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Pagan of the Good Times

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Since the Avengers had made Stark Tower more or less their home, the top floor living room had become a place of relaxation and safety after a long day of keeping the peace and battling off various spurious villains.  Today, however, as everyone arrived either via the landing pad or the elevator, it was simply a place with lots of available couches and flat surfaces to collapse on.  

Clint made a face as he stretched a little, keeping one hand gingerly to his side as if afraid one of his ribs might take the movement as an excuse to pop out of place.  The bruising beneath would be spectacular before long, no doubt, but it would also be in good company with other assorted wounds on his skin.  “No offense, Thor, but your brother is an asshole,” he summed up the situation quite effectively.  

While Thor had the good grace to wince and look away, other members of the team took the opportunity to speak their minds as well.  Bruce came out of the elevator - Natalie a smooth shadow in his wake, doing a grand impression of a slightly battered, lethal angel - in a new set of sweatpants, catching the comment even as he self-consciously pulled on a shirt as well.  He noted with an apologetic frown, “Yeah, I might love you like a brother, Thor, but if I see Loki again… I think I might kill him.  With or without the help of the Big Guy.”  He gave his chest a significant little tap, which was no longer green nor the intimidating size of a small tank, but still held the Hulk somewhere in there like a promise.  A deadly promise.  The Hulk hadn’t managed to get his mitts on Loki today, but he’d tried his damnedest to, while the dark-haired Asgardian had flickered in and out of reach with the dangerous dexterity of an assassin’s knife.  

Loki had done that with pretty much everyone today, but no one so much as the owner of Stark Industries himself.

Everyone was pretty exhausted and scraped up, but at least the Cap was near enough and still had adequate reflexes to run out and catch Tony as he came in for a rocky landing and more or less stumbled towards the automatic doors that led into the expansive living area.  The glass doors and walls offered a helluva view, as well as being tough enough withstand a military attack and sensitive enough to only open obligingly for a small list of people: - the Avengers, namely, plus a few select others from S.H.I.E.L.D.  Fury was not on the list, which made him, not surprisingly (but perhaps a bit ironically), furious.  Given the one-eyed man’s name, Tony was of the opinion that it was Nick Fury’s natural state of being, so they shouldn’t worry about it overly much.  

“Jarvis, get me out of this right the fuck now!” Tony could be heard shouting, talking about the Iron Man suit.  Even after having dealt with Loki today, everyone winced a little.  There were moments when Stark’s temper was considered worse than Banner’s - or at least harder to deal with, because he wasn’t color-coded to show when he was dangerously mad or merely peeved.  At the moment, Tony was still out on the landing pad, suited up except for the visor of his helmet, which was up to provide the full experience of his fractious commands.

Only the AI seemed unimpressed, although the posh, bodiless voice perhaps sounded a bit like there was a flinch hidden in there.  “I’m afraid I can’t, sir.  Whatever Loki did to the suit, it’s making it incompatible with the removal procedure.  The walkway won’t recognize it.”

Tony swore colorfully even while leaning rather heavily on Rogers.  The left boot of the suit was still sputtering weakly, explaining the bad landing, and only by lifting it off the ground was Tony able to keep it from trying to lift him off the ground.  Large portions of the suit looked prematurely rusted.  Everyone knew that Tony’s lab might not have been immaculate, but his suits always were, so even if they hadn’t seen Loki’s magic spatter against the Iron Man suit like liquified light, they would have known that the rusting wasn’t natural.  None of it had touched his skin yet, but no one wanted to wait around and see what would happen if that occurred.  

“Thor, what was that?” Steve asked as he tried to keep his own balance and Tony’s, all the while not touching the faint, gleaming smears of… whatever it was that had eaten through steel and carbon alloys.  It wasn’t anything that Jarvis recognized, but that was par for the course with Loki vs. Iron Man and his tech.  

“Magic,” was all Thor was able to say, looking resigned and surprisingly helpless for a man - a God - so big.  “That is all I can speak of with certainty.  I do not think that it was meant to harm Lord Stark.”

“Not harm, my ass,” Tony gritted out, before finally just reaching up and ripping the headpiece free entirely.  Much of his hair was sweated down to his head, but some of it took the opportunity to stand up in all directions.  “Okay, I’m getting out of this by hand.  For the record, this does not mean that the old school methods are the best,” Tony lifted an imperious finger, looking specifically at Steve (the older-than-he-looked super-soldier) and Thor (who, if mythology was to be believed, was at least a couple thousand years old).  Steve immediately went to lift his hands in a non-confrontational gesture, but of course that necessitated letting go of Tony, which nearly caused him to topple over again.  While Tony hopped on one foot and Steve apologized and tried to help again, Thor just looked perplexed and Natasha did a patently bad job of hiding a giggle behind her hand.  

By the time Tony had manually removed all of his suit and put the pieces grudgingly into a decontamination bin, Bruce had disappeared into the adjoining kitchen, where he was no doubt going through the soothing procedure of making coffee and tea.  Even if no one drank it, he’d go through the motions, often while Natasha inconspicuously watched.  At the moment, though, the Black Widow was squatting on the floor with Clint, the two of them going over weaponry.  It was quite an array, but a larger percentage of it was being sorted into a ‘casualty of Loki’ pile, which was making neither assassin happy.  Thor had slipped out of the room, ostensibly to shower and change into ‘Midgardian attire,’ but possibly to avoid the continued grumbling about his younger brother.   

Everyone returned to the living room at the same time, however.  

“Well, I think we can safely say that today was a debacle,” Clint opened up conversation, leaning back on his hands, legs stretched out before him as he gazed sadly at his depleted array of usable weaponry.  He and Nat were walking arsenals… but Loki was a walking natural disaster.  The latter had lately trumped the former.  “I didn’t even hit him,” the archer grumbled.

“Yes, you did.”  Natasha knelt forward calmly to pick up one knife… or, rather, the hilt of one.  The rest of the weapon looked as though it had been fed to some blade-eating creature.  Whole chunks of the knife were missing, so that by the time it had struck Loki, there had been nothing sharp about it left.  

“Jeeesus,” Clint hissed  between his teeth, taking it and inspecting it himself.  He raised it above his head and back, to where Thor was sitting a ways behind him on the couch.  “You said Loki’s spell wasn’t meant to harm Tony, but what about this?”

Thor heaved a sigh, finally seeming to lose some vital piece of patience, his blue eyes troubled and piercing.  “I believe you are blowing this out of proportion,” he said, using a bit of phrasing that he’d probably learned from Jane since coming to Earth, although his regal diction was all Asgardian, “Damaging one’s armor and one’s weaponry is not the same thing as hurting the warrior beneath.”

“Thor, you don’t have to keep protecting him,” Natasha interjected calmly but sternly.

“I am not,” was the surprisingly accepting reply.  When everyone merely turned to look at him with disbelievingly raised brows, the God of Thunder sighed deeply.  “I would not defend a wolf for hunting, nor a knife for cutting.”

“Or not cutting,” Clint grumbled under his breath, still looking at his magic-eaten knife.

Thor continued stoically, “This is in Loki’s nature.”

Tony had some choice words to say about that, and a sarcastic voice to go with it, too, as he leaned forward over his knees, closer to Thor on the couch across from him, “So when Loki kills one of us, you’ll just say that it’s in his nature, too?  Gosh, that’ll be comforting.”  Steve hissed something reproachful at him and grabbed his shoulder, pulling the inventor to sit back and presumably think about his antagonistic tendencies.  

“You misunderstand,” Thor shook his head, finally reaching the point where he wanted and needed to explain.  Usually, the rather bluff God preferred to simply laugh off the problem and go on, but over the past few weeks… Loki’s shenanigans had reached an all new level of annoyance.  It was clear that he was here to stay, and had particularly started focusing his attentions on Tony, which necessarily affected the rest of the team.  “It is not in Loki’s nature to kill.  To cause mayhem… yes,” the large man admitted with a brief, downward twist of his mouth that showed distaste, “Lok is a God of Chaos.  I cannot say how that would fit into your world’s definitions of Old and New Gods, for he and I are not from this world, but I can say with certainty that Loki’s main interest is not lethal.  If anything, my father and myself are more deadly, for the ruling lineage of Asgard is a bloodline of Gods of Combat - which is far more deadly than mere mischief.”

“ ‘Mere mischief’?”  Banner’s eyes briefly flashed an unsettling green, but he gripped his mug of decaf tea a little tighter and calmed himself.  “You call today - and ever since we met Loki - ‘mere mischief’?”

Thor winced again.  It should have been funny to see an Old God do that, but in this situation it really wasn’t.  “Loki can be… extravagant.”

“He tried to take down New York,” Banner reminded.  This time, Natasha reached over to just barely brush a fingertip against one of his knuckles, which had been going white with tension.  The little touch snapped him out of it, head turning and shoulders relaxing.  

Thor was frustrated, too, and stood up abruptly to pace alongside the broad wall of windows, where the sun was setting in a landscape of glittering buildings and spindly streets.  “I am not explaining this very well.”

It looked like Tony was going to open his mouth again - his eyes got a sort of glitter to them right before he said something particularly catty, and everyone knew it - so Steve pressed a hand over his face even while he shot an appealing look Nat’s way.  She nodded, eyes going half-lidded even before she looked to the pacing God of Thunder - who was, apparently, some variation of a God of Combat, which perhaps explained why he used his hammer and fists more than actual lightning.  “How about you keep trying, Thor?” she said, as calm and soothing as the honey she’d poured liberally into Clint’s tea when she’d helped Brice pass everything around.  “We haven’t known Loki as long as you, but we want to understand.”

“I want to put him in a washing machine and turn it on just to watch him spin and drown,” Tony grumbled, because Steve had made the mistake of slowly lowering his hand.  The super-soldier’s palm slapped right back into place again, this time accompanied by a glare that had Tony going limp and raising his hands in a ‘cease-fire’ gesture.  Considering Steve’s strength, Stark had no other hope of getting free, what with his head now pinned to the back of the sofa and all of his speaking capabilities effectively nullified.  For once, Roger’s gentler nature seemed to be equally annulled, and he merely left his hand where it was and pretended that the man he was muffling didn’t exist.  

Tony thrashed a little, and then gave up with a push of breath out his nose.  

There was one thing that could be said for Thor: even if he failed when it came to explaining family members, he looked unseemly good in something as simple as a T-shirt and sweatpants.  Right now, thick slabs of muscle bunched and coiled across his back beneath the white material as he lifted a hand to brush it back through his hair.  “Loki is a God of Asgard - this you know.  You would probably call him an Old God, although I understand that the ones who have chosen to live here are different in many ways.”  He glanced back over his shoulder, elaborating, “Your Midgardian Old Gods need worship - need praise.  On Asgard, we need only to follow our natures to remain healthy and strong.”  He turned a quarter turn to face everyone over his shoulder, and shrugged broad shoulders, “I am told that if I am to stay here, I will eventually require sustenance in the form of praise as well, but for now, I am sustained by what power I took with me from Asgard.  Back home, a God of Healing must be allowed to mingle with the sick; a God of the Sea must race the tides and the wind upon the open waters, and dive into the blue to sustain themselves.  I myself survive by engaging in honorable combat, like my father.  I am the God of Thunder under my mother’s blood, but in my veins is the blood of a God of Combat.  The Allfather’s lineage is strong.”

“And Loki?” Nat pressed.  

Now Thor went from frowning mildly to full-out grimacing.  He looked away.  “Loki is adopted…”    

~^~

There were days when even trickster-gods grew jaded, wondering if survival was even worth it.  

The mission had ended in victory, but Alec had spent enough time around James to know that victory could be a brutal, bloody thing.  He was due to report back to MI6 for a debrief, but couldn’t bring himself to do it, not with so much death wreathed around his shoulders like a cloak of blackthorn branches and bloodied oaths.  On days like this, he remembered more than ever that he was a god of lies and tricks and mayhem, but that his tolerance for death actually had limits.  

Rumor had it that there were still a few Old Gods of death walking the earth.  006 wondered if they ever took notes on what he and James did.  

This time, Alec had been neck-deep in so much utter mayhem that it had sunk into his skin, like a drug-laced kiss.  It was both wonderful and sickening all at once, heady and overwhelming.  Feeling like he was hemorrhaging chaos, dragging it all behind him in a trail of blood that no one could see, a rather battered 006 turned right instead of left, leaving MI6 to figure out what to do when he didn’t turn up.  It wouldn’t be the first time, nor would it probably be the last, and the logical part of Alec’s mind knew that M could probably guess where he was going without even trying.  When one of MI6’s Old Gods decided not to check in right after missions, it was usually a good thing.

007’s flat still felt familiar in the way the earth still felt familiar, even after the turning of so many centuries.  True, the flat now hummed quietly in resonance with a certain techie-God in residence, but even if James hadn’t made it clear that Q was to be accepted, Alec would have gotten used to it.  Q was a thing of logic and numbers, but there was something… delightfully unexpected about him, hidden beneath the professional attitude and cool demeanor.  Popular media liked to paint New Gods as emotionless and hard-wired, but Alec was pretty sure that that was a lie, at least where their Q was concerned.    

Both Q and Bond were in the flat right now, Alec knew.  He could feel Q’s regimented logic, always as chill as a breath of ice on the air - the latticework of geometric power converted into organic fractals here and there, a concession, perhaps, to just how much time he spent around James.  James was something entirely different, radiating power like a blacksmith’s forge, his licence to kill personified.  If Alec closed his eyes and arched his back, he could feel it like the stroke of a super-heated hand down his back, dangerous yet familiar.  It should, perhaps, have made 006 uneasy to find the New God in the flat when he himself was so on edge, but Alec had been getting more and more used to the fresh-faced boffin over the past months.  

He was also too rough and raw to leave again anyway.  Trickster-gods were, as a rule, less dangerous than death-gods or war-gods, but when one was truly on edge (as 006 was) after putting down a human trafficking ring in Bosnia, one that had unexpected involved another Old God, just to make things interesting - the world quite wisely trembled.  

Seeking company and maybe someone or something to quell the riotous storm of too much chaos in his head, Alec padded right to the bedroom door and strode in.  

It was in no way the first time that he’d walked in on Bond and Q having sex.  In fact, the occurrence had become common enough that James had ceased to even really react, and even Q’s adorable embarrassment had faded a bit - a fact that had 006 more interested that he liked to admit.  The New God was unquestionably easy on the eyes, but what really had piqued Alec’s interest was the knowledge that so much power was stored in those slim limbs and light frame, and the fact that 007 trusted Q despite that.  James hadn’t trusted anyone new but M in decades, centuries even, unless one counted the curious creature called Vesper, whom Alec most decidedly didn’t.  

007’s broad shoulders flexed and rippled as he held his larger frame suspended above Q, the dark sheets half covering them both and seeming to outline Q’s creamy tones where he lay stretched out in Bond’s shadow.  From the panting and general smell of musk and sex in the air, and the way Bond was peppering swift kisses up Q’s neck and ringing little mewls out of the New God’s arched throat, they’d already fucked once and were rested enough to begin round two shortly.  

Now was Alec’s cue to step back out and leave, but for once he just couldn’t do it.  He pushed the door quietly shut with a heel, with himself still on the inside of the door and power leaking out of him.  

Only then did 007 react.  The neon-blue rim to his irises was a nice touch, a sliver of his own power that Alec usually only saw when the man was truly a wreck - or purposefully trying to intimidate.  It was hard to tell exactly what he was doing now, but Bond was quick enough to pick up on the extra violence that his fellow 00-agent had just dragged into the room, and 007 would have to be an idiot not to realize that he and Q were somewhat vulnerable at the moment.  That single, glowing glance was a warning, albeit a subtle one so far.

Alec wisely held up both hands, palms forward and empty.  He also shifted further away from the bed on silent feet, showing clear intentions not to interfere or cause trouble.  But he still wasn’t leaving.  As wary as a mother cat, 007 watched unblinkingly as the other Old God made his way to a chair and sat.  Q hadn’t noticed yet, but drew 007’s attention back with a hand pawing at his chest.  “James, are you seriously picking now to tease?” the Quartermaster grumbled.  

A faint, barcode-like mark lit up against 007’s skin as Q’s fingers haphazardly brushed it, and Alec felt the ripple of New power in the room like a breath of frost.  His own innate self rebelled against it for a second - a glutted dragon snapping at snowflakes - but honestly, the sensation was the most calming of anything he’d felt all evening, once he relaxed into it.  While Alec tipped his head back tiredly against the wall, feeling wounds still mending, he could hear 007 ducking his head to murmur to his bed-partner.  

It was reflex, after so many lifetimes, for Alec to go back to James (or James to Alec) when he was particularly wrecked - when his human skin was stretched too thin, and there was little left to hold the monsters in.  And there was no doubt that the two Old Gods had picked up plenty of monsters before joining up with MI6, Alec’s no less beastly than James’s.  The addition of a third person to the mix was something new, but Alec was having a hard time remaining tensed for trouble with Q’s power blanketing the air.  It was different, but like so many things with the addition of Q, not unpleasant.  007 could take Alec’s temper and disquiet like a shore took the sea, but the clinical detachment that came hand in hand with a New God’s power was helping Alec retreat from the killing edge in an unexpectedly subtle sort of way.  

A war-god like Bond would be able to sense the blood and gunshot residue still clinging to Alec’s thoughts and skin even though he’d changed clothes and showered before hopping on a plane back to London (although now he felt grimy all over again after the long flight).  Bond would know that 006 was still dangerous.  Alec knew that he was dangerous, but suddenly he would have rather torn off his own arm than left the room, even as he sensed a kink in Q’s powers like a cat gettings its tail slammed suddenly in the door.  The boffin had noticed the new voyeur in the room then.  Alec opened one eye just faintly to see a wide-eyed, hazel stare fixed on him, until one of 007’s battle-roughened hands caught Q’s cheek and turned it back to look up at him.  The blue-eyed man was still murmuring, his words just between him and Q, but Alec could parse out the reassuring, serious tone.  

He did catch the grim, sincere, “...Just say the word, Q, and he goes.”

Fully expecting to be booted out of the room in the next few seconds, Alec thumped his head back resignedly against the wall.  He kept his eyes stubbornly closed, waiting for that one word and already forgiving 007 for siding with Q over him - because whatever could be said about Alec, he didn’t want to hurt Q, and Bond knew that.  Just then, 006 heard blankets shifting and bodies moving.  

There was no sign of Q demanding Alec’s exit, nor 007 moving in as backup for such a command.  Instead, 006 was startled by his Quartermaster asking quite calmly, “Why are you here, Alec?”

Opening both eyes this time and lowering his head warily, 006 tried to get a gauge on the situation.  Bond and Q were disentangled now, both sitting, 007 just a little bit further away and gloriously nude (and not caring), Q slightly more modest with the blankets drawn up over his lap.  He had his glasses back on, and at that moment, 006 sucked in a breath to feel the New God’s powers stretch out - the bedside lamp turned on, casting a dim and warm light.  It hid the way that 007’s eyes were still glowing an inhuman shade of blue from where he watch all this.

Realizing that he’d been asked a question, and if he wanted to not be sent summarily out of the room, he’d have to answer it, 006 cleared this throat.  “Fresh off a mission,” he said, going for levity because it was natural to him, but failing rather spectacularly as his words came out grim and gravelly instead.  He forced himself to add with a little grimace and more candidness, “I figured I was a little bit too hot for MI6 to handle.”

“That answers why you’re in the flat,” Q said back patiently, in that Quartermaster voice that was probably actually a New God voice - as emotional as a computer program, but also just as alert and shrewd.  One long finger tapped against the blankets as Q continued in an unruffled voice, “Not why you’re in this room right now.”

For a moment, Alec merely stared back at him, green eyes meeting hazel.  The sense of Q’s power in the room had increased, explaining how the smaller man was so calm and collected even though he’d essentially had someone walk in on him having sex, or just about to.  The more Q froze out his emotions, though, the more Alec felt the burning edges of his own psyche cool down, and he wondered if 007 felt the same.  

Alec smiled a crooked smile, deflecting attention from all of the raw edges he could feel grinding together beneath his skin.  “I’m not allowed to just say that I came in here because I’m shameless and wanted to watch?” he teased, voice low.  

Q finally looked a bit startled, and even in the dim lighting, his blush was visible.  Bond murmured something in another language, but had to turn his head away to hide a smirk.  Catching sight of the smirk, the Quartermaster threw his hands up in resignation and chided, “Unprofessional children, the lot of you.  Honestly, sometimes I wonder how you managed to be this old but not actually grow up.”

“Admit it, Q,” 007 rejoined the conversation, also leaning forward to plant a kiss on the back of Q’s shoulder, open-mouthed and teasing, “You wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Watch it, you.”  Q made to swat back at Bond, but the blue-eyed Old God caught the slimmer man’s wrist purely on reflex.  Unperturbed, Q merely raised a finger ceiling-ward and finished making his point, “I’m not the one with a mark this time - you are.”

As if sentient, said mark flared and glinted, a matrix of ruler-straight lines and perfect, intricate angles painted across the tanned slope of muscle between Bond’s shoulder and neck.  If it bothered the Old God, he didn’t show it, but grinned slightly wider instead.  “Touche, Quartermaster.”

Likely hearing the persisting impishness in Bond’s tone but choosing to ignore it, Q fixed his eyes back on Alec, asking unexpectedly, “How badly are you hurt?”

“Not so badly that I won’t heal.  I had the whole flight back to start patching myself up, and even if Jamesy and I weren’t built tough, I managed not to let myself get too drained,” Alec answered glibly enough, although that wasn’t the whole answer.    

007 was watching Alec far too knowingly, and promptly replied, “Quite the opposite, I’d imagine.”  Putting off on teasing Q for a bit, the other agent asked, “I thought you couldn’t feed directly on chaos anymore?”

“Oh, there are ways,” Alec muttered, keeping his answer vague even as he felt something monstrous stir at his core.  All the while, Q looked equal parts curious and confused.  On impulse, 006 decided to take advantage of that, sitting forward and catching Q’s eyes - and the possibility of distraction, “Questions, Quartermaster?”

Eyes narrowing as he sensed a trap, Q nonetheless admitted, “Quite a few.”

“Let me stay, and I’ll answer them.”

Bond snorted, but when Q looked back at him, the blue-eyed agent merely inclined his head, making it clear that this was Q’s decision.  “I want answers, too, and I don’t care whose bed he ends up in,” James said quite equably, “But you haven’t known him as long as I have.”  Bond shrugged, “I could also probably answer your questions, even if I’d be guessing at some parts, but I can do it just as well in the living room with everyone clothed.”

“Traitor,” Alec sniped, but didn’t mean it.  

Bond merely lifted and dropped his broad shoulders carelessly, causing the logic-mark to glint like the tiniest of electrical shimmers.  “All’s fair in love and war.”

“Do the witty remarks never stop with you?” Q sighed in exasperation, but then stood up.  He dragged the blanket with him for just a bit as he walked across the room to where some clothes had been tossed onto the floor, but after a moment of thought seemed to come to a decision, and let go.  Alec’s eyes widened momentarily in surprise at the sudden nudity, but then relaxed again in appreciation of Q’s audacity - and, yes, in appreciation of his body, too.  All too soon and Q’s arse was being covered up by sweatpants, though, and he tossed some boxers 007’s way as well.  

The war-god caught them easily, expression blank and unreadable.  He was still calmly watching over things, but letting Q run the show, exhibiting an atypically logical and tranquil mood for someone who looked like he wouldn’t be getting any more sex tonight.  It was entirely possible that the logic-mark was to blame, if it was cooling Bond’s emotions in the same way that Q’s ambient power was doing to Alec’s.  

For all that New Gods were supposed to be pinnacles of logic and sensibleness, however, Q had an unpredictable streak that appealed to Alec in all the right ways.  “006, I assume you want to stay?” he asked, straightening and somehow managing to look professional even half-naked.  

“You assume correctly,” Alec played along as if amused, when really he was buzzing with uncertainty and watchfulness.

It was Q’s next sentence that caught him completely off-guard, proving that the New God perhaps understood things a lot better than he let on.  “And I assume you also would prefer to stay in the bed?”

Everyone tensed a little: 007 with protectiveness and wariness, Q with a sort of nervousness that was not quite shyness, Alec with defensive surprise at being so accurately called out.  Q folded his arms and dropped his eyes, but his lips quirked up one one side.  “You stare rather obviously, Mr. Trevelyan.  And James might have mentioned that you like to share.”  While Alec just stared at the younger man, unsure what to make of the oblique sentence, Q continued quite sedately, “It’s also rather clear that I’m naturally the most level head in the room, so I’m not about to turn you out if my calm can somehow keep you from taking London apart.  But you are taking a shower first, if you’re going to share this bed.”

Stunned more than he’d expected to be, Alec merely sat and blinked for a moment.  Part of him was simply surprised, but a large part of him…  Emotions twisted in a tangled knot around his heart, even as Q lifted his eyes to meet his, showing remarkable sympathy for a man who lived by numbers and codes.  It was likely true that Q was rubbing off on Bond, but Alec had to wonder if the reverse could be true as well.  

“Okay,” Alec finally agreed, standing, still feeling a bit blindsided.  It took actual effort to get his feet moving, and to tear his eyes away from the perplexing entity in front of him.  Q’s expression never shifted, his posture unthreatening and his eyes alert but soft, and for all of Alec’s skills with riddles and puzzles and chaotic things, he couldn’t puzzle Q out.

~^~

Part of Alec had expected for the offer of bed-sharing to be repealed by the time he was showered and dressed again in clean clothes, so he was relieved when no voices stopped him from entering the bedroom.  The brutality of his last mission still had 006 raw and on edge, but he was surprised by how vulnerable his heart felt, and how it thudded warm and hard in his chest when he saw 007 and Q already dozing beneath the sheets, lights off again.  Questions would wait until morning then.  The Quartermaster, younger looking now that he was sans glasses again, occupied the far right side of the bed with Bond curled up behind him, but the left of the mattress had been left empty.  

The positioning was purposeful, Alec didn’t doubt, and he nodded acceptingly even as he also felt sure that James was far from asleep.  Alec didn’t take it personally: post-mission, like this, any 00-agent was a bit dangerous, and an Old God was even more so.  Bond was protective of Q, and honestly, Alec understood the urge and promised to do the same if he were ever in Bond’s position.  Dressed in a sleep-shirt and sweatpants and starting to feel a tiny bit more like himself, and less like the force of nature that had met up with another Old God and proven just how dangerous an MI6 Old God could be, Alec slid under the sheets at Bond’s back.  

Bond had been right: instead of being low on energy, Alec was brimming with it, making him feel like nothing quite fit right beneath his skin.  007 withstood one idle touch of Alec’s shoulder against his scapula and hissed, sensing the power like something radioactive.  Q was out like a light, but 007 got up to avoid the flaring chaotic power behind him, unexpectedly trading places with a dozy, grumbling Q.  As Bond more or less manhandled Q into his new spot, Alec considered that perhaps 007 hadn’t been guarding the Quartermaster after all.  Unaccountably moved by the show of trust, Alec settled down again - now with his chest facing Q’s back - and sighed out some of his tension as Q made no sign of noticing Alec’s presence at all.  Thank goodness for New Gods being less attuned to the powers of their more primal predecessors.  Bond settled down again without ever appearing to have opened his eyes, far enough away now not to get scorched by excess power that he honestly wasn’t meant to take.  Chaos and war were often intertwined, but 007 had been tangled up quite frequently with a certain New God lately.  

“I’m glad you’re all right,” 007 said, in a low rumble that was almost too soft to hear.  Despite the sympathy, his tone was grave, indicating that he probably had a good idea what Alec had done to garner so much chaotic power at one time.  But he said nothing more.  The topic was closed, being Alec’s business, until Alec decided to bring it up.

Alec turned his attention to Q and watched, quiet and intrigued, as Q lifted a sleepy hand and seemed to seek out his own logic-mark on 007’s skin.  Bond actually shivered in response, before visibly diving into a deep sleep, powerful frame relaxing without a fight.  

“You’re awfully powerful for such a little thing,” Alec mused, the noise almost sub-vocal.  Bond didn’t stir at all, and Q merely wriggled a little, his spine arching into contact with Alec’s warm chest.  006 gasped a little as he felt some of that New God calmness sink into him, a drug made all of logic and surety and questions with answers.

Alec, a man made of everything illogical and no questions that weren’t riddles, somehow found it… perfect.  Like a balance he hadn’t realized he needed right now.  

Powers Old and New crackled through the room, but it was like the gentle roll of thunder in a summer rain-shower.  

~^~

Chapter Text

“Adopted?!”  This time it was the Captain who sputtered the response out, and Tony finally managed to win the arm-wrestling contest with his two-handed grip on Steve’s wrist, pushing the super-soldier’s hand away from his mouth.  

“So what you’re saying is that you don’t even know what Loki is, because he sure as hell isn’t what you and your dad are?” summered up the inventor.  

“I did not say that!” snapped back Thor, before quieting again and crossing his arms defensively, “But it is… somewhat true.  Loki came to our household under unusual circumstances - but he is a God of Chaos.  My father does not always understand or accept this, but I learned long ago that there was little point in denying what Loki was.”

“A little hellion?”

Everyone looked at Tony first, but for once, he hadn’t spoken, so the eyes switched almost immediately to Clint.  The archer grinned unrepentantly and a little frostily, and no one tried to make him take his words back - not even Thor, for all of his brotherly protective tendencies.  

Sometimes people forgot that Natasha was a spy as well as an assassin, however, and an expert at fact-finding and interrogation.  She was looking in between Thor’s words, and by the way her head cocked - an almost accipitrine gesture - she’s spotted something interesting.  “You said your father didn’t understand?”

“Yes!”  Thor turned to her fully, pointing a finger her way as if glad that she’d returned that topic to where he could see it.  “The Allfather is wise, but I fear that he has not done well by Loki.  It was clear even in our childhood.”  Sadness flashed across Thor’s face, making everyone a bit uncomfortable.  It was a lot like seeing a golden retriever suddenly turn morose: it was rare and wrong.  “My father was willing to take Loki in, but he wanted two sons to follow in his footsteps - two Gods of Battle, not one God of Battle and another who pandered in the less honorable currency of tricks and troublemaking.  Loki at first attempted to conform to Father’s wishes… but I believe that that only made things worse.”  Thor shrugged his powerful shoulders once more, and this time it was a tired and defeated gesture as he shook his gold-maned head.  This conversation abruptly seemed to be aging him, and it started to become clear why Thor hadn’t explained all of this about Loki until it became absolutely necessary - until Loki was clearly a problem, and here to stay.  “It is good to be flexible, but sometimes, one must stand firm, or invite others to bend them until they break.  Father saw Loki bending, and took that as a sign that Loki’s nature could be changed.  But whatever Loki is...”  Running a hand over his mouth and meeting no one’s eyes, Thor turned to look out again at the setting sun, which was now painting the sky a dark and bloody red with its passing.  “...He could not be what the Allfather wanted him to be.  Loki went insane, like a big cat forced into a small cage.  Most gods fade when they are not allowed to follow their natures, and feed on the gloriousness of whatever their soul craves, but Loki is not most gods, and none of us wanted to admit what we were seeing.”

Natasha was the first to catch on, or perhaps she’d started to see this unfolding as soon as she’d started to pry.  Her eyes widened fractionally, but otherwise the only thing that gave away her shock was how her hand slipped over and just touched Bruce’s knee.  “That was when Loki came to Earth, wasn’t it?  And brought the Chitauri invasion through the portal?”

“Yes,” Thor admitted, as if it pained him, “Although he was… not himself… long before then.  Loki had grown malicious, and even though his childhood games had often been teasing and troublesome, they had never been as dangerous as they were then.  You must believe me when I say that a God of Chaos does not seek out killing.  That wouldn’t feed them.  That wouldn’t satisfy them anymore than it would satisfy you, Milady Widow, to come to Midgard and try and stay alive on energy alone.  I thought that you would know this.”  Thor cocked his head, seeming suddenly confused.  His tone changed with curious bewilderment as he looked back at everyone. “Considering that Lord Stark is a New God.”

You could have heard a pin drop.  

As surprise and confusion rippled silently through the gathered Avengers, Tony just stared and blinked for about two seconds before surging to his feet.  He was dwarfed in size by Thor, but didn’t plan to be intimidating as he merely waved his hands and exclaimed, “Wait, wait, wait - hold up there a second, Point-Break.  Are you seriously calling me-”  Tony dramatically put a hand to his chest over the arc-reactor, which glowed faintly through the black material of his shirt.  “-a god?”

There was a long pause as Thor merely stared down at the smaller man in bemusement.  “Yes,” the Asgardian god finally said slowly, as if trying to spot a trap, “You did not know?”  

That took a lot of wind out of Tony’s sails, and his hands dropped to his sides even as he exhaled sharply.  Instead of answering, he glanced at everyone else with a rather lost look, “Help a guy out here?”

Steve stood up, too, and came over, but wasn’t particularly helpful as he asked with something like horror crossed with curiosity, “Tony is seriously a god?”

More bemused by the second, Thor shifted his weight uneasily but replied candidly, “You would call him a New God, of technology, I believe.  I thought you were all aware of this.”

“No, we weren’t fucking aware!” Tony said back, growing more unstable by the minute, which had the effect of making Natasha tense up.  Clint was doing a good job of pretending to be bored, but while he sat with a lazy gaze and a loose slouch on the floor, it only hid his heightening focus and his readiness to move.  There was a knife by his knee, one of the ones Loki hadn’t damaged.  Bruce’s eyes weren’t turning green yet, but he’d stood up - in preparation to leave before things got him hot under the collar.  The Cap was already standing next to Tony, and seemed to be seriously considering the pros and cons of putting a calming hand on him.  Fortunately, the worst it got was Tony pacing in a small, tight circle, lifting his hands above his head before dropping them to rub vigorously over his face.  “No.  No.  You’ve got to be shitting me.”

“I shitteth you not,” replied the Asgardian solemnly.  

“What the-?  Okay, I’m going to pretend I didn’t even hear that,” Tony decided, before continuing into a true rant, “How the hell can I be a New God?  Look, I know that I’m awesome, and a genius, and a whole long list of things everyone wishes they were - don’t roll your eyes, Barton, you wish you were me - but I’m also seriously fucked up!  I mean, have you seen this?!”  Tony abruptly pulled up his shirt, revealing the arc-reactor nestled in the center of his chest.  By this point, it seemed a part of him, fitting seamlessly, but there was still the knowledge that it was literally a piece of non-organic material crammed into his ribs and sternum.  Even Natasha had been a bit unsettled when she’d first seen it, after learning the story behind it.  “Aren’t gods supposed to be, I don’t know, superhuman?” Tony continued, incensed, “Untouchable?  Immune to typical weaponry?”

“Tony, even Thor gets hurt sometimes,” Natasha reminded calmly.

He just glared and shot back, “Sure, but does he end up with shrapnel circling his heart?  Seriously, I’m not god material.”

The voice that spoke up next was utterly unexpected, and everyone’s head jerked to look at… nothing.  Jarvis’s even tones, as always, simply seemed to float upon the air.  “I’m afraid I must disagree with your assessment, sir.  The situation surrounding your injury and the implantation of the arc-reactor support the theory of your godly status, rather than detract from it.”

Tony’s hands were twitching like he wanted to get hold of a hammer and a blowtorch and disassemble something.  His expression also held a sort of stiff fury that actually did a poor job of hiding panic behind his narrowed eyes.  “Don’t make me come up there, Jarvis!” he hid his growing anxiety and confusion by threatening his AI, “You know that last time you started spouting crazy-talk, I reprogrammed you!”

“You threatened to, sir.”

“And don’t think I won’t do it!”

“Of course, sir.”

When Tony once again spun away with a wordless growl, Steve tentatively sought out answers.  He had yet to get used to the house literally talking, and his eyes cast about helplessly for something to look at and talk to before he opened his mouth, “Uh… Jarvis?”

“Yes, Mr. Rogers?” was the ever-polite reply.  Steve had been trying to get the AI to called him ‘Steve’ for weeks now, but hadn’t had any success.  

“Tony’s got a point - he almost died,” the super-soldier went on, and the stress that slipped into that last word had Tony turning from where he’d stomped off to somewhere behind the Captain.  No one talked about Tony’s pre-Iron Man years much, especially not the events that directly led up to him making a superhero of himself, so there was really no sympathizing on the subject.  Now, though, it was clear in Steve’s tone right through to the tension across his broad shoulders that the topic bothered him deeply, as if he’d been there for it, or somehow had some idea of the trauma that Tony had suffered in the aftermath and recovery.  It was unexpectedly touching, and Tony’s already tangled emotions knotted up in his chest without warning even as Steve kept talking, “I’m pretty sure that New Gods are immortal, and even Old Gods are only just now starting to fade after having lived for a few millenia.”

Instead of letting Jarvis answer, however, it was Banner who put it all together.  Tone musing, he murmured suddenly, “But he didn’t.  He didn’t die, I mean, and that’s the point.”  Realizing that everyone was suddenly staring at him, Bruce held himself a bit straighter, gesturing vaguely with a hand and elaborating, “Think about it.  How many people could survive what you survived, Tony?  Not to sound callous or anything, but you should have died.  That-”  He pointed at the arc-reactor, once again hidden under the fall of Tony’s shirt.  “-Shouldn’t be able to keep you alive.  Shrapnel is shrapnel, and even if it’s being kept away from your heart, it’s still going to tear things up.  That’s just what sharp bits of metal do.  But for all intents and purposes, you’re fine - better than fine.”  Bruce shrugged and finished, “I’ve never said it, but you’re either a walking miracle, Tony… or Thor’s right, and you really are a New God.”

In one last, synchronized head-swivel, everyone turned to Tony again.  

Tony, in turn, stared at nothing, before turning stiffly on one heel and quitting the room.  The most disturbing part, probably, was that he did it all in silence.  

~^~

In the days following Alec’s ‘sleepover’ in Bond and Q’s bed, 006 stayed unnaturally close to Q.  It was unsettling at first, to realize that he’d acquired a green-eyed, stubborn shadow, but 007 didn’t seemed surprised by the clinginess, so Q decided to accept it.  Perhaps it was the nature of sharing company with two Old Gods, that change was constantly in the air.  Q was a fan of predictable change, of course (a logical progression of steps), but he found that if he squinted hard enough, most of the new circumstances in his life could still be quantified.  

For example: it had made sense to sleep with both 006 and 7 that night when the former was obviously at the end of his rope.  Even discounting less quantifiable things such as compassion and sympathy, Q had wanted to get answers to his questions, and Alec had very nicely offered a trade of information for company.  007 had been there to make sure things didn’t get out of control, and ultimately, it had been a rather polite, cozy affair that left no ill-effects come morning.  The tiny changes that had resulted were only to be expected, such as Alec suddenly lingering like a burr and haunting Q-branch almost more than 007 did.  Bond was actually sent on a mission the next day, but 006 made up for the absence of his partner in crime by parading his chaotic self everywhere Q went, tangling up logical patterns all over Q-branch.  

Finally, Q gave up and dragged Alec off for what was ostensibly a lunch-break.  Everyone in Q-branch, of course, knew that it was a tactical maneuver to either prevent everything technological in the vicinity from frying, or to keep the Quartermaster from trying to kill an Old God.  

“006,” Q said, tone speaking volumes as he and Alec sat down in a sunny window seat in a nearby cafe.  

Across from the Quartermaster and his well-controlled glower, Alec raised one eyebrow and replied in a slightly warier tone, “Q.”

“If you keep up what you’re doing, you’re going to destroy my branch - singlehandedly.  As a New God and as the Quartermaster of MI6, I have every right to see that as an act of war.”

“War is generally Bond’s department.”

“Don’t get smart with me, 006.  Explain,” Q cut him off with a commanding but professional tone.  No one but Q could mingle such undercurrents of unflappable calm and perfect rage.  Curling one hand around the cup of tea in front of him, the steam coiling sinuously in front of his spectacles, the New God tapped the forefinger of his free hand on the table between them, “You promised me answers, and I’m calling to collect. Why did you come back to London in such a state two days ago, and why is it making you a veritable natural disaster in my branch?  And why the hell do you insist on being in my branch anyway?  All of that technology doesn’t even like you, and you’re killing it slowly.”  Q’s placidity broke a bit at the end, a testament to just how exasperated he was with all of this.  

“Your personification of tech aside,” Alec replied, earning him an unamused look, which perhaps coaxed him to get to the point, “I’m sticking to you because it would be much worse if I didn’t.”

Not mollified in the slightest, but eyes narrowing in thought as he began to puzzle apart this sliver of information, the Quartermaster asked shrewdly, “Why?”

“Q, I came back from that mission radiating Old power like a nuclear reactor - you couldn’t feel it, but Bond could, and I just about peeled a layer of skin off him,” Alec admitted frankly, ignoring his own coffee sitting at his elbow.  He leaned forward on his forearms, even though there was no chance of anyone overhearing them anyway, the hour being rather late for lunch and far too early for a dinner-rush.  “I’m dangerous right now, Q.”

“You’re always dangerous,” the smaller man was wise enough to reply.  

Alec’s green eyes were flat and hard, and suddenly looked far older than the face around them.  “Not like this, Q.  It’s been too damn long since I had this much energy, and to be honest, I’m not sure what to do with it - but you’re like water to fire.”

For the first time, Q’s brows beetled, sincere bemusement disrupting his overarching annoyance.  “How so?”

A faint smirk broke the tired, rugged lines of Alec’s expression, and he said back teasingly, “Come on, Q, you said yourself that you were the levelheaded one - because you’re a New God.  I’m trying to soak up as much of that cold, frigid logic as I can, because it’s keeping me from going nuclear until time takes the edge off of this a bit.”  Alec shifted in his seat uncomfortably as if his skin were a bit too tight, and Q was gifted with a look from eyes that briefly glowed like emeralds catching fire.  It startled him a bit, because usually he only saw that neon brightness from 007, and usually only in intimate moments - not in public.  

“I assume that that’s the ‘edge’ you were talking about?” Q murmured quietly, pointing to Alec’s unsettling eyes.  

The trickster-god blinked and it was gone.  His irises had faded to a normal, human shade of green, but his smile was strained.  “Like I said - I’m a bit unstable at the moment.  But it’s better around you.”

For a moment, the Quartermaster just watched him, hair falling almost over his eyes like it always did but those eyes as keen as razors underneath.  He was no doubt trying to puzzle his way through the little facts and hints he was being given, but trickster-gods were the kings and queens of unsolvable puzzles.  It showed Q’s wisdom that he gave up on getting Alec to explain the unique interplay between burning Old powers and soothing New powers, and instead asked, “So how did you get this way then?  It was the Bosnia mission; there was a human trafficking ring involved, but preliminary reports didn’t show anything unexpected, and your report is typically late.  All security footage of the area is also useless, as you Old Gods have a habit of blowing out tech, although this was bad even by your standards.”  Q raised an eyebrow in artful expectation, finally lifted his tea to sip, and waited for a response.

Alec sighed and made a face as if his coffee had suddenly started tasting bad, and he put the cup down to drum his fingers on the cheap formica tabletop. “That’s not a particularly… nice story,” he said with the delicacy of a man ingesting shards of glass, eyes fixed outside on the rare sunny day.  

Taking in the expression, as well as the hints of body-language, Q picked up his cup again and said merely, “Let me finish my tea then, before you start.”  With the unspoken assurance that Alec indeed would start his story, the New God began to leisurely sip at his tea, glasses fogging occasionally with the rising, aromatic heat and eyes calmly watching the street outside.  He purposefully did not eye 006, who had grumbled something that sounded almost Gaelic (Q filed it away to research more closely later, as he’d been doing with 007’s more mysterious pillow-talk) before taking up his own drink.  Q finished his off eventually, but by that time the 00-agent across from him had given up the pretense entirely and was just sitting with his arms folded on the tabletop and his coffee going cold nearby.  

“James had told you that we Old Gods are used to feeding on worship, hadn’t he?” Alec started by asking, nodding along with Q as he got his answer, “Now, I think that James used to be different, but basically you can apply that rule to all Old Gods, across the board.  Without praise or worship or sacrifices in our name, we’ll fade and die.  Lots of us are being snuffed out all the time.”  Alec shrugged in the economical way that said this was just the way of the world; he looked neither frustrated nor afraid.  Then his eyes darkened.  “That can go a long way to making a body desperate.”

