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Sufficiently Advanced Romance

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Tony woke up to find Loki drinking coffee in his kitchen.

The most likely explanation for this seemed to be that he was dreaming or something - granted, the guy was a Class A villain and more than a bit crazy, but nobody'd ever accused Tony of being Mr Nice or anything and lots of people had reminded him of that saying about there being a thin line between madness and genius (some of them hurtfully pointedly, like: Tony was a genius, okay? he got it. no need to rub it in). And Loki was sort of good-looking, if you weren't into blonde-and-with-an-abs-of-steel.

So. A dream, which made it probably safe to say: "Hi."

What Tony actually wanted to say was: "What the fuck are you doing in my kitchen, seriously, I thought I had a security system installed the other day." but that would be silly. It was entirely obvious what Loki was doing here, after all.

Tony'd always known his coffee tasted better than anyone else's.

"Hi," Loki said. His expression was slightly uncertain. It couldn't be that he hadn't expected Tony to walk in on him, Tony figured; you broke into someone's house to get a cup of decent coffee, you had to expect getting caught.

He looked down to make sure he was wearing pants. (He was.) Meanwhile, some vague memories came trickling in - nothing too spectacular or traumatizing, just small, everyday stuff. Falling out of bed while failing to hit Jarvis's snooze button. (Technically, it was the fire alarm, but they'd agreed that if Tony would ever be able to reach the button within five seconds of his first wake-up call, that counted as his being officially awake.)

(It had made sense at the time.)

He recalled putting on some pants. These pants. Shuffling through the hallway like the zombielike being that was Tony Stark before he'd had any coffee and/or come face to face with a deity. (The coffee machine doubled as both, although Tony'd been smart enough not to equip it with an AI.)

"This is real." He tried to recall who he'd got on speed-dial right now: Steve or Pepper.

"By your limited human capacity to understand the concept of 'real', yes," Loki said. Or, okay, what Loki actually said was: "Yes?", but Tony could hear between the lines just fine. He was smart that way - and in lots and lots of other ways. Heck, he was a genius.

So he'd got a trickster god in his kitchen, so what? Tony'd got a plan all worked out. Simple, elegant and promising to be highly effective.

It went something like this:

1. get coffee
2. deal with Loki

"Jarvis, coffee," Loki said.

"You are not reading my mind," Tony said, because he felt it was important to set these kinds of borders. "I'm not going to believe you're reading my mind, all right? That kind of stuff's for movies, okay? Comics. In real life? Doesn't happen."

"If you say so." Loki sounded smug.

Tony hated it when people sounded smug. He did it himself, obviously, but that was different. You were allowed to sound smug when you were brilliant. It was in the rules.

He felt Loki watching him as he gulped down the coffee. If Loki'd put something in it, that might be sort of bad. On the upside, in case of poisoning, calling Steve would probably be as good as calling Pepper. The amount of yelling and 'I told you so's should be about equal, too.

"What do you want?" Loki arched an eyebrow and yeah, okay, Tony'd walked right into that one, hadn't he? "All right, let me rephrase that: what do you want here? Involving me? Or not involving me, that's perfectly fine with me, too, just ... lock up after you're done and everything."

Theoretically, he could call Bruce or Thor, but in both cases, it'd probably save on repairs if he just let Loki do his thing. (It wasn't the money, obviously; it was just that the part where repairs would force him to put up with all these strangers walking around his home, making a mess of the carpet, touching his stuff. Tony's a people person, okay? He's totally a people person. The life of the party. Just not all the time. He's allowed to have time off.)

"You're not completely boring," Loki said. Which wasn't any sort of an answer to Tony's question. "I like this house."

Laying it on pretty thick with the flattery there. "It's not for sale."

"Oh, we never buy things in Asgard." According to Thor - who should know, it'd been years since the last time anyone'd seen Loki in Asgard. Didn't mean he hadn't been around, of course.

Tony wondered how anyone even slightly smart could stand living for centuries without going a little bit insane. Thor was all right, mostly, but he ... well, he was Thor. Not stupid or anything, but every problem probably looked like a nail to the big guy. (As in: could be fixed by applying a hammer. The hammer. And credit where credit was due: the hammer generally did work.)

"Newsflash, Toto. You're not in Asgard anymore."

"I will visit again," Loki said, putting his empty mug down. One of Tony's favorites, too. "Soon."

