going so long without air, Loki with the short, sharp little nips he’ll get at Tony’s jaws and lips. Liquid fire is weaving its way through and around them, and they’re like a machine of perpetual motion, each action pushing into another, and another, and another in a chain reaction that will restart itself every time Tony laughs his honeysuckle laugh or Loki pushes his hips into Tony’s just to get that electric feeling all over again (and really, it’s just so weird to Loki that he’d let Tony dominate him so easily, especially because he’s is a fighter of a lover nine times out of ten).

It’s a relief when Tony turns away from the door, swinging Loki around with such natural capability as he moves with his unusual, beautifully leonine grace in the direction of the bed. He doesn’t lower Loki onto the mattress so much as he just drops him, crawls over him like a wolf going in for the kill, presses him into the bed with his body and his mouth, and fuck, Loki feels like he’s being conquered, feels helpless and open in an oddly marvelous way, feels like a demigod and an animal and a wavelength and a heartbeat and an exhale and a nerve ending all at once, and Tony’s tearing through him for the millionth time tonight, and he’s so fucking aroused he can’t even think straight, and he’s never felt like this before, and–

“You love me, right?” is Tony’s incredibly thoughtless, insanely impulsive, stupor-shattering question. He asks it as he’s pushing Loki’s shirt off of his shoulders, surging down to mark his skin with his lips, teeth, and tongue and add to the steadily growing constellation of bruises spreading down his neck.

Loki rises onto his elbows to aid Tony in his struggle to get his shirt off of him, bringing his hands up to drag along Tony’s broad, muscular back once the article is somewhere on the floor, wherever Tony decided to throw it. Tony’s shirt wrinkles and bunches like ripples in a black pond beneath Loki’s curling fingers and scratching nails, and Loki lets his head fall back against the mattress so that Tony can claim his throat and the underside of his jaw some more, pushing his pelvis up again and again – he wants to feel, goddammit. His reply is asthmatic and taunting and so pompously untrue it’s twisted – “Oh, you wish.”

Tony breathes a laugh that manages to sound both husky and smooth as he pulls off of Loki, earning him a whine and a glare from the man trapped beneath him. The rapidly-building, absurd frustration that threatens to nearly rip Loki apart flies out the window on golden wings, however, when Tony clutches his hips and rolls them into his own in a slow, oh-so perfect grind, drags sharp, stuttering moans from his throat, has him desperate and wanton, has him groaning his name, grasping at his shoulders, begging with his eyes, and all because he wants more friction and more pressure and less clothing and less playing around. Tony throws a toothy smirk his way, practically drinking him in with his gaze.

“Don’t lie to me, Loki. You know you do,” he purrs, so quick and so eager to play his silly games. He lets one hand stray from Loki’s hip to run up his abdomen, to his narrow, lean chest, and damn, is it obvious how much and how long he’s been wanting to touch him like that, so much that he’s shivering at the contact. “Don’t deny it.”

Loki doesn’t. That’s why he grabs Tony by the back of the head and yanks him down, crushing their lips together in a feverish kiss. A hot blade of pleasure slices through him when Tony moans into his mouth, and he immediately takes hold of the opportunity to thoroughly abuse the man’s lips with a plethora of bites and sucks, tugging roughly at the wild, thick hair at the nape of Tony’s neck. He smiles, whispers, “Don’t ask such stupid questions, love.”

What everyone in the universe knows (especially Loki) is that Tony’s teasing is in part due to his drunkenness and his naturally playful nature. Loki knows Tony. Tony knows him. They’re both familiar enough with each other to be aware of their similarly mischievous, joking, pretentious tendencies. Tony taunts Loki and Loki taunts back – that’s just the way things are, the way they have been for quite awhile.

Loki knows that Tony knows that yes – he does love him. Not necessarily in a way that warrants getting married and having a few dozen children and a flawless life together, but he’s working pretty damn hard on that, and love is love – a powerful, often misused, four-letter word that maintains the same definition it’s always had no matter what dictionary you’re looking in.

What fewer people know (and by fewer people, I mean Loki, Tony, and those who know how to pay attention, like you guys and people who frequent the library each week) is that Tony loves Loki back in a way that isn’t strictly friendly (no fucking shit), nor is it even strictly sexual, nor is it even strictly romantic, or intimate, or spiritual, or fathomable. Tony knows because, well, he’s his own person, and it’s kind of hard not to know such a thing when you’re on your knees and out of your mind for another human being. Loki knows (is this ‘knowing’ thing confusing?) because one – Tony’s told him enough times for him to have that thought tattooed to his mind, and two – Tony looks at him with those eyes; the eyes he never gives anyone else, smiles at him with that smile; the smile that only Loki’s to see, and he drives him around and hangs out in the library (one of his least favorite places) for hours just to be with him, and he kisses him and touches him and holds him and helps him, and he’d probably sell his soul for him if he ever needed to. Which is great, don’t get me wrong, but it makes Loki feel so, so very guilty. Why?