Q sensed something dangerous coming; some piece of information hiding like hail in a full-bellied storm-cloud.  It made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, and for a moment he wondered if this was what it was like for 007 to be near 006 right now, sensing the feral, threatening nearness of all that power.  Q had noticed the way the two of them had moved around one another between the time of Alec’s arrival at the flat and 007’s exit for his mission - Bond had kept up a constant buffer of space between them.  “What do you mean?” Q made himself ask, turning his thoughts back to the topic at hand.

“I mean that not all of us deal very well with the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads,” Alec replied bluntly, then elaborated further with a weary set to his mouth, “Not all Old Gods in this day and age are as sensible and sane as James and I, Q.  Some of them go bad - get desperate for ways to keep on living.  James has always understood death on a basic level, and I’ve been cheating it for centuries, but in Bosnia…”  Alec curled his lip, and his eyes glinted again with that unnatural flash of color.  One of his hands curled into a fist.  “In Bosnia I met up with an Old God who wasn’t nearly as philosophical about it, an Old God of lost souls.  I think he goes by Moran now.  Or he did until a few days ago.”

Sensing the gravity of that last sentence - filled with the weight of grave-dirt and descending souls - Q stilled, saying nothing this time.  He pulled a bit at the logic swirling in the world around him, letting its factuality sink into him and keep his heart from racing.  To Q’s eyes, logic was practically breaking all around Alec, grids and matrices fracturing like ice lattices when faced with the sea’s rough waves.  It was terrifying, but after having spent so much time now around the two Old Gods of MI6, also rather awe-inspiring at the same time.  

“I shouldn’t have to tell you that people being bought and sold and shipped around like livestock are about the most lost souls one can find, and maybe, in centuries past, Moran would have helped them - saving someone’s life from sexual slavery is a pretty sure way to get them to kiss the ground you walk on, figuratively or literally speaking,” Alec went on, giving Q a peek into a past he could hardly imagine.  Alec’s eyes went distant and a muscle jumped in his jaw.  “But sometime back he must have turned to a more mercenary mindset, and realized that there were easier ways to get ahead in life.”

Perhaps it was a note of how truly power Q was as a New God that even now, speaking with a chaotic god about chaotic things, the Quartermaster saw a pattern and followed it to its conclusion like a flame devouring its way along a fuse.  Hazel eyes widened behind spectacles, and Alec was already nodding as he saw the look of horrified realization.

“Yes.  He started taking those lost souls and killing them instead of helping them.  They’re lost forever now, aren’t they?” Alec said in a tone that was as chilly and bright as snow falling - the kind of deceptively mild storm whose only purpose was to freeze a body to death.  “Moran was working with the slavers - aiding them with the godly powers at his disposal in return for having a cut of the profits literally sacrificed to him.  The old ways are bloody, and when they go awry, you start to realize why the world doesn’t accept the Old ways very much anymore.”

“That’s…” Q tried to accept this concept.  “That’s sick.”

“Human trafficking in general is sick,” 006 shrugged, giving no indication that this bothered him overly much, despite his words.  It was easy to see, at this moment, that he was a 00-agent - and that, beneath the jaded agent, there was an ancient being inured to most everything.  “And even a few hundred years ago, human sacrifice wasn’t all that uncommon.  James and I can’t claim clean records either.”

That sobered Q enough that his face paled, but he said nothing.  Something more hopeful and interested flickered in Alec’s keen eyes as he saw that there was no damnation on the New God’s face, despite the hints at an incarnadined past for James and himself.  When Q pointedly asked for no elaboration on that last sentence - looking stubbornly cool instead - Alec inclined his head in a small show of thanks and respect.  “I didn’t know that I’d be facing off against another god until I got there.  Moran hides his tracks well, which is surprising considering how glutted on power he was.”  Alec met Q’s eyes to explain a bit more, tone easing into something less grim and more conversational, “The more powerful an Old God is, the harder it is to blend in - you might have noticed.”

Q reflected on the inhuman shine of Alec’s eyes, and the way his skin had suddenly looked less like an actual human body and more like a mask stretched too thin.  He thought about Bond, who was made for war, but who had a rather hard time staying out of trouble when he was in his element.  Q had covered up enough media shitstorms that he wondered how the two 00-agents had survived as spies before Q and his New God prowess had come along to wipe security cameras and tamper with phone-calls and records.

“However Moran was doing it, he had a pretty little operation set up, and as much as I hate to admit it,” Alec made a face and glanced away, irked and embarrassed, “he nearly slaughtered me in the first five seconds of us seeing on another.  Luckily for me, trickster-gods don’t necessarily depend on power to win.”  Eyes cutting back to Q in an askance look that was suddenly full of the most dangerous kind of Cheshire mischief, 006 said around a grin, “You know the saying, ‘I’d rather be lucky than good any day’?”

As the tense atmosphere was broken up a little, Q snorted and fought the upward tick at one side of his mouth.  He began turning his empty mug in precise, five-degree turns and two-second increments, still feeling the heat of the drained tea leaching into his fingertips.  “I’d just rather you survive, so I suppose I can’t fault your methods,” he allowed warmly, feeling relief steal upon him suddenly, “You outmaneuvered him then, since you couldn’t outgun him?”

“You should have seen it, Q - it was. Fucking. Awesome.”

The nearly childish pride and glee in Alec’s voice finally made Q laugh out loud.  He couldn’t help it: the 00-agent had leaned forward conspiratorially over the table so that he was all but hovering over Q’s mug between them, and his tone had suddenly gone from bitter, jaded, and unhappy to the exact opposite.  Chaos was in his nature, and therefore so were mercurial switches in mood - such as now.  “Go on then.  Tell me,” Q coaxed, pretending to be demure but really quite interested, caught up in Alec’s infectious mood.  

The continued turning of Q’s mug was slightly unbalanced by the pressure of Alec’s forefinger, but 006 was merely letting his fingertip drag around the circumference while Q turned it - an unconscious gesture as he began to tell his tale.  It should have been a bloody, goring, depressing one, with all of the width and breadth of human depravity with the addition of more of the same from a godly perspective.  But somehow, when hearing a story retold by Alec Trevelyan, who literally laughed in the face of danger and dodged death instead of facing it head-on, Q found it hard not to be caught up in the adventure of it all.  

And so, in a simple, empty coffee-shop five blocks from MI6, Q was told how Alec Trevelyan had tricked a god of lost souls into being the tool of his own undoing.  The story only got tense and sad then, as Q was reminded that this was reality, not just a epic made up for his pleasure.  In killing Moran in the midst of all those sacrifices, Alec had been the one to reap the rewards - and a bitter reaping it had been.  It wasn’t every day that one Old God got sacrificed to another.  When he’d finished recounting events, both Q and Alec were solemn and quiet again, and Q imagined that he could almost feel that wild, stolen energy turning feral circles inside 006’s muscular frame.  

“That’s how luck words, I suppose,” Alec shrugged, trying to make light of things even as his crooked smile revealed too many serrated edges, “Just when you think you’ve got victory, a little bit of bad luck comes to bite you in the arse just to keep the world fair.  And that, Quartermaster, is how you’ve suddenly come into possession of one over-loaded Old God.”

“Is it permanent?” Q had to ask, mostly worried but also clinically interested.  He still badgered 007 with all manner of questions pertaining to Old Gods, because the differences were endless sources of fascination for someone who was literally born of the modern opinions and times.  

Alec finally stopped touching Q’s mug, but as soon as he did, the whole thing split down the side with a sudden, snapping crack.  Both Q and Alec jumped in surprise, although for his part, 006 was also mildly rueful.  “God, I hope not,” he muttered, and slouched exhaustedly in his seat.  

~^~

Chapter Text

A few minutes later and Tony was grudgingly letting Steve into his workshop.  The super-soldier stepped lively as the doors were opened for him, aware that Tony could just as easily barricade himself in and allow no one entrance, at which point it would take serious measures to reach the man - ‘serious measures’ possibly meaning the Hulk.  Everyone knew that Stark could quite easily turn his home into a fortress, and his workshop into the impenetrable heart at its center. “I’m disappointed, Cap,” Tony called from where he immediately went back to tinkering with something, using what looked like more force than necessary, “Me, myself, and I had a little bet going that they’d send Nat down to talk to me.”

“Well, everyone did ask her, but she just sat there for a second and then looked at me,” the super-soldier shrugged, looking honestly confused by the change in plans himself.  However, he had to note that Tony had let him in with very little fight, and so far the only signs of possible trouble on the horizon were the tightness Steve could see in Tony’s back and the way he was jabbing at his current project.  Almost as trained as Nat was in assessing dangerous situations, Steve moved carefully, circling around so that he stayed in Tony’s line of sight while finding a reasonably empty bench to lean up against.  “So, Thor’s up there making a lot of apologies for not telling everyone from the start that he knew you were a New God,” Steve broached the subject, “Apparently he can sense that kind of thing, but has a problem with making similar assumptions about everyone else.”  The soldier paused, raising one eyebrow, before finishing calmly, “Want to talk about it?”  

“If I say no, will you actually leave?  Because, no, I really don’t.”

Sighing because he’d hoped that this would be that easy, but hadn’t honestly expected it to be, Steve settled a little bit more comfortably and prepared to be here for awhile.  “When they told me to come down here and talk to you, I got the sense that failure wasn’t an option.”  Since Tony’s head was bent over his work, it was hard to see the entirety of his expression, but the brief huff sounded encouragingly like laughter, so Steve pressed on, “This isn’t a bad thing, Tony.  You’re still you.”

“Only with godly entitlement.”

Steve just stared at Tony until the inventor looked up to see the Captain’s unimpressed expression.  “And you weren’t entitled before?”

That tricked a more obvious laugh into existence, and while it was still a bit hard-edged and brittle, Tony’s dark eyes were alight in a way that was more typical of him.  A wry expression was even starting to betray itself on one side of his mouth.  “Careful there, Rogers, you’re teasing a god now.”

“Apparently I’ve been teasing one for months.  Is this really how it goes?”  When Tony’s face abruptly became confused, Steve gestured awkwardly at everything and nothing, trying to explain, “The coming-in-godhood thing.  I’ve read that New Gods are born like regular people, and that there really aren’t any good tests to detect them, but is everyone oblivious until…?”

“Until a hammer-wielding alien tells them otherwise?  Yeah, somehow I doubt that,” Tony answered, and finally put his work down entirely, if only to stand up and pace - for Stark, pacing was really more a case of full-body fidgeting, as he lost the capacity to stay still and just had to move.  Steve had always imagined that Tony was like a living livewire, crackling with too much energy to contain some days, and suddenly he wondered how accurate that metaphor was.  Alighting briefly at another bench that contained some bits of the Iron Man armor (possibly replacements for the magic-damaged parts), putting him broadside now to Steve, Tony went on in a more subdued tone, “I guess if your dad’s a genius you just assume that everything you do is thanks to your own skills.”

Something about the bitter way that Tony said that had Steve’s eyes narrowing, although it took him a moment to tease apart Tony’s perpetual bad mood towards his father from a new, less obvious wound.  When he realized it, the super-soldier’s blue eyes widened again.  “Seriously, Tony, that’s what’s got you upset?” he blurted.

“Who’s upset?  I’m not upset.”

Ignoring the half-hearted attempt at deflection, Steve stood up and went on, honest surprise written all over his voice and face, “You’re worried that everything you’ve done - everything you’ve accomplished - was just because you’re a New God?  Tony, nothing changes the fact that you’ve done things that are-”

“Impossible?” Tony spun around suddenly, voice sharpening and something ugly in his expression as he met Steve’s imploring blue eyes, “Frankly super-human?  Maybe I should have taken the hint years ago, huh?”

“Tony…”  Steve sighed, shoulders sagging as he sensed the self-flagellation to come.  

The presumed pity only made Tony’s temper flare up again.  “So now, not only do I get to feel like the biggest idiot on the planet for not fucking realizing that I’m a New God,  but I get to second-guess everything that I’ve ever done!  Tony Stark, child prodigy, finally stepping out from under the shadow of his father - or did he?  Normal, human Tony Stark couldn’t have measured up, but New God Stark is practically cheating-!”

“That’s enough, Tony,” Steve cut him off with a voice that was deceptively soft and yet carried a whole world of weight behind it.  It was a shockingly dangerous tone coming from a man who, if given the choice, was a pacifist.  Its sound silenced Stark so fast that it was like a button had been pushed, and when he spun on Steve, it was obvious just how much bigger that super-soldier was, now standing, expression hard and stormy.  When he continued speaking, however, his tone had softened marginally, even if it remained as firm as iron, “Look, Stark, you can beat yourself up however you want - I can’t stop you - but I can tell you that you’re the most intelligent man I know, and learning that you’re a god doesn’t change that.  Not for me.”  Something  flickered, uncertain, on Tony’s angry expression.  Steve went on, “I’ve had people tell me the same thing - that the serum changed everything for me.  But you know what?”

Tony seemed unable to resist, curiosity dragging the response almost grudgingly from his throat, “What?”

“If I hadn’t had the drive I’d had while I was still a little guy, I’d just be a lot of muscle wrapped up in a nice suit.  I still wouldn’t be good for anything.  Genetics and super-powers don’t mean anything when the person beneath it all isn’t something special.”

For a moment, the two men just stood there, far enough apart that Tony didn’t have to tilt his head up to meet Steve’s eyes.  Steve was still wearing his ‘indomitable Captain America’ face, full of patriotism and justice and whatever other things that made Steve Steve.  Suddenly, Tony’s mouth quirked up in a grin.  “Wow, did you plan that whole speech out beforehand, Cap?”

The martial stiffness left Steve’s frame in a rush of air as Tony’s wit deflated him.  “No.  Was it any good?”

Instead of going for the throat or being nasty like he was entirely capable of doing, Tony’s smile broadened and grew friendlier, and he even wandered over to pat Steve’s arm almost companionably, “Well, most people who call me ‘something special’ either say it with a lot more derision or with aims to get into my pants, but - all in all, I give you five stars.  I could add stripes to that, just to complete the ensemble.  Get it - stars-and-stripes?”

The joking was just horrible, and Steve didn’t know whether to flush with embarrassment, crack up with relieved laughter, or put Stark in a headlock.  All were equally appealing, and maybe Tony suspected that, because he was already dancing out of reach again - full of that nameless energy, a vibrating source of power that honestly put the arc-reactor to shame.  Through the chortles that were trying to escape his chest, Steve ordered, “Never say that joke again.”

His earlier dark mood gone, Tony called back blithely over his shoulder, “Oh, I’m totally using it again.”  When Tony turned around once more, he was hefting a bin that turned out to be the same one he’d dumped the spell-damaged Iron Man armor into, and before Steve could stop him, he dumped it out all over a patch of floor.  “Don’t worry - the reason this part of the workshop is clear is because I use it for all of the really hazardous stuff.  Plus, Jarvis has been running tests, haven’t you, Jarvis?”

“Indeed, sir,” the computer answered without a hitch, proving that everything was going back to normal now, the Tony-crisis averted, “I’m still unable to properly identify what was used on the armor, but the reactions appear to have all ceased.  I would, however, recommend no direct skin contact.”  Tony was already wielding a set of tongs.  

Part of him wanting to watch - having always been just a little bit fascinated by what any of the Stark family could do - and another part still feeling his obligation to report, Steve shifted from foot to foot and cleared his throat pointedly.  “So… uh… are you good now?”

“Yeah, you can tell everyone that I’m not going to have a fit or anything,” Tony waved him off distractedly, already pulling on goggles - proving that he did have common-sense in his head somewhere.  “Or smite someone, or whatever.”

Although Steve nodded acceptingly, he didn’t leave, instead rocking forward and peering.  Finally, he couldn’t help but ask, “What are you doing?”

Tony’s Cheshire grin said that he’d been waiting for Steve to give in and ask.  “Putting two-and-two together,” he answered obliquely.  He was spreading the red-and-gold plates out across the floor now, and seemed to be staring at the rust-eaten places with more interest that Steve would have expected.  “Tell me, Rogers, what does this look like to you?”

It didn’t take any more coaxing for the super-soldier to pad forward, coming to stand behind where Tony was kneeling, and look down over his shoulder.  Turning his blond head, eyes narrowed in bemusement, Steve answered dubiously, “...Rust?”

“So you can’t read it?” Tony asked, pulling off the goggles and twisting to look up at the man hovering over him.

Immediately, Steve’s eyes snapped to his.  “What are you talking about?”

This grin was twice as broad and ten times as triumphant as it unfolded across Tony’s face, and suddenly he started tapping his fingers on his leg, jittering and excited, seemingly unable to decide whether to look down at the armor or up at Steve.  “See, I didn’t really get a good look at it earlier, and I honestly thought I was going a bit crazy,” he started talking a mile-a-minute, gesturing wildly with the heavy tongs still in his right hand, the goggles in the other, “But if I look really closely, this is friggin’ binary!  The rust ate out little patterns of ones and zeroes, but you’ve got to look real close and-”

“You can read binary?”  Steve leaned down closer, having to brace a hand on Stark’s shoulder to keep from falling over on him, finally saying a bit defeatedly and frustratedly, “I still don’t see anything.”

“I’m like an onion,” Tony replied glibly, “Many layers - one of which can read binary in my sleep.  I don’t even remember when I learned it.”  Shifting his body a little bit under Steve’s added weight, the inventor scrunched up his face a little before adding, “Which makes a ton more sense now that I know I’m a New God.”

“Maybe your natural charm was inborn, too.”

Twisting his head around to glare at Steve, it looked like Tony would snap back at the super-soldier, until he saw that he was being grinned at.  “You’re a  bucket of laughs, Captain.  You ever consider quitting your day-job?”

“I think that I’d miss all of the craziness,” Steve admitted, surprised to realize that that was actually the truth.  Tony’s curiosity was also contagious, so the blond-haired man found his eyes returning to the armor, tipping his chin towards it and coaxing, “So what does it say?”

Stark’s eyes were gleaming, the kind of look they got when he was being faced with a challenge.  It was a surprisingly dangerous look, especially considering that Tony didn’t back down well, and had a habit of forgetting basic survival instincts at the door.  “It says that our life might get even more interesting soon.”

“What do you mean?”

“It says ‘Worthy Foe,’ over and over again.”  While Steve’s face slipped into a cautious expression, Tony positively beamed.  

~^~

Day three of Alec Trevelyan being overloaded with power, and Q and Bond were just about ready to lose their minds.  At least M had realized the necessity of having one Old God present to corral another, so 007 hadn’t been sent off on any missions since this whole debacle, but even he was having a hard time keeping up with Alec.  It didn’t help that 007 still seemed unable to touch 006’s bare skin without distinct discomfort, as if whatever Alec was burning wasn’t a kind of fuel that James could tolerate.  Q, for his part, just wished that Alec would stop bloody dragging his chaotic self through his nice and logical branch.

Having finally convinced Alec that he didn’t need to hover around Q like a guard-dog when James could do that adequately well, Q and Bond lay more or less collapsed in Q-branch.  007 sprawled on an abandoned chair while Q puttered around with an angry strut to his quick step.  The New God had sent nearly everyone home just so that he could make ‘repairs’ to the electrical ambiance of the room.  007 was still a minor blip in the logicalness of the place, but he’d learned to make himself unobtrusive, and wasn’t shedding corrosive power like Alec had been.  

“006 is a bloody menace,” Q grumbled, dragging a hand through the air like a comb trying to undo tangles.  His hand actually got stuck, although only a New God like Q could actually see the knotted mess of data, fused together into a chaotic lump that made the Quartermaster see red for a moment.  “I know this isn’t his fault, but I’m seriously at my wits’ end,” he said in exasperation even as he flexed his own power.  A jerk of his hand deleted the entire string of data, leaving a ragged hole in Q’s awareness as well as a few computers beeping alarmingly.  Q began to build this section back up from scratch, his mind prioritizing internet signals, data-streams, and underlying electrical currents naturally.  

He thought, for a moment, that 007 was ignoring him in favor of closing his eyes for a second, but then the Quartermaster heard low grumbling.  The New God turned.  “Are you swearing in Norse?”

The two of them still hadn’t actually sat down and talked about Bond’s deific origins, but Q had his suspicions, and 007 confirmed a few at that moment when he growled back tetchily, “I’m swearing in the language that came before Norse.  And I’m trying to resist the urge to do something warlike.”

It was easy to forget, sometimes, that 007 wasn’t a god of occasional tech-destruction but actually an ancient god of war.  “Have you and Alec ever fought?” Q had to ask, still walking about with his fingers playing in seemingly thin-air like a pianist on ivory keys.  His bespectacled eyes, however, remained fixed on the 00-agent lounging tiredly at one of his computer terminals.  Said computer was off, but one of its monitor lights was starting to blink in a fluctuating pattern based on a repetition of seven flashes.  

Bond sighed, but sat up a bit straighter.  He flexed his left hand, which he’d foolishly brushed too close to Alec’s wrist.  006 felt terrible, of course, but it was no one’s fault but unlucky fate that Bond now had phantom burns radiating through his fingertips.  “Considering how long we’ve both been alive, it would be impossible not to.”  He shrugged, blue eyes glinting just a little as they lifted to Q’s.  “I can safely say that we’ve rarely fought over anything serious, but in the past, if one of us was a bit too tightly strung, we’d have a go at one another, just to let off steam.  I’d do that now, but in today’s world…”  Bond shook his head, and his grin was a bit cynical.  “I’m already labeled as a menace by M, but that’s nothing compared to what could happen.  The world has too many people in it for Alec and I to just let loose as we please.”

Although there was the faintest hint of melancholy in 007’s tone, he didn’t seem to truly regret the loss of massive wars and battlefields.  For a war-god, 007 seemed decidedly disinterested in his own sphere of influence.  

Dragging a hand to the left and scattering a string of binary that was too jumbled to make even the faintest sense, Q changed the subject and focused on a more productive question, “But Alec will stabilize on his own, yes?  He’ll go back to normal without the need for… drastic measures?

007 nodded, but also grimaced.  Q took that as his cue to ask resignedly, “How long will that take?”

“Considering that he essentially stole power from another Old God, one that had been feeding on sacrifices like we all used to,” 007 sighed defeatedly, running a tired hand down his face but setting his mind to the question nonetheless, “It could take weeks.”

Looking at the utter disarray of his branch, and knowing that anything Alec touched likewise went wildly askew, Q had to resist the urge to whimper.  “Bloody hell, I don’t think I can wait that long,” he admitted with something akin to dawning horror.  

“Neither can I,” Bond admitted, glaring at his hand again.  He admitted, “Usually, I wouldn’t have much of a problem with it, because I’d be flush with power, too - but it’s been awhile.”

Q quipped with a wisp of humor, mouth quirking, “And you can’t very well go out into the world as it is and demand a war in your honor, can you?”

“Sadly, no.”  007 stood and rolled his shoulders, muscles playing beneath his shirt and jacket.  He looked more competent again, and less like he’d just been hit by the same 006-shaped bus that had run him and Q over of late.  But he also looked more thoughtful as he straightened out his cuffs.  “I think there might be another way to balance out the playing field a little - and maybe even run Alec down a little.”

“Really?”  Q was interested in whatever plan 007 had, because it was better than simple damage-control.  “Would Alec agree to it?”

“Believe me, he’s as annoyed by all of this as we are - you forget that bombs destroy themselves even as they hurt those around them,” 007 retorted with gallow’s humor, before lifting a hand to vaguely indicate the room.  He suggested, “How about I let you finish up here, and then we’ll talk about how to diffuse the situation?”  

When Q reluctantly agreed - wanting to know what was on 007’s mind, but also aware that he himself wouldn’t be able to concentrate until his space was put back to rights - 007 turned his steps towards Q’s office, letting himself in.  The fact that the door was locked barely slowed him down, and Q had to resist the urge to smirk even as he corrected another crooked river of data.  Both Alec and James still preferred Q’s office to anywhere else in Q-branch, and the New God had gotten used to sensing their presence at the nexus of his department.  With nothing else to distract him for the time-being, Q took a moment to crack his knuckles and push his glasses up higher on his nose before truly putting his back into the job of re-ordering everything technology-based around him.  

At the very back of his mind, curiosity nagged at him: What the devil could possibly slow down rampant power in an Old God?

~^~

Tony’s reaction to the hidden binary message was disturbing but no more than Steve should have been expecting - and possibly it was exactly what Loki had been hoping for: a challenge.  Virtually forgetting about Steve’s presence, the newly-found-out New God ended up buzzing around his lab like a caffeinated bee in a flower-garden, muttering about how Loki was going to find out just how worthy of a foe Tony was.  It was at that point that the rest of the Avengers finally sent back-up, perhaps getting worried with Steve’s long absence.  There was a knock on the plexiglass door, and Steve looked away from Tony to see Nat standing there, one eyebrow raised.  Sighing resignedly and figuring that Tony could be left unattended for a few minutes at least, the super-soldier minced his way through the workshop.  The door slid open automatically for him as it hadn’t for Natasha, which startled Steve and earned him an altogether different kind of raised eyebrows.  

“Someone is obviously someone else’s favorite,” she observed obliquely as she made way for the larger man, leaving them both in the relative seclusion of the anteroom just outside Tony’s inner sanctum.  

Giving Natasha a look that didn’t do much for the blush he could feel on his face, Steve didn’t comment.  “Did you learn anything more from Thor about this whole god-thing?  Tony seems to be dealing with it.”

“Well, we talked more about Loki,” Nat gave up the information, thankfully allowing the change in topics so that Steve didn’t have to talk about the favoritism of certain playboy-millionaires, “It seems that besides the basic Old Gods and New that we know of here on Earth, there’s a whole race of whatever Thor is… and then there’s Loki’s kind.  Banner’s still talking philosophy and biology with Thor right now, so hopefully we’ll get some clearer answers that sound less like mythology.”

“But suffice it to say, Loki’s a different breed of cat,” Steve summed up grimly.  

Nat nodded, her expression still cool but her eyes lowering a few degrees into actively cold.  “And apparently fixated on us.  Thor expressed surprise that Loki hasn’t actually wandered off to do damage elsewhere, but instead seems to have stayed wherever we are.”

“Actually…” Steve argued hesitantly, lifting a hand to scrub at the hair at the back of his neck when Natasha’s sharp eyes snapped to him.   He finished in a rush, “I think he might be fixated on just Tony.”  Haltingly, the super-soldier explained Tony’s armor, and how he’d somehow noticed Loki’s message written into it.  “I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that Stark can read binary, but I really don’t think that anything short of a computer should have been able to even see that. My eyesight is enhanced along with the rest of me, and it was all just random rust-patterns to me.”

“Actually, Mr. Rogers, if I may,” Jarvis’s tones made both Nat and Steve jump.  Sometimes, it was easy to forget that the walls literally had ears, especially since Jarvis didn’t usually show any human tendencies to eavesdrop.

“Captain Rogers,” Steve tried to correct.

Shockingly, for the first time, it actually worked - which either meant Tony had changed Jarvis’s protocol, or something really had the AI unsettled, which no one had previously thought possible.  “Of course, Captain Rogers.  I thought that it might be wise to inform you that what Master Stark is seeing is actually entirely invisible to my own visual sensors.”  While the super-soldier and the red-haired assassin exchanged surprised looks, Jarvis’s voice went on, sounding surprisingly uncertain for a computer program, “Instances like this have occurred frequently in the time that I have been functional, and no doubt before that - cases where Master Stark is aware of things that technology has no way of registering or accomplishing.  His reaction to these cases has always been to invent and modify the existing technology until the error is corrected, or until he is proven correct in this theory.”

Now truly stunned, Steve looked  back through the closed, transparent doors.  Tony was hard at work already, completely oblivious to the world around him outside of the tools he was reaching for and the simulations he was running.  A new wave of respect - and maybe even a little flutter of fear - passed through the Captain.  “And that’s how he’s functioned this long without knowing that he's a New God?”

“If you mean that he’s thought that he was simply a visionary and forward thinker ahead of his time, then yes,” Jarvis said without an ounce of dryness, but somehow it was implied.

Nat saw no reason to hide her own sense of humor as she deadpanned from Steve’s side, “Good thing he doesn’t have that on his resume, or we’d never be able to get his inflated head through the door.”  

Jarvis continued, “I’ve never spoken up on this matter before because it’s all in the realm of conjecture.  There’s no proof that Master Stark is seeing things beyond the normal spectrum, by the simple definition that there is no way to test for such things until new technology is invented.”

“By Tony,” Steve finished.

“Precisely, Captain Rogers.”

Pleased that he at least wasn’t being called ‘Mister’ anymore (which made him feel older than even his sixty years under the ice), Steve took in a deep breath and let it out slowly as he tried to digest this information.  He’d seen a lot of crazy things in his lifetime, one of the craziest being himself, so it wasn’t too hard to compartmentalize these new facts as simply other facets of what made Tony Tony.  It was still rather overwhelming, however, to look into the workshop and see Stark - all lean lines and unassuming size, wild enthusiasm shining alongside rampant genius in gold-brown eyes - and realize that he was actually a New God.  “I still can’t believe no one noticed this sooner,” he said in a soft, stunned voice.

“Hindsight is twenty-twenty,” Nat shrugged, taking it philosophically but also favoring their resident inventor with a calculating look that she usually only wore in new, uncertain situations.  Then she glanced as Steve, nudging him with an elbow.  “So what now, Cap?”

“Now,” he sighed, giving himself a shake and turning back towards the elevator, “we talk to everyone else, and inform them that Loki has thrown down the metaphorical gauntlet.  And that Tony is pretty determined to meet the challenge, even though he’s only known that he’s a New God for about thirty minutes now.”

~^~

It took Q two full hours before he once again had Q-branch back in order.  Considering how fast Q usually worked, it said something about 006’s powers right now that his accidental destruction had kept the Quartermaster busy for that long.  Drained and frazzled, his fingers tingling and cold from dipping so much into the data stream and manipulating energy waves, the New God stumbled into his office and collapsed onto the chair usually used for people he was lecturing - simply because it was the closest available surface to collapse onto.  Bond was stretched out on his futon, eyes clear and alert.  With a mere thought, Q dimmed the lights in the room against a burgeoning headache.  As the room grew darker, 007’s eyes still remained bright enough to be seen.  

Q shot him a look.  “I’ve had quite enough of Old Gods shedding power around me, thank you very much.”

Between one blink and the next, 007’s eyes returned to normal, although in their wake, a grin blossomed on his face.  “Better, Quartermaster?”

Sighing and slouching, arms dangling off either side of the chair, Q admitted tiredly, “You weren’t really that bad.  I’m just in a poor mood.  Did you say you had a plan to prevent the accidental destruction of my branch and my sanity?”

007’s chuckle was low and rich, and he rolled into a sitting position to face Q more evenly.  “I did say that, although whether you’re going to be entirely comfortable with the idea is the question,” he said in a rare, wary tone.  

Although his head head tipped back and his eyes had closed, Q cracked one open now, looking at 007 sidelong.  The look on Bond’s face - which was enigmatic except for a faint, almost-hidden Cheshire tilt to his mouth - had warning bells going off in Q’s head already.  “No!”

“You haven’t even heard my plan!” Bond protested.  

“And yet, the way you’re failing not to eye me like a partner-in-crime leads me to think that it’s a bad one.”

“I’m hurt, Q.”

“You really don’t sound like it.”

It was true: 007 was smirking in earnest now, enjoying the challenge presented to him by Q’s pugnacious response.  In fact, something in the Old God’s pale-blue eyes had gotten positively lewd even before he said in a low, honeyed tone, “What if it’s actually a very, very good plan?   One that I can guarantee that you’ll like?  One that I think will benefit everyone in the end.”

Now Q opened both eyes, but continued to purse his lips in an attempt to find the hook inside the bait 007 was slowly doling out.  “Need I remind you that you, Alec, and myself have drastically different likes and interests?” he said, in hopes of diverting trouble before it got moving.

Sadly, 007 was already gaining momentum.  Crows’-feet showed around his eyes as charming innuendo filled his words, “There are more than a few things that we like in common, though.”  

All this while, Q had been analyzing 007’s words, something that rarely ended in success because paths of Bond’s thoughts were only slightly less chaotic than Alec’s.  At this moment, however, Q’s swift brain followed all of the possibilities and more or less tripped and fell right into the conclusion.  He sat up so fast his neck cricked, having to push his glasses back up his nose as they slipped.  He more or less accused in an explosion of breath, “You’re suggesting I have sex with both of you, aren’t you?”

Unrepentant, 007 rolled one shoulder in a shrug.  “There’s a bit more to it than that.  I know from personal experience that logic-marks from you can deaden and tamp down on the power of Old Gods like Alec and myself.  I also know that Old Gods give up power to make marks of their own - so theoretically, if you can quiet Alec’s power enough for me to actually touch him, and vice versa, he might be able to safely expend even more power by returning the favor with a mark or two.”

All of this would have sounded like the height of insanity had Q not already gotten a taste of how well 007 and 006 worked together - both in regards to missions and in regards to partners.  After that night that Alec had actually shared a bed with them, after walking in on Q and Bond having sex, it had become more than clear to Q that embarrassment was only a factor in their relationship if Q himself dragged it in with him.  It had also hinted at the fact that all three of them could have a relationship, also dependant upon Q’s input.  Things had been a bit too crazy since then for Q to properly consider the idea of having access to both Old Gods of MI6.

But he had thought about it.  

“How dare you use logic against me?” was what he said out loud, more huffy than anything else.  

Q may as well have praised him, for all that it made the blond-haired man’s eyes light up.  “So you admit that my plan makes logical sense?”

It did, actually - insofar as Q understood the inner workings of Old Gods.  007 had told Q that it took power out of him to maintain a chaos-mark on Q for any length of time, and whenever Q had put one on Bond in return, it had acted not unlike a mild sedative to his powers.  It had the rather intoxicating side-effect of making the demanding, powerful Old God rather docile and pliant, too…  Q shook his head, thoughts drifting.  “Assuming that I would be okay with sharing a bed with the two of you, how do you know how Alec will feel about all of this?  I’m honestly shocked that you let me mark you,” Q noted.

“Considering that the only other option is for Alec to walk on metaphorical eggshells for the next few weeks, I think you’ll be surprised what he’ll be amenable to,” Bond replied smoothly, but then stretched forward one leg so that he could nudge at Q’s calf.  When Q met his eyes again, they were earnest, the seductive playfulness giving way to something far more like fondness and understanding.  “I should probably also tell you, before you start overthinking this, that Alec would say yes to an invite to your bed regardless of the circumstances.  And if you say no, he never has to know I even brought it up.”

Something inside the dark-haired young man uncoiled and relaxed at 007’s candid words, and he let out a breath slowly as he took a minute to actually consider his personal opinions on the matter.  As a New God, Q wasn’t used to dealing with feelings as a rule, his own powers chilling and dissipating them like ice cooling down a hot drink.  However, repeated exposure to Bond - and later to Trevelyan - had made Q a bit more emotive than what would be considered ‘typical’ for his kind.  Right now, the emotions he was feeling included nervousness but also a notable amount of excitement.  “How do you feel about this?” Q asked abruptly, stalling as he tried to wrangle his own thoughts.

“About fucking you and maybe watching Alec do the same?” James chuckled, mouth curling up wryly at one side, the kind of look that started wars and then made you forget why you were fighting them.  Q wondered how many wars had been fought in Bond’s name alone.  Q could already feel his blood heating.  “I must admit, Q, that mental image alone is quite a turn-on.  But only if you’re okay with it.  For the record, Alec will survive perfectly well riding this one out without your help… no pun intended.”

Q was fairly sure that the pun was intended, but appreciated 007’s desire to keep things clear - and, for that matter, consensual.  The Quartermaster relaxed still more, and began drumming his fingers restlessly on his chair-arms.  The silence stretched for a long time as Q let his eyes focus on nothing, his New God senses unthinkingly tracking the steady flow of data all around them and tracing it through the ‘roots’ and ‘branches’ of the data-tree that still occupied the center of his office.  

After about a minute, 007 stood.  He made to walk past the Quartermaster, stopping only to put a hand on his shoulder and squeeze.  When he spoke, there was no judgment in his low voice, merely kind soft understanding that came with having lived for quite a long time, “Forget I mentioned it, Q.”

Just as 007 made to lift his hand and continue on towards the door, Q shot his hand out, gripping Bond’s wrist.  The larger man stilled, tensing almost imperceptibly but turning to look back and down at his Quartermaster.  For his part, Q turned to gaze back up at him steadily, affecting an offended look.  He also wet his lips, finding his skin suddenly too tight for the rapid racing of his blood.  “Just because I’m being quiet doesn’t mean I’m saying no…”

~^~

 

 

Chapter Text

“Why does this feel more like a hostage exchange than something pleasant?” Alec asked of the room at large in a sardonic, rather humorless voice.

With an unerring skill that either came from knowing Alec very well or being an Old God of considerable experience, 007 had found Alec and had since explained the rather unorthodox plan set before them.  Said conversation had happened here, in Alec’s flat, which Q had never been to before.  This location had been the most sensible one for this business, as it was the least technologically gilded, and therefore the most immune to the chaotic energy Alec was throwing off.  Bond looked quite at home here, if his lazy sprawl on the bed was any indication, but the other two men were notably tense.  Alec stood by the wall to the right of the bed with his thumbs shoved into the pockets of his dark-wash jeans, expression shuttered even as he glanced over at Q, who was posed edgily by the door, arms folded.  The Quartermaster didn’t look alarmed, per se, but the nervousness and excitement in his belly were still battling for dominance, and he couldn’t seem to find a way to tip the odds in favor of the latter, no matter how he wanted to.  

Anxious hazel eyes looked past thick spectacles to take Alec’s measure for at least the hundredth time.  The impending change in their dynamics encouraged the New God to take 006 in anew, as if he’d somehow never seen him before in his entirety, or as if this opened up a whole new aspect of him to be seen.  When Alec looked back at him, something ethereal shifted in the room, and his eyes physically flashed - just a brief, inhuman peridot.  The amount of power in just that slight moment must have been intense, because while Q could only barely sense an Old God’s power, 007 physically flinched.  Still leaning back with his head and shoulders propped on the headboard, James cast Alec a look that could only be called ‘peevish’ before his expression settled out again.  As relaxed as a cat on a windowsill, he appeared almost unfairly in control of his emotions at this moment.  Perhaps he realized that he was the only comfortable one at the moment, and therefore in charge of breaking the ice since everyone had already awkwardly stated their intentions.  

007 stuck a hand out beckoningly.  “Oh, for the love of…  Q, come here,” he said in exasperation, which earned him a raised brow from the New God.  Luckily for James, his own smile was very charming at the moment, and contained that sultry light that promised to make Q’s time worthwhile - a trick that had worked in the past when James was being incorrigible.  To be honest, Q was also a bit desperate to break the stalemate between himself and the over-powered trickster-god, so with the minimal amount of reticence, he unfolded his arms and strode towards James.  007 immediately caught his hands and dragged Q onto the bed, and then up over his legs.  Straddling Bond’s powerful thighs and feeling his familiar, calloused hands lightly stroking his wrists, it was easier to forget the embarrassment of a new, third party, except for as a buzz of excitement struggling to be heard in the back of his mind.  And anyway, Bond was looking at Q as if he were the only person in the room.  

“How do you feel about me easing you into this?” Bond asked, part cheeky and part sure, cocking his head like a thoughtful golden eagle in human’s skin.  His hands began to wander, pushing at Q’s sleeves and baring more and more of his forearms in a slow, eager way that seemed somehow indecent - or perhaps that was the growing upward tilt of the Old God’s mouth that seemed so sultry.  When it didn’t seem like Q would answer fast enough, 007 stacked the odds more in his favor, leaning forward until he could just mouth at the edge of Q’s jaw, entirely shameless.  He maintained eye-contact almost belligerently, right up until Q’s lashes fluttered and he felt his own attention start to fragment and scatter.  When Q felt the beginnings of a familiar patterns being rubbed into his wrist by a clever thumb, however, he gave his left arm a hard shake without actually moving away from the ministrations of Bond’s mouth.  

“None of that,” Q growled, getting distracted already.  

The Old God chuckled against the underside of his jaw.  “You don’t sound very convincing.”

Q tried to flick his eyes back towards Alec, but his peripheral vision outside of his glasses had never been good, and a nip of teeth against his throat kept his attention on one 00-agent and off the other.  Finally, he closed his eyes and sighed as if for guidance before retorting dryly, “Maybe because I know that you’ll mark me up anyway.”

Biting a little bit harder and eliciting a hiss even as Q’s skin reddenned, 007 replied smugly, “One way or another, yes,” before freeing up Q’s wrists to instead go to work on his cardigan.  Although still distantly aware of Alec in the background, being more polite and quiet than Q could ever remember him voluntarily being, Q let his nerves go as he and Bond worked together to strip his torso of clothing.  Almost as soon as he had Q’s chest bared, 007 lunged forward again, licking and dragging his teeth up Q’s sternum to the hollow of his throat.  When Q made to reach up and grab him, it seemed second-nature for the 00-agent to grab his forearms, keeping Q’s arms down even as six even kisses were applied to the center of his collarbones.  Q gasped as each brush of lips seemed to reach into him, beyond his skin, an ethereal stroke that went deeper and deeper and deeper until Q’s muscles were quietly straining and he was gripping Bond’s arms back in return - fingernails digging into tanned skin.  Just before the seventh kiss (Q didn’t have to be a genius to know what that last kiss would do, because for once, Bond was hardly being subtle about marking the New God), 007 paused, his hot breath ghosting over Q’s damp throat.  “So, are there any dissenting votes for two Old Gods thoroughly ruining a certain New God in the name of mutual good health?” he asked as absentmindedly as a feather on a breeze.

Both Alec and Q answered so sharply that it was like a dual whip-crack in the air, a resounding, impatient, “No!”  The fusing of Alec and Q’s opinions on the matter seemed to be what James was waiting for, because he pressed his lips down one last time, and Q felt the trap slide shut around him like a glorious, golden chain.  It was always a risk and a rush, like stepping off a cliff, when he let Bond’s power in like this - the Old God was like a wolf at the door, and there was no closing it up again after undoing the latch.  007 was well and truly (and quite literally) under Q’s skin now like a rush of whiskey downed in one gulp.  Q could feel the man’s reach sizzling in his bones.  

Q’s breathing picked up, his fingers now wringing Bond’s shirt as he tightly gripped the man’s broad shoulders.  With his head still tilted back, the younger New God acclimatized himself to the new level of sensation all stemming from the meeting of his collarbones, where James was still exhaling steadily - each breath stoked a fire, making Q feel like a forge, swelling with heat he couldn’t escape.  Instead of licking or touching the mark like he usually would, however, playing upon the oversensitization that always came with one of his chaos-marks, Q felt 007 draw back minutely.  No longer restraining Q’s arms, Bonds hands retreated, and Bond began to undo the buttons on his own shirt while murmuring into the soft skin of Q’s throat, “I could leave you like this.  Have you ever fooled around with sex-toys, Quartermaster?”  The juxtaposition of dirty-talk and professional titles made Q jump, excitement lacing his veins even as Bond’s magic shifted its restless warmth within him.  There was something so illicit about Bond talking about toys and work at the same time.  “A vibrator, perhaps?  Have you ever put one inside yourself…”  Bond almost had his shirt unbuttoned, and started sliding it off his shoulders, forcing Q to unclench his hands from the material.  When the blue-eyed Old God nuzzled at Q’s skin, he kept just shy of the mark, instead running the end of his nose almost endearly up his right clavicle before returning his words to the hollow of Q’s throat.  “...And just left it on low?  That’s what it’ll start to feel like if I just leave this mark here unattended, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”  Bond’s every breath, by now, was vibrating against Q’s skin, made more maddening by the reminder that Q’s own touch wouldn’t do a thing - just as he was largely impervious to Alec’s chaotic magic, he was incapable of affecting Bond’s mark in any way whatsoever.  

As if to punctuate the point, when Q groaned in frustration and tried to move closer, or at least roll his body in some way to settle the foreign magic within, he felt his body lock up - Bond, the bloody bastard, didn’t have his hands on Q right now, but he may as well have had his hands clasped around every joint from the inside.  Some days Q forgot that Old God magic could do that, and then he wondered why the devil he let himself get into these situations.  