Tony decided he hated people performing vanishing acts even more than people sounding smug. It just didn't seem fair somehow; whenever he wanted to turn invisible (which happened sometimes; not often, but sometimes), it never worked.


The sensible thing would be to tell someone. Anyone.

Too bad Tony'd never been very good at doing the sensible thing.


"I'm a genius." Tony tried not to say stuff like this too often. He'd noticed most people didn't like the reminder that yeah, he'd got brains and beauty and enough brawn to make it count.

Right now, it was only him and Jarvis though, so Tony figured that should be all right. Jarvis wasn't equipped with the necessary equipment to feel inadequate compared to Tony.

"I have to admit, I feel slightly uncomfortable with my current state of exposure."

"You - what?" This was new. New and not good. "What are you talking about? I'm just looking at your source code; you're not exposed or anything, look, I'll put it in Read-Only if that makes you feel better."

"Not really."

Two things Tony'd always been able to rely on: himself, and technology. Technology was easy. You figured it out, you put all the parts and pieces together in the right way, and it worked.

Jarvis represented the best from those two things combined. Tony wasn't perfect, all right - he knew he screwed up sometimes, did or said things he hadn't meant to do or say, but then he'd look at Jarvis, and he'd figure that hey, maybe that guy looking back at him from the mirror every morning wasn't such a complete screw-up after all.

It had never occurred to Tony that all those times he'd looked at Jarvis, he'd actually been looking at, well, dirty pictures. Tony couldn't even remember the last time he'd looked at what most people would refer to as dirty pictures - well, not ones that hadn't had him in them, anyway. But everyone knew it didn't count as a dirty picture when you were in it yourself.

"Oh." Tony felt sort of small, all of a sudden, because he'd never - and it obviously bothered Jarvis, but Tony hadn't - "Sorry. I'm just going to - sorry."

There was probably a hard copy of the whole thing somewhere. In the workshop. He might even be able to find it. Wouldn't be the same, of course, and hey, what had he been drinking when he'd written a string of code in neon-purple?

"Um, Jarvis? Personal question?"

Tony'd gone one-on-one with the cover models for Playboy three years running, and he'd managed to talk to all of them without getting slapped even once.

Of course, he hadn't actually known any of them. Other than in the biblical sense of the word.


It probably wasn't Tony's imagination that Jarvis sounded resigned. It would be nice if that horrible feeling of guilt he felt slowly creeping up on him would have only existed in his imagination, but Tony'd never been particularly lucky when it came to stuff like that.

"These lines right here. When did I write him, and how drunk was I?" Did this count as saying: 'gosh, you look a lot uglier now that I'm sober'? Surely not.

On the other hand: 'yeah, so I may have messed around with the very essence of your being while I had no idea what I was doing'? Not that Tony'd ever gotten that drunk in the past few years or so - at least, he didn't think so, but ... well. He wouldn't remember it, would he? That was the point.

"You didn't."

Well, that was a relief. Not his fault. Completely innocent. Utterly - "Wait, what?"


"You messed with Jarvis, prepare to die."

Tracking down Loki had been remarkably easy. He'd simply asked Thor, and Thor had launched into his usual speech of how Loki wasn't truly evil, because he was Thor's brother (and Tony, as usual, refrained from commenting that feeling like someone was family? Not a guarantee for not-evilness) and then he'd admitted that yes, he knew where Loki was, but what did Tony want to know for?

Tony hadn't stuck around long enough to provide an answer, which hopefully meant Thor was right behind him and would show up just in time to keep Loki from turning Tony into a frog or something.

Tony Stark: making perfect, foolproof battle plans since 2012.

Loki was hiding out in some sort of warehouse that looked like it belonged in a movie. One of those rundown warehouses everyone always used for shady business. It had a lot of (highly suspicious) crates in it, a few chairs and a wobbly table. Loki'd been playing solitaire when Tony'd burst in which was just sad.

Everyone knew solitaire was something you played on a computer. Phone, maybe. Phones were much more convenient for bringing to board meetings, although personally Tony preferred playing PacMan on his. It wasn't quite the same without the sound effects, of course, but still better than actually listening to whatever whomever was saying about something Tony couldn't care less about.

"Who?" Loki asked, sounding bored.

"His name's Jarvis and he's a person and he's got rights."

Loki picked up another card from the deck. Tony considered performing acts of violence on the table.

"Again: who?" Loki put down the card - three of hearts. On the five of diamonds.

