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Feel me bleed

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It all begun exactly six months after the Battle of New York.

It felt like liquid fire had been splashed against his back, and Tony's knees gave out at the surprise. He fell to the floor with a choked off yell, twisting around in anticipation of an attack.

Only that, there was no one else in his workshop.

"Sir, are you all–" JARVIS' inquiry was cut off when another yell tore from Tony's lips; this time his hands were being boiled, and he watched in shock as they shook and let go of the pliers he'd been grasping just now. The skin didn't even redden despite the agonizing sensation.

"-the fuck?" was all he could whimper before he had to gasp for air and scream again. He vaguely heard JARVIS announcing he'd call for help, and soon he felt hands on his shoulders.

"--ny? Tony!" Bruce, who'd been the first one to move in to the renamed Avengers tower after its repairs, called him, and Tony tried to focus on his dark brown eyes. They were slightly green on the edges.

"H-hey, Big Guy–" He couldn't hold back the scream that followed. Cracking his eyes open, he caught Bruce biting his lip and the next thing he knew, he was being carried out of his workshop by two sets of strong hands. Steve and Clint.

"Tony, what is it?" Steve tries to ask him, but Tony's mind is unfortunately occupied by the soaring pain currently ripping up his abdomen. "Tony!" the Captain presses, but the inventor can't bring himself to focus; the pain is too intense. He hears incoherent muttering from above him, as the three talk about something – presumably Tony. When the next pang of pain hits him in the back again, he tries to smother his howl, but only ends up choking on his own tongue and crying out anyway.

Steve tugs him against his chest tightly, and they exit the tower and into the quinjet. Clint gives him an urgent pat on his knee, before quickly running off to the cockpit. Tony's scream turns into a whimper once the quinjet is on the air, and he mercifully loses consciousness.

 


 

He woke up in a hospital bed, hooked up to a heart monitor and an IV attached to his hand.

"Whuh...?"

"Hey, shush, now," Bruce says from his right, and Tony turns his head to look at the man.

Not a good move.

"Ow." His muscles were aching like crazy. "What the hell happened?" he asks Bruce, who glances briefly behind him; Steve is standing there in his Captain America posture, eyeing the curl-haired scientist back with worried eyes.

"Uh, we were kind of hoping you'd know the answer to that," the brunette replies finally, turning back to look at Tony. The engineer frowns at him.

"No fucking idea. But I sure hope it won't happen again." He attempts to swing his sore legs over the edge of the bed, but hands snatch his ankles.

"Like hell you're going anywhere," he hears Clint's voice state. He turns his face to glare at the archer.

"I'm not staying here, Katniss," he says with narrowed eyes. Clint answers his glare with equally narrowed eyes.

"Tony, I'm not watching you scream like that a second time. It scared the crap outta me. You're staying here until we or the docs figure out what's wrong." The calm stubbornness in his voice catches Tony offguard. Clint must have really freaked out about his episode. He glances around the room. Steve and Bruce are looking at him with concern and equal resolve in their eyes. Tony relents with a sigh.

"Okay, your puppy dog eyes worked this time," he grumbles as he leans against the mattress again. "I'll stay here, but only for a little while longer." He tries to avoid looking into the relieved faces of his teammates; they know that 'a little while' is the best they are going to get from Tony when it comes to hospitals. Tony hates hospitals.

Wait, where is he even?

"Where are we?" he asks and scans the room with new interest. It's close enough to a normal hospital room, but somehow doesn't have the same feeling. And it definitely isn't the tower's medical bay. So, "SHIELD?"

Clint hums, "Yeah, that's right. We thought that you'd be most safe around here if it was some sorta attack. JARVIS said that it wasn't, though." Tony jerks a nod and grunts his acknowledgement.

"Tony," Steve says from his post behind Bruce, "Do you have any idea–"

"No, I don't," the engineer interrupts, wiping a hand over his face. God, he feels horrible. His hands are stiff and his back is pulsing painfully and his muscles are hurting. Also, his patience is running thin.

"Maybe you should sleep some more, alright, Tony?" Bruce interjects, probably sensing Tony's mood. "We'll stay in the waiting room. Do you need something for the pain or to help you sleep?" Tony looks back at his friend, wanting to argue but deeming himself too tired. And clearly Bruce isn't giving him any other options.

"No, thanks, buddy. And you all can get back home, I'm a big boy, I can handle myself," he says and tries to relax against the pillows. It's hard with the knives poking at his back.

Clint scoffs at him, but leans over to ruffle his hair anyway, despite Tony's protests. They leave the room with a few 'sleep well' wishes and 'good bye's. Tony waves them off, and sleep finds him surprisingly easy.

 


 

The following day, Tony wakes up again to scream and trash on his bed. It continues throughout the week, Tony starting to feel phantom pain in different parts of his body once or twice every 24 hours, causing him to howl his lungs out and claw everything that's accessible from his spot on the bed.

They decide to keep him in the SHIELD's medical facility for monitoring, and Tony's too exhausted to even whine about it. And that makes his teammates even more worried.

After one and half weeks of lying half-dead in the hospital, Natasha gets back from her mission. She comes to visit him, deems him to be in a very poor condition, and comes up with a different kind of an idea.

"With what you've told me, I've gathered that it doesn't seem to be random, if he starts feeling pain always around the same hours of the day. No known illnesses have such extreme symptoms as his, the doctors have checked him over for any brain dysfunction, bio devices that could cause pain or super viruses, and he hasn't been attacked at any point.

"So, I'm thinking, since no one can help him here on Earth, then maybe it isn't something of Earth," she concludes.

"And 'he' is gathering from this conversation that you want to ask Thor for help?" Tony snarks from his hospital bed at the other four Avengers standing on the concrete before it. Natasha sends an unimpressed look his way.

"That's right, зайка." Tony frowns at her.

"Don't you зайка me, young lady."

"Ohh, look who's getting cranky over staying holed up in a hospital for so long!" Clint quips and comes to pinch his cheek, grinning. Tony bats his hand away.

"Shut up, birdbrain." Then he addresses the whole team, "Just go and try to reach Thor, maybe he can help." The team members shake theirs heads or roll their eyes at him, already too used to the shit Tony gives them to take it to the heart. Bruce squeezes his hand and Natasha kisses his forehead before they all, sans Steve, who's currently on 'Tony duty', leave the room.

Steve grabs his sketchbook and moves over to the couch as Tony flips on his tablet. He tries to catch up on some work from SI and SHIELD, all the while waiting for the next painful episode to emerge.

 


 

It's another week before Thor finally returns to Earth, though it's no thanks to any of the Avengers or Jane (whom they'd consulted), but an act decided on a mere whim of the blonde god. Or not, but Tony couldn't really care right now.

The billionaire's lost around eight pounds in the roughly two and half weeks and is nowadays to exhausted to do even the lightest work on his Stark Pad. The rest of the team is also tired from staying up with him at the hospital and constantly on edge from watching him suffer and scream daily.

SHIELD scientist have done all kinds of tests and scans on him, and once that didn't provide any answers about Tony's condition, the team has become overly protective and now only a handful of doctors are allowed near him. Also, there's always at least one teammate with him, a gesture which he is secretly grateful for.

So, when Thor walks through the door, Tony has his hopes up for answers and preferably for a cure.

"Hi, Hot Shot. How are alien affairs?" It's always fun to see the god's confused face. Bruce, sitting on the chair next to his bed, rolls his eyes good-naturedly.

"They are...fine. What is this illness of yours that our shield-brothers speak of? They tell me you have been in pain." Straight to the business then.

"Yeah, that's right. No one knows why, though, which is kinda shame. Begun about two and half weeks go. You happen to know anything useful? Some alien diseases or some shit like that?" But Thor ignores his questions.

"...two and half weeks, you say?" he asks sharply, instead, and stalks closer.

"Um, yeah, that's what I said." Thor is silent for a moment, presumably in thought.

"Thor?" Bruce prods politely.

"Hey, Thunder!" Tony prods more, not so politely. "Care to let us in?" He tries to keep his voice cheery, but it's getting harder. A drop of sweat slides down the side of his face and he reaches to wipe it away, before Bruce notices and makes him lie down again.

"Do you experience these pains at a certain time of a day, my friend?"

"Actually, yes, I do, but how's that–...do you know what–" He's cut off when Thor suddenly takes the final step up to his bed and pushes his hands against Tony's chest, right above the arc reactor. Tony's breath catches in his throat and the heart monitor blares.

"Thor!" Bruce addresses the god, getting up to his feet, but Thor is already pulling his hand away and backing up from the bed.

"...I need to leave to Asgard immediately." It breaks the spell and Tony looks up at him with a gasp.

"What? Why?! Thor, wait, get back here! Wait, you're not going anywhere–" But it's already too late; Thor is out of the door, and Bruce is holding Tony so that he can't spring after him.

"Come on, Tony, you know you can't get out of the bed," Bruce sputters between puffs of air, as he tries to maneuver Tony to lie down. It has been increasingly hard for Tony to get up recently, nearly all dexterity leaving his limbs, pain and exhaustion taking place in them instead. Tony gives up with a broken huff, and lets Bruce talk him into taking the sleeping pill.

 


 

Surprisingly, Thor returns the next day, with no other with him than his mother, Frigga, The Queen of Asgard.

Seriously, was this even Tony's life.

"Is this the man you told me about?" the queen asks Thor, as they enter the room. long robes trailing after them. Clint stands up and eyes them suspiciously. The rest of the team follow Thor and his mother inside.

"Aye, he is. What do you see, mother?" She takes a few light steps towards Tony, and Clint stiffens next to him. She turns her eyes to him.

"I mean no harm, little one. I am here merely to help." They stare at each other for a while, before Clint nods tersely, dropping his eyes to Tony instead. The queen then looks into his eyes.

"May I?" she asks as she extends her hand and lets it hover above his chest. Well, at least Tony knows who Thor didn't learn his manners from.

He nods, keeping eye contact, and Frigga lays her delicate hand on top of the reactor. A warm feeling courses through the area she touches, and Tony gasps slightly, making his team jerk. Then the queen retracts her hand and nods grimly. She turns her upper body to Thor, but stays halfway turned to Tony, also.

"It is as you feared, my dear," she says, and then looks at Tony again. "He has bonded with Loki."

 


 

"I have what?!"

"Thor, you must return to Asgard immediately. Loki's punishment is to be put to an end at the utmost urgency. We cannot harm innocent souls at the same, much less a mortal one."

"Aye, mother." Tony watched in shock as Thor turned and left, his traveling robes flapping after him. He turned to look back at the blonde's mother still standing there, all regal, as she pressed her fingers into her brow, much like Tony did when he was trying to prevent a headache. And failing.

"Um, I'm sorry to interrupt, but could you please elaborate on what the fuck is going on?" He ignored Steve's hissed 'Tony!', in order to meet Frigga's even gaze.

"Of course, my fierce mortal," she answered patiently, then snapped her fingers, forming a chair behind her, and took a seat. Tony looked at the scene with wide yes, snapping out of it only at Frigga's gentle, "Anthony, isn't it?"

"Tony, actually, but yeah, sure." She smiled at him, and then turned her face to the other Avengers, all except Clint still cramped near the room's entrance.

"Please, do all take a seat," she urged, and waited until everyone was sitting or at least leaning against some surface with feigned ease.

"I am under the impression that your world doesn't hold the knowledge about 'soulmates'," the goddess begins and Tony groans softly.

"Oh, fucking hell, please, don't tell me Loki's my soulmate," Tony pleads tiredly and pushes his fingers into his eyes, pressing at his eyelids. She just smiles at him ruefully, and all Tony wants to do is cry.

"Soulmates are extremely rare in the Nine Realms. Midgard reportedly has had none thus far, since the bond is made through magic, which your kind holds no control over. You are the first mortal to ever soul bond with another being."

"Hooray for me," he answers bitterly, probably in shock and not quite swallowing the whole thing just yet, still waiting for someone to suddenly cackle at his horrified expression and tell him it's just a joke. A bad one at that. But, looking at the faces of his teammates, it isn't likely to happen.

He turns his face back and stares at his hands in his lap, anxiety filling him up. Then the it hits him what Frigga had just said.

"Uh, but I don't have any magic crap or anything, so how could I have–"

"Every being holds magic inside, my child," the goddess corrects him. "Others merely know not how to control it, as others do, or alternatively learn how to. As have you done." At Tony's confused face, she points one finger into the direction of his arc reactor.

"...what? So, you mean that this–" he flails one hand around his chest, "–is some kinda magic? I'm sorry to disappoint, but–"

"I am not a fool and I know magic when I see it," Frigga interrupts him, with a sharpness to her tone and Tony knows to drop it (which is kind of remarkable, since when has Tony known when to drop something).

She soon continues, "A soul bond cannot form without the touch of the soulmates' magics. I can clearly sense my son's magic on you, and it tells me that he indeed is your bonded." Tony screwed his eyes shut tightly, be it rude or not.

This wasn't happening.

"When was it?" Steve asks from behind Frigga's back. "I-I mean, when did they...bond?" Dear lord, the way he says that word. Tony wanted to sink through the floor.

"Do you know how it happened, Anthony?" Frigga asked, interrupting his inner turmoil.

"...there was a moment when he tried to use his mind control mojo on me, and his scepter touched my reactor." Tony avoided the surprised looks his team sent his way. He hadn't told them that one interesting tidbit of information. "The control thing didn't work though, obviously." Frigga nodded slowly, eyes growing distant.

"Yes...that could be it. The scepter holds the Mind Stone, which is the force that Loki used to control the minds of others. The scepter itself though, operates through the magic of its wielder, therefore through Loki's magic. Altough, it usually requires a month's time for the bond to begin functioning normally, I believe that to be the moment  it was first formed."

"So, how does all this explain the pains Tony's been feeling? It's been already six months since the whole Battle of New York." Clint interjects from his spot near the windows.

"Six months has passed since Loki was defeated and brought back to Asgard for captivity. The trials begun three months ago and ended two and half weeks ago." The queen paused for a small moment, her face visibly paling as she mulled over her thoughts. "The disciplinary actions were started immediately." She met Tony's gaze evenly, pain, sadness and regret residing in her gunmetal-blue eyes. Tony's own widened at the realization.

"You were torturing him," he stated, already getting uneasy shivers up his spine at the thought. The atmosphere in the room tensed. Frigga's downcast look was all the confirmation Tony needed.

He knows torture, knows how it can break you so thoroughly and how deep scars it can leave. The pain he'd been feeling these few past weeks had been horrible enough by itself, and presuming it to belong to Loki, coupled with emotional torture and neglect Tony was sure they were also utilizing, he felt ill to his stomach just thinking about it. He had had his friends to pull him through when it had sometimes gotten too bad, but he doubted Loki'd had had the same privilege. Torture was an ugly thing, and no one deserved it.

"That's sick," he said, and was proud how steady he managed to keep his voice, although his hands couldn't stop shaking. Frigga merely nodded, and they sat in silence for a while.

"What are we supposed to do about this?" Tony asked when he found his voice again. The goddess blinked slowly at him.

"We cannot continue the execution of Loki's sentence, not with a soulmate involved. The two of you must be reunited as soon as possible, so that you may heal with more efficiency and the bond shall begin to strengthen–"

"Whoah, whoah, hold you horses, ma'am!" Tony interrupts, holding his hands up to halt her. "I might feel some small amount of compassion for your son, but that's it. No way, I want this 'bond' to strengthen or some shit like that–"

"It is no option, Anthony. Once formed, the bond will not break, only strengthen if allowed, no matter how much you stretch or violate it. It will only cause you and your bonded harm or an early grave, were you to attempt to somehow severe it. The more time you two spend apart, the more ill you shall feel. Although, I am sure you have noticed that already, your health gradually worsening during these six months. Am I wrong, Anthony?" Tony held her gaze steadily, feeling like a child as he did. She wasn't wrong.

"Tony?" Bruce pressed when he didn't answer her right away, and Tony turned to eye his team – all were looking either super worried or downright pissed at him.

"Alright, maybe I haven't been feeling all that great. So what? I have been dying before, I just assumed I was getting old or my liver was finally failing or that the reactor had some minor malfunction or–"

"Tony, why didn't you tell us?" Natasha asked sharply, purposely interrupting his rambling and locking her steely and hurt eyes with his. Ouch.

"I...I'm sorry, Tasha, everyone. I guess I just didn't know how to put it." Tony scoffed mentally. Hey guys, guess what, I'm dying again! And it wasn't like he had been certain about it. His symptoms had basically just been: 1) dropping all the shit he touched from coffee mugs to screwdrivers, 2) increasingly frequent throwing up, for no apparent reason, 3) night sweats and tremors, which he had never experienced before without a nightmare involved, and 4) overall lassitude, massive headaches, small fevers and nausea.

Okay, maybe he should have said something.

"Maybe you should have just opened your mouth," Steve said, and it was like he'd just read Tony's mind, so he didn't dare argue back. He raised his eyes from his lap when a gentle hand touched his shoulder.

"Not to worry, dear. I shall see to it personally that Loki will do no harm to you or any other, even as it pains me deeply to do so. However, I do not believe him to be someone who'd willingly hurt his intended." Tony nodded and even attempted a wavery smile, even if her sentiment did nothing to reassure him. She squeezed before retreating her hand.

And that's when Thor decided to reappear.

"Mother," he boomed, once again forgetting his inside voice. "We shall return to Asgard now, we are greatly needed for the hearing." He turned to look at Tony. "And The Man of Iron shall come with us, also."

Fuck his life.

Chapter Text

Him. To Asgard.

He holds the stare contest with Thor for a moment, then glances at Frigga, groans and starts detaching the electrodes and the IV. No use arguing then. He stops when Clint's hand comes to stop his own.

"Wait a minute, Tony's not going anywhere. Something could happen," he says, positioning himself slightly in front of Tony. Oh, what a mother hen he was under all that brass. He might even be worse than Steve.

"He is completely safe with us, my friend," Thor tells him with unexpected patience. "He shall even fare better once the distance between him and his bonded has been diminished."

The archer bristles. "Just...just stop about the soulmates," he snaps, carefully avoiding eye contact. The whole room tenses.

"Clint," Natasha calls from her seat, and Clint's shoulders slump slightly.

Tony swallows. Everyone knows that Loki is still a bit delicate topic for Clint, so he can only imagine how it must feel like for him, finding out that one of your closest friends is, out of all the crazy things in this world, soul bonded to the very man you still occasionally have nightmares of. He can't help feeling a tad guilty, even when the rational part of his brain tells him that it can't possibly be his fault. Right?

He sighs tiredly, and starts to get up. This time Clint lets him.

Getting up proves to be a lot harder than he'd originally thought. In the beginning of his hospital stay, he'd been able to get out of the bed just fine, for instance when he needed to go to the toilet, wash up or just stretch his legs. Now, his energy already drained after the conversation with the two Norse gods, it feels like a pure impossibility.

Fortunately, in the end, he somehow manages to slide down to the floor with wobbly legs, aided by Clint. He glances down at his hospital gown and frowns.

"Should I change into something a bit more...I don't know, tidy?" All Tony had at the hospital were the clothes he'd had when he first came in, and they were even farther away from tidy than the hospital clothes, stained with motor oil, torn and spattered with small holes from burns acquired from his workshop. Thor nodded eagerly at him and threw a large leather pouch he'd been holding in his hand to Tony's bed. He pulled out a navy blue tunic, dark brown leather pants and a pair of matching brown boots. Tony blinked at the garments.

"You must dress accordingly, Anthony," Thor told him, clearly content with himself. All Tony could do was stare.

"How thoughtful of you, Thor," Frigga praised her son as she eyed the clothes also. Tony just huffed, rolling his eyes and muttering to himself, as he grabbed the pants. When had Thor turned into such a sensitive soul? Clint held him steady as he pulled the brown leather on, and when Tony turned his back to the others to get rid of the gown and put on the shirt (he was still self-conscious about the reactor), he helped him untangle the long sleeves.

"They're too big," the engineer whined as he turned back to the others again, whisking his hands so that the sleeves made pathetic flapping sounds. Frigga smiled a small, slightly crooked smile at him and twitched her finger his way; immediately, the clothes shrunk around him, now fitting him snugly. Tony totally did not yelp.

"Oh. Um, thanks, I guess."

"You are most welcome," she replied a little mischievously. Tony barely refrained from rolling his eyes again, instead sitting down to pull the boots on. They had also shrunk to fit his feet perfectly.

Clint helps him up then, and they walk up to Thor together.

"Okay, ready to go," he says, trying to sound brisk, but most likely failing. He's leaning heavily on Clint and, honestly, isn't sure how he's going to make it.

Clint frowns at him hard and wipes away some of the sweat already beading on the engineer's forehead.

"He's not gonna be able to walk all the way by himself," he says, and Tony settles for grumbling under his breath instead of arguing about it. He groans and whines a little when Thor gently picks him up (yeah, bridal style, awesome) and they exit the room. He watches over the god's broad shoulder as Frigga and the team follow them, making a face at the latter.

The lobby is full of curious SHIELD doctors, scientists and agents, but they pass them quickly in order to get to the yard. Once there, Frigga steps next to Thor and the team lags slightly behind. Time to go then.

"When are you bringing him back?" Steve asks, squinting slightly in the bright light.

"When the hearing is completed," Thor answers, and Tony feels an air current on his skin. Where did that come from?

"Hold on tight," Thor murmurs at him. Tony glances at his team, feeling somewhat anxious.

"Bye, guys!" he says hurriedly, and Thor's grip tightens around him when runes begin burning themselves to the grass. He can just make out a few yells back, before wind and light block his senses, and the three of them are being tossed across the universe. All Tony can do is gape at the entirety of the ride, holding on to Thor with all his might.

Thor carries him through the light into a golden room, where a man with peculiar golden eyes is watching them enter.

"Hello, Heimdall," Frigga greets him politely and the man nods.

"Good day, your highness."

Thor begins walking and Tony has to twist in his hold to catch the final glimpses of the room. It's mind blowing, and if he could stand properly, he'd already be all around the place inspecting it and asking questions from the Heimdall guy.

"How does that work?" he asks excitedly, when he can't see inside the golden building anymore. Now he's glaring curiously at the sparkling bridge they are walking on. He's feeling hyper despite the massive energy loss.

Bruce and Jane are going to be so jealous when he tells them all he'd seen. This place is a gigantic candy shop for scientists.

"I do not know the specifics, but you may speak to Heimdall about it, if there remains enough time. He should know better than me," Thor replies.

Tony's about to start asking more questions, but shuts his mouth when he feels Thor stop. There's a large, white and gold horse carriage (with enormous horses) before them.

"Thor!" a blonde man, with a goatee slightly longer than Tony's, greets them.

"Fandral, my friend!" Thor greets back. So, Thor's friend then. The man dismounts from the carriage and comes over to them.

"Your highness," he then acknowledges Frigga, holding his hand out for her, bowing. She takes it with a nod and Fandral helps her up to the cariole. He then turns to Tony, still in Thor's arms.

"And who is this pretty lad? If I may say, you don't seem to be fairing all that well, little one." Tony decides he doesn't like this Fandral douche.

"You may not, thank you very much," he replies grumpily, and the Asgardian has the nerve to laugh.

"Oh, I see why you like this one, Thor. Such a shame that he is already claimed by you–"

"What? I'm not claimed by anyone, you rude little shi–"

"I am deeply sorry, Fandral," Thor interrupts him, jostling the billionaire slightly to shut him up. Tony glares daggers up at him. "We are in a hurry. Will you take us to the palace?"

"Of course, my friend. Right away." He hops to the cariole and waits for Thor to climb in also. The Thunderer places Tony between himself and Frigga, and they start moving with a snap from Fandral's reins. The engineer cranes his neck around to see the views passing the open carriage.

After a small moment of riding in the carriage and many questions from Tony later, golden buildings and streets open before them. Tony renews his questioning, and tries to calculate the physics of the buildings and the place in general. The horses move unbelievably fast and the streets look surreal. It really is a shame that there's no one to share his sciencegasms with him.

The trip is short and soon Tony is on his way to the throne room, where the hearing will be held. Thor attempts to carry him again, but Tony wants to spare the last bits of what's left of his dignity and waves him off. Fandral is the next to offer his hand to help him, but he very deliberately avoids it and instead accepts Frigga's offered hand. It's just enough support for the distance they walk by foot in the palace, but Tony's still grateful when they arrive at the huge doors leading to the hall.