Q’s reply was a curse, choked up with both temper and a rising, infuriating pleasure as he knelt over Bond’s lap, quivering as he lost the war against stillness.  When 007 placed a hand on Q’s thigh, it shook, too, a sign that he was having to really work at this.  To be fair, however, he then leaned forward to brush a kiss at the marked spot on Q’s throat that sent all of that foreign magic rushing to the spot beneath Q’s skin.  It really only served to make the situation worse, as Q’s groin tightened with the increased sensation, but by now he knew how this game would go - and that he’d ultimately adore 007 more than hate him for dragging this all out.  

There was a faint noise from behind Q, something between a whine and a growl, and it had 007’s head turning away to look over Q’s shoulder sharply.  “And you will stay exactly where you are, at least until Q diffuses you,” Bond stated, clearly not talking to the New God anymore, sounding remarkably grumpy for a man already half-naked and starting to play.  Then again, from what Q had gathered, Alec had literally and figurative burned Bond a few times in the past days, so perhaps the war-god had every right to be stroppy.  Q thought he heard Alec make a disgruntled, impatient noise, but even as he went to turn his head to look, a firm hand gripped his jaw to hold his head in place.  Q found himself looking into laughing, wicked, arctic eyes that were apparently intent on swallowing all of his attention for the time being.

Behind them, but far closer now - perhaps even at the corner of the bed - 006 snorted, then asked, “And when exactly is he going to have the time and focus to do that?”

It was shocking how low and husky Alec’s voice had gotten in such a short time, growing velvet-edged since the last time he’d spoken.  To be honest, Q had been rapidly forgetting that there was a third occupant in the room, but this time the reminder made him quiver in a good way.  There was no way that Trevelyan could be talking in that tone unless he was seeing something he liked.  Q tried to move again, and this time managed a slight roll of his body as 007’s iron control slipped.  

“Oh, I’ll let him come up for air eventually, I imagined,” 007 murmured, all charm and tease.  He let go of Q’s jaw only to hook his hand loosely around the back of the dark-haired man’s neck, drawing him in for a willing kiss.  Bond’s other hand, however, was still busy, and Q gasped into Bond’s mouth as it trailed up his thigh, thumb dragging against the inseam until it was rubbing provocatively against Q’s crotch.

“Okay,” Alec grunted, tone going clipped, “I know when I’m being teased.  Bond, you have exactly five minutes before this does become a hostage situation, only you’re going to be the hostage, and I don’t care if you squirm like a cat in water whenever I touch you - because I’m going to make you pay for hogging the fun.  Q, you hear that?”

Disengaging from Bond’s demanding mouth, Q panted, but actually managed to speak in something that resembled his dry, ‘work’ tone, “I’m distracted, not deaf.  And I’d gladly play my part in this a bit more actively if Bond would kindly let me budge an inch.”

For a second, the thick pulse of Old magic continued to grip Q from the inside out, but then Bond’s eyes slid past and widened a second before 007 jumped like a startled stag.  His control of his powers through the mark abruptly vanished, allowing Q to twist around in time to see Alec - leaning forward over the bed, grinning like a shark - just retracting his hand from presumably grabbing Bond’s ankle.  Something like a heated haze surrounded the trickster-god’s hand, although 007 didn’t looked injured, merely jolted and miffed.  Still, when Q moved, Bond gave in to the inevitable with a sigh, leaning back against the headboard again.  The heat in his eyes still looked smug, so Q figured that the man had gotten what he wanted anyway: a mark on Q and two much hornier (and more at ease) companions.  

Trying to ignore the buzz beneath his skin - which had faded now that 007 wasn’t touching him, but definitely hadn’t gone away, as Bond had so lasciviously promised - Q swung off Bond’s lap to instead kneel facing Alec.  That gave him a good chance to realize that the rustling from earlier had been 006 shedding clothing, because the status quo had now been reached for everyone: no clothing above the waist existed.  It was a good look, Q had to admit, and he felt a little rush at the re-realization that he was going to get to know that bare skin a whole lot better shortly.  This time, when adrenalin flushed Q’s system, it made his pants feel a bit too tight in the best way.  Grasping for New God calmness was next to impossible with Old power snuck into him,  but Q managed to settle on his heels and beckon in a semi-professional manner.  “Come on.  I’m starting to get impatient myself, thanks to 007, so let’s see if I can make you fit for polite company.”

Alec chuckled at Q’s blithe tone even as 007 made a totally faked noise of annoyance behind him.  Bond also drew his legs back, putting all of him further out of Alec’s reach, as 006 slid onto the bed.  Sitting cross-legged, powerful arms flexing once idly before he draped them across his knees, Alec lost his impish look to instead look guardedly curious.  “So how does this work, exactly?” he asked, but also added to show that he was still in a game mood, “Sorry to say, Q, but I’m not entirely sure that even you can make me play well with others.”

“Watch your ego there, Alec,” 007 answered lazily, “Q’s put me down a time or two.  He’ll take you down a peg.”

While Q quietly preened at the candid praise, Alec arched one brow, perhaps unsure how to approach this - as a threat or a challenge.  There was a reason Bond had started using the phrase ‘put me down’ some time back to describe Q’s actions.  What Q could do, having slowly mastered logic-marks, was the equivalent of hitting 007 with an incredibly specialized drug, or maybe hypnotizing him.  Just like a good tranquilizer could put down a lion, Q with a bit of physical contact and power could just about turn 007 off like a switch, or at least tone down his emotions and Old God powers to nearly nothing.  It balanced out quite well what James could do to him - fill the Quartermaster up with Old power until it was debatable whether he truly had any control at all, unless 007 allowed it.  

With that in mind, Q slanted another glance back at 007, who was now doing his best impression of an unaffected, innocent person.  His handsome features wore it rather well, but suddenly Q wondered if this foreplay of his had ulterior motives: if Alec was nervous about Q tamping down and possibly even stripping him of the power he was so used to, then all 006 had to do was recall that Q had voluntarily let himself be leashed by Bond.  It was a rather marvelous system of checks-and-balances that Q’s logical side had to applaud, even as Bond gave no visual indication that he’d considered this at all.  To show that he wasn’t fooled by the guileless expression, Q reached back a hand, stroking it slowly down the plane of 007’s foot.  By now, Q had learned little tricks that made a bland gesture into a worshipful one, and did so now.  Bond released a breath that sounded just a bit like an appreciative, husky purr.  

Q turned his attention back to Alec.  “I’d say that it’s a simple process, really, but I’d be lying,” he informed the more chaotic of his two Old Gods, earning himself a raised eyebrow and a snort at his immodest tone.  Trying for something more self-deprecating, Q spread his hands palm-up and added bluntly, “It’s not an intrinsically sexy process, I regret to inform you.  In fact, compared to what Bond does - and you do, too, I assume - it’s probably going to be a bit dull, so bear with me.”

When Q rocked forward and up onto his knees, reaching a hand out to touch Alec’s chest (shyly at first, but then in a more businesslike fashion as he let his New God instincts take the fore), 006 sat uneasily still but glanced over Q’s shoulder to Bond.  “Care to weigh in on this conversation, Jamesey?”

It as a plea for help, albeit a constrained one.  007 immediately took mercy and began to fill in the gaps while Q engrossed himself in what he was about to do, “Our powers and Q’s are anathema to each other, so a mark from him will start dulling yours powers like an ice-cube or two in a cup of hot tea.  It takes a bit to set up, though.”  Bond shrugged, having long-since accepted all of this as simple fact.  Another trait that seemed intrinsic to Old Gods was the ability to accept without understanding, something that was in turn a foreign idea to Q, who was driven to pick things apart until he understood it thread by thread.  That was simply how he was wired, which meant he suffered from omnipresent frustration when faced by Bond and Trevelyan’s largely inexplicable abilities and quirks.  

“So I could interrupt him any time and botch the whole thing?” was what Alec took out of that.

Resting one palm flat on Alec’s right pectoral now, starting to drum his fingers seemingly idly as he thought, Q didn’t look up but muttered nonetheless, “Which would, in turn, put us back at square one with helping you.”

“Fine, fine.  I’ll sit still like a good boy,” Alec grumbled.  

James’s mouth tilted up at the corners, and his tone turned patronizing and innocent, “I thought you were never a good boy.”

“I can hardly remember being a boy.”

“Can you two please kindly shut it?” Q’s jaded sigh finally cut the chatter, but at the same time he turned to his work with greater focus.  As James and Alec watched - quiet now, like big alert foxes - Q’s face went expressionless with focus, then pursed his lips before bringing up his other hand.  Keeping his left hand flat, fingers straight and pressed closer together, he seemed to brace himself with his other hand to the right of it.  Something shifted in the air, like a drop in temperature or barometric pressure, making Alec tense and even Bond twitch slightly.  Q was a trusted entity, however, no matter how foreign his New power was, so both older men watched and waited patiently as Q began to mutter and whisper things under his breath and ever-so-slowly begin to drag his left palm to the right across Alec’s chest.  

The tapping of his fingers felt like a pianist on his keys, almost ticklish but at the same time reverberating deep in 006’s chest while the slow drag of Q’s other hand grounded him and seemed to anchor each skipping, fleeting note.  With a jolt, Alec’s ears finally put some of Q’s words together and realized that he was coding, verbally, either that or he was speaking swift, clipped phrases of utter nonsense and punctuation.  Alec rarely paid attention to Q’s work on a computer, but he’d seen how fast the New God could string code together, and now his voice was providing the interface between thought and reality.  At the same time, Q’s left hand - still moving with a perfectly paced slowness - moved far enough to reveal a vertical line of glittering almost-light.  It danced and winked on an off against Alec’s skin, like the sheen on a black-bird’s wing, only visible at the right angle of light and tilt of the head, or like the fickle image of a hologram.  Alec sucked in a sharp, shallow breath in wonder, staring as another line was revealed, like the second narrow tower of a bar-code that Q was creating and embedding on the fly.  

Q continued his slow, steady work, 007 watching impassively but with curiosity hidden deep within his keen eyes.  He’d never been a passive spectator to Q placing a logic-mark, because to Bond’s knowledge, Q was the only New God to use marks, and he only ever used them on 007 himself.  Bond still preferred, of course, the unpredictable elegance of a chaotic-mark, but that didn’t mean he was unappreciative of the immense power that Q was sewing together now with logical patterns and modern phrasing.  It took longer, true, but Bond suspected that was only because Q had to tailor each and every piece of work he did so that it would actually stick to an Old God’s flesh - Q had once, in a post-coital grumble, complained rather adorably about how pinning a New-mark on James was like trying to type in the correct digits for a dynamically encrypted password.  007 had purred with pride even as the logic-mark had put him down, drawing the tension out of him as well as settling his power down until it was like a sleepy, banked fire in his soul.  He’d fallen into a shallow but restful sleep with Q tucked against his marked chest.  

If there was anything else 007 could appreciate about Q’s marks, it was their subtlety.  After his initial jumpiness, Alec had settled down now to simple, watchful fascination.  He sat still in a way that showed remarkable patience for a man who could barely keep from fidgeting when he was off-mission - in fact, as the time stretched from one minute to two, Q’s hand like a highly complicated printer laying down marks, Alec continued to watch patiently.  Bond, in turn, began to smirk knowingly, because he recognized the influence of Q’s logic when he saw it.  Slowly, tension that none of them had probably realized Alec was carrying began to seep out of his shoulders, and instead of watching the proceedings like a ready hawk, his eyes took on a more sated look of a fed cat.  

Q’s marks varied in purpose and power, even if, to 007’s untrained eye, they all looked rather alike.  Most of Q’s marks resembled either barcodes or blocks and matrices of binary, but they could do everything from dampen emotions to clear thoughts to practically sedate an Old God.  The encompassing lethargy of being powered down was actually rather terrifying to contemplate, although it was hard to be properly unsettled with nothing but cool logic in one’s head, turning burning summer into slumbering winter.  

When Q leaned back on his heels, however, elegant hands dropping to his lap, Alec was still alert and awake.  He just seemed… calmer.  More focused and less erratic.  He also now had a rectangle of tight-packed, vertical lines standing in parallel rows across his right upper chest.  Likes fish beneath a lake, they seemed to surface and disappear in little flickers, or perhaps that was simply the mass of data that was packed so tightly it made each line look solid.  “There,” Q breathed, sounding professional yet satisfied, a New God in his element and quite detached from frivolous things like strong emotional responses.  “That should serve for now.  I’ve experimented with Bond about the ways in which my abilities effectively mitigate yours, so I’ve essentially given you a moderate dose - the only side-effects should be that your powers are, as it were, somewhat doused.”

Cocking his head thoughtfully, Alec looked down awkwardly to eye his new mark as best he could, also flexing his hands as if the power were a muscle he could test.  “I can still feel it,” he remarked, pleased but wary.

Bond was behind Q, but he imagined a tiny little irked grimace as the Quartermaster admitted, “You have quite a lot of power, Mr. Trevelyan, and my kind aren’t exactly made to create marks.  This was the best I could do on my first try.”

“Oh, I’m not complaining,” Alec chuckled back, raising one hand disarmingly while the other rubbed experimentally at the mark.  

Bond decided that now was the time to speak up and remind everyone there there were two marks at work in the room right now - and only one had been placed by a powerful novice. “Well, I’m complaining.”  He pushed himself forward, joining Q on his knees but kneeling up behind the slimmer man even as the boffin turned questioningly.  As Q’s head twisted back to give him a look, 007 curled a hand around the underside of Q’s jaw, a sudden touch that made Q gasp a little even before Bond let his hand drop.  It dragged down the column of Q’s throat and right over the chaos-mark imbedded at its base, making Q choke on his next gasp and close his eyes.  Bond finished his complaint with a playful growl, “I’m complaining because if you’re calling Alec ‘Mr. Trevelyan,’ than this feels too much like work and too little like play.”

Watching Bond and Q, Alec’s face split in a grin that clearly wasn’t very dampened by Q’s abilities.  But at the same time, 007 didn’t feel the excess of power crackling in the air, threatening to singe him.  “I second that notion.”

The motion was carried as Q reached up and back, fingers finding short blond hair and dragging 007 down for an awkward but demanding kiss.  At the same time, Q couldn’t help but press forward against Bond’s hand, his body making an unconscious arch just so that he could feel the Old God’s skin against the mark he’d left.  Old power roiled beneath Q’s skin like someone stroking him from the inside, surging up as it it wanted to break through his flesh and bone at the point of contact - a heady combination of sensations that turned Q’s kiss into a gasp.  Bond countered by using his free hand to catch the underside of Q’s jaw, keeping the New God’s slender frame pulled back against his while he tilted his open mouth so that he could lap hungrily down into it.  In all frankness, Q barely noticed when Alec Trevelyan reached forward, an exploratory hand extending the distance needed to just barely brush down the smooth skin of Q’s belly to his waistband.  Q’s stomach-muscles fluttered, sensitive to the touch but not overwhelmed by the butterfly-light sensation when compared to the dragon’s-fire rush of Bond’s Old Magic, trapped inside Q like a storm in a bottle.  

“You’re gorgeous,” Alec breathed, and perhaps he meant both Bond and Q, but James he’d seen an awful lot of over the centuries, and right now, Alec’s green eyes were drinking in a fresher sight.  

Q was straining to hold his post now, knelt up with his head tilted up and back for Bond’s demanding kisses, gripping at both of the war-god’s forearms for balance and support.  It put the sinewy lines of his light musculature in beautiful relief.  006, seeing that he wasn’t going to be rebuffed, proceeded to trace them almost like a child at play.  There was no rush - 007 was handling the important stuff.  In fact, besides kissing like he wanted to drag Q’s soul right out of his mouth, Bond was repetitively stroking at the hollow of Q’s throat in a way that made the mark burn visibly through Q’s skin.  It pulsed and flared like a coal being blown on, and Alec happened to know that the physical sensation was not unlike stroking to any other erogenous area of the body.  By the tenting of Q’s trousers, he was quite aware of this, and gave a shuddering moan as Alec daringly cupped him through the material.  Bond paused to watch, eyes blown dark except a feral ring of neon blue, his panting breath like some animal in the dark.   

“You want me to get rid of these for you, rí beag?” Alec ask, low and intimate, sweet and fine.  His English accent held even as his language slipped.  

Sparing the attention to tip his head back down and actually look, seemingly dazed to the point where it took him a bit to connect words to actions, Q finally got out between dragging in air, “If you could, please.”

Alec found himself chuckling.  “Q, you’re just about the most polite bedmate I’ve ever had.  You could stand to take lessons from him, James.”

Bond’s reply was simply to scoff, handling the loss of Q’s mouth by retaliating against the shell of his ear.  Q yelped at the nip and slapped at him, but then reached back to grab onto 007’s solid bulk as Alec unzipped his trousers and promptly reached into them.  Q closed his eyes and let his head rock back against Bond’s shoulder with a pleased groan.  

“Things will move faster if you actually get his pants off, you know,” 007 intoned, for all the world unaffected even if his lust-blown pupils said otherwise.  He dropped his hands away from the mark he’d left in favor of wrapping them around Q’s middle, keeping him closer, which resulted in the New God whining at the loss of stimulation.  Of course, Alec was more than prepared to take up the slack, as he followed James’s advice by nudging Q’s trousers down.  Actually, a more accurate description would be that his free hand slid around over Q’s hip, bypassing his pants to palm his arse and shove clothing out of his way as he did so.  Q wriggled helpfully, which had the secondary effect of rubbing him against 007, who abruptly lost some of his cool facade in favor of a stifled groan.  James buried his face against the side of Q’s neck as if to hide it, even as his shoulders and arms flexed under Q’s grabbing hands.  

“How’s that for helpful?” Alec teased.  

While 007 said something back that was perhaps a curse but definitely not in any language Q knew, the Quartermaster managed to regain himself enough to assist in his own undressing.  By this point, he was quite painfully hard and knew that he was being ganged up on, but at least if he was completely naked then they had no excuse to tease without delivering on the promises buried behind said teasing.  Bond followed suit easily, his body already developing a light sheen of sweat that was part from pure interest and partially from the strain of using his mark on Q.  

Alec, unexpectedly, just sat back again and watched, still half-dressed and now with a half smile on his face.  

Gloriously nude and just stepping off the bed to grab lube, 007 noticed his old friend’s antics, and murmured something in a cautious tone.  Q only caught a few words out of many - vél and rangr - but at least he’d been brushing up on his old languages enough to identify them as Norse.  Stripped now as well and sitting with his knees demurely tucked, Q watched 007’s turned back but asked Alec, “What did he say?”

“Oh, he accused me of all sort of terrible things,” Alec unashamedly summed up, grinning like a cat in cream, “James seems to forget that I’m a trickster-god sometimes, and that having aces up my sleeves comes with the territory.  I’ve got to hand it to you, though, Q - there’re not many lovers who can get our mutual friend here talking in his old tongue so quickly.”

“Shut it, Alec,” Bond muttered back, but actually seemed a bit embarrassed - or as embarrassed as a man could be when squirting lube onto his hand and then tossing the bottle and immediately thereafter using his free hand to tangle in dark, tousled hair.  007’s kisses were definitely distracting, and while Q, too, was suspicious about what was on Alec’s mind, he was soon being dragged down as Bond got onto the bed.  Bond managed to keep from getting oil everywhere even as he laid  back, pulling Q up over him not unlike they’d been at the start of all this.  Q hummed appreciatively as slick fingers trailed up the back of one thigh before pressing closer, into him.    

“What I was saying,” Bond surprised Q by saying between kisses, so softly that Q wondered if any ears beyond his own would even hear, “is that expecting a trickster like Alec not to have some crooked plans laid is like expecting a con-artist not to defraud someone.”

“Should I be worried?”

“Well, I did hand him the lube.”

As it turned out, it was James who got surprised, jerking with a growl of surprise that broke his mouth away from Q’s.  Q followed James’s vibrantly blue eyes as 007 turned his head down, finding that Alec had moved closer still, and was in fact easing in between Bond’s legs.  One of his hands rested on James’s left knee, and he commented quite proudly and candidly, “Well, fuck me, the logic-mark seems to be working.”

“He says after he touches me…” James muttered, rolling his eyes, but removing two fingers from Q’s arse to trail them absently up his back.  It left Q feeling exposed, ill-at-ease for just a second before 007 leaned up again to exhale against the waiting mark.  It was hard to be shy with Bond offering comfort like that.  At the same time, a new hand - Alec’s hand - came to rest warmly on his flank.  

When Alec spoke, in was in that low, satin-edged voice again, rough like a cat’s tongue but soft like a purr, “Mind if I take up where James left off, Q?”

Shivering a little at the way Alec’s tone brush up his spine like a physical touch, Q looked back over his shoulders, noting that 006 still had his trousers on but was holding the discarded bottle of lube.  Surprised that he could still blush, Q gave a small, shy smile and managed a nod that at least didn’t look desperate.  He was definitely getting desperate for some attention, though, because Bond was a bloody big tease and the mark alone was keeping him hot and bothered without any release in sight.  

“As the wee king demands,” Alec tossed back jovially, before leaning over both Bond and Q to press a kiss between Q’s shoulderblades - and at the same time plunge two fingers into Q’s arse and twist.

Q keened, body arching and hands fisting in the sheets next to Bond’s powerful shoulders.  Bond’s hands both found their way to Q’s ribcage, either to stay him or trap him, holding him in place while Alec quite effectively and unhesitantly fingered him.  It was like being a plaything, a thought that shouldn’t have been so erotic, but somehow was with Alec cupping his hip with one hand and stretching him out with the other, and James beneath him, whispering lewd things in his ear and holding him with almost bruising force.  Q was still straddling James’s hips, and Bond took the opportunity to nudge Q’s legs further apart with his own, so that soon Q could feel 006’s bodyheat looming close behind him, unimpeded.  Fingers stroked inside of him, balancing out the burning stretch with the toe-curling rush of pleasure every time Alec hit that one perfect spot.  When Q reached for his cock to release some of the euphoric tension, 007 caught his wrist, instead dragging the hand up to his mouth.  Smiling wickedly, eyes starting to go from sky blue to a cerulean shade found only in sapphires and burning copper chloride, James said, “Not yet, Q.  Not yet.  The more you wait, the better it’ll get.”

“No, the more I wait-!” Q cut off with a gasp as Alec pushed in a third finger, but managed to go on in a desperate tone, “-The more impatient I get!”  Perhaps ‘desperate’ would be more accurately labeled ‘peeved.’  

007 just chuckled, very much used to the game of testing Q’s patience and dragging out his pleasure to the breaking point.  Taking Q’s trapped hand (the other one was necessary to keep Q balanced), Bond splayed out the fingers, pretending to marvel at them while Q mewled - then opened his mouth and pressed one fingers in.  Q gasped at the sensation of Bond sucking at his finger, tongue lathing the sensitive pad, scraping his teeth along it threateningly before soothing the danger away with a curl of his tongue.  All the while, blue eyes watched, attentive and enrapt by whatever emotions were showing on Q’s face.  Q felt a few words of praise fall off his lips on reflex, and got the distinct joy of watching 007’s eyes briefly flutter shut, proving that he was not unaffected by all of this.  

Then Alec’s fingers stilled, remaining inside of Q but pausing.  Q’s body by this point was shuddering, and he could feel the precipice of his climax already hovering on the edges of his perception.  He listened, though, when Alec gently stroked the small of his back and spoke, “What do you want, Q?”

It took the New God a moment to remember that they’d actually started this tryst in the hopes of burning off some of Alec’s energy, so that was a priority, and Q said so.

Alec’s answer, of course, was to shrug and start up a small, maddening stroke against Q’s prostate again.  “Oh, don’t worry about me, Q.  If it’s another mark you want, I’ll give it to you, just give me time.  It’ll be a surprise.”  He sounded so childish then, like it was a hidden birthday present, but Q could only shudder as another curl of delicious sensation spread like liquid heat up his spine.  Bond was still nipping at his fingertips, pressing kisses to each pad and knowing damn well how distracting he was.  

Unable to think straight with all of the dual sensations and his own brain high as a kite on endorphins and creatively applied Old Magic, Q finally just shot back, “What do you want?”

A dark, low chuckle answered him.  “I want to see you take both Bond and me.  And if that’s what you also want, then I’ll happily behave myself.”

Q didn’t believe the promise of good behavior for a second, but Alec’s husky, candid words combined with the intoxicating force of his interest had Q’s eyes closing and his body rocking for more attention.  

“Is that a yes?” Bond asked from beneath him.  His eyes were all pupil, the hand not grasping Q’s now stroking slowly down Q’s stomach towards his cock like temptation itself.  

After just a second of thought… Q nodded.  He was hardly in a position to be thinking logically right now, not with Old Magic roiling under his skin and two Old Gods doing their best to drive him out of his mind, but Q would have been lying to say he hadn’t thought of exactly this scenario before now.  

“James first,” Alec said, presently the most levelheaded of all of them - either because he wasn’t playing around naked yet or because he had a logic-mark glinting stalwartly on his chest.  “Then we’ll see if you can take me too, eh, rí beag?”  When Alec’s fingers finally left him, Q whimpered at the emptiness, but Bond was already pushing back on his chest and pulling down at his hips.  Q slid onto him with almost obscene ease, 007’s cock slicked only by precum but Alec’s attentive preparation having left Q deliciously pliant and open.  The friction of slowly spearing himself left Q gasping, eyes closed, but he had a plethora of hands helping to ease and gentle him.  A feather-light stroke against the hollow of his throat did a beautiful job of overshadowing any and all discomfort, and Q’s cock actually jerked at the surge of Bond’s magic kissing at his nerve endings.  For a moment, time hovered, with Q and James both adjusting to a wealth of sensations, the former sitting up and just letting it drown him for a moment, like a boat that knew it would crest the waves eventually, even if it had to sink for a second.  He sensed Alec shifting behind him, and held his breath as a second hot body pressed close to his back.  The cock nudging at the small of his back said that 006 had finally decided to join the rest of them in shedding his clothing, but the trickster-god didn’t press.  In fact, all he did was stay kneeling where he was, gently gripping Q’s upper arms and mouthing hot kissing from his right shoulder up towards his neck until Q tilted his head obligingly.  The urge to move was getting stronger, but Bond had been enough of a tease earlier that Q wanted to make him wait - sometimes, retribution was its own reward.  

Quivering with the effort of holding still while his pleasure centers were lit up like neon lights, Q focused on Alec mouthing at the shell of his ear.  It seemed almost incidental that he glanced over to see Alec’s thumb rubbing his bicep in a repetitive pattern, a stroke that left sparks in its wake like someone scraping at a live coal.  It took only a moment to create a simple ‘6’ shape on Q’s arm.  “You’re not even trying to be subtle,” Q accused breathily, even as excitement made his heart dance in his chest.  He should have looked down at 007 then, who was watching proceedings keen amusement and interest behind pleasure-glazed eyes.  At Q’s sentence, he nearly laughed, and Alec flashed his teeth in a smile that Q could feel against his cheek.  

“I’m not a god of subtlety,” he reminded, to which Q hummed, floating pleasantly, knowing that the urge to find more pleasure would become unmanageable for even his New God stoicism in just a few more moments.  Alec continued to murmur, even as he traced the ‘6’ one more time, “I’m a god of tricks.”

The sense that something wasn’t quite right trickled into Q’s awareness not a second later, and his half-lidded eyes opened a bit more, a line appearing between his brows.  Like a ghost of a touch, he felt…  He turned his eyes to his left hand, but saw nothing.  Another ghost-touch flitted along his right knee, but again, when Q looked there was no culprit.  Flummoxed, he looked to Bond, but the man simply raised his hands openly with a ‘Don’t look at me’ expression on his handsome face.  Then Alec pressed down harder with his thumb, and this time Q was sure of it: 006 was tracing his mark on Q’s upper-right arm, but that wasn’t where he was feeling it.  

Q gasped as Alec exceeded the ‘6’ into a spiral, and Q felt the phantom touch extend around his navel, intimate and without warning.  With nothing visual to follow and gauge where he’d feel something next, it left Q feeling unaccountably like he was blind, even as his eyes took in the whole room and it’s deviously grinning occupants.  “James did warn you,” Alec chuckled throatily, pressing another kiss to the back of Q’s jaw, before tracing the mark again.  

James chose that moment to move, knowing Q’s body quite well from their plethora of encounters, and Q’s gasp became an open-mouthed little cry as he felt Bond’s thick cock drag inside of him at the same time that he felt a skittering touch against his left side.  It was like he had a flock of invisible ravens around them, just brushing him with their feathers and leaving his awareness wide open and waiting for more.  The game had truly begun now, and Q let out a slow, purring groan of excitement and eagerness.  The smile that cracked his lips was small, but both 006 and 7 knew how to read him like a book anyhow.  

With Bond still shifting restlessly beneath him, setting of sparks of pleasure, and Alec’s mark glowing visibly on his upper-right arm but feeling like it was dancing everywhere else, Q palmed his cock and waited for the sound of Alec popping the bottle of lube again with his free hand.  This part Q had read about, but wasn’t entirely eager for.  Double-penetration in theory sounded exciting, but he had to wonder if even his rather durable New God body would be happy about the whole idea.  Still, he managed to keep his growing tension to a minimum, thanks a lot to the fact that he felt absolutely, overwhelmingly wonderful at the moment.  Just as Alec’s oiled fingertips caressed the little divots above his tailbone, James lifted a hand with look that combined hunger and sympathy, and a moment later he had Q leaning into his hand - 007’s fingertips gave the mark between Q’s collarbones a heavy rub, sending the magic into a firestorm under Q’s skin.  The sensation was so strong that it felt like it reached up Q’s throat and raced down his breastbone, making him forget how to breath for a moment, providing ample distraction to Alec sliding a finger down between his arse-cheeks.  

When 006 met the point where Bond was already buried deep within, 007 understandably lost concentration, and Q mewled a little.  “James…” Alec said, sounding serious.  

Blue eyes focused with a groan, and Bond wordlessly pulled Q closer over his chest, propping himself up on one elbow so that he could reach Q’s neck with his mouth.  He did a far better job of drugging Q on Old power then, lapping briefly across his collarbones before dragging his tongue into the hollow of Q’s throat.  All of Bond’s power, imbedded under Q’s skin, surged up to meet its master, and this time Q’s awareness was almost completely whited out.  Bond had brought him off before with marks alone, and Q might have come then if not for Alec’s free hand reaching around to cage Q’s cock in a frustratingly tight grip.  At the same time, a finger joined Bond’s cock in Q’s arse, the stretch testing Q’s endurance.  As Bond sucked at his throat, however, teasing the mark as he might tease at any erogenous zone, Q’s body melted instead of tensing.  Left to brace his hands against the bed and Bond’s able chest, the New God swore and pleaded in turn, kept from coming while 007 did his best to wage war on his senses.

Sometimes it was easy to remember what 007 was a god of.  

A second finger, stretching slowly.  007 let out a remarkably broken moan against Q’s throat like it was torn out of him, and beneath Q, the larger man writhed for a second.  Alec had laid off on playing with Q’s mark, but he was doing enough already to wind up both of his partners.  Q felt as if his mind was split in two: half of it already screaming in pleasure at the chaos-mark Bond was absolutely torturing, with scrapes of his teeth and stubbled jaw and soothing licks of his tongue and breath, and the other half wondering when Alec and James would split him in half.  The stretch already felt impossible, and he was very sure that it would have hurt if he weren’t wrapped up in adrenalin and endorphins.  As it was, his body quivered and swayed with the sensations, wanting to rock down on the fingers and cock as much as he wanted to pull off them.  Alec’s hand on his hip kept him from doing either, just as Bond’s hand on Q’s cock now kept him from skyrocketing into an orgasm.  Q’s back felt chilled with the prickles of sweat gathering there, and he welcomed Alec’s warmth as the man leaned over him.  “You ready, Q?” he asked, in what Q was starting to think of as his ‘trickster’s voice.’ There was something about it that made Q want to throw logic to the wind and chase it like an guileless child would chase will-o’-the-wisps.  Q wondered how many before had followed that dangerous charm.  

When Q didn’t answer immediately, partially because words were hard right now and partially because he didn’t know, Alec hummed thoughtfully.  He angled his head to press a kiss to the ‘6’ still glowing like an ember on Q’s arm, and Q jumped as he felt the brush of lips just a the tip of his tailbone, sandwiched between their bodies.  “How about I promise to blow your mind and take the edge off?” Alec offered in apparently complete seriousness.  

007 backed off, still propped up on one elbow but now just nuzzling his nose along Q’s windpipe.  It allowed Q to think a bit, with effort.  “I feel… like I should say something about trusting in the promises of tricksters,” he managed.  

Alec laughed.  The vibrato of it shuddered right through Q’s body even as Alec curled his fingers a bit from where they were still buried in him.  007 swore and fell back against the bed, floored by the sensation as well.  It was somewhat refreshing to see 007 be the one undone, for once.  “You’re a wise man, Q,” Alec congratulated cheekily, “but maybe you can trust me just today.  After all, I’m a bit more logical than usual, aren’t I?”  

The reference to Q’s logic mark made the Quartermaster helplessly laugh, because it was clear that it had barely slowed 006 down - at least the man wasn’t hurting his Old God partner, but he most certainly didn’t seem slowed by logic.  

“Really - I mean it!” Alec defended with mock offense, “On my word, I can make sure you don’t have a moment of complaint in the time it takes for me to get into you.”  Just that sentence alone did something to Q’s focus, making him bear down a moment, eliciting another groan from 007.  “James, tell him how good my word is.”

“If the promise of sex is involved, pretty good.”

“You’re a wanker, you know that?”  Despite his miffed tone at 007’s rather frank assessment (a totally faked miffed tone, if Q was judging), Alec went on in a more sultry tone next to Q’s ear, “Give me your hand, Q.  I might love lying, but I enjoy showing off more.”

“He does,” 007 interjected.

“Careful about teasing a trickster-god who still has enough juice to wipe the floor with you.”  To that particular threat, 007 merely grinned, and it was an unsettling grin that showed more teeth than usual even as the blue of Bond’s eyes grew bright and hot.  The war-god subsided, however, and something about his eager expression gave Q the little ethereal push he needed to sigh dramatically, shift his weight to one hand, and lift his other one up towards his shoulder.  Alec’s free hand caught Q’s wrist gently, and began drawing it towards 006’s mouth.  

Q had about three seconds to think about the way Alec’s mark worked, with misdirection beings its primary purpose, before Alec was sucking in one of Q’s fingers much like Bond had, only with dramatically different results.  Q felt only a ghost of sensation around his fingers, and instead felt the full brunt of it around his cock.

The shock of it just about made Q’s heart skip a beat, a second before the phantom feeling of suction, pressure, and wetness burnt out the last working brain-cells in Q’s head.  Suddenly all Q knew was what he felt, and that only peripherally included Alec’s fingers retreating to be replaced by his nudging member.  While Q moaned and said words he wouldn’t even remember later, his arm shaking where Alec gripped it and his cock feeling like it was being deep-throated, 006 pushed into him inch by slow inch.  

Until Q was full.  There was white noise in his ears and his heart was trying to hammer out of his chest, where his lungs were trying to remember how they’d been made to work.  Q felt his throat making noises, some steady keen that he heard as if from a distance and would be embarrassed by later.  He could feel both the bodies below and above him shuddering, and Q didn't know if they were both speaking different languages or if his brain had just given up on language altogether.  Q felt overwhelmed and stretched beyond capacity, but it was wonderful - glorious - even after Alec released his hand in favor of breathing raggedly against Q’s shoulder.  Bond was gripping Q’s thighs so hard that he’d have bruises come tomorrow, regardless of how fast a god’s body healed, and when 007’s eyes flickered open and closed like someone drugged, there was flashing of a sapphire so bright that it was eerie to see - like cracks in reality, letting something shining and cold and fey through.  The rumble in Bond’s chest was a noise of contentment that only dragons should have been able to make.  

It was Q who broke the calm and let the storm well and truly roll in.

“Move.”

Like having two lions rousing, both Alec and Bond made noises deep in their throats (Alec might have actually been grunting, “Fuck, yes”) and began to do exactly as the New God said.  Q was naturally blind to most of  the Old Gods’ powers, but he imagined he felt a crackling in the air, and 007’s magic stirred beneath his skin in a way that made Q’s breath shudder.  Feeling like a glass figurine that could break if any more tension was applied, but which would shatter into the most amazing pieces, Q held himself almost delicately still until Alec’s bulk behind him shifted.  It was like experiencing the first bit of momentum that got an avalanche rolling, and Q’s breath caught at even that slight movement - of Alec drawing out just a few centimeters and sliding back in, lube softening his passage.  “Yesss…” Q exhaled, beginning to sense the euphoria beneath the pure shock of being so filled.  

“Don’t praise me, rí beag,” Alec rumbled, turning the strange title into a rolling noise like a river tumbling stones to smoothness.  Talking like this, Alec sounded like the devil himself, as tempting as a fruit in Eden with his trickster’s-voice.  “I’ve got more than enough power, remember?  But maybe James would appreciate it.”

Q’s eyes, half-lidded and lust-darkened, slid to 007’s face, which was watching him with distracted allure.  Alec was already starting to move less tentatively and more rhythmically, and Q wasn’t the only one being wrecked by that rhythmic slide, as 007 lifted a fist to his mouth to hold back the loudest of his verbal responses.  He was definitely switching languages again.  When 007 closed his eyes and pressed his teeth to the back of his half-fisted hand, Q impulsively leaned forward - the change in angles making Alec shout and Q see stars - and clumsily pressed his lips to 007’s curled fingers.  Q couldn’t form a full sentence right now, but his reverent little kiss must have communicated his intentions all the same, because when blue eyes opened, they seemed brighter.  When 007 turned his hand, Q bit at his knuckles, all the while moving his lips until finally he got intelligible words out: “Yes… yes.  I can feel you… please…”  

Q could have been talking to either of them, but it was 007 who fed off the worship like a plant soaking in a desert rain.  He moved both hands to catch Q’s face and pull him in for a kiss that was all desperation and heat, a sloppy combination of teeth and tongues as Alec began to build up a more powerful series of thrusts.  007 anchored them all, his heels planted and his powerful body firm, Q the point where they all connected like the hot core of a burning sun.  As 007 did Q the service of stroking his cock, the perfect pressure making Q mewl against his lips, Q let his hands wander.  He could almost see the way 007’s Old God soul purred when Q stroked at his chest and sides, praising a body that was battle-scarred but beautiful because of it.  Q couldn’t dedicate wars to James, but he could trace scars as reverently as if they’d been painted in gold.  

With two cocks sliding inside of him and two marks at work - Alec and James both sparing time to startle Q with soft touches that inundated the New God’s body with rushes of power his body wasn’t used to, but loved like Icarus loved the sun (too hot, too much) - Q began to swiftly rise to a climax.  He was aware of 007 getting precariously close to the tipping point, too, and the way Alec’s hands were gripping Q’s ribs spoke of swiftly shattering control, even as the phantom touches of a dozen more hands made their crazy way across Q’s awareness.  If the New God closed his eyes, it was as if he had a score of lovers, all addicted to the touch of his skin.  Q suddenly knew what volcanoes and geysers felt like, the pressure building and rising and rising until the very forces of gravity couldn’t contain their wildness, and they had no choice but to rise in a bid for heaven.  

Just as Q felt his muscles beginning to tighten before that final surge of delight, 007’s eyes flashed, and his powerful body curled upwards so that he could face Q from up close.  Sandwiched between two moving 00-agents, caught in place and with his body afire in a million of the best ways, Q could only stare at 007 dazedly as those pale-blue eyes met his.  

Clamping down on Q’s cock in a way that had Q almost sobbing with a need for relief and clawing at 007’s side, Bond asked in a sex-roughened voice, “Can you feel that peak, Q?  Can you feel yourself rushing towards it?”

Dammit, yes!” seemed the most appropriate response as Q clung to Bond and felt Alec pound skillfully into him.  007’s cock was a source of constant stimulated against his prostate, driving Q mad now that he felt his orgasm stemmed by Bond’s hand.  

Bond’s sadism almost always had a point, however, and Q almost missed the leaden look he exchanged with Trevelyan over Q’s sweat-dampened shoulder.  Blue eyes returned to hazel, bespectacled ones.  “We can take you to that peak-”  Oh, but that promise sounded heavenly.  Already, Q could sense the perfect euphoria waiting for him at the end of this ride, as inevitable as a wave hitting a shore.  Instead of promising to stop that tide, however, 007 promised with a thunder-low rumble of sincerity, “-And we could keep you there for hours.”

As Q whined aloud at the promise, eyes falling shut as if to block out the idea - or else to drown himself in it - 007 went on, pulling Q closer so that he could keep talking in his ear while Alec continued to move at Q’s back, “Take you right to the top, where everything feels like ecstasy and perfection and torture all at once, and hold you there like the gods we are.  Would you praise us, Q?  Remember our names forever even as the world forgets?  Even as you forget your very name?  Would you scream mine?  Would you scream ours?  Or would you hold back?”  007’s words turned silky at the edges even as the heart of them stayed rough from probably holding back his own climax, the stimulation getting to him but not doing enough to stem his silver tongue.  Alec wasn’t the only one with a gift for words.  “Would you fight us?”  Q’s hands tightened against Bond’s ribs of their own accord, as if in challenge to Bond’s words, fingernails biting into tanned skin.  007 rasped in a growling breath but his mouth smiled, crooked, jagged, and delighted.  

Suddenly Alec leaned over his shoulder.  “Or would I have to trick you?  How about it, Q, would you lay your gifts at my altar if I outwitted you?  You love logic, but I can make a lie look like the most beautiful truth you’ve ever seen.”  The threat sounded more like a promise, which perhaps proved Alec’s point right there, even as Q’s head swam.  He was swiftly rising to that promised pinnacle of sensation where it felt like he had pure sunlight in his veins, and his muscles were trying to all clench at once to hold the pleasure in.  When Q’s mouth opened, an almost tortured cry escaping out of his mouth, 007 dove on it, stealing the noise like the greedy god he was.  

“Use your mark, James,” Alec ordered in a wrecked voice.

Pulling back from Q’s mouth with a gasp, 007 did just that, picking the exact moment that Q couldn’t possibly take any more and pressing this thumb down hard on the hollow of Q’s throat.  Pleasure exploded from multiple points with the ferocity of lightning striking thrice: Old Power screaming up to meet its master’s touch, Alec thrusting into him alongside James, and 007 finally letting go of his cock with an expert twist.  At the same time, with something that sounded like a euphoric, trickster’s laugh, Alec reached forward to touch Bond’s knee - exactly where he’d been touching him before, and where another unassuming ‘6’ stood out against the war-god’s skin.  007 abruptly choked on a cry of his own, head jerking back and every muscle in his body bunching as if someone had reached in and tore his self-control apart.  Q could feel Bond pulsing inside of him, with Alec swiftly following suit as his two partners reached that promised climax.  

Just like Bond had said, Q hung there for a moment, at the top of the world where everything turned white…

~^~

“Alec, you bastard, I’m going to get you for marking me like that,” Bond’s slurred snarl cut into Q’s awareness.  

006’s laughter was the next thing Q heard, smug and incredibly pleased.  “It’s your own fault for not noticing.  Like Q said, I’m not subtle.  How long’s it been since I pulled one over on you?”  Alec sounded sincerely curious.  

There was a rustling of blankets and the bed moved next to Q, and Bond pointedly did not answer, prompting another laugh.  Q blinked his eyes open slowly, his body still feeling disconnected from his thoughts but tingling from toes to scalp.  He was on his back, sprawled beneath thick blankets, and a glance to the left showed him a moody but sated 007 curled up with the blankets up around him so that only one ear and a crop of tousled gold hair showed.  A glance right and Q had Alec smirking at him, far too chipper for a man who’d just had such mind-blowing sex with two partners.  “Ah, I was wondering when you’d wake up.  I was about to make Sleeping Beauty jokes,” Alec jibed, propped on one elbow and only covered in blankets to the waist.  Q’s logic-mark still glinted on his pectoral, each pulse of visibility painting out a pattern that Q’s eyes could read like a visible Morse code.  Via that mark, Q could also sense that Alec’s power was steady and calm, by no means contained but perhaps, to a degree, tamed.  Alec must have noticed Q’s attention because he brushed the mark with a thumb and noted, “James said that unlike our marks, yours doesn't fade until you tell them to.  So am I your thrall for life?”