Because even though he’d probably do all the same things for Tony ninety-nine perfect of the time, it’s not so much out of the ooey-gooey feelings Tony brings out of him as it is out of honor and obligation, for he was raised in a world full of price tags and guilt trips and ultimatums (oh, my!). Because Loki doesn’t feel exactly the same yet, because he hasn’t been extraordinarily in love with Tony for the better part of a year (he’s only just touched that borderline earlier this week, remember?), and that just really fucking sucks when you compare that to the short thirty days it took Tony to decide he wanted to give his heart to him. Because Tony knows he doesn’t feel the same and he’s okay with that, and he lets Loki mock and tease him with suggestive looks and kisses that are far too hot to be just friendly. Because Loki feels good about the fooling around if its experimental and lighthearted, but as soon as he knows Tony’s seriously kissing him (like, I need to have you close to me forever and ever kisses, not We’re bullshitting because we’re best friends and this feels pretty nice kisses) and seriously hugging him (like, I’ll love you until the end of time hugs, not Come here, my awesome friend hugs), he hates it because of how much of an ass he becomes once everything is said and done.

Loki loves Tony to the moon and back – that’s unmistakable and undeniable. But Tony has always loved Loki so much more in that heartbreaking, soul-wrenching, forever-and-a-day sort of way that likes to have Loki falling apart at the seams simply because of how bottomless such love is.

What even fewer people know (and by even fewer people, I mean only Loki and Tony) is that while Tony loves Loki, he also loves his other best friend. That’s right. I’m talking about the one and only Steve Rogers.

(Didn’t expect that, did you?)

If Loki fits with Tony like a puzzle piece (just right), Steve sticks to the man like glue (too much). Loki has nutritional value and all ten essential amino acids while Steve is full of empty calories and too much sugar and salt to not be a hot commodity, and Loki is present while Steve is absent, and Loki is clean and environmentally friendly while Steve is extravagant and ostentatious, and Loki is a prince while Steve is a god, and Loki is practical while Steve is a paragon, and where Loki’s like the moon in the way he’s reachable, touchable, Steve is like the stars because he’s distant and infinitely more intriguing than cold, dark little Loki. Steve doesn’t know this, though. Only Loki and Tony do. And that kind of sucks as well. Why?

Because Loki feels slighted and bitter and jealous that Steve is the one Tony hush, don’t tell, deepest darkest secret wants. Because even though Loki’s the apple of Tony’s eye, Steve is the man of his dreams (this is sounding pretty damn schmoopy for a reason, folks). Because even though Loki’s the one sharing somewhat inappropriate kisses and touches with Tony, Steve is still reining in such deep, irrational devotion from the man with nothing more than a relatively normal friendship. Because Steve always gets all the attention, and for what? Being a jackass? Because all Loki wants for Tony is his happiness, and either he or Steve can give it to him, but he’s so scared and so broken and Steve is too straight and too precisely Tony’s friend. Because Tony’s a fucking idiot for falling in love with the two most unreliable people in the universe.

All of this should adequately explain why Loki is doing this, why he’s grabbing at Tony, wrapped all around him, moaning and writhing and kissing him like it’s the last time they’ll ever see each other, ready to ride him like a fucking bronco. Because they’re drunk and playful, because Loki wants Tony – all of him, because Tony loves Loki like Rhett Butler loves Scarlett O’Hara, because Loki adores Tony so fucking much, because he’s been trapped beneath a lid of insecurity and forced patience and bad luck and fear for far too long, because Steve doesn’t love Tony in the right way, dammit, because everything will sort itself out (or will it?), and because Loki knows how to keep his promises (or does he?).

They’re multitasking, now, Loki’s deft fingers busying themselves in the buttons of Tony’s shirt while Tony makes it his mission to get Loki’s jeans open. They’re both breathing each other’s air in heavy, deep gasps and locked in a wet, openmouthed kiss, their tongues twisting and twining together and their hips rolling like thunder. Loki’s patience abruptly grows short when Tony’s thumbs press into his hipbones, and with a muffled growl and a sharp jerk, he’s forcing the man up and practically tearing his shirt off of his shoulders, like an animal in heat in his ferocity and his eagerness. Tony grinds him into the mattress again in retaliation, wrapping his fingers around his thin, pale wrists and pinning them above his head in a maddening display of control. Really, it isn’t at all fair that Loki lacks the physical prowess Tony possesses so easily, but any complaints that might come out of him escape him in the form of moans and groans and pants, and Tony’s just dragging those noises out of him with every kiss he plants on him.

“You’re so funny, Loki,” Tony half-croons, half-laughs against said man’s skin, slipping his hands down Loki’s outstretched, straining arms and nuzzling and sucking his way south, over the arch of his neck and the dip of his collarbone and the flat of his sternum and the plane of his abdomen, and Loki feels like he just might vomit a snake of fire when he hears Tony’s knees hit the floor, when Tony tugs his skinny jeans halfway over his hips, hitches his legs over his shoulders, and noses into the heat of his groin, his lips parting to let his tongue dart out, and oh, God – he’s mouthing at Loki’s arousal through the fabric of his briefs without an iota of shame or uncertainty, and Loki knows that the howl ringing in his ears is his own, knows that Tony’s groaning (against his dick, fucking Christ) because he’s got his heels digging into his shoulder blades, knows that he got himself into a hell of a situation when he decided it wouldn’t be so bad to hop into bed with his best friend (because Tony may be the biggest trickster in the history of the world when it comes to sex, so unlike anyone else Loki’s ever been with in such a bittersweet way).

Goddammit, Tony,” is what Loki manages to choke out once he can get his frontal and temporal lobes to engage in some primitive communication, his voice shooting up several octaves and turning into a frantic whine when Tony licks a stripe up the spine of his erection. He grasps at the bedsheets beneath his fingers, borderline whimpering, “Please, Tony, please–”

“Please what?” Tony cuts him off, his tone dark and low and just broiling with lust. Every word he says and every noise he makes is a vibration against Loki’s crotch, and fuck, Loki’s almost absolutely certain that this man is going to drive him insane with his mouth alone before the night is over.

