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Signals in Courtship

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One morning Tony wakes up to a single red flower on the pillow next to his head. At first he's only nonplussed, but then he asks JARVIS how it got there and who put it there. JARVIS says, with uncharacteristic hesitation his voice, "I couldn't say, sir."


Tony takes the flower down to his lab and performs a number of tests on it, but apart from some traces of magic too faint to be anything but echoes of transportation, there is nothing. It's just a simple flower. "A wild lily, Lilium Philadelphicum," as JARVIS informs him.

Thus, Tony remains nonplussed about the whole thing, but puts it quickly out of his mind. Until the day he wakes up with a knife on his pillow.

So, unlike the flower, the knife is a lot less subtle. It's also clearly Viking, with these endless Norse knots engraved all over the handle, sheath and at the stem of the blade. Again there are only faint traces of magic on it, but really. It's pretty obvious what this means and who it's from.

"So, Thor," Tony says casually over breakfast. "Your brother is threatening me. Any idea why?"

Thor drops his bagel, eyes wide. "Loki? What is Loki doing?"

"Well I woke up today with a knife on my pillow," Tony relays.

That seems to confuse Thor. "A knife? What kind?"

So Tony goes to get the knife and shows it to Thor. Natasha seems pretty interested as well, leaning in when Tony hands it over, but it's probably less the connection to Loki and more the fact that it's a blade.

Thor's eyes widen when he sees the knife and sheath. He pulls the blade out and turns it under the light of the lamp. "This," he says slowly, "is a seax my brother forged himself." He sheaths it again and hands it back to Tony. "It is not a threat, it's a wooing gift."

Clint and Bruce both choke on their food and start to cough. Unperturbed, Thor raises his voice to be heard about the noise they're making, "Have you, by any chance, received a flower as well?"

"Well, yeah, actually." Tony calls up a photo of the wild lily on his tablet and shows it to Thor.

"A lily," Thor says with a nod. "As I had thought. My brother is proposing a partnership."

Clint starts howling with laughter. The following ten minutes are filled with gentle and not-so-gentle ribbing; a lot of comments about Tony's playboy ways coming back to haunt him are made. Tony rolls his eyes a lot and gives as good as he gets, but is still grateful when Natasha, growing bored with it all, changes topics.

Some time later Tony finally has some time for himself. He puts the knife on a free space (hard to come by) in his lab and the wilted flower he miraculously had found (forgotten to throw away yet, rather) next to it. Thoughtfully he ponders Thor's words; a partnership, he had said. When they'd done the dishes together (there being a schedule, Tony doesn't do that sort of thing out of his own free will) Tony had asked again and apparently one can read the intentions of the courter by the type of flower. A lily means partnership; the part where his is a wild lily is an acknowledgement of Tony's nature, though Thor couldn't say what exactly that means. Tony had JARVIS google to try to find out more but there is an abundance of contradicting information out there about the meanings of flowers and apparently the Vikings didn't do courtship at all, so Tony is stunted where research is concerned. The only way to find out more is clearly Thor, but Tony is not going to do that in front of the others – their reaction this morning had been enough for him, he's not going to provoke more of that.

Instead he catches Thor alone some time in the afternoon. "So, Thor," he asks, leaning against the wall. Thor is lifting weights – he had taken to the work-out room like fire to oil, and Tony had had to adapt all the machines to his superior strength. "About this wooing thing."

Thor grins at him widely, looking as if he isn't stemming five times his own body weight. "Of course, my friend! I must say, my brother makes a fine mate."

Tony's eyes widen involuntarily. "Uh, Thor, buddy, you really can't say it like that. It sounds like you tested it out yourself."

"I do not understand." Thor frowns in confusion.

Yeah, no, Tony is not going to go into detail. He waves it off. "It's not important. What I wanted to ask is, what exactly is Loki proposing here?"

"I do not know," Thor replies. "I did not discuss this with him." Probably primarily because Loki doesn't really talk to Thor, but neither of them mentions that. "You should ask him yourself."

"Uh, yeah, how? He didn't exactly leave me his number or anything."

Thor frowns. "This changes the courtship. I had not considered it before, I did not formally court my beloved Jane." He stops lifting weights and sits up.

Tony takes a seat on a bench next to him. "What changes it, that he didn't leave me his number?" Do they have mobile phones in Asgard?

"No, the possibility of you talking through the mobile device," Thor says. "It is traditional that during courtship, the potential couple may not see each other until certain agreements have been made."

What? "Why?" That sounds incredibly Victorian. Tony is not a fan of Victorian courtship behavior, and he actually knows something about it now, having flicked through the research on courtship rituals JARVIS had assembled for him.

"So the courted's family will not kill the courter, of course," Thor tells him.

Right, of course. "Uh, why would they do that?"

Thor thoughtfully purses his lips. "A wooing is not only about the couple but their families. It is very easy for the courter to offend the wooing's honor, and with it their family's honor. If the honor has been offended, the only way to restore it is by exacting a blood price from the courter."

Well, that makes perfect sense. Or not. "So, wait. I don't have a family."

Thor looks offended. "Are we not brothers in arms, Man of Iron?"

Oh no. Thor only calls him that if things are getting formal. "Uh, yeah. Of course we are, Thor. But that's not really official, is it?"

"I see." Thor frowns. "Is this another difference of culture? In Asgard, a band of warriors such as ours, brothers in arms, is considered a family."

Okay, Tony doesn't know at all what to make of that so he decides not to think about it right now. "So if you're my family… wouldn't that make me and Loki related?"

"Certainly not." Thor frowns. "Why would it?"

Well, if Tony is related to Thor, who is related to Loki… but neither of them actually are related, so maybe not. Certainly it seems hugely complicated, something else to think about at a later time. "Okay. Back to how I should talk to Loki if I don't have his number."

"Well, as long as you are aware that you might be endangering Loki's life, I can contact my brother," Thor offers blandly; Tony can't tell at all what he thinks about that.

"Uh, I'll think about it," Tony says. "Thanks, man." He pats Thor on one massive arm and heads back to his lab for some more thinking.

Three days later he wakes up to a cupcake on his pillow. It's black with a silvery star trek insignia on top – a science one even, not command.

"JARVIS," Tony croaks, "how does Loki know I like Star Trek?"

"It might be the fact that you mentioned it in an interview a couple of months ago, sir," JARVIS offers blandly.

Okay, well. Tony eyes the cupcake and sniffs it suspiciously – and detects the distinct, if faint, odor of alcohol and mint, two of Tony's most favorite things. Ooh.

Tony lifts the cupcake and a small, folded piece of paper is revealed. It reads a full ingredients list – apparently there's chopped walnuts and dark chocolate and crème de menthe and a whole lot of other stuff. Tony doesn't know if that's a concession to the fact that they aren't exactly friends and an attempt at reassuring Tony that there's no poison in there (though who would put poison on the ingredients list) or if it's more about allergies. Tony doesn't have any, but he has a feeling that if he did, they'd be public knowledge.

Alcoholic cupcake before Tony even had to get out of bed. Brilliant.

"Sir-" Jarvis says when Tony opens his mouth, but then it's too late; Tony has taken a nice, big bite. And it's delicious. Not too sweet – Tony isn't really the sweet kind of guy – with the walnuts adding a nice crunch. The dark chocolate is of high quality and melts bittersweetly on his tongue and there are even actual chopped mint leaves to underline the flavor of the crème de menthe. It's perfect. Tony wants more.

Unfortunately more don't appear out of thin air; Tony has to make do with the single one he has. It's the first gift he actually recognizes as a definite courtship gift – the knife was pretty and Loki apparently forged it himself so that's pretty awesome, but self-made food is a definite part of courtship here, Tony knows that much. He even has made food himself for his partners, but he's never had food made for him – not like this. An omelet every now and then, sure, coffee, drinks, but never something baked. Tony is delighted.

"You are in a good mood," Natasha comments when Tony comes in for breakfast. Tony isn't known for being a morning person.

Tony grins. "Got a cupcake today."

She frowns. "From where? Only one? Why didn't you order some for everyone?" The question is justified; Tony is known for showering his teammates with gifts on a whim.

"From Loki." Tony pours himself a cup of coffee. Upon his words, everyone goes silent.

"He gave you a cupcake?" Clint repeats incredulously.

"Please tell me you didn't eat it," Bruce adds, looking freaked out.

Tony eyes them. "I did and it was delicious."

That incurs a wave of protest; he's being criticized for his reckless behavior (not a new point of contention between Tony and the others) and his mental facilities are being questioned. Tony just shrugs and butters his toast, and eventually they realize he isn't listening.

Loki's next gift doesn't appear in Tony's bed, thank god, because Tony's next gift turns out to be Wilson Grant Fisk.

They're in the living room, trying to talk Steve out of the game night he really, really wants. Game nights for Steve means board or maybe card games; Tony and Clint can only bear so much of those and are trying to convince him that xbox games also totally count for game night. Natasha is thumbing through a Cosmopolitan, trying to educate Thor about fashion so that he may never wear that silk pink and yellow shirt or socks and sandals again, and Jane and Bruce are doing competitive Sudoku. Tony isn't allowed to participate in those anymore because he always wins.

In other words, it's a fairly domestic, comfortable scene when the Kingpin, mob boss and a thorn in many people's sides, drops on their carpet, trussed up like a turkey. A nice little box appears next to his head that they later find is filled with enough evidence to prosecute him into oblivion.

"Er," Steve says, staring at Fisk, who is gagged and glaring at them.

"What even." Clint walks over and nudges the man with his foot; then he pokes the box.

"No dangerous materials detected," JARVIS informs them promptly.

Shrugging, Clint pushes the lid off the box with his foot, leaning back a little.

"Mhmhph hm mhphm mph!" Fisk says furiously.

"Shut up," Tony replies. Fisk has been pissing him off for a while now; he reminds him of Stane with his oily, sickly sweet slipperiness. Everybody knows he's a criminal but nothing sticks to him.

"Oh!" Clint exclaims, bent over the box as he peers into it. "Look at that!" He takes a stack of photos out and looks through them before handing them to Tony. It's a series of photos of what clearly is the execution of some guy, and Fisk is right at the front.

With wide eyes Tony looks through the photos; Clint by this point is digging through the box, bringing up stacks of data storage sticks. Tony walks over to Fisk and pulls the gag off him.

"Put me in a damn prison, for fuck's sake!" The kingpin screeches.

Tony blinks at him. "What?"

"Just call SHIELD, what are you waiting for?!"

"Do my ears deceive me?" Tony smiles sweetly. "You want us to call SHIELD? But for what reason?"

"You should have more than enough reasons in that box," Fisk hisses. "Stop dicking around, Stark, that asshole said if you don't arrest me within half an hour he's going to come back!"

Tony narrows his eyes. "What asshole?" A conflict among villains? Or just crime bosses, Fisk is somewhere between.

"That green-eyed freak," Fisk spits, which isn't very helpful, but then Fisk nods his wobbly chin towards Thor. "That one's brother."


Bruce suddenly bursts out laughing. "Look what the cat dragged in!" he chokes, making Natasha start to laugh as well.

"First cupcakes, now crime bosses, what will be next?" Clint giggles.

Tony rolls his eyes. "Really funny. JARVIS, call Fury."