Thor pushes them open and walks in, Tony and Frigga following after him. Fandral, fortunately, stays behind (but not without a wink to Tony's direction). 

The throne room is a massive hall, paved with gold (yes, gold again) and marble and held up with strong pillars. An old, intimidating man with an eyepatch is sitting on the grand throne. Odin, Tony figures. They stop before the stairs, and kneel before him, Tony suppressing a massive eye roll at the whole ordeal. The three in the room with him in the room are family, for god's sake.

"Father, we have brought Loki's soulmate here with us to the hearing." Odin nods and they stand up.

"Speak your name, mortal man," he commands, and Tony bristles at the authority in his voice.

"Tony Stark, sir," he grits out. His limbs are trembling at the strain to keep upwards, muscles still sore and exhausted from Loki's latest torture session early this morning, before the two gods had arrived. Odin nods again.

"Bring in the convict," he calls to his right, and Tony hears a door open and close. He and glances to his left.

Two guards are walking towards them, holding chains that are attached to a thick collar, handcuffs and leg shackles. They are escorting a raven-haired, somewhat malnourished and ragged man between them, seemingly near unconscious;

Loki.

All air leaves his lungs as he sees the god, and his knees buckle. Frigga just manages to steady him, so that his face doesn't end up smashing against the marble floor. A warm feeling courses through his veins, driving away the nausea and the stiffness in his limbs. He instantly feels so much...better. Healthier. Guess you should sometimes believe what age-old gods tell you.

He raises his eyes from the floor, turning them back to the dark-haired god's way. His breath catches when their eyes lock; Loki is watching him intently, much more alert now, and his mouth hangs slightly open.

Tony's heart hammers against his rib cage. He feels an urgent need to touch the god.

He starts to tremble, as it takes all his strength not to just run to Loki. Which by itself is a whole new pile of shit that Tony should go through.

Loki takes a step forward, and Tony's eyes widen in anticipation. His step is aborted though, when he's yanked back by the guards. Tony feels irrational anger boiling in his veins; Loki is a war criminal for fuck's sake, he should be handled a little roughly. Then he remembers the torture, and feels guilty all over. Conflicted.

Isn't this just awesome.

With all his will, he tears his eyes away from Loki, gasping as he does, as it is almost painful. He has to think rationally. Keep his head cool.

"Anthony..." Frigga says gently, running her fingers through Tony's hair and pulling him tighter against her side. Trying to comfort him, Tony realizes. Suddenly, he remembers why he's here in the first place.

"Yeah?" he asks, but can't meet her eyes. Loki's still standing in the same direction as she and Tony can't afford loosing himself again if he sees him.

"Tell the Allfather your side of the story." Tony bites his lip, but looks up to the old god, shakily standing up again. He tells about his health taking a downturn, about Loki's staff touching his arc reactor and about the pains he's been experiencing these past two and half weeks. Odin keeps quiet and stares down at him from his throne, a calculating look on his face. When he asks, Frigga elaborates on the magic part and then he sits in thought.

"I wish to retire to my chambers for today," he finally says. "We shall conclude this hearing in the morrow, and I shall tell you my final decision. Frigga, please come with me, we should converse. Thor, show our guest to one of the sleeping chambers–"

"I demand to converse with Stark," Loki's clear voice cuts through the hall, interrupting Odin. Tony feels his hear skip a beat at the voice and the sentence it forms. Odin turns to look at his adoptive son.

"Is that so?"

"He is my soulmate, is he not?" the raven-haired god asks sharply, "It is my right."

"I decide your rights!" Odin snaps at him. Tony risks looking at Loki, and finds him staring at Odin coolly, tensing his jaw. As if he senses Tony watching him, he turns to meet his eyes. His own no longer display disorientation or confusion, but only determination and anger. 

Uh oh, hopefully Tony's not going to get his ass handed to himself.

Odin grumbles and continues, "Thor, you are in responsibility of the captive." Oh, so nobody's going to ask him? He would complain about it, but he's too focused on mapping Loki's oh so green eyes to care.

"Guards!" At Odin's command, the guards open the collar and the shackles on Loki, and walk away. Odin has already left, and Frigga leaves his side with a chaste caress to his back. Now it's the three of them in the hall. And Loki is still looking at him. And Tony can't stop looking back.

Then Loki takes quick strides towards him and a war arises in Tony's head. Half of his brain is screaming for him to run away, as the other half is screaming to meet the god halfway. He ends up stumbling on the spot and falling backwards onto his ass. Loki stops abruptly when Tony's rump hits the marble, right before him, but his eyes never stop raking over the inventor. They are very close now, and Tony could swear he could fucking feel the bond between them.

They stare at each other, Tony from his place on the floor and Loki from above him, but neither of them make a move. Maybe it's for the best.

Loki's leg shifts, and Tony twitches and watches in shock as he kneels before the human, settles into a relaxed lotus position and breathes out through his mouth slowly. He closes his eyes, as if he was basking in the sunlight, and just sits there silently with Tony, not touching, but still feeling the bond and their bodies strengthen and heal. Tony could live with that, and after a moment he, too, lets his eyes slide shut, and enjoys the proximity of his unwanted soulmate (and hates himself for it).

 


 

Several hours ago

 

He draws in a raspy breath.

It's been exactly one fortnight and four days since his trials had come to an end. He is already far too exhausted for comfort.

His jaw is grasped roughly and serpent poison is being poured over his eyes. It elicits a scream from his chapped lips and his vision fades; only to return a moment later because of his Jotun physique. He blinks the last of the poison from his eyes furiously and snarls at his torturer.

His reward is more poison.

The day's first session ends with Loki half-blind, his legs whipped and his throat raw. They have to drag him back to his cell and he collapses on the floor when the magic walls slide back up. He hears some of the other prisoners jeer at him, but he doesn't care. They are scum anyway.

He pushes himself to lean against the white wall, suppressing a groan as he does, and forcibly regulates his breathing, so that the healing could start properly. For a few hours, he just sits there, healing his wounds and meditating. It's most likely late morning already, when someone bursts into the dungeons. Surprisingly, it's Thor.

"Brother," he says and walks close to the golden, transparent wall. When Loki doesn't answer, he breathes out harshly and tries again, "Loki."

The trickster opens his eyes, and shows the oaf a treacherous smile, head slightly tilted.

"Yes?" His voice is rough from disuse and abuse, but he is capable of keeping it even. The Thunderer doesn't seem to take notice.

"Tell me you know."

"I know what, Thor?" he feigns disinterest by studying the blank ceiling of his cell; there's not much to keep him occupied, now that his furniture and books have been taken away, so any news is interesting. Unfortunately, that includes Thor's.

"About The Man of Iron."

Now, that intrigues Loki. He turns his calculating look to his adoptive brother.

"Please, do continue." Thor frowns at him, the confused and pained look much too familiar from their shared years as brothers. Back then, it might have amused him, even moved him. Now, it just makes his brow twitch irritably as he waits for the Asgardian to elaborate.

"How can you, of all people, not know?"

If Loki was irritated before, then now he can quite literally feel his blood pressure rising.

"Is it not obvious that I know not what you speak of, you fool?" he hisses and narrows his eyes. He flicks his overgrown hair behind his shoulder to distract his hands. He's still not used to it being gone.

"...I shall tell you then. It appears that The Man of Iron is your...bonded."

Loki's masks slip away for a moment. By the Norns, what?! 

"Impossible," he deadpans. Thor looks at him sympathetically, and that alone is enough to make Loki's stomach turn.

He. Bonded to a mortal. What an incredible show of weakness, not only for the fact that his soulmate is indeed a human, but how easily he can now be harmed. Just one flick of a wrist to twist the mortal's neck, and Loki is to become a hollow shell, nothing but an ill and dying shadow of his former self. An easy kill, indeed.

He represses a shudder that creeps up his spine.

Yet, he cannot help but admire that, again, a mortal proceeded to bond with him.

"'Tis the truth I speak, brother. Even I could feel it with my next to nothing gifts in sorcery. Mother is with him currently and she has agreed. Anthony Stark is your bonded, Loki." Loki doesn't answer, so Thor fills the silence, as per usual. "How come you did not know of this?"

Loki swallows. "Because your father has stripped me of my magic. That is why," he says, his voice sounding too broken to his own liking. Thor gasps, but his face soon melts into an obstinate furrow.

"I must go back now, my brother. I shall see to it that your punishment is halted. Farewell." And with that, he is gone through the staircase leading out of the dungeons.

Loki sits back against the wall and ponders. His fingers twitch with nonexistent magic for once more.

 


 

After a few hours, he's standing behind a closed door, bound and held tightly in chains by two of Odin's guards. He hasn't been there for long, yet his muscles are already aching from the strain to stay upright. It's humiliating to be this weak, but he endures. If Thor spoke the truth just now, his condition should soon be improved. The moment he is to be reunited with his soulmate, that is.

It is true that the Jotun had been feeling ill for the past months. He had then thought it to be a side effect of his magic being gone, like a lost limb, or in addition because of his imprisonment overall. He had also wondered about the sudden, yet faint, pangs of pain or emotion from time to time. Now it all made more sense.

The doors opened, ceasing Loki's musings, and he was pulled through it. He feels a spell of dizziness at the movement, and his vision blackens for a moment. When he blinks his eyes clear again, his breath catches.

All he sees in the vast hall is a brown-haired mortal, kneeling on the floor, eyes cast downwards. Thousands of emotions course through him at the same, more than he has felt for some time now. The brunette raises his head and their gazes meet. Anthony Stark's eyes are a dashing shade of chestnut and honey, and Loki feels his breath being taken away, again. Perfect, is the most prominent thought on his mind right at that moment.

He takes a step towards his bonded.

Then the reality snaps back to him, when he's yanked backwards by the guards.

And then he wants to throw up.

He shouldn't be feeling something like this. He, Loki, could never rely on another being like this, like he was but a mere weakling. He shall never have something like this, for it shall be a pain and nuisance. Nothing but a distraction.

Yet, he feels a sliver of pain, as Stark tears his eyes away from his. Only then does he fully take notice of the others in the room, whom had been silently watching their encounter; Odin, the Allfather on his throne, his mother, Frigga, next to Stark on the floor and Thor, standing near them. He also then feels his body healing faster and the dizziness fading. He trains his eyes on his soulmate again.

He listens him talk, enjoying his voice far too much, and stays quiet. Only at the end, does he participate in his hearing,

"I demand to converse with Stark." His voice is strong, and he is proud of it.

Odin turns to him, "Is that so?"

"He is my soulmate, is he not? It is my right." The word 'soulmate' feels bitter and foreign on his tongue, but he forces the sentence out anyway. Even as he hates to admit it, but he needs this right now.

"I decide your rights!" Loki clenches his jaw, but knows that Odin cannot refuse him his request. He feels eyes on him and turns to stare at Stark again. He vaguely registers Odin's commands and the shackles being taken away. He hold's the mortal's tense gaze even as the others, sans Thor, exit the hall.

Then, he gives into temptation, and walks straight up to his bonded. Stark stumbles and falls to his backside, and it makes Loki halt. Even though he does not exactly like the man, he wishes not to frighten him. It would be inconvenient. Also, he actually finds the stumbling somewhat amusing.

Thus, after a moment of staring, he settles onto the floor before Stark, again amused when the mortal is surprised by his actions. Closing his eyes, he lets the bond settle and roam freely, accepting it rather than fighting it; he knows it to be of no use. He feels himself heal and the bond strengthening, and can even make out Stark's body repairing the damage faster, although still slowly because of his mortal makings. He can also, faintly, feel something akin to magic within the man. More than just the pathetic echo of one he had felt in other humans prior to this one.

Who knows, maybe this shall be interesting after all.

Chapter Text

When Tony wakes up, he has no idea where he is nor how long he has slept. As he opens his eyes, a glimmer of too much friggin' gold assaults him, and he grumbles out a curse.

Right. Asgard. But when had he hit the sack?

"...Oh," he breathes when memories come flooding back. He'd fallen asleep in the hall. On the floor. By the feet of two age-old, big ass viking Norse gods. Right, that's not embarrassing at all. He grumbles again and slips out of the bed, almost face planting the floor when the piece of furniture is unexpectedly high. Damn these enormous space people.

He turns to glare at his door when it creaks open. "Good morning, my friend," Thor greets him, stalking inside in all his god-like glamour.

"Morning," he replies, looking down at his clothes; they're the same Thor gave him yesterday, only his shoes missing. "You the one that carried me here?"

Thor beams at him. "Aye, that'd be me. You slept like a babe, dear son of Stark."

"Okay, that's it." He glares at the god yet again. "That would be enough reminiscing for the day, thank you very much." Thor raises his eyebrows at him.

"It is no shame, Man of Iron. Your body used all the energy it could get to heal itself, thus 'tis only natural for a mortal to fall asleep during such exertion. See for yourself, have your aches not already mostly healed?" Tony tried his very best to ignore Thor implying that Loki hadn't fallen asleep yesterday evening when he indeed had, and luckily the blonde's question proved to be a very good distraction. The engineer eyed his arms and flexed them, wiggled his toes and stretched his neck and back; there were no major phantom pains and he was feeling more well-rested than in months. Even his brain seemed more clear now, and the depression that had been creeping at the edges of his mind had somewhat faded. He was feeling damn near excellent, considering the circumstances.

"I see you understand now," Thor stopped his inner musings. "We should get you dressed, my friend. Then we shall breakfast. Hemming!" He calls the name at Tony's room's door, which opens again and a man, mid-forties (meaning he was very old by human standards) by the looks of him, marches in with three younger Asgardians following at his tail, loads of fabrics and baskets full of other tailor-y stuff bundled up in their arms.

"This is the royal tailor, Hemming," The man bows slightly at Tony, "and this is my friend, Anthony Stark of Midgard, my dear comrade and shield-brother, Man of Iron and the–"

"Yeah, yeah, that's me, nice to meet you," the engineer says and surprises Hemming by shaking his hand. "Alright, so, how do we do this? Do I just–" His sentence cuts into silence abruptly when one of the servants starts pulling his clothes off of him. "H-hey! I can remove that myself!" he protests, but the Asgardian has already managed to severe him of the tunic, and Tony can't quite hold back the undignified yelp as he wraps his arms around his chest, covering the reactor hastily. Thor laughs happily. Betrayer, Tony thinks and narrows his eyes at the thunderer.

"Do not fret, my friend. They are here merely to help you."

"I get that, but I'm a completely grown-ass man and capable of removing my own damn clothes," he grumbles as he's made to sit on the bed (he has to hop upwards a little to achieve it, which irritates him to no end) when the three servants start yanking his leather pants off of him. Well, at least he's allowed to keep his briefs.

Hemming steps forward and, ushering him up, starts taking his measurements. The whole clothing process takes very little time, as the tailor guy magics through half of the work and the servants do the stuff that needs actual hands. Tony deems him a big-headed douche, but at least he seems to know what he's doing. And also, he lets Tony choose which colors he wants, so that's a plus. (He chooses the brightest red they have.)

So now, newly clothed and positively defiled (because that's what being stripped naked and groped at by multiple hands does to you), Tony walks side by side with Thor to the dining hall. And he's doing the walking all by himself. Coming to this god-awful place doesn't feel half that awful now.

Thor opens a heavy door for him and they step into a spacy room with a bright fireplace and a long, wooden table, occupied by four Asgardians; a woman and three men, one of which Tony recognizes as Fandral.

"Friends!" Thor greets them, and the Asgardians reply with a chorus of their own greetings. "This is Anthony Stark of Midgard, a shield-brother of mine. Anthony, here are Lady Sif and the Warriors Three; Hogun, Volstagg and Fandral. I believe you still remember Fandral from yesterday?"

"Unfortunately," he mutters, but Thor is already off with his friends. Which is a shame, since Fandral is now approaching Tony.

"Well hello, Anthony," he greets, taking Tony's hand and going as far as dropping a quick kiss on it, all the while totally ignoring the brunet's death glare. "You seem to fare better. Come, eat with me." He starts guiding Tony towards the table, stocked to the brim with fruit, meat, cheese, bread and whatnot. The others have already taken their seat, and Tony sits as near to Thor as he can manage with Sif in between, as Fandral sits on his other side.

Tony eats eagerly, trying his best to ignore Fandral making small talk with him, in favor of shoving some exotic bird into his mouth. Sometimes he slips and quips something obnoxious at him, but it only seems to fuel the blonde god further. A few times one of the others around the table tries to spark a conversation with him by asking him a question about the battles he's fought in or how he finds Asgard. He answers, if a little grumpily, but that's about it. They don't seem to mind though, and they laugh heartily if he says something they find absolutely amusing.

When he's ready, he gets up and Thor quickly follows suit as he notices.

"Thor, you may stay. I can show Anthony to his quarters." Tony bristles, cringing a little at Fandral.

"No, Thor's alright. He's already full, right, Hammertime?" He levels the thunderer with a look, and Thor blinks back at him.

"Uh, yes, it is alright. I shall accompany him. We need soon to be ready for the conclusion of the hearing, anyway." The Asgardians look a little surprised, as they probably don't know about the whole ordeal concerning Tony and Loki and the shit with the soulbond. Tony's grateful it for now. They exit the room and Tony sags in relief.

They walk to Tony's rooms and Thor tells him he'll be back in a few, so that they can get to the hearing. When the door closes, Tony collapses to the bed, wiping his hands over his face and groaning. God, how did this shit become his life?

 

_________

 

He and Loki are standing next to each other, maybe five, six feet apart, and both staring up at Odin. The old god had just announced the hearing started and is now eyeing the two participants with unreadable eyes. Thor and Frigga, as well as some guards, are standing by the sides of the hall.

"I have made my decision," he says dramatically, and his voice echoes from the long walls. "Loki's sentence is to be put to a halt, for the sake of his bonded." Tony releases a breath which he'd apparently been holding. Odin shifts his eyes to him.

"But," he says sharply, and Tony's heart sinks. "Loki shall remain under supervision until he has fully redeemed himself. He shall follow his bonded to Midgard and he must stay within his reign at all times. That is to be ensured via a soul binding ceremony." Tony feels his face pale. That sounded an awfully lot like marriage. forced marriage, and a lot more serious and permanent, to top it off.

"Hey, whoa! A soul binding ceremony? Seriously?" he distantly hears himself say. His voice sounds unnaturally high pitched. "And why does he have to come live with me? Can't he just stay up here in the medieval wonderland?" He ignores the feeling of Loki's eyes boring into his temple like a pike, and instead he holds Odin's gaze. The look in his grey eyes is detached, but somehow still full of disdain. Like he's almost feeling sorry that his son is bonded to a meager mortal and angry at the said meager mortal. Yet, that doesn't feel likely either, since Odin seems to resent Loki nearly as much as he resents Tony. Or humans in general, who knows which one it is.

"He is your soulmate, whether you want it or not," the Allfather in question answers evenly, voice not betraying the emotions Tony can see in his steely eyes. He leans back in his golden throne and continues to cement his order, "He shall follow you wherever you go." Tony feels hot rage churning in his belly.

"Who gave you the right to tell me what to do, oh thy great assholiness?" He can hear Thor gasp by the side of the hall, but all the reaction he gets out of Odin is the slight tilt of the corner of his mouth.

"The whoever that decided that mortals were to be...well, mortals." He smirks coldly down at Tony, and blood leaves the human's face once more. That sounded an awfully lot like a threat to his trained ears. Ears trained by years' worth of betrayal whispered into them and listening carefully in situations involving war and terrorism, that is. Odin, Seemingly satisfied with the reception of his words, addresses the whole hall, and this time Tony keeps quiet, "The ceremony shall be held a week from now!"

Odin gets up, and Tony gives into the temptation to glare back at Loki. The taller man isn't looking very happy either, yet he continues to stay silent. They keep their eyes locked for a long moment, exchanging cool glances, before Loki exhales through his nose sharply and promptly turns and leaves the hall. Tony has to bite back a pained whine at the dismissal of his soulmate.

 

_________

 

"Anthony! Anthony, please! You cannot remain the whole week in there! You'll fall ill!" Tony listens to Thor's worried yelling and the rhythmical pounding of his fist against Tony's locked door, and furrows his brows in annoyance. He's lying in his bed, under the thick covers, where he's been camping since he'd gotten back from the hearing. So, probably for around twenty-six hours by now.

"Yes, I can! And I damn sure will, if you don't soon cut it out!" he yells back. Yes, he's being childish, and no, he doesn't care.

"Anthony..." The thunderer's voice sounds pained.

"Thor."

He can hear a heavy sigh on the other side of the door. "Alright then. I shall leave you for now, but I'll be back by the time of dinner. If you need anything, just ask any guard."

....silence.

"Bye, Thor."

"Good bye, Anthony," Thor replies hastily, and Tony hears his footsteps leaving the door. He huffs into his pillow, willing his shoulders to lose some of the tension.

He lies for a good half an hour in the bed after that, before begrudgingly getting up. He walks into his bathroom, which contains a toilet seat (embedded into the stone wall, or more likely carved out of it), a golden, wide sink and an ivory bathtub (which Tony intends to very much not use, since standing water still sends unpleasant chills down his spine).

He washes his face, combs his hands through his hair to tame the dark curls and drinks some water. He's wearing the white undergarments Hemming and his underlings had dressed him into, and luckily someone'd also dropped off some other clothes while the hearing had been held, so Tony gratefully slips into a pair of black leather pants (since leather pants seems to be the only thing these people are comfortable to wear on their legs, apart from armor and dresses) and pulls on a burgundy shirt – a thin, mid-thigh long doublet/tunic of sorts by the looks of it. Then, a pair of black boots and he's ready.

Ready to escape his room and go sabotage the ceremony preparations or something as obnoxious as that, that is. Or maybe just go find something equaling a bottle of Scotch, or perhaps something with chocolate in it. Or donuts, but he highly predicts that these Viking muscles won't be having any of those around here. And coffee. Damn, coffee would be a real treat right now.

So, he slips out of his rooms and tries to attract as little attention as possible. Which isn't exactly an easy task, since even though he's now wearing Asgardian clothing and walking all by himself, he's still noticeably shorter than everybody else (including most of the women, which doesn't actually lift his spirits). Still, he struts through the hallways haughtily, eyeing the doors he passes in order to locate the kitchen.

He prances around the palace for probably a good forty-five minutes before accepting the fact that he isn't going to find anything from the damn maze of a castle. Thus, after that, he spends another near-an-hour trying to find his room again, until he, yet again, has to give up on his quest. Cursing under his breath, he slumps against the wall in defeat. His stomach is cramping in its emptiness and Tony's nerves are already in shreds because of all the shit currently in his life.

He gives himself five minutes to recoup, then gets up to his feet once more and continues walking. The next golden door he comes across is sturdier than the others, and he spends a moment trying to figure out where it would lead.

Well, I'm already lost, what's there more to lose? he thought, pushing the double doors open and peeking inside.

The first thing Tony saw were ridiculously tall bookshelves, round mahogany tables and thousands and thousands of books. As he stepped fully inside, a smell of old paper and ink filled his nostrils. A library. One enormous, old – or more likely ancient – library.

He touched the backs of leather bound books in the nearest shelf as he passed by, skimming the runes carved or painted on some of them. The library seemed pretty vacant, so he wasn't sure whether he was even allowed to be in there, but honestly, he didn't give a flying fuck. He stopped by some interesting looking parchments, pulling one out and looking it over. It looked like schematics to some weird alien gadget, and he took it with him to study later, as he continued to explore deeper into the library.

Finally something worthwhile.

He picked up books and parchments from here and there, – mostly based on the pictures on them, since he couldn't actually read the language – for the first time since getting on that magical, sparkling alien elevator forgetting where he was, and actually enjoying himself. Now, he was by himself and in the midst of a new project (which was understanding the physics of magic and maybe learning to read some runes in the process). He was so immersed in his own little bubble, that he almost missed the telltale blip in his heartbeat before a bleak voice spoke,

"Those are some precious recordings you're holding there, mortal."

The engineer craned his neck slowly, displaying indifference even though his heart was hammering against his rib cage. Had he come where the god was just by chance, or was this soulbond thing even more of a pain in the ass, screwing up his subconsciousness too? Loki was perched on top of one of the nearby shelves, propped up into a sitting position with a cushion, a book in his hand and a small pile more of them by his feet.

"That so? Oh well, I'll make sure then to fry them first when I shall go on with my vengeful rampage."