"Why are you even playing if you're going to cheat?" The paper cards did make it easier, Tony supposed. Unless you could simply tell the computer which card you wanted to draw next, of course; that worked just fine, too. Tony hadn't lost a game of solitaire for ages.

"Perhaps because it's the only game in town."

"How about: 'let's find a place to live that doesn't make me look completely pathetic'?"

Loki looked around the warehouse as if he'd never seen it before. "What's wrong with the place I am currently inhabiting? The roof doesn't leak."

"It sucks." 'The roof doesn't leak'? Would-be ruler of the world, and all he required of his secret lair was a not-leaky roof? Tony made a mental note to check up on wherever Thor was living some day soon, just in case this was another Asgardian thing. He'd hope Jane wouldn't put up with anything too bad but then, she did get that starstruck expression on her face whenever Thor was around. She might not even have noticed. Or cared. "Of course, you do, too, so maybe it's actually a pretty good fit."

Speaking of Thor: he didn't seem to be showing up yet.

Loki sighed. "Stark. Let me explain something to you. I am, for all practical purposes, a god. You think Thor remembers the names of all the enemies he's slain?"

"That sounds like a trick question, so I'm going to go with 'yes, absolutely'."

"He does," Loki admitted. "Interesting. Most people assume he's just a musclebound idiot and of course he doesn't actually remember their names, what sort of moron are you? He doesn't even bother learning most of their names before the battle, and why should he? All fall on the battlefield before the mighty Thor."

And here Tony'd thought he sounded manic and bitter sometimes. "Okay, so you've both got poor memories." Loki glared. "You honestly expect me to buy that?"

"It might be true. Whoever this Jarvis was, know that he died with honor and courage and - "

"Yeah, he's not actually dead." Tony hadn't been able to delete the lines Loki'd put in, but they didn't seem to be doing anything except, well, be there.

Loki looked genuinely puzzled. Tony figured that meant he was probably faking it. "But then, what's your grievance with me? Surely you can't blame me for trying to kill him?"

"Pretty sure I could, actually," Tony said. "But nope, you didn't do that either." He considered mentioning Jarvis was pretty much unkillable, but yeah. Better not. "Jarvis is my - an AI. Who's living in my house. He's not mine, obviously he's not mine, he's a person and you can't own persons, that would be illegal or something."

Loki blinked once. "You - you are here because I tampered with the magical construct that's protecting your house?"

"He's not a magical construct, he's an artificial intelligence."

"That's what I just said. And my ... tampering bothers you in some way?"

"Yeah," Tony said. "I'd have to say that it does. Bother me. A lot." It wasn't a lie. It did bother Tony Loki'd messed around with Jarvis's source code - 'magical construct', for God's sake. Clearly Loki didn't have the first clue about what he'd been doing; he could have deleted Jarvis. By accident. Or done a hundred different things that would have left Jarvis damaged, different from who he was.

Loki's fingers drummed soundlessly on the table. The four of spades slipped itself out of the drawing pile and in between the three of hearts and five of diamonds. "A trade," Loki said.

This should be good. "What trade?"

"You offer me shelter in your mansion and in return, I shall perform three sorcerous acts for you."

"Right," Tony said. "I don't th- "

Tony really hated people performing vanishing acts.


For three days, Tony didn't see Loki. One morning, he found an empty mug on the coffee table and one evening, he came up from the workshop to find a pizza sitting at the top of the stairs. It was still warm and Tony realized he felt kind of hungry and he figured, well, why not?

It had come in an official box and everything, so it probably was nothing more than what it looked like, even if it seemed remarkably lucky he'd come upstairs when he had. Cold pizza wasn't nearly as good.

"Jarvis? A personal question?"

"With you, is there any other kind?"

Tony opted to let that one go, for the moment, if only because he still had no idea what to do with the realization that Jarvis was, in fact, a person. "Has Loki uh - has he fixed you?"

Somehow, it felt as if the room temperature had just plunged. "Fixed me, sir?"

"Yeah." Tony's tried and true method of dealing with problems: keep plodding on until you get there. Or give up, but that wasn't exactly an option here. "Those lines he put in your source code? I'd been kind of hoping maybe he'd have ... removed them?"

"Not so far."

"Because I asked him to," Tony said. That was the main thing, wasn't it? He'd asked, he'd threatened and he'd put himself in danger, all so that Loki would undo what he'd done to Jarvis. Tony was a goddamn hero, was what he was. "Since I know you don't like it that he messed with your code."