“Please, just take me,” Loki pleads, so uncharacteristically desperate and needy. And he says that, says it clearly and candidly – “I need you.” Irony is great, isn’t it?

Tony raises his head to give Loki the devilish smirk of devilish smirks, leaning forward to drop a slow, bone-melting kiss on the patch of skin below his navel, crawling between Loki’s legs and traipsing his lips upwards until they’re resting in the hollow of his neck. “Patience is a virtue, baby,” he murmurs, teasing and vexatious and just cruel in the most wonderful fashion.

And then, without warning, it all falls apart. It actually takes Loki a few delayed moments to grasp exactly what is going on, but he becomes aware of how very wrong everything has gone when he hears Thor’s voice, when he makes out seven simple, angry words – “What are you doing to my brother?

(Oh, hell no.)

There’s a half-second after that’s out in the air in which Loki’s not at all sure what’s going to happen next, or even how he feels about the storm that most likely just got set in motion. How does he react to something like that? He’s walked in on Thor with other people several times before and just imploded from the sheer lack of fucks he was capable of giving, so he can’t really say he knows exactly what thought process led Thor to his door aside from the man’s possible misinterpretation of the noises he’s been making or just a complete absence of respect. And is he too drunk to even flip out about this? And what happened to that semi-understanding he and Thor came to regarding Tony? Is that just another broken not-promise to add to the mountain of other broken not-promises between them?

It’s when he sees the look on Tony’s face a mere moment before the man is off of him, the physical contact and the intimacy and the everything that existed between them before cut off like a removed umbilical cord, when he realizes with a start that Tony’s going to fight his brother to make love to him, when the cold air in his room needles at his skin and makes him realize that Tony was the only thing that was keeping him on fire – that’s when Loki knows how he’s going to react to this. And he’s going to react violently.

“Excuse me?” Tony laugh-barks, and Loki sits up just in time to see his friend, his love, striding up to Thor, who’s standing just inside the door like a literal fucking elephant in the room. Loki takes in the image before him and knows he’s going to be traumatized by it for awhile, knows by the burning shame that bubbles up inside him when he spies Fandral and Sif peering around the door frame like curious children, when he feels the arousal still curled up inside his belly grow tight in his core, when he examines the broad, angry plane of Tony’s back and the icy-hot glint of Thor’s clear blue eyes, staring at his friend, his love, like he’s the devil here to take Loki’s soul.

“What are you doing to my brother?” Thor repeats, his voice that rough, high thing that escapes him when he grows irrationally angry.

“What am doing to him?” Tony counters, and good Lord, he’s shaking he’s so upset. He’s shorter than Thor by an inch or two, but his presence matches the larger, bulkier blond’s when he asks, “What are you doing to him?"

“I’m protecting him!” is Thor’s response, and it feels like the whole universe is cringing when Tony outright laughs, bitter and sarcastic and cold, at the man’s answer.

“Bull-fucking-shit!” Tony retorts, inching closer to Thor without really realizing it. He swings a hand Loki’s way, snarls, “You think ignoring him and disrespecting him and caging him in like he’s a fucking child is you protecting him? You think destroying his ability to trust people and sending him to bed in tears is you fucking protecting him?!”

(FYI: This is the first time Thor and Tony have ever talked to one another extensively. Yeah.)

“Oh, look at you talk!” Thor practically roars, stepping into Tony’s space just as the other did him. “All you’re going to do is leave him behind once you get what you want from him! It’s not like you haven’t done the same with other people, you dick.”

“Do you really think Loki’d be stupid enough to even let me near him if I was like that?” Tony challenges, and his tone is rising in pitch and volume just like Thor’s is, and every time he moves, he looks like he’s going to just attack Thor like a wild animal with rabies. He cocks his head at the taller man, asks, “Where the fuck have you been for the past year? Not with the person you claim to care so fucking much about, am I right?” Tony jabs a thumb at his own chest. “That was me, you jackass! was there for him whenever he needed me. Where the hell were you?!

Now, Loki knows that the reason this whole argument is occurring in the first place is because Tony and Thor love him. He knows that. That doesn’t make him feel any less infuriated at the fact that the two of them, lovely and dreadful as they are, are talking about him – screaming about him – as if he’s not even there. As if he’s not being forced to watch and endure this. As if he’s not reliving every time he ever felt abandoned by Thor or distrustful of Tony. As fucking if.

“Don’t talk about something you don’t know anything about. You don’t know Loki like I do,” Thor growls, his shoulders setting in a straight, taut line, and Jesus Christ, this man is going to physically fight Tony if he gets to the point where he’s too angry to realize that his fists would be punching Loki in the soul just as much as they’d be ramming into Tony’s gut.

“I’m right here,” Loki says, voice shaky and horrifyingly quiet. He isn’t noticed, unsurprisingly.

Tony scoffs, leans into Thor’s face (which is a very risky thing to do, mind you), and argues, “I think I know all about Loki, thank you very much. I know what you did to him. I know who he is.”

“I’ve known him my whole life!” Thor cries, his face just inches away from Tony’s. He’s raising his arms, now, the muscles in his limbs bulging with his wrath, the brightness in his eyes flaring dangerously. “How long have you known him? A year? You think you fucking know him after spending a year with him?!”