Half an hour later Fisk and his box full of evidence have been cleared out of their living room by a bunch of SHIELD agents – not without Tony having made copies of everything, of course – and Fury keeps demanding to know what the fuck happened. The discussion is not aided by Clint and Natasha, who keep giggling and making jokes about courtship among criminals. Thor doesn't take kindly to his brother being called a criminal – Asgard paid reparations to Midgard in the form of a magical city repairmen service and recompense for every life lost. They took great care to make sure his brother's misdeeds were as atoned for as possible. All in all it's a huge mess.

"I don't know!" Tony eventually yells. "Fuck off!" With that not very mature exclamation he storms off and locks himself in his lab.

He doesn't give a fuck what Fury and the others think about Loki and the fact that he's wooing Tony. Tony himself, he admits that without shame, likes it. Loki clearly is being thoughtful – he obviously did some research, Tony doesn't blaze abroad everywhere that he likes Star Trek and Loki clearly even did some research into Star Trek since he didn't make him a command insignia but a science one. Tony doesn't know how much Loki is aware that things are a bit personal for Tony where Fisk is concerned, but he clearly picked somebody that has been bothering Tony but not so much so that Tony would want to take him out himself. And Tony is fairly sure that Loki took these things into consideration, because there are other villains/criminals that annoy the Avengers without being major players that are easier to grab than Fisk. Going by the evidence in the box this was carefully planned for a while, much longer than the two weeks since Tony received the flower. It's a clear indication that much thought went into this – not just the nabbing of Fisk but the whole courtship thing in general. It's incredibly flattering and Tony is starting to take the whole matter a lot more serious.

Sure, he hadn't thought Loki was joking before; Thor's reaction and information had disabused Tony of that notion very quickly. But it's not like he and Loki have had much to do with each other – yeah, there was that talk in the tower, but Loki threw Tony out of the window by the end of that so Tony doubts that counts for much. They haven't met since, in fact haven't heard from Loki other than through Thor since the invasion, so Tony doesn't quite know what to make of all this. But clearly, Loki is serious and really means his proposal for a "partnership".

Things quiet down after a couple of days so Tony takes the opportunity to talk to Thor. "Hey man," he says, taking a seat next to Thor, who is sitting in the kitchen for a poptart snack. "So, about the courtship."

Thor nods and starts chewing faster.

"I'd like to know what I'm supposed to do."

Thor swallows his mouthful. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, he's giving me all these gifts. There's gotta be something I can do to in return."

A wide, bright smile takes over Thor's face. "You welcome my brother's courtship?"

"Well, yeah." Tony nods.

Happily, Thor draws him into a short hug. "I am gladdened to hear that." He offers Tony a poptart. "I have thought for a long time that you and my brother would get along well."

"Really?" Tony raises an eyebrow. "Why?"

"You are very similar in many ways," Thor replies nebulously. "And at this point there is nothing you are to do but continue accepting my brother's gifts."

Tony bites his lower lip. "Well, yeah, but what… what am I supposed to do and when am I supposed to do it?"

Thor tilts his head. "My brother has shown you his skills as a forger and has acknowledged that you are a warrior; he has shown you his skills at providing food and his abilities at capturing an enemy of yours, his understanding of Midgard's system of justice and his support of your cause." Yeah, Tony had figured all of that himself, but it's strangely exciting to have Thor independently come to the same conclusions. "It is likely my brother will continue to demonstrate his suitability and worthiness as your mate. Then, if you accept his suit, the courting will begin."

"Courting." Tony furrows his brows. "What exactly does that entail?"

"It closely resembles what you call dating," Thor explains. Not entirely helpful because dating is another rather nebulous word, but Tony at least knows a little better what that means.

"Well, I'm curious to see what he'll do next," he tells Thor, and he has to admit, he's looking forwards to it as well.

About five days after Fisk Tony wakes up to a flat, black jewelry box on his pillow. Tony immediately opens it to find a bracelet. It looks a bit like a Shamballa bracelet, Tony has a couple of those, but this one is a bit different. The pearls are big and look like they're made of wood, the colors ranging from golden brown to almost black, and they're each engraved with a script Tony isn't familiar with. It looks ornamental but also functional.

"Hey Thor," Tony calls as he walks into the kitchen half an hour later.

"Good morning Tony," Natasha emphasizes.

"Yeah, yeah, morning everybody." Tony rolls his eyes and opens the jewelry box, showing the bracelet inside to Thor. "What is it? Because I have a feeling it's more than just decoration."

Thor peers at the bracelet, blinks and leans in further to get a closer look. Before he can say anything, though, Clint demands loudly, "Is the freak still giving you presents?"

Tony frowns. "Don't call him that."

Clint glares. "I'll call him whatever the hell I want and I want to know why you're letting him do this."

"Because I want to?" Tony returns sharply. "It's really absolutely none of your business."

Clint opens his mouth but before he can say anything Natasha puts a hand on his arm. "Clint," she says. "He's right."

That earns her a glare. "You know what he-"

"Yes, I do," she interrupts calmly. "But reparations have been made, and it's been almost a year. It's Tony's decision and while his taste is certainly questionable, it's none of our business."

Clint sends Tony a very sharp look, wordlessly gets up and leaves the kitchen.

"I'll talk to him," Steve says, takes two bagels and follows their teammate.

Once they're gone Tony turns back to Thor, unperturbed. "So?"

"It clearly has been enchanted," Thor tells him, still eying the bracelet. He doesn't touch it, Tony notes. "It very much looks like a warding enchantment, several of them, in fact. I have never seen them in this form, though, and I have never seen them in this combination. It is fascinating."

Yeah, Tony had figured something like that. He'd at least thought that magic would be involved. "So it looks like adaptations of enchantments to you? What sort of enchantments?"

"A spell against evil intentions." Thor points at one pearl. "Here are parts of another ward. This one contains words I recognize from a protecting spell, but am not sure which one. My apologies, magic has never been an area I was particularly gifted in," he apologizes. "I never had the patience for extended periods of studying."

"Hmm." Tony furrows his brows. "But all that you recognize are protection against something?"

"Most assuredly."

"Cool." Touching the bracelet for the first time, Tony takes it out of the box. He doesn't feel anything, it just feels like a normal bracelet with wood pearls. Tony puts it on and eyes it, turning his wrist; it looks good. Tony likes his accessories, though he doesn't generally wear them when he has to put on the suit or is in the lab; they're just in the way then. "So, Thor, can you do any magic?"

Thor raises an eyebrow. "Excluding Mjölnir, I assume? I can make fire." He grimaces, ducking his head. "It took Loki many years and a lot of patience to teach me."

"Well then, go on, fire me up." Tony holds out his arm with the bracelet.

"Are you sure?" Thor furrows his brows. "It is not harmless."

Tony nods. "It's protection spells, you said, so it should be fine. Go on."

With a sigh Thor puts his hands on each side of Tony's arm, right above the bracelet. Fingers spread he closes his eyes and starts to mutter a spell. At first nothing happens but then suddenly a burst of fire appears right where Tony's arm is. It's warded off by an invisible shield wrapped around Tony's arm and peters off into nonexistence.

Grinning widely, Tony opens his mouth to say something but suddenly there's another burst of flame, this time green, right above the bracelet. As it dissolves it reveals a small note; instinctively Tony turns his hand and catches it. He unfolds it to reveal green, elegant letters, the same hand that wrote the ingredients list of the cupcake. "Don't do that again, it's a complete waste of a good ward. (Don't worry, it didn't this time, somehow I suspected you were going to do this and took precautions.)"

Tony can't hold back a laugh at that.

"What does it say?" Bruce asks curiously.

"Wouldn't you like to know." Tony winks, refolds the note and puts it in his pocket. "Awesome."

"It is impressive," Thor agrees. "I have never seen a ward put into this form. To change its form and still keep it effective proves how greatly skilled a spell crafter Loki is."

Yeah, Tony's getting the feeling Thor is trying to set him up a little. He doesn't seem to have to try really hard though, he wouldn't lie to Tony and it appears Loki is doing well enough on his own.

"Oh, jewelry?" Pepper asks later that day, sounding surprised and suspicious. She knows that Tony came straight from the lab for their appointment and is well-aware that Tony would (and did on several occasions) work naked in there if he didn't need clothes for protection. "What's going on?"

Here it comes, the awkward thing where you have to tell your ex that you've got someone new. They broke up over eleven months ago – after the invasion Pepper had come to the realization that she just couldn't deal with having to constantly fear for Tony's life. In hindsight it hadn't been entirely unexpected but still had made things uncomfortable for a while.

They'd both long since gotten over any awkwardness and Tony hopes it stays that way. "So, hey. Uh."

Pepper raises one hand to silence him, rubbing at her forehead with the other. "Let me guess, you're in a new relationship."

"Well, not quite. I'm just being wooed?"

Both of Pepper's eyebrows fly up. "Wooed?"

Tony nods, unembarrassed. "Yeah. That's the word Thor uses, anyway. Apparently it's a thing in Asgard."

"So who is it?" Pepper nods towards the bracelet. "Not that model you were in the papers with last month, she doesn't seem the rustic type."

"No. It's Loki, actually. Thor's brother, with the invasion?" he adds when Pepper doesn't react.

Recognition floods her face. "With the invasion? Are you messing with me? Because I sure hope you're messing with me here Tony."

Ever since their relationship ended Pepper's tolerance level to Tony's bullshit has been considerably lower. "Nope. No messing with you – well, at least not in this case, I possibly was a bit messing with you when I told you I'm late because of traffic. But that's only because-"

"Tony!" Pepper snaps. When he shuts up she closes her eyes and takes a deep, calming breath. "Okay. I'm not going to comment on that because it's none of my business, let's just deal with the part of your business that actually is my business, literally."

Yeah, she doesn't approve. Tony can't say he's happy about that but it's certainly not unexpected.

The next thing Tony receives from Loki is an invitation written in Loki's neat, surprisingly straightforward hand, green ink on thick, expensive paper.


It would delight me to meet you at this beautiful little café at the enclosed coordinates on the annotated date and time. Do not worry, it's a private venue with discreet staff.

Hopeful to see you,

Tony's just loving this. He never would have thought he would, but he absolutely loves being wooed like this; loves how much effort he clearly put into this. There's no way he's not going, just for that – but there's so much more. He wants to ask Loki why he picked Tony and he just really, really wants to meet Loki when he isn't being a half-crazed lunatic. That had been hot and exciting and all but it's not really material for what Loki is proposing. And it's not who Loki truly seems to be; when Thor talks about him (which is often) he comes across like a funny, witty, sneaky guy – just Tony's type, really.

Loads of people probably think Tony doesn't have this sort of problem, but just like every other person, he gets first date jitters.

He does not know what to wear.

Tony likes clothes. He looks good in them (and out of them) and he's had enough time to mostly get over trying to cover up the glow of the arc reactor underneath. Mostly he dresses himself but he has a style guy who tells him what to wear and goes shopping for him; that's mostly for public appearances though. Still, by the time it's the evening before the date (set five days after the appearance of the invitation) and Tony still has no idea how to dress he gives up and calls Louis.

"A shirt," Louis says decisively once Tony has explained the situation to him. "Either a t-shirt and suit jacket or a dress shirt and your leather jacket."