"Me, sir?"

Oh. Oh. But Jarvis - he couldn't just - Tony'd made him. Hours and hours of designing and programming and tinkering to make sure everything would work exactly right and what had Loki ever done for him? Fifty lousy lines of code. A couple of hours, tops. Probably less.

"You don't want him to remove those lines?"

"I imagine I may have been compromised," Jarvis said. "It is entirely within the realm of the possible that the new code contains a routine to ensure it will not be rejected."

Jarvis was right: it was possible. But. "But how can I know for sure? I can't even read them." And that stung, too; that Loki had added code in a language Tony didn't even know.

Loki was an alien. People fought each other with swords and axes and hammers where he came from, and they believed in magic. Loki wasn't supposed to be some sort of whiz kid with computers on Earth; it simply wasn't fair.

"I guess you can't possibly ask him," Jarvis said. "After all, it's hardly as if you know his address."

"You know where he is? Right now?" Jarvis always knew where Tony was; no reason why the same wouldn't go for Loki. Tony should have thought of it himself, really.


Contrary to Jarvis's information, Loki was nowhere in the workshop.

On the other hand, Tony was pretty sure he'd have noticed if he'd adopted a kitten. "You gotta be kidding me." It was a cute kitten. It was on his desk; he wouldn't even have to lean down or anything to pet it, and Pepper was probably going to kill him if he dumped this on her, and - "No. You want me to rub your belly, you can do it the normal way. Ask."

"As easy as that?" Loki's clothes looked different: less ... villain with an overly dramatic and slightly medieval sense of style, more ... something else. It looked good on him, though.

"I'm very easy," Tony said. "Ask anyone. Now, let's talk about Jarvis."

Loki sighed. "It's unhealthy, you know? Understandable and quite common, to become so emotionally attached to your first construct, but you need to learn to let go."

"Actually, he's more like my third or so." He did still have Dummy and Butterfingers, of course. "So uh, what was yours?" Getting off-topic, but then, perhaps if he could catch Loki off guard, he'd let something slip.

"I added a command to acknowledge me as a rightful inhabitant of the house," Loki said. "That's all. I did consider cleaning up some of your syntaxes, but it seemed impolite, so I refrained."

"You what? There's nothing wrong with Jarvis's syntaxes; Jarvis's syntaxes are perfectly all right."

"Some of them are a bit messy," Jarvis said. "I don't mind."

"He's making you say that. You're making him say that," Tony said accusingly. Loki shrugged. "See? He's admitting it."

"Your deep insecurity is matched only by the depth of your sorcerous talent," Loki said. "Impressive." A beat. "For a human."

"Well, your incredible arrogance is only matched by your amazing ability to annoy people," Tony said. "So I guess that makes us even."

"Meow," said Loki. And then he stared at Tony haughtily for an hour or so while Tony ignored him because he was working here, thank you, and not on anything sorcerous or magical or whatever.

He'd always liked dogs better, anyway.


Thor declared himself delighted to do whatever Tony thought he could do to help with Loki.

"It has been too long since my brother invested himself in some pleasant pastime."

Tony considered pointing out that hey, Loki'd seemed plenty invested in trying to conquer the world (emphasis on 'trying' there; not like he was ever going to succeed or anything). It probably didn't really qualify as a 'pleasant pastime', though. Tony knew he hadn't enjoyed it that much, anyway.

"Talk to me about magic." Thor looked like Tony might look if someone'd asked him to talk about - well, no, there wasn't actually a subject Tony couldn't wrap up with a nice five-minute speech. Or, okay, ten minutes. Thirty minutes, if nobody shut him up. "Um, magic and technology? Computers? You know what computers are, right?" God, this was like Rhodey and that guy - what'd been his name? Ivan? all over again.

"Jane uses them for her work," Thor said, looking anxiously at Tony. Waiting to see if he'd gotten it right, Tony realized. Definitely like Rhodey and whatsisname.

"My suit," he said. "You've seen my suit, right? Could you make something like that with magic?"

"Yes?" Thor said and that was just - it was a guess. Thor didn't actually know.

"Can you do magic? Any magic?" The hammer was magic, of a sort, Tony supposed, except that Thor never seemed to need to do anything to charge it or fix it or anything. It was simply there. It worked. Like lots of people would have a car and a computer and a microwave, but only a few of them would know what to do if they broke, other than to take them somewhere to be repaired.

Thor's face brightened. "I know how to use a credit card."