His quip got a huff out of the Norse god. The taller man twisted his body and hopped gracefully down from his spot on the shelf. When he walked up to Tony, the brunet had to remind himself that he was this guy's soulmate, so imminent death or fatal and painful injury wasn't really that probable. Or who knew, maybe the guy was into that kind of shit, Tony wasn't there to judge. The god slid his long, pale fingers down the cover of one of the books in Tony's hands, snatching it to himself and flipping it open.

"Are you certain you're capable of understanding such complex writings?" Tony glared daggers at the pallid space viking, reaching out and grabbing the book back.

"Even if you have trouble understanding it, doesn't mean that everyone else is the same." That earned him an irritated scowl, and he smirked when Loki turned and strolled circularly a little distance away from him. Although, he was surprised when the raven-haired god didn't climb back up to his nest nor leave the library altogether, instead opting to stay in the small clearing between the shelves that Tony had walked into, busying himself with flipping through a new book from another shelf. Tony sighed and set the pile from his hands on the nearest of the three round tables inside their small patch of floor, surrounded by the tall racks and ladders.

"Why didn't you speak up today?" he breaks the silence, feeling Loki's eyes turning to him but not raising his own from his books. "I know you had a lot to say. I could tell it," he adds, a little reluctantly. It's true; he could feel it through their bond and he could see it when they'd locked eyes in the hall, and he can feel it now in the dusty, old library. Loki answers after a tense moment of silence,

"To be honest, I do prefer being shackled to Midgard rather than continuing with my previous sentence, or being locked up in here instead. Wouldn't you do the same, mortal mine?" Tony shifts his eyes to Loki just as the god cocks an eyebrow at him. His chest constricts uncomfortably at the thought, and he has to swallow before answering. Loki's exterior betrays no feelings, but the engineer can feel his pain and fear through the bond, and it does him no further good.

"You got a point there, valorous God of Mischief mine."

Now, he could almost feel a minuscule amount of amusement or fondness in the midst of the exasperation and annoyance Loki was sending through the bond.

They both turned back to their books, and it was only after a while before the silence was broken again. This time, it was by Loki.

"You must resent me," he said, and Tony snapped his head up from the drawing he'd been going through, fast enough to get a crick in his neck.

"How so?" he asks, after failing to catch the trickster's eyes. That gets the green eyes turning to him.

"'How so?' Am I not the one that brought destruction and death over your world? The one whom you are currently forced to thoroughly bond with? I cannot imagine you enjoying the situation. I know that I do not." Tony bites on his lip before answering.

"I think everyone deserves a second chance," he blurts without that much thought. Loki keeps eyeing him suspiciously. "I myself have fucked up badly in the past, but I changed for the better, and I'm now trying to repay my debts. Also, I don't think that the whole bond thing is your fault. How could it be?

"Of course, this doesn't mean that I in any way like you, but I just think that you should be able to atone for the gigantic amount of shit you did. And it's not like you haven't been punished already, with the torture and all that," he finishes with awkward hand gesturing, lowering his gaze when Loki just keeps staring at him, still not looking entirely convinced with the human's words. The billionaire clears his throat, trying to reduce the awkwardness.

"Right, um, so I better get going then," he says, pulling the books and papers from the table to his chest and shuffling around it. Loki looks at him funnily, and it makes him suspect that he might not be allowed to take anything from the library. Luckily, Tony has never been good with rules.

"Here, this one might interest you," Loki says, surprising him yet again as he walks over and hands a tattered book to him. When he sets it on top of the pile in Tony's arms, the inside of his wrist brushes against the human's knuckles. That's when Tony drops the books.

 

_________

 

It reminds Loki of the first time he used magic. His Mother had been teaching him, telling him about how he would be able to draw the flames from his very own core, the way he then could sense the magic all around him and how beautiful it would be, when he did. It turned out, she hadn't been exaggerating. 

And right now, the feeling of the slightest touch of the mortal's skin against his, makes electricity, fire and magic run hotly in his veins. He can feel his every fiber resonating with the mortal, his very core, the same one that pulses so strongly with his magic when he uses it, feeling like it has finally found its counterpart. Through the bond, which seems to have grown even stronger now, mingling their feelings and surface thoughts, he can tell that Stark is feeling the same, although lacking the comparison Loki has with magic.

He looks down to their feet where the human's books and parchments are scattered on the floor. The feeling frightens him, which he doesn't admit easily. But, at the same it engulfs him in the feeling of safety and entirety. He purses his hands into fists; it is dangerous to think like this, to lull oneself into assurity. It is foolish. Yet, still...

He twitches when he feels Stark panicking through the bond – what is this feeling, what if I can't shake it off, what if he'll be able to see into my mind, how can this feel so good, what am I going to do, what about – and hastily grasps the smaller man's hand, making them both groan out loud at the intensity of the bond's heat and the comfort and fire licking their skins and souls. He needs to stop the panic, he needs to calm his mate...-

...His mate?!

Loki all but hurls away Stark's hand, lets go of it as if he'd been burned, and steps back. Stark seems to recoil as well, and he stumbles a bit before catching Loki's eye. His face is flushed, his eyes clouded yet searching and alarmed – his own face most likely reflecting the same emotions as his soulmate, he thinks idly – and the god feels an irrational surge of pure want going through him at the sight. It makes him sober, and the heat is replaced by anger.

He sends a spiteful look in the mortal's way, snarling quietly as he turns around and dashes away from the three tables and out of the library.

He regrets it immediately when a sharp pain tugs at his heartstrings.

 

_________

 

 

It felt like all the air had been punched out of his lungs. His damn soul was aching to follow after the raven-haired god, to pathetically beg him to stay. Fortunately, Tony's soul wasn't the part that was in charge of his body, so he held still through the pain and yearning.

He puffs air out through his teeth and pushes the heels of his hands into his eyes. Maybe, if he just stayed here, all of this would go away, he thinks childishly, scoffing and choking out a bitter laugh at his own thoughts. Yeah, right, like that ever happens.

He ends up staying in the library until Thor finds him there, and shows him back to his room and to some food. He eats hungrily.

Later in the evening, back in his room, he goes through the books and papers he'd taken with him from the library. He notices the book that Loki'd given him, and curiously takes it into his hands. He flips it open – it's a manual for rune writing and reading, written in English.

 

(extra)

 

The next time Tony sees Loki is a couple days after they'd accidentally met in the library. He'd been strolling on one of the hallways that he'd finally learned to recognize, when Fandral had appeared in front of him from behind a corner.

"What a coincidence, Anthony!" he greets Tony, and the human has to suppress an eye roll.

"Hello, Fandral," he replies, shifting his eyes ahead of him, trying to signal the guy his disinterest. Not surprisingly, Fandral doesn't get it.

"Walk with me, my friend," the god says cheerily, draping an arm around Tony's shoulders and pacing in time with him. Tony is honestly surprised how steam isn't already pouring out of his ears, no matter how ridiculous that might sound.

"Actually, I'm fine walking by myself." He tries to duck from under the arm, but Fandral just laughs happily, holding him tightly, and even jostles him a bit.

"Oh, Anthony," he grins. Then, he takes hold of Tony's elbow, and pushes him bodily between the nearest two pillars, leaning against the wall by the engineers head.

Shit. Tony knows that look.

"Have I not made my intentions clear?" the god asks him, leering down at him.

"Uh, yes, you have. Have I not made my unintentions clear? If not, then no, thank you." Fandral chuckles at him a little darkly. The sound of it makes the hair of Tony's neck stand on end.

"I always did like them feisty." Fandral tries to caress his jaw, but Tony bats his hand away. That's when the jerk catches his mouth with his own.

It's not that much about his sexual orientation, since he is indeed a bisexual, or about not being attracted to the god, since yes, Fandral is attractive, but more about it being an inconvenience. A hindrance, even. In other words, he doesn't need nor want another cause of misery and stress in his life, which by the way, is already loaded with all the horseshit in the world. So, when Fandral kisses him his immediate reaction is to punch the guy's teeth out of his damn mouth.

Unfortunately, Fandral is no less strong than any other average Asgarian, maybe even more so, being a soldier and all, so he easily catches Tony's hands and maneuvers them against the wall, all the while sucking and licking on his mouth. Tony's next course of action is of course kicking the bastard, but all he gets is a sore toe, since Fandral is wearing his usual metallic gear on his body. Thus, he ends up accepting the fact that he is now to be thoroughly kissed and that there's no escape until Fandral so decides. It makes his blood boil and his insides freeze, and he fights off the anxiety and panic and the feeling of wrongness that try to overtake him. It's just a kiss, he's been through worse.

Still, he's grateful when Fandral is suddenly ripped off of him, and another figure steps before him.

It's Loki, standing near the pillars and shielding Tony from sight, all the while growling at Fandral.

 

_________

 

Loki was in his quarters when he could first tell a change in the mortal's mood. In the preceding days, he'd grown accustomed to the presence of another being's emotions, a constant background noise that didn't really affect his own thoughts, yet never quite left them. Thus, he was slightly alarmed when he could suddenly feel a sliver of irritation and stress through the bond.

He shrugs it off, since no one is happy all the time, continuing to read his book. Soon enough though, he has to fully focus on the bond, as he can feel outright panic coursing through it. He sets the book on the table, getting up and pacing hurriedly to the doors.

...But why would he go and help some mortal that doesn't even like him?

He turns around to return to his book, but can't even make it back to the table before another surge of panic and anxiety comes through the soulbond. It's a sickening feeling, it truly is, to feel one's bonded going through emotions like this. So, it's not like he can help it when he once again sets off to the doors, this time pushing straight through them and striding into the direction of his human. It's easy enough to locate the mortal, with the feel of the bond and their magics bouncing between them. Although, he is taken aback when he comes to the corridor that is supposed to hold his soulmate. How is he not here? All he can see is Fandral smooching with another one of his...-

He would have 'oh'ed, if it weren't for the insane rush of possessiveness, hot rage and protectiveness that occupied him. His mind was a horrid mess of his own inner voice screaming,

Mine mine mine mine mine miNE MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE MINEMINEMINEMINEMINEMINEMINEMINE--

-which might explain how he exactly came to stand in front of the mortal, growling at the blonde god and arm still slightly bent from having thrown him to the hard floor.

"...Loki?" Fandral asks, frowning at him. "What do you think you're do-" He wants to scream 'That is my BETROTHED!', and it's just a moment before restrains himself. Instead, he stalks over and kicks the other god hard enough to make him fall unconscious with a definitive thud, not even sure himself for what reason.

However, once satisfied, he turns to Stark and looks him over. He's staring at Loki with wide, brown orbs and after a while of locking eyes, Loki frowns at himself and starts hastily walking back towards his own rooms.

This whole ordeal considering the bond and his bondmate was going to be the very end of him and the last rips of his sanity.

 

Chapter Text

He's standing in front of a giant tub, filled to the brim with water, foam and scented oils, his jaw muscle jumping as he scowls down at it.

"...No," Tony states firmly, arms crossed across his chest and honey brown eyes still glaring at the water intently.

"Anthony, you must be clean for the ceremony!" Thor urges him, nudging him in the direction of the tub.

"No, I don't. It's not like it's my wedding, or anything," he says pointedly, "So, I can go however I want to. And stop prodding me!" Thor sighs and rubs a hand over his mouth.

"My Father wouldn't accept that, I'm afraid. Please, my friend, do not make this any harder for yourself." What Thor probably doesn't know, is that a tub full of water is exactly what's going to make this harder for himself. But, as he often does under all the Shakespearean words and general puppyness, Thor's got a point. In lack of showers, Tony hasn't properly bathed in all week, and now it's less than four hours until the 'big feast' itself.

So, Tony sighs, the fight leaving him, and starts shrugging off his clothes. Thor takes the hint and excuses himself, as do the the servants that had filled the tub earlier after a bit of shooing from the engineer. With shaky legs, he steps into the tub.

It's larger than the one in his rooms, since this is the royal dressing room (and certainly not a bride's room, he had furiously concluded previously), and he washes carefully, cupping water in his hands and scrubbing it on his skin. It's not as practical or efficient as just getting into the damn water would be, but like hell Tony's getting down there. He's already getting uneasy quivers just by standing in the still — albeit iridescent and fragrant — water.

He pulls on a robe that'd been left for him once he's ready, and stalks out of the bathroom. Thor, Frigga, Hemming and some servants are waiting for him in the large, lavish room littered with lightly colored couches, divans, gold-framed mirrors and a round podium in the middle of the room. Hemming is discussing with Frigga, bent over some fabrics draped over a sofa, but they turn to look at Tony when Thor acknowledges him.

"Here you are, my friend!" he says happily, coming over to smack his hand against Tony's slighter shoulders. "Don't you now feel refreshened?"

"Sure, fresh as daisy," the engineer answers dryly. They walk to the sofa where Frigga and Hemming are waiting for them.

"Here, Anthony," Frigga gestures to the fabrics. "Would these robes be appropriate for your ceremony?" The question is so genuine and innocent as it leaves the Queen's lips that Tony feels sick. He wants to knock the whole piece of furniture along with the shiny silks and the hard leathers to the floor. But, since the only thing to do right now is to act civil and just endure, he does none of that. He just shifts his eyes to the clothes.

They are his colors, he realizes with equal portions of delight and chagrin. Varying shades of red, as well as some white and blue silks and black leather, all adorned with golden embellishments. The robes are kind of pretty in their own right.

He grunts and nods curtly, letting his eyes slide away. The tailor starts whisking away immediately at his approval, calling the servants over, and Frigga and Thor walk him over to the podium. Frigga's hand is warm on his shoulder.

"I am sorry, Anthony, I truly am," she says serenely, sensing his mood easily. He meets her eyes.

"Not your fault, your Highness," he replies with a tight smile. "I'll be fine, don't you worry." She doesn't look all that convinced, but lets her hand anyway slip from his shoulder when Hemming prances over with the first layer of clothing.

Maybe he should feel embarrassed changing clothes in the presence of a queen, but somehow he isn't. Right now, he's just standing there and letting Hemming and the servants pull fabrics over skin and other fabrics and sew and tie them together, trying to keep his composure under the whole situation. Luckily, Frigga's quite occupied at the moment as she discusses with yet another stylist, Thor standing right by her side.

After what feels like an eternity, but was most likely just about forty-five minutes, he's fully clad in his ceremonial robes. Not a second later, he's being shoved into a chair, having his hair ruffled with a towel to get rid of the last drops of water, combed with scented oils into place, his beard is being trimmed and someone's even settling a golden necklace around his neck and twisting matching, thin chains and bracelets around his hands and wrists. After that, maybe around half an hour later, he's being pulled up, the leather belt on top of the multiple sashes around his middle is given one last fastening yank and some stylists and Hemming do their finishing touches on his person, and he's being spun towards the nearest full-length mirrors.

Frigga and Thor gather near him as takes a look at himself; the outmost robe is a deep shade of red, it's material a shining silk. At the shoulders it's covered with hard, black leather with flaps hanging from it by each side of his chest, falling all the way to the floor, which gives it almost an armor-like look, but still not quite. The next layer underneath the robes and the leather, visible at the front where the outer robe is cut back, patterned with small, golden roses, as well as their stems, vines, leaves and horns. The silk underneath the roses is slightly darker than the robe covering it. Beneath it is a third robe, a much thinner light blue one, and beneath it is a pure white shirt. The blue and the white garments are visible only slightly at the collar.

The fabrics are held in place by the leather belt, a black one, with navy blue and burgundy sashes underneath it, wrapped tightly around his abdomen. On top of them hangs a slack golden chain, the loose end falling all the way to his knees, which are just visible enough for him to see black leather pants and boots with gold buckles covering them. His hands are wrapped all the way up to his elbows in the same tight, black leather, only half of his palms visible, and even that is partly obscured by the thin gold chains tightened around his hands. The leather looks like it's easy to remove, so he doesn't complain.

His hair is twisted so that it curls slightly upwards and the shape of it gives him a somewhat classy yet messy look. Someone also had the guts to slip another golden chain on him, now crossing his upper forehead and nestling in his soft hair, and he has to frown when he sees it. The necklace around his neck cascades down from the column of his throat and its pendant rests slightly below his arc reactor.

All in all, he doesn't look at all like himself. All dressed up, made pretty and sweet smelling, he feels like a pampered, soft and blue-eyed royal prince — not the seasoned warrior, scarred, aching and slightly paranoid, he really is. Which probably was the stylists' goal all along. But still, it's not entirely a positive feeling. 

"You look lovely, Anthony," Frigga shakes him out of his wallowing, speaking gently as she eyes him. Thor joins her, nodding eagerly,

"Yes, indeed, my friend."

Somehow — not that he's really that surprised, though — their attempts at cheering him up don't cheer him up the least. Actually, they have quite the opposite effect, if he had to choose. Now that he's standing there, in his 'ceremonial robes' and all, the whole ordeal seems a little bit too real. Maybe he just hadn't really processed the situation until now, even though he thought he had. And now, it's coming crashing down on him.

 


  

Soon enough, he's standing behind a set of heavy doors, flanked by two guards that'll let him into the hall when the time comes. They might also be there to assure he's not going anywhere, but Tony wouldn't do that, now would he? No, he's going to suffer through this pile of bull, and when he gets back home he's going to get so wasted that the tabloids will have embarrassing material of him for the next six months.

Grumpily, he starts listening to Odin's speech when he hears him greet the crowd in the hall (because apparently there is a crowd, whether it is to humiliate the puny mortal, his own adoptive son or both).

"Thank you, all of you, for arriving with such a small notice. Me and my son, who is part of the main event of this feast, as well as the rest of the royal family, welcome you!" Tony bristles at the tone in Odin's voice and listens as the crowd cheers. "As some of you may know, today we have gathered here to celebrate a union. A union between souls, that is," The crowd cheers again and Odin lets out a soft laugh. "My son, Loki of Asgard, a convicted and now pardoned war criminal, has found his soulmate. A mortal man, no less!" The Allfather is speaking with such a detached, yet firm and falsely warm voice that it makes the hair at the back of Tony's neck stand. His hands are trembling with anger at the disdainful way Odin is speaking of him and Loki.

"Come here, son," he hears through the door, and the crowd cheers once more, this time more spitefully. Clearly, they are all here to see the trickster's anguish. How charming. The cheering stops after a while, and Tony waits in anticipation. "Send the mortal in, we shall have this ceremony over with." 

The guards push the doors open and Tony gets a clear view of the room; it's yet another large hall with gold and pillars. The other end of the hall, the one he's on, is more elevated than the other, the lower end holding the audience, and a small distance from him is a small set of stairs. Odin stands on the vast platform on top of the stairs with Loki by his side, elevated slightly higher than his adoptive son, who's staring right at Tony.

Loki, whom he'd last seen kicking Fandral's face, as the blond god lay on the shining floor of the palace. For a moment he feels a little hysterical, a giggle trapped in his throat.

The guards give the engineer a push when he doesn't make a move right away, and he recoils. Stumbling slightly, but not noticeably, thanks to his firm control on his legs, he forces himself to walk proudly towards the two gods before him, his robes trailing silently behind him and the crowd roaring at his right. He approaches Odin from his right side, the Allfather not sparing a glance towards him.

Thor is waiting for him at the bottom of the podium and he takes Tony's hand as they walk up the short flight of stairs. Not because he needed emotional support, no, but because the robes were heavy and hard to walk with, obviously. Before the last steps though, the thunderer holds back, and Tony feels like he's gong to walk to his doom as he takes the last steps by himself.

When he's on the same level as the raven haired god, he spares a long look at the said guy. He's dressed in his signature colors, green, black and gold, his robes similar to Tony's, if a little less flamboyant than his, and even resembling an armor in some places, with the hard chest and shoulder plates. The soft leather and silk pool by his feet elegantly, his dark hair is combed back in slight curls that cascade down his back, and a golden semicircle adorns his chest. Tony's a little jealous at the more warrior-like look, but doesn't let it show when he locks eyes with the trickster. From the amusement he can feel through the bond though, he suspects that Loki already knows. Damn soulbonds.

"We are here today," Odin begins once he's settled properly, interrupting his train of thought and eyeing the spectators beneath them, as he does, "to ensure the continuation of a union between two souls." He looks down at Tony and Loki, smiling slightly with that all-knowing, king-of-all-assholes-smile.

"By Yggdrasil you, a god and a mortal, are bound, and shall be bound until the demise of the other, hence until the demise of bothMay the Norns be merciful and grant you many years." Tony swallows. He might still have lots of fight left in him, but even the most optimistic estimates of his lifespan tend to revolve around thirty years, maybe even less with his current lifestyle of fighting near regularly with the Avengers Initiative. He's not too sure how Loki'll take that, although he suspects that the thought has already crossed the god's mind.

Odin, on the other hand, is an outright wild card in that regard. He wouldn't be surprised if the fucker's happy about the turn of events, but somehow it doesn't seem like that's all there is to it.

"Bring me the handfasting cord," he hears the Allfather say to a posh-looking goddess behind his back, on the same level as Tony and Loki. She steps forward, holding a long and elaborate, blue, copper and purple colored cord on a velvet pillow. Odin takes the cord gingerly and turns back towards the two soulmates. Tony feels his palms sweat, and wonders if it's still too late to make a run for it.

He's going to get his ass whooped once he gets back home.

"Raise you hands," Odin commands, and Tony follows Loki's example, extending his right hand in the air before him. He watches as Odin rips the leather encasing their arms open (so that's why it looked removable), first Loki's and then Tony's, all the while actively avoiding eye contact. Not that Tony'd be willing to make one; he's still gazing into Loki's sharp, emerald eyes piercingly.

When the Allfather lets go, Loki grasps his arm just beneath the elbow and Tony does the same to him. Warmth blooms where the god's cool fingers touch him directly and he blinks against the feeling. He can feel Loki's uneasiness through the bond, mingling with his own, and tries to concentrate on the moment.

Odin starts twisting the cord around their hands, beginning at the middle of their joined hands, a small distance down their wrists.

"The blood of your blood, the bone of your bone," he bellows to the quiet hall, and twists the cord upwards from beneath their wrists.

"You give each other your spirits, and two shall be one," he rounds their hands again, pulling the cord back and sealing their palms to each other's arms. He returns the dangling ends of the cord back to where he started twisting, and knots the cord, leaving it hanging from their arms. Tony feels his own tremble slightly.

"And as your hands are bound together now, so your lives and spirits are joined in a union." Odin clasps the arms above the dangling knot harshly, and a slight glow shines from the core of the cord. Tony's eyes widen.

The light spreads along the cord, all the way to where it's twisted over their hands in the crooks of each other's elbows. Tony instinctively tries to take a step back, but the tightening of Loki's hand on his arm halts him. Stay. He glares at the set of eyes before him, challenging, but complies. It's not like he could do much in this situation anyway. Instead, he distracts himself with the emerald of Loki's eyes. 

It actually works, all the way until he feels the cord burn his arm sharply. He grinds his teeth together, but stands still. It's gonna be over soon, he chants to himself. Through the bond he can feel Loki thinking something, but can't make out the what. All he knows is that it's something grim. It doesn't reassure him.

After a while the burning stops, and Odin begins speaking anew, "You are bound one to the other with a tie not easy to break." He eyes Tony and Loki pointedly, like he especially means what he's saying. "The only way forward, is to remain by the side of the blood of your blood, the bone of your bone. Remember that." He slowly averts his eyes and unties the knot. When the cord slides to the shiny floor, Tony sees the bright red burns left behind by it, the scar swirling across his hand and around his arm in fluid and artful shapes. It's exquisite, and he hates it. When Loki releases his hold on his arm, he jerks it away quickly, fully breaking eye contact with the god at last.

"The ceremony is complete!" Odin announces to the small crowd, surprisingly small, now that Tony's looking. Maybe he didn't want to embarrass himself as much as he wanted to embarrass the two of them, he ponders bitterly. "Let the feast begin!" The roar of approving applause and cheering is somewhat dizzying. Luckily, Thor has appeared by his side, and is grabbing him by his elbows and walking him away. When they reach the end of the stairs, Tony shakes him off.

"Can I go now?" he grits through clenched teeth. Thor looks at him sadly, but nods. He walks him silently out of the hall and to his rooms, Tony silently cursing himself for mourning for the loss of Loki's presence. A few servants help him tear off the robes and accessories of him, but he sends them away right after, along with a concerned Thor, who had been left standing helplessly by the wall. Tomorrow, he'll feel guilty about the utter look of grief on the thunderer's face as he excuses himself. Now, he's just planning on spending the rest of the evening confined in his bed and positively drowning in gloom feelings.