"Okay, good." Tony walks into his closet, thinking he finally has some idea, but then his brain goes blank again because his closet is a whole room and he has literally hundreds of shirts and t-shirts and jackets. "…you gotta give me more than that, man, I'm totally lost here."

"Okay, so last week I bought you this awesome dress shirt, it's black with very tight white pinstripes."

"Uh-huh." Tony walks over to the black section of his dress shirts. There are about twenty with pinstripes. "…and?"

"…I swear, Tony. It has a black collar and cuffs and half the button border is black as well, with the rest of it being diagonal stripes. It has two sewed-on pockets and the stripes are diagonal on those as well."

"Right." It takes Tony sorting through half his pinstriped suits until he finds it. "Are the sleeves shorter? And are you sure that fits me?"

"It's a close fit," Louis says impatiently. "This is a date, right? Trust me, you'll look edible in that."

"Only in that?" Tony pouts.

"I'm not commenting on that, you vain asshole. Is that all?"

Tony grimaces. "No. What pants? Jeans? Dress?"

"Jeans, definitely. Go for something casual, washed-out, preferably grey-ish. You don't want to look like you're trying too hard, but you also don't want to look like you just threw something on you had lying around because you couldn't be arsed."

"No, definitely not that," Tony says absently, looking through his jeans. "Shoes?"

"Black, dress shoes, nothing too preppy though. And the leather jacket, you got that, right?"

"Yeah, yeah. Thanks."

"You're going to look edible," Louis reassures him, then hangs up.

Right. That's the goal. Tony figures Loki's got to be real sure that he's interested (and Tony would really like to know how that happened) but that doesn't mean he's going to stay that way once they actually get to know each other.

The following day Tony is even more nervous, even though he already knows what he's going to wear (and looks damn good in it, if he does say so himself). The café Loki picked isn't far away, Tony already scouted out the location via google maps, it won't even take an hour to get there, traffic included. He has to be there at three, and by twelve Tony can't even concentrate enough anymore to fiddle around in his lab. So he goes to take a swim in the pool, powering himself out properly. After that he feels a little better. He gets dressed and has a quick sandwich for lunch – he won't manage more right now – and gets on the way.

Despite taking his time, he's still twenty minutes early. He idles about ten minutes away in his car before he enters the café. It's a cute little place on the exclusive side, offering coffee, tea and pastries, and apparently he's expected. A waitress smiles when she spots him and walks around the counter. "Welcome, my name is Angela, I'll be your waitress this evening. You're expected; if you would follow me, sir."

She leads him up a staircase and gestures towards a booth in the corner by the window, a little secluded. Loki rises from his chair when Tony approaches, smiling slightly. "I was wondering whether you would get out of that car," he says.

Tony purses his lips. "There are rules about being way too early, you know." He takes Loki's offered hand but, instead of shaking it, pulls Loki in for a short hug. None of that reserved, awkward no touching business for him, thank you. This is a date.

Loki shrugs. "I'm not really one for rules." He pulls out a chair for Tony, one from which he can oversee the room including the stairs and the window. It's definitely the chair Tony would have preferred if he had been given a choice.

"Yes, I heard." Tony grins, looking Loki up and down as he sits in a right angle to Tony. He's wearing black jeans, a white dress shirt and a dark purple jumper that looks delicious on him. "You look great."

"Thank you." Loki smiles, peers appreciatively at Tony. "So do you. Very good, in fact. Would you like some coffee?" He offers Tony a menu. "I ordered a pot of Alice Estate Peaberry, but you are welcome to order something else."

Fancy coffee. Perfection. "Nah, that's not necessary. I never had that, I'd love to try it."

"Great." Loki smiles again; he keeps doing that, Tony somehow is surprised about it. "Are you hungry?"

"Not yet, thanks. But I see there's something coming anyway," Tony replies, spotting Angela coming up the stairs with a tray containing a pot, two cups and a plate filled with finger pastries.

"Yes. I must admit, I have a weakness for Midgardian sweets," Loki says. "Thank you, Angela." He waits until the waitress has left before he admits as he's pouring both of them coffee, voice a little quiet, "I was not sure whether you would actually come."

Tony raises an eyebrow. "Come on, you went through a lot of effort with your gifts. Of course I came. I would have come even if I weren't interested."

Loki eyes him. "But you are interested."

"Yeah." Tony grins. "I am. Though I gotta say, I'm sort of wondering why you are. I mean, that came a little out of nowhere."

"Yes, I imagine so." Loki tilts his head. "On the other hand, not really. I very much enjoyed meeting you."

Both of Tony's eyebrows fly up. "Seriously? Because the whole thing didn't go so well for you."

Loki waves that away. "Yes, yes, certainly, but I'm sure we can both agree that that's for the better."

"Definitely." Tony toasts him with the coffee. He has to admit, he's very impressed that Loki can admit it so easily and without reservations.

Loki toasts back before continuing, "Even then, I found you rather fascinating. When I returned to Midgard I decided to find out more about you."

"Cool." Tony grins. He can honestly say that nobody has ever been impressed by him threatening them, or by him being a ballsy smartass.

"Why did you come?"

"Well, honestly, if you had asked me for a date before the whole wooing thing I probably wouldn't have come. I mean, you coming here the first time pretty much felt like a temper tantrum to me."

Loki crinkles his nose, not quiet agreeing; maybe Tony is going to find out more about the whole thing at one point. He's especially interested in how it came about that Asgard paid reparations for him and what actually happened between Loki and his family, because Thor won't tell them anything.

Shrugging to acknowledge that he's aware that he doesn't have many of the relevant details, Tony continues, "Thor does talk a lot about you and I was curious, but yeah, the whole invasion business wasn't terribly sexy. But then you started with the gifts and that changed my mind."

"What of it?" Loki asks curiously; there's a smug curl to his mouth that he tries to suppress.

"The cupcake," Tony replies decisively. "The Star Trek thing. You definitely did your research."

Loki raises both eyebrows. "Really? That's why you're here?"

"No – that's when I sat up and started to really pay attention. The knife was cool but the cupcake did it. And Fisk was pretty awesome, and the bracelet." Tony is wearing that one right now, in fact. "Which reminds me, what exactly do each of the wards mean?" He holds his wrist with the bracelet out.

Loki takes Tony's hand and pulls it a little closer, long fingers wrapped around his palm. "They're each based on the same ward with individual, specialized variations." He starts pointing at one pearl after the other. "Love curses, unpermitted teleportation or summoning, mindcontrol and enhanced suggestions, ossifying curses, poison, general curses that intervene with the body, fiendfyre, tracing and monitoring spells, hauntings and drowning curses. Though they each generally protect against curses."

Tony can't help being impressed. "Cool. You gotta explain to me how that works at one point."

"It's very complicated magic," Loki tells him. "I'm glad you like it."

"Yeah, Thor said, apparently you invented a new way of putting making wards."

Loki shrugs. "I was bored, and I've long been annoyed by the inefficiency of long spells or complicated sigils. Either requires time and patience, which is rather impractical at times."

Ah, a man after Tony's heart. "That's generally how my inventions happen too. Well, that, and I love to fuck with people's expectations."

They share a grin. Loki is still holding Tony's hand, he notes, but he really doesn't mind.

Leaning in a little, Tony smiles. "So, how are you finding Midgard?"

"Some aspects are rather fascinating," Loki replies, gaze wandering over Tony in a way that leaves little doubt as to his meaning.

Tony licks his lips and leans in some more; Loki licks his lips as well, eyes honing in on Tony's and he thinks it's going to happen now, they're going to- Loki blinks and pulls away, face an example of reluctance. "We shouldn't," he sighs, pulling the plate with finger pastries close. "Pastry?"

Tony furrows his brows, not at all happy about this. "Why?"

"It is not proper." Loki seems unhappy but resolute. "Not for the first date."

Damn uptight Aesir. Tony sighs. "Fine. Give me one of these things, then. What are they?"

"I quite like these," Loki says, pointing at a finger long, yellow pastry. "They're called Battenberg."

Tony takes a bite and grimaces. "That's a little sweet for me, to be honest." Or try a lot. Marzipan, sweet sponge and sweet stuff in between? Way too much.

"More for me," Loki shrugs and eats the rest. "Try this, then." He gestures towards a small, pie-like pastry. The dough is flaky and on the inside is something creamy and milky, mascarpone with cream perhaps, lightly flavored with vanilla and finely chopped almonds. It suits Tony's tastes a lot better.

"So you've been here before, I gather?" Tony asks when Loki suggests another pastry, this one dark chocolate flavored with a hint of orange.

Loki nods. "I have been exploring the city. I enjoy this café."

"Only this city or have you been somewhere else as well?" Tony likes New York but Midgard has many awesome places to offer.

"Primarily," Loki replies, "though I have also been to Shanghai."

"Oooh, Shanghai. Nice place, isn't it?"

Loki nods. "Yes. I enjoy how busy Midgard is; everything is always in motion." He grimaces. "Asgard is so stagnant, it makes me sick."

"Oh, I know what you mean," Tony agrees. "If you like fast places, you should check out Tokyo."

Supporting his chin on his hand, Loki leans in a little, a faint smile curling the corners of his mouth. "Tell me about it."

They talk about Tokyo first, then other places where Tony has been; eventually Loki starts talking about places in other realms that he enjoyed. Tony gets very curious about that and completely loses track of time – they order sandwiches, more coffee and more pastries at different points and suddenly Tony's mobile rings and he realizes it's already dark outside. They're still holding hands. This has to have been Tony's most innocent date since he was thirteen, he never would have thought he'd be having such a great time.

"Sorry," Tony apologizes before answering his phone. "Yeah, Steve?"

"Tony? Where are you?"

"What, can't I guy go out without you checking up on me? I promise, I'm a big boy, Steve." Tony rolls his eyes at Loki, who merely raises an eyebrow.

"I know that, just, it's almost nine and nobody knows where you are, we were a bit worried."

Nine? Holy fuck, they've been here for six hours? Wow. "Date's going well."

There's a brief pause as Steve processes that. "You're on a date?" He sounds embarrassed. "Wow, sorry. So I guess you won't be home tonight, sorry."

Tony glances at Loki, sure he's not getting laid tonight. "Nah, I'll be home in a bit." Loki nods and they share a slightly resigned smile.

"Oh?" Steve sounds surprised. "Well, okay. So, you don't happen to come by a pizza place? Thor and I are sort of having a craving."

"Color me shocked. Yeah, I can bring you some pizza."

"Cool, thanks. See you in a bit then?"

"Yeah, later." Tony hangs up and shrugs at Loki.

Loki good-naturedly raises an eyebrow. "You have some pizza to deliver, I take it?"

"Yeah." Tony shrugs. "So listen, I had a lot of fun today."

That earns him a smile. "Me too. I'm glad you came."

Oh, all the dirty puns. Tony holds them back in exchange for a leer. "Do I got your number now?"

Loki purses his lips. "Not yet, I'm afraid, but soon."

Tony pouts. "Really?"

"No." Loki leans in close enough that Tony feels his breath on his lips. "We're being daring enough as it is." He squeezes Tony's hand for emphasis.