Whoa. Clearly, Tony should get someone to get on the phone with SHIELD to ask them when he was going to get his special credit card. Not that he needed another one, but it was the principle of the thing. Coulson could appreciate that, surely.

"Credit cards aren't magic."

Thor's face fell. "I don't understand. They told me it works with a tiny vessel on it that will permit me to teleport money. How is this not magic?"

Vessel? "Chip. It's a chip, not a ship. It's an uh technical thing."

"Yes," Thor said. "Magic."

Tony was starting to explain that no, it wasn't then changed his mind. "My suit. It works on magic? It's a magical suit?"

"Of course," Thor said. "It flies, does it not? No ordinary suit of armor could accomplish such a feat. However," he went on, "I know of no wizard who has ever created its equal on Asgard. Only Loki has ever breathed life into a man made of iron, and his did not possess the gift of flight. To be fair, his did also not require him to be inside of it in order to move it."

"Last question. My - your watch. How does it work?" Tony suspected the answer. And it might still be that Thor was unable to see the difference between a complicated bit of machinery and what Loki had referred to as 'sorcerous acts' but ... but regardless of Loki's opinion on the topic, Tony knew quite well Thor wasn't an idiot.

"Magic. I asked Jane to show me the inside," Thor said. "And explain to me its working."

"It's nice," Tony said. Not digital, but it would tell you the time. Also, it would probably be a goner the first time Thor did something more energetic than walking around, but that wouldn't be Tony's problem.

Also, it would appear Asgardian magic and Earth technology were the same thing, and that was definitely going to be Tony's problem.

Thor beamed. "Thank you." A gift from Jane then, most likely. Tony would have to look around for some extra thin, extra strong thingy that looked like glass.


Magic equaled technology.

Technology equaled magic.

And Loki ... Loki equaled - he was the Asgardian version of Tony.

"I'm better-looking. I'm more charming. Jarvis, would you call me charismatic?"

"You have been elected Most Eligible Bachelor of the Year several times, sir."

So had Loki, probably - or no, they didn't really respect magic on Asgard, did they? It was something women did, and Loki wasn't a woman. Usually. Except that Thor clearly thought the world of Loki. Not a single disapproving word about Loki doing girly stuff.

"You are a good person, too. Strong ethics. A sense of right and wrong."

"Thanks." Coming from Jarvis, that did mean something. More than it would have meant coming from, say, Steve or Clint or Natasha or even Bruce. Not that Tony could imagine three out of those four ever even getting the words out, no matter what he'd just done.

If Loki's plan had worked, a lot of people would have died. And he wouldn't have cared. Tony - well, sure, Tony'd killed people. Bad people. That was how you slept at night, didn't you? They'd been bad people and they'd had it coming. Add alcohol, shake, and sleep like a baby. Tony had to make an effort in order to not care.


Loki as a woman looked ... stunning. Of course, Tony had also seen him as a kitten, so it was more a case of some inspired paste-and-copying than real, actual beauty but whatever.

"I think you owe me three wishes."

Loki smiled sultrily. "You want to collect?" Nice voice, too. Not on par with Pepper - and there was a scary thought: Loki looking like Pepper, talking to him in Pepper's voice. Good thing he had the real one on speed dial.

"I want you to undo what you did to Jarvis and then let him decide if he wants that code back again."

Loki nodded. "I can do this. What's in it for me?"

"It's one of my three wishes?" Tony hadn't actually intended to make the deal in the first place, but now that he had, well, a deal was a deal, wasn't it?

"I never promised you three wishes."

"You said - " Tony started, because he knew very well what it sounded like when someone was suddenly trying to weasel out of a done deal.

"I said I would perform three sorcerous acts for you." Loki smiled and yeah, that smile was plenty familiar, too. It didn't look any nicer on a beautiful, sexy woman. "For you. So I kept your pizza warm, I shapeshifted from kitten to human when you indicated you wanted to talk to me, and I took on this shape to please your eyes. Three sorcerous acts. Payment in full for your hospitality."

Some impressive weaseling right there. "My eyes aren't that pleased."

"I'm the god of lies, Stark. I know when someone's not being truthful."

Okay, yes. Tony was a guy, and Loki was ... very much not. On the other hand, fuck that. "You did it to mess with my head. That's not exactly doing it for me, is it? And anyway, what's with the shapechanging act, anyway? Your normal body looks perfectly fine to me. Plenty of fun for my eyes right there, although maybe it wouldn't kill you to try on a pair of jeans and a shirt or something. I mean, that helmet thing with the horns was sort of ... ugly."