 


 

He wakes up with a gasp, apparently fallen asleep in the midst of his misery. His room is still empty, the evening has changed into the darkness of the night, and he's comfortably nestled in his bed, tangled in sheets and too many pillows. So what had woken him up?

He doesn't have to wonder long, as his right hand gives a particularly nasty throb of pain. He hisses and, sitting up, fumbles on the lamp by his bed (which operates perfectly with no apparent electricity, but now he's too busy with his aching hand to start taking it apart). He looks down at his arm to find the earlier burns an even brighter shade of red than what they were previously, seemingly very irritated and inflamed now. He has to groan at the pain radiating from his arm. This is no ordinary scar.

He scrambles out of bed, pulling on a loose, too long, silk bathrobe, and leaves his quarters.

Does he know who to go to? Yes. Does he know what to do? Probably. Then, does he know where to go? No. 

He sighs, taking a random direction on the hallway. Maybe he can find him from the library once again? But how the fuck is he going to find the library? He's learned to tell apart some of the hallways and how to get to certain places, but mostly it's still a damn maze to him.

He turns a corner and nearly screams when a hand grasps his shoulder firmly. His hands have already moved to a defensive position, ready to knock the bastard to the ground, when he recognizes the man before him. He doesn't need to see, as he already feels his presence with his very being, and he lets his hands drop with a sigh.

"I could've twisted your neck," he says jokingly, since that's a second nature for him, and feels involuntary amusement trickle through the bond. "I was looking for you."

"In that case, you were doing a poor job of it. You can use the bond with that, you know."

He rolls his eyes, "Not everyone's born a magician. And assuming you were looking for me as well, you weren't doing much better job yourself."

"I am here now, mortal," Loki counters and squints down at him. He looks like he wants to roll his eyes, but doesn't give into the urge.

"Give me your hand," he commands instead, already grabbing Tony's right arm and pulling it up. He eyes it briefly and brings his own burnt and red arm parallel to it. Tony watches with fascination as the signs of inflammation start to slowly recede from both of their hands, the pain dulling in tandem.

"What is it? A wedding gift from Odin?" He can feel Loki mentally cringing at his choice of words, but doesn't care. If he's going to have to stick with Tony, then he'd better get used to all of his quirks. His coping mechanisms — sarcasm and self-deprecating humor — included.

"You could call it that,"—although I wish you wouldn't—"It is an insurance of a kind. The Allfather has secured the continual of our, ah...living arrangements." Loki speaks calmly, even though his smile holds a little too many teeth. Tony sucks on his own as he listens the other. "He wants me under constant surveillance and this might as well be the best way to ensure that. Even as we are bonded, it wouldn't have required the constant presence of the other for us to remain well and functional. Now, this complicates things..." Tony eyes the taller man suspiciously.

"You're not planning something, are you?" he asks sharply, yanking at their still joined hands. Loki absently lets Tony's slip free. He smiles sharkily at the engineer.

"Surely not." It isn't very convincing. Tony groans.

"Yeah, right. You know, I'm actually feeling a lot better already, so I'm just gonna, you know..." he tries to take his leave, but is stopped by the same cool hand that had just let him loose grabbing his elbow.

"The symptoms will return in a couple of hours if we separate again, especially this soon. We shall sleep in my quarters."

Oh, you've got to be shitting me.

"Actually, no, I'm not. As ridiculous as that is," Loki replies him without blinking an eye, pulling him smoothly along and even smirking a little.

"Ha, ha," he grumbles. Again; damn soulbonds.

They crisscross the hallways and walk up some wide staircases, Tony trying to keep up with Loki's long strides with his own strutting. It doesn't take them too long before they reach the correct golden doors, identical to all the others to Tony's mind.

Loki's quarters are far bigger than his, the exterior door leading to a room somewhat resembling a living room, a couple of dark green sofas, mahogany tables and an immense amount of books, littered on the floor in a messy (yet somehow purposeful and organized) fashion and stacked into the shelves by the wall.

"The bathroom is to your left," Loki instructs as he walks through the room, casually stepping over books and papers. "Here is the bedroom." He walks through a pair of large wooden doors, leaving them open as they were, but disappearing from the view.

"Uh, I'll take the couch then," the brunet calls after him, somewhat awkwardly.

"Suit yourself," Loki replies after a moment, appearing in the doorway again and throwing a pair of pillows and a blanket in Tony's general direction.

"...Thanks, I guess," he says as he starts grumpily gathering the things from the floor. He tosses them to one of the couches and slumps on top of them. In the (unnervingly) comforting proximity of his soulmate, Tony's out like a light.

 


 

As soon as he feels the mortal succumb to sleep, Loki slips out of his bedroom and stalks over to his bondmate. He takes a seat perched up on the back of the sofa that the man is sprawled on, and eyes him carefully. A lock of hair is making its way into the human's face and the god gives into the temptation to brush it back, frowning in surprise at his own actions.

He then shifts his eyes to the red mark on his arm, curling around it like a despicable snake, and watches it in turn. It seems to be mocking him.

With a snarl, he jumps away and strides back into his bedchamber.

 


 

The following morning, not too long after he'd fallen asleep in Loki's rooms, Tony's standing before the Bifrost, clutching the flapping hems of his simple tunic in his hands.

Loki is standing behind him, receiving last farewells from his mother as Thor stands by his side, watching the encounter and waiting eagerly for his turn.

Heimdall is also there, but Tony doesn't really feel like asking about the Bifrost anymore. Right now, he'd very much like to drown himself in a bottle of scotch while watching awful action movies, the ones that make Steve grimace when he sees guts exploding out of someone or the bad special effects when someone gets maimed...

And that brings him to the Avengers. What the hell is he going to tell them?

His sighing and not so gentle hair carding is interrupted when Frigga steps into his line of vision. "Hi," he greets her, because he really can't come up with anything more original right now. Luckily, the Queen just smiles and reaches to take his hands inside hers.

"I wish you well, Anthony," she says and leans over to plant a kiss on his cheek. Somehow, it feels like an apology.

Tony smiles softly back at her, "Thanks." She lets his hands go and Tony turns to the two Norse gods waiting for him. They step before the podium Heimdall is standing on and Thor grabs him by his waist as the human stares into Loki's green eyes. The dome above them turns and they're whisked away.

Chapter Text

The first thing Tony registers when they enter the Avengers Tower through the balcony door -- the balcony where Heimdall had so kindly deposited them -- is a sharp sting of a palm connecting with his face.

"Son of a--" he starts, bending over and holding his burning cheek, but is interrupted by an all too familiar tone of voice.

"Anthony Edward Stark," and for a moment Tony feels like he's a little kid again, getting a scolding from his Mother or from one of his nannies, "Where have you been for the past week?!"

He straightens and meets Pepper's tired and slightly teary eyes, and feels guilt gripping at his gut. Behind her stands Rhodey. During the few preceding weeks Pepper and Rhodey, and even Happy, had visited Tony in the SHIELD hospital a handful of times, unable to stay because of their busy lives and responsibilities, but all the more concerned for their close friend. Apparently they'd also been informed of Tony's departure to Asgard, because why wouldn't they be if they were here at the tower. Apparently what no one had been informed of was the length of his stay. Tony wants to turn and glare at Thor standing there behind him, but the sudden shift in his teammates postures behind Pepper and Rhodey draws his attention. They're eyeing something behind Tony, shock evident on their faces.

Shit. Loki.

"Nope, wait, wait, wait, Clint, don't--" he starts again, rounding Pepper and holding his hands up, just as Clint aims the handgun he'd pulled from his boot, pulling the trigger. It hits, because of course Clint doesn't miss his target, not even when he isn't wielding his favored weapon of choice. Loki stumbles backward, holding his ground and acknowledging the bullet embedding itself into his left shoulder only with a soft grunt. Tony, on the other hand, being the human he is, doubles over and gasps, holding the nonexistent bullet wound on his left shoulder.

"Fuck, Tony," he hears Clint cuss, and then he's being grabbed by his arms and hauled to the couches nearby. "Fuck, I'm sorry man, I wasn't thinking--"

"You sure weren't," Tony snaps at him. He raises his eyes from the archer crouching before him to catch a sight of Thor fussing over Loki still near the balcony door.

"Stop it, you fool," the raven-haired Asgardian hisses, and pulls out a slim dagger from the confines of his leather-armored tunics. The Avengers still on stand-by reach for their weapons or ready their stances for a fight at the sight of the dagger, but Tony feels through the bond that his soulmate's intentions are not malicious. He looks on with weird interest as Loki maneuvers the slender knife into the wound and fishes around until a bullet clangs against the marble of Tony's tower's floor. The engineer -- gone almost bone-white from the feeling of a blade digging through his flesh, causing Clint to go almost equally white from concern -- releases a puff of air as the pain starts to lessen as Loki's wound begins to heal.

For a while it's silent in the vast room, the team trying to figure out what exactly is going on and Pepper's and Rhodey's eyes darting between Tony and Loki. The silence is interrupted by Steve,

"Care to explain why he's here, too?" not needing to specify exactly to whom he's referring to. Tony heaves a tired sigh.

 


 

After one extremely exhausting hour with the team and his two friends, Tony finally manages to slip away, shamelessly playing upon everyone's worry over him, so that they finally let him go get some rest. Loki, who had been left to stand around the edges starts to follow, but is halted by the team viciously screaming threats at him and even aiming a few guns in the god's direction, only to remember how that had last ended not that long ago. Tony gives a brief explanation as to why exactly the god can't even leave his side for the time being, and flees the room at the first opportunity, not feeling bad in the slightest for leaving the rest of the explaining to Thor.

He takes the stairs instead of the elevator so that he doesn't have to crowd with Loki in such a confined space, and all but collapses on to his couch once he reaches his floor, Loki hot on his heels. The god's face betrays no emotion as he starts leisurely pacing around Tony's spacious living room, taking in every detail. Through the bond though, Tony can feel his interest in the new surroundings.

He twists on the sofa to eye the Asgardian better. "An upgrade to your previous living arrangements?"

Loki doesn't bother turning to answer. "Surely, it takes the win when it comes to my cell, but it can't compete with my own quarters," he says, using a fake, mild tone of voice instead of the condescending one Tony feels he would've really used were he to be completely honest. The brunet furrows his brow in irritation.

"Exactly. Since this place is in a complete different league when compared to that dim and dusty corner of yours." Loki whips his head around to narrow his flashing eyes at Tony. The engineer feels an unbearable urge to stick his tongue out at the raven-haired god and frowns even harder in an uncharacteristic moment of maturity. Why were they acting like children?

With a sigh, he gets up and starts walking. "Here's the kitchen, feel free to make use of it. I rarely do," he says as he walks over to the bright kitchen, the black marble covering the kitchen counters unmarred and shiny, since he really doesn't use the room for other than making coffee or for grabbing a quick snack. Or that one time when he'd reassembled the microwave in one of his infamous drunken stupors. The microwave was never quite the same after that night. With a grimace he warns Loki about using the said kitchen appliance, earning a cocked eyebrow for his troubles.

They walk back through the living area and Tony points out the elevator, rambling out the floor numbers to gym and common floor before remembering that Loki will most likely not be going to anywhere on the tower alone, thanks to Odin's Wedding Gift™ and the space viking bloodthirsty savages running around the building that are his team members.

He points to the living area's bathroom and some storage rooms before continuing with the tour down the hallway where the master bedroom and guest rooms reside. There are a couple of empty rooms and studies, one of which is Tony's, as well, and he points them out to Loki, too. He ends their journey in the spare bedroom closest to Tony's master bedroom, an ample room with a king-sized bed, some armchairs, an adjoining bathroom, a walk-in closet and a door to one of the empty studies. Like in all of the rooms on this side of the hallway, one wall is made completely out of a window, overlooking the busy streets of New York far below them.

"Okay," Tony draws out, rocking on his heels and clasping his hands. "I guess I'll see you around then." He turns to leave the room before remembering one more thing. "Oh yeah, and this guy's name is JARVIS. JARVIS?" he says in one exhale, pointing up at the ceiling dumbly, and urging the AI to introduce himself.

"How do you do, Master Odinson," JARVIS greets politely, though Tony can tell that the AI's greeting isn't actually all that warm. Tony watches as Loki's eyes snap towards the ceiling and he scowls.

"Not Odinson," he growls, surprising Tony. Apparently, it wasn't the reply JARVIS had been expecting either, as the AI takes a tad longer to answer than normal.

"My apologies, Master. Which name would you prefer?" he asks. Loki doesn't say anything to the inquiry, just takes a seat on the bed, elegantly throwing one leg over the other. Tony would be fooled by the show of indifference if it weren't for the bitter emotion he feels coming in waves from the taller man.

"Very well," JARVIS replies pleasantly, even though he hasn't been given an answer. "One more thing before I let you be, Master Loki, Sir." Tony straightens up and grunts softly at the AI to make his acknowledgment known. "Captain Rogers wishes me to remind Master Loki that I will be monitoring his presence for as long as he stays in the Avengers Tower. Also, he wants to have a quick word with you, Sir."

With that JARVIS falls silent and Tony feels like running a screwdriver through his eye at the pure shittiness of the situation.

 


 

In the evening, after Steve's interrogation/scolding, after reassuring everyone that he wasn't in agony or dying anymore or anytime soon, and after saying goodbye to Pepper and Rhodey, Tony was finally back in his own living room, curled up on his couch against one of the arm rests. The penthouse where all the mother henning had taken place was just above his floor, so he hadn't been too far away from Loki for it to be a problem. Still, he was grateful to get back down to the same floor as the resident god, as his right arm had anyway begun throbbing unpleasantly on his stay one floor above.

Now, on the couch facing the window displaying the now dark city and the cloudy night sky, he tried to will his tense muscles to relax. Instead of the scotch he'd been craving for all week on Asgard, he'd opted for red wine to help calm his nerves. A bottle of Château Margaux from whatever year, to be exact. He swirled the contents of his glass absently, eyeing the blinking lights of the city before him as he did. He was hardly surprised when he heard near silent padding of bare feet approaching. Without taking his eyes off the cityscape he pointed briefly towards the kitchen with his index finger.

"If you want some go grab a glass from the cabinet." Loki didn't answer him, but a moment later Tony heard the rustling of fabric as the other man was settling down on the other end of the couch, grabbing the bottle from the coffee table and pouring himself a glass of the expensive beverage. They sat in silence and enjoyed the wine and the darkness of the room for a long while.

"Sorry that Clint shot you," Tony broke the silence, not really feeling bad about the fact (although it had hurt like a bitch, as he'd been forced to take notice) but saying it anyway. Loki, of course, knew that Tony wasn't really all that sorry.

"I admit it did sting quite a bit for such a puny piece of metal," the god replied easily, bringing his glass to his lips and taking a sip. Tony rolled his eyes at his antics.

"Everything human is puny for you, isn't it?"

Loki gave a noncommittal sound. "The wine is good."

Somehow, that made Tony chuckle.

"Well, it's something." He finished his own glass and bent forward to pour himself another one. "Still hoping you're not scheming something up there in that pretty little head of yours, though," he continued, off-topic, the compliment rolling off his tongue easily with years' worth of practice. Loki gave him a sidelong glance, eyes half-lidded as if he was already so done with Tony. And it had been barely 24 hours since the handfasting.

"We shall see about that," the god replied in that typical nonchalant way of his, taking another sip of his wine. Tony hummed around the rim of his glass. They fell into another silence, the wine and the proximity of his bonded finally relaxing the last of the tenseness still lingering in Tony's frame. He sighed softly.

"How are we going to live with this?" he asked, not turning to look at the other as he spoke. He felt Loki's gaze burn on the side of his face and heard the god sighing.

We will just have to make do, echoed through the bond. Tony answered by downing more wine.

 


 

Loki had been allowed to take one small bag with him. He'd filled it to its fullest -- mourning that he couldn't perform even the simplest spell to expand the limited space -- with a few pieces of spare clothing, all of his most beloved books that he could fit inside the bag, and even taking his time picking some dried herbs to take with that he'd acquired from his travels to different realms. In other words, not much of anything to use to personalise his new rooms.

He was sat on his bed, hands frittering with a golden accessory he'd slipped into his pocket last minute before leaving Asgard. It was a neck chain that he'd made when he'd been younger, around half a millennium ago. It was still as good as new, not once used and obviously well-cared for, a simple gold chain that was attached to a gold crescent -- his emblem. He'd kept it through all the years, even in his darkest moments finding comfort in the hope it brought him. He'd then thought to give it as a courting gift once he met his intended.

Now, he wasn't so sure what to do with the chain. He'd found his intended, yes, but the union hadn't been voluntary for either of them. Taking the age-old neck chain with him to Midgard had been a whim of the moment, one that he wasn't very proud of. It unveiled his sentimentality, which he'd fought so hard to leave behind.

In a sudden burst of anger, he gripped the necklace hard, bending the metal of the crescent. He raised his fist to throw the chain against the wall, but in the end couldn't do it.

With a furious exhale, he brought his hand back to his lap, eyeing the damned neck chain. The semicircle had bent, and Loki, cursing himself to the Norns, bent it back to its original form. Smoothing his fingers over the surface did nothing to erase the small dent that had been left to its otherwise pristine gold. It irritated him to no end, but he couldn't bring himself to cause anymore damage to the piece of jewellery. And he hated himself for it.

Thus, placing the chain gently into an empty drawer by his bed, he left the room to focus on something else. He had indeed felt the mortal return from the floor above. Perhaps he'd prove to be the distraction Loki needed.

 


 

 

The next morning Tony woke up to a sharp pang. He sprang up from his bed, tripping over his feet that were still twisted around the blanket, and scrambled towards his cupboard. Grabbing a gauntlet he'd stashed on one of the shelves he exited his bedroom, swiftly making his way towards the kitchen where the noise had sounded from. He stood next to the doorway, back against the wall, drawing in a steadying breath and then surging through the door, gauntleted hand first.

He nearly tripped at the sight he witnessed.

Loki, dressed in nothing but pajama pants too short for his long legs, braced against the kitchen island behind his back, his eyes darting to Tony as he entered. And his microwave. Tony's microwave. Smoking and sizzling, parts scattered on the marble countertop as well as by Loki's feet on the floor. For a moment all Tony could do was stare.

"JARVIS?" he uttered finally.

"DUM-E is already on his way, Sir." And with that the bot whirled into the kitchen with a fire extinguisher in its claw, chirping happily as it started to spray at the charred microwave. It seemed to break Tony out of his trance.

"I thought I warned you about the microwave," he said, turning to the raven-haired god. He shrugged at him.

"I was curious." Tony frowned at him, not believing his ears. This guy seemingly despised everything that even remotely resembled something of human origin, yet he was curious enough about Tony's microwave that he had nearly burned half of the kitchen? Tony was baffled. Baffled.

He sighed and shook his head. "You know that saying? About that cat?" Loki gave him a wry tilt of his mouth, scorning. "I guess that's a yes. Anyway, please, next time be curious somewhere else." He moved to the coffee machine which JARVIS (bless his AI heart) had already turned on for him. He poured himself a cup of the dark beverage and scratched his head tiredly, stifling a yawn. When he turned, he was shocked for the second time that day.

Loki was getting intimate with DUM-E, prodding its joints and twisting its claw, as the bot was beeping and whining at him.

"Why are you molesting my bot?" Tony asked, moving to free DUM-E as its bleeps grew more stressed. Loki didn't answer, just eyed the engineer interacting with the bot with interest. Tony huffed. "Stop staring and do something normal people do in the kitchen. Drink a cup of coffee, eat something," he said as he ushered his bot out of the room.

"There isn't really anything to eat in here," Loki replied blandly, hitching himself up to sit on the countertop, right next to Tony's now officially deceased microwave. Some of the agent from the fire extinguisher stained the pajama pants at his thigh, which Tony now noticed to be his.

"I'll look into that. Now, why are you wearing my pajama pants?" he asked, glaring at the god as he went to dig through the cabinets. Loki just tilted his head with an annoying smirk, and Tony rolled his eyes and turned fully to the cabinets in order to find something edible. Next he went to the fridge, which seemed to interest Loki to no end, as the god suddenly appeared next to Tony and stuck his hand inside. Tony dodged a little to avoid skin-to-skin contact.

"Are you always this energetic in the mornings? It's like you're some over-sized five-year-old all of a sudden." Loki didn't answer him, but Tony felt his annoyance at being compared to a little kid.

"Convenient," Loki commented after a beat, finally ending his assessment of Tony's fridge. Tony didn't bother replying, instead pulling a carton of eggs and some juice out of the fridge. He shoved them at Loki and moved on to grab a pan from the rack above the kitchen island. Loki deposited the eggs and the juice on the island too, as well as a block of cheese and a bunch of chives (which Tony didn't even know he had in there since JARVIS did the stocking in the kitchen). He gave Loki a once over before turning to the stove behind him. He didn't need to motion for Loki to follow.

"You flip these switches when you want to heat something up," he demonstrated, placing the pan on one of the grates. "Got it?" At Loki's nod he walked back over to his coffee cup he'd left on the counter near the fridge. He sipped his drink leisurely, enjoying the bitterness of it and watched as Loki set to preparing himself breakfast. He dug through drawers and cabinets as he looked for a spatula, spices and a knife for the chives, and Tony didn't feel the need to help him as the god seemed to be handling himself just fine. Instead, he grabbed a tablet lying around in the room and moved to sit by the island, settling on one of the barstools on one side of it.

He blinked when a steaming plate was placed next to his elbow, along with a fork. He glanced up the see Loki hopping once again to sit on the countertop, this time next to the stove, his own plate balanced in one hand. "Uh, thanks. You didn't have to," Tony stammered, eyeing Loki a little suspiciously. The god just shrugged once again.

"Consider it as a compensation for the wine," he said easily, shoving a forkful of eggs into his mouth and gazing down at the engineer. Realizing Loki was waiting for him to start eating, he quickly set his tablet and now empty coffee mug down and pulled the plate before him. He didn't usually do breakfast, but it wasn't like him to turn down food when somebody offered it to him either. He took a cautious bite and moaned in pleasure.

"This is actually good," he said, meeting Loki's eyes again. He could feel the god growing a little irritated once more, and saw it in the narrowing of his eyes.

"Well of course, why wouldn't it be," he huffed, not really expecting an answer. Tony gave him one anyway,

"Just didn't imagine a prince of Asgard doing that much cooking, is all. You should see Thor's in the kitchen." Although Tony could feel Loki's dislike at being compared to his older brother, the implied praise still seemed to ease his souring mood.

"Believe me, mortal, I have seen my fair share." Tony huffed out a small laugh and they continued to eat in silence.

When he was done, Tony gathered his dishes and after rinsing, put them in the dishwasher, Loki following his example after a few interested glances at the machine. They left the kitchen and moved towards their bedrooms to change. Which reminded Tony....

"Hey, Mischief-maker," he called, turning his upper body slightly to catch a glimpse of Loki entering his rooms. The god took a step back and stared at Tony impassively.

"Yes?" he asked in a falsely polite tone. Tony wanted to snort at him, but indulged in merely scrunching up his nose briefly.

"I think we should go do some shopping to upgrade your wardrobe, don't you think? Get you some pants that actually fit..." he said, eyeing pointedly at his too small pajama pants on the other man.

"Sure," Loki answered simply before stepping back into his bedroom and shutting the door. Tony rolled his eyes and entered his own bedroom as well.

 


 

After washing up and changing into something more presentable -- with slight difficulties on Loki's part, since the guy had nothing with him that a normal person would wear -- the two made their way out of the tower and to the streets. Tony had opted to dress in some dark jeans, a simple button-up shirt, a thick shawl collar cardigan and a scarf since it was already getting a little chilly. And of course he also wore a pair of sunglasses, even though it wasn't really that sunny.

Loki was clad in a pair of his leather pants (since the guy didn't own any other type of pants, apparently), his almost casual looking leather boots (since none of Tony's shoes would fit him) and Tony's over-sized burgundy MIT hoodie. Which, even when too big for Tony, was still a tad too short at the arms for Loki. Tony had huffed at the fact, unbelieving, and Loki had just smirked down at him. The god also wore a baseball cap on his head, and his hair had been twisted into a bun near the nape of his neck. The last two aspects of his attire had been forced on him by Tony, as the public wasn't aware of his and Loki's current situation, and some people might still recognize the war criminal from the Battle of New York, especially with Tony in tow.