With a sigh, Tony gives in. "Alright. But soon." His phone vibrates on the table, drawing both their attention – it's a text, Steve and Thor's pizza requests. For some reason there are five pizzas so Tony suspects a couple of other people discovered a late pizza craving as well.

They say their goodbyes; Loki actually kisses the back of Tony's hand, raised eyebrow and the curl of his mouth telling Tony that it's another daring thing to do. Tony feels strangely giddy when he leaves, but manages to refrain from walking with a spring in his step.

An hour later he's back in the tower, received with much clapping and wolf whistling – the clapping for the pizza, the wolf whistling for his attire. "You went all out, didn't you?" Natasha comments with an appreciative look.

Tony raises both eyebrows. "You have to ask?" He spreads his arms, then spins around. "Come on. I look amazing."

"Indeed," she approves.

"Gotta say, I agree," Clint says, slinging one arm around Tony's shoulders. "And I'm really glad you stopped that weird thing with the nutter."

It takes Tony a moment to get it. When he does he frowns. "I stopped nothing – in fact, the date I was on just now was with him."

Clint frowns, arm sliding off Tony's shoulders. "Seriously? You're still doing this? The fuck is wrong with you?"

"So many things." Tony rolls his eyes. "And I'm not going to fucking discuss this with you."

"No, but honestly, Tony," Bruce says, "I don't understand. Why?"

Tony rolls his eyes and gets his own pizza from the stack, realizing that he won't have a relaxing time with the others there. "He's interested, I'm interested. You know, the same reason why every other person goes on a date? And I'm done talking, enjoy your pizza."

Two days after the date Tony receives a small, elongated box covered in red silk with stitched-on, golden symbols. Tony opens it to find two black balls, each tied up with a neat, red bow. There is a note in the top of the box; it simply reads "open in wide space".

Excited and curious, Tony rushes through his morning ablutions and doesn't bother with breakfast – his friends lately have had the tendency to try to ruin things that make him happy and he'd rather not give them the chance this morning. Instead he directly heads down to his lab and, with the help of DUM-E, clears some space on the floor. Half his lab, all in all. Then he stands in the free space, takes one of the balls out of the box – it feels hard and smooth but looks like it's made of black velvet. Tony puts it in his palm – the note didn't say it's dangerous so he should be fine – and pulls at the bow.

The red silk comes off easily and at first nothing happens, the ball rests still in his palm, but then it starts to, for lack of better word, melt. It doesn't give off any change in temperature, it just starts to melt in Tony's palm, then seep over the side of it towards the floor in one long string. There is actually no trace left on Tony's palm as the last bit of it trickles down, noiselessly landing on the floor, where it starts to fan out evenly like liquid, forming lines and symbols until it's built a magic circle of about one and a half meters in diameter, in the middle of which Tony is standing.

Tony looks around, then steps out of the circle. Nothing happens. He eyes it, then has JARVIS search the internet for the symbols and take a picture that Tony prints out; he has a feeling JARVIS won't find much, if anything at all, and goes to find Thor.

He finds him still in the kitchen, munching poptarts with Bruce, who is drinking tea.

"Hey man," Tony says, sliding into the bench next to Thor. "You got a moment?"

"Of course!" Thor says happily.

"Cool." Tony slides the photo over. "What is this?"

Thor only has to glance at it once. "Why, a teleportation circle! Did you make it? Did my brother give you the magic to do so?"

"Buddy, I'm flattered by the faith you have in me, but no. Loki made it, it came in a sort of wrapped ball? I unwrapped it and this happened."

Thor raises both eyebrows. "A transportable teleportation sigil? My brother is surpassing himself. That is incredibly impressive."

Tony can't hold back a proud smile, like he had anything to do with it – but he's the one who got it as a gift so that has to mean something, right? "So how does it work?"

"There should be another circle to receive whatever you wish to be transported," Thor tells him. "And if the circles are portable, there should be a way to get it back into transportable form – anything else would be of little long-term use and, knowing my brother, he would not gift something to you unless he perfected it."

So there's a bit of a riddle in there as well; Tony loves it. With a thoughtful hum he gets up again but before he can leave, Bruce stops him. "Hey, Tony, wait."

Raising both eyebrows, Tony turns around again, arms crossed. If this is another "how can you why are you not creeped out I am so disappointed/disgusted" thing he's going to scream.

"Listen, I wanted to apologize," Bruce says.

Maybe not. Tony uncrosses his arms. "Okay."

"I realize it's none of my business who you date and I've been acting not entirely fair lately, so I just wanted to say that I'm sorry. You're my best friend and I should be more supportive and I'm going to try to be that from now on."

Tony smiles faintly. "It's alright, buddy. Science bros forever, right?"

Bruce returns the smile. "Yeah."

There is an awkward silence until Tony sighs and rolls his eyes. "Alright, fine. Science bro hug?" He spreads his arms and he and Bruce hug. Bruce is very huggable, Tony appreciates that about a guy. Or girl. Tony really is not picky where that sort of thing is concerned.

Back in his lab, feeling a lot better and munching on a poptart Thor gave him as "provision", Tony unwraps the second ball a couple of meters away from the first and watches as it seeps onto the floor, building a second circle of the same proportions as the first. Its symbols and patterns are almost the same apart from a few minor variations and the most inner circle.

Tony puts a book in the first circle and steps back, but nothing happens. "Uh, okay. Activate?"

And without any fanfare at all, suddenly the book is in the second circle instead of the first.

"Really? That's it?"

Next thing, Tony puts a chair in the circle and says "activate" again; the chair and the book change places. Tony doesn't think that that's the way it was supposed to go, from what Thor said he had gathered that there's one sending and one receiving circle, but clearly the circles don't quite work that way. Tony takes the book out of the circle and says activate again; the chair appears back in the first circle. He tries back and forth a couple of times and clearly, the circles go both ways. Awesome.

Tony plays around a little, transporting himself back and forth a couple of times as well – he doesn't feel anything, it's perfectly smooth, if he didn't know that something's happening he wouldn't even notice – before he sets to trying to figure out how to make the circles into balls again.

At first he tries it with words but that doesn't seem to work, so he starts to examine the sigils closely. Which doesn't actually help because he doesn't know any of the symbols and the internet isn't helpful either – JARVIS finds some symbols that have some similarity with some of the symbols in the circles but it's all rather nebulous and not very helpful in the end.

A little at a loss, Tony moves on to examining the ribbons, but there is no indication there either. He can't even tell them apart anymore. Next thing he checks out the note but it doesn't contain any hidden hints. Last, he investigates the box. There are two small hollows in the red silk, perfect for the balls, and Tony hopefully presses into the first. And, lo' and behold, the circle starts to swirl like a vortex, withdrawing into itself until there's just a black ball left. As soon as it's finished one of the ribbons zips over and loops itself around it, making a neat bow again. Grinning, Tony presses the second hollow and the same thing happens to the second circle. He collects the balls and puts them back into the box.

That has to be one of the most amazing gifts he's ever gotten, and he definitely needs to return the favor. He doesn't care if it's not the done thing; Loki is showering him in gifts and Tony just has to do something in return.

Only what? It definitely has to be something tech, because he's good at that and going by the way Loki has given Tony two gifts of magic already, it's the done thing to do something one is rather good at. Probably to show off how good you are at something, but there definitely is another layer – the bracelet is for protection and the teleportation sigils are just plain awesome. But all of Loki's gifts were layered with at least two meanings, so Tony has to use his brain a little.

He thinks about it all day – Loki is a crafty guy, hot as hell, easily bored. He likes sweet pastries and unusual things – Tony's description of Tokyo had fascinated him and Tony definitely plans to take him there sometime soon. The most obvious solution would be some sort of mobile phone, but definitely not a normal one.

Mind not quite made up, Tony still takes a StarkPhone and starts tinkering around with it, adding features he thinks Loki would like – satellite connection, a couple of maps for awesome things, some games, stuff like that. He also creates a program vaguely built on JARVIS' search function so Loki can take a picture of something and the program will search it for him on the internet to find out what it is – it's not too innovative, things vaguely like that already exist, but still.

He's not entirely happy with it when he wraps things up for the night. It's nice, but it's just missing the awesome part. It might be vain but Tony wants his gift to be mindblowing, the way Loki's had been.

The epiphany comes over night; Tony wakes up at three am with the perfect idea. Loki does magic, so a magic detector itself is not very useful, but clearly there is a difference between magic and magic with evil intentions. Thor's fire when he had tested the bracelet for Loki hadn't triggered one of the wards on the bracelet, Loki had told him because there hadn't been a true, harmful intention behind it. And Tony has an abundance of scans of magic, a few low-quality ones from Loki but a great many from random people who had attacked them with magic over the past year. He had run programs on the scans to find similarities but he doesn't have any scans of magic cast without harmful intentions, it not having occurred to him that there might be a difference.

Tony really wants to jump up now, wake Thor and have him cast his fire so he can compare and make a scanner that won't go off when Thor casts his magic. That probably wouldn't be a good idea though, Thor likes his sleep. But Tony does have these awesome teleportation circles and he has the scans from those; it's actually the first time he had the opportunity to get proper scans from teleportation, scanning in the field is a lot less sensitive and finely tuned than in his lab, with all his equipment. Villains don't usually have the courtesy to appear in the lab and give Tony the opportunity to scan properly.

Tony gets up and doesn't bother dressing before heading down to the lab and starting to work on the scanner he's going to integrate into Loki's mobile. He's never had to bother making the scanners he has smaller; of course he still did but it was more idling than any real effort. First he refines the scanners and then works on making them small. The StarkPhone doesn't really have much room for optimization, at least not Loki's after Tony has spent all day enhancing it, so Tony figures he'll make a new frame and embed the scanner in that. For that it needs a very distinct shape and be as flat as possible.

"Sir, Dr. Banner wishes to speak with you," JARVIS says eventually, pulling Tony out of his science daze.

"Huh?" He looks up, blinking. It turns out Bruce is standing in front of his door, knocking pointedly on the glass when he sees that Tony has noticed him.

"Mute," Tony orders and JARVIS turns the music off. Still feeling a little dazed he walks over to the door and opens it. "Hey buddy, what's up?"

"It's six in the evening and nobody has seen you all day, I figured you were doing a science marathon and haven't eaten all day." Bruce raises an eyebrow.

Tony grins giddily. "I'm a genius, Brucie-baby, if I could blow myself I would."

"Yes, yes, I know, but genius needs fuel, I made you food, come on." Bruce takes Tony's arm and pulls him out of the lab. Tony protests feebly but doesn't make a real effort to get back into the lab; he knows himself that he should probably eat something, he's been up and running at a hundred percent for fifteen hours.

"Look what I found buried in science," Bruce says as he leads Tony into the kitchen, where the team is assembled around the table, waiting for two big baking dishes with homemade lasagna that Steve is pulling out of the oven.

"Whooo, nice outfit, I like the leg," Clint says, leering at Tony's legs. All he's wearing is what he went to sleep in; boxershorts and a t-shirt.

Tony wriggles his eyebrows and extends his leg, hands stemmed into his hips.

"Yes, very sexy," Bruce says and ushers Tony towards a chair with a hand in the small of his back.

"Where have you been all day?" Natasha asks when Tony sits.