Somehow finding it in him to blush, Q gave a rather embarrassed little laugh even as he shook his head and reached forward.  Or, at least, reaching forward was the plan.  His limbs felt as if they’d been replaced by wet noodles, or as if the muscles had all checked out as he’d shuddered his way through the best climax of his life and hadn’t checked back in yet.  So instead, all Q did was roll over onto his side and drop his arm halfheartedly onto Alec’s pillow.  Of course, the trickster-god laughed at him, but Q still felt too good to care.  007 was apparently out for the count, which made sense if Alec had matched powers with him in the last second and won.  Q would have to check on the war-god later.  

“Were you going to try and take it off, or use it to power me down like one of your machines?” Alec teased, but something like wariness glinted in his eyes.  His posture remained lazy, though, as he stretched out before his Quartermaster.  

Sighing and feeling to be sure that his glasses hadn’t been damaged in his impromptu nap, Q replied, “The former.  But I’m too tired to care now, so I hope you don’t mind keeping it.”  Waving his hand blandly, Q decided to boast, “Since I draw power out of the air, I can keep it up indefinitely, I think.  Although I haven’t exactly tested that theory.”

Alec grew curious.  “How long have you kept James marked and docile?”

Apparently, James wasn’t unconscious.  “Six hours.  Post-mission, I wouldn’t sleep.  Q took it upon himself to make me.”  His clipped reply was said mostly into his pillow, and ended with Bond stretching then burying himself, impossibly, deeper.

Unable to help himself, Alec needled, “You sound awfully stroppy for someone who just had a good shag.”

One finger, and not a very polite one, exited the blankets.  

“James Bond, possibly the only man capable of being a cranky sod post-coital,” Alec murmured with obvious fondness and a shit-eating grin on his face, before he acquiesced to settle down beneath the blankets himself.  After a moment of hesitation, he reached out beneath the sheets until Q felt a hand carefully stroking his stomach.  “You hurt anywhere?”

Giving the question the thought it was due, now that he had the luxury of thinking again, Q wriggle his body a little and gazed at nothing for a moment.  Finally, with a bit of honest surprise, he shook his head.  “I definitely don’t want to dive back into a round two,” he replied, barely twitching as he felt a touch from the other direction - 007, exercising his right to be cranky and cuddly.  “But the only aches I have are the good ones.”  And they were very good.  Q clenched his arse just to feel the stretched burn of abused muscles, and let his eyes flutter shut.  Bond was now holding Q’s left arm captive like a rather skinny teddy bear and Alec’s hand remained stationary and warm on his middle, and with the trickster-god now moved closer, Q inspected his work yet again.  “Are you sure you don’t want it off?  I’m told it takes a bit of getting used to, and may not be entirely comfortable.”

Alec just shrugged.  “After the last few weeks I’ve had, perhaps I need a bit of your New God logic and calm.  I’ll put up with it, thanks, Q.”

By then, Q’s eyes were drifting closed again, and the hand he’d considered lifting to remove the mark instead just stayed flung over his head against the pillow.  “Okay,” he thought he mumbled, before drifting off.  He didn’t even feel it when 007 - silent as a cat - moved again in order to remove Q’s glasses.  After they were deposited on the nightstand, James decided not to drown himself in blankets and instead tucked his head on the pillow near Q’s.  One blue eye opened to view Alec past the bird-nest of dark hair.  

“Better?” was all Bond asked, his former grouchiness gone.  

Alec paused, though, and much like Q when asked earlier, nodded sincerely.  But then he flashed a cheeky grin, “I’m going to miss watching you jump like a wetted cat every time I touch you.”

Rolling his eyes, 007 retorted, “And you wonder why I’m stroppy.  Good night, Alec.”

“You’ll most likely kill me in the morning?”

Q didn’t open his eyes, but cut in, “Don’t quote movies in front of the New God, who knows them better than you, and will win.  Now can we please go to sleep before the post-sex glow wears off and I remember how much work I have back at MI6?”

At Q’s pleas, both Old Gods relaxed and obeyed, curving their powerful bodies around his and getting comfortable.  One of the many attributes of a New God’s powers seemed to be a coldness that went beyond the metaphorical, so Q always appreciated a warm body next to his; Alec’s temp was down a bit, but his power was steadily eating through whatever the logic-mark threw at him, so while he didn’t match Bond’s furnace, he was still a comforting, contained fire at Q’s right side.  

Wrung out but content, the three of them fell asleep just as a gentle storm started outside, cocooning them within the sound of falling rain.

~^~

Sometime later, Alec rolled to the side of the bed, hearing his mobile vibrating and not wanting to wake his bed-partners.  Alec had seen James back in his so-called glory days, and while any Old God lamented the loss of those times, Alec had to admit that the present had its perks: for starters, he’d never seen James content for such a long period of time.  Now that Bond (and Alec) didn’t have to worry about starvation from lack of worship, 007 could just enjoy being on a perpetual ‘day off,’ as it were.  Bond in his element was a horrifying thing to behold, and Alec happened to know that James hated it sometimes.  Any soldier knew that the thing they were good at was not necessarily the thing they loved.  But Bond loved Q, and he could be at peace with the deceptively unassuming New God at his side.  Alec flashed a smile at the sight of the two, still dozing, before he grabbed his phone and strode naked out of the room.  Q’s logic-mark still caught the corner of his eye every time he turned his head, and felt like a kiss of cold air that was just this side of uncomfortable.  “O’Malley’s Morgue: you stab ’em, we slab ’em,” he answered boisterously when he didn’t recognize the number.  

He started paying more attention when he heard the voice on the other end.  

“A problem, you say?”  Cocking his bare hip against the kitchen counter as he entered the room, Alec continued without the slightest hint of burning curiosity, “Of the chaotic variety?”  Then he frowned and suddenly dropped the act.  “You seriously are calling me to go deal with Loki?”

The reply he got to that was even more interesting, and 006’s eyes narrowed with intrigue as the explanation went on.  As he listened, he flexed his fist slowly, then looked down at Q’s mark.  

With a rush of power and focus, he shredded the logic-mark, watching it fall like ash off his skin.  Flashing a smile that his caller could hear but not see, he replied, “This sounds like the most interesting proposition I’ve heard in decades.”  He added lightly, “If it all goes wrong, you’re going to die a horrible death.  If it all goes right, well…”  He shrugged, mostly to himself, but still went on as blithely as a man talking about spilt milk, “I don’t envy you that either, but if you want to play with an Asgardian chaos-god, that’s up to you.  Let me talk to some people on my end.”  And with that, he hung up, but walked back into the bedroom with a new spring in his step and still a whole helluva lot of power to burn.  

~^~

 

Chapter Text

“So let me get this straight,” Barton said, holding a hand out parallel with the floor, palm downwards as if physically holding something down.  His eyes, completely flat and expressionless, drilled into Thor’s slightly uncomfortable gaze.  “Tony is a New God?”

“Yes.”

“And your brother…”

“Is adopted.”

“Yes, we’ve got that part,” Barton deadpanned before clarifying his question, “But he’s actually not an Asgardian god?”

“To everyone’s consternation, no,” Thor reiterated with a wince as everyone watched, still absorbing all of this from the first… second… and third time that Thor had tried to explain.  “He’s a Jotun, another race that qualify as gods in their own right.”

For a moment, it looked like Banner wanted to open his mouth and reopen that topic all over again, but he was shot a quelling look by Barton - they did not need another tangled, twisted, confusing discussion regarding the differences, similarities, and peculiarities regarding the different types of gods.  It was enough to differentiate four kinds: Old Gods of Earth, New Gods of Earth, Jotuns, and Asgardians.  Getting into any more detail lead to mental acrobatics and headaches, because Thor was a warrior first and a scholar… dead last.  Thor’s explanations wandered as badly as a blind beagle on a bad scent.  

“Okay,” Barton tried to sum up on his own, even as he noted Natasha and Steve reentering the room - sans Tony, which either meant the inventor was fine or he’d had a nervous breakdown and they couldn’t bring him up because his brains were still busy pouring out of his ears.  “We’ve got a New God who’s newer than most, a Trickster-god who doesn’t fall into any category that anyone can explain with any sort of sense-”

Thor’s brows beetled and his mouth turned down in startled offense.  “I thought I explained it rather well,” he muttered to no one in particular, but said no more.  Banner patted his muscular shoulder in sympathy.  

“-And an Asgardian god.  Have I missed anyone?” Barton finished.  He glanced around the room, half-worried that someone else would somehow turn out to be godly, too, officially making the odds four-to-four with deities and humans in this equation.  

Steve raised his hand, but thankfully it wasn’t to add his name to the god-list.  Instead, he said sensibly, “Don’t forget that guy who came in to help with Loki a few weeks ago - pretty sure that he was a god.”

Thor perked up at the opportunity to be helpful, immediately saying, “An Old God, akin to Loki in spirit if not in lineage.”  When that just made everyone look askance at him and raise eyebrows, Thor backed up and elaborated with less garnish and more bluntness, “A trickster.  A God of Chaos, or something of the like.”

While a few of the Avengers relaxed at the realization that not all chaos-gods were nutcases, Banner switched his focus to Nat and Steve to ask, “So how’s our resident New God doing?”

Natasha turned to Steve, who rubbed uncomfortably at the back of his neck but answered, “Pretty good, actually.  But I think there might be a bigger problem than Tony’s coping mechanisms.”  Which ranged from emotional constipation to binge-drinking, so everyone would have to be on the lookout for Tony’s destructive tendencies extra carefully in the immediate future.  Steve dropped his hand and answered with a soldier’s bluntness, “Tony has deciphered a challenge left by Loki - to him, specifically.”

Barton - who was still sitting on the floor, limber and loose - sat up suddenly straighter.  “Wait - what?”

It took a bit to explain the binary code and the ‘Worthy Foe’ message, mostly because it required explaining the fact that Tony was - and had been - doing the impossible and seeing things that were quite frankly beyond normal human understanding.  This time Jarvis didn’t step in to help either, and Steve ended up being interrogated by just about every member of his team, pressing for details that he was poorly equipped to give in the first place.  He must have explained things better than Thor, however, because soon everyone understood: “Loki is focusing on Tony and egging him on for a fight.”

In response to the super-soldier’s grim and rather weary assessment, Nat slid her eyes his way and replied, “The wise course of action would be to ignore the challenge.”  Her tone said that she didn’t honestly expect that plan to fly, but she was saying it anyway - so that everyone could look back and agree that, yes, she’d told them so.

Sighing because he agreed… but also knew reality just as well as she did, Steve shook his head.  “Tony’s already got his heels dug in.  Getting him to let this go will be like unlatching the jaws of a pitbull.”

“The Lord Stark is determined, and it would be dishonorable for him to turn away from such a challenge,” Thor opined sagely, either missing the memo about retreat being the better part of valor, or else disregarding it in favor of his own code.  In fact, Thor gave his head a slow nod, adding, “It is not often that Loki respects an opponent.  Stark has been paid a high compliment, one that Loki has not paid even me in many generations, and he should be proud.”

“Well, right now he’s swiftly going from determined to obsessed, if the sudden flurry of action in his lab was any indication,” Steve informed everyone with a slightly pained expression.  

Banner, ever logical, shrugged and finally capped off the circular discussion, “So what do we do?”

Silence followed, in which everyone was thoughtful except for Thor, who seemed to find this all rather clear.  Hands braced on his knees, he looked around at everyone with a bewildered expression, “Is it not obvious?  We should assist Lord Stark.”

“With what?” Barton retorted.  He was still grouchy about the loss of his knives to Loki’s magic, and more insanity on the horizon wasn’t helping.  “Armoring up for a grudge-match against your adopted brother?  Who by the way is nuttier than a fruitcake.”

“Loki is not one for one-on-one fights, but… maybe.”  Thor seemed less certain now, as he often got when Loki was involved, but he remained earnest in his attempts to clarify his point, “Were Loki truly of Odin’s blood, his actions would take the form of a dual like you speak of, but as much as it pains me to admit… he is not.  My father’s attempts to fit Loki into such guidelines are what made my brother as unstable as he is, and are what have led to the undoing of many things.”  By the way Thor’s voice grew subdued and his head dropped a little, ‘many things’ probably included his relationship with Loki, which remained a raw and painful topic.  

Fortunately, Natasha could be as diplomatic as she could be deadly, and she swooped in to rescue the conversation before it either devolved into forlorn brotherly crying or more complicated Thor-explanations.  “Regardless of Loki’s intentions, it would be stupid to send Tony out on his own.”  She blinked, then added in a perfectly even tone, “That, and it makes us sound like assholes to even discuss throwing Tony to the wolves while we sit back and do nothing.”

There were immediately protests that no one had ever suggested that, all of which Nat weathered without batting an eye.  She simply waited for it to die down, and for everyone to come to the simultaneous conclusion that, yes, they were all going to have to work together to defeat Loki, which was basically what their plan had been since the forming of the Avengers team.  The only factors that had changed were the new revelations about Loki’s former years and bloodlines, and similar revelations about Tony’s hidden heritage.  

Thor had also spoken quite eloquently about how Loki was simply ‘misunderstood,’ and for the first time, everyone was starting to believe him, at least a little.  A helpful note in Loki’s favor was that he’d been growing steadily less destructive as time wore on (but no less annoying), supporting Thor’s statement that Loki’s worst moods were in direct response to being treated like a God of Combat when really he was a God of Chaos, with different wants and different needs.  Insanity was more forgivable than wanton evilness.  

“Okay, here’s a novel idea,” Natasha suggested after it was agree that something had to be done, unfolding herself from her perch with a ballerina’s fierce grace and also unfolding a sleek cellphone in the same motion, “How about we ask someone else for tips on how to handle Loki.  Someone who seems to know enough about him to handle his temper tantrums.”

For a moment, Thor looked affronted, putting on an expression not unlike the look of a dog that just had a bone spirited away from him.  Then he realized that he’d already tried his hand at keeping Loki in check, and he'd clearly failed.  Looking rather dispirited, the Asgardian god sank back in his chair and said with quite an impressive amount of regal grace, “I await what wisdom you have to impart, Lady Widow.  I regret only that the information I have on my brother is not enough to solve this problem easily.”

“Sometimes there are no easy solutions,” Steve said by way of mollification, then turned with everyone else to where Natasha was flipping through, presumably, her contact list.  It was a long list.

A few more flicks of her thumb, however, and Natasha’s lips curled into a pleased smile.  “Ahhh, here we go,” she purred, “Alec Trevelyan.”

Barton’s brows lowered suddenly over his eyes.  “Alec who?”  Generally speaking, it was assumed that Barton knew everyone that Romanov knew – a foolish assumption, clearly, as she grinned like the Cheshire cat and savored the moment for a bit before the combined impatience of the group finally tipped the scales in favor of answering.  Sometimes, Natasha was a bit like an Old Goddess herself, requiring a certain amount of worship before imparting any blessings.  And so Natasha recalled everyone to the particular Loki-based fiasco in which a new player had entered the scene: another chaotic Old God with a wolfish smile and reckless demeanor.

When she finished, Bruce still looked skeptical.  He reminded hesitantly, “I’d think it’s safe to say that he made the situation worse before it got better.”

“But they did get better,” Natasha raised a finger, “and in arguably less time than it usually takes us.  That’s why I got his phone number.”

“Wait, you got-?!”  Steve finally put two-and-two together and looked at Natasha’s phone as if it were suddenly magical itself.  “How did you get his number?  We barely spoke to him – he just appeared and dove almost instantly into the thick of things!”

Natasha’s expression turned sphinxlike.  “I have my ways.”

Jarvis’s voice broke in unexpected, in that eerie way that the AI had, “Miss Romanov also requested my assistance in tracking the whereabouts of Mr. Trevelyan.  After finding him at a bar downtown having a drink with Loki, she then requested that I find a phone number for Mr. Trevelyan in case of an emergency.”

To her credit, Natasha didn’t look the slightest bit abashed to have her secrets revealed – but, to be fair, she had a great many secrets, and her use of Jarvis in stalking someone was just a drop in the ocean.  “Considering that Loki is challenging our resident playboy-billionaire-New-God,” Natasha deadpanned, “I think that this might be an emergency.  It’s reasonable to assume that Alec Trevelyan will have some useful information on how to subdue Loki.”

“Or at least how to convince him to go from rampaging to drinking,” Hawkeye felt the need to add, still sounding a bit imbalanced by this sudden turn of events.  “I can’t believe that you swiped the phone number of some random Old God.”

“He was sexy,” Natasha defended.

“Can we get back on topic, please?” pleased Steve with a definite bit of pink evident around his ears.  ‘Sexy’ was still a word that he wasn’t used to being bandied about so easily in this day and age.  “If we’re going to be democratic, then I vote yes to information gathering.  Sorry, Thor, but we need to know more about your brother from another source.”

“No need for apologies, Captain,” Thor raised a hand easily, “I am biased in topics pertaining to my brother, but if we are going to continue warring with him, it is wise to use what scouts we can.”

“Let’s try and avoid any out-right warring,” Steve returned, then glanced around the room, gathering nods and accepting shrugs from all before looking last at Natasha, who was never really all that democratically minded, but could see the usefulness of a team consensus.  “Your call,” Steve said.  He smiled proudly when his pun worked, and Natasha’s mouth quirked up at one side.

Then she was dialing, and sashaying into another room, leaving her diplomacy techniques a secret as she called the only other chaotic god they had access to.  Meanwhile, Steve sighed and turned to the others, saying, “I’m going to check on Tony and make sure he doesn’t blow himself up in the meanwhile.  So far as I know, being a New God doesn’t exactly make him indestructible.”

~^~

On the surface, everything went as smoothly as spun honey: Natasha struck up a conversation with Alec, and he agreed to help them with their ‘Loki problem.’  He even came with the bonus of one more Old God and one more New God, the latter being an unlooked-for god-send because even if they did miraculously learn how to deal with Thor’s brother, that still left Tony flailing in the mad throws of New God-hood.  It was quite the package deal, therefore, to learn that Alec Trevelyan not only knew Loki very well, but came automatically with back-up.

Or not automatically.  In reality, the logistics of everyone’s schedules and daily lives made for a mountain of complications.  Bond had a mission imminent, and Q had work virtually every day that Bond didn’t drag him away from it; Trevelyan wasn’t exactly unemployed either.  Beyond that, Bond seemed remarkably reluctant to come along as soon as he heard the word ‘Asgard.’  With these dual realities in effect, it was some weeks before any headway was really made in the matter of Loki, beside increasingly frequent phone-calls between Alec and Natasha.

No progress was made in Tony’s department during those weeks, although being a contemporary deity had definitely gone to his head.  The Avengers’ next altercation with Loki ended in fireworks, misfiring thrusters, and Tony ending up in the bay, the Hulk having to leave off his chase of Loki to fish Iron Man out.  Tony had been holed up in his workshop for days on end working on various ‘anti-Loki’ devices, but it was clear that even a genius of Tony’s caliber was going to need a little bit of help on the New God learning curve.

If nothing else, Loki had a riotously good time.

Three days after the ‘bay incident,’ Alec Trevelyan arrived with Quinlen Fluke in tow.  “Sorry to come more shorthanded than promised,” the green-eyed blond apologized cheerily as the two Brits were welcomed into the tower.  “Our third friend was indisposed, but he was only here for muscle anyway.  Give him a few days.  He’ll be along.”

Whereas Alec traveled light, with little need for anything at all besides the clothes on his back, the bespectacled New God with him was toting a sizeable laptop bag.  The weight should have been wearing on him, but instead he was looking around alertly, his eyes seeming almost to glint like reflective screens as he saw things that mere mortals couldn’t.  He focused again when Alec nudged him, swiveling his head to smile hesitantly but politely at the Avengers that he’d known only via Alec until now.  “Call me ‘Q’,” the New God introduced himself, with handshakes all around.  Thor was elated to meet new friends, and even if he seemed slightly wary of another chaos-god, he was friendly enough to nearly handshake Q’s arm off his body; Barton was about as cordial as he ever was, taking the measure of both foreigners in case he’d have to shoot them later; Banner and Steve both were their usual, friendly, polite selves; Natasha shook Q’s hand with aloof gentility, but warmed up noticeably upon turning to Alec, much to everyone’s mixed interest and alarm.

Tony… was absent.

“So, which one of you…?” Q asked slowly, apparently not seeing all of the faces that he’d been told to expect, least of all the New God he was supposed to educate.

“Is your new student in all things techie?” Barton finished for him, then rolled a jaded glance towards Steve of all people.  The archer finished, “Steve, how about you lead a tour of Stark’s domain, since you’re the only one the security system lets in?”

“And since you clearly failed at getting him to come up and say hello on time,” Natasha added, sotto voce and with a small smirk smoldering in her eyes.

Bridling a little at the teasing, the super-soldier nonetheless straightened his spine and face the task at hand, turning guileless eyes to the newcomers, settling on Q’s curious gaze.  “I’ll show you to Tony’s workshop.  Tony Stark – Iron Man – is the New God we’d like your help with.  He’s… well, he’s new at it,” Steve explained, unsure how else to put it without sounding more lame and repetitive.

Thankfully, Q was quite British about the whole thing, taking Steve’s halting words in with just a nod.  “So I’ve been told,” he replied acceptingly.  He glanced back at Alec, who had moved to stand with Natasha and merely waved him off and seemed to mouth ‘go play’ (at which Q gave him a flat look), then adjusted his computer-bag strap on his shoulder.  “Lead on.  I’m eager to meet Mr. Stark, however new he may be.”

“The answer to ‘how new’ is ‘very’!” Barton called out unhelpfully as Steve and Q disappeared into the lift to head downstairs.

~^~

Steve generally had high hopes for the abilities of people to get along, but he’d already accepted the fact that Stark could be a hard man to love – or even to tolerate.  Therefore, Steve was prepared when the British New God and Tony Stark didn’t instantly take to each other like ducks to water.  At least they didn’t immediately fight like cats and dogs, which was the usual reaction, but instead… sort of found a middle-ground between friendliness and animosity.  As Steve stood back to babysit from the edge of the workshop, sketchbook in hand because he knew that he’d be here awhile with nothing to do unless the squabbling in front of him became an actual fight (which hadn’t happened yet, but Q and Tony had only been in the same room for about fifteen minutes), he made a few generalities and decided to categorize the two New Gods as a kitten and an old cat suddenly meeting.  Tony would hate to know that he was being likened to an energetic kitten, but it fit, as he paced constantly and more or less tore around the lab like a small cat after a laser-light that only he could see.  Q, on the other hand, was definitely wearing the highly perturbed look of a more staid, mature cat – he was dealing with the rambunctiousness of his new companion laudably, but was clearly resisting the urge to do something ungentlemanly.

It had been known from the beginning that Q wasn’t a teacher, but it had perhaps been omitted that Tony was an atrocious student.  Stark preferred to discovering things for himself, and his ego knew no limits – unfortunately, without at least little nudges in the right direction, it was likely that it would take years for him to properly use any New God powers to their full potential.  Tony didn’t want little nudges, though, and Steve had sighed the moment he saw Tony size up Q, categorize him as someone to antagonize rather than respect, and then start making an ass of himself.

Steve sighed again when Q stiffened his spine and tolerated it.  ‘Tolerating’ Tony was never an option, as the super-soldier himself had learned through trial and error – Tony took tolerance as permission to misbehave even more, and Steve thought he even saw a wicked little gleam in the inventor’s eyes as he tested Q’s stereotypically British self-control.  Not wanting to interfere and make things worse when there was still some slim hope of things improving, Steve simply continued to wear a pained expression, and sketched out a few lines that turned into Quinlen Fluke, looking like someone with murder on his mind.

It was only when Steve put the last bit of shading in and recognize exactly what emotion he’d captured that he looked up, tensing in instinctive alarm, and right about then Q did something ungentlemanly.  Stark had been boldfacedly taunting him by this point, doing that Stark did best: find and test weak-points until something (or someone) gave way.  Q had looked like a remarkably calm and tolerant young man, but he wasn’t prepared for Stark’s particular brand of assholery, and therefore twenty minutes was his time-limit before he apparently concluded that being the polite one wasn’t going to work.

Q’s face didn’t get angry; it got cold.  Something about the temperature of the room even seemed to drop, and Steve froze in the process of standing as something in the air hummed.  Tony noticed it even more, quick eyes flashing around the room as if seeing something that Steve couldn’t, but by then Q had narrowed his eyes and swiped an open hand through the air with his fingers almost elegantly crooked like a harpist’s.

The entire room writhed in response.

Wires thrashed into motion like scores of snakes with their heads suddenly cut off, and fuses blew everywhere.  The Iron Man suits – arrayed around the room, some of them in the process of being worked on, some behind glass – actually twitched and groaned like their joints were being tortured.  The fireworks lasted only a second, and then Q dropped his hand again, his nostrils flared but his composure otherwise maintained to a certain degree.

The automatic door to the lab opened up behind Steve.  The super-soldier hadn’t known that door to ever open easily, even when Tony was in a capacious mood, so he was surprised and a little flummoxed to see the other newcomer, Alec Trevelyan, trotting swiftly into the room.  “Q!” he barked.  It was unclear whether Alec’s voice was meant to convey worry or a certain castigating tone as he slowed his approach with a tight frown.

Q’s head swiveled and he had the good grace to look embarrassed, suddenly looking incredibly young as he folded his hands together self-consciously.

“I’m sorry, sir,” Jarvis’s voice appeared in the background, sounding as close to flustered as the AI ever got, “I’m not sure how Mr. Trevelyan was allowed access.  The security codes shouldn’t have let him through, and the security cameras somehow have no record of his approach to this level of the tower.”

Tony just waved the words off, however.  He was staring fixedly at Q with a new look on his face, and suddenly, it looked like the British New God’s brief temper-tantrum might be paying dividends: instead of looking like a puppy intent on chewing everyone’s shoes for attention, Tony looked ravenously curious at long last.  “That-”  Tony indicated everywhere, where a few things were still sparking in the aftermath of what Q had just done.  Q’s mouth twisted apologetically, but Tony just barreled onwards with a sudden smirk, “That was awesome.  You should lead with that, you know, next time – if you ever have to introduce yourself to a brand-spanking-new New God.  There needs to be a better way to say new-New-God without sounding like a stutter…”

Stark rambled on a bit, but it was in a friendlier tone now.  Steve and Alec, standing side-by-side now in preparation to intervene, exchanged questioning looks.  Q just blinked like an owl caught out in the daylight, but when Tony asked him a direct question in regards to how he’d just overloaded one of the servers in the rooms, the bespectacled young man answered readily enough.  Tony’s entire demeanor and posture had changed, becoming more open and inviting.

“Sometimes,” Steve tried to explain, aware of the warily bemused Old God shifting from foot to foot next to him, “Tony just needs to know that someone else will bite back before he stops biting.”

“He sounds a bit like a bad dog that way,” Alec opined, but in a curiously non-judgmental voice.

Steve just heaved yet another slow sigh, sat down with his paper and pencil again, and admitted, “He probably is.  But he’s our bad dog, so we’ve learned to live with it.”

Alec – who still hadn’t made any comment regarding how he’d come to be in Tony’s workshop despite state-of-the-art security systems – continued to watch Q and Tony’s increasingly friendly interactions.  Head canted curiously, the Old God merely said, “Huh,” in an observational tone before turning and leaving the room again.

~^~

Tony was still as wild as three cats in a sack and Q was still somewhat painfully formal by contrast, but after that one blow-out, each seemed to know where the other stood just a little more.  Like adolescent boys, they’d just needed to throw a few punches to become inexplicable friends – or at least acquaintances who could see the merits in getting along with one another.

Just in case that tolerance was temporary, everyone started taking shifts as ‘babysitters.’  Steve couldn’t watch for signs of trouble perpetually, because even a super-soldier needed to sleep, and it was soon apparent that Tony had found a kindred workaholic insomniac in Q – the two made a curious pair.  At first, there were worries about whether Jarvis’s security protocols would allow each and every ‘babysitter’ into the workshop as they traded shifts, but ever since Alec decided to barge in, it seemed that Jarvis was having a hard time keeping anyone out at all.  Perhaps this was just a sign of the AI’s elusive independence, doing what was best for Tony rather than blindly following protocol – perhaps this was an indicator of what a benevolent trickster-god could do just by breathing.

Tony and Q spent the better part of that first day with the latter simply showing the former what a New God could do.  The level of technobabble almost immediately reached a level of indecipherable to absolutely everyone.  However, this was the point when Q finally began to realize that he, too, had found a kindred spirit, and began to get increasingly animated.  Tony was a gratifyingly swift learner once he stopped being prideful, which was good, because Q was not a slow teacher – Alec actually started chuckling at how familiar it was to see Q start talking almost too fast to follow as he got excited.  And while the two had different specialties (Q had an edge when it came to coding, but Tony possibly had him beat in raw inventive capabilities), they both fell into a rhythm where they focused on their similar strengths, namely: the powers that came with being one of the world's New Gods.

There were plenty of catastrophes.  On multiple occasions the ‘babysitters’ had to switch jobs to ‘fireman,’ and they shut off the power to the entire tower twice.

By the time the Avengers had gone through a full rotation (with Natasha presently on watch for the second time and Alec returning after taking a break to eat), Tony was starting to master the basics and Q was starting to get curious about how two New Gods might conceivably foil the plans of a certain Old God named Loki.  However, the two New Gods had also finally reached the ends of their energy, and somewhere in the midst of discussing binary and interstellar physics, had fallen asleep where they sat.

“I was going to ask you whether your New God slept,” Natasha said idly after a long moment of silence proved that Tony and Q truly were asleep, instead of merely pausing to take a breath between sentences.

Alec smirked, not fooled by the nonchalant tone at all.  Nonetheless, he answered, his eyes fondly on Q where the boffin was curled up in a chair half-buried in machinery, “He sleeps.  New Gods are more like normal humans than we Old Gods are – even though they have an almost constant influx of energy, they follow a lot of the normal rhythms that your folk do.  Q talks about it.  He agrees with the prevailing theory that says New Gods resemble mortal humans most because they were born of humans.”  Alec shrugged, adding without any particular interest, “Old Gods weren’t.”  He glanced over at Natasha, who had to feel his eyes but kept her own gaze forward – mimicking his earlier watchfulness, keeping an eye on her own New God.  Mouth quirking in amusement as if he noticed the purposeful symmetry, Alec murmured, “So, do you want to talk more theology and philosophy, or should we try and get the kiddies to bed?”

Natasha loosed a rare sort of laughter, managing to make the sound elegant even as her full lips curved to match Alec’s smile as they’d matched his posture.  “I’m sure I’ll have more questions later,” she assured.

Alec’s eyes danced.  “I look forward to the interrogation.”  As he stepped forward to carefully scoop Q up before the boffin got a crick in his back from sleeping curled up like a pill-bug, however, he noticed Natasha instead walking towards the door.  “Where are you going?” he couldn’t stop himself from asking.

As the door slid open before her, Nat flicked her hair back and glanced over her shoulder as if it should be obvious, “Maybe you’re built to go carrying grown men around, but I’ve got better ways to use my skills.”  When Alec merely arched one eyebrow, she elaborated, “I’m going to get Rogers.  He’ll pretend to complain for about a minute and then he’ll come down to fetch Stark.  They’re close like that.”

“Really?”  Alec’s brows shot up but then his expression grew suddenly wicked.  He straightened, hefting Q into his arms with barely a grunt.  Q squirmed and made a tiny noise, but then proceeded to go as limp as a wet noodle in Alec’s capable grip.  With a glint in his eyes that was positively evil, Alec went on when he saw that he’d caught Natasha’s attention with his tone, “So does he know that Stark is presently being courted by the same chaotic god that you’re all so keen on hunting?”

It was a positive mark towards Natasha’s strict training that her shock only showed for the briefest of seconds on her face, before all of the possibilities and past events lined up in her head to show the picture that Alec was painting.  Just as Alec didn’t miss the rewarding second of surprise on Nat’s expression, the Black Widow didn’t miss the eerie green flash that glimmered over Alec’s eyes like fox-fire in an old Irish bog.  “You know, I don’t think that Tony has mentioned that,” Nat said after she regained her equilibrium.  She rolled the words out slowly, like she was tasting them, weighing them and their possibilities.

Shifting Q in his arms so that the boffin’s head was tucked against his neck, Alec grimaced as he felt the residue of New God power curling against his skin as it rolled off Q’s sleepy breaths to his his throat.  Just staying in the workshop as much as he had had been low-level torture, because Stark's work-space wasn’t as carefully crafted as Q-branch to allow for Alec and James’s presence.  He’d have wanted to stay and watch over Q constantly, but had had to excuse himself multiple times just to shake off the cold, sick feeling that so much regimented New God power gave him.  “Oh, I doubt that Stark has the faintest idea, in that case,” Alec managed to say glibly as he strode quickly towards the door with his load.  He could stand Q – but he couldn’t take this New God nest much longer.  He couldn’t help but stop next to Natasha, teasing with a façade of innocence, “I can’t believe that none of you knew!”

“Actually-” Natasha replied, arching one elegant brow as she accompanied Alec to the lift and then pressed the button for him.  She’d stay down here and watch Tony, and call Steve down remotely via the comms after she saw Trevelyan off.  “-What I’m most curious about is how you know all of this before we did.”

Alec grinned shamelessly as he stepped into the lift.  The doors closed in front of him even as he said with roguish amusement, “That is curious, isn’t it?”  Then the door sealed shut and the conversation was effectively ended.

For now.

~^~

When Natasha shared the news with everyone the next morning (minus Q and Alec, who were still, so far as Jarvis could tell, in the guest-bedrooms assigned them), Barton was the first to react.  His expression showed a mixture of horror and disbelief as he said, “Okay, Nat, correct me if I’m wrong – actually, just correct me, because there is no way that this isn’t very very wrong – but did you just say that Loki has the hots for Stark?  Our Stark?”

“Admit it, Barton: everybody loves me!” Tony preened, flopping back extravagantly on the nearest couch.  He was taking this far better than he had any right to.  Everyone had expected some histrionics, or at least the same level of shock that had accompanied the discovery of his New God status, but apparently everything was relative: finding out that he was actually a newfangled deity was way more disturbing than learning that an alien megalomaniac was trying to woo him via chaotic encounters.

Barton shot Tony a sour look, making it clear that he did not love Tony (a look that Tony chose not to believe for an instant), before continuing to talk to someone more sensible: Natasha.  “Where did you even learn this?”

Natasha was curled up on the couch next to Steve, the super-soldier sitting so stiffly that it wouldn’t be long before Tony started spouting ‘stick up your ass’ jokes.  Arguably, it was the Captain who was taking this news the hardest, although he hadn’t managed to say anything as he processed it all.  Nat looked at his hands fisted on his knees with some concern before turning back to her old partner to reply smoothly, “Trevelyan told me.  I think that we can trust him as a source.”

“On Loki’s love-life?” Barton shot back in exasperation as all of this finally became too much.

“Come on, Tony,” Steve finally found his voice, “Don’t tell me this doesn’t unsettle you at least a little.  Loki tried to throw you out a window.”

“True.”  Tony shrugged.  He still seemed remarkably levelheaded.  Perhaps that was because he’d been doing New God stuff for nearly twenty-four hours straight, had then slept like the dead for an unprecedented six hours, and was now running on two cups of strong coffee.  “But I think we concluded that we could blame all the crazy on Odin’s bad parenting.  We did decide that, right?  I distinctly remember us all having that talk – sorry, Thor.”

“No apologies necessary, Man of Iron,” Thor accepted the jab against his father with nothing more than resignation.  It seemed that being away from home but close to his [adopted] brother had shifted his allegiances enough that he could admit to the failings of the Allfather, at least when it came to driving Loki insane.  “Actually, this news about Loki’s intentions makes many things clear.  It is the way of Asgardian gods to show affection in ways that gratify our powers, and in this, I dare say that Loki follows the same rules.”

When Tony cocked an eyebrow in suspicious confusion, Banner translated, “Loki’s way of saying ‘I love you’ includes gratuitous amounts of chaos.”

“Yes,” Thor beamed, “Is that not what I said?”

The group fell to discussing and quibbling over this new development, Steve being the most worried while Thor was soon boisterously calling for a toast – ironically, it was only the latter reaction that got Tony to look scared, and soon he was waving his arms and loudly protesting this was just godly flirting, not a marriage proposal.  Fortunately, Thor didn’t argue.  Tony was equipped to handle godhood and the amorous advances of a possibly-insane Jotunn god, but the threat of marriage would probably put him swiftly into a catatonic fit if it were too sincere.

“Tony, I think you’re missing the point – this is dangerous,” Steve finally wrangled control of the conversation to speak fervently.  He leaned forward over his knees with an earnest expression, broad shoulders flexing uneasily beneath the navy nightshirt he still wore.  “Loki has already been fixated on you, but now we just know that it’ll get worse, and the last time he fixated on you, Bruce had to fish you out of the bay.”

“I could have gotten out on my own,” Tony sniffed, forgetting that some of his recent modifications to the Iron Man suit had been inadvertently hydrophobic in nature.  He wouldn’t have drowned, but he would have been walking across the murky bottom all the way to shore like the least buoyant submarine in history.

“Tony,” the Captain sighed in that way that said, ‘That’s not the point and you know it.’

Everyone tensed a little, expecting Tony to react badly to the tone – Stark had a few triggers, and they all stemmed from one of two things: PTSD from being held hostage, and a rather rocky childhood with a father he didn’t see eye-to-eye with on the best of days.  The latter meant that Tony didn’t like to be patronized or talked down to, and most people who took such a tone with him quickly found out that Tony could go from annoying to downright mean in a second flat.  Along with ‘mean’ would then come ‘stubborn,’ and woe-betide anyone who wanted to get Tony to cooperate after that.

But for once… Tony softened.  His shoulders had tightened up for a second and his brown eyes had gone dangerous flat as he heard Steve’s lamenting, impatient tone, but then he’d seen something in the super-soldiers eyes that had stopped the mounting, poisonous tide.  “Look, Cap, let’s face the facts,” he said in a remarkably level tone, showing that Tony Stark could turn off the playfulness if he chose to, “Right now, Loki’s the most active pain in our asses on the entire continent, so regardless of his intentions, we’ve got to stop him.  Now, I can use this.”  Tony sounded certain, and when Tony Stark was certain of something, it was best to just believe him, because he would make it so.  “If we’ve got a hook into the Crazy Train – awesome.  If that hook has my name on it-”  Tony winked.  “-Even better.  I’m a great catch, but I’m an even better fisherman, given the right tools.”

“Speaking of being given the right tools,” Jarvis’s disembodied voice interrupted the conversation before Steve could either capitulate or mount an argument from another front, “I believe that Misters Trevelyan and Fluke are presently ascending the lift to this floor.”

“How do they know what floor we’re on?” Barton wanted to know.

Even though Barton had address the question quietly to Natasha, it was Jarvis who answered in a tone that sounded remarkably like resigned, “I am unsure exactly, as they neither requested nor were given this information, but as Mr. Fluke is the one leading the unerring journey through the tower, I assume that his status as a New God is to blame.”

“Cool,” Tony declared, bouncing up immediately.  He called over his shoulder, “Last chance for closing arguments, Spangles!”

Scrubbing a hand over his face, Steve gave up.  “I’ve got nothing.  My only request is that we not go off half-cocked about this!”

Steve immediately regretted his use of the word ‘cock.’  Steve never swore, and this had not been swearing, but if Tony was given an inch, he took a mile, and if he was given a word that could be used in an innuendo, he made a million cock jokes.

~^~

 

Chapter Text

If there was one bad thing about being emotionally entangled with an Old God, it was the inherent distaste for technology that came with all deities who’d come into being before mankind even knew what electricity was.  

“Yes?” Bond’s low voice ground warily through the speaker of the mobile in Q’s nimble fingers.  The line crackled like it didn’t want to contain the sound, but Q just rolled his eyes and pressed a bit more power into the connection, feeling it widen and flex and generally shift to accommodate the illogical energy that a war-god was capable of bringing to the table.  

“Bond?  It’s Q.  MI6 said that you’d reported in already that your mission was nearly completed, and that you were just tying up loose ends,” Q replied.  Some of the barbed-wired energy gnawing at the phone-line backed off the instant 007 recognized his caller, which made Q smile involuntarily and his toes curl slightly in pride.  The smile switched to a miffed little frown as Q added, “Of course, you didn’t make yourself easy to find after that.”

“I’d imagine,” was Bond’s reply, much smoother now, and wrapped in warm, wry amusement, “Especially considering that, last I checked, this mobile was broken.”

“Semantics,” Q brushed that aside, even as he felt how his powers were stretched.  Bond was a great distance away, with Q still in the US while Bond was in Europe, and while the growth of technology had made the world a small place indeed, it still took a monstrous amount of energy for Q to extend his senses and abilities through a mobile connection just to maintain a conversation.  He was basically possessing Bond’s phone like a techno-savvy ghost, re-animating it enough that he could have a conversation.  “So are you really finished up where you are?  I set the phone to vibrate, and I assume you wouldn’t have answered at all if you were busy.”

Q could hear the sounds of Bond settling down somewhere, perhaps in a hotel bed - Q had located his agent as well, an easier trick, since Bond couldn’t destroy every security camera he came across.  He knew that Bond was in a hotel in Bosnia.  “Like you heard, I’ve got a few loose ends that need tying, but I can talk now,” Bond allowed in a contented-enough tone.  

“Good, because I wanted to talk to you about the little… project… that Alec dragged me out of Britain for.  Any chance you could make a brief trip to New York City?”  After Q’s question, Bond grunted, and the slightly disgruntled noise translated into another crackle down the line.  “Oh, come now, Bond - Alec promises that the plan just calls on using you for theatrics,” Q sighed as he sensed the negative mood-change.

“Alec promised, did he?  Have you noticed his track-record with promises?”

“Actually, the entire plan promises to be fairly tame,” Q defended.

“You’re hunting an Asgardian prince.  One with a screw loose.”

Q was briefly surprised by the ‘prince’ adjective, but moved on before he lost the opportunity to make his point, because Bond could be damnably stubborn when he wanted to be.  “True, but as Alec had hoped, it seems this Avengers team is more interested in…  How shall I put it...?  Capture and rehabilitation, rather than an actual fight to the death or some-such violence.”

This time, Bond snorted, and his amusement was like a fissure in his previous temperament.  Still, he pointed out in a rumble, “Then my presence sounds downright detrimental.  Did you and Alec happen to forget what I was born to do for a living?”

“Steady, 007,” Q cautioned as he heard the agent’s voice slip into yet a lower octave by the sentence’s end, a sleek sound that reminded one of predators walking or black velvet wrapped around razor-blades.  It made Q shiver a little to hear the utterly lethal pur, although he honestly didn’t know if it scared him or turned him on at this point.  He shifted on his own bed in Stark Tower.  “That’s why your role would be relatively small, and mostly for show - but Alec is still hoping to bring you in as a trump card if things get out of hand.”

“ ‘Theatrics,’ I believe you just said,” Bond showed that he’d been listening, “Alec and theatrics go together about as well as a pyromaniac and fireworks.”  That sentence gave Bond reason to pause, apparently, because he hummed and then backtracked, “On second thought, maybe I should book a flight over, to make sure we don’t lose New York.”

“Already booked,” Q chirped.  A notification popped up on the open laptop next to him, indicating that Alec was off to start laying the foundations for their plan, and apparently Tony had blown something up in his lab again.  Drat.  Mildly put out but not surprised, since Tony Stark was easily the most chaotic New God that Q had ever had the dubious pleasure of meeting, Q typed back a few messages while pinning his mobile between his shoulder and ear.  “So can you make it here by-?”

Q’s voice was cut off by the unmistakable sound of a gunshot.  Wandering chaos-gods and incendiary new New Gods forgotten, Q switched his mobile back to his hand and pressed it close as he demanded tensely, “Bond?  James?  What happened?”

“Steady, Q,” Bond purposefully mimicked Q’s earlier command, his tone an easy drawl that sounded entirely too relaxed to be following up the sharp retort of a gun - but then again, everyone had their drug of choice.  “That gunshot was mine.  I said that I was tying up loose ends, remember?”