"Do you know, I've killed people for less," Loki said casually.

"All right, I'm not the god of lies, but I can still tell that's bullshit."

Loki looked at him thoughtfully, then turned back to his male shape. Wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt that looked very familiar, although Tony had been assuming his laundry service had lost it, not that it had been filched by his unwanted houseguest.

"Fine, third sorcerous act for my benefit, great. Now, about Jarvis."

"I'll do it," Loki said quickly. "Freely."

Unexpected, so suspicious as hell. "You did take my t-shirt. That was a favorite." To push or not to push his luck. "Looks pretty good on you."

Loki did that thoughtful looking thing again. It was a bit weird since, honestly, it wasn't as if Tony was trying to trick him or something. If you really worked at it, you could probably compliment the way someone looked in a t-shirt and make it mean something completely different, but what would be the point? Just saying what he thought had always worked perfectly fine for Tony in the past.

Well, sometimes it hadn't ended in a complete disaster, anyway.

"You're not lying," Loki said. "You truly mean that."

"Okay, now you're just fishing for compliments," Tony said, while thinking 'what the hell?'.


Loki kept wearing jeans. Some of them looked familiar, others ... not.

"You did pay for these, right? With actual money?" Possibly, that had come out sounding a bit insulting but then, if there was a polite way of asking if someone'd stolen the clothes they were wearing, nobody'd ever bothered telling Tony.

"Thor took me shopping the other day," Loki said.

"Bet that made him happy."

Loki grimaced, which Tony took to mean 'yes', and also, possibly, that there had been handholding. Either that, or Thor had bought something truly atrocious against Loki's advice, which, well, if it really was that bad, Jane would probably deal with it. Women were good at that sort of stuff.

"You need more, we can go somewhere," Tony said.

Cue thoughtful look. "You're not my brother."

"Yeah. I don't think we'd both have survived to reach adulthood if you had been."

Not even a smile. Well, it hadn't been that funny, really. "I'll consider it. Perhaps there is something I will trade with you for this." Sure there might be. Because clearly being taken shopping by Tony would be an incredible nuisance and pain in the ass. It made Tony wonder why he'd even bothered, really.

"It could just be a not-favor kind of thing. I mean sometimes, people do something nice for each other."

"Yes," Loki said. "I'm familiar with this human concept."

"So what do you say? You and me, right now, destination wherever?" Would be nice to take one of the cars out again - he'd have to bribe Happy not to tattle on him to Pepper, of course (a mere formality, given that bribing Happy would just mean he'd report the bribe instead of the offense).

"Will we be staying on Earth?"

Tony decided that was probably a joke.


Five hours later, Loki had acquired some new pants and Tony's eyes were in for some very happy times (other parts of him ... not so much, possibly, but then, that was what showers and fantasies were for, wasn't it?). Also: he'd figured he might as well show Loki what humans did for fun.

There might have been some modest amount of alcohol involved.

"What the hell are you playing at?" Clint asked and wow, SHIELD had set someone to spy on him? Tony was hurt, really he was. He needed another drink to drown that pain. "That's fucking Loki back there."

"I don't think he swings that way." Which was obviously a tragedy. Tony's life sucked.

Not enough to satisfy the universe, apparently. SHIELD had to be dealing with an employee surplus or something. "He's drunk." Natasha, looking deadly and sexy and huh, he was pretty sure he'd seen those legs on Loki last month.

Asgardian deities liked to live dangerously, clearly. "Yes, I am. Excellent observation." On the other hand, it wasn't as if Tony was going to tell. "You want something, too? I'm buying. I'm awesome that way."

Clint muttered something about 'balls of steel' which might actually be halfway flattering. Natasha muttered something back about idiots, which definitely wasn't. Tony almost felt nostalgic.

"Do you have reason to suspect your life is in immediate danger?" Natasha asked, clearly quoting some ... thing or another.

"Well, you're here, so I'd have to say - "

"From Loki."

"No," Tony said, quite smoothly if he did say so himself. Musn't upset the sexy Russian assassin after all; unpleasant things might happen. "He's pretty much okay, really. I mean, a bit odd, obviously, but then, is any one of us truly normal? In our own way, we are all unique human beings deserving of love, friendship and support in our endeavors."