That’s all it takes for Loki to go off, to lose what little control he had over his emotions. Before he even knows what he’s doing, he’s on his feet, chest heaving, eyes scorching, throat burning as he yells, animalistic and uncontrolled, “I’m right here!

He’s tired of this. He’s tired of being that person, that person that has to be defended at all costs, that person who’s just so fucking wounded that they’re incapable of making their own decisions as far as everyone else is concerned. He’s tired of Thor thinking that he needs his protection because oh, he’s his baby brother – poor, feeble, unstable little Loki, because of fucking course, it’s just impossible for him to have grown up and out of that weakness. He’s tired of Tony thinking that he’s the only person allowed to touch him or care about him, of thinking he has the right to walk all over Thor just because he himself has a propensity to bitch about and completely underappreciate his brother. He’s tired of letting himself get pushed around under the pretense of people caring about him, because Rapunzel never got anything but a fear of the unknown out of getting locked in a tower for most of her life. He’s tired.

Thor and Tony go silent at that outburst, both men turning to face Loki with near identical expressions of shock. Fandral and Sif are equally blown away, and the two of them seem to shrink away from the doorway in fear.

“You don’t have to talk about me like I’m not right fucking here!” Loki exclaims, his words coming out of him in strangled, high-pitched sobs. He’s not crying yet, but he can feel those tears coming when he gets himself between Tony and Thor, pushes them apart like a referee, and asks, “What about what I want, since you give so much of a damn?”

There’s no answer out of anyone, but Tony looks like a guilt-ridden criminal on trial, and Thor just seems like he’s ready to crumble.

After a moment of non-thought (I say non-thought because one could hardly count letting your anger steer you in the right-ish direction as actual thought), Loki turns his piercing, wild gaze on Thor and questions, “What do you think you’re doing?”

The redness in Thor’s face drains at Loki’s query, and Thor blinks, stares at his brother almost as if he’s disbelieving of the fact that Loki would choose him to fuss at first (or at all). “I’m protecting you,” he echoes, breathless and tempered.

“From what?” Loki retorts. He raises an indignant, incredulous brow for emphasis, gestures to Tony. “From him?”

Thor watches Loki for a long, uncomfortable moment, his lips gradually tightening into a thin line, before answering very quietly and very carefully (very unlike himself, I mean), “Yes.”

Loki’s mouth falls open of its own accord, and he lets out this noise that’s somewhere between a gasp and a sob. He’s shaking his head and running angry, shuddering hands through his tousled hair when he screams, like some kind of wailing, restless spirit, “I am an adult! And Tony has been nothing but amazing to me!”

That seems to piss Thor off again, because his face gets all stony and he snaps, “I don’t think Janet would agree with you.”

Oh my God.

“I am not Janet Van Dyne or Emma Fucking Frost or Wanda Maximoff or any of your beloved cheerbitches, you ass!” Loki cries, ignoring the noise Tony makes behind him in objection to his insult (Emma’s the only person on the cheerleading squad that Loki and Tony both hate in equal in terrifying amounts – Janet and Wanda are people Tony considers to be friends and Loki considers to be fuckheads). He stares at his brother with the most wrathful of gazes, snarls, “I dare you to look me in the eyes and tell me I’m like them. I dare you to look me in the eyes and tell me you know me after being gone for a whole fucking year.” His voice crescendos when he says that. “I dare you to look me in the eyes and tell me you think keeping me away from the person I love is protecting me. I dare you, Thor! I dare you!”

Thor goes silent again, his head bowing almost imperceptibly in the face of all the righteous anger and abandonment issues and reminders of broken not-promises Loki’s spewing at him. His placid reaction only serves to enrage Loki more, because how fucking dare the man come bursting through his door like a missionary or a messiah out to save him and only be half-sure of his task, how fucking dare he not fight back and give Loki a reason to be the victim (because even if he’s tired of being the damsel-in-distress, he’ll never be exhausted of having reasons to hate everybody).

“What is wrong with you?!” Loki shrieks when Thor doesn’t say anything. “What the fuck makes you think you can just come in here and conquer and control everything and govern my life like you used to? What the fuck makes you think you can do that?”

Loki’s almost too caught up in his verbal abuse of his brother to hear when Tony says his name, so even and soft it’s terrifying – just, “Loki,” simple and submissive.

Loki turns to Tony with a sharp, frenzied, “What?”, his demeanor tense and his voice a knife of hardness. He softens a bit when he sees the look on Tony’s face, sees the borderline fatigue and the strain and the adoration and the remorse there, streaked across his features like war paint.

“I can’t,” Tony chuckles, smiling a sad, bitter little smile. He does that a lot, you know – laughs and smiles when he’s dying inside. Loki’s seen Tony cackle like a madman and condemn the world in the same instant too many times to forget that horrifying quirk of his personality, and that bit of knowledge drives a shard of ice and fear in his heart when he’s watching Tony breathe noisily and stare him down so intensely it’s painful.

“You can’t what?” Loki asks, his voice significantly gentler. Suddenly, he’s forgotten all about Thor and the audience they have, and he’s turning to face Tony fully, and he’s moving closer to the man, and he’s peering into his dark, solemn eyes, and he’s asking it again, murmuring, “You can’t what, Tony?”

Tony shakes his head, grinning his awful grin that does monstrous things to Loki’s heart. “I can’t do this,” he says, motioning vaguely with his hands to Loki, to Thor, to the room and the house and the city and the state and the whole country as far as Loki knows, and goddammit, Tony’s known for running away from situations he can’t hack. That’s the whole reason why he’s never been in a stable relationship for more than a month or two, why he’s not in California attending Stanford University or some other equally prestigious and expensive college with his father’s money right now, why it’s a fucking universal phenomenon that he’s stayed with Loki for as long as he has.