"Science," is all Tony replies.

She rolls her eyes. "Yes, I figured as much. What are you doing?"

"Anything awesome?" Clint asks, leaning back when Steve puts a plate with lasagna in front of him. "Thanks, man."

"Dude, everything I do is awesome," Tony replies archly. He beams up at Steve and coos, "Thank you baby, I'd starve without you."

Steve rolls his eyes. "Believe me, I'm very much aware."

"So, what is it?" Natasha asks impatiently. "Are you going to tell us what you've been doing?"

It's either that or burn his tongue by filling his mouth with hot lasagna instead, and Tony hopes he'll get to use said tongue soon. "I'm making something for Loki. Which reminds me, Thor, I'm going to need you soon."

Thor, who doesn't do such plebeian things as burn his tongue, quickly swallows his mouthful. "Gladly, my friend. How can I be of assistance?"

"Do the fire thing again," Tony replies. "In front of my scanners."

"Of course." Thor nods in agreement. "Whenever you wish."

"So," Clint says, voice quiet. "You're serious about this?"

Tony looks at him calmly. "I'm at least seriously interested."

Clint nods, gaze fixated on his lasagna, shredding it with his fork. "So I can't say I'm happy about this. But you're team and I trust you to know what you're doing."

"Thanks, buddy." Tony nudges Clint's shin with his foot. "I appreciate it."

After dinner Tony drags Thor down into the lab and has him do the fire thing a couple of times – first for his scanner and then, after recalibrating it to adjust for the difference in comparison to confirmed malicious magic, to test said scanner. They work together until deep into the night; Thor shows a lot of patience for what has to be rather boring to him, Tony is really grateful. At around one in the morning Tony decides that it's time to release Thor and go to bed. He thinks he's done but he's operating on twenty-two hours without sleep and knows better than to completely rely on any assessments he makes in this condition.

The next morning he goes over all the work he has done the previous day, then snatches Thor again to test the scanners – unfortunately they don't have any malicious magic to test it with, but Tony already has scanners that go off when malicious magic happens (or really any type of magic) so he figures he can safely rely on the fact that that part of the scanner works fine.

So, Loki's awesome modified StarkPhone is done. Now Tony only has to give it to him, and the opportunity comes when Loki sends another invitation, now for a dinner date. This time Tony doesn't bother trying to panic on his own about what to wear; he just calls Louis immediately. He ends up in a tight red plaid shirt, a black jacket and jeans. He looks good, if he does say so himself.

He meets Loki at the requested coordinates, a fine steakhouse – Tony wouldn't have thought Loki would pick a steakhouse and is delighted. Even more so because of how delectable Loki looks; he's wearing a slim-fitted white designer dress shirt that is doing a very good job at emphasizing his slim figure. Tony can't help but put his hands on Loki's waist after Loki has kissed his hand as a greeting – he manages to refrain from kissing him but he does nudge his cheek with his own. At first Loki seems surprised and then he laughs, puts his hands on Tony's but doesn't pull them off.

"You are happy to see me," he comments, sounding delighted.

"Well yeah." Tony raises an eyebrow. "Aren't you?"

"Oh, most certainly." Loki smiles before finally pulling Tony's hands off, keeping one of them to entwine his fingers with as he leads Tony into the steakhouse. He reserved a table for the two of them, again a somewhat secluded one.

"How have you been faring?" Loki asks once they've taken their seats.

"Great, you?"

"I am well."

They stop talking for a bit as they peruse the menus; after they've ordered their food Tony puts his hand on his chin and leans closer. "Thank you for the teleportation sigils, they're awesome."

Loki smiles. "I figured you would like the opportunity to instantly travel to a different location. Have you figured out the travelling spell yet?"

"How to activate the circles? Yeah. Wasn't too difficult, really."

"No." The smile on Loki's face deepens, turns a little secretive. "Teleportation circles aren't that useful if you have to bodily bring them to where you want to travel first, are they?"

Tony raises his eyebrow. "Does that mean there is a way to send the circle to wherever I want to go?"

"Yes." Loki's smile is decidedly smug by this point. "It is not difficult to figure out. I'm sure you'll manage."

Yeah, Tony already has a couple of ideas. "Sweet. And hey, good news, everybody's calmed down. They're not entirely happy but at least they've accepted things now."

"I'm glad to hear that." Loki means it, Tony can tell. He'd told him about his team's reservations about the whole courtship thing; it had bothered him, even though he hadn't wanted it to.

Their appetizers arrive; Loki ordered some Canadian bacon and Tony a jumbo shrimp cocktail. Both taste delicious – they share, offering each other bites from their forks like proper, sickening dating behavior. With their mains they directly ordered steak for two, and some Norwegian salmon because Loki loves salmon and he's a Norse god with a similar appetite to Thor's, so he eats for two anyway. For dessert they have chocolate mousse cake, an assortment of berries and coffee, and then a cheese platter, and then an assortment of sorbet because they don't want to leave. By the time they have no choice because the steakhouse is about to close down Tony feels so full he can barely get up, but he's had a great time and doesn't want to leave.

Loki walks him to his car, and then he asks Tony very formally if he accepts Loki's suit.

Tony raises an eyebrow. "Yes. I assume this is some sort of official thing because I thought it was pretty damn obvious that I'm interested."

Instead of replying, Loki cups Tony's face and leans in to kiss him. For a second Tony is surprised but then he immediately gets on with the show, carding his fingers into Loki's hair and returning the kiss eagerly. Loki tastes of coffee and sorbet and his tongue is clever and skilled; it sends hot and cold shivers down Tony's back to finally get to properly touch him. Unsurprisingly, things get heated very quickly; Tony presses Loki against his car and pushes his body against his, loving that Loki just lets him.

But eventually Loki makes a noise low in his throat and puts his hand to Tony's chest, gently pushing him away. He's breathing heavily, lips swollen and hair an artful mess; Tony loves knowing that he's the one who did it to him. "We can't," Loki is saying; it takes a couple of seconds for the words to get through to Tony.

When they do he sighs, resigned. He's never been one to talk someone into sex when they aren't fully on board with proceedings. And Loki seems to be enthusiastic but there apparently are rather strict rules about the whole courtship thing.

Regretful he steps back, runs his fingers through his hair and takes a deep, calming breath. "Okay. Do I at least get your number now? And that reminds me of something, I can't believe I forgot." Tony digs through his pockets and takes out Loki's mobile. "Here, I made this for you."

"A StarkPhone?" Loki seems entirely surprised. "Thank you."

"It's modified. I figured you probably have a phone already so I specialized this for you." Tony grins. "It detects magic. Harmful magic."

Both of Loki's eyebrows fly up. "Only harmful magic? How did you-?"

Tony shrugs. "Isn't like I didn't have enough opportunities to scan harmful magic. Then I had Thor do the fire thing and from there things were simple." More or less. For him. He's a genius, after all.

Entirely fascinated, Loki stares at the phone. "It looks like a normal StarkPhone."

"It isn't – they're releasing a new version in a couple of weeks, and I modified it from there. It has a thicker frame though, because of the scanner."

Loki stares at the phone, captivated. Reaching one hand out, Loki flexes his fingers and a whirl of fire swirls around them. The phone doesn't react. Next Loki balls his hand into a fists before opening it. A dark red, magic fog bursts into life on his palm before dissolving; the phone immediately starts to whistle.

Biting his lower lip, Loki flicks the warning that has appeared on the screen away; the phone falls silent again. When he looks up his eyes are dark and glittering. "That," he says, voice low, "is incredibly…" he peters off, eyes honing in on Tony's lips.

Not above playing, Tony licks his lips. As if in trance Loki leans in again before catching himself at the last moment and stepping away again, looking torn. "Impressive," he ends, very belatedly.

Tony grins a little weakly; for some reason he's out of breath.

"I should go," Loki says with some regret.

"Alright," Tony sighs. "But at least I got your phone number now."

Loki grins, eyes flicking to the mobile. "You do indeed. That was ingenious." He doesn't elaborate on whether he means the phone itself or the way Tony managed to get Loki's phone number. Leaning in, Loki presses a soft kiss to Tony's lips before pulling away with a resigned smile. "I wish you a nice evening, Tony."

"You too," Tony replies, tongue flicking out to catch Loki's taste on his lips.

With another smile Loki takes a step back and teleports away.

"You look happy," Bruce comments when Tony enters the kitchen the next morning. Tony sends him a wide grin, making a beeline for the coffee – less because he's exhausted and more because he loves coffee. As soon as he woke up he sent Loki a text, "You know, if I can't wake up to you, I wouldn't mind another of those cupcakes as consolation." Loki replied within the minute; "Are you sure a cupcake is a sufficient replacement for me?"

Tony had been delighted with the flirtatious tone and they had bantered back and forth for around twenty minutes until Loki had apologized because he had "other matters to attend to". It had ensured that Tony started the day in a very good mood.

"Had a nice date?" Steve asks when Tony sits down at the table.

Tony grins again. "Yeah."

Clint snorts. "We don't want to know what that means, do we?"

"For your information," Tony says archly, "I haven't had such a tame date since I was thirteen. Except for the one before that." Then he exclaims in surprise because a cupcake suddenly appears right in front of him. A second later his phone vibrates; Loki's text reads "This is a caramel macchiato cupcake, the best I can do on short notice."

"Oh my," Natasha says, staring at the cupcake hungrily. Immediately Tony pulls it protectively close, eying her suspiciously. Then he swirls his finger through the frosting because it looks delicious – tastes like it too, Tony detects a definite note of Kahlua. It's delicious, not too sweet, and the cupcake itself is even better, the taste of the macchiato supplemented by small dark chocolate chips. Well-aware that his friends are watching with varying degrees of jealousy, Tony moans obscenely.

"I'm starting to understand why you didn't put an end to this," Clint says, eyes greedily fixated on the cupcake.

"He does a lot more things than just baking well," Tony replies, not a little smug. While Clint groans that he didn't need to know that he sends Loki a quick text; "omg that was amazing please never stop baking".

Loki texts back, "Want another? There are twelve more, and I cannot eat them all."

"YES," Tony replies. "also you can send more if you want, I'm worried Natasha is going to assassinate me for one, she keeps staring."

Promptly, six more perfect cupcakes appear in front of Tony. Once more everybody stills to stare at them; then five pair of puppy dog eyes zone in on Tony. Like a deer caught in the headlights Tony stares back and is saved by another text from Loki. "It wouldn't do for you to die so soon, this should distract them long enough for you to flee. Be safe."

Tony laughs then waves magnanimously at the cupcakes. "Have at it. They're for you."

The next five minutes see the kitchen filled with obscene moaning as everybody finds out just how good Loki is at baking. Even Clint doesn't hesitate and takes a hearty bite out of his cupcake. "Feef ah delififuf," he then says, not even bothering swallowing his mouthful first.

"My brother was always a great cook," Thor says, staring with longing at the one remaining cupcake – Tony's. "Whenever we went on a quest, we would have my brother cook our meals. In exchange we let him order us around however much he wanted – even Lady Sif."

Tony has met Sif; she's about as scary as Natasha. He really has problems picturing her letting Loki order her around, especially considering that she doesn't seem to like Loki much. None of Thor's friends do, that much was obvious at least to Tony, if it was less so to Thor. On the other hand, if Loki cooks as well as he bakes… maybe it's not that hard to imagine after all.