Thinking back to the sound of Bond ‘settling down,’ Q realized that that sound could have been the sound of 007 relaxing onto a bed - or it could have been the sound of him easing down into a crouch, settling in for a long but patient wait.  Sometimes, Bond was a creature of combat and war - but his skills extended just as well to making him a superb ambush predator.  Chastising himself for assuming that Bond was still in Bosnia to make nice with the various authorities that he’d offended, Q switched to a more professional tone and replied, “Understood, 007.  I’ll send you your itinerary via text - the line is secure, but you’ll have a hard time using the phone after the message is received.  You really did break the thing.”

“I think that I’ll manage.  Give me an hour or two to clean up, and I’ll be on my way,” James said, as if ‘clean up’ merely required a shower rather than disposing of a dead body.  Q changed his mind and gave him his itinerary verbally a few minutes later, not trusting the man with a text - not when his Old God nature was showing like lightning crackling along the black belly of a storm.  

And Q was sleeping regularly with that thunderstorm in a bottle…  He really was insane.  

After leaving Bond to his own devices, Q considered putting his mobile aside and getting some well-earned rest.  Training Stark was neither an easy nor a restful task, and he hadn’t been this exhausted outside of Q-branch since the time he’d decided to upgrade his grandmother’s cottage - thankfully, his part in all of this was mostly finished, with Alec taking over things now that their new New God was at least marginally trained.  Stark was still struggling with his superhuman skills, but he was struggling forward at least, and quite quickly, so Q’s expectations of ninety-percent chance of utter technological chaos had dropped to about seventy-five percent for the coming days.  The recent explosion notwithstanding (although Q had just gotten another notification to tell him that the situation was being handled).

But Q’s mind wasn’t ready to sleep yet, and one thing in particular was still nagging at him.  He picked up his phone again, texting Alec, and this time willing to wait for a reply like a normal person if the 00-agent was busy.  The text read: ~Care to explain why Bond is so reticent to join us?~  

Apparently Alec wasn’t busy, because the reply was quick, if not helpful: ~Who uses ‘reticent’ in a text?~

Frowning, Q sent a message back far faster than normal human fingers could have typed.  ~A New God. Now answer my question. Please.~   Q was capable of being miffed and polite at the same time, just as he was entirely capable of texting with perfect diction and extended vocabulary.

Alec was probably laughing at him, wherever he was, but at least the next text message contained a bit more information: ~James isn’t too keen on the Avengers. Or at least one of them in particular.~

Okay, so that just raised more questions.  Q’s mouth tipped further downwards, and the usual detached coolness that he maintained as a logical New God cracked a little, allowing more frustration and true bewilderment to set in.  ~Whatever are you getting at?  Which Avenger?~

~Bof, what language does James speak when buried in you to the hilt and halfway out of his mind?~

The shockingly explicit text had Q losing his aloof demeanor entirely, and he reared back from his mobile’s glowing screen as if it had just winked at him - or as if Alec had just sent him graphic porn, which he kind of had.  Verbal porn.  Very accurate verbal porn.  The mental image was filling Q’s mind’s eye before he could stop it, memories of James braced over him like the god of old that he was, both of them already as tangled around (and in) each other as they could get, their skin singing with the pleasure of it.  And James, between panting breaths, between Q’s helpless whimpers of blind praise, murmuring husky words in a foreign tongue in Q’s ear…

Q had been struggling to figure out exactly what that language was for weeks now, because it wasn’t in any modern database, but suddenly it all snapped into place as he catalogued each member of the Avenger’s team as well.  Romanov knew Russian and probably a few other scary languages; Tony knew just enough Spanish and French to be dangerous to himself and others, not to mention technological languages like binary and abstract code; Steve probably knew some German from his soldiering days; Banner definitely knew Latin, if only because science demanded a firm grasp of the language; Barton knew ASL, although Q had mostly just inferred that from a few idle movements of the man’s hands, done subtly and seemingly without thinking.  Q was very good at running numbers in his head, and sometimes that included statistical analyses of whether or not a hand motion was truly idle or harked back to sign language.  

And Thor…

It was a solid bet that Thor knew a kind of Norse dialect that wasn’t contained in any library on Earth.  

“Shit,” Q breathed, suddenly feeling like he was seeing 007 again with a whole new set of spectacles - and these ‘lenses’ saw the Old God better than the feeble prescription of before.  Alec didn’t text any further, leaving Q to his discoveries.  After all, New Gods loved puzzles, so why deprive the boffin of the joy of putting the pieces together by himself?

~^~

Steve had been ‘babysitting’ Tony in his lab, but instead of doing his job, had apparently fallen asleep.  The sounds of fire alarms going off with Jarvis’s notably worried-sounding commentary in the background woke him up pretty fast, and fortunately his body responded as it had in the War, so he found himself with fire extinguisher in hand, putting out the flames quite before his brain caught up with him.  Considering the increasing frequency of fires ever since Quinlen Fluke had tried to train Tony in the ways of New Gods, Dummy had been outfitted with a fire extinguisher on a semi-permanent basis, so the situation was quickly brought under control.

“I thought that you and Fluke were supposed to be logic-based, not chaos-based like the other guy,” Steve complained in exasperation as he gave the smoky debris a few more bursts from the extinguisher.  He could feel the uncomfortable, electrical rush of adrenalin like a shot of acid in his veins, and it only got worse when he realized that no snarky retort was making a comeback to his words.  Going impossibly more alert than before, Steve felt his heart constrict painfully as he cast around for Stark.

Jarvis, thankfully, had gone back to being an unflappably helpful machine: “I believe you will find Master Stark asleep upon the workbench three meters to your left, behind the mound of his latest project.”

Letting out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d started holding, Steve pivoted and craned his head, unable to see past said mound, but trusting Jarvis’s perceptiveness.  A glance back at the fire showed it contained, Dummy still enthusiastically shooting CO2 every once in awhile.  Smiling a bit fondly at the well-meaning machine, Steve put down his own extinguisher and wove his way around contraptions he didn’t have names for until he zeroed in on the sound of snoring.

“Tony?”  He could see the inventor now, slouched forward with his head pillowed on one hand, but since the fire-alarm hadn’t woken him, Steve’s quiet calling of his name didn’t either.  Rolling his eyes and trying to be annoyed, Steve finally circled all of the way around the desk to reach out a hand, hesitating a moment before reaching out to curl a hand around the nearest shoulder.  Tony felt warm and soft through the material of his shirt, utterly lax in sleep and still giving absolutely no indication of awareness.  “Tony?  Tony, you lab almost burnt down and you didn’t notice.  I think that’s a sign that you need to sleep.”

“ ’M sleepin’,” came the belated, belabored reply, which devolved into what sounded like another snore.  

Sighing again and rolling his eyes, the supersoldier firmed up his grip, carefully releasing a small measure more of his inhuman strength until he was giving Tony’s shoulder a firm shake.  “Not here, Tony, in a real bed.  A bed that won’t give you a crick in… well, in all of you.”

Tony was coming around a bit, but still seemed far from convinced by the argument Steve was selling.  Cheek still firmly pressed against one forearm, Tony’s brows drew together rebelliously over closed eyes, and he slurred back, “Thaz what chiropractrz are fer…”

For a very brief moment, Steve was tempted to just give up then and leave Tony to suffer the consequences of his nap later, but the thought faded quickly as he remembered the impending excitement hanging over all their heads.  The decision to go after Loki to capture him instead of kill him had done a lot for Thor’s piece of mind and Steve’s moral center, but he couldn’t help but worry that Tony would be the one to pay for it all.  When the other Old God, Trevelyan, had let slip the fact that Loki was rather keen on the Avenger’s resident philanthropist-playboy, Tony had seemed pretty blase about the whole thing, but Steve was growing increasingly sure that this was just another brand of denial.  Tony was seeing the opportunity to best the chaos-god who had challenged him, and ignoring the fact that said chaos-god might be fixating on him in a way that was not conducive to his health - if this went badly, it didn’t take a mathematician to add up the facts, and see that Loki’s dangerous skills would hit Iron Man the hardest.  

And damn if that didn’t make Steve worried enough to swear.

“Tony, if you keep avoiding a decent sleep schedule…” Steve started to lament, frustrated, but he just gave up and huffed instead of reminding the inventor that they could be facing Loki any day now.  Trevelyan had gone out literally just hours ago to set the whole plan in motion, so not only was there no turning back, but so far as Steve and his military training were concerned, they were all on high-alert now.

Except for Tony, who was snoring again and wriggling to try and get a better position amidst his schematics and screwdrivers.

Taking in a deep breath and bracing himself as he came to a decision, Steve withdrew his hand and said mostly to himself, ostensibly to the sleeping new New God who couldn’t hear him, “I’m only doing this because if you don’t go to bed now, you’ll probably fall asleep in the middle of the plan, and then everything will go to heck.”  With that, he bent forward again, and this time gripped the smaller man more purposefully, ignoring the snuffling noise of confusion Tony made as he was pulled away from his desk far enough for Steve to slip an arm beneath his knees.  It took a bit of awkward adjusting, but Steve’s super-strength came with a bonus of atypically good balance, too, and he managed to straighten with Tony in his arms.  

This is becoming something of a ritual,’ Steve realized with something like alarm even as he started to pick his way towards the exit.  Last time he’d carried Stark’s sleepy form had been just a few days ago, as a favor to Nat, who had stated that she couldn’t carry a sleeping Iron Man (with or without his armor) all the way to his bed.  Steve couldn’t say no to that.  Now, he still couldn’t seem to say no, as he frowned to himself but nonetheless walked towards the lift with Tony drooling contentedly against his shirt-collar.  

“Hey, Jarvis, could you-?  Thanks,” Steve said as the AI opened the door automatically without the request needing to be finished.  Likewise, the elevator doors responded naturally, proving that frequent contact with Alec Trevelyan hadn’t fried them irreparably.  Steve shifted his weight awkwardly as he felt the box lift, but froze and held perfectly still as the movement threatened to wake Tony.  The inventor made an unintelligible grumbling noise and kicked a little before coming to the subconscious realization that he wasn’t going anywhere.  It was very, very hard to watch it all and still remember that Tony Stark was actually a New God, and Steve was suddenly… pissed that something everyone thought was so powerful was actually so fragile.  It just seemed so unfair.  Stark was honestly a health hazard to himself ninety percent of his life anyway, and maybe Steve had been hoping that realization of godhood would somehow make it a little bit easier to keep him alive.

But no: apparently all that came with being a New God was a new repertoire of ways to be reckless, bipolar mood swings between pride and self-doubt, and being bait for a lunatic Asgardian who wasn’t actually Asgardian.  Steve hadn’t realized how much he… cared… until recently, but now it was all snowballing right in front of his eyes.

Steve sighed heavily and leaned back against the wall so that he could thump his head against it.  He closed his eyes resignedly and didn’t even open them when he sensed Tony’s breathing pick up in rhythm, eventually followed by a sleep-rough but wakeful, “Cap?”

The hesitant, almost squeaky tone in Tony’s voice was a rare thing that Steve wished he was in the mood to enjoy.  “Yeah?” he grunted instead, tired from worrying so much.  And worried about the consequences of being emotionally entangled with a borderline suicidal genius, because apparently he was.    

“Am I having a very emasculating dream, or am I being carried to bed… again?”

Again… darn, Steve had been hoping he had no recollection of the past time.  Times.  “You’re dreaming, Tony,” Steve just sighed, adjusting his grip minutely and feeling the smooth hum of the elevator mechanism drawing them upwards.  “Go back to sleep and worry about it later.”  If he could take his own advice, life would get a lot easier, too.  

~^~

“Thievery is its own kind of calling card,” Trevelyan had said, refusing to clarify exactly how they were going to get Loki to come to them, instead of vice-versa.  By the time everyone realized that that meant Trevelyan was going to steal something of Loki’s and run off with it like a dog who wanted attention, it was too late, and he’d already done it.  And now the chase was on.  

Thanks to Steve’s not-so-subtle mother-henning, Stark was well-rested despite his late nights training with Q, and hovered at a steady altitude in the latest Iron Man suit.  This version hadn’t really be updated all that wildly, but it was the little things that counted, and now Tony could hear the purr of those fine-tunings like a subsonic cheering crowd at the back of his head.  It was, quite frankly, fantastic.  It was all Tony could do not to get distracted by the pseudo-internal-monologue that he was getting increasingly skilled at translating, and he started to wobble in midair as his attention wavered.  

“Stark,” Roger’s tone came through the comms, mostly neutral but curling with worry at the edges like paper starting to burn.  

Tony couldn’t help it: he grinned behind his helm and replied, “You’re adorable when you’re fretting, Cap.  All stars and stripes and den-mother-anxiety.”

The team plus their two new British allies were a bit spread out right now, but both the Captain and Natasha were on the ground below, and a glance showed the latter hiding a smirk behind one hand while the former looked up with a scowl.  Tony waved at him.  

Q, who wasn’t actually wearing a comm but somehow managed to patch himself through anyway, suddenly was speaking in everyone’s ear with a tightly controlled voice, “I think we have incoming.”

Immediately, Rogers was all business.  He stopped deciding whether to hurl his shield at Tony and instead stood with ready alertness.  “How do you know?  Do you have a visual?”

“No…”  Q’s voice was hesitant, and Tony cocked an eyebrow that no one could see.  Before he could say anything, however, the British New God deigned to explain himself instead of just hedging mysteriously as Tony had half-expected him to, “I’m tapped into the traffic cameras… I can also sense Alec even from where I am, and a whole storm of power around him.”

“That would be Reindeer Games himself,” Tony quipped, and got a bit serious himself, even if he still couldn’t completely hide that intoxicating buzz of excitement that had suffused him like a shot of whiskey in his morning coffee.  He tried to sense what Q was sensing, and… couldn’t quite do it, but he definitely had an urge to face north-east, which was the direction Trevelyan had planned to arrive from.

And so, lo-and-behold, he was visible, heading there way.  

And damn but he was coming in hot.  

Trevelyan was on a motorcycle, bent low over the body of it, but even adopted Asgardians could move fast.  Loki wasn’t so much running along after him as flashing from place to place, appearing and disappearing in vicious flashes of smoke and light, creating a storm that curled and built like thunder clouds rolling in Trevelyan’s wake.  Just when it looked like Trevelyan would lose his lead, an arrow came out of nowhere and struck a lamppost, detonating and sending the pole crashing down like a tree in Loki’s path.  The black-haired god looked like he was in trouble for a second, Hawkeye’s aim and timing impeccable, but then he stepped back and the air seemed to close around him, making him disappear in another flash just before the pillar of metal struck the ground where he’d been standing.

“We’re not killing, remember, Barton?” Steve said warningly through the comms.  He and Nat were moving to flank the street on either side, leaving Tony hovering above it even as Trevelyan closed the gap and braked right underneath him.  

Barton, not particularly put out, replied with his usual bluntness, “Hey, I didn’t aim at the crazy psychopath.  That should count as restraint.”

Beneath Tony’s hovering form, Alec - also sans comms, but lacking any New God skill for hacking them remotely - called upwards, “Hey!  Stark!  Got something for ya.”  Tony just had time to look down before something was being thrown upwards towards him, and it was a supremely awkward bit of juggling later that he was looking down at…

“A cell phone?”  He lifted his visor so that Trevelyan could both hear him better and see the sheer incredulity on his face.  “You seriously stole Loki’s cell phone?”

Trevelyan was grinning like a Cheshire cat, unsettlingly broad, all teeth, but all he did was shrug and hook a thumb back the way he’d come - where the chaotic storm was dissipating, and a green-and-black-clad figure was striding out of it.  “It got results, didn’t it?”  With the job finished, Alec revved the engine again to make sure the bike still worked, and tore off down the street, leaving the Avengers to face Loki.

Who was grinning just about as scarily as Alec was, as if he’d stolen the look right off his face.  

“So, my old friend wasn’t just making a nuisance for his own enjoyment,” Loki observed, his voice carrying with all the skill of a great actor, which Tony supposed he was.  The smile continued, and grew a few degrees more unsettling as Loki’s eyes flicked between the cell phone in Tony’s hand - a small, silver thing, utterly unremarkable except for the image of a golden apple cut into the back, a logo that Tony didn’t recognize off-hand but caught the eye like the glint of a dragon’s hoard - and Tony himself.  Noticeable, however, was the way Loki walked with the lightfootedness and even balance of a cat on thin ice, aware that Hawkeye was still nearby, and likely the rest of the team as well.  Loki, while still a goodly distance away, extended a hand.  “Give it to me, Stark.  You need not pay for that Celtic dog’s indiscretions.”

Ignoring Barton speaking through the comms (“I thought that Trevelyan guy was British?”), Tony, visor still up, flashed a smile of his own and got his head right into the game.  He waved the phone securely trapped in his gauntlet, remembering Q’s reassurances that Loki’s chaotic magic was actually weakened in close proximity to technology - meaning he had a better chance of holding onto his stolen prize if he kept it close.  Theoretically.  “What’s the big deal, Lokes?  Not a fan of sharing?” he catcalled down.  He felt his heart hammer as Loki prowled closer, looking slightly less amused.  Fuck, this phone was serious.  “Got some naughty stuff on here that you don’t want getting out?  Because believe me, I understand that.  It can be an absolute PR nightmare if the wrong nudes get spread around.  Now, the right nudes-!”

“You really do think this is a game, don’t you?” Loki interrupted.  His smile was actually still present, but he seemed slightly surprised now.  It was impossible to tell whether that was a good or a bad thing, because while Loki seemed to have decided not to get upset, that one cocked eyebrow was all kinds of bad news.  For the first time, Loki turned away from Stark to glance around him: at Captain America, grim but otherwise unreadable, the Black Widow, calm and cool like a mountain lake, the notably cleared streets, prepared for trouble.  When Loki swiveled his head further, it was eerily obvious that he knew Hawkeye, Thor, and the Hulk to be encircling him from behind.  “Well then,” Loki admitted slowly, tongue coming out to just touch his lips, an unexpectedly pensive gesture.  Unperturbed but maybe slightly more wary, the trickster-god went on, “At least you came prepared to play.”

“Hey, I may look like Little Red Riding Hood-” Tony shrugged, accepting the praise unabashedly and sneaking another glance as the cell-phone.  He was almost ADHD enough to flip it open right now and see what was on it.  “-But I always come armed with more than cookies and a sob-story about my grandma.  But really, you should have expected it.”

That hellish smile was coming back, and even from the bow-shot distance still between them, Tony saw the glint in Loki’s eyes that really didn’t have any other name besides madness - really fucking  gleeful madness, and this time…  This time Tony did feel the crackling in the air, saw the leylines of reason buckle and warp out of the corners of his eyes, and his breath froze in his chest for a moment as Loki’s posture changed into something more like a crouch.  

“Oh, I see,” Loki crooned, wringing out both of his hands like a pianist, and Tony just barely heard Steve murmur something uneasy through the comms.  His attention was on Loki, however, which was a damn good decision, because things happened real fast after the Jotun God finished, “So if you’re Little Red, that makes me the Big Bad Wolf, doesn’t it?”  And suddenly his flesh started to warp, reality crackling and sliding away from his skin so violently that Tony had to physically turn his eyes away because it all just looked so wrong... so illogically impossible.  Barely a split-second later and a wolf the size of a truck stood where a humanoid madman had been, and when the beast leapt right at Tony, its jaws gaped to emit not a howl but an entirely familiar, 100% Loki laugh.  

“Fuck,” Tony declared succinctly, and just had time to flick his visor down and pivot in midair to make his escape.  Loki’s outstretched paws - tipped with what looked like iron spikes for claws, totally not normal doggy material - still nearly snagged him, and there was a loud thud as Loki landed after the near miss.  He didn’t look put out, however, glowing green eyes still following Tony even as the massive, lupine body jerked into motion again just in time to avoid Captain America’s shield to its flank.  Loki made a pretty big target this way, but he still managed to dodge fucking bullets as Widow brought her guns into play, although the decision not to fight to kill might have explained the misses.  Tony, from his vantage point, could have told her to stop worrying about it, because he didn’t think anything short of an bazooka was going to slow Loki down now that he’d transformed.  That, and he moved damn fast once he got moving, as if his body were jointed in all the wrong places, turning a wolf’s expected lope into a quicksilver sort of run that had him catching up with his query in seconds.  Tony started repeating his earlier declaration under his breath like a mantra, even as Loki’s newly fanged mouth lolled open in a manic grin of pure glee.  

“Okay guys, Loki turning into Fenrir was not part of the plan,” Tony said, willing to be a man and admit that there was indeed a lot of worry in his voice.  He added a bit more power to the thrusters and dodged down a side-street, keeping in mind that he had a pre-arranged flight-path that he had to keep to… so long as Loki didn’t drag him out of the sky and eat him first.  

“Stick to the plan, Stark,” Steve’s voice came in like an anchor, keeping everyone weighed down to logic and reality - which was ironic, considering that Tony was supposed to be the god of logic and shit.  “Nat is coming in with backup.”

‘Backup’ turned out to be the Hulk.  Since he and Natasha had worked out a decent system to keep him in check, the Hulk had become less of a liability over the past while, and could always be depended upon to balance out the odds against Loki.  At the moment, Loki was quite a bit bigger than usual, but he was nearly knocked out of a midair leap at Tony when something angry and green blindsided him from an adjacent street.  

Loki was getting wilier and wilier, though.  The moment the Hulk hit him, it was as if Bruce’s angrier self tore right through Loki’s furred hide like crepe-paper.  There was a moment of shock on everyone’s parts, but then it turned out that the Hulk had nothing in his hands, and Tony put the pedal to the metal and flew hard and fast again - just in time, too, because Loki reappeared like a rabbit out of a magician’s hat, a thousand-pound explosion of grinning fangs and extended paws out of the fourth-story building Tony was just passing.   

“Shit-!” Tony had time to shout before Loki hit him, cackling the whole way as he grabbed hold of the Iron Man suit like a chew toy and bore them both to the ground.  “Change of plan - spring it now!” Tony hollered desperately into the comms in the seconds he had before he made contact with the ground, so much chaotic magic around him that he felt like he was blinded and choking all at once, even though the suit should have been filtering everything.

Surprisingly, it didn’t feel like he broke every bone in his body.  In fact, the initial jolt of impact was surprisingly mild, and when the HUD flickered back on, he was looking at a remarkably smug wolf.  The real shock was that he could read expression in its long (and unexpectedly scarred) snout, even as it planted paws on either side of his body and released his right arm.  “What - did you expect me to break you?”  The wolf’s mouth moved - and Loki’s cultured tones came out.  His eyes glowed like green bogfire, and flicked to Iron Man’s left gauntlet, which was still closed around the phone.  “Although, of course, if you broke that, I might have to repay an eye for an eye,” wolf-Loki amended.

“Yeah, not going to happen,” Tony growled back, and since Loki had for some reason been nice enough to… magic-cushion their fall… he used his swiftly returning equilibrium to pump all of his newly-learned focus into the thruster, and in seconds he was zipping across the ground, out from under Loki’s wolf-shape.  The street ground against the Iron Man suit with the most atrocious noise ever, but it just about made Tony whoop out loud to know that he’d just done that mostly with his mind, a sign that he wasn’t so sucky at this New God stuff after all.  It almost felt like a waste, all of the time he’d put into finding ways to make the suit responsive to his actions…

Tony knew that at this very moment, Thor should have been arriving with Trevelyan in tow, carrying the trap set up for Loki.  It was a massive net of New God power, and had taken almost as long to design as it had for Tony and Q to build it - the thing was, Loki wasn’t supposed to be able to see it coming, and yet he watched Tony’s retreat for only a second before his iron-grey ears suddenly swiveled up and his long snout swung around.  With unerring accuracy, he looked northeast, and Tony couldn’t resist the urge to colorfully swear.  

Thor and Trevelyan sprang the trap just a heartbeat later, but a heartbeat was long enough for everything to go haywire, as Loki suddenly leaped, transforming again as he moved.  He shed his skin like scales flaking off a dead fish, revealing his normal body beneath, wild and slim and fast.  A net made all of hair-fine, mercury-bright threads was cast through the air at him, swirling with a weight that went beyond its mass, but it nearly missed Loki entirely as he moved with snake-like speed.  

Loki probably would have escaped entirely but, on reflex, Tony stuck out his free hand and pulled.

To be completely fair, Tony still sucked at being a New God.  Instinctually, he had a lot of it figured out - but anything that took conscious thought and control was still Greek to him, and Q’s tutelage had only managed to teach him so much.  Fortunately, being able to chat with another god of logic like himself had at least brought a lot of these ideas to Tony’s awareness, and it was like putting on glasses to see the world more clearly.  So many things that he’d just… done… before he now saw in a new light, and with a mind to his own modern magic.  

Sometimes, that meant he was a bit more useful in creating a net made up entirely of wires and New God powers.

Sometimes, it meant the list of weird shit he could do without even trying expanded exponentially.

Like how, as he lay awkwardly on his back and stretched one gauntlet forward at empty air, and the tightly woven mass of logic in the net responded like metal shavings to a massive electromagnet.  Tony’s subconscious intention had been to yank the net back on course, but the problem was, even as the net jerked in midair like a massive, sentient wing, Loki was moving, too.

Right towards Tony.

Trickster, New God, and net all collided into one massive, unintended tangle, Tony yelping as he ended up on the bottom of a heap of Loki again - and Loki snarling in an ironically wolf-like voice as the net collapsed across his back, head, and legs.  It had been atrociously hard to program the power within the net so that it would restrain Loki but not latch onto Thor and Trevelyan, too (who were likewise anathema to New magic), but while Tony had excelled at physically designing the filamentous net, Q had cracked his knuckles and said, “Not a problem,” when asked to tackle the rest of the problem.  It seemed that Q’s quiet pride was not misplaced, as Loki bucked upwards but barely budged an inch, as the net clung to his clothing and skin like melted whispers of silvery glue.  By the way Loki bared his teeth, muscles straining under his clothing, it also must have felt like it weighed a ton, even though Tony couldn’t sense any weight to it at all.

“Tony!”  And there was the Captain, right on time with all of his worry.  Tony didn’t know whether to be relieved or ecstatic, because even though he was pinned with a trapped and dangerous Jotun God on his chest, Stark felt as elated as a kid who’d just succeeded in blowing off his first bottle-rocket (which may or may not have been a hidden innuendo).  

Loki had no such indecision.  His eyes had snapped up to see the Captain - and the other Avengers - coming, and immediately came to a decision.  Even as Thor shouted something abortive and Trevelyan swore loudly at this unexpected outcome, Loki produced a knife from his belt so fast that it may as well have grown out of his hand.  Likewise, the blade pushed through one of the seams in the Iron Man suit without hesitation, metal whining and holding for only seconds before Tony felt something sharp prick the skin of his throat.

“Sir?  The structural integrity of the gorget piece A2 has been compromised.  I recommend evasive or offensive action,” Jarvis’s voice, full of logic and very un-AI-like tension, filled the helm even as Tony stared in shock at Loki’s face.  The black-haired god seemed to be straining, and Tony wondered just how much magic it had taken to force that knife through the suit - and just how much magic was being tamped down and doused by the New God power that Q had promised would put Loki out like a fire, given enough time.  

Time that they suddenly didn’t seem to have a lot of.

Barton appeared from a side-street, skidding to a stop the second he saw the hostage situation.  He pretty much summed everything up as he barked, “Fuck, Stark, the idea of traps is to catch other people in them!”

“Yeah, well, I sort of changed the plan without meaning to,” Tony said weakly, and started to give an apologetic wave before a slight wriggle of the knife reminded him to keep still.  

Despite the fact that the Iron Man helm was down, Loki must have heard him, because he smiled a bit tightly before commenting to the ground at large, “A change of plans indeed.”  Loki swiveled his head to half-look over his shoulder, where Trevelyan was standing, looking grim and angry.  “Smart work, my old friend.  I almost didn’t sense the trap at all, what with you hiding New magic with your own - and with my brother’s.”  The last was said dismissively, but only Tony was close enough to see the sheen of sweat starting on Loki’s upper lip, a sign of how hard he was straining against the net.  At that moment, Q trotted up, wide-eyed and with his tablet clutched under his arm, freezing just behind Trevelyan but not before Loki caught sight of him - or perhaps sensed him with a more primordial sense.  “Ah, that explains it,” Loki continued his lazy monologue, even as Stark began to get the sense that Loki was stalling, trying to think while his mouth worked, “I should be flattered, shouldn’t I?  That it took the work of two New Gods to humble me.”

“I could have totally schooled you by myself,” Tony bit back, because his vocal cords worked before his brain that way.  He actually heard Rogers face-palm, even as Loki turned his attention back down to him and smirked a little.  

“And yet here you are,” he purred teasingly, and it was impossible to tell if he settled more of his weight on Tony to be provocative or because the net was crushing him down.  “Funny how things turn out when you’re dealing with a trickster, isn’t it?”  Suddenly fiercer, perhaps feeling the walls closing in, Loki glared up at everyone around him and bared his teeth suddenly to roar, “Where’s your logic now?”

“Easy, brother,” Thor stepped forward before things could escalate.  Hawkeye already had a bow drawn, aiming it at Loki’s ribcage in the hopes that he could act before the trapped God skewered Tony’s jugular.  Natasha likewise had her gun, walking forward as something hulking and green moved closer through the shadowed alleyway behind her.  In the back of everyone’s mind, however, was where this all had started: capture Loki peacefully, see if there was any hope of rehabilitating him.

Yeah, that had gone over like a house on fire, with plenty of smoke and screaming.  

Thor continued to walk slowly forward, hand out and open as if that somehow made him any less dangerous, but Loki let him get closer than anyone else, barely three paces left between them when Loki actually snarled and Thor stopped.  “No one intends to hurt you, Loki,” he said with tired patience and pain in his voice, “But your reign of chaos and play has come to an end.  It is time to stop.  Let the Man of Iron go.”

“I’ve got a better offer,” Loki replied with a smile that was truly not nice to look at, like it was cut across his face by a razor-blade.  Tony grunted and tried to lean away as the knife shifted, gouging more metal but somehow not getting any closer to his throat.  Huh.  Maybe what Trevelyan said about Loki was on the money after all, if there was some hesitation in the stabbing and exsanguinating department.  “You kindly have Trevelyan’s New God pet come forward and drag this off, and I’ll give you back your Man of Iron in one piece.”  Tony didn’t get time to further contemplate Loki’s restraint because the trickster lost a bit of it right then, dragging the knife to the side in a way that sheared away metal like the lid of a sardine can but also set off a sting of pain across the side of Tony’s throat.  He couldn’t tell how bad it was, but Jarvis was rattling off vital signs to him - most of which told him what he already knew, that he was chock-full of adrenalin.

Everyone immediately began yelling for Loki to just hold his goddamned horses, and even the Hulk saw the need for peaceful negotiation right then, because Banner himself stepped forward, wearing pants that looked stolen but covered him well enough.  

Surprisingly, though, it was Steve who pushed past Thor to stand the closest, mimicking the open-hands appeal with much more effect, because he looked wrecked.  Something scarily intelligent and knowing glinted in Loki’s eyes as he saw the gutted, pale look, and Tony rolled his eyes and internally wished that he wasn’t the damsel in distress here - and that Steve fucking Rogers had a better poker face than to wear his heart on his sleeve.

And wasn’t that last sentence just about too personal to even think about right now?

“All right - all right,” Steve was saying, his voice saying more than his words, than he had no more intention of fighting.  Loki’s smile became a bit more real, a bit less strained like the baring of a cornered dog’s teeth.  Steve looked beyond the hostage situation to where Trevelyan and Fluke were standing apart from the rest of the group, and put on an expression that had probably seen a lot of action in the midst of battlefields - when tough orders had to be given and obeyed.  “Take if off, Fluke,” he demanded, hard and level as steel.

Q jumped, and Trevelyan’s reaction was about as telling as Steve’s was, as his expression became nearly murderous and he broadened his stance - also sidling just a bit more in front of his bookish companion.  The slender New God wasn’t without gumption, however, and a moment later he slipped out from behind the other Brit, placing a hand on his arm and exchanging a few low but heated words.  Perhaps Q should have been the one negotiating, because a second later and he was striding forward on his own, expression almost eerily calm, like an AI sewn into human skin.  He glanced up just once to meet Steve’s eyes, and pursed his lips pensively, the only sign of hesitation before he followed the order and reached down to dangle his long, slim fingers in the trailing edges of the net.  

When Loki turned to look towards his feet, where Q was being careful to stand out of easy reach at the net’s very edge, Steve looked at Tony’s faceplate, hoping to catch his eyes through the bulletproof glass.  ‘Ready?’ he mouthed.

Very carefully, Tony flexed his hand, letting the cell phone slip to the ground so that he could have both hands empty, and close one in a thumbs-up.  

Looking tense and cautious, and like he didn’t agree with this change of plans at all, Q looked at Rogers one last time with an eyebrow eloquently cocked, a wordless, ‘Are you sure about this?’  The knife was still at Tony’s throat, however, pushing through the metal gorget with ease, so Steve just clenched his jaw harder and gave Q another nod.  The British New God shrugged lightly, then tightened his fingers on the net and dragged it back as if it weighed no more than a spider-silk shawl.  Tony, still with his up-close-and-personal view of Loki, was able to see how the Jotun reacted as if a mountain had been dragged off him, however.  In fact, Tony could feel the way Loki’s hand shook, and saw the way his lungs subtly expanded as if a vice had been removed, letting him breathe.  Shit, Tony and Q had done a good job.  

Self-congratulations could come later, though.  For now, Tony waited until Loki’s eyes looked back down at him - gloating now - and the trickster murmured smoothly, “So, Man of Logic - how does it feel to be bested by a Prince of Chaos?”

Tony could feel the knife withdrawing, the slow scrape of it not only vibrating through to his skin but Jarvis giving a quiet but running commentary.  Starting to internally quiver with the urge to move, but holding himself motionless with an internal monologue of ‘Not yet no yet not yet not until the sharp stabbing implement is gone-!’ kept his eagerness at bay.  Still, he retorted, wishing his helm was up so that he could sneer but knowing that his expression would surely give the game away, “Seriously?  ‘Man of Logic’? That’s the best you can come up with?  Q and I must have really knocked you off your game, because I’m at least a King of Logic.  Maybe even some uber-Emperor.”

He might have heard Steve face-palm again.  

Loki, though, grinned - all teeth as if he hadn’t completely shaken off the wolf-coat he’d been wearing, although it seemed a bit saner now that he had the upper hand.  A quick flick of his eyes assured Loki that everyone was still maintaining the status quo, and then he retorted with playful impudence, “Oh, Stark, the day you outrank me is the day I shall laugh indeed.  I laugh now because it will never happen.”

“Keep on laughing, Crazy-train.  We caught you with nothing more than a stolen cell-phone and a fish-net.”

Loki’s smirk became lopsided and indulgent, and he sat back a bit, shifting his weight in a way that made everyone tense, before it became clear that he was just preparing to get up.  Considering his earlier trick of disappearing, it was possible that he wouldn’t even have to break their ranks to escape, especially since Nat and Clint would have to be careful about shooting so close to Tony if they wanted to slow the elder God down.  Tony’s New God status clearly hadn’t made him impervious to collateral damage.  “You didn’t catch me,” Loki sighed as if it were a shame, and withdrew the knife further, while keeping a deceptively lazy eye now on the other Avengers, plus the two Brits.  “And if I thought you had the slightest idea what the phone really was, I’d give you a lecture about just how stupid it was to steal it.”  He cast a somewhat more gimlet eye over his shoulder, where Trevelyan was standing inscrutably, “Isn’t that right, old friend?”

At that moment, Tony judged the knife far enough away to not be… instantly deadly.  He also was betting heavily on another fact, which was proved true a second later.  As Tony suddenly lurched upwards, hands outstretched but repulsors noticeably dormant, Loki swung back to look at him in surprise, and actually yanked his knife hand back even as Tony did his best to lean around it.  As the blade-tip withdrew entirely, Tony locked hands around Loki’s wrists.  

The Iron Man suit was hella strong, but Loki was a powerhouse: when he yanked back, he slipped loose, springing right off Tony like a cat spritzed with water.  He landed with the same inhuman skill, only skidding a little in surprise… and then looking down at his wrists.  

Tony sat up and pushed up his faceplate, to show the full breadth of his shit-eating grin.  “Oops.  Guess we never thought Plan A would work to begin with.  Still feel like laughing, Loki?”

The main reason that Tony hadn’t been using some of the weapons in the Iron Man arsenal was that he and Q had made some modifications: namely, that a part of each gauntlet’s palm was designed to detach, a strip that went from middle finger to the tip of the thumb and formed a neat ring when Tony’s closed hand likewise closed the circuit. Tony’s palms were now a bit barer, but where he’d grabbed Loki’s wrists, he’d left two bracelets behind, hard and snug and infused with so much New God power that the metal was visibly crawling with it.  

Loki just stared for a moment, at a loss for words for an unprecedented full minute before murmuring, low and either wicked or furious, “Oh, Stark, you are interesting.”  And then he lunged.  

No one ever found out whether Loki was going for vengeance or - as Tony stubbornly maintained - just going for the discarded cellphone sitting to Tony’s left, because the instant Loki tensed to spring, Alec whistled.  The noise was pretty loud, but not particularly threatening, and didn’t distract Loki in the slightest, but it set off another unexpected reaction that had everyone freezing in their boots.

Because when Alec whistled, something else answered, something so low it wasn’t a noise anymore, it was an intent.  It rippled through everything, a mute vibrato, and was full of so much utter, unfettered violence that even Thor took a shocked step back, and Loki halted his advance.  He didn’t swivel towards Trevelyan, notably, but instead focused somewhere off to the south, with wide eyes…

Wide eyes that looked a lot like they were terrified.  

The ripple of unutterable violence only lasted a second, but left everyone’s mouth tasting of blood and Natasha frantically working to keep Bruce from going big and green.  It was like being drowned in the thick of a warzone, and even after the tide ebbed, Loki remained standing where he was, tense and panting, and looking more human than Tony had ever seen him.

Of course, thanks to the bracelets, Loki was more human than any of the Avengers had ever seen him, so when Thor recovered first, he had an easy time bolting forward and restraining his brother.  The bracelets weren’t attached - weren’t linked like manacles - so if they didn’t actively inhibit Loki’s godliness, he would still have been a horrific handful.  Instead, his struggles looked kitten-weak against his brother’s deific strength.  With his arms locked around Loki’s torso from behind, managing his renewed struggles, Thor looked… well… thunderously in the same direction Loki had been fixedly staring.  With his hands full of his adopted brother, he couldn’t go for his hammer, but his voice rang out like a pounded anvil, “Show yourself!  I know of no honorable soldiers from Asgard here, far from home.”  His voice lowered to a hard rumble, and Thor’s usual look of an affable golden retriever (a look he could maintain even in the thick of battle) was ripped apart by a tooth-baring snarl, “I know only of traitors.  Come!  Stand and face me.”

Still standing off to the side, Alec Trevelyan measured the situation with his eyes, and gave Q a quick nudge.  “Go.”  His voice was quiet, and he didn’t turn to meet Q’s eyes when the younger New God fixed him with a totally flabbergasted, uncomprehending stare.  “Find James.  Leave.”  Now he turned, worry appearing in the troubled line between his brows as he belatedly caught Q’s gaze.  “But be careful.”

If this was at all part of the plan, it was a Trevelyan-only-plan, because Q looked just as confused as everyone else.  However, after briefly beetling his brows at his companion, Q disappeared from Trevelyan’s side, trotting down a side-alley before taking another turn - south.  Then he was lost from sight, and Tony wasn’t good enough at this godly-powers-sensing-thing to track him.  

Thor could sometimes be incredibly dense, but he wasn’t stupid, and in fact seemed to get miraculously smarter whenever situations became dangerous: with his brawny arms still locked around his wriggling brother, Thor was now glaring at Trevelyan.  “You know to whom I call.  I know of all the soldiers so far from Asgard, and none should be here - save traitors, working beyond the orders they have been given,” he stated accusingly.  

When Thor was in a dangerous situation, he also forgot his own strength a bit, and with his brother essentially “powered down,” that made him very susceptible to squeezing until his eyes bugged out.  Fortunately, Thor heard his brother’s tight wheeze before he crushed him entirely, and loosened his grip with a horrified expression.  As Loki staggered away, choking in air again, Thor stared down as his own arms and hands as if they’d betrayed him.  So far, prophecy hadn’t come with the New God package, but Tony saw a future ahead of them that included repeatedly rescuing Loki from his brother’s own strength.  Fortunately, Loki wasn’t pushing his luck again, especially since the Avengers were ready for him this time, and the bracelets had well and truly settled in - there would be no sudden disappearances or tricks this time.  

Coughing and regaining his lost breath, Loki nonetheless stumbled quite close to Trevelyan, however, and the two seemed to exchange a few brief words before the Avengers closed in.  Suddenly the power of prophecy wasn’t that cool - the power to lip-read, though, Tony would have given an arm and a leg for, however, as he caught a strangely-not-furious Cheshire grin on Loki’s face, and a briefly reflective grin on Trevelyan’s that disappear to a glower as Loki said something else.  Suddenly quite grim, the blond-haired Old God stepped back.  “He’s all yours,” Trevelyan addressed the Avengers at large, although his eyes fell mostly on Tony and Steve.  The latter made sense - Steve just about screamed ‘leadership material’ even to strangers - but Tony wasn’t sure what to make of the attention he himself was getting.  Trevelyan wasn’t exactly going to explain that either, as he instead went on just as seriously, “I know that I’m not one to lecture on people keeping their word, but I expect you not to turn around and kill him-”  Trevelyan tipped his chin towards Loki.  “-As soon as I leave.”  He paused, flicked his eyes to Loki, who had on a carefully unreadable mask and a small smirk that may or may not have been real.  Taking in the expression, Trevelyan shrugged and amended, “Or try to kill him anyway.”

That was not particularly encouraging.  Although, considering that Trevelyan was as much a liar and trickster as Loki, it could have been a bluff.  

“We’re not in the business of killing people,” Steve stepped in immediately, full of patriotism and honor and good ole’ American glory in an instant.  It was rather fun to watch, really, and Tony smiled with amusement as he finally stood and flexed his limbs a little, making sure that there wasn’t more damage to the suit than just Loki’s moment of threatening knife-play.  Steve, meanwhile, continued firmly, “We wanted him off the streets so that he couldn’t cause any more problems, and we’ve got that.  Now, he’s our responsibility, and we’ll look after him.”

“Why do I suddenly feel like the stray cat everyone has just adopted?” Loki murmured, sotto voce, before looking innocent when everyone turned eyes on him.  The idea of ‘adopting’ someone who was generally accepted to be a madman had everyone a little uncomfortable, so some of those eyes held glares, to which Loki just raised his hands in a ‘Don’t blame the messengers’ kind of gesture.  The movement made the bracelets on his wrists glint, the lines of code and energy spelling out quiet, complex sentences that Tony could interpret even from here.  Lines that said Loki was bluffing and Trevelyan was, too, because the Jotun was as powered-down as a battery-less cell-phone, the New God magic tracing a labyrinthine but eminently logical maze around and around and around again as it walled off Loki’s own abilities deep beneath his skin.  

Tony felt so giddy he could have danced, and it took a serious amount of effort not to at least punch the air.  

Trevelyan’s hooded eyes took everything in for a few moments more: Steve’s iron resolve and heart on his sleeve; Barton’s tolerant resignation to follow orders; Natasha and Bruce standing together with looks of patient acceptance on their otherwise guarded faces; Tony's probably-rather-naked look of euphoria that came more from doing something genius than seeing an opponent brought low; Thor’s still-thunderous look as he glanced off to the south, where the aura of war and violence was already fading, too fast for him to hunt down, unless he wished to leave his brother, whose new defenselessness left him obviously uncomfortable.  

Loki was wearing a cool smile that hid the way he held his body with impeccable stillness, a glass vase aware of how easily it could tip off the shelf with one stray wobble.  

His own expression impenetrable, Trevelyan thought, and then flashed a broad smile that seemed to - and probably did - come out of nowhere.  “He’s all yours then.  Cheers.  Don’t blame me when he drives you all insane within the week.”

And with that, he loped off towards where he’d stashed his bike, disappearing far too easily for a man of his size on a bright sunny day.  