And Loki knows now that he waited too long. Loki knows that that thing he’s been calling fear for the past year is really just common sense and divine intervention. Loki knows that he was right to believe something would go wrong tonight. Loki knows that he waited too long.

He watches Tony with his wide, shocked eyes that Tony’s been telling him he loves since the day they met and he was an angel that hit his ass too hard on his way out of heaven. His voice comes out of him in a high, choked tangle when he asks, like he’s too stupid to know the answer, like he really thought he had a little worth to him beyond his intelligence and his family of money, like he actually believed every time Tony told him he was it and he was forever, “You don’t want me anymore?”

Tony’s face contorts into an expression of utter shock at the question, and too fast for falseness, he’s got Loki’s jaws cupped in his hands and he’s pulling him closer and shaking his head almost desperately, exclaiming, “No, no, no! I still want you!” He kisses the crest of Loki’s cheek so softly and so privately despite the fact that they’ve got six scandalized, curious eyes on them. “Don’t think I’ll ever stop, you hear?”

Loki brings his hands up to rest against Tony’s chest, but he’s not pushing the man away. He closes his eyes too late to keep his tears (here they come, like a river that’s been fighting against the dam holding it in for too long), realizes with a touch of bliss that they roll right into Tony’s nose where it’s pressed into his cheekbone, whispers, “Yeah,” with a tiny, strangled sob.

“Good,” Tony murmurs, kissing both of Loki’s cheeks as well as the tip of his nose this time. He moves his hands to Loki’s sides and holds him tightly, as if he’s afraid the man’s going to fall over if he doesn’t, and the smile on his face actually looks somewhat authentic when he adds, just for Loki to hear, “I love you.”

Loki can’t stop the helpless, ugly noise that comes out of him when he hears that, and he lets his forehead fall against Tony’s as he replies, not at all caring that Thor and Fandral and Sif are listening, “I love you, too.”

(How’s that for devotion, Thor?)

“I love you, I love you, I love you,” Tony echoes, winding his arms around Loki’s middle to hold him to his body. He nuzzles at Loki’s nose for a moment, waits for the man open his eyes and look at him before he adds, “But I can’t do this. Not now.”

Loki thinks he understands what Tony means; he is pretty good at that most of the time. That doesn’t ease the ache in his heart, though, doesn’t make it any easier for him to let Tony kiss him into numbness and then pull away from him like he used to peel scabs off of his wounds when he was little, and it’s almost as if the whole world has fallen out of focus, like everybody’s stopped breathing and knowing and mattering when Tony pulls on his shirt and Loki grabs a sweater to shuck over his head after failing to find the denim button-up he’d been wearing earlier.

Then Loki walks Tony to the front, except not really, because Tony’s the one guiding him there with an arm slung around his waist and a mouth full of reassurances. Thor moves out of their path without a word or a sound, and Fandral and Sif shift a bit awkwardly in the doorway to let the two of them through, and holy shit, Volstagg and Hogun are occupying the hall as well, just as confused and petrified as their fellow audience members. Loki refuses to look at any of them, refuses to acknowledge them beyond dodging their presences, refuses to fly into another rage before Tony’s gone (because doing so would only force him to divide his attention, something he wants on Tony and Tony alone for as long as possible).

When he opens the door, Tony’s right there to catch his tears in the creases of his thumbs, just like he’s always been. He pulls Loki into a kiss that might be sexual and/or passionate and not just urgent if the past five (only five) minutes weren’t a thing that happened, lets it linger until Loki’s quaking with suppressed sobs and making the most awful sniffling noises and fisting his hands in the front of his shirt as if he’d fall dead if he wasn’t holding on, and when he pulls away to look at Loki, his eyes are glassy, too (which is fucking extraordinary when you consider the fact that Tony never cries, and if he does, he’s wrapped in Loki’s arms with his face hidden in his chest, silent and still so that nobody can see him – not Loki, not his father, not God and his angels or the Devil and his demons – nobody).

“Don’t cry, pretty baby,” Tony says, even though he knows Loki hates being told to hold back his tears ever since he developed a theory that said an imperative like that meant a lack of sympathy and a lack of concern. Loki grasps Tony’s intentions easily, however, so he doesn’t waste his energy getting even more upset than he already is. Instead, he does something much more sensible and beneficial to this whole clusterfuck of a circumstance – he apologizes.

“I’m so sorry,” is his soft reply, and as the words leave his mouth, Loki realizes that they have much more weight than he initially thought they did. He isn’t just remorseful for acting like a child and resorting to tears like he so often does – that doesn’t even cover half of his guilt. There’s also the fact that he (Thor, really, but everything has to be Loki’s fault somehow because that’s the way the universe works, am I right?) ruined this whole night – Tony’s birthday night – and there’s also the fact that he’s really selfish and rude and unstable and has to be protected all the time, and there’s also the fact that it’s so easy for him to assume that Tony’s abandoning him despite that he really should know better, that he can know better, that he does know better–

Loki’s not allowed to say or think much more than that, though, because Tony’s wrapping his arms around him and just holding him, then, grounding him in the moment like an anchor or a lifeline, and shit, there’s another reason for Loki to feel like an asshole – Tony wouldn’t ever hesitate to comfort him, even if he himself was going through the most intense and horrifying of emotional undertakings. Loki returns the man’s embrace almost immediately, squeezing his arms around his neck and pressing their faces together, and he’s suddenly struck with the vague sensation of being caught in the middle of a romance movie or some kind of epic love story when he remembers the first time they ever hugged like this, back when trust was a weird thing to both of them, and intimacy was Tony’s worst nightmare, and physical contact was something that made Loki sick to his stomach.