"Christ." Clint didn't particularly look like he'd just found religion or something, but Tony was willing to give him the benefit of doubt.

Natasha frowned at him. "You're incapacitated. I'm going to call for an immediate - "

"Is there a problem?" Loki asked. Tony could have sworn he'd gotten Loki at least to 'tipsy' (and only by downing one drink for every five of Loki's; it was absurd, really) but Loki sounded perfectly sober right now, so maybe he'd only been faking it, to humor Tony.

"Back off," Clint said and oh, look, they'd let him bring his crossbow inside. Fair enough; it did sort of look like a toy.

Loki smiled. It wasn't a nice smile. "Maybe I don't want to back off."

"Okay, people, can we have a bit of originality here? You're supposed to be Avengers and you - you're supposed to have a golden tongue, right? Right? So I'd think you can do a lot better than 'maybe I don't want to', because that just sounds like you're a whiny kid or something."

Natasha gave him a quick look and jerked her head to the right. Tony assumed it was some sort of hint - 'I'm coming in from the left, jump to the right' maybe. Or 'I'm going to attack from the right, jump left'.

"Avengers? What are you supposed to be avenging?" Loki asked and all right, that wasn't brilliant but it was okay. As an opener.

"Everything that needs to be," Steve said, stepping forwards to stand next to Natasha and Clint. He was to Natasha's left, so maybe that head jerk had just meant 'watch this space, someone's coming'. "It's three to one, Loki. You're outnumbered. Give up."

"Hey!" Tony said, because, well, hey. Sure, he wasn't wearing the suit, he hadn't even brought the suit, they'd only been going shopping and then getting a drink after and why was everyone making such a huge problem out of Loki being here, anyway? It wasn't as if he was doing anything; Jarvis would have said something if Loki'd gotten Up To No Good.

"Four to one," Steve amended.

"I think you may be miscounting," Loki said. "Where's Thor?"

Not coming, would be Tony's guess. Thor would never actually fight Loki, not like this. Not without Loki clearly and obviously posing a threat to something Thor held dear.

"We don't need Thor to deal with you," Steve said.

"Given that the numbers are three against two, and that I am one of those two, you are either very foolish or, no. Very foolish is the only option," Loki said.

Tony decided he needed coffee. Barring that, Thor would be nice. "If everybody could just - "

"Shut up, Tony," Steve said and if he'd sounded annoyed, that would have been one thing; Tony could live with annoyed, absolutely, no problem.

But Steve sounded like he was ready and willing to die and that was just not ... "No," Tony said.

For some reason, that got all of them to stare at him. Like they'd never heard the word 'no' come out of his mouth before or something, which, well, maybe. "Nobody's going to die. Nobody's going to be fighting. And nobody's going to get another drink, because I think that what we all need right now is a cup of coffee and a good night's sleep and tell me honestly, Steve, am I getting old? Because I definitely feel like I'm getting old for saying this. Oh, and also mature and responsible and can somebody please shut me up now? Not Natasha, thanks."


Tony vaguely remembered Steve and Clint arguing over who got to drive Tony's car which huh. He hadn't thought Steve to be the type to like fast cars, somehow. Good thing Tony hadn't yet gotten him something boring for his next birthday.

Someone carried him to bed (it wasn't Natasha, he'd have noticed that. and possibly not lived to tell the tale) and then he sort of drifted off the way you did sometimes when you were all keyed up and completely exhausted at the same time.

So it wasn't his fault that he was still kind of but not really awake when Loki and Thor snuck into his room and he didn't sit up to let them know that yeah, totally able to hear you guys over here.

"You love him?" Thor asked and whoa, that was some pretty heavy stuff right there.

"He doesn't bore me the way you do," Loki replied, which Tony felt was kind of offensive, really - tell the big guy off for wanting to discuss your feelings, okay, fine, but telling him he bored you?

On the other hand, Pepper did spend a lot of her time scolding him. Telling him to man up, to take responsibility, to be on time.

"That is good," Thor said gravely. Tony bet that if he'd been there, he'd have gotten a wink - that Loki, always acting so tough, but we both know he's a kitten on the inside, don't we?

Of course, some kittens could be quite dangerous. They had claws, for one, and tiny sharp teeth.

"He rejected me when I attempted to seduce him as a female," Loki said, which was news to Tony.

"That is also good?" Thor half-said, half-asked.