Outside, they walked from store to store, Tony grabbing clothes for Loki with lightning speed, and the raven-haired man only occasionally picking out something that seemed to catch his eye. After two hours of raiding the shops on New York's streets, Tony decided to stop at a nearby coffee shop to catch a break. He was carrying one bag that contained a band shirt for himself as Loki held seven or so bags worth of clothes for himself. He wasn't complaining, though, the bags seemingly weighing nothing in his non-mortal arms. Through the bond, Loki felt almost content to Tony, probably because of all the material goods he'd just received. The engineer's lip twitched at the sheer goofiness of that.

"Hello! What can I get for you?" the cashier behind the counter asked him cheerily, breaking Tony's train of thought.

"Hi! I'll have a large Americano with an extra shot of espresso, thank you very much, and my friend here--"

"I'll have that herbal tea, please," Loki cut him off, having eyed the menu on the wall. Tony shot a glare up at him as he payed for their drinks.

"You should try something new, you know. Coming all the way from Asgard to drink tea. And in a coffee shop of all places," he babbled on as they moved to wait for their drinks.

"Surely, a tea is better than that bitter poison you seem to consume prodigally."

Tony gasped. "Don't you dare say that! I was in caffeine withdrawal for a whole week because of that stupid old man of yours! So, I think I'm entitled to some excessive amounts coffee for a while." A worker handed them their drinks and Tony started towards a free table by the windows.

"He's not my 'old man'," Loki hissed at his back, but Tony just waved him off.

"Whatever you say," he replied as he pulled out a chair for himself. Loki sat opposite to him, maneuvering the chair with enviable grace with his arms covered in bag handles and a hot cup off tea on one hand. He huffed at Tony and begun sipping his drink. The brunet shifted his gaze to the window as he brought his coffee to his lips also. His eyes caught the sight of a small bookstore on the other side of the street. He remembered Loki in the library and the massive amount of books in his living room back on Asgard. "Wanna stop there?" he asked, nodding towards the shop. Loki turned his head and merely grunted, knowing that Tony would feel him approving the suggestion through their bond. They finished their drinks slowly and left for the store, Tony waving goodbye to the cashier.

Tony ended up buying Loki dozens of books, all varying in age and genre. In order to carry them all, they had to pack the books in a fairly large cardboard box that the owner of the bookstore happily offered them after seeing the amount they were buying. Tony grumbled something about bookaholic Norse gods, but couldn't help the warm and slightly dizzying feeling blossoming in his chest that was Loki's happiness over the books. Which was bizarre, since who would've thought the guy was even able to feel happy over something? Especially something as menial as a box of books.

Well, Tony couldn't complain, and he was glad that the god now had something to occupy himself with. He pulled out his phone and called a driver over so that they could get back to the tower. He wondered to himself how it was possible that the day had felt so normal this far, the interaction between him and Loki easygoing even if a little stiff and hostile in places. Maybe it was the soulbond messing with their heads.

He was so engrossed with his thoughts that he didn't notice the two pairs of eyes watching him and his companion carefully.

 

Chapter Text

As soon as Tony and Loki enter Tony's floor, they are bombarded with the team's nasty glares.

"Security breach! I'm calling the authorities," Tony exclaims right away, even going as far as reaching into his pocket to pull out his cell. A hand tightens around his wrist and the phone is snatched from his fingers. "Hey!" He narrows his eyes at Natasha, who had been leaning against the wall next to the elevator doors, which him and Loki had just come through. He still hadn't fancied taking the elevator with the god, but he wasn't suicidal enough to attempt to climb the stairs all the way up here.

"What do you think you're doing?" Steve asks him sharply, arms crossed over his chest. Tony turns his head from the assassin to meet the captain's narrowed gaze.

"Uh, just pulled a bank heist, that's what the bags are for." At Steve's unimpressed stare he scoffs, relenting. "What do you think I'm doing? We went shopping! Now, get out of my floor before I change your passcodes. To everything." He moves past Steve to throw his bag on the couch and pull off his scarf. Loki follows him, dropping his bags and the box next to the back of the sofa before jumping over the backrest to sit, now with one of his new books in hand.

"Why were you.....shopping with him? Moreover, alone!" Clint presses, eyes darting uneasily towards Loki. He is obviously uncomfortable at being in the same room with the other man. Tony tries not to feel too guilty over it. He shrugs at the archer.

"The guy needed clothes."

"And a box of books as well, huh?" Bruce interjects, ever the smartass. His tone isn't hostile though, but rather a light one, which Tony is grateful for.

"Look, guys, it's not like he's a prisoner here--"

"But he should be," Natasha cuts him off. "You're the only reason he isn't rotting in a cell and being tortured right now, isn't that right?" Tony catches Thor's slight flinch at the words and feels Loki's unease at the reminder coiling in his stomach. Still, all Tony feels is angry.

"I'm not going to treat him like some animal, no matter what the barbarians up in the Viking Land think." He doesn't stop even when he sees Thor's angry twitch. "And even though the situation isn't optimal, we are all gonna have to learn to live with it. You're not even the ones to really be in the situation." He bites his lip. "Plus, you didn't see what I saw in Asgard, what that bastard of a father was doing--"

"Watch your mouth, Anthony," Thor growls, finally reaching his limit and stalking towards Tony. His usually bright features have darkened like the sky does when Thor decides to bring thunder along. "You do not have the slightest understanding of--" He stops talking when his path to Tony is blocked by Loki's hand on his chest. The raven-haired god is leaning over the couch back, and he slides over it to stand between the Thunderer and Tony. His fingertips are tinted blue, and Tony blinks at the sight.

"I think you're quite done," Loki states calmly, staring into the blonde's eyes. "Right, brother?" he continues mockingly, detaching his fingers from Thor's wide chest. Thor just stares at him, eyes wide. As does the team. Even Tony stares at the two for a moment more before shaking his head.

"Okay, are we done with the posturing?" he asks the room at large. Some of his teammates sigh, and Thor storms a few steps back with an angry huff. Loki glances at Tony over his shoulder before reclaiming his spot on the couch. "Look, guys, it was an errand run, nothing to fuss over."

"It sure didn't look like a simple errand run," Natasha says, eyeing absently at her nails. Tony's eyes widen at her.

"You were tailing us?" She doesn't look at all surprised by Tony's outburst. Damn assassins. No wonder that elevator had taken a forever to get down when they'd gotten back. He turns to look at Loki on the couch. And of course. Of course the bastard had known. Now Tony is even more pissed that he hadn't noticed someone following them. "Why?!"

"She was making sure you were alright. She had her comm on and we were waiting here on standby," Steve replied him, eyes shifting to glare at the back of Loki's head. Tony groaned and slouched to sit on the couch's armrest, but Loki seemed to perk up at Steve's testimony.

"She was alone?" he asked, twisting to look at the captain over the backrest. Steve seemed to be surprised at the god speaking to him. So was Tony.

"Uh, yes. The rest of us stayed here. Why?" Loki met Tony's inquiring gaze.

"There was someone else watching us, also," he told him, eyes sharp. Tony raised his eyebrows.

"What?" Steve asked.

"Who?" Clint joined in, stepping towards them.

Loki didn't answer, just stared at Tony.

Did you get a look at their face? Did they recognize you? Tony asked through the bond.

No, came the curt reply. Tony sighed.

"Probably just a random stalker. I've had those plenty before," he said, breaking eye contact with Loki.

"There isn't such a thing as a 'random stalker', Tony," Steve chastised him. Tony just shrugged.

"Anyway, are we done here? I'm still mad at you guys for spying on me. I can take care of myself, as I have told you multiple times," he flashed Steve a meaningful glare. Then he turned to Natasha. "My phone, please." With an eye roll, she handed it to him and walked back over to the elevator. The rest of the team followed after her, if a little hesitantly. Tony made a shooing motion at them, and soon the doors slid closed.

Tony groaned irritably as he shrugged off his warm cardigan and stepped to the kitchen. He looked over the fridge again, pulling out a jar of jam, and then moved to one of the cupboards to grab bread and peanut butter. He angrily spread the stuff on the slices, not bothering with a plate. When he next looked up, Loki had appeared in the doorway, and was eyeing Tony's lunch with disgust.

"Stop that, it's good," he said, frowning back at the god, and took a bite.

"It cannot be good," Loki deadpanned, but moved over anyway to make himself one. He took one bite, made a noise of disgust and dumped the food into the trash can. Tony rolled his eyes.

"You're being dramatic."

"You are being disgusting and unhealthy." How can anyone eat this mush?

"It wasn't that bad." I just did.

"Don't argue with me."

Tony resist the urge to roll his eyes again and shoves the rest of his sandwich into his mouth, smiling a pretentious smile at Loki. He slides off of the barstool he'd moved to sit on and dusts his hands to rid them of any crumbs. "I'm going to get some work done. You do you," he says and leaves the kitchen to make his way down to the workshop.

The workshop is several floors below Tony's, and one hour in, just when the engineer had begun to feel slight aching in his right arm, Loki strides into the workshop, wearing one of his new attires and with a book in his hand. Tony glances up from his work but when Loki ignores him, as he's already moving over to the sofa by the far wall, he redirects his attention back to the project at hand.

It's another hour before either of them says anything.

"This wasn't how I imagined it, you know," Tony says, eyes still scanning the calculations displayed before him and hands busy with the keyboard. From his peripheral vision he can see that Loki hasn't moved a muscle in acknowledgment of Tony speaking, but through the bond he can tell that he has about half of the Norse's divided attention. "Spending the rest of my days, I mean."

There's a beat of silence. "I assure you, this isn't how I imagined mine either." Tony glances at Loki, fingers gradually ceasing their typing as he does.

"How did you imagine it?"

Loki raises his head, eyes leaving the page he's on, but he doesn't look at Tony. "Recently, I just thought that I would die on Asgard. In my cell, from exhaustion, most likely." He lowers his eyes back to his book. "But I always had a conviction to escape. I merely wasn't sure whether I would ever get the chance to utilize that conviction." He flips a page. "In the end I didn't have to."

Tony takes a moment to ponder before continuing their conversation. "I always thought that I would die from some organ failure or in a battle what with all this Avengers business. I still do, actually. Now it's just a bit more unfortunate because of you." Loki furrows his brows and gives Tony a sidelong glance.

"'Unfortunate', you say?" The raven-haired man carefully places his book next to him on the couch and stands up. "So, you think that you dying and me becoming essentially brain dead, is unfortunate?"

His tone is irritated and Tony can feel his anger pulsing through the bond, but it's not enough to make the engineer regret his words. He shrugs. "It's just the way it is. It's not like I'm just going to quit being an Avenger."

"Actually, yes you are," Loki counters and stalks towards Tony's workstation. "Because am not going to become dead to the world for your self-destructive, desperation-fueled quests to redeem yourself. And don't tell me I'm wrong, Stark, I saw the way you fight six months ago. You will end up dead sooner rather than later."

Tony's hands tighten to fists. "I'm not quitting, Loki." Loki has now reached the workbench that Tony's working on, and the smaller man stands up to compensate for the height difference. He will not appear weak before Loki, and he will not back off. It's not in his nature.

Loki smirks down at him. "Oh, but you are. Because I will make you."

Tony's hands shake with anger as he steps forward to crowd the other man's space. "It'll be fun to watch you try."

Their stare-off continues on a moment after that before Loki exhales sharply through his nose, and walks away. He grabs his book and exits the workshop. It's only another hour before Tony gives up on trying to focus on his work, and follows Loki up to his floor, irritatedly rubbing at his aching scar.

 


 

Loki spends the rest of the evening holed up in his room, cursing the situation to every hell possible and back. He can feel the mortal's irritation thrumming steadily at the corner of his mind, and it isn't making him feel any better.

The following three days aren't much better either -- him and the mortal keep to themselves, Loki alternating between Stark's floor and Stark's workshop, and the mortal occasionally venturing to other parts of the tower, but never for longer than the duration of one hour. They don't interact, apart from Stark once or twice asking him whether he needs anything, which he replies 'no' to. He learns to make use of most of the house appliances around Stark's floor, with the combined help from the voice, 'Jarvis', and the occasional manuals he happens to find. Mostly, he sticks to his books.

Thus, you could say that he's more than alarmed when a deafening sound blares through Stark's workshop on his fifth evening in the Midgardian tower.

"JARVIS, hit me," the mortal says. 'Jarvis' is in the middle of describing a large-scale hostage situation happening somewhere in the city when Stark, already on his feet, is making his way towards his.....suits.

Loki frowns, irritated. I don't think so.

He quickly walks before the human and halts his progress towards the armours. He looks angrily up at Loki. Loki stares back. "You are not going, mortal," he states as he crosses his arms over his chest.

"Get out of my way, asshole," Stark grits at him through his teeth, trying to angle around Loki, but he moves to prevent it.

"I told you, you are not going."

Stark lets out a generally angry sound. Almost a yell, but closer to a huff. The bond is a swirl of negative emotions. "You think you can tell me what to do, huh? You're just like your fucking father, you know that?"

And that's when he sees red. He grasps one of the mortal's angrily flailing limbs, gripping hard. He hears the other gasping at the pressure on his wrist and feels the pain oozing through the bond, latching onto his own wrist as well. It doesn't slow him down as he snarls at the mortal. No one, gets to claim him to be like his father. He moves his other hand to grip the mortal with it too, but then--

Then, a sudden nausea hits him, causing him to let the human's hand slip free as he seeks support from the metallic table next to him.

What is this?

He doesn't have to wonder long before he gets it. Him hurting his soulmate is making him physically ill. He draws in a shaky breath and glares angrily at the man still standing before him.

"You," he hisses furiously, but can't continue.

"Fuck off," Stark tells him, and turns to get into one of his suits. He's left the floor before Loki has managed to fight down his light-headedness.

 


 

When Tony returns, he finds Loki waiting for him in the living room. He starts talking before the other can even open his mouth.

"Look, I know that the situation isn't ideal." Loki bares his teeth and looks like he's about to majorly backtalk him, so Tony holds up a hand and rushes on to continue. "Yes, that's an understatement. Hell, it's one big of an understatement. But, we really need to set some ground rules. And yes, I can't believe I'm voluntarily setting any kinds of rules, but here we go."

He clears his throat. "You will let me go on missions, okay? You can tag along if you have to, save my ass if needed, but you will not keep me from going. That's not going to happen." He pauses. "Okay, moreover, neither of us get to make the other do anything against their will. I know this....thing wasn't voluntary for neither of us, but like you said, we'll have to make do.

"Also, I need you to actually communicate with me, not just snarl or smirk or try to order me around." He breathes in before continuing, "The first morning you were here? I had genuinely a relatively good time when we went out to get you shit, okay? And if we are going to have to live with this for the rest of our lives, then I can't go on with you not talking to me. You see, I'm a talker. I will talk till the world ends." He gestures with his hand and licks his lips.

"Bruce and I are working with Jane to see if we can reverse this scar thing. It looks unlikely, but maybe it can be helped. So, lets just not kill each other before we can figure this out, alright?"

Loki stares at him with his usual impassive eyes. "Are you quite finished?"

Tony groans slightly and collapses onto the other end of the couch that Loki's occupying. "Yes, please. Being mature for so long is exhausting." He can feel Loki rolling his eyes through the bond. They sit in silence for some time before Loki says anything.

"Alright," is what he says.

"Alright? To what exactly? Alright, you will let me be an Avenger without attempting to stop me? Alright, you had fun when we went out? Alright, being mature is exhausting--"

"Alright, I accept your ground rule." To Tony's surprise, the god sounds only mildly irritated at Tony rambling. Huh, he hopes isn't losing his edge in pushing buttons. "But only if you accept mine in turn." Tony purses his lips. Of course there's a 'but'. He sighs.

"Go on."

"You will let me examine that thing in your chest."

Tony feels his face paling, and he knows that Loki can feel his anxiety through the bond. He tries to dampen it. He swallows.

"That's not going to happen."

Loki shrugs. "Then no ground rule."

"Technically, this is breach of the ground rule since it's against my will."

"Technically, it's a trade, Stark. If it's my life hanging by a thread against my will, then I want to gain something from it."

Tony sighs and rubs a hand over his face. For fuck's sake, I can't believe I'm doing this. "Okay, deal, but nothing that I'm super uncomfortable with, alright?"

Loki smirks and nods at him. "Alright." Then he picks up his book from the coffee table and starts reading.

Smug asshole, Tony curses mentally as he turns to leave and go get a shower.

"A deal is a deal, so shut it, Stark."

"Stop listening in on my thoughts!" he yells over his shoulder as he ducks into the corridor.

It isn't my fault you think so loudly.

He groans out loud. Great. He has a pissy Norse god living under his roof, he just made a crappy deal that will allow the said god to prod around his arc reactor and apparently he's a 'loud thinker'. Can his day get any worse?

He soon figures that, in fact, it can, since they are all out of hot water. Which, in a building like the Avengers Tower, should be virtually impossible, but Clint likes to take massive-ass showers that have no care of any environmental crises or global warmings. Tony's going to get him to the boxing ring and rip him a new one.

Chapter Text

"What," Tony begins, taking a deep breath before continuing, "are you doing?"

Loki turns his head to absently glance at the engineer, face displaying only impassiveness and innocence. "Working on my 'evil schemes', as you always so eloquently phrase it."

Tony shakes his head. "How do your evil schemes require you taking apart one of my suits?" He tries to ignore the slight shrill in his voice. "Also, do you have to do it like, in the middle of the night? I hate waking up to an achy arm!"

Loki doesn't look up from where he's currently fiddling with Mark VI's chest plate. "It's barely even morning anymore, Stark. It's no a fault of mine that you have such irregular sleeping habits."

Tony snorts. He takes a step to his left and cants his hips to lean against a workbench. "What are you doing, Loki?" he asks, his voice displaying a concerning amount of maturity. What is it with this bond and maturity? Is this what it feels like to have an ill-behaving kid?

The raven-haired man rolls his eyes, probably hearing Tony's thoughts, and turns fully back to the pieces of metal scattered on one of Tony's workbenches.

"I'm merely examining one of these 'arc reactors' of yours," he pauses pointedly, before continuing, "since you still haven't fulfilled your end of our bargain."

It's Tony's turn to roll his eyes. He even accompanies the motion with an exasperated groan. "It hasn't even been two weeks since that! You'll get your chance. Besides," he pauses, eyeing the god's hands roaming over the pieces of Tony's suit. "why do you need to examine or whatever the reactor in my chest, when you can just do that to any reactor in here? As you're doing right now." He puts strong emphasis on the 'as'.

"You know why, Stark, quit playing dumb," Loki fires back, sounding slightly irritated this time around. "It is not the same."

"Yeah, sure, the whole magic thing, I presume."

"Precisely."

Tony sighs at Loki's petulancy. He really does feel like a goddamn parent. "Okay, whatever. Get that thing and your ass upstairs; I need coffee ASAP and I won't appreciate my arm throbbing like a bitch while I'm making it." He turns his back before he'll be able to see Loki's long-suffering expression, but he can translate the feeling just fine through their bond. He has become quite competent in sensing more complex feelings coming from his bondmate.

He steps into an elevator and waits until the doors slide shut. "Traitor."

"With all due respect, Sir," JARVIS begins in his probably least respectful tone of voice, "you did grant Master Loki access to the workshop."

"Yes, I did," Tony agrees, pinching the bridge of his nose. "But come on, JARVIS, he was taking apart one of my suits! My babies! You could've at least given me the heads up."

"There are no protocols prohibiting Master Loki from inspecting your armor, Sir. Furthermore, I did inform you, although you seemed to be rather otherwise occupied."

He can't believe it. He has not one, but two cranky, smartass children, and these are the kind of children he can't even dump to a nanny to catch a breath at the nearest bar. He rubs his forehead with his fingertips.

"Sleeping, Jarv, it's called sleeping," he grumbles as the elevator doors ping open, and makes his way to the kitchen.

"Of course, Sir."

He sighs and grabs the stuff for coffee from one of the cupboards. "What did I do to make you pissy anyway?" He dumps coffee grounds and water into the coffee machine and jabs a finger against the on button.

"Nothing, Sir."

Yeah, right. He rolls his eyes at the ceiling. "Humour me."

If an AI could sigh, Tony bets this would be the moment JARVIS would be doing just that. "I have noticed a trend in your behaviour."

"A trend?"

"Yes, indeed. You are becoming rather too friendly with Master Loki, if I may say, given that he is indeed a war criminal."

"You too, Brutus?" Tony mumbles as he digs out bacon, milk and a box of pancake mix, setting them on the kitchen island.

"I just worry for you, Sir."

"It doesn't seem like it when you deliberately try to sabotage me, buddy."

"My sincerest apologies, Sir."

He sighs at the AI as he carelessly measures some of the pancake mix into a bowl. He pours some milk in it, then cracks an egg and begins stirring. He adds a little bit of oil into the mess after turning on the stove.

"You guys are way too involved in my business," he comments absently as he tears open the packet of bacon. "Everything's just fine at the moment, so you can all stop with the mother-henning and sabotaging." JARVIS doesn't reply to him, and Tony pours some of the pancake batter to the pan. He smirks up at the ceiling. "Or, are you just jealous that you don't have my undivided attention anymore? You know, it's okay to just tell me, Jarv, there's no need to get all vengeful with me."

"I thought that a computer couldn't 'get vengeful'," Loki comments idly as he strides into the kitchen. Tony almost manages to not jump, and only because he'd felt Loki close right before the guy had walked through the kitchen doorway. The man seriously needs a bell. He's almost as bad as Clint or Natasha.

"JARVIS is special," Tony replies easily as he prods at the pancake with a spatula.

Loki hums at him, as if that were an answer enough, and Tony hears a clang of metal against marble when he sets Mark VI's chest plate on top of the breakfast bar. He shakes his head as he flips the pancake.

"What is it about the arc reactor that you're so interested in, anyway?" he asks.

Loki grunts noncommittally at him before answering, "It just intrigues me, that's all."

Tony frowns, in thought. "You keep mentioning your evil schemes when we talk about the reactor. Do I need to worry about that?"

He doesn't need to turn to see a devious smirk on Loki's face; he can feel it quite clearly through the bond. "No need to worry, mortal mine."

"Yeah, right," he rolls his eyes and grabs a plate to stack the pancakes on. He moves the first one there, before spilling more batter to the pan. "You know, for a God of Mischief you really don't know how to lie. Or, is it just me?"

"Trust me, I can lie if needed. But with you it's futile. You would know."

He purses his lips. "I bet you could still lie by omission."

"You aren't wrong."

Tony huffs at the god and flips the pancake with his spatula.

 


 

The mortal keeps humming the same infuriating tune over and over again. And he is certain that Stark knows it's getting to Loki's nerves, since a self-satisfied feeling keeps surfacing in the back of the god's mind.

"Could you please cease that already?" he finally concedes, glaring at the shorter man over the rim of his sunglasses. They are out in another coffee shop, as Stark calls them, in a patio, and Loki's dressed in a dark green, loose shirt, dark pants, and a black leather jacket. He also has the same ridiculous-looking hat -- A baseball cap, Stark had interjected -- on his head to avoid getting recognized. He looks at Stark rather bitterly, not missing the fact that the human is only wearing a pair of sunglasses, completely forgoing any hats on his person.

The mortal smirks at him. He sets down his drink and leans slightly forward on his folded arms on the table. "Come on now, Lokes. It's the opening credits of Game of Thrones! If you would just give it a try--"

"Don't bother with this conversation again," Loki interrupts what is surely to be another mindless ramble about some seven kingdoms and dragon eggs. He takes a sip from his tea and listens to Stark's affronted scoff.

"You're being extremely cranky today, you know that," he says, mock-disappointed, but Loki can tell that the mortal is more amused than anything. He shrugs and takes another sip from his beverage. Stark grumbles something unintelligible and takes a sip from his drink also.

"Remind me again, what exactly are we doing out here?"

"I needed fresh air, I'm sure you needed fresh air," Stark rattles on as he swirls the bitter liquid in his cup. "Everyone is turning against me in the tower..." he continues, then shrugs. "So, I decided that we were in desperate need of a change in scenery." He levels his gaze in Loki's direction. "Or, would you rather be holed up in there?" He jerks his head in the direction of the hulking building of a tower. Loki spares it a quick glance.

"The outdoors is just fine. We aren't even being followed this time."

"Oh, really?" Stark cocks his eyebrows. "That's new. And nice. Nice and new."

"Surely."

They drink for a while in silence. Loki eyes the cars and the people that keep passing by the patio, and enjoys the faint, cold breeze that blows against his skin. He revels in the way Stark shivers when a particularly harsh gust of cold wind hits his back.