“Don’t apologize,” Tony eventually says, his lips brushing against Loki’s and his voice unsteady as he speaks. He lets their noses lodge together and gives Loki a tight, shuddering squeeze, adds, “You’ve been perfect tonight.”

“I’ve been drunk tonight,” Loki starts to argue before he can stop himself, but Tony cuts him off the best way he knows how – with his mouth.

“Love has nothing to do with your blood alcohol level,” Tony retorts against Loki’s lips, parroting himself with a small, wry smirk. Loki gives Tony a soft laugh for that, leans their foreheads together, returns every kiss Tony gives him with the faint, somewhat unsupported notion that he’s not going to be able to do this again. And they stay like that for so long, just kissing each other and fighting their tears, that it seems like years have passed when Tony pulls away from Loki like a thread being plucked from a seam.

“Stop that. You’re making me tear up, too,” he murmurs, moving his hand to wipe at Loki’s cheeks a second time. When Loki opens his mouth to respond, Tony cuts him off and reiterates, “And don’t apologize.”

Way to hit a nail on the head, huh?

Loki seals his lips and tries to turn their corners upwards, but he only ends up looking even more miserable than he did before, only ends up covering his mouth with the back of his hand to stifle the sob that wants to come out of him, only ends up blinking back the tears Tony hates so much. Tony still entertains him with smile, though.

“I’ll come pick you up tomorrow so you can get your car, okay?” the man says, the end of his statement escaping him in a half-croak that threatens to just kill Loki. Tony visibly swallows and shakes his head in what looks like a vain attempt to steal that rasp and bury it back inside him, but he knows Loki caught it, and he can only watch and grin and sigh as the man plasters a hand to his face and lets out a bitter laugh of a sob.

“Okay,” Loki replies once he can get the situation in his throat, which is basically just a speech-hindering tangle of sadness and helplessness, under control.

“Just call me when you wake up,” Tony goes on, sniffing moistly and quirking his lips into another thin, crooked smirk. “I probably won’t even go to sleep tonight.”

Loki frowns, pulling his fingers away from his eyes to fix Tony with a semi-disapproving look and plead, plainly and without any room for misunderstanding, “Try to.”

Tony’s smile softens at that. He reaches out to take Loki’s hand, squeezes it, drops it, and says, “Call me.” Loki’s aware that Tony’s dodging an argument because of the hole such a thing would land them in, so he decides to not push the issue of the man’s health and sanity out of both respect for his decisions and exhaustion with the world. It’s not like it matters that much anyways – they both know how little sleep they’re going to get.

“Okay,” Loki repeats, bringing his hands up to frame Tony’s face and grazing his thumbs along his cheekbones. He takes a moment to kiss at his cheeks, his jaws, his lips, trying, only a bit desperately, to hold onto him just a little longer, because Tony could get in a car accident on his way home, or he could change his mind about him and Montana and America and living between now and the second Loki decides to pick up the phone, or Pepper or Steve or his father could get a hold of him before Loki, and goddammit, Loki’s never wished for anything more than he’s wishing for Tony to stay right now, with the possible exception of a slow, painless, self-inflicted death.

And then Tony’s kissing his forehead and telling him goodnight, and Loki’s letting the man walk away from him without saying a word, and he’s watching him get in his truck, and he’s not waving at him, and he’s staring after a pair of taillights until they disappear around the corner of the street, and he’s been standing in the doorway for such a long time, studying darkness so hard he could ace a course on it, that it’s like waking up from an awful dream when he lets himself realize that things don’t happen without anything to make them do so, and they’re isn’t a damn cause creating any events at the moment.

When Loki tears his eyes away from the end of the road and turns to face the interior of his house, which suddenly doesn’t feel anything like a home, he’s greeted with the wonderful sight of Thor White and the Four Dwarves, all crowded together in one pocket of the living room. They look so perfect and scared and unharmed that Loki actually feels physically sick just looking at them, and some invisible waiter is asking him if he’d like a side of blind rage with that unfathomable pain, and he’s replying ‘fuck yes’.

What comes out of his mouth then will terrify and disgust him later on, but at this very moment, it feels just fucking right on his tongue. It escapes him really quietly, like it’s some kind of secret he’s telling, and it’s so blatant and so awful that he should really just lock himself up and never speak to another person again for as long as he lives.

“I hate you,” is what he says, and the reason why those three words are the worst Loki could ever say is the fact that he hasn’t said them since Thor left for college. He hasn’t said them since he decided that he’d rather be cold instead of hot, because heat never earned him the reaction he wanted. He hasn’t said them since the accident, and the accident reshaped him into a monster, into this hateful, self-destructive creature he was only just beginning to shed the skin of, and now he feels it, now he feels himself slipping back into that quicksand of a mindset, now he feels himself loathing Thor like he did the day the man stole his authenticity and his self-worth and his everything, now he feels that urge to rip himself up from the inside, carve his stomach and chisel his heart and refuse to eat and never stop sleeping, and you know why those three fucking words are the worst Loki could ever say?

They’re true. That’s why.