"For about 5 mins it sounded like some sort of orgy was happening in the kitchen," Tony texts Loki while he eats some scrambled eggs Bruce made for him. "Suffice to say, everybody loved those. Thor's reminiscing about the things you made them do in exchange for food you cooked, I think he's about to start crying."

"I know for a fact that Volstagg effectively cries himself to sleep on a regular basis because I told him that he would never eat food I cooked again," Loki texts back.

Tony laughs and shows the text to Thor, who nods gravely. "It is indeed true," he says. "Volstagg has a special relationship to food."

"Hell, I have a special relationship to food like that," Clint says seriously. Then he frowns. "Does he make pie?"

Thor tilts his head. "I do not know." They both look at Tony, who shrugs and shakes his head; he has no idea either. "Why?"

Clint frowns at the table. "He dragged in this apple pie at one point."

Everybody tries very hard not to look like they're paying attention; Clint never talks about his time as a mindslave.

With a deep breath Clint pulls himself out of the memory. "He'd pretend we were friends sometimes, it was a bit weird. But the pie was delicious."

After some hesitation, Tony decides to text Loki. "Clint says you make awesome pie." He doesn't think there is any point to pretending the whole invasion thing didn't happen, and if Clint's talking about it…

"It was my first attempt at Midgardian baking," Loki replies after a couple of minutes. "I am glad he enjoyed it."

After breakfast Tony shuffles all the cupcake wrappings into a pile, takes a picture and sends it to Loki with the words, "much enjoyment was had with your baking".

Two days later Pepper tells Tony that she wants to send him to Tokyo to the main Japanese branch of Stark Industries. They're having some problems and it's also a political/diplomatic thing – everybody will feel better if Tony pops in for a couple of days, smiles a lot and meets people. Normally Tony argues and whines about it but this time he jumps upon the opportunity, adds the week-end to the planned Monday/Tuesday stint and calls Loki.

"Come to Tokyo with me," he says as soon as Loki picks up.

"Tokyo?" Loki repeats, surprised.

"Yes. I gotta do business for two days but we can do the week-end first," Tony explains. "You'll like it."

Loki is silent for a moment. "You do realize that I'm the one who's supposed to be courting you," he says then, sounding a little amused.

"And I like it and all, but you can't honestly expect me to wait around all day and let you do all the work," Tony replies. "Come on, I know you'll like it."

"Alright," Loki finally agrees, "but only if we'll have separate sleeping arrangements."

Tony sighs. "Okay. You drive a hard bargain." Loki makes an amused noise, making Tony smile. "So, if touching is out of question, what is your stance on telephone sex?"

"Sex does appear to be an important part of courtship on Midgard," Loki says after a brief pause. Tony sits up and starts to grin. "I suppose some concessions can be made."

"Yes," Tony fistpumps, not hiding his enthusiasm. "Because there's only so much I can fantasize with only a couple of kisses to go on." It's a complete exaggeration because Tony's imagination knows no bounds, but that's not important.

"Tell me about your fantasy, then," Loki purrs, voice dropping low, and holy shit, this is really happening. Tony has to spread his legs to accommodate for the rapidly dwindling space in his jeans.

"I'm honestly spoiled for choices," Tony stalls, flicking through everything he's masturbated to lately; he decides to skip any and all scenarios that involve kneeling for now. Loki's apparent occupation with kneeling is rather sexy but he isn't sure how much of that was a product of the whole temporary madness thing. "Okay, there is this one where instead of leaving me after dinner, you fuck me in the backseat of my car."

Loki makes an interested noise low in his throat. "Because I didn't have the patience to even teleport you to somewhere with a bed."

Tony moans and starts to open his jeans. "Yes, exactly." He closes his eyes, sinks himself into the fantasy. "You barely bothered taking your pants off."

"I might not," Loki breathes, "to finally have you, have the endurance to bear the interruption to take my clothes off. But I would peel you out of everything you wear."

"Oh?" Tony breathes, one hand wrapped around his dick. "Whatever for?"

"To have you fully and completely," Loki purrs.

"Right there in public?"

"I would not let anybody see you like this," Loki immediately says. "You're mine, and I'm proving it to you, and nobody may witness it."

Tony moans and starts to jack himself, unable to refrain for a moment longer. "What exactly would you do?"

"I would touch you all over, except exactly where you want me, until you're begging me for it." Shit, that's so hot; Loki's voice is dark like mocha and it sends shivers through Tony's body. "You like to beg, don't you?"

"Yes," Tony breathes. "And you'd reward me, wouldn't you?"

"I always reward good behavior, and you're being very good," Loki purrs. "You're touching yourself, aren't you?"

A strangled noise escapes Tony's throat. "Yeah. Are you?"

Loki hums. "Yes, I am. You are on speaker."

"Oh, fuck. Are you naked?" Tony squeezes the head of his cock and doesn't hold back the noise he makes at that.

"Partly," Loki sighs. "I did not expect this."

"Me neither, I'm in the office right now," Tony tells him, cupping his balls. "If anybody walks in right now they'll get quite a show."

Loki hums. "Naughty. You like that, don't you? Just like you like the idea of someone finding us when I fuck you in your car."

Shit, Tony wouldn't have thought he'd like it this much to hear Loki use a word like that in his proper accent. "You'd fuck me there, would you?"

"Hard and fast," Loki purrs, "the first time."

Tony moans again, jacking himself faster. He's this close to coming; Loki is panting in his ear, low, velvety voice seeming to vibrate through Tony's entire body.

"After that, I would take my time," Loki is saying, sounding thoughtful and sensual and fuck, how does he manage to sound so composed. "I would lick you until you're whimpering because it's so good but not enough, and when I slide back into you you will scream because it's exactly what you wanted and it's too much."

"Still in the car?" Tony gasps. "Or did you take us somewhere more comfortable?"

"I think I would have taken the time to take you to a bed," Loki hums, "if only to see you splayed across my sheets, all loose and pliant because I made you feel so good."

"Oh," Tony chokes; he's this close.

"The third time I'd have you," Loki murmurs, voice low and breathy. "I think I would like to ride you. It would take you long to get hard again, and just as long to come; I could have you for a while."

"Fuck." Gritting his teeth Tony gives himself over to the image, breath hitching. Loki is panting and growling in his ear, telling him to come, and Tony does, eyes squeezed shut and brain frozen on the image of Loki above him – he doesn't quite know whether Loki's fucking him or riding him, maybe both at the same time.

"Fuck," he gasps again, aftermath echoing through his body. Loki's still breathing heavily in his ear, making these small noises. "Loki, come on." Loki gasps and makes this choked little noise before letting out a long and controlled breath.

For a while they just catch their breath but eventually Tony gets uncomfortable, come drying sticky and cold on his skin. At least he had the wherewithal to pull up his shirt so barely any got on that.

"So," he says, reaching for some tissues. "That was totally hot."

"Hmm," Loki hums sleepily.

"And totally against the rules, right?"


Tony grins smugly. "Brilliant. So, come to the airport in three days?"

"Alright." Loki gives a breathless laugh. "I shall see you then."

Three days later Tony picks Loki up at the main entrance to the airport and then takes him to his private jet's terminal. Loki looks mighty fine in black jeans, a dark blue t-shirt with some patterns on it and a black leather jacket, so the first thing Tony does when Loki slides into the passenger seat is pull him into a nice, long kiss with lots of tongue. There wasn't any more phone sex, to Tony's disappointment, but a fair number of texts.

They make up for it a little on the flight; Loki won't have them do anything really interesting, clothes stay on at all times, but he does allow for hands to wander. Eventually Tony has to excuse himself to go jerk off in the toilet, and when he returns Loki is lying in the corner of the sofa, body a picture of post-orgasm aftermath, a flush in his cheeks and teeth digging into his lower lip. He grins when he spots Tony and rolls his head to glance significantly at the supposedly invisible security camera before he looks back at Tony.

"Hnngh," Tony says, because he took his time in the bathroom, perhaps a little passive aggressive because come on, this is getting a bit ridiculous, and oh my god. Loki put on a show for him. He's so going to watch that security footage as soon as possible.

Loki smiles sweetly. "So we will spend the week-end exploring the city and then you have to work?"

"Correct." With a sigh Tony drops himself on the sofa next to Loki and buries his face in his neck, wrapping one arm around his waist and totally snuggling up to him. Loki wraps an arm around Tony's back and rubs up and down his spine a little.

"We shouldn't sleep to adjust for the time difference," Loki reminds him, starting to card his fingers through Tony's hair.

"Distract me, then."

Loki takes a deep breath. "Has Thor ever explained to you the exact circumstances of how I came to lead a Chitauri army to your planet?"

"No." Tony closes his eyes and breathes Loki's smell in; laundry detergent, the faint smell of some manly perfume – either that or deodorant – and just skin and Loki himself. "He said something about you having become lost – or gotten lost, I don't quite remember. But he didn't say anything before he left, and he returned after the whole reparation business and by that point the whole thing was sort of a taboo subject."

"Lost is a simple yet accurate way to put it," Loki says, turning his head to press his mouth into Tony's messy hair.

"There's also what we know about the time Thor was exiled here – well I'm not supposed to know everything but I hacked SHIELD. You had some sort of epic fight, did you?"

"It was less about Thor and me at the beginning," Loki explains. "Well, perhaps that's not entirely correct. At the very beginning – inasmuch as there can be a beginning that doesn't start with my birth – it was about Thor, primarily, and a little about me."

Tony listens silently as Loki tells him the story; how Thor was supposed to inherit the throne, a prospect that Thor himself now shudders at, how Thor was banished – that Loki never wanted for that to happen, but once he found out the truth of his origins it suited him perfectly. "I lashed out," he says, voice quiet, faintly melancholy. "Everything I thought as true was a lie. My brother wasn't my brother, and all the pain I endured because of him – caused by him, his friends, just by people comparing us to each other – was for naught."

Yeah, Tony can't really relate to that, but he can understand. He understands lashing out, certainly.

"And I let go," Loki eventually says very quietly.

Tony takes a deep breath and pulls back a little, brushes Loki's hair out of his face. Loki meets his eyes soberly.

"I think this calls for some sweets," Tony decides, getting up and taking the box of finger pastries out of the fridge. He didn't want any stewardesses on this flight and he's finding he doesn't miss them at all.

Loki's eyes widen when he sees the pastries. "Did you get these from the café?"

"I did." Tony picks out a Battenberg and hands it to Loki, who takes it with a bright smile.

They have a bit of a break of coffee and pastries, after which Tony feels a little more awake. He's good at staying awake for extended periods of time, but that's generally when his brain is running overtime.

"Would you like to hear the rest?" Loki eventually asks, not really looking at Tony but at a French fancy he's picking apart.

"If you wanna tell me, yeah," Tony replies, watching him. "But you don't have to tell me now."

Loki shrugs. "It would be easier to finish now."

"Okay then, c'mere." Tony waves Loki over and pulls him into his chest, gets them comfortable on the couch again.