~^~

 

Interjection: The conversation between Alec and Loki

~^~

 

Loki’s smile twitched and became a few fractions more real as he escaped his brother’s crushing hug and got within whispering distance of Alec Trevelyan.  “I’m going to repay you for this, in such a way that you wish you’d never considered this stunt.”

“Oh, you think that this was my idea?”  When Loki just scoffed, Alec went on defensively, “Believe it or not, this is actually for your own good.  You had to realize that it was only a matter of time before they caught up with you anyway, but thankfully, they’re not of a mind to skin you alive now that they’ve done it.  Think of this is a vacation.”

“Doesn’t that sound lovely, vacationing amidst a pack of morally overdeveloped do-gooders.”  Loki’s sarcasm was thick enough to just about drip.  “And you didn’t feel the need to discuss this change of lifestyle with me beforehand?  Hmm?  Just luring me into a trap seemed the better way to go?”

I’m a trickster-god like you, remember?”  Alec pointed at himself, adding, “I’m like your shameless, fibbing, pyrotechnic cousin.  If we met up and didn’t try to make each other’s life hell, there’d be something wrong with us.”

“Touche,” Loki took that remarkably well.  In fact, he was taking all of this remarkably well, his flashes of very real fear and anger balancing out with a kind of eager anticipation, like a fox easing past the hound to get to the henhouse - would the gain be worth the risk?  There was only one way to find out, and Loki was almost more addicted to risking his neck than Alec was.  “I suppose I can trust in Thor’s disgusting level of brotherly affection, and the super-soldier’s prizeworthy moral compass to keep me from being torn limb-from-limb.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Alec grinned proudly, and perhaps a bit smugly, because it wasn’t every day that he came out on top against a Jotun.  Loki was older than he, after all, and from different roots, even if they were a godly example of convergent evolution.  “And, coincidentally, you’ll now be a lot closer to a certain New God.”  

Loki’s eyebrows jumped up, as if to say, ‘Are you serious?’ before his expression became something more heavy-lidded and thoughtful.  “Another good point,” he murmured, eyes flicking as if against their will towards Iron Man.  Loki looked peeved again when he turned back to Alec, however, adding sharply, “If you ever use that monster of a partner of yours against me again, don’t count on me falling for it.”

Alec’s smile froze, as if winter had frosted a leaf’s edge so quickly that it couldn’t fall off the tree entirely.  “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Good, then I’ll give you some advice - some advice beyond ‘Don’t involve war-gods unless you want me to skin them with their own knives’.”  At Loki’s xyresic tone, Alec’s smile got a bit more brittle, until it looked like it had been cut with a knife itself, no humor left in it.  Tricksters had capacious senses of humor, but woe-betide when two of them both lost the ability to laugh at a situation.  Fortunately, as soon as he’d made his threat clear - a rather empty threat so long as he was confined, but as sincere as the baring of a cornered dog’s teeth - Loki backed off a little, finishing, “You and James aren’t the only Old Gods to realize the benefits of teaming up with a New God, and I’m not talking about myself – and I’m not talking about doing it for fun.”  Despite the bracelets tamping down on his power, Loki’s eyes flashed an unsettling, impossible shade of green for a second, like a grackle feather catching the light.  “I’m talking about for power, and some don’t take kindly to having part of their team permanently removed.  Keep that in mind.”

Alec, smile a distant memory, met Loki’s gaze evenly and thought of Q, whom he’d been protecting and watching over ever since he’d killed Moran in Bosnia.  “I have been,” he replied like a low rumble of thunder, thankful for the warning, even though he’d hoped that it was nothing but his own paranoia.

Unfortunately, for all that Loki loved to lie, when the truth honestly caused more chaos than the falsehoods…

The danger was probably very, very real, just like Alec had feared.

~^~

 

Chapter Text

Having Loki at Stark Tower… was not unlike having a very new, very prickly, and often very shy Siamese cat.  The bracelets locked around each of his wrists kept him powered down, but while that theoretically made him harmless, it also made him twice as defensive, which in turn made everyone begin to wonder if Loki would have been easier to handle with godly powers rather than an ungodly attitude.  Fortunately, Loki’s go-to trick soon became avoidance.  Measures had been put in place to keep Loki from leaving Stark Towers, but that still provided a plethora of hiding places that Loki began to use unashamedly.  Thor spent most of his time looking for him (which perhaps encouraged Loki to hide).  Barton, on the other end of the spectrum, avoided Loki like a venereal disease, having the most reason to hate Loki after the mind-control incident.  

Steve found himself playing referee.  Since it was quickly proven that even Jotun Gods did need to eat, the best technique Steve found for keeping track of Loki (or at least monitoring that he was still in the Tower and alive) was to force him to show his face for meals.  This, of course, forced everyone into the same room, because if anyone was eating elsewhere, that provided an opportunity for Loki to also scavenge meals elsewhere and thus avoid checking in.  Barton was the biggest culprit in that case, although Steve suspected that when Loki didn’t appear for days, he was also stealing food from Stark - both scientists had a habit of taking food to their respective lairs, then forgetting about it and getting so absorbed in their work that a Tyrannosaurus Rex could have stolen their meal and they’d never have noticed.  Loki was decidedly more subtle than an appendage-challenged dinosaur, leaving Steve at his wits' end, and more than a bit worried that they’d lose him.

The only person perhaps more troubled by Loki’s newfound and frankly astounding reclusiveness was Thor.  

“Loki’s nervous,” the super-soldier tried to explain to a frustrated Thor, who’d just spent a full three hours fruitlessly searching for his adopted brother.  No one had tried to attack the world lately, so everyone was experiencing some down-time - and Thor was experiencing a heightened sense of brotherly (adopted-brotherly) separation anxiety.  Steve elaborated with as much patience as possible, “Natasha just left this morning to inform Fury that we have a Jotun on our hands, and he’s worried about what that will mean for him.”  They’d put that particular announcement off as long as possible, but it had been inevitable - and clearly Loki hadn’t approved.  

Thor frowned.  His next sentence proved that he at least understood the significance of that statement, however, “We are brothers.  Surely he does not think I would turn him over to the One-Eyed One?”  Thor appeared to miss the reference to their father, whom Loki seemed to have been left to all too often.  Now that Loki was around (‘around’ being a loose term), the blond-haired Asgardian had taken to storytelling, and the disturbing part was that half the stories seemed to have a rather ambiguous ending where Loki was concerned.  The more he talked about it, the more Thor seemed to guiltily realize it, too, but he was still a bit blind when it came to thinking about his adopted brother’s unpleasant childhood.

Sighing, Steve nodded reluctantly and decided to leave the daddy-issues alone.  “He doesn’t realize that yet.  Like I said, this is new to him.  I get the feeling he hasn’t had allies in quite some time-”  That felt diplomatic, and Steve gave himself a metaphorical pat on the back for phrasing it so well.  “-And to be fair, he’s a bit of a prisoner right now.”  

When Thor glowered and opened his mouth to argue, Tony strolled in from the next room and chirruped helpfully and without invitation, “Your brother’s unplugged from all of his godly powers, and Jarvis and I can ping where he is at all times through his new fashion accessories.  Sorry to break it to you, Goldilocks, but that translates to ‘prisoner’ for now.”  Steve sat back on his chair with a sigh, asking himself why he bothered with diplomacy when he had Stark ready to just waltz in and say stuff like that.  

“But…  Man of Iron,” Thor tried, scrambling for a way to win this and appeal to Tony, since Steve was already nodding in reluctant agreement with the statement, “You yourself know what it is like to be a prisoner-”

“And I don’t wish that on anyone,” Tony cut him off, voice suddenly brittle and harsh.  Steve stiffened, turning.  But Tony just kept talking as he fiddled with the DVD player below the television, back to them, the line of his spine a taut curve.  “But either we keep Loki in our friendly little prison, or we let him run amok until we have to beat his ass.  Note-”  Tony turned around, raising one finger and one eyebrow, “-That I didn’t include any option for handing him over to Fury.  I’m in total agreement there.  Furiosa and S.H.I.E.L.D. can kiss my ass before they take something that’s mine.”

While Steve and Thor exchanged rather dumbfounded looks and wondered if Tony had really thought through his wording all the way, Tony went back to fiddling with the DVD player, pushing in a disk that soon started playing Lilo and Stitch.

~^~

Q was going to have a harsh talk with 006 about the importance of sharing one’s plans with one’s comrades, because while Q had been the one to call and request James’s assistance, he hadn’t known that this would happen.

That wave of almost physical violence had retreated, but Q could still feel it in the air, hot and fetid like a monster’s breath - and he knew that it was James.  Q had a pretty good sense of what MI6’s two Old Gods ‘felt’ like, sensing them like chaotic points of fire in a world that was growing progressively more linear and logical.  Right now, he was sensing a 007-shaped bonfire, and if that wasn’t unsettling enough, Alec Trevelyan had told him to be careful.  If Alec was giving advice like that, there was reason to worry, and Q felt that reason more and more tangibly the further south he got, eventually finding James Bond.  

By that point, Q’s hands were twitching, not so much out of nervousness but as a physical calling of power; he was catching the ambient lines of New Power around him, tugging them close like threads that he wove into a cocoon.  The barrier provided something of a buffer between himself and whatever James was radiating, although he still sensed that he was walking into a pocket of Old Power, like a pocket of chaos dragged right out of the Middle Ages - when people still told stories of dragons, and waged wars with swords and arrows and teeth and claws.  

Bond was standing in the middle of an empty lot, a construction site presently empty - either by good timing, or because of something James had done.  Dressed impeccably as usual, he looked terribly out of place, but Q’s senses were screaming that there was a lot more wrong here than seeing an Armani suit amidst rebar and dust.  Somehow, Q’s eyes kept seeing something else, like a filter over his eyes or a transposed image, the grey of Bond’s suit looked like dull metal, and the dirt at his feet looked red.  

“007?” Q asked, holding tight to his calm, unflappable ‘Quartermaster persona’ even as he felt like a solitary ice-cube being floated into the belly of hell.

The double-images faded, and the sensations of heat and wrath decreased another notch.  They still weren't gone, but the decrease was enough that Q didn’t feel quite so much like he needed to defend himself.  Q breathed a tiny sigh of relief that he’d deny later.  This wasn’t the same as when he’d had to deal with Alec overloaded with power - but it was close, and it gave him a place to begin his analysis of the situation.  Now that Bond was no longer choking the air with Old Power, Q was pretty sure that this was still just Bond: he hadn’t eaten any other Old Gods, or dedicated an entire war to himself to get an energy boost.  However, that left Q a little bit awed, because the most logical explanation was that this was James at his rawest and most true.  

“Next time, I would like to be informed of precisely when and where you’re going to reveal yourself as a war-god,” Q requested primly, putting the pieces together into an educated guess.

A correct guess, if James’s slow nod was any indication.  Between blinks, his eyes glowed, flickering as if he were struggling to keep the inhuman light in.  “I assumed that Alec had warned you,” he intoned lowly.  There was something unrecognizable in his voice, something old, that made Q shiver from a mixture of feelings.  

Q chanced a small, dry grin and continued walking closer, slipping in past a gate that looked as though the chain holding it closed had been twisted apart.  “I should have realized that Alec is not the explaining type.  I suppose this option was more… chaotically appealing,” he said wryly.  He watched as James braced his feet, widening his stance once Q was within a few strides, so the boffin halted.  “Are you all right?” he had to ask.  

James cocked his head, a muscle in his jaw working as if he were sincerely considering this - and either he was having a hard time coming up with a good answer, or was having a hard time processing the language.  Q wondered if this was like James when he was out of his head in other ways, when he’d switch languages without thinking.  Quickly stumbling through the files of his memory, Q came up with some new knowledge that he’d just recently cobbled together, and wet his lips before saying uncertainly, “Hvat segir þú?”

Surprise and interest immediately flashed across James’s face, and his demeanor returned somewhat closer to normal.  At the very least, between one blink and the next, his eyes were a normal human shade, and after a moment of hesitation, a chuckle rolled up his throat.  James stuffed his hands into his pockets, and Q relaxed at the less militaristic pose.  “I’m fine, Q,” he responded, something sharp in his smile still but warmth in his voice, “Your accent is atrocious, by the way.”

“I haven’t exactly spent all of my time polishing up my old Norse,” Q defended, “I have a Branch to run, after all.”

Merciless, James arched a brow, adding, “And you realize that that was the formal version of that question?  Surely we know each other better than that.”

The air rippled, an aftershock of dangerous pressure, and Q weathered it with a momentary pursing of his lips.  James was acting more normal, but he wasn’t quite back yet, and that was probably why Alec had sent Q to go find him - that, and because of Thor, who had opened up an entire angry can of worms that Q didn’t have time to parse out yet.  “Come on,” Q commanded, with the arch, light tone of one expecting to be obeyed, as if he were in the heart of his Branch instead of sharing space with a riled Old God.  “Let’s get you out of the public eye until we can fix this.”

Something dangerous glinted, like playful firelight on a knife-blade as it tilted, when James cocked his head.  “What’s to fix?” he said with a quirk of his mouth that held a gallows kind of humor that Q didn’t like.  

The New God flushed and grimaced.  “Ah… Poor word-choice.  But I’d feel rather badly if we stayed here and you started a war.”

It was a bad sign that James didn’t appear bothered by that, instead just shifting his weight to his other foot, looking indolent and lazy and damn strong.  “And what’s the other option?” he had the decency to ask.

Q felt his heart give a little flutter in his chest, and he felt, too, the sensation of stepping out on a glass bridge that he didn’t know would hold him.  “Well, the other option is that I drive us to a hotel and see if I can’t handle this the way we handled Alec when he was… a little bit too hot to handle.”

~^~

James had behaved remarkably well in the car, although it had felt an awful lot like walking with a leashed lion behind him, as dangerous by nature as a volcano was, the eruption barely contained and bubbling up even still.  The perspective of being in an enclosed space with this was almost terrifying, and yet the tiny part of Q that would undoubtedly get him kill gloriously at a young age was also buzzing with excitement.  Q had been naively cocky on that first day he’d met 007, thinking that he could handle him, and he could feel history repeating itself…

The moment they got into the hotel room (Q misusing his powers a bit to book it as they drove, also reserving the adjoining rooms in case of fallout), the Old God crowded Q up against the closed door, pushing Q’s messenger bag off his shoulder and bracing his hands on either side of Q’s head.  “Like with Alec?” he returned to Q’s earlier pronouncement, this time with patent disbelief in his voice.

Q met his eyes evenly, daring to raise his chin a bit, too.  This really was history repeating itself, in that first hotel room, where Old and New had met with exciting consequences.  “Yes.  I believe you recall the details?”  Q did; a threesome like that was hard to forget.  

The sexual content implied in the statement didn’t distract James, but it did make his eyes go hot again, the irises so pale blue as to be nearly colorless from this close, crystalline and intense.  Some of his power got loose again, like a storm that he couldn’t quite contain, making his eyes flash for a second and his muscles quiver.  “Q, you’ve trusted me with a lot before, but you’ve not let a war-god fuck you yet,” Bond warned, voice rough and wrecked and low, even as he pushed his body closer to Q’s, caging him against the wall as if he didn’t want him to escape.

Pulling on his logic like someone with a fever breathing in cold air, Q remained pliant, even tilting his head back in an intrinsically vulnerable move to let James nuzzle at the side of his throat.  “I trust you,” he said, meaning it, “You’ve never hurt me.”

Bond’s contemplative hum was low, almost subsonic, a timbre no human throat should have been able to make.  “Tonight I might,” he said against the soft hollow under Q’s ear.

A shudder ran down Q’s spine and made him squirm, but instead of letting 007 back up, he reached up and hooked his hands around the back of James’s broad shoulders, indicating his desire for the Old God to stay.  “That would scare me, if I thought that you were truly not yourself - you’re hardly manic,” Q intoned in a steady voice, then sucked in a little gasp as James nipped hard at one of the tendons that ran up the side of his neck.

When James answered, there was something of a double-harmonic in his voice, as if Q were hearing the Old God rising up behind the man Bond pretended to be, “That’s the dangerous part, Q.  Right now, I’m more myself than you’ve ever seen me.  Do you really want to tempt something like that into bed with you?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t find this a bit frightening, do you?”

“I do,” Q admitted, squirming a little, because as much as he found it scary, part of him also found it arousing, like looking straight at a fire for the first time; it was making his clothing feel too tight, his trousers in particular.  James’s smothering presence and constant friction wasn’t helping.  “But I’m pretty sure that if you were truly out of control, and therefore a real threat to my continued well-being, we wouldn’t be talking about sex.  I’d be trying to keep you from throwing New York into a state of civil war.”  

Face still pressed up against Q’s neck as if he liked it there, James chuckled, wicked but amused.  His breath felt as hot as an exhaling kiln, threatening the carefully crafted cold of Q’s New God logic.  “Touche.”

“So, the question now is,” Q said, keeping his thoughts focused with a bit of effort, trying to find some pattern within the curling arcs of power he could feel radiating  from Bond’s body, “what do you want?”  He stroked a hand down James’s shoulder blade, fingers curled, trying to straighten out the matted strips of Old God power into something reasonable.

They immediately coiled back into place like brambles, wild and untamable.  

Bond removed his hands from their place against the wall alongside Q’s head and instead wrapped them around Q’s waist, pulling him closer as he rumbled, “I want to be your god for tonight.”  

And at Q’s noise of assent, James’s hands slipped lower, grabbing Q’s thighs and hiking him up off the ground so quickly that Q squeaked.  The wall at his back and James’s solid strength at his front kept him balanced, however, even as his feet left the floor, and soon Q had his legs wrapped around 007’s waist with almost desperate tightness.  The matrix of logic at his core shook, then stabilized, as he rested his hands on either of Bond’s collarbones and looked down at him expectantly.  

For a moment, Bond just watched him, thumbs idly stroking the outer seam of Q’s trousers, grinding their bodies together in a way that made Q see sparks and made it harder and harder to think in logical patterns and lines.  From the moment Q had met up with him, James’s eyes had been filled with a wild, banked heat, like fire under purest blue glass, and the glow of it now was pronounced - unearthly.  The next blink left behind an iris of neon blue.  This was James when he wasn’t bothering so much with his human facade, and Q felt a thrill run up his spine even as James murmured with a crooked little grin, “Last chance, Q.  Is this a war you want to get involved in?”

“This is a war I intend to win,” Q was cocky enough to shoot back.

James’s smile spread and grew… fondly amused.  “You New Gods are so full of yourselves,” he muttered wryly, then surged forward to capture Q’s lips in an open-mouthed kiss, and the moment they connected, it was like James exhaled pure power.  

Q had played this game before - with both James and Alec - and knew to watch out for their tricks, to avoid being marked until he was good and ready.  But he’d never been with James like this before, and had never met up with an Old God’s power unmitigated by a mark.  The rush of it was so sudden and unexpected that Q gasped, involuntarily inhaling all that wild power deep into his chest before he could think better of it.  James freed one hand to wrap it snugly around Q’s throat, like a collar to bottle it all in, even as Q’s body shuddered and his eyes rolled up into his head.  He’d just swallowed pure alcohol, lit kerosine, a thunderstorm - all that unholy sapphire light that lived behind Bond’s eyes and beneath his camouflage of flesh.  Usually, James was wary of using up too much power, but he’d been asked to call upon his inner nature, and it made him reckless now like a avalanche pushed into motion.  Still holding Q up with one hand under his thigh and by pure proximity, and encircling Q’s throat possessively with his other hand, the Old God watched his New God lover as Q’s eyelids fluttered and his head rocked back, all of him fighting and being overwhelmed all at once.  

Q felt all of his powers, all of his logic, blink out one by one like stars before the storm of the century.  

God…” Q breathed, and didn’t know whether he was swearing out of shock or praying out of reverence, as the blackout became total and he felt Bond take over everything.

Bond spun them around and they toppled onto the hotel bed, Bond’s weight crashing down on top of Q’s and momentarily making it impossible to struggle any of their clothes off.  James just kept kissing him, nipping at Q’s lips and licking into his mouth, as if the Old God were sharing in the supernatural liquor he’d just poured down Q’s throat.  Q’s brain honestly didn’t reboot enough to allow him to move until about five heartbeats later, but when he remembered how to move - his limbs feeling at once electrified and heavy, Old Power extending within them like phantoms - he began to tug and pull at Bond’s clothing in a frenzy.  If this was how James was going to play, then Q wasn’t going to stand on ceremony or bother with playing patient.  James, for once, was of like mind, and the two stripped each other with all the grace and speed of adolescent lovers chasing their first time.  

But Q should have known that that wouldn’t last.  James was a war-god, and that meant two things: firstly, that his mind was built upon strategy, and that would never fail until the moment his last light faded and he died - and secondly, that he’d play fast and dirty and anything in between if it meant victory.  

The moment the last article of clothing had been kicked to the floor, James’s expression suddenly lit with a small, Cheshire grin, just a bare second before Q felt power coil in his gut - Old Power, thick and almost too warm, as if James had put a hand inside of him - then flex.  James liked to use his power like a puppetmaster’s strings during sex, but mostly just to annoy Q, keeping him from touching himself, or wiggling when James didn’t want him to.  Now, though, all of Q’s limbs suddenly acted without his consent, extending outwards as if strong hands had gripped them.  He could all but feel James’s fingers, latched around ankles and wrist, but the touch went deeper, a tattoo upon his bones, power working from the inside.  It wasn’t until Q was spread-eagled, as open and vulnerable as one could possibly be, that James’s power stilled.  

James knelt over him, a nude statue of a conqueror, and for a brief second, fear warred with awe as Q looked up at him: irises a thin, glowing ring of white-blue beneath a crown of golden hair; broad chest and shoulders, bare and containing the power to crush Q even if they belonged to just a normal human being; powerful, tensed thighs leading up to a cock that stood proud and upright with interest and intent, which would have been lewd if it weren’t intimidatingly beautiful.  

Reaching down with a hand, James dragged just one finger along Q’s side, from under his ribs to the delicate valley in the lee of a hipbone.  The gesture was so unexpectedly gentle that Q felt his breath shudder, and his emotions fell into an eager, glowing tangle, fear forgotten.  “James, please,” he whispered, very softly, his own eagerness making heat pool like something liquified at the base of his spine.  

James’s expression grew less aloof, less like a monument to warlords and more like a benevolent god.  He leaned down over Q - not touching, maddeningly - and just barely sealed their lips together in a lilac-sweet kiss.  Q strained for more, but his limbs were locked in place by manacles that may as well have been interwoven into his very bones, and the rest of his body was trapped in the middle.  

And James knew it.  And another thing he knew how to do was savor a victory.  He drew back to smile jauntily down at Q’s flushed face, eyes half-lidded but still simmering with blue light.  “You couldn’t break free even if you wanted to,” he said, gently but devastatingly.  Q’s cock stiffened further with a little jump.  Bond lowered his body just slightly until Q’s cock dragged against his abdominal muscles, and Bond’s own sat hot and heavy against the crease of Q’s thigh.  “You could fight and thrash, and you’d never move an inch from this spot.”  He searched Q’s face, smiled a bit more, then pronounced with a voice that had grown husky with desire, “But you won’t.”  This time it was James who shuddered, looking at what he’d done - what he’d captured, what he’d won.  Q just gazed back up at him, panting fast and shallow as anticipation threatened to eat him alive.  He took the next kiss that James gave him gladly, starting to feel the familiar, almost intoxicating rush that came from James’s power rising up to meet him like a magnet drawing metal shavings, making Q’s skin tingle and come electrically alive every time they touched.  It made his lips feel on fire long before James pulled back and kept up his sweet torture, “You’ll revel in it and sing my name as I take you as high as you think you can go - then higher.  As I do it again just as you start to drop, just as you start to feel the sun singe your wings, Icarus.”  Bond nicknamed Q with loving warmth, and leaned in to nose at his cheek, creating a momentary counterpoint to the lust, deepening it and broadening it into something three-dimensional.  This encounter had started with all the sharp edges of an impending fight, but there was nothing that soothed a war-god like victory, and James was showing his gratitude in little ways.  “You’re going to sing for me until your voice gives out, and I’m going to steal it all from your lips as my due.”  Enough heat in his eyes to burn, James drew back just inches, so that they were nearly nose to nose, eye to eye.  James said, that double-harmonic adding a low treble echo to his voice - something ancient, something other, something as beautiful as the claws of a tiger, “How does it feel to be a war-prize, Q?”

~^~

“Jarvis…?”  Steve knocked his knuckles uncertainly against the wall, still not used to having a servant in the house, much less a completely computerized one with no body.  “Can you tell me where Loki is?  Nat just got back.”  And apparently Fury was willing to let the matter drop, or at least let the Avengers handle things.  Steve wasn’t sure he believed a word of that, but at least it meant that they had some breathing room for the moment, where Loki was concerned.  If Fury had demanded that they turn the Jotun God over, Steve was sure that they’d have had a fight on their hands, because Stark seemed to be growing attached, Thor was full of brotherly valour and protectiveness, Banner saw ‘potential scientific experiment material’ if S.H.I.E.L.D. got Loki, and Steve was determined to keep his word to Trevelyan, about not hurting Loki once they had him.  

Natasha and Barton were wild cards, but that was why Steve was grateful that Fury hadn’t pushed the matter.  He wondered in a vague sort of way what Nat had said to Fury…

“Yes, Captain Rogers,” came Jarvis’s ever-polite voice back, eerily out of nowhere as usual, “One moment.”  One moment became two, became a drawn-out three, and right about when Steve began to get curious, Jarvis spoke again in a tone that could almost be described as chagrined, “I’m afraid, Captain, that… I cannot locate him.”

The super-soldier snapped to attention, even though he was more or less staring at the ceiling and felt ridiculous.  “What do you mean you can’t locate him?” he asked with growing dread like a hole in his stomach.  

“I’m contacting Master Stark,” Jarvis assured, “On occasions when Loki has escaped my sensors, he has always managed to locate Loki manually.”

“He… what?”

“Master Stark is able to sense the locations of the inhibitor cuffs that Loki wears.  It appears to be an inherent trait, part of his condition as a New God,” Jarvis explained as if this were only natural, and as if Loki’s before-unmentioned disappearing acts were old news.  

Collecting himself and trying to stay calm, if only because he’d had a lot of experience in learning that getting excited rarely helped things, Steve swallowed a few times, then asked slowly, “How often does Loki… escape your sensors?  Has it been going on long?”

“Nearly since he arrived,” Jarvis said.  It was frustrating how unreadable his tone was, just the barest shift in pitch perhaps giving away some shadow of discomfiture at the imparted knowledge.  “Fortunately, he has not managed to evade sensors skillfully enough to escape, although that is largely due to the fact that Master Stark’s abilities are more dependable.”

“So…”  Steve tried to catch up.  “Your cameras can’t always find Loki, but Tony always can?”

“Correct.  Master Stark also reports that Loki is in the lab.”  Jarvis paused, and if he were a person, Steve would have thought he were thinking something over.  Most likely, however, he was simply receiving input from wherever Stark was.  After a moment, Jarvis’s voice continued, “I would recommend you go to the lab yourself, Captain Rogers.  The fact that Loki is in it already is something of a mystery, because Master Stark was actually three floors above that, and the lab was locked.  He might need assistance.”

“On it,” Steve sighed obediently, starting off… then pausing.  “Um… which lab are we talking about?”

 

Chapter Text

“So you’re saying you have no idea how he got in here?” Steve asked, low and steady, looking very much like a rigid toy soldier with his carefully blank face and stiff stance.

Tony sucked in a breath, tried to think of a good answer, then gave it all up again with a sharp exhale.  “Yeah, that’s pretty much what I’m saying.  But hey, he’s still in the Tower, right?”

By the look Rogers turned his way, he didn’t seem as impressed as Tony had hoped.  Looking forward through the bulletproof, transparent, still-locked doors and into the lab, where a familiar head of black hair was visible just over the back of Tony’s favorite couch, Steve intoned with every evidence of calm, “Natasha managed to keep Fury at bay.  Loki’s safe, so long as he’s here, at least.”

“So long as it’s convenient for Fury, you mean,” Tony retorted on reflex, and was surprised when Steve didn’t argue, merely sighed and then nodded minutely.  For a super-soldier who was a stickler for rules and seemed to love authority, that nod was tantamount to mutiny, and Tony couldn’t help but stare for a second before switching his attention back to the problem at hand: Loki.  “How about I take a crack at him?”

Steve turned to look away from the lab for the first time, brows furrowing.  “Who?  Fury?”

“Ha - no,” Tony corrected, pulling back his lips to show his teeth in an expression not meant to be mistaken for a smile, “Natasha has told me that I’m bad for Director Angry’s blood-pressure, and I’m unilaterally opposed to sitting and talking like a nice-person with someone who’s tried to manipulate me on multiple occasions.”  Before Steve’s morals could get tangled up over who to defend in this conversation, Tony pushed onwards, crossing his arms and trying not to look defensive.  “I meant Loki.  You’re always the one talking to him, so why don’t I give it a try?”

Now Steve looked unsure, glancing between Tony and their newly acquired Jotun God.  “I’d hardly call what I do ‘talking to him’,” the blond-haired man hedged, shifting his weight in a way that looked adorable, probably because it was a gesture that belonged on pre-Serum Steve, whom Tony had never met, but had heard about and imagined sometimes.  “I’d call it forcing him to come into the kitchen or starve, and then wondering if this is what a parent feels like when their kid hits their teenage years,” Steve grumbled morosely.  

Tony couldn’t stifle a chuckle.  “How about you let someone who went through those teenage years give it a go?” he volleyed back.

Periwinkle-blue eyes had the good sense to look offended.  “I was a teenager, too.”

“Yeah, but I bet you were a goody-two-shoes - and besides, I’m the one who designed this entire building, so I’m the one who should question how the hell Lokes in there keeps bypassing things,” Tony said to close the conversation, before giving an insouciant little waggle of his fingers that could pass as a wave, and brushing past the larger man to open up the lab’s lock with a brush of his hand and a press of his newly-found powers.

Damn but being a god was cool.

~^~

Loki had been dressing in civilian clothes pretty much since they’d gotten him, and that was probably when things had started to feel odd.  At first, when Loki had been brought back to the Avengers’ tower, he’d seemed haughty and almost smug, like he’d planned it this way all along - but then, Tony suspected, reality had set in, starting with sweatpants and a T-shirt.  Not that Loki didn’t make them look like something a supermodel would wear, but there was still that out-of-place sensation every time Tony looked over and saw that aristocratic face and proud green eyes without the attire to match.  

“Hey there, reindeer games, how’s it hangin’?” Tony said, because internal turmoil never stopped his mouth much.

Despite having had his back turned this whole time, Loki didn’t seem surprised, although as soon as Tony rounded the couch, Loki kept his eyes on him with transparent wariness.  “If by that you’re interested in knowing my present condition,” he minced the words out, clearly unimpressed, “then I suppose that the colloquial answer would be…” Loki pretended to chew it over, as if he weren’t already a master at American speech while Thor still struggled with simple slang.  “Oh yes: It’s none of your business?”

“For the record, the fact that you’re in my lab - my space-” Tony made clear, even as he made his way to a workbench a ways away and leaned back on it, facing Loki but giving him some room, “-Means I get to be nosy.  House rules.”

“Any other rules I should be aware of?”  The sly bite in Loki’s voice had Tony’s mind growing more alert, although he kept his expression calm.  In the days after his kidnapping and subsequent messy escape in the desert, Tony had learned a lot about how the mind reacted to fear and stress, even when there was no enemy attacking.  So while he hadn’t been chasing Loki like Thor, or mothering him like Steve, Tony had been watching - and now he recognized the sharpness in Loki’s voice that spoke of a helluva lot of thorns growing underneath.  It wasn’t healthy.  And Tony was an expert at not healthy.  

So, with a bit of focus on his part, he relocked the doors to the lab to make sure that Den Mother Rogers couldn’t get in, and then decided to work on those repressed emotions in the most efficient way possible.  By poking at them until they all swarmed out.  Tony was good at that kind of thing.

“Nah,” Tony made a dismissive negative noise, flicking a hand, but then grinning smugly and going on, “Although Nat’s been talking about adding you to the chore wheel.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Tony savored the offended confusion he saw for a moment, then pressed on eagerly, “Hey, if you live here, you do chores - whine all you want, but there’s no escaping it.  And if you think you’re going to just keep hiding and not clean, well...”  Tony paused, taking in the narrowed eyes that seemed to be on the verge of spitting affronted green fire at him.  “Here’s the part where you refuse to admit that you’re hiding.”

Perhaps this was what it meant to be a chaos-god, but Loki didn’t take the expected path, although he also stayed very cranky looking - like a black cat swishing its tail in warning.  “I am hiding,” he defended with frosted coolness, and perhaps some pride, “and I happen to be doing it rather well.”  Just as Tony’s mouth opened, quick with a retort, Loki interrupted him smoothly, “Don’t try and tell me that you and the Captain weren’t just now trying to figure out how I’d gotten in here, not only unopposed but undetected.”

Okay, Loki had him there, but Tony was both stubborn and recalcitrant, which meant he’d never seen a challenge he didn’t want to take.  So he slapped on a smile that he knew drove people insane, and pushed himself up onto the table behind him so that he could swing his legs like the insufferable child he was.  “Are you trying to imply that you’ve still got some tricks up your sleeve that we should worry about?  Oh - wait a minute-”  Tony pretended to remember, then shaped one hand into a gun-shape and aimed at Loki’s nearest wrist, with its bracelet singing its binary song, “-All that you’ve got up your sleeve is my tech.  I forgot about that for a sec!  Did you forget that, Loki?”

Those bottled up emotions were rising higher, like a hot water spring threatening to burst, and Tony was distally aware that this should scare him.  He’d always been one for reckless behavior, though, so he purposefully did not look to the lab doors, just in case Steve was starting to bang his head against them in despair.  While Tony grinned insufferably, Loki’s narrow-eyed look became a full-on glare, and he sat up straighter in such a way that made him look like the haughty prince he was, regardless of clothing.  Long-fingered hands braced against the couch.  

“You think that you’ve got me perfectly leashed, don’t you?” Loki chose as his retort, low and slick like the kind of oil you set fire to.  Tony loved fire.  

“Don’t I?  Pretty sure that two New Gods trumps your one Jotun God.”

“You’re just lucky that you and Alec’s dark-haired pet teamed up because-”  Loki leaned forward, steepling his fingers and looking suddenly snakelike and dangerous.  He flicked his eyes briefly to one of the bands that wringed his wrists.  “-If only you had made these, I’d have killed you by now to end the spell.”

Reminding himself of what he’d been learning, bit by bit, about chaos-gods, Tony kept his cool even as he heard the muffled thuds that were probably Serum-enhanced fists on the bullet-proof glass.  “No, you won’t.”

“You think I can’t?”

“Okay, true - I think you can’t,” Tony kept playing the game, having a bit of fun cutting loose for once.  He spent most of his life trying to be less insufferable, but right now, he actually wanted Loki furious with him.  “But I also don’t think it’s in your nature.”

“You know nothing about me,” Loki said, and if the deadly voice wasn’t enough, the upward tick of his mouth would have made Tony’s heart give a leap.  And then there was the glass beaker that exploded three meters away.  

Loki was pissed now, and Tony slid off the table and to his feet even as Loki unfolded with totally unfair elegance to his feet.  He still look smaller, somehow, without his usual garb, but Tony was very aware that ‘smaller’ didn’t necessarily meant weaker - even if it came with power-dampening cuffs.  

Which, as Tony had been suspecting for a while now, weren’t working perfectly.  

“You think me powerless?” Loki challenged, seeming to come alive like a storm, taking a stalking pace forward.  Loki lifted a fist, showing the glinting metal that hugged his skin, and said with a bit more anger yet, “You think that these are enough to contain a god who was old before you were even born?  You New Gods with your hubris.”  Loki made a brief hissing noise past his teeth, and it was hard to tell if the noise was meant to be dismissive or threatening.  “I’m not sure whether you amuse me or sicken me.”

“Fine then, if you’re so high and mighty,” Tony played right back, even as he circled to put his table between them.  Loki kept getting closer, and while Tony did have a plan, he wasn’t taking chances.  He’d never exactly asked Thor about Loki’s fighting prowess, but he had the sinking suspicion that even reduced to normal, human levels, Loki could be pretty dangerous when cornered - and despite Loki’s bravado right now, Tony still knew that Loki was feeling as cornered and threatened as a person could get.  “Why don’t you prove it?  Because I think you’re all talk and no-  Okay, I was going to say cock, but not only does that seem unnecessarily British, but I’ve been going to these classes on sexual harrass-”

The only warning Tony got was one of Loki’s hands curling into a fist, and suddenly the table leg nearest to Tony just so happened to give out.  To the average insurance policy, it looked like just bad timing and a lifetime of stress, but the table also wobbled then and tipped, sending its content sliding like a landslide in Tony’s direction.  As Tony had grudgingly suspected, Loki was a bit much for even the best gadgetry of two New Gods to handle.

Jarvis decided to chime in then.  “Master Stark, I believe it would be prudent to let Captain Rogers in-”

“Standby, Jarvis,” Tony called back, sidestepping neatly and starting to focus on all that he’d learned from Fluke, “This is my party!  Steve can go find his own.”

He was pretty sure that he’d never programmed Jarvis to sigh longsufferingly, but he was also pretty sure he heard it.  “As you wish, Master Stark.”

All of the stuff on the table was tech of some kind, and Tony focused on that, reaching out to the things he’d always been aware of subconsciously his whole life.  The items that had been sliding off the desk to try and swamp his feet suddenly shuddered, slowed, and stopped like a herd of poodles coming up against an invisible fence.  Tony actually laughed out loud in delight, then swiped his hand to one side, parting the metaphorical Red Sea and allowing the gadgetry to sluice around him.  “That was cute,” Tony informed his opponent with a mean little smile, “Not exactly intimidating, but cute.”

“How about this then?” Loki seethed in a deadly quiet tone, and this time he didn’t move at all, but one of Tony’s computers abruptly short-circuited.

“Not cool!” Tony yelped, and the game was on.  

Fighting with a chaos-god was largely one of damage-control and quick reactions, because there was literally no anticipating anything.  It was pretty clear by now that Loki’s cuffs were not one-hundred percent effective, but fortunately, they seemed to be working at roughly ninety percent capacity - so Tony was able to hold his own even as things exploded, broke, or otherwise did unexpected and destructive things.  Tony himself was no stranger to breaking things, so after briefly mourning the blown computer, he dove headlong into the skirmish, stretching his own powers while Loki strained his.  

Tony really got warmed up as he extended his barely-trained senses into the nearest Iron Man suit.  He couldn’t dependably do much more than telekinetically manipulate wires and wifi signals, but there was no time like the present when it came to learning, especially with Loki testing his limits with the kind of fury that usually preceded slow, vindictive murder.  Loki was pissed, but while Tony realized that he himself was just touching the iceberg-y tip of his abilities, it was clear that the chaos-god was already at the end of his rope and choking on it.  Loki snarled like a wild thing, furious, when Tony got an Iron Man suit to lumber clumsily off its pedestal and intercept a cable that had inexplicably snapped and swung down from the ceiling.

“Nice try, Dark Sheep,” Tony congratulated with raucous cheer, darting around behind his suit to ensure that he was a bit better protected.  He’d seen Loki eyeing a wrench like he might throw it manually, and something about the intent in his angry green eyes said that his aim would be true.  “Is this really the best you can do?  Hell, I was more dangerous than that before I had the Arc Reactor,” Tony continued to tease, imagining himself as a tool needed to lance the boil of Loki’s buried temper.  As with most lanced boils, it wasn’t going to be pretty…  Tony started to question the wisdom of his metaphor, and his life-choices.  

“The best that I can do?” Loki echoed back, and there was some of that poison leaking out of the wound, acrid as acid.  The tone alone nearly made Tony flinch.  “You mewling Quim, you don’t know what I can do - and how I’ve held back!”  At the end, Loki’s voice rose to a roar, and the tiles beneath Tony’s feet - heat-resistant squares designed to withstand suits taking off from them - cracked.  The jagged edges were enough to make Tony jump, if pure surprise hadn’t done that already.  His control of the suit wobbled, and the humanoid piece of armor tottered accordingly.  

Loki, past the point of demuring, circled around and kept on raging, “Do you think that my role with the Chitauri was the best that I could do?  Did you really think that I’d be easy to best, if I did not want you to get the cube and win?  Your pride is so complete that it’s nearly suffocating even from here.”  Teeth bared, Loki’s face contorted as it attempted a smile, but it never made it there, instead managing to look manic - pushed over the edge.  Tony wondered how long Loki had been clinging to that edge, so desperate that it drove him mad.  “Fool, did you think that you caught me now without my wishing it?”  Something else exploded in the room.  A plate of red armor began to rust before Tony’s wide eyes.  Outside the room, Steve continued the pound ineffectively at the door.  

If nothing else, Tony’s mouth always worked in tight situations, so he ducked behind his poor, damaged suit for a second but then called back, “So you just decided to let yourself be caught by the good guys?  Why?  Don’t tell me your conscience was killing you.”  He managed to sound flippant even as his heart raced and hammered, and he felt his New God powers slipping with each new surge of rampant emotions.  The air tasted almost acrid, and he wondered if that was what over-worked chaos tasted like as it squeezed its way past confinement.  

“No.”  Loki’s voice was low, quiet - like an eerie lull before a storm.  But it also sounded sincere in a way that gripped Tony’s heart, even as Loki finished almost too quietly to be heard, “I did it because I was hoping for something better to happen to me for once.”  Even softer: “...I still am.”

Then a whole section of the ceiling collapsed, and Tony was abruptly busy trying to save his own skin.  

He didn’t think that the fallen tiles would have killed him; even the snapped cable hadn’t been electrified, so being hit by it wouldn’t have been deadly.  As Thor had said, it wasn’t in Loki’s nature to kill - just to cause a fuck-ton of mayhem.  That last blow to the ceiling had been it for Loki’s endurance, however, and when Tony was able to see past the settling plaster-dust, he was met with the sight of Loki curled in on himself on the floor.  Down on his hands and knees, the dark-haired trickster was shuddering within his borrowed clothes, his face set in a rictus of pain.  Apparently the bracelets weren’t entirely useless, Tony reflected with a bit of relief, even as he felt guilty for the fact that he’d pushed Loki this far - far enough that he’d collapsed.  To be fair, Loki had pushed himself, but Tony was the powder keg that had set him off.  

Instead of asking which of them was the prideful one now, Tony sighed, released the tension in his shoulders, sighed softly, and stepped forward to see what he could do.  Tony hadn’t known how to diffuse Loki without a bit of collateral damage, so it was the least he could do to help clean things up afterwards, even if that meant soothing a distraught Jotun God.  

Loki’s head had been down, eyes closed, but somehow he still sensed Tony as if the New God had been wearing bells.  Green eyes shot open, looking wrecked and bloodshot, all of his previous superiority ripped away.  With a warning snarl, Loki pushed himself backwards, maintaining distance until a wall got in the way of his retreat.  Loki stayed there, breathing shallowly, and curling up smaller either out of exhaustion or defensiveness.  

There was something wrong and heartbreaking about seeing the black-haired god so vulnerable.  “Easy, Loki, easy,” Tony said, not a hint of his earlier taunting to be found.  His hands were lifted and spread, palms forwards and as harmless as he could make them.  He felt like he was approaching a wounded wolf, an illusion intensified by the wild look in Loki’s forest-green eyes, the way his black hair had fallen in rough tangles across his face.  The noise Loki made was painfully human, though, as a fresh cramp of pain made him buckle inwards again, panting raggedly when the agony released him.  

Tony eased closer while Loki was distracted, reasonably sure that dark-haired god had used up all of his juice, and wasn’t dangerous anymore - or, at least, no more dangerous than a regular human when cornered, severely weakened, and in pain.  Considering Loki’s usual abilities, it was a humbling fall from power.  “Loki - hey.  Just take it easy, all right?” Tony kept murmuring in a voice that most people didn’t know he had, “No one’s going to hurt you.  Promise.  You let yourself get caught by the good guys with all of our stupid morals, remember?”  Tony’s favorite armor was the kind that didn’t weigh a ton, but instead radiated crassness and glibness like a supernova, blinding anyone to anything else that might lie beneath.  Now, though, as he knelt down in front of Loki with infinite care, he used the voice he’d wished he’d heard when he’d been a captive in those caves.  Tony knew what it was to be in agony, and expecting nothing but death.  