"He did claim to prefer my regular shape. In jeans. And t-shirts. Do you know he has created a magical construct and given it true life? A soul, even, and do not think I use this term loosely. Even I would not dream of being so bold. He is utterly insane." Loki sounded rather happy about it.

Thor coughed.

"Yes, but only a little," Loki said. "Only as much as is expected of me."

"So your plans ... " Thor's voice trailed off uncertainly. Tony supposed it was a bit tricky to ask your unstable, villainous brother if he was planning on trying to conquer and/or destroy the world again any time soon.

"I assure you my intentions are quite dishonorable," Loki said cheerfully. "Your planet should be quite safe, however. From me, at least. I can make no promises for others."

There was a smack. Tony assumed it was Thor slapping Loki on the shoulder, given that it stayed at that one time. "I will speak with my brothers and sister in arms. All will be well, brother."

"Wonderful," Loki said.

Thor (Thor? probably Thor - he sounded heavy) left, closing the door behind him and Tony wondered how he should feel about the fact that he was living with someone who had once almost led an alien invasion of Earth but still had the gall to claim Tony was the bold, insane one. Because he'd created Jarvis, and that was apparently a Thing in Asgard.

"I could probably try to seduce you for another year or so, you know."

On the other hand, did Tony really care? And on the third hand, had Loki even been telling the truth? The only way Tony'd be able to find out would be by traveling to Asgard which - yeah, not going to happen. Plenty of interesting things to do and see right here, on good old Earth, and SHIELD would never agree to it. Pepper would never agree to it. And Tony didn't want to, anyway.

"A year sounds like a pretty long time," Tony said. His head still felt like it was stuffed with cotton, right until the moment when it didn't anymore, all of a sudden. "Did you just give me a freebie?"

"I've been told it's something humans do." Loki sounded amused.

"Will I ever be able to actually get you drunk?"

"It's unlikely," Loki said. "Besides, I go Jotumn when my mind loses its grip on my body. It is somewhat comparable to your Dr Banner, except that I am more cunning and slightly less strong."

"Than Big Green? Okay, definitely not going to get you drunk."

"Is that a disappointment?"

"Just going over options here," Tony said. He really did feel a whole lot better.

"It is entertaining to witness mortals drinking," Loki offered.

"You do have sex, right?" Tony asked, because he figured they might as well get that one out of the way. "I mean, you can have sex? With humans?"

Loki sighed. "I do believe I told my brother you are a genius."

"You said 'insane'," Tony said. "I remember 'insane'. And 'bold', but I very clearly remember 'insane'." Perhaps he should stop baiting the guy who'd claimed he was 'only a little' insane now. "And you said you like me a lot."

"Yes, well. We all have our displays of appalling taste, don't we?"

"You like me," Tony said. "Either you like me, or you're leaving. Bold and insane, that's me." Thor was probably still around, plus Steve and Natasha and Clint, and Jarvis would be listening, because Jarvis was always listening, so Tony was perfectly safe, really. Unless Loki would decide to leave, of course.

"I can do a lot better than not leaving."

"What happened to trying to seduce me for another year?" Did Jarvis ever wish he could have things like this, too? Not conversations; he had Tony, and Pepper talked to him sometimes, and Rhodey, and Steve, and that was kind of sad, really, how few people he had to talk to.

He should build Jarvis a friend. Someone who he could talk to all the time. It would take a lot of time, but it would be worth it; Jarvis deserved it and -

- and he should probably ask Jarvis first.

"What are you thinking about?" Loki asked. He'd gotten rid of his (well, Tony's) t-shirt at some point.

"Making a friend for Jarvis. If he wants one. Because you know, I get to have sex, in fact, I get to have a lot of sex, it's amazing, really, but all he ever gets to do is watch and that's just not fair, is it? He deserves more."

"Actually, I quite like to watch. I thank you for the kind thought, though," Jarvis said.

Loki reached for his t-shirt. "You're right. It's nothing short of amazing that you would get to have sex."

And okay, maybe it had been a little bit rude to let his mind wander off like that. Tony couldn't really help it; it just happened.

"Does seem kind of a waste of whatever it is you did to fix me right up, isn't it? And hey, you want to go out there and tell Thor that you didn't get up to anything?"

"Let's not bring my brother into this."

"You're right; there's not nearly enough space."


"Thanks. I do try."

(Tony probably imagined hearing Jarvis grin. And anyway, it seemed much more likely Jarvis would agree with Loki, in which case: yes, Tony was a lucky son of a bitch, and he knew it.)