Thor’s face takes on his brother’s snowy complexion when he hears that, and the look on his face is almost questioning, almost disbelieving in nature. He stares at Loki for a long time, like he’s waiting for him to go on or close the door or something, before just asking, in a voice much quieter that what’s usual for him, “What?”

He’s hurt. That’s cute.

And it’s almost as if they’ve switched intensities, because where Thor is usually loud and vociferous and Loki is usually quiet and subtle, here Loki is, screaming, “I hate you!”, and his face is redder than a tomato and his eyes are dripping with tears, and Sif, Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun are all cringing in perfect unison, and Thor is just standing there, awkward and silent and everything Loki used to be when Father would criticize him or Thor would put him down or Freyr would take advantage of him or Freya would outshine him.

“What did I ever do to you? I’ve never taken a damn thing from you, Thor, and all you seem to do is rip everything out of me whenever the fuck you want to, at least, when you’re not busy being perfect for everybody!” Loki rages on, practically hanging off the edge of the door and stabbing his fingers into his chest for emphasis. He catches Fandral wincing from behind Thor, and all of a sudden, every ounce of anger in him is being directed at him in particular.

“And you!” he cries, his hand flying forward and his index finger outstretched in Fandral’s direction. When Fandral gives him a somewhat questioning look, Loki barks, “Yes, you,” and the blond only has enough time to duck his head before he’s getting an earful of unadulterated, long-kindled wrath.

“How fucking dare you come into my house – my house – and harass me like you have the fucking right to!” Loki seethes. “How fucking dare you put your hands on me! You think you’re entitled to me because I’m your best friend’s baby brother? Is that what you think?!”

Fandral just stares at him, terrified, and you can bet your ass that isn’t going to fly – not now, when Loki’s so tired.

Answer me, you coward! Do you think you’re entitled to me?!” Loki shrieks, his head pounding with the sheer volume of the words coming out of him. He’s going to get a reply out of Fandral if it kills him, he swears.

Fandral starts shaking his head before Loki’s even finished asking his question, raising his hands in the universal I didn’t do anything gesture and spluttering, “No, no, no, n–”

“Bullshit,” Loki interjects, only taking a second to shoot a go die painfully, I hate your fucking soul, loathing-filled glare of death at Fandral before relocating his focus to Sif, who has made herself as comfortable as she possibly can pressed against Thor’s side like she’s going to protect the man if Loki spontaneously morphs into a murderous wolf and lunges for him.

“You, too,” Loki starts, voice a degree quieter and an octave or two higher. Sif actually has the audacity to glower at him when it becomes obvious that she’s the one he’s talking to, but that only makes Loki’s words that much more apt when he growls, “Oh, you think you’re so fucking tough, don’t you? You think you’re hot shit because you can hold your own in a group of cavemen as well as walk all over them, don’t you, sweetheart?”

“Excuse me?” Sif gasps, narrowing her eyes at Loki, and if the judge asks, yes she did beg for her own murder.

“No, you’re not excused!” Loki cries, taking another step towards the pack of fuckasses he’s dealing with. “You think you’re empowered because you can shock everybody with your pseudo-feminism and your strong, independent, emotionally constipated femaleness? You think I appreciate your constant undermining of my brother? You think it’s cute to be rude?”

He’s being a hypocrite and he knows it. That only makes him angrier.

Sif doesn’t answer him, just like Fandral didn’t the first time, her hard exterior slowly crumbling to reveal a powerlessness Loki only knows too well. Loki decides to let her get away with not confronting him, but only because his throat is burning and it’s getting pretty hard for him to see and he’s really tired, tired of shooting himself in the foot and tired of yelling at brick walls and tired of being unable to articulate his feelings and tired of hating everything and everybody and tired of living and tired of being tired.

There’s a long moment where nobody moves, and all you can hear is Loki’s hitched breathing and the murmured sounds coming from the television and the chirping of crickets outside, and Loki’s still crying and Sif and Volstagg look like they’re not far from doing so themselves, and Thor’s eyes are fixed on the floor and he looks more lost than he’s ever, and really? Loki almost (almost) feels sorry for him, for he’s absolutely certain that Thor has never been uncertain about anything until now.

And then Loki rasps, quiet enough to be considered a whisper, “Get out.”

Fandral, Sif, Volstagg, and Hogun all gawk at him as if he’s just spoken to them in some mysterious, arcane language. Of course.

“Get out!” Loki repeats, louder and reminiscent enough of the screeching, harpylike thing he was seconds before he realized how exhausted he was to scare everybody into motion. Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun scramble from behind Thor, hurrying to grab their shoes and the various other things they have scattered all over Loki’s (Loki’s, as in, possessive of Loki) living room. Sif takes a bit longer than the three of them to make herself scarce, choosing instead to linger at Thor’s side a few seconds longer.

And Loki can tell she’s in love with him. He knows she is, knows by the way she tilts his face into hers and kisses his cheek, knows by the way she whispers something to him, something only he can hear, and he’s been knowing since the first time he ever witnessed an argument of theirs – only a person in love would say things so terrifying. That doesn’t make Loki any less infuriated with her for using his brother as a doormat whenever she pleases, though, because even though it’s not that hard for him to do the same, it isn’t like he criticizes Thor for fun.

Fandral makes a notable and valiant attempt to avoid Loki on his way out the door, Volstagg and Hogun doing the same (with only the latter succeeding, because girth is a thing that exists). Sif actually hesitates before Loki, however, uneasily meeting his stormy, fatigued eyes and giving him a soft, resigned, “Sorry, Loki.”