The New God power that Tony and Q had folded into those metal bracelets was absolutely humming, and the closer Tony got, the more he could feel it clamping down on Loki’s power, explaining the Jotun God’s discomfort.  It was designed to conserve power when it could, but exert more and more control the more Loki fought it.  Tony felt a powerful urge to take the metal bands right off, but resisted, realizing that he probably couldn’t even if he wanted to - Q had done half the work, after all.  And besides, Loki was a bomb right now, and the only things preventing him from blowing Tony to bits were two metal circles.  People with glass houses shouldn't throw stones, but people with adamantine houses didn’t know how to drop their walls and let people in, unless they had no other choice, and Tony - who was feeling like a bastard right now - had forced his way in.  

Now Tony reached forward, very slowly, until he could touch Loki’s taut shoulder and give it a reassuring squeeze.  Leaning against the wall as much for support as to lean away from Tony now, Loki watched with patently distrustful eyes, but stopped baring his teeth like a trapped predator, instead pressing his lips into a firm, confused line and glancing at the hand that hadn’t hurt him.  Tony just knelt there and gave him an open look back, doing his best to radiate how calm he was, because Tony was totally calm.  His heart wasn’t still trying to beat its way out of his chest.  Nope.  Not at all.  The inventor took a risk and moved his hand in a reassuring stroke, feeling how Loki’s body was fever-hot beneath his palm, sweat dampening his borrowed shirt down his spine.  “It will be better here than whatever shit you’ve been putting up with so far, Loki, promise,” Tony said sincerely, angling his head to meet those green eyes as squarely as possible.  The fear in Loki’s gaze was being steadily replaced by consternation, but Tony preferred to be looked at like he’d grown a second head instead of being looked at like he was some sort of executioner.  When he was at least sure that Loki was more confused than freaked, Tony sat back a bit and called, “Jarvis?”

“Yes, sir,” the AI replied obediently, and Loki twitched beneath the hand Tony still had on his shoulder-blade.  Tony was still unconsciously rubbing small circles there with his palm.

“Think you can give the Cap the all-clear?” Tony worked some levity into his voice, cracking a grin and adding as he looked back towards the doors and the very tense supersoldier beyond, “Tell him that if he can put aside his righteous patriotism, I’ll even let him in.”

“Of course, Master Stark.”

When Tony looked back at Loki, the god still looked heavily distrustful, but was settling into a state where he appeared too exhausted to care.  Tony had been gambling on Loki being more bark than bite, and now that his bluff had been called, Loki was spent, and by the time the doors opened to admit Steve, Loki’s eyes were closed and he was leaning his head against the wall, too.  He wasn’t asleep, still being too tense for that, but he was quietly catching his breath and conserving energy, and apparently trusted in Tony and Steve’s ‘stupid morals’ enough not to go on the defensive again.  To be fair, Steve was doing a freakishly good job of acting calm, to the point where Tony wondered what Jarvis had told him.  The blond-haired man stopped at Tony’s back, standing over him but somehow managing not to loom menacingly.  “You two good now?” he asked, just the finest thread of tightness in his voice to give away his annoyance at being locked out while Tony and Loki essentially duked out their differences.

Tony had to rock his head back on his shoulders and basically look straight up, but he did so with a broad, ridiculous smile, while Loki warily cracked his eyes open.  “Can’t you tell?” Tony joked shamelessly, “We’re besties now.  Getting matching tattoos on Monday.”

Both Steve and Loki snorted simultaneously at Tony’s antics, which of course made Tony grin wider, proud of himself.  He finally stopped touching Loki and sat back on his heels with a tired exhale, jumping a bit when his elbow bumped Rogers’s knee.  He sat and watched, feeling like his job was done, as Steve turned his focused calmness on Loki as if this were his newest mission, asking him bluntly if he was all right, then obviously not believing the answer he got.  Loki’s snark was just about nonexistent, which was probably why he couldn’t sell his “I’m perfectly fine” lie.  In fact, it seemed like Loki had overextended himself to the point where he couldn’t even move, which made a pang of guilt and worry roll through Tony - right up until Steve stepped past him, dropped to one knee, and maneuvered Loki until he could lift him.  Tony was so flabbergasted by the sight that he just sat and stared.  He barely had any extra shock left over to appreciate the lack of argument that came from Loki, who was too drained to put up more than a token defense before he was supported between strong arms and powerful chest and lifted off the floor.  

“Can you get the doors, Tony?” Steve asked, as if the rest of this situation didn’t warrant any discussion.  

“Uh, sure,” was Tony’s reply as he belatedly scrambled to his feet.  “But you know they’re automatic, right?”  Nonetheless, Tony hurried along ahead of them, looking back frequently to just stare at the almost disturbingly unruffled supersoldier who had a god in his arms.  For his part, Loki looked smaller than he usually did, dressed in mundane human clothing and folded up in Steve’s conscientious grip.  His eyes kept closing, like a computer running on dangerously low battery reserves.  Tony hoped that Loki was enough like Thor that he’d recover the same way, given time, because Tony had read reports of fading Earth Old Gods…

As if reading Tony’s mind, Steve glanced down at Loki (eyes closed again, shutting out the world) with a furrow forming in his brow, before looking up at Tony again with clear worry.  “Are you sure neither of you are hurt?”

Tony shrugged and sort-of-nodded, trying to balance out bravado and a very real admittance that this was new territory for him.  Before he could babble out an answer, however, both he and Steve were startled by Loki’s rough but steady drawl.  The black-haired god hadn’t opened his eyes or given any indication that he was even fully conscious, but he managed to sound tiredly condescending as he spoke up from his place against Steve’s broad chest, “Unless Stark tripped and hurt himself, then he should be undamaged.  As for myself, I’m exhausted, magically castrated, and generally in no mood to talk about it.  Does that answer your question?”

It did, and Steve flushed embarrassedly even as Tony gave his throat an uncomfortable clearing, rubbing the back of his neck and looking anywhere but at Loki’s silver-bound wrists.  At least Loki didn’t sound indignant or furious - but then again, he seemed too tired to be anything but wearily resigned.  The fact that he was trusting Steve to carry him was a big leap, though, so Tony cleared his throat again and said as glibly as he could, “Yup, that answers all the questions.  So, what now, Cap?”  His eyes begged Steve to have a plan, because Tony’s had officially run out five minutes ago.  

Fortunately, Steve was looking steady as a rock again, reading something in Loki’s expression: frowning, even with his eyes closed, regaining some of his regalness in bits and pieces.  “I think that we’ve all had enough excitement for one day,” Steve said solidly, then kept walking towards the door, “Loki, you’re going to bed, and then Stark and I are going to have a long talk about his decision making skills.”

“Hey, I never claimed to have any of those.”

“Exactly.  Next time you lock me out like that again, I’m going to go get Banner and see if your doors are Hulk-proof.”

“Okay, first-off - not cool.  Banner’s a bro, but the Hulk breaks all my toys.  And secondly - you’re always telling me not to bottle things up, so I was just… un-bottling him?”

“Explain to me again how that sounds even remotely wise.  Oh wait - it doesn’t?”

“I’m touched that you’ve learned sarcasm, Spangles, but I do not appreciate my own superpowers being used against me.  I am the king of sass, and I don’t appreciate you trying to unseat me.”

Loki had appeared asleep while Tony and Steve talked over him, but now he frowned more deeply without opening his eyes, and interjected as smoothly as a papercut, “If you two are going to bicker like an old married couple, at least do everyone the decency of getting a room.”

Steve and Tony, startled into embarrassed silence, snapped their mouths shut and just kept walking, avoiding one another’s eyes and likewise stubbornly refusing to admit the heat on their cheeks at being called out like that.  Perhaps - just perhaps - Loki relaxed a little bit more, and smiled the tiniest bit.  Some of the tension that had been slowly devouring him bled away, leaving nothing but natural tiredness.  

~^~

Bond’s finger pressing into Q, the way gentled by just enough lube to turn the sensation from discomfort into glorious friction, had Q tossing his head back with an open-mouthed little cry.  The invisible binding still holding his limbs outwards kept him from arching his back more than a few inches, and the knowledge that he was so vulnerable made Q’s adrenalin run riot along with everything else inside of him.  His New God abilities were so totally swamped that they may as well have been turned off like a light switch; Q couldn’t make a lightbulb flicker right now, much less rebuff the onslaught of a determined, savvy Old God.  Kneeling patiently between Q’s spread thighs, Bond’s other hand leisurely stripped Q’s cock, looking shamelessly smug as Q’s taut thighs quivered.  Leaning forward, James pressed a kiss against Q’s panting stomach, a touch that started out polite and reverential before including teeth, scraping and catching at pale skin and drawing another thin peel of noise up Q’s throat.  A second finger joined the first, with a slow, dry twist before both withdrew to collect more lube.  Bond was a merciless victor, but not a cruel one, not when he valued the prize that he’d been handed.  He pressed back in, opening Q up.  

“You’re gorgeous, Q,” he murmured, low and sincere, and hot like a fire-heated knife-blade just passing above the skin.  Q could almost imagine it, and the thought made him hiss as his nerves sang.  The two fingers worked forward and back inside of Q, starting to dance on the edges of that spot that would make stars explode behind Q’s eyes.  James left off his cock, instead using the hand - now wet with lubricant and precum - to brace himself as he leaned forward, starting another kiss that deepened quickly.  It was as if he were checking that the power he’d breathed into Q was still there, as if the evidence of Q’s spread, taut limbs wasn’t evidence enough.  When James curled his fingers and Q keened, James swallowed the noise as he’d promised, and Q could all but feel the subsonic, contented vibration as James’s power swelled.  

When the Old God ended the kiss but also withdrew his fingers, Q whined, “James, please…!” but the older deity was quick to soothe him.  

“Easy, Q, I’ve only just started,” James assured with a promise that would have sounded lethal if it weren’t for the familiar smile, the smile that said it would take down cities - for Q.  James was a lion on a leash, but he wouldn’t attack the hand that fed him, and he certainly wouldn’t attack the New God he’d attached himself to so tightly over the past months.  For a moment, James played with Q’s balls, making Q jerk at the invisible bindings holding him in place, while his hole clenched around nothing, before - without warning - James lined up and thrust in.  Thankfully, Q and Bond fucked often enough that a bit of quick penetration was something Q’s body was more than ready to take, although it still made the dark-haired man’s back bow shallowly, his mouth falling open as he soundlessly gasped and took in the new feel, the new stretch.  

Bond usually fed off the sound of his own name on Q’s lips, or the reverential touch of his hands, but with his true nature at the fore, he seemed to be feeding off other things - or maybe it was that breath of fire and thunder that he’d pushed past Q’s lips, turning every breath into an intoxicating smoke.  Either way, James kept coming back, catching the sounds with ravenous kisses until Q was lightheaded and growing delirious with hunger for air.  James was taking everything, an invading army scouring the land clean of all its rightful spoils - but he was paying it all back in pleasure, and Q moaned as James pulled out only to thrust back in again, deeper and harder, starting up a rhythm that pulled Q’s body against the Old power still keeping him trapped.  

Warlords took.  Warlords used.  Warlords ruined things by nature.  And god was it glorious.

The pace of Bond’s thrusts increased as some of his own control slipped a bit, the patient strategist giving way to the fighter who relied on instinct and the strength of his own body.  Q could do nothing but lie there and take it, and the unsettling vulnerability of that fact melded with the joyous rapture of flying towards a climax entirely out of his own control.  He didn’t have to work for it, he didn’t have to do anything: the pleasure came like a birthright, or some gift delivered from Bond’s hands as reverentially as James’s name fell from Q’s lips.  

Q came untouched, a effervescently bright climax that left him smiling stupidly, eyes closed as he wallowed in the feeling.  James withdrew, but Q felt his hand stroke his face; it was a nice, grounding gesture, even though Q had a moment of irritation as he realized that he now had cum smeared over his cheek.  But the game wasn’t done yet.  Bond’s fingers slipped over Q’s mouth, stroking his lower lip for a moment before pushing in.  Q made a small noise, a neutral reaction, as it started to dawn on him that Bond’s power hadn’t relented: it was still sitting like an occupying army under his skin, holding him open and still.  

Two calloused fingertips stroked Q’s tongue gently, sharing a taste of salty cum, the rest of Bond’s hand cupping Q’s jaw and face with a possessiveness that made Q’s skin start to come alive again.  He got his eyes open, pushing away the postcoital languor, to see James looking at him with predatory amusement.  “I made you a promise, remember, ?” he said, low and rough, and suddenly his words from earlier came back, and Q felt the muscles around his spent cock clench.  

Bond withdrew his fingers from Q’s mouth to circle them, wet and slick, around one of Q’s nipples, beginning to cajole arousal back to life again, slow and patient.  James had come, deep inside of Q, so he didn’t look ready for another round yet, but Q had learned never to underestimate the resourcefulness of 00-agents - and Old Gods in particular.  Q’s skin was hypersensitive, even more so with the foreign power crackling beneath his skin, and he bit his lip and squirmed as Bond coaxed the nipple to a hard nub.  Q’s own saliva cooled, making the delicate skin tighten with cold, right before Bond leaned down and pressed his teeth against Q’s other nipple.  This time, Q couldn’t help the little yelp of sound, the new arousal different than before: sharper, thinner, keener, a needle instead of a knife.  

“Remember, I’m your god, Q,” James said, lifting his mouth away to speak but also to drag stubble across the swollen nub, making Q suck in a breath.  Low and throaty and as self-assured as the ancient deity he was, James went on, “That means we’re finished when I say we are.  Agreed?”

It was a pause, a moment when the war-god backed off and the James who played human slipped through - a tiny moment of renewed consent that made Q’s heart unexpectedly constrict.  Closing his eyes to regain himself (not used to all of these emotions, usually tamped down by his New God self-control), Q bit the inside of his lip again but then voiced his fervent willingness, “Yes.  Yes, I-I agree.”  His voice shook as he accepted what he was getting himself into, and began to vividly imagine what was coming.  What Bond had promised.  And what Bond would deliver.  James Bond was many things, but a fickle god he was not.  

Q opened his eyes in time to see the look of returned awe on Bond’s face, the look that said he’d never grow used to this kind of worship - to having people give over so much of themselves to him.  Perhaps he’d simply been gone too long, pushed aside and into the shadows by the force of modernity; perhaps it was a look that he reserved just for Q.  Bond applied his attention to Q’s nipples again, pinching one with steadily applied pressure until Q keened while sucking the other hard enough to bring an angry flush to the surface, turning the dusky rouge to a hot, feverish pink.  Being something other than human had its perks, as Q’s body began to recover from his last climax more quickly than a typical man’s would have.  

Just when Q was wriggling and swearing intermittently from the sweet torture being applied to his chest, James switched his focus, something predatory and playful in his handsome features.  Q felt a hand stroking at his inner thigh, and quivered, feeling anew just how much open air there was against his nether regions.  Q had thought himself quite beyond the point of shyness, but there was shamelessly naked and then there was being forced open, spread wide, and he swallowed back a quivering little moan as he felt James touching his rim and spreading the slick mess of their coupling up behind his balls, against his thighs.  

“You want to ruin me,” Q breathed, without rancor.  His eyes were closed as he focused purely on sensation, on how much his body wanted to buck and writhe but couldn’t.  

Steady and low, as factual as the sword-blade that was his soul, James replied, “Yes.”  

Q lay there for a moment, feeling James’s fingertips hesitating just at the edge of his hole.  Then, he let go and exhaled, saying only, “Good.”  And he meant it.  He meant it as much as Icarus had when he’d leapt out of a window with nothing but newly-minted wings to trust in.  

James had a lot more mileage and proven dependability than Icarus’s wings had.  

Bond squirted out more lube, the sound lewd and loud in the room, then pushed into Q again - three fingers from the start this time.  Q’s body tried to curl as his mouth opened in a gasp, but he was held still for the few seconds it took before he realized that Bond was avoiding his prostate.  Q still felt hypersensitive, and his nerves were building their way up to a screaming pitch at the back of his head, but James knew how to keep it from tipping over into pain, so Q let him.  In return for Q’s praise, 007 had offered him glory, so Q was willing to trust him for the duration.  The stretch was already growing into something delicious, and then when Bond eased all four fingers in, Q felt something in his mind white out, something like shock and amazement all bundled together into one sensation.  Q tried to clench around the digits, and breathed out a stuttering breath to realize that he was already stretched nearly to his limit, and could barely do that.  

Meanwhile, Bond leaned forward to kiss Q’s belly, Q’s slowly hardening cock just brushing against his neck and then his chest as he worked his way up towards Q’s collarbones.  “Let me in, Q,” James rumbled, as intoxicating as a carnal drug, as wild as a wolf howling at the door, a promise full of ecstasy and teeth.  Those teeth scraped very lightly against the lower outline of Q’s ribcage, as if he wanted nothing more than to crack Q open and keep what was precious inside.  “I love the way you let me in, but it makes me want more.”  And now Bond was the one who sounded wrecked, as he pressed his forehead to Q’s solar plexus and also pushed his lubed hand in a bit deeper, hinting at what he wanted, in the form of knuckles pressing against the tight ring of muscles as the tip of his thumb brushed against Q's sensitive skin.

The realization of what Bond was asking to do hit Q like an electric shock, and he pressed his head back against  the bed, as if he could ground the surge there, even as excitement lit him up.  He’d done a lot of things with Bond, things he'd never done before, but he’d never done this.  Never been this open - this possessed.  He truly was helpless, he realized in a deep, still-logical corner of his mind: Bond’s earlier sentence were entirely true, in that James’s Old God powers had momentarily doused Q’s own powers as effectively as a bucket of water took out a candle.  Besides that, he was not entirely unbreakable, so it would be up to Bond to know how far he could push before something broke.  “Please,” Q found himself pleading, body straining, cock slowly filling again, “Please… please, James.”

Bond responded with a pleased rumble that was more of a purr, once again hitting something beyond the normal human register, and he pushed in a little harder until Q was fitted around his knuckles like a glove and the stretch was nearly beyond imagining.  

The urge to clench warred with the knowledge that he had to relax, and the frustration of it all made Q whine deep in his throat until James started kissing him again, soothing him with his free hand.  He left his cock alone, but the repetitive strokes to his sides seemed to echo a slow and building shift of the powers secreted under Q’s skin: inside and out, James was calming him, a gentle caress that was so intimate that Q found himself shaking and making little incoherent noises even as his own body allowed James’s whole hand in deeper.  “Yes, Q, that’s it,” James crooned, worshipping Q’s body as sure as Q was doing the same.  Q felt power echo the words, like a second breath in his lungs, a stroke to the inside of his ribs.  

And then Bond was inside of him in just about all the ways he could be; for a second, Q thought that he’d be split in half by the stretch of it, but then suddenly Q’s body closed around Bond’s wrist.  

It was… so different from anything else.  It wasn’t the same sort of electric delight that came with fingers milking his prostate, or the flashes of burning pleasure from Bond’s cock pounding into him, lighting Q up with every stroke.  It was a kind of sensation that made Q feel as if he’d been pushed to the very corners of his body, his mind unmoored and his body floating with… something like anticipation.  Shock.  Like being weightless in the air before you know if you’re flying or falling.  Eyes wide, Q stared upwards at nothing, his breathing coming and going in quick little pants, as if his body was afraid of breaking the status quo.  

And the whole while, Q could feel every intimate inch of James’s hand buried deeply inside of him.  Q was beyond words, beyond thinking, beyond anything but the overwhelmed whiteness of his mind.  He was sure that if he were able to reach his hand down and press it against his belly, he’d be able to feel the foreign presence right through the wall of his abdomen, a literal invader that he’d gladly let in.

James didn’t say anything either.  He just leaned forward - oh so carefully, but still not so carefully that Q didn’t feel the movement translated down to the hand inside of him, even the slight jostling making him gasp.  This time, when James claimed that breath, however, it was with infinite care and gentleness, like the earlier strokes of his hands.  He was saying something, something in a language Q still didn’t know, the words slipping out almost unconsciously between kisses and containing something so vast and sweet that Q didn’t know if he could take it.  By the time the string of kisses ended, Q was shaking, and his arms had somehow found their way to Bond’s shoulders again - free.  The only thing keeping him pinned in place now was Bond’s hand, sheathed inside of him, a more intimate kind of possession than Q had ever known.  He felt fingers stroke him, deep inside, as he heard Bond whisper, “Vænn” very softly.  

“A promise is a promise,” Bond switched back to English to murmur, and Q’s blown eyes swayed up to him just as James turned his hand and grazed that sweet spot inside of Q.  

With his limbs no longer locked in place, Q was able to writhe, although he still felt speared through in a way that he couldn’t wriggle free of; he gripped Bond’s shoulders hard enough to bruise, fingernails cutting little half-moons, and when he bent one leg to brace his foot against the bed, the change in angle made him keen.  Bond was barely even moving, simply pumping forward and back inside of him gently, but every time the widest part of his hand came up to Q’s overstretched hole, the stretch alone was enough to make Q’s thoughts fall apart in his head.  He’d just come down from the edge of overstimulation, and Bond had timed it perfectly, so that Q now rose so swiftly to the peak again that the rush of it nearly stole his senses away.  A few strokes of Bond’s other hand were all it took to bring his cock the rest of the way to full hardness, and this time Bond kept him there until he begged; Bond was in control, and he kept Q at the pinnacle of sensation with one hand around his cock to hold off the inevitable.  Q could have clawed at Bond’s arm to get him to let go, but he didn’t, instead letting the Old God have sway, until he was all but sobbing and could barely remember his own name.  

But he remembered Bond’s, and when James finally gave in and allowed Q his release, the New God clutched at Bond’s muscular back and screamed, futilely clenching around Bond’s thick wrist and scoring long scratches across already scarred skin.  Q barely even noticed when Bond came, too, while staring at him in the kind of rapture that only birth and death can bring.

 

Chapter Text

Things relaxed a bit around the tower, after Loki recovered from his Tony-induced explosion.  The emotional catharsis had been dearly paid for via physical strain, but Steve’s moralistic mother-henning tendencies had come out in full-force: an overextended, drained Loki had been deposited in bed, and hadn’t had the wherewithal to argue when he’d been all but tucked in by the blond-haired super-soldier.  Tony, a forgotten shadow tagging along, had stared with humbled curiosity, feeling like he was intruding on something but unwilling to leave.  He’d leaned against the doorframe until Steve straightened, having pressed fingers to Loki’s neck to check his pulse one last time - because seeing Loki so still was unsettling, even if he was breathing.  Then, with a brief moment of focus, Tony turned the lights off with a thought, startling Rogers into noticing him.  The two had shared a look across the dark room, a surprisingly fragile shape slumbering on the bed between them, and had then cleared their throats uncomfortably before departing.  As if by silent agreement, neither Steve nor Tony spoke until they were down the hallway, walking side-by-side, and Steve commented, “Did you even tell him about Natasha’s talk with Fury?”

Tony hummed, stuffed his hands into his pockets, and admitted, “Totally skipped my mind.”

Loki didn’t get up until nearly eight hours later, at which point he made a voluntary appearance at mealtime, with something like… tentative acceptance on his face.  And maybe hope.

Thor was elated by even this tiny change, and soon the halls of the Tower were alive with brotherly bickering - because Thor still wanted to show his affection via hugs, and Loki still hated getting his ribs crushed.  More so, he probably hated the reminder that he was basically human right now, although he started coping well enough.  Tony got a kick out of watching Loki trying to escape Thor’s eager embraces, as did Natasha and Banner, clearly, and Steve derived a sense of usefulness by being the one to step in and remind everyone to give Loki some breathing space.  In fact, whenever Loki wanted to get away from Thor, he tended to curl up on whatever couch was nearest Rogers.  Steve hadn’t the faintest idea what to make of that, but was just glad that Loki wasn’t hiding like a shadow from the sun anymore.  

The one odd-ball in this growing state of equilibrium was Barton.  To be fair, Clint had a good reason to want to keep the hell away from the deity who’d mind-controlled him for a week.  Most everyone was just glad that Barton hadn’t tried to pincushion Loki with arrows.  One way or another, while everyone else came to accept Loki in their space and at least ignore him, Hawkeye avoided him and Loki did the same in return.  When their paths crossed, they eyed one another with differing degrees of distrust and wariness, and gave each other a wide berth.  Thor noticed eventually, and tried precisely once to make them become friends.

Once was all it took for Thor to realize that Clint could be incredibly terrifying for his comparatively small size.  

It was inevitable, however, that the team had to get back to their Avenger duties, and that meant figuring out who would babysit the new chaos-god they’d adopted.  

“Is everyone deaf?” Clint said with clearly fraying patience in his voice but also a noticeable limp in his step from the last mission he’d run with just Nat.  The present situation - Chitauri, of all things, loose in Manhattan - called for more manpower, and Clint was getting increasingly furious that he wasn’t on the list.  “I’m.  Not.  Staying.  Behind.”

“Take it like a man,” Natasha opined absently from her perch on the windowsill.  She was texting someone, and apparently the conversation was more interesting than her long-time mission-partner on the verge of blowing a gasket.  “Or at least take it like a woman with enough grace to know when an injury will slow you down.”

Clint stepped forward to argue with her, then hissed and shifted his weight back onto his left leg.  

Tony stepped forward to try his hand at reasoning, a sight so rare that Steve just stared at him stupidly instead of trying to stop him as he approached Clint, hands spread placatingly, “Look, even the marvels of modern science aren’t so good as to make you ship-shape again, Robin Hood, so I’m sorry to say-”

“No, you’re not.”

Ignoring Clint’s acerbic interruption, Tony finished with the least patronizing tone he could find, “-But you’ve just drawn the first official short-straw for babysitting duty.”

Natasha finally looked up from her phone, and most of the other Avengers surreptitiously cut their eyes across the room, to where Loki was keeping tabs on the meeting while also staying separate.  Since he was the unspoken focus of said babysitting duty, everyone expected him to voice some argument of his own, but instead the dark-haired god kept his expression shuttered and aloof, unreadable.  He did, however, glance quickly at Barton and away, before crossing his arms tightly over his chest.

While Loki was holding his tongue, Clint definitely wasn’t, and started swearing almost immediately.  Thor appeared confused, while Banner almost had to leave the room as the combined blood-pressure of the place began to get to him, and eventually Natasha gave up on her phone conversation with a wistful little sigh before sliding to her feet to approach Clint.  Steve, meanwhile, snuck an arm around to clamp a hand over Tony’s mouth, before he tried any more negotiation techniques.  While Loki still looked closed off and edgy, he perhaps cracked a very small and secret smile at that last interaction.

Natasha lead Clint out of the room.  No one followed, and no one heard any shouting or screaming from beyond the quietly closed door, but when the two S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives walked back in, Clint looked cranky but resigned.  

Tony pulled Steve’s hand away from his mouth just enough to mutter, “I’ve got to get video footage of whatever the hell she just said to him.”

~^~

When Fury had learned, in no uncertain terms from Agent Romanov, that Loki was under the Avengers’ protection, he’d been canny enough to realize that getting the mad god into a S.H.I.E.L.D. holding cell wouldn’t be easy.  And since he wasn’t a fucking idiot, he’d made no attempt to do so, although he’d put up a token resistance so that no one thought he was going soft.  Nick Fury made it be known that he was not happy, but ultimately he’d caved.  

And started planning just as soon as Romanov was out of his office.  

As resourceful and well-trained as Romanov and Barton were, the collective Avengers (in Fury’s humble opinion) couldn’t be trusted to wipe their own asses, so no, he was not okay with leaving an alien terrorist in their care.  

Of course, because Stark was a paranoid pain in Fury’s ass, the Tower was nearly impossible to break into, removing any chance of a quick and subtle extraction.  Even if the Avengers were gone (which was actually fairly easy to engineer), Tony’s security was damnably tight, and with Tony’s newly realized status as a New God (something that Fury was sure he wasn’t supposed to know, but knew anyway, because he hadn’t risen this high in a secret organization just because of his good looks and stunning personality), it had only gotten tighter.  Fury officially had more hope of becoming the king of Asgard than he had of breaking into Stark Tower and fetching Loki from it.  

Fortunately, there were other ways to gain access to the Tower.  Fury began making some subtle calls, planning to have Loki somewhere more secure before the month was out.

~^~

It had been inevitable that Loki be confined to the Tower with Clint Barton - and to be fair, it was a very large space to be confined to, even if it felt like Barton’s hatred spread everywhere like a foul wave.  Loki watched him with philosophical distrust as the rest of the Avengers left, leaving him with the only member of their team that Loki deemed statistically likely to murder him.  Generally, Loki didn’t deal in statistics - that was the realm of a New God - but when the odds were so stacked against him, it paid to play the numbers.  

Considering the abysmal numbers he came up with, Loki had been on the verge of begging his way onto the mission with the rest of the merry band of misfits - until he’d heard the word “Chitauri,” and promptly quailed to his very marrow.  Loki was sure that his half-brother would have a lot to say about facing one’s fears courageously and proudly, but his brother was a combat-god who was liable to one day be killed by his own chivalry.  If being cowardly meant picking the lesser of two evils (avoiding the Chitauri and instead staying home like a good little boy… with Barton, who hated him transparently), then Loki was willing to wear his cowardice with pride.  

Anything to avoid the Chitauri who’d nearly stripped him of everything he was.  Loki had only three great fears in his life, and the Chitauri were at the top of the list.  Even a vengeful Clint Barton didn’t quite measure up.  

Therefore, Loki was able to view the archer with something like very twisted gratitude, even though he kept his face carefully blank once the Tower emptied and the two of them were left staring at each other across the room.  Barton looked like one of the taut strings of his bow, on the verge of snapping, but Loki restrained the urge to say so.  His own artificially-crafted mortality was weighing on him heavily, whispering in his ear how easily a mere mortal human like Barton could injure or conceivably even kill him - all without him being able to fight back.  Loki’s skirmish with Tony had been an unfortunate fluke, one that Loki didn’t think he could repeat, except perhaps under great duress.

Which was perhaps scheduled in his near future, if the tightness of Barton’s shoulders and darkness of his expression were any indicator.  Loki surreptitiously flexed one hand, sucking in a breath that hopefully wasn’t visible as the memory of the pain from his fight with Stark flashed back to him.  Logically - strategically - Loki understood why he was wearing these thrice-damned cuffs, but that didn’t make the impotence easier to bare.  

“Okay, here’s how it’s going to be,” Clint was the one to break the silence first, his words a tight huff of breath past a jaw that he had to work visibly to unclench.  Loki listened with quiet attentiveness, but otherwise remained perfectly still - a bird unwilling to draw the strike of a coiled cobra.  “You’re going to stay out of trouble and stay out of my way as if your life depends on it-”  

Which it very likely may,’ Loki noted dispassionately to himself, watching Barton’s hands, which had curled into fists.  Loki knew more about watching people’s hands (as the first sign of danger) than he wanted to admit.  

“-And we’re going to pretend like the other doesn’t exist until everyone else comes back.  Is that clear?” Barton finished with a martial bark.  He also forgot about his bad leg as he tried to shift his weight, and if Loki were in a less precarious position, he’d have laughed at the archer’s instinctive attempt to broaden his stance.  

Instead, Loki kept a civil tongue and pulled up his best courtly tone, the kind he’d used back in the days when he was still trying to be a favored son of Asgard.  “As Vanaheim crystal,” he replied with a bare inclination of his chin.  His eyes never left off their watchfulness.  Being born to chaos, however, he couldn’t stop the next words from rolling smoothly off his tongue in the same tone, “Is this the part where you lay down some grievously foreboding threat to solidify your command?”

It was a mark of the archer’s self-restraint that he didn’t go for a weapon.  A muscle did flick in his jaw, however, before he managed to growl out unpleasantly, “No, now is the part where you march your ass out that door and I march the other way before I decide to settle a few scores with you.”

The intent of the threat sizzled through the air, making Loki’s back tense.  He hid the reaction, however, instead merely nodding again and making his silent way out of the room.  He missed the look of surprise on Barton’s face as the archer got what he wanted without a fight.  

Thus began an evening of tension but also collective quiet, the Tower actually hushed for once, save the ambient frustration and displeasure that Loki could taste like rust on his tongue.  Barton was still furious about being mind-controlled… and Loki couldn’t even blame him.  

Loki was in the process of finding an adequate place to avoid Clint Barton when a massive blast shook the Tower, and suddenly there was more chaos than even a Jotun like Loki was prepared to handle.  

~^~

“Ma- Ma- Master Loki.”  

The computerized voice took a bit to register, and it took another moment or two to realize that the skipping vocals weren’t a result of Loki’s scattered wits, but probably something electrical.  It sounded like Stark’s bodiless house-servant, but his words sounded frail, stopping and starting like the kisses of lightning across a young storm.  

“Ma- Ma- Master Loki, I’m afraid th-th-the Tower has been attacked.  Sensors unre- re- responsive,” the servant continued to say, each jump of his voice scratching at Loki’s ringing ears until the trickster grimaced and forced his eyes open.  He saw flickering lights and settling dust, debris scattered about.  He could sense the utter chaos all around him like a god all its own, making his grimace become a snarl, because the bracelets around his wrists kept him from reaching for it.  Still, his arms worked well enough, and he pushed himself laboriously to his hands and knees.  

The servant - Jarvis, he recalled now - was still speaking, and there seemed to be something like urgency in its disembodied voice, “Befo- fo- fore internal sensors were lost, cameras noted Agent Barton in a-”  

The voice went into a serious string of skips, until Loki’s ears couldn’t take it, and he lifted a hand to rub at his head before snarling simply, “Where is the archer?”  When Loki pulled his fingers away from his scalp, there was blood on them, alarmingly.  However, the next touch to his tender skull already found increasing tackiness - Loki’s powers were locked away, but he still healed more-or-less like a god, at least.  Swiftly.  Pushing himself to his feet, Loki catalogued all the other scrapes and bruises that his body was going to have to deal with.  

Even as he steadied himself and took in the general destruction around him, he felt the draining tug on his energy that said even healing wasn’t going to be as simple as it used to be.  

He listened as Jarvis gave approximate instructions for to how to find Barton.  Considering the fact that the hallway behind Loki was physically collapsed, he wondered pessimistically how useful those directions would be, but he gamely set out in the other direction anyway, remembering long ago dark Asgardian nights, the sky lit only by lightning - or in this case, flickering florescent lights.  

“Be war-war-warned, Master Loki,” Jarvis spoke again, like an oracle of bad news, “I’m picking up intruders on in-in-internal sen-sen-sensors.”

Loki immediately froze, the bracelets itching around his wrists as New Power met restless chaos.  “Chitauri?”  His voice  came out as an embarrassing rasp, but he couldn’t help it.

Stark’s servant didn’t exactly reassure him.  “Un-Un-Unable to confirm.  As of yet, I have no vis-vis-visual, and most alarm systems are unre-re-responsive.”

Something ugly and poisonous settled in Loki’s belly, momentarily freezing him where he stood; it felt like his limbs were chained to the ground, each link a circlet of pure fear as memories swarmed through his mind.  The Chitauri clearly weren’t all gone, if the rest of the Avengers were out combatting them in Manhattan, so the chances of the Chitauri also attacking the Tower…

“Remaining sensors are picking up he-he-heat signatures,” Jarvis interrupted the panicked spiral of Loki’s mind, “moving towards Master Bar-Bar-Barton’s last known position.”

Loki shook off some of the stupefying fear that had gripped him, pushing back the memories of bottomless, soul-hollowing space and endless pain.  He glanced up towards where the bodiless servant’s voice was coming from, swallowing and clenching his teeth briefly.  Making a decision, he gritted out, “Will they reach him before I do?”

“They ar-ar-are closer to his location, but I cannot verify what ha-ha-hallways are still traversable.”

Keenly aware that Barton would probably leave him for dead if their positions were reversed, but also aware that he’d thrown in his lot with the Avengers and therefore had to start choosing sides sooner or later, Loki gave himself a little shake.  With a determined glare, he said with more ferocity than he felt, “I’ll just have to move faster then, won’t I?”

~^~

A lot of damage had been done to the Tower; whatever had caused the initial blast had had far-reaching consequences, at least for the floor Loki was on.  When he descended one level to where Jarvis had indicated Barton to be, it only got worse.  Loki had to strain his depleted reserves of energy - less depleted than locked away, the logic-charmed bracelets doing their job all too well - more than once, just to push aside blockades of rubble that would have stalled a normal human.  Although physically smaller than Thor, Loki could give any Asgardian a run for their money in a test of strength, at least under optimal circumstances.  Now was hardly optimal, but Loki still pushed onwards, panting and then grimacing as the bracelets began to clench around his wrist-bones with a numbing, logic-filled cold.  “I can deal with cold,” Loki panted to himself, a lie.  But Loki had always rather liked lies.  Tricking himself into believing that he was feeling the bite of a Jotunheim winter rather than the foreign chill of pure logic, Loki pushed aside a massive crossbeam enough to squeeze past it and into the room behind.  

It took a bit more dearly-won magic to get his eyes to pierce the dark, the irises glinting a feral, neon green, but he still heard Barton before he saw him.  The Tower was groaning and sparking around them with shuddering foundations and sundered wires, but the archer wasn’t shy when he expelled curses.  Thinking that he heard other, heavier noises behind him - others digging through the rubble that he’d slipped through - Loki quickly made a beeline through the dusty dimness to where he’d heard the most recent, heartfelt, “Fuck.”

Clint Barton was stuck under a fallen piece of what might have been the wall.  He was free from the waist up, and using whatever body parts he had available to try and free the rest of himself, but he didn’t seem to be making much progress.  A cut above his eyebrow was leaking blood around his eye, smeared where the archer had clearly tried to swipe it away.  Distracted as he was with struggling and swearing, he didn’t noticed Loki approaching until the Jotun God hove out of the darkness barely a stride away.  “Christ, where the hell did you come from?!” the archer barked, his whole body jerking in surprise and actually managing to gain an inch of freedom - at the cost of a sharp, bitten-off cry of pain.  More swearing ensued, of a variety so colorful that Loki would have been amused and impressed if he didn’t feel like death itself was breathing down his neck.  Ignoring Barton’s question, the dark-haired god bent down quickly and began feeling for the best handhold on the rubble that had the human Avenger pinned.  Barton immediately started to fight him, his range of motion limited but his combat skills still impressive, enough that he was able to impede the progress of a god centuries older than the archer's country of origin.  

Loki’s patience snapped.  “Be still!” he ordered, in a voice that rose to an honest-to-goodness snarl, a noise that would have come better from a wolf’s throat.  Luckily for Barton, however, Loki couldn’t transform without his magic.  One hand pressing down on Clint’s chest and the other capturing a fist that had swung at him, Loki glared thunderously. “Do you think this tower exploded all on its own?  You foolish human,” he seethed, and didn't even take pleasure in the way Clint’s eyes widened in surprise and his body stopped fighting, “At this very moment, the perpetrators of this attack draw closer, and yet you insist on stymying my attempts to help you.”

You?  Help me?” Barton replied in a voice that was more an explosion of shocked air.  It appeared that his world had been turned on its ear - which Loki had absolutely no pity for, because his world had flipped completely upside-down the moment he’d let a certain cocky New God capture him.  The things he did in the name of his own curiosity…

Curiosity had no place right now, and Loki took advantage of Barton’s momentary stillness to get a grip on the debris crushing him.  He began to pit his strength against it, even as he snarled a reply to Barton’s exclamation, “Has it escaped your notice that the attackers might very well be the same Chitauri that your comrades are chasing?  Traveling distances at speed is not beyond them, and they have reason to kill those who have killed their own.”  ‘And those who have failed them,’ a little voice in Loki’s head supplied unhelpfully, and Loki felt a cold sweat break out on his skin that had nothing to do with his heritage or clinically cold New Power.  “So unless you want me to leave you here for them-”

“No!  No,” Clint rushed to say, and even held his arms awkwardly out of the way as Loki really put his back into it, heaving the crumbling, heavy mass up and aside.  It landed with a thunderous crash, just shy of Clint’s feet, and splintering into two massive pieces upon impact with the floor.  Barton coughed at the roused dust even as Loki swiveled and looked about him, panicked, as if the sound could have attracted more attention than was already bearing down on them.  By the time he looked back, eyes dilated with adrenalin and fear, the archer was already trying to get up.

Soon, it was apparent that trying was all he’d be capable of.  

“Fuck!” Clint gasped, as his left leg refused to support him.  It was reflex for him to grab at the nearest object as he went down - which was Loki - but fortunately Loki was in no mood to pontificate on the impropriety of commoners touching princes.  They got Clint stabilized with the archer leaning heavily on Loki’s arm, his grip white-knuckled and his breath gasping and short with pain.  Blood was slowly staining the pale-grey patina of dust on Clint’s lower left leg, but at least there was no white gleam of bone jutting through skin.  “I think-” Clint panted, sounding furious with himself, “-that it’s… broken.”

Loki didn’t have time for this.  He was already pushing as much magic as he safely could into his senses, the New Power deadening his arms nearly to the elbows in response, but it meant that he could most certainly hear beings approaching.  Fear was like a tightening noose around his neck, so without another thought, Loki stopped staring at the collapsed hallway he’d snuck though and instead ducked his shoulder under Clint’s nearest arm.  It never occurred to him to think about why he wasn’t just abandoning the injured Avenger where he stood - perhaps because his experiences at the hands of the Chitauri were too brutal to subject even enemies to.  “Lean on me,” Loki demanded hurriedly, eyes darting everywhere for another exit, shuddering with relief when he saw another doorway.  He added, almost as an afterthought, “Cooperate, or I drop you right here.”

It was a lie, and he suspected that Clint noticed, if the speculative, cautious look on the Avenger’s battered face was any indicator.  The blood was starting to dry and crust around his eye, a dark, rust-red like half of a mask.  “Fair enough,” the archer was wise enough to reply without snark, although he cursed  Loki’s name well enough when the black-haired god jerked them into motion and dragged Barton along with him.  For a moment, it looked like the archer was about to tell him to slow down, but then Barton glanced over and looked at Loki’s face… and whatever he saw of his expression had him snapping his mouth shut.  The archer was tough for a human (something Loki had already known from their previous encounters), and now just gritted his teeth and did his best to neither cry out nor be a complete dead-weight.  Loki was aware that this was slowing them down, but even self-preservation wasn’t tempting enough for him to leave another being in the hands of the Chitauri.  This was like a childhood fear that gripped him: something as nameless, all-consuming, and irrational as a fear of the dark.  It was a fear that no amount of healing could remove from his bones, where pain had tattooed it.

“Are you-” Clint panted, his voice unexpectedly not antagonistic, “-all right?”

Loki swiveled his head to just stare at him for a minute, finding one hazel eye staring back and him (the other one squinted nearly shut against a renewed trickle of blood).  Realizing that he was more transparent than he meant to be, Loki determinedly turned forward again, snapping shortly, “A foolish question, for a cripple.”

“A cripple… implies… that this is permanent,” the archer said determinedly between breath as he hopped along, “And I sure as hell… refuse… to let that happen.”

“You may not get a choice.”

“Yeah, you’d know a lot about not giving someone a choice, wouldn’t you?”

The needle at their history together stung too deeply, with old wounds already so close to the surface, and Loki bared his teeth to emit an actual hiss of fury, which became words only after the first exodus of air and harsh sound, “I know more than you could possibly imagine or understand.  You are not the only one to suffer.”

“And you’re not the one to invent it, Drama Queen!” Clint shot back hot-temperedly, but then they heard a crash behind them, and the sound of many bodies pouring into the room that they’d just vacated.  From the hall they were in now, the disturbance of the dust approached them like an unsettled, rolling smoke.  Clint stumbled heavily into Loki’s side as they both tried to turn around and stare, bickering forgotten in the face of stark fear.  

Loki didn’t think that Clint could feel him shaking, but then he realized that the archer was staring at him again, a complicated but bewildered expression putting a line between his brows.  Ashamed of his fear, Loki swallowed and said thickly but quietly, “Let us move.  Our lead is small, and I don’t wish for them to catch up with us.”

“And yet-”  Clint’s words cut off briefly in a groan as Loki got them moving again, jarring the archer’s injured leg even as he kept his weight on the other one.  Still, Barton kept talking as soon as he’d unclenched his teeth, “-You’re willing to slow yourself down with me, the temporary cripple.”