He senses that Stark is just about to open his big mouth and say something, and he prepares himself to be ired, but then something catches his attention, prickling at the edges of his senses.

"Sh," he silences Stark before the mortal can even begin speaking, and turns to look across the street. There, he sees a familiar figure standing. "Nine Hells," he swears and rushes up to grab the mortal's arm.

"What is it? Wait, I didn't tip!" the human insanely protests, but Loki keeps pulling him along when the table they'd just been occupying jars and burns with the impact of a surge of magic that had been sent in their way. "Oh," is what Stark reacts with when the Midgardians around them start screaming and running.

"Come on," Loki hisses and keeps pulling, dodging mortals while keeping a firm hand on his own mortal. The human might just as well be a sack of potatoes.

"Wait, we can't just leave! I'm an Avenger! We gotta help," Stark says and attempts to twist free of Loki's hold.

"You're being a lunatic," Loki growls at him when another bolt of magic chars the outer wall of the building above their heads.

"Am not!" he argues back, but then he's already shouting something into his phone, probably telling 'Jarvis' to gather the rest of the Avengers.

A particularly powerful surge of magic whistles past them, just about two spans of a hand away from Loki's chest. It would've hit him, had he not halted them in time. He pushes Stark towards a restaurant nearest to them.

"We can't go in there!" Stark says and elbows him in the gut. Loki snarls and doubles his efforts. Stark goes particularly limp before him. "There are civilians there, Loki!"

"I don't care! We are about to get burnt alive if--" His sentence cuts short when a blast catches him by his shoulder, burning the leather, fabric and skin there, but he rolls with the hit so that his whole arm isn't torn away by the surge.

"Loki!" Stark exclaims when they hit the ground, grasping his own shoulder in sympathy and wiggling out from beneath Loki's weight. "Come on." He pulls at Loki's arm to get him to stand.

"Not so fast," a familiar voice says behind Loki's back, and he watches as Stark lifts his chin to look the woman in the eye. He lets go of Loki and pushes a hand into his jacket's breast pocket, but she is faster; she kicks at Stark's hand and pins the wrist to the pavement, and Loki feels the crush of bones in his own wrist even as the bones stay firmly attached. The mortal shouts.

"Stop it," Loki growls up at her and pushes himself up to his elbows. His shoulder is bleeding sluggishly, but he already feels it beginning to knit back together around the edges of the wound.

Sigyn turns her beautiful amber eyes in his direction. "It has been quite a while, hasn't it, darling," she croons, and grinds a little harder on Stark's wrist. Stark bites back a cry, and Loki notices his other hand digging through his pocket now that Sigyn's attention is directed elsewhere.

"Indeed," he agrees. What have you got?

A hand repulsor. Not very powerful but it's good for a couple of blasts.

Wait for my lead. We need to free your hand first.

Got it.

"What do I owe the pleasure of your sudden visit?" he asks. Sigyn smiles and huffs a little.

"Oh, I think you know, love. Although, it is a shame I couldn't visit sooner."

"Is it really?"

"But of course it is," she replies pleasantly, and shifts her weight slightly to her other foot, the one not on top of Stark's wrist. Loki surges forward immediately, using his Jötunn strength to move faster, and grasps her ankle, freezing it to the bone. She shrieks, swiftly pulling her leg away, and that's when Stark shoots her with his weapon, wrapped around the palm of his uninjured arm. She looses her balance and falls to the ground.

"Move, now," Stark tells him, as if Loki needed him to tell him that, and they quickly scramble up to their feet, running away.

"Get them!" Loki hears Sigyn screech behind them, and dark, shadow-like forms begin chasing them. Sigyn's fauna. There are only three, a wolf, a horse and an eagle-owl, but it's more than the two of them can handle. The wolf rounds them and attempts to tackle them, but Stark blasts it with his repulsor. It disperses partly, and gets trampled beneath their feet when they run over it.

Just as the horse is about to in turn run them over, the sky darkens and a deafening crack and flash of lightning sweeps over the street, causing the fauna to disappear. Loki can sense that even Sigyn's footsteps, that had been steadily following them, falter.

"BROTHER," Thor bellows and lands before them, taking in their ragged forms and promptly circles them to face Sigyn. Loki isn't sure whether to be grateful or disgusted about his adoptive brother's protective flair. "Sigyn!" Thor yells at the wench of a goddess behind them, and Loki and the mortal by his side turn to look at the exchange.

"Thor," Sigyn greets with a sneer that caused Loki to originally get intrigued by her. "I'm afraid I cannot say it is a pleasure to see you again."

"You shall pay for what you have done, Sigyn!" Thor threatens, thrusting his hammer forward as he points accusingly at the goddess. Sigyn just laughs at him.

"Tony!" one of Stark's teammate's calls, coming running in their direction, and Stark waves at them.

"Clint! Steve! I'm okay!" he reassures when it becomes evident the two are quite rattled by the sight of them. The Widow jogs in a more languid pace towards them, and eventually passes them to stand by Thor's side.

"Oh, shit," the archer swears when he looks at Stark's mangled hand. "We gotta get you to Bruce, buddy."

"It's fine, birdbrain," the mortal says, even though Loki can tell that the hand is most certainly not fine. His left palm that still cradles his weapon is also covered in small burns, left from the weapon charging and heating. But the most painful wound right now is the wrist, where broken bones keep grating against each other in time with Stark's breaths. 

"Loki!" Sigyn yells to get his attention. Loki cranes his neck slowly to glower at her. "See you again," she says as a goodbye, and sends him a kiss, before disappearing in a puff of black smoke, teleporting somewhere, probably faraway.

"Clint, take Tony and him back to the tower to Bruce. The rest of use will stay here," the captain instructs and walks away. The archer whines a little, obviously not liking the fact that he will be the one taking Loki along with Stark back to their base, but concedes when Rogers just keeps walking, back turned in their way.

Who the fuck was that? Stark asks him in the privacy of their minds, as they begin walking towards one of the vehicles the Avengers brought with them.

Loki sighs. I'll tell you later.

 


 

"Ow, ow, ow," Tony whines when Bruce secures the cast tightly around his right wrist.

"You know I hate this as much as you do," Bruce says levelly, pulling the final strap of the cast snugly closed.

"I highly doubt that," he retorts and listens to Bruce's huff.

"Luckily we only needed to set the bones. If there had been any shards we would've had to visit the hospital."

"Hooray."

"Here," Bruce says, handing Tony a pill and a glass of water. "For the pain. These," he says as he shakes a bottle filled with identical pills as the one Tony is just in the process of swallowing. "you take one, two times a day." He pushes them into Tony's awaiting palm, which is also covered in light bandaging because of the burns there.

"Thanks, doc," Tony replies and hops off the medical table.

"You're welcome, Tony," Bruce tells him absently, shaking his head. Tony takes that as his cue and leaves the examination room. In the waiting area behind the door, he finds Clint and Loki, basically in the middle of a staredown. Or, more accurately a partial staredown, since Clint's eyes are glued to Loki's face with a murderous fire burning in them, while Loki just keeps staring at the far wall, attempting to drown out everything else. Tony sighs deeply.

"Tones, you okay?" Clint asks, perking up as he notices Tony.

"Yeah, peachy," Tony replies and waves the hand that's in a cast. "Six weeks in this damn thing, though."

"Ouch, man," the archer comments, wincing sympathetically.

"Right?" He walks up to Loki. "Ready for briefing? I hear there's gonna be one once we get up."

Bruce walks out of the examination room and moves over to Clint where he is already pushing a button for the elevator. Loki doesn't look up at Tony when he replies,

"I'm not particularly looking forward to this so called briefing," he replies, but gets out of his chair anyway, walking with Tony to the elevator.

"Oh, don't be like that. They are great fun." Loki snorts when he senses the outright lie.

The trip in the elevator is more than awkward with the four of them, but eventually they make it up to one of the office floors, more accurately the one reserved for Avengers business. Clint leads them into the spacy conference room that they usually use for briefings.

"So," Steve begins once everyone's seated. "If either Tony or Loki would care to start explaining what all that was about, I would be rather grateful."

Tony turns to look at Loki and Loki spares him a glance from the corner of his eye. The god sighs. "I've heard this one wise saying during my stay here on Midgard: Exes are exes for a reason."

Tony can't help but burst into a bout of helpless laughter.

"Tony stop that," Steve scolds him, but the engineer is still attempting to catch his breath. "What do you mean by that?"

"Lady Sigyn was once involved with my brother," Thor fills in. "Their union did not end in the best of terms."

"Figures," Natasha comments as Loki glares at his brother. Tony has finally managed to somewhat level his breathing.

"What did you do?" he asks Loki, smiling widely and voice a little higher than normally. Loki tilts his head in an imitation of a shrug.

"I might have set her up for multiple cases of petty thievery." Tony snorts, clamping a hand over his mouth, and Loki elaborates. "She had it coming."

Tony starts giggling again, and he can tell that Loki is smugly proud of his accomplishment.

"You left her in a foreign realm after setting her up for crimes she didn't commit. I do not wonder why she is furious with you brother."

"She was a backstabbing wench and an utter fool. I do not regret what I did."

"I remember you returning with another lady under your arm," Thor says, frowning at Loki.

"It was worth the look on her face."

Tony takes a calming breath and brushes a hand over his face. "I can't believe your ex just tried to murder us."

"It is humorous indeed."

"Enough," Steve commands, and even Loki turns to look at the captain, although his eyes display their usual disinterest. "I don't find anything remotely amusing in the situation. Part of the 51st Street is charred and in a disarray, at least three civilians had to be sent to a hospital to be treated for burns or scrapes and Tony's arm is broken."

"I'm quite alright, Steve," Tony replies with an eye roll. Dear God, with the mother-henning.

"Sure you are," Steve shoots back skeptically. "We need to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Everyone is silent for a while, before surprisingly Loki is the one to speak up.

"Last time we went out," he doesn't look at anyone in particular, but Tony can tell that he's addressing him, "someone else was watching us. It could've been one of Sigyn's fauna."

"What? You mean the shadow-animal-whatevers have intelligence of their own?" Tony asks, frowning at Loki's temple.

"To some extent, yes. Not enough to make informed or independent decisions, but just enough to move around different realms undetected and report back to Sigyn." He shrugs. "She's done it before when looking for me. It was foolish of me to think she wouldn't try it again now that my sentence has been ceased."

"Agreed," Clint interjects, but Loki doesn't rise to take the bait.

"She just wants to cause some ruckus, and get her revenge."

"What did you do last time to get her off your case?" Bruce asks, hands folded on top of the oval conference table.

"Last time I had my magic," Loki replies sharply, and Tony can feel bitterness and a moderate amount of hurt trickling through the bond, before Loki attempts to reign his feelings in. It makes him bristle.

"So," he says, leaning his chin against his left hand. "I say we might need to get someone their mojo back."

"Are you insane?" Clint asks, outraged at the same time as Cap bites out a firm, "No." Loki turns to look at him with unfiltered surprise on his face.

Tony shrugs. "Just a suggestion, we don't have to follow through. But I think we should at least inform your mom," he says, looking at Thor. "Just so she knows we're dealing with yet another space viking attempting to murder people and cause an uproar."

Thor nods at him. "I shall travel to Asgard this evening, and converse with my Mother."

"Great. Now, are we done? I'm starving and my hand is hurting like a bitch."

 


 

 

"Loki! I need a freaking hand!" the mortal yells from the room over. Loki rolls his eyes before snapping his book shut and placing it on top of the table by the sofas. He walks to the kitchen with no hurry. Stark is there, standing by the island, a jug of milk balanced dangerously between his lower arms, tipped over the edge of the counter and already spilling the white liquid to the floor. "Don't just look, help me, goddammit!"

Loki's right arm twinges where Stark's wrist is fractured, and he moves over to wrestle the jug back on top of the marble top. Stark releases a relieved sigh.

"What were you even doing?" the god asks, eyeing dubiously the bowl and a box of something that are resting on the kitchen island.

"I was making myself cereal, duh," the mortal replies and attempts to grasp the handle of the jug with his burnt palm again. Loki slaps his hand away before it can make contact with the plastic container. "Come on, I wasn't kidding when I said I was starving!"

"You're not eating that garbage. Also, I do not wish to be called here every other second when you are about to rebreak your wrist, since it is not only an inconvenience, but it also hurts my own damned wrist. So, please refrain from touching anything in here again until I say otherwise, and go sit in the living room. I shall make us something to eat."

Stark frowns up at him petulantly. "You know, this is borderline breaching my ground rule--"

"Stark."

"Yeah, yeah, I'm going."

In the end, Loki ends up preparing them a broth from the vegetables and beef he manages to find from Stark's kitchen, and they eat it in the rarely used dining room, since Stark can barely climb up the barstools with his broken arm.

"This is actually good, you know."

"Why are you always so surprised when something I cook doesn't taste horrible? We've been over this already, mortal."

"I wasn't surprised, Rudolf, no need to get your knickers in a bunch." Just for that comment alone, Loki feels like hurling himself through the window because of the choice the universe made for his soulmate. "It was a compliment."

"A backhanded one, I assure you," he quips back, and scoops more broth into his mouth. Stark huffs out a laugh.

"If you say so."

"I do say so."

"Yeah, yeah, just eat your damn broth."

God, why is it me that had to end up with a five-thousand-year-old kid?

Loki smirks into his bowl and swallows down more broth.

Chapter Text

"Torch." A welding torch is obediently placed in his hand.

"Pliers," he says after a moment. The torch is traded with the requested tool.

"Torch."

"Am I interrupting something?" Bruce asks out of nowhere, but Tony doesn't raise his head from his project.

"Yes."

"No," Loki talks over him, and takes the torch back when Tony offers it over his shoulder. He hands him the pliers before Tony can ask for them. "I'm assisting Stark, so that he won't incapacitate another arm when he eventually runs out of luck."

"Rude."

"I see," the doctor replies smoothly, voice noncommittal. He walks further into the workshop and the elevator doors swish closed behind him. "I've got the readings from yesterday."

At that, Tony knocks back his welding helmet. Bruce is fiddling with a tablet, eyeglasses hanging low on the bridge of his nose.

"JARVIS."

"My pleasure, Sir." JARVIS projects the files from Bruce's tablet to the whole room to see. Bruce walks to stand before the hologram.

"Here," he says as he points to one of the columns hanging in the air, "is the data from the first hit." The patio table. Tony removes the welding helmet completely, then shrugs off his glove. He walks closer to Bruce and the hologram. "And here are the second, the third and fourth one." Bruce points to each of the other columns in turn.

"JARVIS, be a dear and pull up the readings from when Loki last visited Earth. You have some from Germany, right?" Tony feels Loki roll his eyes at the back of the engineer's head.

"Certainly, Sir."

"I could just tell you that it shall be consistent. Sigyn is a well-versed sorcerer herself, such as I."

"Shut up. We're scientists, we wanna see it for ourselves," he quips passively. Loki sighs.

"It's true though," Bruce says, gesturing between the two separate clumps of data. "Look at this bit here, for example..."

They compare and analyze the data for a good while, until Bruce is satisfied they have brainstormed enough.

"I'll send this to Jane."

"Good idea. See you later, Doc." He waves at Bruce.

"Bye, Tony." Bruce nods at Loki. "Loki."

"Doctor."

Then the elevator doors ping and slide shut around him and he's gone again.

Tony turns back to Loki. "I see Brucie is starting to warm up to you, Iceman."

"Stop it with that ridiculous nickname, mortal."

"Stop calling me mortal and I might consider it," Tony replies without missing a beat. He pushes his dark locks back and snaps the welding helmet back in place. The glove requires a little struggling, but he manages to pull it on. "Plus, Iceman fits you. Remember, I saw you almost freeze Alex Forrest's foot off." Loki gives him an incredulous look. "It's from a movie. I'll show it to you sometime. It's a classic. Now, moving on! The foot. Blue hands. Freezing appendages. You still haven't explained that part."

Loki seems to forcefully hold back a furious eye roll. He hands Tony the torch when he reaches for it. "You're the genius are you not? Figure it out by yourself."

"It has something to do with the adoption thing, right?" Tony gets an image of Loki cocking his eyebrow at him through the bond. "Thor let it slip one sunny afternoon."

"Of course he did," Loki sighs. "Yes, it is because of 'the adoption thing'," he continues in a mocking tone.

"Hey, be nice. And I need a clamp." Loki hands him the small metal bit after taking the torch.

"I am being nice. I'm talking about myself. I'm helping you build your monstrosities."

"Hey!" Tony repeats, pointing at Loki accusingly. "It's a bot, not a monstrosity. Also, I need the soldering iron next."

"Are you sure your left hand will suffice for that?" Loki asks, but gives him the iron anyway. Tony pushes the helmet back again and concentrates on the exposed circuit board.

"I'm sure. But I need two hands for this part though. Someone needs to hold the solder."

Loki sighs and scoots closer. "This one?" he asks and holds up a coil of copper solder.

"No, we need the tin one. Yeah, that's it. Okay, cut a piece and bring it here." Tony isn't even surprised when Loki just rips a strip of the solder, not bothering with the cutters. "Hold it at the base of that cord until I say otherwise."

They solder the circuit board together, then flux it, and then Loki helps Tony close the bot back up. It's a project for SHIELD, although Tony has no idea what SHIELD will do with a bot that can claw itself underground. Maybe it's best he doesn't.

"Okay, I wanna see those icing powers of yours in action," he says as he claps his hands together. It jars his broken bones and he regrets the movement immediately. Loki gives him an irritated look, flexing his own wrist, so Tony hurries to continue, "Come on, freeze something for me, would you."

"Why should I freeze anything for you when I still haven't gotten a look at your chest?" Loki counters passively, but follows Tony anyway when he moves towards the back, where there's a little clearing from all the clutter.

"Oh, zip it. You'll get to take a long, good look when it's time for it, grumpy one. Okay? Scout's honor." Loki huffs. "Now, show me. Here, freeze this," he hands Loki a mug that's been left on a nearby table. "And don't stop until your mojo runs out, okay?" He tugs Dummy closer, already equipped with a camera. Loki gives him another one of his looks. Tony shrugs. "It's good to be prepared, right? JARVIS, ready?"

"As always, Sir," the AI replies a little snottily.

"Loki?"

"Sure, sure," Loki grumbles and takes a firmer hold of the mug. Apparently he has finally realized that sometimes it's just better to give in to Tony's bouts of insanity.

Tony watches as Loki's fingers first tint blue, then completely change colour. It reminds him of Loki's second day at the tower, when his fingers had also tinted blue. His eyes widen in fascination when frost begins to form on the surface of the old mug.

"I would recommend you to wear some goggles," Loki suggests languidly and Tony's eyes snap back up to his face.

"Uh, yeah, goggles, on it," he rambles and turns to a cabinet not that far away. He rummages through a drawer and struggles with the goggles with his left hand as he tries to secure them over his eyes. He walks back to keep watching before they are even properly on. Now, the whole mug is covered in a layer of ice. It keeps making a silent cracking noise as it continues to ice over. "Whoah," he says with a low husk.

After about half a minute, Loki speaks again, "Take a step back." Tony does as he was asked, and not a second later the whole mug shatters, crumbling in Loki's hand and sending shards some distance away. None of them hit Tony, but Dummy isn't as lucky. The bot makes an irritated whirring sound when a shard clanks against his claw. Tony gives him a consoling pat.

"How on earth..." Tony mumbles as he pries the safety goggles off of his head and letting them drop to the floor, as he stalks towards Loki. He grasps Loki's right wrist where it's covered by his sleeve and turns the blue hand over and over before his eyes. "That's....fascinating. Amazing."

"Amazing?" Loki repeats like he doesn't quite believe Tony.

"Yeah," Tony confirms absently. He eyes the hand for a moment longer, before giving into temptation and tracing his fingers lightly over the white lines running across the back of Loki's hand. All motion seems to cease from Loki as he does this.

He keeps tracing the lines, rotating Loki's hand and pushing his sleeve back without even realizing for a while, and then he feels a cool flush traveling through his body. He cranes his head up and looks into Loki's bleeding red eyes. He looks for a long moment, mapping the raised white lines on his now blue face, disappearing beneath his inky black hair. Loki watches him back, his feelings unreadable through the bond, but his eyes intense as he gauges Tony's reaction. The point of contact between their hands feels unbearably warm, despite Loki's cool skin.

Loki is the one to let go of Tony's hand. He slowly lets his arm slip to his side, and Tony watches as the blue fades away, replaced by the pale pink skin he's accustomed to seeing. He gives Tony one last lingering look, searching his face, his eyes, and the bond between them, before turning away and walking to the elevator.

 


 

Something changes after that morning in the workshop. Tony's not exactly sure what, but some of the hostility between them seems to dissipate. They still snark and talk back to each other, but now it's more.....laid-back in a way. In a good way.

"So, you're saying she won't come into the tower as long as Thor is in here?" Tony clarifies. They are sitting in his living room, empty containers of Thai on the coffee table and glasses of scotch in hand. They'd even gone as far as snuck some of Thor's Asgardian booze for Loki, and the bottle is sitting on the table by the god's right-hand side.

"Yes, or as long as she thinks that Thor is in here. She knows that I am without my magic, so she does not fear me. But Thor is far too powerful for her to handle, and even she is aware of that."

Tony nods. "Right." Then sighs. "So, as long as we stay confided in here, we'll most likely be okay."

"Precisely," Loki replies and takes a swig from his drink.

"Fantastic."

Loki levels him with a look. "It is not like you leave the tower often anyway, or do you disagree?"

"But that's the thing, Lokes! There's a difference when something is forbidden or not. Now I want to get out twice as more!"

Loki rolls his eyes and makes a long-suffering sound. "Why am I not surprised?"

"Because you knew that's how I felt. Hello? The bond?"

"You're being insolent," Loki reprimands him and gives him a faint kick to his shin. They are both sitting with their feet off the ground, leaning their backs against the opposing armrests.

"Ow, don't kick me." Tony kicks him back.

"Don't say 'ow', when it doesn't hurt. And I know it didn't hurt. The bond, remember?" Loki quips, mocking Tony's earlier sentiment.

"Smartass," Tony mumbles and takes a sip from his scotch. Loki just smirks and drinks with him.

"By the way," Tony interrupts the silence after a moment. "That mug yesterday? The shards still haven't thawed. But I'm not getting any readings from it. It's just like regular ice, although I know for a fact that it's not."

Loki hums at him, seemingly in thought. "I don't have that much experience with my natural abilities. But I do wonder whether Sigyn is still nursing a sore ankle."

Tony barks out a laugh. "I wouldn't be surprised if she did. That stunt you pulled looked painful as hell." Loki shrugs at him, seemingly nonchalant, but Tony can tell that he's actually feeling sadistically smug about the whole thing. It makes him roll his eyes and hide his grin behind his glass.

 


 

"We really didn't think this situation through, did we?" Tony asks as they rush out of the elevator. "JARVIS, Mark VII?"

"Ready for takeoff, Sir."

"No, we didn't," Loki replies dryly. He stops to lean his hand against the wall while Stark steps into one of his armors. He watches as the machine parts slide over his limbs, abdomen and finally his head. His face is covered last. "I'm coming with you."

"Really? Okay, hop on," Stark says, voice filtered through the armor, and gesturing to his back. Loki sniffs his nose in distaste.

"I would rather walk. You know I'll find you just as easily."

"It will take longer than an hour to walk, it's on the other side of Manhattan! I'm going to keel over if my arm starts hurting any more than this. You know that my suits aren't exactly converted for wearing casts!"

"Then I'll run," Loki replies easily. "But you must be out of your mind if you think I will allow myself to be carried on the back of your deathtrap!"

"Sir," the computer urges Stark.

"Loki, you're being a kid," Stark tells him as he starts moving towards the platform he'll be able to take off from.

"You would know."

"Come on, low blow. Furthermore, what if Sigyn decides to show up while the rest of us are at the piers and you're still on your way, huh? Now, take a hold of my shoulders so we can leave. There's an attack to be stemmed."

Loki rolls his eyes, but admits to himself that the mortal does have a point. He glances down at himself; leather pants, boots and a plain, green shirt aren't much to brag about when going out to the battlefield. Stark makes a noise as if he just remembered something.

"I made some armor for you in case something like this happened. It's just a prototype, some kevlar and metal, but it'll do in a pinch. Like right now. JARVIS?"