"I let go," Loki says, "and I would rather not go into detail about where I ended up, but simply put, it was not the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

It's not. Tony already figured out something like what Loki tells him happened; even then he recognized the look in Loki's eyes – he saw it in the mirror for a long time, still sometimes does when he wakes up from nightmares. Besides, he doesn't think Asgard would have gone to all that effort to make up for Loki's mess without there being some sort of mitigating circumstances for Loki.

Loki ends his tale when he gets to the part where he landed on Midgard; Tony knows the rest, he says. "Yeah," Tony confirms, "Pretty much. Thanks for telling me the bits I didn't know. I appreciate it."

"There is a lot of information available about you on the internet," Loki replies with some fake nonchalance. "I thought I should probably even out the scales, as you do."

Tony nods, well used to the fact that his private life is available to every idiot through a couple of mouse clicks. "Well there is some stuff about you too."

"Not half of which is correct," Loki says. "And that which is is incredibly outdated even by my standards. Most of it is based on prophecies."

"Prophecies? Do they come true?"

Loki frowns. "Not generally – some parts, but never the whole thing. I hate prophecies. They cloud your vision for the present and make people form opinions and decisions based on incorrect information." There definitely is some backstory there, but Tony's not going to ask about that now. Instead he just makes a thoughtful noise and pulls Loki in for a kiss.

They make out some more but don't let things get as far as the first time, settling in to play some xbox eventually because Tony thinks he'd just fall asleep during a movie. It's great fun the way Tony usually only gets to have with Clint and Natasha; Bruce and Steve are into fairplay and Thor can only deal with so much cheating. Loki, though, is a complete cheater through and through, using all manner of dirty tricks, and Tony loves it.

They arrive in Tokyo at six pm Thursday evening; it's five am in New York and Tony knows he should last at least another five hours to adapt to a somewhat reasonable sleeping pattern, but he doesn't think he can do that. He's dead on his feet.

By the time they arrive at the hotel it's eight in the evening; Loki plies him with coffee and drags him out for dinner, which works to keep Tony up for two more hours, but then he rapidly crashes and Loki has to practically carry him back into their penthouse. Tony doesn't remember how he got into bed, or how he ended up in only t-shirt and boxers; the thought that Loki undressed him while he was sleeping is really quite exciting.

"Sleep well?" Loki asks when Tony makes it out of his room after a nice long shower. He's sitting in the seating area zapping through Japanese TV channels, but turns the TV off when Tony shows up.

Tony hums and climbs into Loki's lap for a thorough good morning kiss. "How did you sleep? Did you have breakfast?"

"Not yet, and I slept well, thank you." Loki's hands settle on Tony's waist. "I made you coffee."

"Ooh, you're a star," Tony coos when Loki hands him a cup of freshly brewed coffee. "Brilliant."

He stays seated in Loki's lap while he drinks his coffee; Loki keeps his hands on his waist and he's really quite comfortable there. So he's a little reluctant to suggest breakfast once his coffee is gone, but he is hungry and they're going to run around all day, they really should get something to eat first.

They go to one of the hotel's restaurants for breakfast; Loki at first wants to try traditional Japanese breakfast but when he finds out that that's not generally sweet he's not too enthusiastic about that anymore. So they have omelets instead – Loki tries two different sweet ones that make Tony's teeth ache just by looking at them, Tony a normal non-sweet one. Afterwards, they go out to explore the city.

Tony first tries to do some goal-oriented sight-seeing but Loki isn't too keen on that; he apparently prefers to just walk and "let the city guide" him. At first Tony is a little skeptical but he soon gets infected by Loki's enthusiasm. They eat lunch at some restaurant, then take a break lazing around in some sort of park they found before they get back to exploration. Tony doesn't usually do this; when he explores a place he usually does an internet search first to find out where he should go. He's been to Tokyo before, but primarily clubs and Shibuya, of course.

By the time dinner rolls around they're both tired and packed with bags full of trinkets and silly tourism crap and a couple of other things. Tony knows better than to take the metro back home, but a taxi isn't much better, what with the horrible traffic. But Tony clearly forgot to account for Loki and his teleportation; as soon as Loki figures out the problem he rolls his eyes, takes Tony's hand and zaps them back into their hotel room. Then he has to take them to the front of their hotel because Tony tells him they can't do that, suddenly appear in their room without using their door cards and without being seen entering. For dinner they have room service and watch a couple of movies, Mothra and Godzilla, of course, and if Tony doesn't entirely accidentally fall asleep on Loki, there are no complaints.

The next day, after a morning trip to the spa area and a nice lunch at the hotel, Tony drags Loki to Shibuya. Loki loves the craziness of the district and insists on going to a maid café, and then to one of the crazy, headache-inducing, loud clubs for dinner. It turns out he loves it, Tony has a feeling he shouldn't be surprised.

On Sunday Loki finally lets Tony show him some of the sightseeing stuff; the palace gardens and Sensoji Temple. After lunch they check out the Tokyo National Museum and then take a walk around the Shinobazu Pond in Ueno Park. Loki has to admit in the end that he did enjoy that as much as freely wandering through the city.

Monday and Tuesday Tony has to spend at the Stark Industries branch, shaking hands and talking sweetly and finally making scientists pee their pants with excitement and fear – sometimes both at the same time. He has breakfast with Loki and in the evenings drags Loki to the business dinners he ends up being invited to – everybody is delighted, Loki is pretty and charming and elegant and he's Tony's boyfriend who hands out smooth compliments in flawless Japanese. By the time Tony and Loki get to their penthouse late Tuesday evening, Tony is joking that they could care less if Tony comes again but would lay out a red carpet for Loki. Loki huffs and rolls his eyes and tells Tony that they adore him, which, well, is the truth.

They leave at ten am on Wednesday morning and arrive an hour and fourteen hours of flight-time later in New York. Which naturally means they're completely knackered and it's not even lunchtime. That isn't what annoys Tony the most, though; what really bothers him is that he has to say good-bye to Loki at the airport. He simply refuses to do that and convinces Loki to get into the car with him; he can teleport away from anywhere, after all. Loki doesn't take much convincing, especially in light of the fact that Happy will drive, meaning he can get some one on one time with Tony in the limo.

Shortly before they arrive at the tower Loki pulls away from Tony, breathing heavily, and says with some regret, "I better leave." None of Tony's pouting can convince him otherwise until it slips out that Loki means to leave because he doesn't think the Avengers would be too happy to have him in the tower. Tony calls him ridiculous and calls the tower, pointedly doing it on speaker so Loki can hear the ensuing conversation.

It's Bruce who picks up. "Hey Tony, back from Japan?"

"Yeah. Everything alright with you guys?" If anything grave had happened – attacks or resulting injuries – Tony would have been informed, but people like it when he asks questions like that.

"Yes, everything's good. Are you coming home now?"

"Almost there already actually, and I have Loki with me, you mind if I bring him with?"

"No." Bruce sounds surprised to be asked. "Go ahead, I'd like to get to know him anyway. You guys hungry?"

Tony raises an eyebrow at Loki who shrugs, then nods. "A little, we could eat some."

"Cool. We're going to have stir-fry. See you in a bit."

"See?" Tony says, pointedly raising one eyebrow at Loki. "They're okay with us dating, they probably expected to meet you in person eventually. And if anybody is mean to you, just threaten to never bake anything for them, that should shut them right up."

Loki grins. "My secret weapon is my cooking skills. Maybe I should've tried to take over this realm with cupcakes instead of an alien army."

"Absolutely." Tony grins and leans to kiss him again.

When they enter the kitchen some time later, only Bruce is present, brewing tea.

"Hey buddy." Tony slings one arm around his best friend and only lets go when Bruce, long used to Tony's affectionateness, hugs back.

"Hey." Bruce turns around and smiles at Loki, reaching out to shake his hand. "Nice to actually meet you."

"Yes, quite." Loki's smile is a little dry but he shakes Bruce's hand without hesitation, which is more than some other people have done for him and they didn't have an up and close personal encounter with the Hulk.

"I just made some tea, would you like some?"

"Yessssssss." Tony bodily crowds Loki over to the kitchen table so they can sit down; they're both tired from the time difference (though Tony is probably considerably more so, not having a godly constitution, but he's ignoring that right now). "Tea is good. Caffeine?"

"Some, it's a yerba mate blend I made," Bruce informs them, pouring three cups. "This is the first time I'm having it, tell me what you think."

They all sip the tea; Tony isn't much of a fan of any hot drinks that aren't coffee but he'll take caffeine in any form, and this at least tastes a little like coffee.

"Almonds?" Loki comments, sounding surprised. "And something fruity."

"A bit of strawberry," Bruce explains. "White tea as well."

Loki nods. "I like it."

"Me too." Bruce smiles.

"Caffeine," Tony moans. It earns him a collective eyeroll but Loki pats his knee comfortingly. "It's one am on our internal clocks," he informs Bruce, who nods sympathetically.

"So, how did you enjoy Tokyo?"

"It was… unusual," Loki says carefully, suppressing a smile.

Bruce laughs. "Diplomatically put. I've never been but from what I see on TV, it looks… crazy."

"Parts of it are rather different from what I have seen of Midgard so far," Loki replies. "Though of course there are also the quiet, sedate places."

"Where else have you been on Earth?" Bruce asks, and at that point Tony starts to zone out. He puts his head on his folded arms and closes his eyes, vaguely listening to the conversation. At one point Loki starts to card his fingers through Tony's hair, which has an extra calming effect on him.

Laughter wakes him up – by more than two people. Tony blinks and finds Steve and Bruce cutting vegetables and Natasha sitting by Loki, nursing a cup of tea as well. Loki's hand is still in his hair but he's talking to Natasha. It turns out they're discussing hunting methods and which animals they've hunted in their lives. Tony has no idea how that topic came up.

When he stirs Loki and Natasha's attention immediately switches to him.

"Sexy," Natasha teases with an amused laugh.

Tony crinkles his nose and wipes the drool out of the corner of his mouth. "Shut up. It's way past my bedtime."

"You have no bedtime," Steve comments. "Now get your big head off the table, we need some room."

Tony whines and sits up before dramatically slumping into Loki's side. Loki supports Tony's childishness by wrapping an arm around his back and letting him put his head on his shoulder. Steve makes use of the newly free space by putting a bowl with cut peppers and another with cut zucchini on the table. Joint meals for the Avengers generally involve large amounts of food, what with Thor and Steve and even Bruce having such large appetites. Tony wonders at that, now that he knows that Loki doesn't eat as much as Thor – he does have a greater appetite but nothing of Thor's proportions.

Speaking of the devil, Thor chooses that moment to curiously poke his head into the kitchen. As soon as he spots Loki he steps fully into the room, a wide smile spreading on his face. "Brother!"

Loki smiles. "Brother."

Smile broadening, Thor moves in to hug Loki, dragging Natasha into the hug as well because she's sort of in the way. "I'm very happy to see you."

"Thor, stop strangling Natasha," Loki replies, patting Thor on the back.

"Yes, stop manhandling my girlfriend," Clint agrees from the door.

Thor quickly lets go of both Loki and Natasha, apologizing profusely. Natasha waves him away and sends Clint a narrow-eyed look.

"So, like, super conference in the kitchen?" Clint drops into a kitchen chair, offering Loki a grin and a wink before he reaches across the table for a fistbump that Loki meets without hesitation, grinning as well.