“Would you prefer to be left behind for a glorious death scene?” Loki retorted acidly.

“No… I’m just having a really hard time coping with the idea of us being on the same side,” was Clint’s refreshingly candid answer, and it cooled Loki’s heated temper a bit, even if it didn’t calm him much.  

Very slowly, after a long pause in which the two of them simply tried to hurry down the dark hallway as fast as they could, Loki murmured without meeting the archer’s eyes, “Suffice it to say that if my time with the Chitauri taught me anything, it was that I would wish that fate on no one.”

Whether or not Clint believed him was debatable, but Loki didn’t dare look over at him, lest he give away too much: his fear, born of torture and a loss of control so total that he’d nearly envied Clint, mind-controlled but freed by his friends so quickly; his memories, raw and indissoluble, thick and black as tar as he recalled what it meant to be rescued by creatures who made death seem pleasant.  He wanted to scream at Barton, to ask him how much pain and fear he could stand before he’d do anything for his keepers - and then tell him how much he himself had withstood, before he’d given in, had played the conqueror puppet who’d come to earth and snared a few minds and made a few threats.  But he kept his mouth shut, because a trickster-god knew better than anyone else that if the truth started to trickle out, soon it would all pour out - unstoppable like a hemorrhaging blood vessel.  

The sounds behind them were getting more distinct, definitely footsteps, although Loki muffled the rest of the noises by turning his head suddenly, focusing all of his power, and managing to partially collapse the hallway behind them with what little power he could get past his restraints.  The effort left him shaking and panting, an ache starting up deep in his bones and twisting in his gut like little claws hands, but it would slow any pursuit.  

Clint observed as he stared at the mess now behind them, “So when Tony mentioned that you still had a bit of juice left, he downplayed how much, didn’t he?”

“No,” Loki corrected grudgingly.  His candidness got him a startled stare, which made Loki avoid the archer’s gaze uncomfortably.  He got them moving again, knowing that he had only broken a beam or two - enough to slow, but not to stop, the hunters behind them.  “That’s about all I can do,” he went on to clarify for no reason than because he was panicked, and speaking calmed him a little, even as his frustration with himself rose to a screaming pitch behind his tightly-controlled words, “Much more, and I’m probably going to do more damage to myself than anything else.  Suffice it to say, you have nothing to worry about.”

Loki’s tone had gotten bitter by the end, but surprisingly, Clint didn’t look triumphant or even all that pleased.  In fact, from the quick glance Loki had of the other’s blood-smeared face, he looked pained.  He surprised Loki further by leaning forward with a grunt and being the one to say, “Let’s get going then, before you give yourself a brain aneurism or something.”

“You don’t have to worry about me,” Loki snapped on reflex, but started pushing forward.  They picked up their previous pace: as fast as two people could go while working their way over and through rubble, with one person walking on a busted leg.  

“Yeah, and you didn’t have to even go looking for me,” Clint grunted back, “but now you’re here going a fraction of the speed I’m pretty sure you could be going, hauling my ass around-”

“Tony would no doubt punish me if I allowed one of his fellow Avengers to die.”

“Firstly, I’m not going to mention how easily you called stupid Stark by his stupid first name.”  Pain was clearly making Clint tetchy, but his eyes were still clear, and he didn’t look ready to faint from blood-loss yet.  “Secondly, Stark doesn’t punish people.  That would be like a rebellious teenager telling someone else they were grounded.”  This time, when Loki just glanced over with a bewildered expression, Clint sighed gustily and rolled his eyes.  The blood all over his face made it a slightly gory expression.  “Never mind.  Just… don’t worry about it.  Okay?  No one’s going to punish you.”

No one but those behind us,’ Loki thought but didn’t say, but for an eerie moment, it felt like he and Barton was sharing minds again, like those horrid days of the past, because even as Loki shuddered and gritted his teeth, the archer was looking at him again.  There was too much knowing in those hazel eyes.  Loki’s very soul shied away from it, a monster hiding from the light, because of what that brightness would show to the world - monsters didn’t stay to the shadows because they liked the dark, they did it because they were ugly, and the darkness hid that.  Right now, Loki’s ugly, all-consuming fear was smothering him like a second skin he couldn’t shed, digging into his flesh even as the bracelets continued to sink a numbing, logical chill into his bones.  Loki’s own magic hissed and spat like a fire against a drizzling rain - not put out, but fighting the encroaching damp.  

There wasn’t any more time for talking, nor energy to spare for it.  Clint was just barely able to make it over the worst of the debris, and since Jarvis hadn’t spoken up in ages, Loki feared that they were heading towards more damaged parts of the Tower rather than less damaged.  Even though Loki was saving up his chaotic power, hoarding it at his core, the lights around them spat and flickered as if he’d sent a wave of Old Power through them, their wires damaged.  Loki thought he heard voices behind them, but mostly he just heard footsteps - heavy, pounding, coming closer.  When the god and the archer were met by a collapsed section of hallway that looked like it was impassable, there was already the growing thunder of running behind them, and Loki loosed a primal noise of frustration and pushed.  The bracelets meant to make him an unthreatening houseguest for the Avengers tried to bite down on his magic, and it felt for a horrid second like Loki had become a rabbit.  Eager to race away, he’d leapt, only to have hounds’ teeth buried in his pelt, trying to hold him back.  By a miracle of perhaps more force than luck, Loki tore his magic free enough to lash out against the obstacle, and suddenly the beams and fallen ceiling tiles and wires were writhing away like snakes.  Inside, Loki’s guts were doing the same, and he must have looked as ill as he felt, because Clint clenched a hand on his shoulder and demanded, “Loki, are you all-?”

Loki lurched forward - dragging the archer with him - before the predictable question could be completed, and before their pursuers bore down on them.  He didn’t want to answer that question, because it didn’t matter how he felt, they had to keep moving.  Beyond them was a wreck of a room, and the extra space should have made Loki feel like they had some breathing room, but instead, he just felt the vise of panic tighten down another notch around his lungs.  They’d lost too much time…

Spinning them awkwardly, closing his ears to Clint’s short bark of pain, Loki blinked as his night-vision cut in and out.  Loki could see better in the dark than a cat, if he wanted to, a trick that no Asgardian possessed - but which came easily to a trickster who had been a cat numerous times.  Now, though, even the magic inside of him was buckling, being slowly frozen into dormancy by pure, linear logic.  The more Loki pushed, the more it pushed back, and he swore quietly in a language that he somedays couldn’t even remember.  Backing up, feeling cornered - feeling childhood memories coming back, memories of a cold, blue place beset by fire and gold - Loki pierced the darkness as best he could, even as figures poured through the opening after them.  

He was almost too numb to be properly shocked as he realized quite quickly that these were not Chitauri.  They looked almost humanoid, but dressed from head to toe in black, bearing weapons that he didn’t recognize - quite frankly, however, Loki was so relieved that he barely registered any of this.  His body simply stopped moving, stopped fighting, as this sank in.  In that moment, he didn’t care what these men wanted.  

They weren’t Chitauri.  

Apparently, however, Clint did recognized them - because suddenly the archer was leaning heavily against him to clench an arm around his back and growl fervently into his ear, “Loki, if you’ve got any tricks left, use them now!  Get out of here!”

Fear roared back to life again like a consuming fire, and Loki’s eyes blazed a sudden and sickly neon green as he gave it all he had: chaos battled logic, and the bands around his wrists hissed like red-hot metal being quenched in ice.  The very air seemed to retract around them, pulling away as if it sensed something immensely wrong-

And then the air cracked.  

Buckled.  

And space folded around Clint and Loki and suddenly, with nothing left but a ripple that made all of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Special Ops teams’ ears pop, there was no sign of either the fugitive god or the injured archer.  

“Commander?” Agent Rumlow spoke into the mask that covered his face, meant to withstand a blow or two as they brought a rogue god down, and to carry radio transmissions covertly back to base, “We were unable to either recover or neutralize the target.  Agent Barton is also in the wind.”

 

Chapter Text

Clint was pretty quick to recognize a S.H.I.E.L.D. Special Ops team - hell, he’d been involved in teams like that more times than he could count.  Therefore, he knew instantly what the black attire and armor meant, and also knew that falling into their hands was the last thing Loki needed.  If anyone had brought up this situation even earlier today, he’d have happily held the door open and pointed the way right to Loki, but recent events had done a lot for Clint’s opinion of the wayward god.

For example, he was finally starting to think of Loki as ‘wayward’ and not ‘psychotically and irredeemably evil.’

After their abrupt teleportation, Clint wasn’t thinking much of anything, as space spat them back out again and the injured archer lost his balance.  Embarrassing as it was to admit, Loki had been the only thing keeping him upright this whole time, and now the black-haired god melted away from his side like hot wax, and Clint didn’t have time to catch himself.  Unable to keep quiet, Clint swore loudly even as he crashed down onto a dusty floor, his broken leg sending jagged bolts of pain all the way up to his hip.  Usually, it was a point of pride between him and Nat that they could both bear pain silently, but Clint’s day had just been too damned long already, and silence went out the window.  It took a few long minutes before the pain faded enough for him to think, and a few more minutes  for him to be able to move from his crumpled position on the floor.  Breathing stiffly as he controlled the pain from his leg, the archer levered himself up on his elbows, wondering where the hell Loki had taken them to - because it felt as though he’d been yanked through a jet engine, and this didn’t look like Stark’s Tower.  

In fact, it looked vaguely familiar.  It took Clint a second (because everything hurt and his brain felt faintly scrambled), but then he realized that this was one of his own safe-houses, at the western edge of the city.  It was shocking to find himself there, even as the familiar - if unused and depressingly dusty - surrounding calmed him and allowed him to swallow down the worst of his pain.  This was, if nothing else, a safe place.

It was only then that Clint was able to focus on the next important thing: Loki.  

Tony had explained, in his own roundabout Stark fashion (where he said a lot of words but not a lot of content, like a smokescreen to hide the real asset), how the bracelets worked to keep Loki in check.  The fact that they were passive until activated had a certain kind of poetry to it, and at the time, Clint had been vindictively pleased by the fact that Loki would essentially be punished if he ever tried to get up to mischief with his magic.  Of course, at the time, Clint had been worried that Loki was eager to return to his old tricks the moment everyone's backs were turned - he’d never considered the chaos-god using magic for their benefit.  Now, Clint rolled over a bit further, squinting in the dark in the direction he’d felt Loki last, just seconds after they’d ‘landed.’  He heard a muffled, animal whimper a beat later, and zeroed in on it, on the incongruously small lump that had made the sound.  It hardly seemed that such a small shape could be Loki, but when Clint dragged himself painfully over there, his eyes had adjusted to the dimness enough to see the god curled up on his side, muscles spasmed so tight that it looked as though he were trying to implode.  The whine had come out past a clenched jaw, Loki’s body so tightly balled up that even his breaths were coming in sparse, shallow, hard-won gasps.  He managed to pull in a deeper breath just as Clint approached, sounding like a drowning man, gasping for air before subsiding with an agonized grimace again.  

“Shit shit shit,” Clint repeated, looking around, trying to remember where he kept the first-aid kit in this place, then realizing he wasn’t exactly mobile enough to run and fetch anything.  “Shit, no - you are not dying on me.  Yesterday, sure, you could have,” he admitted as he did what he could, which wasn’t much: he laid a hand on Loki’s taut shoulder, checked his pulse, then touched the bracelets at his wrists that were doing this to him.  They felt so cold that Clint drew back with a hiss, feeling like he’d just gotten instant frostbite on his fingertips.  Still, he kept talking stubbornly, “But now you’ve missed your chance.  Dammit, Tony’s going to kill me if they find me here and find you dead.”

Loki coughed, and it was actually an improvement on his shallow gasping.  It might actually have been a reaction to what Clint had said - some distant relative of laughter.  Loki’s body looked a little bit less like it was in the middle of a spasm on the verge of breaking all of his bones and more like a person dying of hypothermia, curled up against the cold.  Clint chafed a hand up and down Loki’s arm, grimacing as he realized how much the situation had changed.  

“The Cap’ll probably kill me, too,” Clint went on, grumpily and a bit desperately continuing the conversation as he clumsily propped his back up against the wall by Loki’s head.  “Too many damn morals - and you know what fucking sucks the most?  They’ll think that I murdered you or something, and today is probably the first day in a long time where I don’t actually want to do that.  Fuck.”  The expletive was as much a pronouncement on his own changed opinions as it was a response to the throbbing of his leg.  It hurt like hell.  Loki, however, looked worse - although he appeared to be recovering rather than worsening.  By the time Clint looked at him again, the manacled god was resting easier, limp and exhausted looking instead of tense like a bowstring.  His utter stillness - except for the shallow rise and fall of his ribs as he breathed - was wrong to see, and made Clint frown all over again.  

Loki let out another whine, a piteous noise, as he tried to move and apparently got pain for his efforts.  Clint reached out reflexively and squeezed Loki’s upper arm, trying to urge him to stay still as much as he could.  Surprisingly, the dark-haired god merely gave a little shudder and complied, returning to slightly faster panting - as if his body were belatedly dragging in more air to make up for the past few minutes of self-suffocation.  

“Fuck,” the archer repeated tiredly, all he could think to say for a few more minutes.  Eventually, leaning back and returning his hands to his lap, he managed to add, “I can’t believe this is happening.  Earlier today I was ready to bury your body someplace nobody would find it, and now I care.  Damn, why do I care?”  Clint blinked, looked around, and added, “And how the fuck did you even know about this place?”

Unexpectedly, Loki roused a bit, his breathing changing rhythm just a beat before words strangled their way out of him in a low rasp, “We shared a mind... once upon a time… or don’t you recall?”

“Watch it,” Clint grumbled threateningly, “my newfound benevolent attitude towards you is brand new, and not all that solid yet.  I could go back to murderous thoughts in a heartbeat.”

Loki dragged in a tight, painful gasp, then said on the shaky exhale, “...Noted.”  There was another long stretch of silence in which Clint couldn’t see Loki’s face, just the back of his head, but then the god continued almost shamefacedly, “I wasn’t… I wasn’t exactly thinking at the time.  I recalled this place… from your memories… at the last second.”

“And decided to drag us here just to reminisce?”

“No,” Loki huffed breathlessly, and almost sounded like his usual haughty self - if he weren’t still too weak to move or talk in uninterrupted sentences.  “It was a memory you valued… as safe.  It was also close enough for me to reach without…”

“Without completely killing yourself?” Clint guessed sardonically, then sighed and gave up on being snarky.  It was hardly fair to have a go at a guy who seemed to be barely conscious.  “Okay, I see your point.  Did you know this would happen?” he had to know.

Loki still looked so small, huddled on his side, his back to the wall and to Clint.  The twitch of his nearest shoulder might have been a try at a shrug.  “Yes,” was all he said at first, then gathered his wind again, “I knew… there would be a price to pay for my sins.”  Clint saw Loki roll one wrist against the floor, the metal band glinting dully in the ambient light.  “I think I got off lightly,” he finished, clearly indicating the cuffs that had just now nearly destroyed him.  All Clint could think was that Tony was going to be fucking pissed that it had turned out this way, because of all the bad things that could be said about Tony, sadism wasn’t one of them - if he’d foreseen Loki having to use his powers, and getting hurt like this as a result, he’d have never locked up Loki’s powers to begin with, no matter what.  

Not sure whether he wanted to agree or disagree with Loki’s statement - because while his anger towards Loki had softened, it hadn’t disappeared, especially since their trip here was a reminder that Loki had spent time in his head - Clint just kept quiet, and once again tried to remember the layout of this place.  They were in a basement room, lit dimly by small, street-level windows that let in only a grey light through the blinds.  There was an old table, two chairs, one of which he remembered to be wobbly…

Eventually Clint’s eyes settled on the old file cabinet shoved into one of the corners, recalling that he never filed papers of any kind, and instead put far more important things into it.  Muttering something vaguely grateful to himself, Clint made to get up, then remembered both his leg and Loki - the former being nigh impossible to ignore, and the latter having not moved in a while.  Clint reached over to take his pulse again, this time a bit more hesitantly, because fuck - the god was actually awake this time, or at least he had been a few minutes ago.  Loki didn’t flinch or react as Clint’s hand reached through tangled strands of raven-dark hair and found his throat again, feeling warm skin despite the bitter cold of the cuffs - and a steady pulse.  Deciding that Loki would probably be useless to him even if he did rouse him, Clint made do with awkwardly scooting across the floor to the nearest chair (the wobbly one; damn) and then using it as a crutch from there.  He nearly fell multiple times, and was swearing a steady, blue streak under his breath by the time he found a well-stocked first-aid kit in the cabinet.  He downed an unhealthy number of painkillers dry before making his way back to Loki.

The palest glints of green from opened eyes were the only indication that the Jotun god was conscious by the time Clint eased back down against the wall again with a groan.  Also in the cabinet had been a phone, although he wouldn’t know until it turned on - or didn’t - whether it would need charging.  “Still with me, you insane sonofabitch?” Clint asked amicably enough.  

Loki made a contemplative hum, moved as if to get up, but then quickly subsided back to the floor again with a little pained noise.  “I’m with you,” Loki said exhaustedly, “until you or I gain more mobility, and can quit one another’s company.”

Clint couldn’t help but snort, amused despite himself.  He was fashioning himself a splint as the painkillers kicked in, and watching hopefully as a light began to blink on the phone’s old screen.  “Can’t argue with you there,” he replied before he got down to the uncomfortable work of seeing to his leg.  The process didn’t take long, because he sadly had experience in this kind of thing, but by the time he’d finished, he desperately wanted a distraction from the renewed pain that even the painkillers couldn’t yet dampen.  Leaning his head back against the wall and breathing sharply through his nose, hands clenched, he chose to grit out to his companion, “Thank you.  For what you did back there.  You didn’t have to help me out.”  It sounded more like a growled accusation past his clenched teeth, but whatever.  

Apparently more startled by the thanks than anything else, Loki tried to get up again, or at least roll over to get a better look at his companion, but Clint shot out a hand and pressed down on the god’s shoulder.  Just because Clint was having a moment of insanity didn’t mean Loki had to see it written all over his face - this was already embarrassing enough.  

Either because he also saw the wisdom in avoiding eye contact or because he really was weak enough that he couldn't fight Clint’s hand, Loki subsided again after a moment.  When he spoke, it was at a soft murmur, without preamble, “I thought they were Chitauri.”

“They really scare you, don’t they?”  As soon as he said it, Clint winced, realizing that was a really asshole thing to say.  Apparently he still had some knee-jerk reactions, though, left over from hating Loki’s guts.  

Surprisingly, the dark-haired god didn’t get mad.  His tone simply remained solemn and tired as he said obliquely, “I fear many things-”  Clint noticed that Loki’s right hand moved to ever-so-lightly brush the metal wrapped around his right wrist.  Suddenly, the archer wondered if Loki feared him, and that thought humbled him unexpectedly.  “-I just fear them most.”

The cellphone made a little beep, saving them from further conversations.  Clint was suddenly very sure that he didn’t want to go down that road, because what Loki was saying now combined with the things he’d said before they’d escaped the tower…  It was painting a rather clear and disturbing picture of what Loki had endured, to the point where Clint wondered if he himself had gotten off lightly while being used as a human puppet.  He’d come out of the situation with a lot of anger, but overall, he hadn’t really been hurt - and definitely hadn't become as viscerally terrified as Loki seemed to be.  Trying not to look at the almost fragile curve of the back in front of him, Clint picked up the phone and made a wordless noise of thanks: there was enough charge to make a phone call.  “Looks like our luck’s still holding,” he opined as he opted for texting instead, knowing that either option would reach Stark just as quickly, and texting meant that he could think over his words before sending them.  How did one explain a complete change in worldview along with S.H.I.E.L.D. attacking the Tower?  “I’ve got a working phone with Stark’s number in it, and while he’s going to be pissed that his Tower got blown up-”  

He thought he could just barely hear the little shush of a breathy laugh.

“-He’ll also be able to come and get us.”  Clint hit send and then smirked when, barely five seconds later, a text returned, eloquently stating ~WTF?~  “Okay, rescue’s on its way.”  A few more texts ensued, and while they were pretty rapid-fire, Clint still found time to dig around in the first-aid kit and find some gauze and alcohol to try clean up the mess on his face.  The next few minutes, in that way, were almost peaceful - so long as Clint ignored how wrong it was for a full-blown megalomaniacal god to stay that quiet and still for so long, moved only by slow breathing.  

“It was S.H.I.E.L.D.,” Clint found himself blurting out, to break the quiet that had suddenly become full of anxiety for him, “the people who were in the Tower.  Considering how fast they got there, I wouldn't put it past them to be behind the whole thing.”

That got Loki to move, and this time Clint was too busy wiping dried blood off his face to stop him.  Rolling over until he could get his elbows under him, Loki lifted his disheveled head to stare at Clint with incredulous eyes.  Through the tangled curtain of his hair, he looked a bit wild, and very human.  For a second, he just stared, while Clint tried not to look uncomfortable and probably failed.  Finally, all Loki said was, “And yet you urged me to leave.”

Making a face as he got to the cut that had started the whole reddish smear across his eye and cheek - a dull throb reawakening to a sharp sting - Clint grumbled back defensively, “Yeah, well, it’s not like S.H.I.E.L.D. has any nicer feelings for you than I do... Did...  And I owed you one at that point, so…”

“So your debt is repaid?”  It was a bit hard to tell in the dimness, but it looked like Loki had arched an eyebrow; likewise, his tired voice wasn’t as emotive as usual, but he might have sounded ever-so-slightly disbelieving.  

Clint shrugged and frowned at the bloody gauze in his hand, then abruptly decided that he didn’t care if Loki believed him or not.  He tossed the gauze across the room with a lazy uncurling of his arm.  “Yeah, something like that.  If it helps, I’m also pretty fucking angry at S.H.I.E.L.D. for trying to drop half a building on my head without warning me.  That’s loyalty for you, right there.  I don’t get enough hazard pay for this shit.”

Loki was looking softly down at his hands now, spread upon the floor as he held himself up.  He looked so contemplative, but the shadows made it impossible to read his expression, much to Clint’s frustration.  He feared that his gruffness was being seen for the smokescreen that it was, hiding the fact that, yes, he’d essentially chosen Loki over his own employers and longtime allies.  And he’d chosen for Loki’s sake - Clint hadn’t been in any danger, at least not after Loki had pulled him out of the rubble.  S.H.I.E.L.D. had better things to do with its holding cells than stuff a human archer in them, and better things to do with its time than experiment on one, too.  Clint wasn’t naive; he could well imagine what would be in store for an anomaly like Loki, a war-criminal with no rights and no allies on this planet.

No allies save a handful of Avengers.   

“You sure you’re not dying?” Clint asked, and despite his best efforts, his tone softened further still.  

This time, he could just barely see the flash of white - a sudden, toothy smile.  “You are truly worried that the Man of Iron and his precious soldier will kill you if I’m damaged, aren’t you?” Loki observed with audible amusement and curiosity.  

Clint folded his arms like a muscular moat in front of him and retorted tartly, “Hey, have you seen the looks those two are giving you?”

If Clint had thought Loki would be caught off-guard by that, or at least embarrassed, he was quite wrong.  Loki’s head lifted just enough that the shadows slid back, revealing vulpine-green eyes and a crooked smile rife with fatigued mischief.  “Oh, I’m quite aware."

For a second, Clint just stared, and the god just looked calmly back, waiting for everything to sink in.  “Fuck,” Clint said, the word meant to be a denial, but then he found himself going on, “You manipulative sonofabitch.  You’ve known that they like you this whole time?”

“Pity the two of them are less astute than you and I.”

“Is Rogers even gay?”

“I’m fairly certain that he doesn’t think he is, but I’ve lived long enough to recognize all the ways in which people lie to themselves,” Loki said easily, still with that fox-in-the-henhouse smirk.

Something else dawned on Clint, and suddenly this seemed less surreal and more… quietly heartbreaking.  Feeling less scandalized by the fact that he was talking about the possibly impending love-life of two friends and one arch nemesis, Clint said with slow realization, “You also recognized that they’d be the least likely to hurt you.  Cap’s got a heart of gold, and Tony’s lived through torture, so he’ll never do it to anyone else.”

Loki’s smile had frozen, the illusion breaking so that Clint was looking at just a shallow parody of an expression.  Dead-lichen eyes and a slash of white teeth, set against dusty, pale skin.  Most notable, though, was that Loki didn’t argue with him.  

“Is that what all of this has been about?  Messing with Tony - getting caught - not trying to escape us or the Tower - all to find someplace safe?”

Only now did Loki speak, and it was calm and accepting in a way that made Clint bristle instinctively, because this wasn’t something to be calm and accepting about.  “People often underestimate the pricelessness of something so simple as safety,” was all he said, never blinking or looking away.  

Maybe it was that - that resignation towards survival, that tight noose of necessity that Clint could suddenly all but see around Loki’s neck - or else the painkillers fully settling in that got Clint’s mouth moving again.  He spat back, “That’s bullshit.  You’re a god.”

“My whole species were gods.  Where are they now?”

The past tense ‘were’ said a lot.  Clint felt his stomach give a flip.  Still, he was nothing if not dogged, so he kept going, “This is still insane.”

“Oh, the stories I could tell you, human.  You’d understand how close insanity is to all of us, every second of every day,” Loki murmured quietly back, something masquerading as humor giving his eyes a sickly light.  He’d never seemed so alien as he did then, and somehow further away than Clint could reach, even though he were right there.  

For a moment, Clint was at a loss, unable to do anything but stare and blink in frustrated horror at the new image he was seeing.  While staggering through the ruins of the Tower, he’d learned a few things about Loki and the Chitauri, enough to assume that that alliance hadn’t been by Loki’s choice - but now it was like Loki had been skinned, everything that hid the gory truth pulled away.  

And all the while, Loki smiled that small, jaded, unwavering little smile.  

“They’d still protect you, you know.”  At first, Clint didn’t realize that he’d spoke, that these stiff but otherwise calm words had come out of his own mouth.  They seemed to jar Loki a little, and the smile slipped.  Clint went on, “Even without you manipulating emotions into the mix.  I hate you, but I don’t think Rogers hates anyone but Nazis and puppy-killers, and Stark’s too ADHD to keep focused on a grudge - even if you did throw him out a window.”  Loki actually had the decency to look a bit embarrassed at that.  “And I’m not even mentioning Thor, Banner, and Nat - I mean, not trusting Nat I get, but Thor and Banner?  Seriously?  Unless you make Banner go all green, he wouldn't hurt a fly, and your brother would level cities to keep you safe, I guarantee it.”

Loki was looking more and more exhausted.  Under better circumstances, Clint actually doubted that he’d be able to convince the ancient god of anything, but now he’d gotten Loki to break eye-contact and hang his head between his shoulders.  It wasn’t agreement, but it was some small sign that Clint’s verbal barrage was landing some shots.  

So Clint finished, driving his point all of the way home, “And now I’m not even in a mood to kill you.  Come on, what does that say about this whole fucked up situation?  If I’m willing to help you get away from my own employers, then the others will definitely keep you safe.”

“I thought you were repaying a debt,” Loki murmured to the floor, sounding tired.  

“I lied,” Clint admitted bluntly.  He watched as Loki’s shoulders jerked and stiffened, that fact hitting harder than all the others somehow.  

There was some noise outside; Clint had told the others where to find them, and Nat knew how to disarm any booby traps that CLint and Loki had bypassed by simple dint of there being no defense against chaotic teleportation.  The phone chirped again, affirming that Tony and the others would be with them momentarily.  Clint wanted to make the last few minutes of this impromptu therapy session count, so he awkwardly reached out a hand and placed it on Loki’s shoulder, unable to miss the way the god flinched.  “Look, if you…”  Damn, this was the weirdest conversation Clint never wanted to have.  “...If you really like them, go for it.  They’re great guys, and Rogers would probably loosen up a bit if he got laid anyway.  And Tony’s an idiot, but… Okay, Tony’s just an idiot.”  Maybe the second tremor he felt beneath his palm was laughter.  “But they’re both good people.  They don’t deserve to get taken for a ride just to realize that you never really wanted them in the first place.”  

Clint waited with his hand on Loki’s shoulder until he thought that his words had sunk in as much as they were going to, then gave a clumsy pat and sat back again, pulling his arm back as if he’d been holding it in a fire.  Just as they started to hear familiar voices calling for them - most noticeable being Thor’s loud boom - Clint griped, “And if you tell anyone that I gave you a therapy session, I’ll smother you in your sleep.”

This time, the minute shaking of Loki’s shoulders was definitely from amusement, although he hid it by the time the rest of the Avengers burst into the room with sounds of relief and worry.

~^~

If it was a reassurance of safety that Loki wanted, he most certainly got it, as the rest of the team crammed into Clint’s safehouse.  Attention was split between Clint and his broken leg and Loki, who was still as weak as a kitten - his attempts at sitting up were pathetic, but his pride was saved by Thor, who didn’t honestly give his adopted brother much of a chance to try.  The big Asgardian almost immediately swooped in and scooped Loki right up off the ground, remembering his strength for once, and cradling Loki as one might cradle a baby bird, freshly fallen out of the nest.  The metaphor was almost too accurate, as Loki barely stirred, instead folding into his brother’s grip like a collection of slender bones.  It was unsettling to see, especially when Loki was usually so affronted by his brother’s attempts to even hug him, much less hold him.  Thor looked on the verge of crying with worry.  

As Clint explained what had happened, right up to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s almost certain involvement, some of that worry transformed into shock and anger.  Via texts, the Avengers had become aware of the damage to the Tower, and Tony had already been aware something was up when he couldn’t contact Jarvis.

Tony, as predicted, looked more pissed than anyone else - but also at himself.  He’d figured out pretty quickly that the same bracelets he'd had a part in making were now responsible for Loki looking sick as hell, and that took precedence.  Still in his Iron Man suit, the inventor stomped right up to Thor and Loki with every intention of breaking the cuffs right off, then and there.  

Surprisingly, it was Loki who stopped him.

“No.”  The Jotun god’s voice was hollowed with exhaustion, but he got his eyes open a bit, and even managed to curl his arms in to hide his wrists against his chest.  Tony could have reached them anyway, by force if nothing else, but Loki seemed so breakable right now that everyone just froze until Loki went on at a weary murmur, “If your Director Fury is willing to make such moves against me, even knowing how weakened I am, what will he do if he learns I am free?”  Loki’s eyes opened a bit more, focusing fully and meeting Tony’s eyes with sudden and unexpected clarity.  In that moment, despite everything, Loki looked a little bit regal again.  “This was a covert attack, one not condoned openly, I think - but he will gain far more support to attack a fully-fledged, unfettered god.”

“Brother, I care not if he rouses this entire planet against you-” Thor began in a growl so soft that it was like hearing thunder far in the distance - almost gentle, but promising the vastest of destruction.  

Loki flopped his head back against his brother’s chest with a put-upon sigh and huffed, “Thor, stow the glorious threats until I’m awake enough to deal with them.”

That sounded more like Loki, and ultimately, Tony’s desire to uncuff the god was superseded by the knowledge that Loki had the right to choose.  If there was anything Loki was lacking in his life right now, it was control over what became of him, so it seemed cruel to gainsay him.  Besides, after telling his brother off, he’d closed his eyes again and seemed to drift into a doze.  Tony dropped the gauntleted hand he’d been reaching forward with, looking pained and torn, before stepping back.  “You should take him home,” Tony opined in a subdued tone, “Hopefully he’ll sleep it off… like he did last time.”  The fact that the bracelets had already been proven to be detrimental to Loki’s health, and yet this had happened, clearly didn’t sit well with Tony, making his expression tight.  

“Uh, unless Loki and I were imagining it,” Clint spoke up, from where he was being propped up between Natasha and Bruce, “going home for a nap isn’t exactly an option.  Is Jarvis even alive?”  

While Natasha hissed, “Clint, you don’t just ask a person if their AI is dead or not,” Tony and Steve exchanged looks, and everyone took stock of how fully they’d moved into the Tower.  If they’d really had homes before, they’d left them behind, never thinking that anything could happen to the Tower.  After a beat, though, metal plates shifted as Tony shrugged, offering up one of his [apparently many] properties.  Tony owned a lot of stuff, and some of it was actually useful.  

While Banner and Romanov worked on getting a complaining Clint up the stairs, that left Thor, Rogers, and Stark circled up around Loki, who was either asleep or so exhausted that he didn’t care that he was being stared at.  It was probably the latter, which was disturbing.  

“Could you even get those cuffs off if you tried?” Steve had to ask, keeping his voice pitched low even as concern pinched his eyebrows together, “Without that other New God to help?”

Tony’s glower turned a bit thunderous, and he didn’t answer, which perhaps meant he wasn’t sure.  He just looked back to Loki with evident frustration, because the question was a moot point so long as Loki refused (and so long as they respected that refusal).  So instead of replying to Steve, Tony looked to Thor, “Your brother’s a stubborn idiot, you know that, right?”

Thor hadn’t stopped looked down at said brother, as doting as a mother hen - or perhaps a mother eagle was a better analogy.  Now, without looking up, he murmured with surprising gentleness for a man who liked to crack people’s ribs with idle hugs, “My brother’s stubbornness is the trait that has won him the most victories and the most sorrows, when most people would have given in.  Perhaps that is foolish.”

Tony deflated.  Steve put a comforting hand on his shoulder without thinking, then moved forward and stripped off a glove so that he could press his fingertips against the chaos-god’s pulse, checking him over as much as he could in the present circumstances.  Loki made a face and tried to squirm away, at which point Thor began making honest to god (no pun intended) cooing noises and Tony reached forward automatically to lay a hand on Loki’s shoulder.  

After that, for some reason, Loki calmed right down.  

~^~

Q’s body still felt like it was floating, the evening’s events - Old Power inundating his every inch, Bond’s cock in him, Bond’s hand - feeling as though they’d pushed him from his body.  The road back to himself felt long and winding, but what kept him from panicking was the snug arm around his middle, as if James knew that he needed a tether to the solid world.  The war-god was no longer controlling his body from the inside out, but his physical nearness and solidity was still comforting.  Q was warm, clean now, and in no danger of floating off like an un-tethered balloon.  

“How you feeling, Q?”

If Q turned his head back a little, he could see James behind him, eyes back to a normal, human shade of blue and his cheek propped idly on a fist as he watched his younger companion.  For a long, hazy moment, Q just stared at him, feeling positively high even as he rolled over onto his back and felt his body clench and shiver - besides being rather out of his head, his body felt like it was in pieces, and he didn’t know how to describe the feeling.  The stretch his arse had undergone was definitely nothing to laugh at, and Q closed his eyes with a grimace.  James was already soothing him with a gentle hand running up and down his arm.  

“Just relax, Q, you’ve got nowhere to be.”  Pulling the blankets further up over them both, James hunkered down a bit, but remained protectively close - and his stroke wondered across Q’s chest and down his belly.  He didn’t go any further southward, however, which was fortunate, as Q was quite positive that his body didn’t have another round in him.  Still, there was something like marvelling awe in James’s eyes as he watched the shape of his hand beneath the blankets, disturbing the lean shape of Q’s body beneath.  “Are you hurting anywhere?” he asked.

Q took stock, and meanwhile took James at his word and went limp.  He didn’t feel like moving anyway, if he didn’t have to.  “I’ve got a lot of aches… but all good ones, I believe,” he assessed after a moment, then shivered as he tentatively clenched his arse, just to feel it - the sensation was enough to momentarily rocket him back into the memory, and he wasn’t quite ready for it.  He came back to himself breathing fast, feeling hazy, but tucked safe and sound against James’s chest.  The man’s heat felt like a fireplace on a snowy day.  

“Are you back with me?” James asked quietly.  His hand was still touching, giving Q something to focus on: the arms holding him close, the broad palm making warm caresses up and down his spine.  Q burrowed his head into Bond’s chest, nose pressed against the other man’s breastbone and able to feel the rumble of James's voice and steady pull of his breath.  Q just nodded.  He felt the war-god relax minutely.  

Q felt the need to add, a few moments later, hesitant to break the quiet and the impending drowsiness he could feel tugging at his bones, “I also think my powers are still off.  Not that that’s abnormal… after we do things like this.”

Bond’s chest vibrated with a chuckle.  “You mean after I fuck you senseless?”

Usually, Q would have retorted with something cutting, but he felt too good, too… floaty.  The residual endorphins were like a drug in his system, and it was marvelous.  So he just hummed in agreement and snuggled closer, gasping shallowly as even that small movement woke up the many hypersensitive parts of his body.  Grounding him was the hand Bond immediately pressed flat between his shoulder-blades, keeping him close like a ship in harbor.  

“You really are out of it, aren’t you?” James observed with perhaps a little bit more gravity, but didn’t press it further; he’d known from the start that this wasn’t going to be just like any other coupling between them.  Bond knew best of all what he could do to people when he was himself in the purest, most intense way.  So instead of fretting or making a fuss, James just settled them both more comfortably beneath the covers and murmured, “Don’t worry about it, Q.  After what you just gave me, the least I can do is watch over you until you’re back to your godly self.”

Q’s eyes were half-open, staring at the shadows that lurked around 007’s collarbones, finding them so artistic that he had to lift a hand and stroke one.  “What did I give you?” he asked dazedly.

“All of yourself.”  James kissed his hair, so sweet, and with a flicker of power that Q could feel particularly well because his own powers were as dormant as hibernating mice.  That should have scared him, because it was like feeling naked - or like a massive part of him was missing.  At first, when he’d realized that having sex with Bond (or, at least, letting Bond’s Old Powers into him) caused his own godly powers to turn off, it had terrified him.  This was the definition of helplessness.  Of human-ness.  Q would have hated it, had not the payoff been so damn hot - and had not 007 always been stalwart in his promises to protect Q in these postcoital moments.  

James really did value Q, and if his appreciation of that value made Q weak…  Well, woe betide anyone who thought that they could attack the New God when he was down.  Q might have been “off” but James wasn’t, and Q was beginning to appreciate what it meant to have a war-god looking out for him.  Even now, he knew with certainty that James's eyes would be open, aware of everything while Q drifted in and out of a hazy, foggy sleep.  

Thinking of Bond’s more warlike qualities, and how they’d been more transparent than usual, made Q’s mind drift to the cause of that state.  Brows beetling, Q frowned at Bond’s nearest pectoral and moved his mouth a few times before he got his words in the order he wanted: “James, how does Thor know you?”

Just for a split second, James froze, and Q felt what was probably the man’s chin on his head as the Old God looked down at him.  “What makes you think he knows me?” James eventually answered.  

Q shook his head, wondering when he’d lost his glasses and hoping that Bond had had the decency to put them somewhere safe.  007 cared for Q immensely, but that didn’t always extend to Q’s personal effects.  “You’re avoiding the question.  I can tell that even if I’m not entirely logical,” Q protested.

The little growling noise in 007’s chest indicated that he’d been caught fair and square but didn’t have to like it.  The next kiss he gave Q was more mollifying.  “I rather doubt that Thor knows me personally,” James began slowly, arching his body so that it wrapped more totally around Q’s - protectively?  Possessively?  It seemed the movement of someone who had lost things before and refused to ever let it happen again.  Q responded instinctively by curling his fingertips against Bond’s chest, dimpling the muscle with some possessiveness of his own.  His breath ricocheted back against his face from the hollow of 007’s throat.

“Has Alec told you anything about my history?”

“He said that that was for me to ask you,” Q replied obediently.  Usually, he’d be dying of curiosity, but his body remained in a state of pleasant lassitude.  Fortunately, James seemed to be in an answer-giving mood, perhaps still humbled and grateful that Q had trusted him to take them both so far in the past hour.  Not a lot of people would have trusted their bodies with a war-god that way, not to mention their hearts.  

So Bond showed his appreciation by giving a little bit of himself in return: his story.

“Where Thor comes from, the gods are a lot like the Old Gods here, although last I knew, they were split into two classes - gods of nature were in a separate class.  Thor is technically a hybrid, a god of lightning and of combat.”  While Q felt sluggish surprise stirring at all James seemed to know, the story went on, told in a calm but otherwise unreadable tone, “Since everyone in Asgard - where Thor is from - is a god, they don’t feed on worship like gods do on earth.  They just survive by doing the action themselves, or being around it.  A water-god will interact with water, and a combat-god will spar, things like that.  Asgard has always been ruled by combat-gods, which are like my kind, but more rules.  I…  I was a foot-soldier, like every war-god before me.”

“Wha-?” Q started, shock muting him.  He angled his head, but all he could see was the underside of James’s jaw.  However, James pulled him close, telling him in a tactile fashion that there was nothing to worry about: this story needed to be told, but it wasn’t a dangerous tale.  Of course, ‘dangerous’ for a war-god was a rather tricky thing to quantify…  Now that the story had begun, however, it would run until its finish.  

“I left Asgard so long ago I can barely remember.”  James’s arm moved, and Q imagined 007 dragging it over his face.  “Long enough that I ran out of what power I gained there, and had to learn the hard way how godhood works here on Earth.  Learning how to be a proper god here was a bitch and a half, but the only other option was starving.  I couldn’t  go back.”

“Why?” Q got his words working again.  He pressed his palm against Bond’s ribs, feeling the need to hang on even as he pushed back enough to look James in the eye finally.  The war-god looked remarkably calm, as if he were just giving a regular MI6 mission report.  It made Q frown, “Why did you leave?  And why can’t you go back?”

James chose to answer the second question first, with an idle shrug, “Because the last thing you want in an army is a deserter, and that’s what I was.  War-gods aren’t as powerful as combat-gods, but we’re still dangerous, so you don’t just let our kind run around free.”

“But you got here.  To Earth.”

“Yes.”

“How?  Why?”

For a long moment, James was silent, and it became almost uncomfortable to meet his eyes - but Q did it anyway, and therefore was still stubbornly looking when something old and painful filled James’s expression.  The Old God clenched his teeth once, then purposefully relaxed and sighed, and finally said in a voice carefully empty of emotion, “Because a woman I loved asked me to.  But when we got to Earth, I realized something.”

Q knew that he didn’t want to hear it, but even with his powers shut off, it was still in his nature to be curious to the core.  So he asked: “What?”

“That she didn’t love me at all.  She just needed my help to escape Asgard.  And I’ve been here ever since.”

All Q could do was stare for a long, long moment, reading the look on James’s face: the look of a soldier, used to compliance and to old wounds, resigned to the pain that would only end when he drew his last breath.  The look of a warrior who had been loyal beyond measure, and who had been burned for it.  The look of a man who’d become something special to Q anyway.  

Without thinking about it, Q reached forward, his muscles still feeling like they were controlled by bad puppet-strings.  He probably would have poked one of James’s eyes out had the Old God not caught his hand - Q used the opportunity to grip James’s hand in return, curling his long fingers tightly around scarred, calloused digits.  Knowing by now the little tricks of worship that fed a god like Bond - or, at least, a god like Bond had become but hadn’t always been - Q leaned forward, and while still looking 007 in the eye, managed to press a heartfelt kiss to Bond’s ring-finger.  “You may not have been a king before, on Asgard,” he said very softly, as James’s eyes seemed to ignite, going from stalwart to alive again in a second, “but you’re a king here, to me.”  Pulling back, flushing shyly, he finished more softly, “...I’m glad you stayed.”

Bond didn’t say anything.  For a moment, he didn’t even move or seem to breath.  Then he took Q’s head between his hands and kissed him soundly, ending by pressing their foreheads together.  “Valtæigr,” he breathed, sounding husky with emotion that tugged at Q’s heart.  

Gripping the wrists of the hands still cupping his face, keeping them there while soaking up the solidity and strength of them, Q wriggled a bit closer and asked - because curiosity was going to kill him one of these days, he was sure of it, “What does that mean?”

“It means…”  James paused, and seemed to struggle with the language, as he often did when he was distracted - when his emotions were running high or his body was running hot, Q had realized.  “It literally means ‘hawk’s ground’,” he finally got out, then nuzzled forward, his nose brushing Q in a little burst of affection.  “That’s what you are,” he said, in a voice so low Q almost didn’t hear it, but when he did, it reached into his chest and warmed his heart, “I’ve found a place to land.  In you.”

~^~