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Story and Sorcery

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“Sir, Loki is in the building.”

Jarvis has been making observations on Tony's upgrades for the past hour, so at first Tony just hums in faux-acknowledgement. Then he realises what was said. He peels his arm from the mechanised gauntlet he had been improving and pushes all his tools back across the table. He needs to get his suit together. “Who's present other than me and him?”

“No one, sir. Agents Romanoff and Barton are currently on S.H.I.E.L.D business. Doctor Banner is attending a conference in London. Thor's current location is unknown. Captain Rogers is on patrol. Would you like me to send out an alert?”

“Keep it vague, but yeah. Let Steve know there might be a situation.”

The last time Loki visited the tower he actually helped them. He showed up, acted like trouble, then provided unsolicited help. It was enough to make a guy wonder if maybe, just maybe, rehabilitation could work after fifty-something second chances.

Tony clips on his wristbands to summon the Iron Man suit. Loki is too unpredictable to take any chances. His rebirth doesn't change that, no matter how pretty he gets.

When he jogs up the steps and opens his workshop door, Loki almost falls through it. Tony has to steady him. Well, catch him. The bare skin of Loki's chest is cool against his hands. “Whoa, not traditionally how we greet round here.”

Loki doesn't even look exasperated. He just looks pained and exhausted. He staggers back onto his feet, clutching his middle with bruised arms. “I need...”

“Thor's not here.”

“Good,” Loki huffs out. “I need sanctuary.”

“You're fleeing something?” Tony leans out into the corridor, fully expecting to see a horde of angry supervillains or heroes stampeding into the tower.

“Yes. Please? I...” Loki looks down at the ground. “I've nowhere else. No one else.”

Rolling his eyes at the teenage angst, Tony feels the need to ask, “Whose fault is that?”

He doesn't expect the stricken look in Loki's green eyes. “I... I suppose it's my own, isn't it.” The young god pushes himself properly upright with one hand on the doorframe. “I understand. I'm sorry to have bothered you.”

So that's what kicking a puppy feels like. Tony sighs as Loki turns away. “What are you running from, kid?” The nickname just slips out, his brain not connecting this maybe-twenty-something man with the millennia-old god that liked to make their lives hell.

“Myself.” Loki looks back over his shoulder at him, waiting to see if he will get his sanctuary.

If he meant that in some pithy philosophical way he wouldn't be covered in bruises. One would hope. “I don't know if the other Avengers would agree.”

Loki closes his eyes and nods, resigned.

“But I've got a room down here in the workshop,” Tony continues. “You'd better come in. Tell me what's going on. And if I don't like what I hear...”

“I'll leave,” Loki says without prompting.

Tony holds the door open for him and watches Loki wince his way down the steps into the workshop. “Jarvis, tell Steve it's a false alarm.” He's fairly confident that if everything goes to hell, Jarvis can call Cap again. Steve might even get here before Loki kills him or turns him into a cat.

He follows Loki down and leads him through to the small room he has at the side to crash in. It's always served him well as a hiding place too. The Asgardian sinks down onto the end of the small bed and grips his knees, closing his eyes and taking deep breaths. There are bruises all around his torso, like someone had tried to crush him with their arms wrapped around his middle. Now that he looks closer, Tony can see faint bruising around his mouth and cheeks too.

“So... yourself? Wanna elaborate?”

By the time he's dragged a stool over, Loki is looking up at him.

“Alright,” the god says quietly.

And Loki tells him a complex, entertaining and horrifying story.