A cabinet by the wall hisses open and Loki sees a sturdy, long-tailed jacket and a vest that are rather reminiscent of his own gear. He turns to glance at Stark. The faceplate of his armor stays as expressionless as ever.

"Well, hurry up! There're some daggers there, but do you think you need another weapon?"

Loki turns back to eye the armor. "No," he replies and plunges his hand into the cabinet.

 


 

In the end, flying with Stark isn't as humiliating as he'd presumed. He merely has to keep a tight hold of the armor's shoulders and sit on top of Stark's spine, and that is really all there is to it. Although, he might've left some quite noticeable dents where his fingers dug into the metal at the beginning of the trip, which he is sure Stark will take notice of and whine about.

"Okay, Cap, we're here," Stark informs the blonde mortal once they have landed near one of the piers. Not that faraway is a full-blown battle going on, the Avengers fighting against some metal creatures.

Stark's faceplate pops open. He turns to look at Loki as he answers whatever the captain just said. "Yes, we, as in me and my soulmate....Oh, Steve please, it's the truth. Now, what's the plan?"

They begin walking side by side towards the fight. "Roger, Cap," Stark says after a moment, and then addresses Loki, "So, some crazy scientist you don't wanna know about released a herd of robots to cause some mayhem, but we are thinking it's either a test run or a distraction, since there really isn't anything particular to attack by the piers. Or, then the scientist that released them is just plain dumb, which, to be honest, wouldn't surprise me. Hulk and Hawkeye are on standby in case it's a distraction.

"So, the plan," he pauses as he sends a blast into a metal foe that attempts to fly past them from above. "is to just destroy them. Optimally each and every one. Simple enough?"

Loki gives a mere nod as an acknowledgement, knowing that Stark will be able to tell that the message is received. They part ways when Stark sees more opponents on the other side of the area. There are Midgardians cowering in their metal vehicles on the road, some by the dock, hiding behind anything remotely bigger than the air particles themselves, and the metal creatures are circling in the air above, as well as swarming on the ground like angry bees around their nest.

Loki scoffs as his arm goes through one of the foes that got a little too close to him, the limb following the knife he just punched through it without any delay as it cut the metal. He pulls his hand back and eyes the knife. It's very sturdy, and hard enough not to even bend when going through a noticeable layer of metal.

Impressive work with the knives.

Why, thank you, Loki. You know, I would really appreciate it if you put them to good use here, hm? We'll be able to get back to the tower sooner.

Loki sighs at Stark's poor attempt at manipulation, but decides that he would very much prefer his books to this madness. As he punches through another opponent, he realises that knowing Stark, he might have just been manipulated into doing the human's bidding by making him think he was being manipulated, or in whatever insane route Stark's mind thought it through. Seven hells, living with Stark is exhausting.

Riveting, exhilarating, he concedes, but still exhausting.

He punches another metal foe.

Hey, do you mind cutting back with the punching? Your throbbing fist, however minutely it does actually throb, is distracting.

"Always with the whining," he murmurs as he switches from punching to kicking and slashing. It's more interesting that way anyway. More challenging.

I can still hear you, you know!

Loki sends him an equivalent of an elbow to the ribs through the bond. Focus on the battle, Stark.

I'm a genius, I can tackle at least three or four tasks simultaneously with my brain. Go on, give me a problem and I'll--

He cuts off and Loki feels pain along his shoulder as Stark is being slammed to the ground by another metal creature. Loki cranes his head to watch and sees the creature being blasted to bits.

You were saying?

Shut up, Stark sends back and takes off flying again.

The fight continues for about twenty minutes without any noticeable change, until Loki detects the creatures changing tactics. Being the closest one to the group of Midgardians trapped inside their own deathtraps of vehicles, he sees exactly when some of their metal opponents part from the main fight.

Stark, some of the metal creatures are moving towards the Midgardians by the edges of the battlefield.

I'm a little busy at the moment! Stark sends back to him, even his mental voice sounding strained. He seems to be pinned under a large pile of metal bodies somewhere to Loki's left. You want redemption, Loki? This is your chance. Take care of it. 

Who ever said I wanted redemption? he asks irritably.

Whatever, just take care of it, Loki. Or yell for Cap or someone.

Loki sighs and starts running into the direction where one of the metal foes is ripping apart the vehicle holding the humans. He kicks it off and finishes it off with his knife. The one that tries to take it's place he punches clean through.

The punching, LokiStark protests.

What? You told me to take care of it, I took care of it.

He kicks at another one as he listens to Stark's mixture of exasperated and amused scoffing.

You are one weird son of a bitch, you know that?

Loki quirks a corner of his mouth upwards, and throws his current opponent over his shoulder.

You don't know even half of it, Stark.

 


 

"Good job."

Rogers' words keep playing over in his mind. Him? A good job? Ridiculous. He was just humouring Stark. He takes a sip from the red wine he'd snatched from his soulmate's kitchen cabinet a while ago. He swirls it in its vessel as he ponders.

"Pour me one?" Stark asks as he walks past. He'd went and taken a shower, as had Loki, but Stark's showers tended to last longer than his. Loki decides to oblige, and pours another glass. He'd gotten two when he'd retrieved his own glass from the kitchen, knowing that Stark would no doubt be requesting one.

After a moment, Stark returns from the kitchen he had disappeared into with a strange, bright orange fruit held in his hands, split into two sizable halves. He takes a seat near Loki on the sofa, and snorts, most likely at the skeptical look on the god's face.

"It's a papaya. Here, I'm sure you'll like it." There's a spoon sticking from the flesh of the fruit, so Loki takes the offered half and scoops a piece of the so called papaya with it. In the end, he does like it, but he's not going to mention that to Stark. At least not aloud.

They eat and drink in silence for a moment, and Loki keeps thinking about the battle a few hours earlier. It's now dusk, and he's feeling comfortably weary.

"You did good today, you know," Stark comments at one point, eyes glued on his half of their shared fruit. Loki hums at him neutrally. Today, he seems to be getting an awful amount of praise. "I mean it," Stark presses and turns his head to meet Loki's gaze. "You saw people in danger, and then helped them. That's a good thing."

Loki looks at his fruit and scrapes at its surface with the spoon. "I know that, Stark."

"Alright."

The silence ensues.

"But you know, what if--"

"Don't push it, human."

"O-kay."

They sit for a while in silence again, but Loki can tell that Stark is about to burst with the need to babble, and he takes pity on the man. He sighs.

"I'm not rotten through and through, you know."

Stark surprises him by smiling. Smiling with sudden warmth. "Yeah, I know. But I know that you're not all sunshine and rainbows either, which makes this bond thing hard."

Loki raises his eyes to look at him. "Are you suggesting that you are all sunshine and rainbows, then?"

Stark barks out a laugh. It sounds bitter. "Hell no. I guess we are the same, in a way." He shrugs, and Loki just stares in wonder. He lowers his head to look at the papaya in his hands again.

"Perhaps then."

 


 

 

It's the following day after the battle by the piers when Loki gets to attend another one of the so called briefings. He sits through it, listens to the captain and the rest of the Avengers as they tell their versions of the events that took place yesterday, and even says a few words himself, when Stark's prodding gets the better of him. It's the same, dull business as the briefing he'd attended before, all together.

That is, until the very end when everyone is moving restlessly as they gather their belongings, exit the room, or talk to one another. Loki stays seated in his chair as Stark stands approximately seven feet from him, by his left side, talking to Barton. It's when the archer suddenly slings a companionable arm around Stark's shoulders, when Loki suddenly freezes in place.

His hand clamps around the chair's armrest tightly, the plastic creaking and protesting under the pressure, and he slowly cranes his neck to look at Stark and Barton. What he recognises as burning, pure jealousy surges through his veins, and the plastic cracks quietly beneath his palm.

Stark, of course, notices the change in his mood, even as no one else does, and subtly edges out of Barton's grip. The overwhelming feeling eases the instant Stark is no longer touching anyone.

Loki pries his eyes off of the two, and sucks in a calming breath. Stark had barely, if at all, touched anyone since they had returned from Asgard, but even before that a mere friendly touch hadn't been nowhere near enough to trigger such a response from the god. Loki rakes his brain through for an answer, and can only come up with one:

He is beginning to develop feelings for Stark.

And since Stark is his soulmate, and they haven't....consummated their bonding, the bond is starting to act up, amplifying these types of emotions. He cards a hand through his hair, contemplating whether he should just rip it clean off of his scalp.

By now, the room is empty and Stark moves to stand by his side.

"Everything alright?" he asks, voice relaxed, but the bond betrays his emotions to Loki. Concern.

Loki grits his teeth. "No."

Chapter Text

That day marks the first full month of Loki's stay in the tower. And the guy himself has seemingly just....ceased to exist. While Tony knows that isn't really the case, since the scar snaking around his arm is feeling as fine as ever, in all seriousness Loki could've just as well vanished what with the way he's been avoiding Tony for the past few or so days.

Not cool, is Tony's take on the situation.

It's not so much that Tony misses the guy's company — actually, scratch that, he totally does. He's an adult and he can admit that. But not for the obvious reasons, which are that Loki is his alleged soulmate and blah blah blah, but for the fact that Tony truly does lead quite a secluded lifestyle. And during the past weeks he has grown pretty accustomed to near constant company, as well as the endless stream of snarky comments and comebacks he gets when Loki's around, so you have to admit that it's a bit weird now that he's by himself again.

Even the bond they share seems somehow muddled, although there is the familiar undercurrent of irritation that seems to permeate the raven-haired man, and it seems even more prominent than before. And to be honest, it's getting to Tony's nerves.

"This is getting ridiculous," he grumbles as he grabs the green smoothie he had just prepared for himself. What? He's trying to distract himself. He takes a sip through the straw and gags. Too much raw greens, too little fruit. When will he get the ratio right? "Where exactly is he?" he blurts out. After all, it seems like he can't distract himself when it comes to....well, this.

JARVIS doesn't pretend he doesn't know exactly to whom Tony is referring to. "Master Loki has wished that I keep his hideouts unknown to you, Sir. I would also like to remind you that this isn't the first time we have had this conversation."

Tony quickly sets his smoothie down to wave horizontally at JARVIS before the AI, or more accurately the little shit, can start playing any audios of past conversations like he so often does. He picks the glass up again to take another sip. His right hand isn't yet healed enough for him to really be holding anything in it, so he uses his left to do it.

"Do I need to use my override codes? Ask that and tell him that I'll be in the living room when he wants to talk."

He starts walking out of the kitchen and freezes in the doorway when he sees someone standing barely three feet from him. The smoothie glass slips from his hand as he takes a step back and falls to the hard stone floor, shattering.

"Fucking hell!" he curses, then snaps his eyes up to look at the impassive face of no other than his resident Norse god, Loki.

Huh, that seems too easy. "That was my lunch. We're definitely getting you a bell, dammit," he grumbles.

"What did you want to talk about?" Loki asks, and he sounds so closed off and cold that Tony wants to shiver. It's like reverting back to square one.

He sighs. "Let's do this in the living room, alright. Chop, chop!" He motions for Loki to turn around and walk to the sofa behind his back, while he himself maneuvers himself over the remains of his smoothie, preferably unscathed. Loki eyes him and his bare feet for a second, before he finally turns and walks away, leaving Tony to follow him. Which he does, but with some difficulty since the glass shards really did get everywhere.

"JARVIS—" he begins once he's clear of the mess.

"I have already sent U to clean up, Sir." 

"Right." Tony walks up to the piece of furniture Loki is sat at, and notices that it isn't the usual one, the large couch that they often share, but rather one of the two armchairs in the living room. Huh.

So, of course Tony takes a seat on the armchair's arm, his bent legs almost in Loki's lap, and turns his upper body to cage the other man in when he tries to twist away.

"Now, why are you avoiding me?" he asks, frowning at the glaring god, and gets a distinctive feel through the bond that Loki is contemplating pushing him off the arm and down to the carpet. He shifts, tightens his hold on the upholstery so that he won't completely destroy his back if he ends up falling. "Well?" he presses when Loki doesn't answer him immediately.

"You annoy me," comes the bratty response, and Tony rolls his eyes with a steadying breath drawn in.

"This has everything to do with Clint and I the other day, and zero with me annoying you, although I'll give you that that's actually a fair point. Wanna elaborate on that? The Clint and I part, not the me annoying you—"

"No, I don't," Loki cuts his rambling off, and oh, the guy is mad for some reason. Tony makes an intrigued sound at the back of his throat. Really mad. The anger flowing through the bond feels rather....scalding, if one could call it that. It's more of a vibe really, not that much of a feel, but—

Stop wittering in your own head, it's annoying.

His inner monologues seem to be another thing that have a distinctive feel to them, as well as them annoying Loki. Yay, good for him.

"Sure," he concedes easily. It's a problem anyways. "So, tell me. Was it because Clint was being a jerk to you that day? Or was it the briefing? Did you not like Clint getting his hands on my person? What is it, spill."

Loki sighs, long-suffering. "I presume you will not cease this madness until you have your answer, correct?"

Tony just shrugs, and Loki seems to struggle reigning in his answering eye roll.

He breathes in and out before continuing, "It's because of the bond."

"The bond?"

"Yes, the bond," Loki clarifies, shooting a glare at Tony, and the human raises his hands placatingly. Loki sighs again, this time in a frustrated rush. "It's being....problematic."

"Problematic how?"

"Problematic in a sense that it's disrupting my everyday life." Tony ponders on Loki's admission for a moment. He shifts a little, left wrist growing weary under his upper body's weight, and looks at the god for a moment.

"Does this mean I can't spend time with anyone without it 'disrupting' your life? Because, man, I am capable of doing changes, but that's asking pretty much."

"I wasn't asking anything like that," Loki snaps, motioning with his hand like he's cutting through air.

"But this is about Clint and I, isn't it?" Tony presses.

"Yes," Loki finally grits out, although he looks highly constipated at the concession.

"So, it's the touching?" because what else could it be? Tony isn't a genius for nothing.

"Yes," Loki grits even more forcefully, and Tony is amazed that his carpet isn't melting under the full-blown glare of the Norse's. He sighs. Looks up at the ceiling.

"Great," he says, leaning some distance away from the demigod in his armchair. "So, now I'm not allowed to touch anyone, is what you're saying, huh? You know, one of my titles is 'Playboy', so you know that that's going to be an impossible task in the long run, okay?"

Loki yanks his gaze off of Tony's carpet to direct his glare at the man himself. His eyes are turning red around the edges, and Tony suppresses a shiver at the sight.

"Do you honestly believe yourself capable of that, with the nature of the bond we share?" the god asks, voice low and treacherously soft, yet filled with sudden rage. Then the guy tilts his head, his expression changing towards sly. "What if I decide to share my bed with someone else, then? I am sure Sigyn and I would still be able to reconcile, don't you think?"

That's when the same rage floods Tony, and he gasps at the force of it. A harsh, "No," escapes his mouth before he can stop it, and Loki smirks deviously.

"See?" the god says, his right hand absently caressing the fabric of Tony's shirt as it travels up his left arm, and it's all Tony can focus on. "This is what I was talking about." His cool hand reaches the collar of his shirt, and slowly, so agonizingly slowly, his fingers cross the border between fabric and skin, quickly and firmly grasping the back of Tony's neck. He gasps at the contact, as does Loki, and watches the green of his eyes being completely engulfed by red.

Loki pulls, and soon their foreheads are touching, and all Tony can do is hold on to the upholstery so he doesn't topple over. The points where their skins are in direct contact are burning, and Tony is drunk on the feeling. And he can tell that Loki is too.

"This is what the bond wants," Loki continues, his forehead lifting from Tony's, so that his lips can reach the skin on his throat. Tony isn't even slightly embarrassed at the sound he makes at that, and he hurries to maneuver himself from the arm of the chair and fully into Loki's lap, straddling the god.

"Then give it to me," he challenges and grinds his hips down, eliciting a breathy groan from Loki. He replies by biting down on Tony's neck, still held in his grip, and Tony moans. An arm circles him, holding onto his hipbone and Tony takes the chance to pull on the other man's hair. Loki chuckles softly and latches onto his throat anew.

He licks and nibbles and sucks, and Tony moves his hips and pulls on Loki's hair in retaliation, and it feels like liquid fire in his veins. It's too much and too little at the same time.

"Sir," is what breaks the two of them out of their fervor, and Tony lands on his back on the carpet (as he feared earlier) when Loki pushes him off of himself.

He breathes for a moment, head spinning, before he can muster an answer, "What?" It comes out snappy, but he thinks the AI deserves it.

"I just wish that you would reevaluate your decisions."

"Reevaluate...." Tony repeats, disbelieving, and pushes himself up to his elbows, groaning. When he looks up, Loki is (unsurprisingly) gone from the armchair. "Great. Jarv, thanks, really."

"You're welcome as always, Sir," JARVIS replies, playing along with the sarcasm and oh god, if the guy had a corporeal body, Tony would be strangling him right about now.

"Shut up, that was sarcasm and you kno—" he stops talking when someone grabs him by his armpits and pulls him up. He twists to get a look, and is flabbergasted when he notices that it's Loki. The same Loki he thought would've gone to hiding by now, and probably avoiding Tony for the rest of his life.

"Uh," he stammers, but Loki speaks over him,

"Shut up," he says simply, then walks away.

"Wha—" Tony begins, stammers a little more, then starts again, "What do you mean by 'shut up'? I wasn't talking, you can't tell someone who isn't talking to shut up!"

Loki turns to look at him from his spot by the open doorway to the kitchen. He smirks a little. "You were going to." Tony huffs, and Loki continues, "I see we have reached a consensus. Let's keep it that way for a while longer." He disappears through the door, leaving Tony gaping behind him.

When he recovers, he hurries after the man. "You owe me a smoothie, remember?" he exclaims, and feels Loki's mirth through the bond.

 


 

"So, is touching still a big no-no?" Tony asks that evening, eyes glued to his tablet where he's looking through some blueprints, as he and Loki sit on his couch in their usual seats. Loki is nursing a wine glass, and there's a book propped up against his bent leg.

"I believe touching will be fine from now on," Loki replies absently, flipping a page on his book.

"Alright. Not that I necessarily like touching people all that much anyway, but sometimes I have to. Like when I'll eventually start attending more SI meetings and such again. Some people tend to get a bit handsy." He grimaces at the memory. He's been grabbed one too many times during those events, thank you very much.

He feels Loki's thoughts darkening a little at the implication, but not enough for him to do anything else except raise an eyebrow at the guy.

"I see," Loki finally says, and Tony nods.

"I'm glad you don't need to meet people that much. I mean, yeah, sure we should start making you friends other than myself, but I'm a pretty jealous guy by nature, so I can only imagine what the bond would do to me." Loki had previously elaborated on detail what had happened, the bond acting out and all that because of their alleged feelings, or whatever.

"Is that what you consider us? Friends," Loki asks, completely moving on from the actual point that Tony was trying to make.

"Uh, sure. I mean, what else should I call us? Acquaintances? Well, you gotta admit we're a bit more than that. Soulmates? Too 18th century. Enemies? I don't think that really applies anymore. Husband and husband? That's just...no. We don't even have matching outfits. Roommates? Eh, well that just sounds weird. So, why not friends?"

Loki looks at him over his book, unimpressed. "You just butchered all meaning behind that word," he says, and Tony can tell that he's actually a little insulted.

"Aw, don't be like that, Loki." He kicks the guy just to get a rise out of him. "You're my byddy, alright."

The god rolls his eyes and hooks his foot under Tony's knee. Tony is too distracted until it's too late, and Loki has twisted him off of the couch.

"You ass!" Tony grumbles, sprawled on the floor as he reaches for his tablet that slid a considerable distance away for such a small device (puny, he thinks Loki would call it). Loki just hums gleefully, which is basically an equivalent of a snicker when it comes to this guy.

Not born yesterday, Tony manages to yank him off of the sofa also. It proves to be surprisingly easy, since all Tony does is makes a grab for Loki's legs, and uses his upper body strength to pull him down. Loki even manages to keep his wine glass in hand, not spilling a drop as he falls down to the carpet, landing on his rump. Tony has the time to bark out a laugh before the guy has set down the items in his hands, and is capturing Tony in a leg lock, holding him firmly with his back against the floor and with his legs secured and on Loki's lap. Then Loki begins pressing down on his soles in what must be the most excruciating foot massage he has ever received.

"Fuck! Stop," he gasps, but there really isn't much he can do with a fucking demigod holding him down, except for dig his nails into the skin around his exposed, pale ankles.

"You were asking for it," Loki says evenly, sounding delighted of all the fucking things, and like that somehow excuses him from murdering Tony's feet.

"Be gentle, I won't be able to walk for a week if you keep going like that!" And interestingly, it's that what makes Loki ease on his presses, and the massage suddenly turns entirely too sensual. Tony muffles a groan at a particularly good stroke of Loki's thumb, and Jesus christ where did this guy learn to massage like that?

"I studied the arts of healing at one point in my life," Loki replies his question, since apparently Tony is thinking rather loud again, and the man sounds pretty smug about it. "This was a part of that trade," he adds, the pads of his fingers pressing into the arch of his foot.

"Mh, well thank god for that," Tony mumbles, his back arching off of the ground at another press against the muscles on his foot.

"Indeed," Loki smirks, before releasing Tony from his lock. Tony whines at the loss of his cool hands on his feet.

"Don't stop, it was just getting good," he says, reluctantly sitting up as Loki relocates himself back to his spot on the sofa.

"I'm reading," he replies snottily, as if that's a good enough answer, and Tony pouts at him. Still, he has some work to finish, so he gets back up to the couch, too.

"You should consider a career as a masseuse," he suggest once his fingers are busy with the blueprints again. Loki hums at him in his typical, noncommittal fashion, although Tony can tell that the thought somewhat amuses the man.

"I'm not sure whether you've noticed, but I am not really a—"

"A people person?"

"Sure, that," Loki says dryly, taking a sip of his wine as he keeps on reading.

"Yeah, I've noticed," Tony replies the non-question, laughter in his voice. "You'd make a good lab assistant, though."

Tony senses Loki raising his eyes from his book to send him a glower, so he looks back with an innocent little smile.

"I'm only assisting you until your arm has mended itself, Stark."

Tony huffs out a laugh. "Yeah, okay."

The rest of the evening they spend in companionable silence.

 


 

It's only a day after that, the slight bruise on Stark's neck still visible, left there by Loki earlier when they were seated in that armchair, when the two of them have an unwanted visitor.

They are in Stark's living room, the human rotating around a large hologram and Loki watching him with varying levels of interest. He's sitting on the couch, a notebook in his hands where he's....scheming, as Stark likes to call it, twirling a pencil absently in his writing hand.

He's immersed in his own notes when he senses Stark noticing something, and he raises his eyes to look at the man.

"What is it?" he asks, when the man does nothing but stare out of the large windows.

"JARVIS, scan," Stark commands, walking closer to the reinforced glass, and Loki closes his notebook, setting it on the coffee table. "Is that...?" the human begins, but doesn't have the time to finish his sentence before he flees from the window and Loki surges up to close the distance between them. Before he can do that, the window shatters, sending a rain of glass shards into the room and a dark figure lands on the stone floor.

The creature has the body of a lion, although its hind legs are that of a goat and its tail is a snake that keeps hissing in his direction. In addition to the snakes and the lion's head, there's a goat's head protruding from it's massive shoulder, as well as the upper body of a dragon, whose wings are still moving slightly, struggling to balance out the creature's immense bulk. It's form is inky black and smoky, which is what betrays it as one of Sigyn's fauna.

"I didn't know you got yourself a chimera, dear Sigyn," Loki croons, eyes desperately trying to find a glimpse of the woman from behind the animal's large wings. If she is masking herself with an invisibility spell, then looking for her with his eyes would be futile, but without his powers that is all he has. His legs are moving slowly sideways as he tries to inch himself closer to his soulmate, who is currently standing on the chimeras other side, fiddling with something in his hand.

"Yes, well, she was quite a feat to capture, I'll admit that," Sigyn replies behind his back, and Loki hurls himself around to face her. She presses the end of her staff, one that Loki has had the fortune of not seeing for centuries, against his throat once he has fully turned. "But she's such a magnificent creature, now isn't she?"

The chimera in question huffs harshly from its lion head, while the dragon head releases a loud hiss. Sigyn laughs, delighted, at the animal.

"Surely," Loki deadpans and Sigyn focuses on him again.

"You will die tonight, Loki Layfeson," she states, shoving harshly with her staff so that Loki falls backwards, landing on the armchair behind him, seated.