Under any other circumstances, Loki might respect Sif for that, but she has a thing about disrespecting Thor and she’s allowed to have sex with the person she loves, so her thoughtfulness fails to touch Loki as much as they both want it to.

Loki blinks coldly at her and replies, “Me, too.” He doesn’t have to wait long for Sif to look away and follow after her friends, and as soon as she’s out of range, he pushes the door shut and listens to the satisfying thunk that seems to reverberate through the universe when it clicks into its frame.

Loki doesn’t look at Thor when he turns away from the door and crosses the living room so he can walk into the kitchen. He’s like a zombie when he enters the brightness of the room, his footsteps dragging the slightest bit and every movement a deliberate one. Loki’s eyes immediately land on an opened, barely-drunk bottle of water sitting on the counter by the fridge, and he vaguely remembers Tony grabbing that before he went to go feed Fenrir. He has to clean his face at that memory.

Loki is sat on the counter and slowly finishing off that bottle, scrubbing at his eyes with the cuffs of his sleeves, when Thor makes his way into the kitchen, mountainous and solemn like a cumulonimbus cloud on one of those weirdly bright but undeniably gray days of unpredictable weather. They look at each other instinctively, so used to doing that automatically when confronted with one another’s presence, and all Loki can see in his brother’s eyes is a maelstrom of hurt, and he suddenly feels like screaming again, but he can just see himself falling off of the counter and busting his head on the linoleum floor if he did that, and he’s really fucking tired, and nothing he’d say would have any meaning, so he opts to do nothing but press his lips to the rim of his/Tony’s water bottle and wait for Thor to speak first.

Thor doesn’t take his time. He says, “I’m sorry,” in his oddly hushed voice, and his apology reminds Loki how to continue being angry for a second or two.

“Are you sorry because you hurt my feelings or are you sorry because I reacted the way I did?” Loki asks. He sounds dreadfully hoarse to his own ears, so he reminds himself to never speak again. The world would probably be a much better place if he stopped talking for the rest of his life.

Thor’s face takes on this expression akin to that of a kicked puppy dog, and he inclines his head in Loki’s direction, answers, “Both?” It seems like he’s unsure of his own answer, but Loki knows that the only thing Thor’s uncertain about is his potential reaction and the consequences of being emotionally available to a person as unpredictable and explosive as he is. As he should be.

Loki chooses not to go apeshit on Thor again. He’s done with that for the night. Instead, he finishes drinking his/Tony’s water, slides off of the counter, chucks the bottle in the trashcan, looks Thor in the eyes, and says, “Give me one good reason to let you stay here after tonight.”

Thor looks like he’s on the verge of tears when he replies, “I’m your brother.”

Somehow, Loki knew that was the response he was going to get.

“Think of a better one and tell me tomorrow. Clean up the living room. I’m going to bed,” he says, turning away from Thor and heading for the door. Loki pauses just before he exits the kitchen to add, “And I don’t want to hear a thing. One noise and you’re out of here.”

He means that.

When Loki finds himself back in his room, eyeing the slight disarray of his bedsheets, he realizes with a touch of relief that the sweater he happened to pull on forever ago is perfect for a night like this, a night when the only thing to accompany him to bed is the wailing in his soul and the reign of terror in his head and the awful loop of the awful events of this awful evening streaming through his mind without end. It’s large enough for him to feel childish and warm enough for him to forgo blankets and old enough for him to rub the cuffs between his fingertips and remember other times his hands were too shy to be seen. It’s exactly what he needs.

So he strips himself of everything but it and his underwear and crawls into bed. And he thinks about things for awhile before he falls asleep.

Loki thinks about Pepper Potts. He thinks about how she and Tony dated before they came to Montana. He thinks about how Tony told him that she was the first person he fell in love with, and he thinks about how he and Pepper are kind of similar in the way they’re clever and sarcastic and Tony’s closest friends. He thinks that maybe he’d be okay with turning into Pepper one day, but only after spending a good month or two being the love of Tony’s life.

Loki thinks about Steve, too. He thinks about how he probably won over him tonight, in some small way. He thinks about how Steve wouldn’t ever do for Tony what he did. He thinks about how Steve wouldn’t ever cry for Tony like he did. He thinks that makes him the winner.

Loki thinks about Freyr, too. He thinks about what Freyr would think of him being in love with somebody. He thinks about things Freyr’s said to him before, things that implied that love was a fairytale and an invention of human beings with the sole purpose of providing a reason to have sex. He thinks about that time they were high. He stops himself right there.

Loki thinks about Freya, then, for she brings him much happier thoughts than her twin does. He thinks about what she would think of him being in love with somebody. He thinks about what it would be like to still be friends with her. He thinks about how he used to French braid her hair whenever he was upset because it gave him something to do. He thinks he’d like to French braid her hair right now.

More than anything, Loki thinks about Tony, though. He thinks about how he gets choked up whenever thinks about him, which is all the time. He thinks about how he’s basically been an asthmatic since the day he decided he liked him. He thinks about how when he hears songs on the radio, he imagines they’re about them. He thinks about how he doesn’t know what to do with himself when he goes too long without seeing him. He thinks about how he sometimes wonders how something as perfect as Tony could possibly exist. He thinks about how he’s never had thoughts like this about anybody. He thinks about how Tony touched him tonight. He thinks about how he let Tony touch him like that. He thinks about how he liked it. Loki stops thinking after that thought.

Thor doesn’t make a noise.