She smiles down at him, but it dies on her painted lips when a blue blast hits her square to the chest, propelling her backwards so that she crashes down onto the coffee table behind her, shattering the glass top. The chimera screeches, and Loki whirls around in time to see one of its clawed legs striking Stark. It had gone for the head, but Stark dodges the hit so that the claws end up sinking into the muscle on his shoulder instead. The man groans, throwing himself away from the beast, and Loki winces when the pain gets distributed to him too, grasping his own shoulder.

He takes a step to get to the human again, but stops when he hears Sigyn's gasp. He looks at her, still lying on top of the remains of the table, propped up on her elbows. Her eyes are trained on the hand Loki still has on his shoulder, and he quickly drops it because — Seven Hells — Sigyn can't know. Not this weakness.

"Many gods, is it truly...?" Sigyn asks no one in particular, and Loki starts backing towards Stark in hurried steps. The look in Sigyn's eyes turns from somewhat absent to hard as steel in seconds. "No, you don't." With a wave of her hand, the chimera moves to pin Loki down onto the floor, and he grunts from the pressure to his chest. Stark coughs in sympathy, and this time Sigyn's gasp is delighted.

"Oh, it is," she says, gracefully standing up, her staff for now discarded, and making her way to where Stark is standing. He's wearing one of the gauntlets to his suit and he trains it on her, but she slithers to the side as she evades the blast. Loki starts struggling even harder against the beast's hold, but it's too late, because Sigyn's fingers are already curling around Stark's neck.

"You bitch," Stark wheezes, twisting in her hold and kicking out, but she seemingly with no effort brings him to his knees, moving to crouch behind him as she seeks out Loki's gaze.

"Your soulmate?" she exclaims, eyes sparkling with mockery and mirth. She looks half-mad with that particular look in her eyes. "I cannot believe it, love. You, of all people? The one to spend all your childhood desperately hoping for something as utopian as a soulmate, and then actually getting one? Only for it to be a mortal." She gazes down at Stark, the hold she has on his gauntleted right hand tightening as her anger thickens. Loki feels the still healing bones beneath the grip grinding together, and he's amazed by the straight face Stark manages to keep. It's necessary though, for Sigyn doesn't need to know that the human is already, or still, injured from their last meeting.

"Fuck off, skank," Stark bites out, and Sigyn giggles at him. Loki frowns and twists against the clawed leg on his chest.

"Oh, I see the resemblance, Loki my love," Sigyn singsongs, her nails digging into the flesh of Stark's neck, the small pinpricks of pain appearing on Loki's throat as well. Her eyebrow arches, and she moves her hand sideways a little. "Oh, but Loki. You naughty boy," she says with an evil tone, eyeing the fading bruise on Stark's neck. Stark attempts to twist away with a low growl, but it only seems to amuse Sigyn.

"I see that the mortal is good for one thing, at least," she leers. Long locks of her light ginger hair flow over Stark's shoulders, framing his head and throat, as she yanks his face back towards hers and closes the distance between their lips. Stark struggles as she lets out a soft moan, kissing deeply, and Loki's vision bleeds red.

 


 

Tony manages to claw at the witch's scalp with his left hand, ripping out some long strands of hair, and the lips finally part from his own. He gasps in a breath, listening to Sigyn's light laughter. He catches a sight of Loki and feels a surge of rage travel through the bond, tries to struggle again for the force of it.

Then he hears banging against the elevator doors. The team, is what his mind supplies him with. Which reminds him of...

Why is she here? he asks through the bond, looking at Loki as the guy listens to whatever the goddess above Tony is rambling on about.

What? Loki's mental voice nearly yells at him, full of rage and impatience.

Why is she here if Thor is here? Also, why can't the team get in?

Loki seems to pause to think, probably to listen to the banging as well. She's bewitching the room somehow. But the spell can't be too powerful, for she hasn't done any necessary preparations for sorcery of this caliber.

Does that mean we can break it?

No, Loki says curtly, and Tony feels himself deflating. But if Thor is outside those metal doors, then we can help him break it. The oaf knows next to nothing about magic, but I can paint the correct rune on the door for him to hit with his hammer from the other side. I just need to get free first.

Okay, Tony replies, his mind already working through all the possible ways for him to get Loki loose.

"Should I just kill him?" gets his attention back to the conversation Loki and Sigyn are still having.

"Sigyn," Loki warns, and Tony notices that the skin of his hands is completely blue by now, but the gigantic paw of the monstrosity on top of him isn't still budging, not despite the freezing temperature of the hands holding on to it.

"Yeah, bad idea," Tony agrees, and gets himself yanked backwards for his troubles. Which, is actually great, because now the aim he has with his seized, gauntleted hand has changed. Sigyn is already leaning in to either whisper some more threats to his ear or rip his throat out with her teeth when he blasts with the gauntlet, the bones in his arm unpleasantly jarring at the sudden movement. But it's worth it, since the bolt hits the animal straight in its ugly face, causing half of it to disperse into the air.

Sigyn screams something, but Tony is busy not listening as he twists away from her hold, glancing to his right to make sure that Loki got free too, and then backing the hell up from the crazy bitch.

"Mortal!" she hisses, hands glowing with her magic. Tony dodges a bolt of said magic by falling through the kitchen doorway, and he scrambles up right away to take cover behind the breakfast bar.

"LOKI!" he yells when he feels the bar shake with another surge of magic, and he notices that the fucking marble is melting atop of him. He hops up and shoots with the gauntlet, aiming carelessly in the witch's direction as he backs away to duck behind the kitchen island. If Loki isn't finished in a moment then Tony's going to become toast.

The cabinet by his left outright melts when magic hits it, but then a sudden weight from his right causes him to fall to his back, and when he looks up it's to the sight of Sigyn straddling him. He raises his gauntleted hand to blast at her, but she grabs it and pins it to the floor.

"Ah ah," she says, smiling down at him and holding her bleeding shoulder. It's already knitting itself together, much like the wound on the center of her chest has almost completely disappeared, but Tony is pretty impressed by the damage the prototype gauntlet can cause to an Asgardian, or whatever species of alien the woman above him is. Well, that's what the upgrade was for, so he shouldn't be that surprised, but it's still nice to see the weapon in action.

"Get off of me," Tony snarls at her, done with his inner monologue as he attempts to buck her off. She just giggles at him.

"No, pet," she refuses simply, and her hand moves with enormous speed towards his throat. Before Tony can blink though, something moves even faster and catches her chest, throwing her off of Tony, who scrambles up to sit at once. Loki crouches before him, holding Sigyn's staff that he'd just used to strike the witch with. He's bleeding heavily from his arm. 

"Are you alright?" he asks, hand settling on Tony's shoulder, and there's an explosion that Tony can only guess is Thor and the team finally making an entrance through the elevator.

"Yeah," he breathes out, shoulders relaxing slightly, but then Sigyn's slumped form moves behind Loki's back, surging up to attack, and Tony throws himself against the demigod, right hand extended over Loki's left shoulder and left arm curling around the back of his neck as he nails Sigyn right in her face with a powerful blast, and she gurgles out a scream as her jaw dislocates and the skin on her face melts.

He slumps against Loki, eyes locked with the bloody and charred skeleton of a face the close-range blast leaves in its wake, and Loki wraps his arms around his back, seeing what Tony is seeing through the bond. It's a newfound ability, and Tony'd rather they found it some other way than staring into a ruined face of their enemy, but what can you do?

Seconds later, Thor and the team enter the kitchen, Thor going straight to Sigyn as he seizes her, struggling and screeching and all, and Tony watches the horror on his face as he takes in the goddess' ruined form. The rest gather around, either staring at the shrieking witch, or at the two of them embracing each other, but Tony is too exhausted to care. He lets his face fall against Loki's neck, hiding his tired eyes there and breathing in the scent of his soulmate instead that of burnt flesh.

Chapter Text

They breathe there for a moment together, Tony's head still burrowed against Loki's neck while sounds echo weirdly around the room. Or, maybe it just sounds that way to Tony, since he's in a state of mind that it's hard to tell the difference between actual sounds and the hum in his ears. Who knows.

It has become somewhat quieter when Loki finally pushes him off of his shoulder, settling him against the kitchen island behind his back.

"Ugh," Tony groans. God, he feels nauseous.

"Stop thinking about it and it'll pass," Loki tells him, voice somewhat cross. He reaches out an arm to press his cool palm against Tony's forehead, and oh my god that feels nice. Loki let's out a soft huff, and Tony finally feels centered enough to crack his eyes open. The first thing that registers is the still gushing wound on Loki's extended left arm, as well as the twin sensation blooming on his own.

"You're bleeding," he states the obvious, voice colored by confusion. Because since when did Loki bleed? Like, actually bleed? Because the wound keeps on dripping, dripping and dripping as Tony watches.

"So are you, genius," Clint quips from Tony's right. The archer is standing there, slightly leaned over the two of them while Steve and Natasha stand behind his shoulder with keen eyes trained on Tony and Loki. Thor seems to have disappeared from the room, presumably to escort Sigyn away since the witch is nowhere to be seen.

"Let me take a look at that," Bruce says suddenly, and Tony whips his head around to see the scientist crouching by their other side, hand extended towards Tony's right side. When Tony just stares at him with a somewhat dazzled expression, Loki sighs and twists him around so that his right side is facing Bruce. Tony can hear Clint cursing at Loki for just that, and Natasha attempting to reign him in.

"Did you hit your head, Tony?" Bruce asks him.

"Not particularly," he replies at the same time Loki says, "He doesn't have any obvious head wounds, but he did get thrown around an uncomfortable amount."

Bruce glances at them both. Nods. "Alright."

"I'm fine," Tony tells him, and he can particularly taste the amount of eye rolling going on in the room. "Seriously. Just a little dazzled, that's all. I did just get home invaded by some lunatic witch. I also full-on blasted right at said witch's face, so I think I'm entitled to some dazzlem--ow, what the fuck, Bruce?"

Tony turns back from his monologue to look where Bruce's hands are busy with the manual release of his gauntlet. The man glances up at Tony, shrugging like he didn't just wrench at Tony's arm in all the different, wrong ways. "You were rambling, I saw my opportunity and took it. Removing this is going to hurt no matter what."

"Geez, doc," he sighs, then glances towards the three Avengers still lingering by their other side. "Can we at least lose the audience?"

Clint is, unsurprisingly, the first one to show signs of petulance, but luckily Natasha is willing to be the voice of reason, as she often is. Being just that, she bodily yanks Clint towards the doorway and nearly carts him out of the room.

"I can stay if you need some muscle with that," Steve offers, gesturing towards the gauntlet.

"I think we can manage, thank you," Loki replies somewhat tersely from where he has been supporting Tony's back. Tony just shrugs and nods at the captain, and the man gives him a tight, neutral tilt of his mouth before following the two assassins out of the room.

Tony decides it's time to put on a brave face. "Okay, let's do this." He moves his left hand to take a hold of the manual release himself, but Loki grabs his wrist and maneuvers Tony so that he's back to chest with the Norse god.

"Lean against me, let the good doctor do his job, and shut your mouth," Loki says and Tony only has the time to let out an outraged scoff--since the nerve this guy has--before Bruce has grabbed the gauntlet and yanked at the release, hard, so Tony's scoff turns into a choked off sound halfway. The good thing is, however, that the ordeal is over in seconds and the gauntlet clangs harmlessly against the marble floor of the kitchen.

"Mother of god--" he swears, and Loki gives his good shoulder a harsh pat. Tony can tell that the god himself isn't totally unaffected by the sting of pain either, but he seems to be playing up the non-puny-mortal veneer since Bruce is in the room.

"Let me put a tourniquet on that before we move to the medbay," Bruce is saying when Tony tunes in again. The scientist is nodding towards Loki's bleeding arm.

"It's fine," Loki tells him. Tony frowns, because that doesn't seem fair to him.

"I had to sit still and get manhandled by the two of you, so you can sit still for a moment and get something on that. Preferably before you bleed out," he says indignantly. "Also, I don't want you making a mess of the whole tower while we relocate," he sniffs, as if as an afterthought. 

He can tell through the bond that Loki is praying for patience in his head, and smirks before elbowing the Norse god in the gut. It jars his bruised body uncomfortably, but the spike of irritation he senses is worth it. "There's a kitchen towel behind you. Give it to Bruce so we can move."

In the end, Loki hands Bruce the makeshift tourniquet and after his arm is treated they get up to their feet, albeit slowly since Tony and Loki are both nursing multiple cuts and bruises, as well as distributing the pain from their own wounds to each other, and file into the backup elevator. There's no way that the main elevator is going to function after getting blasted with Thor's hammer along with Loki's rune work--rune work which seems to have been drawn onto the metal surface of the elevator using Loki's blood--before some maintenance work is done, and Tony's already dreading the inconvenience it'll be to have that part of the floor fixed.

Down at the medbay, Bruce cleans the claw marks on Tony's shoulder and the knife wound on Loki's arm (although Loki is even more uncooperative with the whole process than Tony usually is, which is a great feat on itself) and dresses both injuries. He also does the brief, regular post-battle checkup and redresses Tony's broken arm after checking it over and applying an ice pack on the area to reduce the swelling.

"You just can't help getting in trouble, can you?" he asks at one point, adopting a particular sardonic tone he uses only when he's extremely disappointed. It's regrettably often that the tone is directed at Tony.

Tony bites his lip to stop himself from grimacing. "Seems that way."

Bruce just sighs and Loki raises an eyebrow at Tony from behind the doctor's back.

He's not wrong, you know.

Shut up, Tony thinks back. It's not like you're anymore innocent in that regard.

Guilty as charged.

When Bruce finally releases them, Steve is waiting for them in the room beyond.

"Ready for a debriefing?" he asks. Tony groans, while Loki stares impassively. "Now, come on. It won't take long. It's best to do now that the events are fresh in the memory."

So, that's how they end up sitting down in their usual conference room, gathered around the oval table. Clint and Natasha had gone on a coffee run downstairs, and Tony gratefully gulps down his steaming cupful as they wait for Thor, and ends up finishing Loki's barely touched beverage since the guy still doesn't seem to understand the greatness of a good cup of joe.

When the Asgardian finally appears, it's been at least half an hour since Steve first came down to get Tony, Loki and Bruce. He walks briskly to where Steve is sitting, exchanging a quick word before straightening to stand there by the captain's right. Steve clears his throat and opens the debriefing.

"So," Tony says right away, eyeing Thor with a level of interest. "How's the, um, crazy ex situation?"

"She's currently being contained in Asgard," Thor informs them, crossing his arms over his massive chest. "She shan't be a problem any longer."

"And how about the, you know," he continues, gesturing to his own face and causing Clint and Steve to grimace at his crudeness. Natasha, Bruce, Thor and Loki seem mostly unaffected. Thor even shrugs as he answers him,

"Most of her injuries were healed, but there remains some scarring, especially on her face. She seems to have lost her vision."

Huh. Well, she won't be bothering us for a while at least, Tony thinks.

I find the possibility highly unlikely, Loki agrees. The Norse god seems pretty satisfied by the fact, even a little smug if Tony's reading the bond right. It's not like he can blame the guy though.

He taps a staccato beat into the surface of the table, but stops when Steve sends him an exasperated look from across the table. "Can I have a recount of the events that transpired this afternoon, Iron Man?"

Tony sighs. "Sure," he replies and briefly goes through the whole incident.

"And Loki?" Steve turns to the raven-haired man, "Do you concur? Do you want to give your own recount?"

"I stand by Stark's words," Loki states simply, and Steve nods.

"Alright." The discussion keeps going for a moment longer, and after telling everyone to write out an official report by the day after tomorrow, they are done. 

Tony and Loki take the backup elevator to Tony's floor where the signs of a messy fight are still pretty prominent, although JARVIS seems to have sent up some sanitation bots. Tony sighs as he kicks at a stray piece of glass that had been lying before his foot.

"Jay."

"I have placed an order for reparations, Sir," JARVIS responds promptly, "The window and the furniture will be replaced by tomorrow noon, but I'm afraid the elevator and the kitchen counters will take a tad longer."

Tony rubs a palm over his face. "That's fine. Just make sure it'll get done as swiftly as possible."

"Already on it, Sir."

With the brief exchange now finished, Tony turns his full attention back to the room at large. He notices his tablet on the floor, lying there in the midst of some glass and wood debris, and bends down to pick it up. It's got some scratches on its surface, but it seems to still be in working order, so he sets it on the side table that's still standing.

"You're upset," Loki comments from behind Tony's shoulder. Tony's brow twitches with irritation at the comment.

"Oh, really? Wanna know why?"

Loki purses his lips together disapprovingly. "Of course I know why." He slides a step forward, standing about an inch away from Tony. "It was a mere observation."

Tony just sighs again, eyeing the mess that is his apartment. From the corner of his eye, he notices Loki tilting his head as he looks intently at the engineer.

We should get some rest, he sends him, projecting soothing feelings through the bond. Which is new, since believe it or not, the guy isn't really that soothing by nature.

All the same, Tony finds himself sagging where he stands. "Maybe that's not such a bad idea," he admits aloud, the fight leaving him.

"Finally something we agree on," Loki says, and starts leading the way down the hall to their bedrooms. He opens the door to Tony's room for him, and when Tony enters he follows him inside. Tony turns to look at the god questioningly as the door clicks closed.

"The proximity will help us heal faster," the other man replies easily, as if it's obvious, and Tony decides that arguing isn't worth the hassle. Also, he's man enough to admit that a little proximity wouldn't hurt right now.

"So, why isn't your arm healing already?" he asks as he sits down on the bed to pull off his shoes. He can tell from the throbbing on his own arm that the wound on Loki's is still tender, not even scabbed over yet when it clearly should be, given the guy's alien physique.

"It's blood magic," Loki explains, sliding out of his boots with his customary enviable grace. "It'll take longer to heal because of that."

"Uh-huh," Tony replies, as if he actually understands anything about the differences between types of magic. Although, the connotations of blood magic versus regular magic should probably be big enough of a hint. "Next time, give a guy a warning, though."

Loki raises his eyebrows at him, so Tony sends a mental image of the bloody elevator doors to him. "Before your next bout of interior design, I mean. I really don't think that the elevator needed a new paint job. I especially disagree with the color scheme."

"You love red," Loki states calmly as he strips out of the casual, Asgardian styled robe he'd been wearing.

"Ugh, yes, I love it on clothing or on cool gadgets. Not on my apartment walls, duh. It's trashy. Read a book." Which is absolutely hilarious, since Loki doesn't do anything but read books.

Loki just rolls his eyes at him. "Sure, Stark. Now, move over." He leans down toward the bed to crawl over to Tony, settling down to lie over the beige duvet. Tony snorts at the guy, before lying down next to him. He pulls up the blanket he keeps at the foot of the bed and clumsily drapes it over the two of them. Loki let's out an irritated noise, before reaching his hand out to rearrange the blanket. JARVIS dims the lights without needing to ask and Tony lies still against the covers.

They lie there together in silence for some minutes, before Loki seems to have had enough.

"Stop rambling to yourself, it's keeping me awake," he complains.

"First of all, rude. You should stop listening in on my thoughts, it's common courtesy! Secondly, it's my head, I can ramble all I want."

"You should be trying to sleep, like any normal mortal would after trauma."

"Well, I'm not sure how to break it to you, but I'm not really the typ--"

"The typical mortal, yes, I've gathered," Loki interrupts him, elongating his 'yes' into a hiss that is eerily similar to that of a snake. And since the room is dark and Tony has just been thinking of snakes, he naturally startles when Loki's hand quite literally snakes across his belly to curl around his midsection. He can sense the other man's smirk at that. "Relax, Stark."

"That's getting harder and harder by the minute now," he grumbles as Loki pulls him flush against his chest. Tony ends up turning so that his uninjured shoulder is pressed against the mattress, while his back is plastered along the coolness that radiates from Loki's skin, through both of their thin shirts. It's comfortable, so the new position might just be fine by Tony.

"What's getting harder?" Loki teases, breathing against the back of Tony's neck, and Tony shudders.

"Shut up. If this is your idea of helping me relax, it's not working."

Loki just hums at him, before pressing his cold nose against the back of Tony's neck. Tony shrinks back from the sensation, but Loki grips his midsection firmly.

"Stop. Teasing me," Tony grits out and sends a mental equivalent of a swat in Loki's direction. Loki actually let's out a small 'oh', which means that he must be picking up on Tony's bad habits, such as actually making a facial expression or reacting to something every once in a while.

"You're getting better at communicating through the bond," Loki says, and it sounds almost like a praise, which is unusual coming from the Norse god. Tony shrugs.

"I think I'm starting to get the hang of it."

Loki hums again, then sends out some more similar soothing feelings than earlier. You really should get some sleep.

Pot, kettle, black, he quips, but allows the soothing feeling to wash over him. He closes his eyes and tries to uncoil his muscles. It feels easier now that Loki's closer, pressed against his vulnerable back. Somehow....safer.

Tony thinks he feels Loki agreeing to his vague train of thought, and the arm curling around him moves slightly, finding a better purchase.

"Sleep," Loki mumbles, sounding halfway there himself, and Tony does.

 


 

"I think we should go on a vacation."

Loki cranes his neck, lifting his head from his book and eyes the mortal where he's bent over some papers on his desk. They are currently occupying Stark's study, which isn't unusual per se, but it certainly isn't customary for the two of them. Loki believes it to be because the mortal doesn't enjoy looking at the living area, since the renovations are still underway in the kitchen as well as the with the elevator. After all, it has only been five days since the incident, as it is.

Stop analyzing my actions. Your stinking opinions aren't welcome, Stark thinks at him, and Loki reigns in an eye roll.

"A vacation?" he asks instead, picking up the conversation that Stark had initiated.

"Eh, more like a business trip, actually. I'm thinking of attending some SI meetings since it's been a while and Pepper and the board keep breathing down my neck."

Mostly because of the latter, then.

Shut up.

"Also," Stark continues, pointedly ignoring Loki's commentary, "we could use a change in the scenery. We've been trapped in this dump for...How long has it been? Over a month? Christ. And I'm not counting those day-trips we made into the city, that mostly ended in misery."

"Right," Loki says levelly, indicating that he's still participating in the conversation, although with Stark that isn't strictly necessary; The man can go on for hours all by himself, only pausing to come up for air every few minutes.

"Also, I want to get out of here for a moment before I figure out the new security measurements I want to install." Stark states his reasoning with outward confidence, but Loki can tell that the matter is really bothering him. Stark is, in the end, a deeply private man who values security above everything else when it comes to his accommodations, so getting his privacy invaded in such a way must have been unsettling. The fact might come as a surprise to many, since the mortal can talk his head off when he feels like it, as well as flaunt and boast in front of the public like a peacock, thus only the rare few seem to notice the lack of anything truly personal being uttered when he speaks, or the deceptive front he maintains.

I can tell you're analyzing me again. Stop it, or I'll be forced to hurl something at you.

Loki sighs. "Where do you propose we travel to, then? It isn't as if I'm opposed to leaving this place for some fresh air."

"I'm just going to remind you that JARVIS takes care of the circulation here and the air is perfectly fresh, so don't go slandering the good work he does. And I'm thinking San Francisco, since they'll be holding a convention there in a couple days."

"And you're going to bring me as your...?"

"Aha, I've got you covered," Stark smirks at him, "You'll be my new security detail. That way you can wear shades indoors like a jackass and get away with your constant glaring."

"You wear shades indoors."

"It's stylish when I do it."

Loki sighs at him again. "And you believe your ruse is plausible enough?"

Stark quirks an eyebrow at him. "You think it's not?"

"I'm merely asking out of curiosity," he replies sweetly.

The mortal waves a dismissive hand in his direction. "There won't be that much press. Also, my presence is overwhelming enough to completely overshadow yours." He smirks obnoxiously in Loki's direction, and Loki slips into scrunching his nose disapprovingly. He catches himself as soon as he does it. Damned mortal and his idiotic mannerism that keeps rubbing off on me.

Excuse you.

"So, we'll be leaving in two days?" Loki clarifies out loud.

Stark nods in his direction. "Yup. Probably a little before that, so we have time to settle in at the hotel. But otherwise that's the schedule we'll be working around."

Loki nods and lifts his book back up to his face, burying his nose in it. Stark seems unfazed by his antics, and is quick to return to the papers scattered on his table and the glowing surface of his 'tablet'. In the privacy provided by his book, Loki smirks to himself.