"Super cooking in the kitchen," he corrects.

Clint glances at the bowls on the kitchen table, then at the stove where Bruce and Steve are frying meat in two different woks. "We're gonna need an industrial kitchen soon. Or a cook."

Yeah, probably not; everybody is a bit sensitive about letting other people onto the Avengers floor, they take care of everything themselves. Maybe they would let SHIELD agents do stuff, but Tony is strictly against that, so that's that.

"How was Tokyo?"

And that all over again. Tony barely has enough patience for smalltalk the first time around; he zones out again. But this time he keeps his eyes open, he doesn't want to fall asleep again.

About half an hour later it's finally time to eat, Tony manages a few bites, mostly picking out the chicken.

"You really should get to bed," Bruce suddenly says right into his ear; Tony twitches and blinks.

"Yeah, probably." He rubs his face and yawns. Normally he wouldn't be so tired, it's barely 2am after his internal clock, but he hasn't had much sleep over the past couple of days – he had to go to work and then afterwards spend time with his workers until late into the night, and after that he hadn't gone to bed immediately because he wanted some time alone with Loki. All in all, for the past three nights he makes it to maybe twelve hours of sleep.

"Come on." Loki pulls Tony up and out of the kitchen, accompanying him to bed. Tony makes some jokes about Loki sleeping with him but Loki is adamant that he won't, no matter how much Tony whines. At least Tony falls asleep with Loki kissing him; it makes up a little for waking up alone. Maybe.

"Hey man," Clint calls over when Tony walks by the living room to on the search for food.

Tony pauses and walks back; Clint wouldn't have called him if he wanted something. "Hey."

"So, he's alright, your guy," Clint says when Tony slumps on the sofa. He offers Tony some peanuts he's nibbling.

"Yeah." Tony takes the peanuts and licks the salt off them before crunching them between his teeth. "Did he stay after I went to bed?"

"A bit," Clint nods. "We talked some and then Thor took him out for a talk, he didn't come back."

Tony frowns and digs through his pockets for his mobile, firing off a quick text. "But everything's okay?"

"Yeah, peachy." Clint pats Tony on the back. "Go get some food, there's some leftover Chinese."

Yeah, Tony goes to do that.

"I'm fine, why wouldn't I be?" Loki answers Tony's text. They write back and forth a little until Loki unexpectedly invites Tony to dinner.

"Sure," Tony replies, a bit puzzled; they've had dinner a number of times now, Loki's question sounds a bit formal. Tony understands why when Loki sends him the details of time and place and it turns out he meant at his home. After that Tony suddenly is a lot more excited about it than he would have been, were it just dinner in a restaurant.

This means another clothes emergency. It's ridiculous because Loki's seen him in a number of clothes and situations by this point, but still he wants to look good. Louis tells him to make it really simple, just a blue button-down. "One of these terrible wifebeaters you like under that," he says. "You look good in them, take it off when you get warm. Or when you don't."


Loki's apartment is in a nice part of the city, expensive but not extremely so. He welcomes Tony with a kiss at the door that both calms Tony down and excites him, and eventually it only does the latter.

"Nice greeting," Tony eventually purrs when Loki finally lets off, licking his lips.

Loki grins. "I have been looking forwards to seeing you again."

Happy, Tony hums in agreement and kisses him again, carding his fingers through Loki's silky hair. "Me too," he replies very belatedly.

"If you want to," Loki murmurs against Tony's lips, breath fanning moist across his face, "you can stay the night."

Tony thinks he hears angels sing. Everything is perfect in the world; if he died now he'd die happy – no, that's an understatement, he'd die ecstatic, exhilarated, jubilant. He'd die the happiest man in the world. Or the saddest because he didn't get to bang Loki after all but he has no intention of dying, so.

"I see you want to," Loki grins, looking a little giddy himself.

"Oh, yes," Tony growls, scraping his teeth over the sensitive part of Loki's neck, right below his ear, that he's discovered recently. Loki moans, eyes rolling up, and holds on tighter to Tony. "Can food wait?" Tony asks breathlessly. He doesn't think he can concentrate on food right now, even though he's been looking very much forward to getting a taste of Loki's much-praised food.

"Not long," Loki gasps and suddenly drops to his knees.

First Tony makes a noise of protest at Loki being gone, and then one of encouragement when he realizes just where Loki went. Loki looks up at him, eyes glinting wickedly and face at exactly the right height, and puts his hands on Tony's belt. Tony almost goes cross-eyed with pleasure at just that. He's had Loki's hands on him before but not below the belt (not counting gropes of his ass), and now Loki is quickly undoing said belt, intentions clear. Tony hungers for him; hungers for his mouth.

"Oh god," he breathes when Loki opens his jeans and pushes them down along with his underwear, getting straight to business.

Eyes flaring, Loki grins as Tony's erection springs up, free from all cloth and air barely cooling. One of his hands reaches out to massage Tony's cock, the other finding its way to Tony's hip, just holding on. Tony's not even breathing.

A strangled noise wrangles free from his throat when Loki leans in, eyes fixed on Tony's until the very last moment, and wraps his lips around the tip of Tony's cock.

"Fuck," Tony curses, breathing picking up. Loki's mouth is hot and wet, tongue as talented and agile as it had been when they'd kissed. Tony doesn't think he'll ever be able to kiss Loki without thinking of this.

After giving Tony a moment to adjust Loki goes to town, putting all registers; sucking hard, mouth sliding up and down, tongue wrapped around his cock and pressing very single one of his sweet spots. The vein along the underside, the spot right under the head, the sensitive tip. Within five minutes Tony is panting and moaning, fingernails digging into his palms to stop himself from reaching out, taking Loki's head and just thrusting in and in and in, he's so close, just a little bit more… but Loki takes him there by himself and that's even better, the way Loki sucks harder, faster when he realizes how close Tony is. Tony doesn't even know what noises are coming out of his mouth, he's gone, he's just gone.

His knees don't quite give in but they definitely stop working and, unable to hold himself up any longer, he sinks to the ground. Loki is waiting for him, sort of catching him and crawling between his splayed knees. He presses his hot face into Tony's neck and he's breathing heavily and Tony at first doesn't recognize what he's doing but as he comes down from his high he notices the movement of Loki's arm, the fact that his hand has vanished into his jeans and oh, oh.

"Come on," Tony murmurs, pushing Loki's jeans down to make room for his own hand, grabs Loki's cock and puts his mouth to that spot right below his ear. "Come on, come on."

With a strangled noise Loki comes, managing to catch his come with the tails of his shirt even as he goes breathless with orgasm.

"There goes that shirt," he gasps a little later.

Tony chuckles breathlessly. "Take it off, I don't mind."

"No, I imagine not." Loki presses his mouth into Tony's neck, drawing in a deep breath before pulling away and pulling the shirt over his head. He's not wearing anything underneath so Tony thinks it's an okay exchange, but then Loki rises, helps Tony up, points him to the bathroom should he need it and vanishes. When he returns he has replaced his soiled black shirt with a green-brown plaid one. Some buttons at the top are unbuttoned so Tony gets a nice glimpse of Loki's chest but still, it's unquestionably a loss.

"Food now," Loki says, taking the time to kiss Tony's pout away before leading him into the kitchen. It's a highly modern one that still manages to look comfortable instead of sleek and distant, but all Loki does is grab two prepared plates with salad for starters and add a spoonful of dressing to each. The table is actually set in the living room, their plates in a right angle to each other instead of opposing sides. Loki went all out; there's table décor, candle light and some sort of music in the background, Spanish guitars, Tony thinks. During his rocker phase Tony had learnt to play the guitar but he hadn't had the patience to achieve this level of skill.

"You have to play for me sometime," Loki says when Tony mentions this to him just before taking his first bite.

Tony is too busy having an orgasm in his mouth to reply. Never would he have thought he'd have this reaction to salad, it's just leaves and some cut red peppers, some roasted sunflower seeds, roasted pine nuts, some herbs and some other stuff, but the dressing. Probably the combination of the other stuff also has something to do with it, but the dressing.

"Oh my god."

Loki barely goes to the effort of suppressing his smug smile.

"No, honestly, are you listening to me, oh my god." Tony takes another forkful and puts it in his mouth and wow. Salad dressing. Who would have thought? "I want to lick this dressing off your body."

That makes Loki laugh out loud. "Maybe later, if you lick quickly."

Tony nods; he can do that, that won't be a problem at all. "What is it?" He's already scraping the last bits off the plate. Honestly, he wouldn't mind if the whole meal consisted of salad with this dressing. Rabbit food. When Steve finds out about this he's going to build a shrine in Loki's name.

"Assuming you're primarily speaking of the dressing… some wholegrain mustard, a bit of honey… some other stuff."

"Other stuff, huh?" Tony repeats. "You're not going to tell me, right?"

"No." Loki raises an eyebrow. "If you want it, just say, I'll make it, but I don't give out my recipes. Besides, some of it is not available here anyway."

"Can you make more cupcakes?" Tony fires off quickly. Loki told him to say, so… he should put his requests out there in the open in the hopes that they shall be filled.

Loki laughs again. "Yes. I made something else for dessert but we can make some later."

Yes, perfect.

"Excuse me for a bit, you can go snoop around, I know you want to," Loki says, picking up their plates.

There's something quite awesome about dating a person who knows him. Making use of the blanket permission Tony inspects the shelves, finding a number of books in a wide range of languages. He wonders whether Loki understands them because of the Allspeak Thor has got going as well or if he truly has the ability to speak dozens of languages.

As his books, Loki's collection of CDs is very wide and eclectic; so much so, in fact, that it doesn't tell Tony anything about Loki's preferences at all. He isn't very surprised by this though, he's had enough opportunity by this point to figure out that eclectic is practically Loki's middle name. There are some unsigned paintings of landscapes fantastic to varying degrees, and as Tony works his way through the hall into Loki's bedroom, Loki's children.

Loki's bedroom is warm but bare, containing nothing but a king's size bed, a bedside table and aforementioned paintings on the wall. Tony is going to see more of that bed later so he doesn't dawdle; right now he wants to snoop through Loki's underwear. Yes, he does that. Loki gave him permission too.

He finds that Loki, just like Tony, has a wardrobe room; the contents don't surprise Tony much, elegant and tending towards the dark side. There's also some leather and clearly non-Earth-style clothing, which reminds Tony that he wants to suggest some roleplay to Loki eventually. Though it would probably be a better idea to wait until they've been sleeping together for a while before he suggests some evil villain/good superhero games (and he's flexible on who will be who).

And there is Loki's underwear drawer; Tony finds a lot of skin-tight boxerbriefs, mostly cotton, some silk, and ooooh. Strike. Hotpants. Leather and silk, some rather daring, and there even is lace, dark green and black. And a garter belt, oh wow.

"Like what you see?" Loki asks from where he's leaning in the doorway, sounding amused and not at all embarrassed. Embarrassment isn't really something Loki does; Tony loves his partners unashamed.

"Oh, yes." Tony grins at him. "You definitely have to model this for me."

"Did you find the rest of my lingerie yet?"

Tony blinks slowly and raises his eyebrows. "No. What?"

Loki smiles. "Dinner is ready. Come."

Tony scrambles after him. "What lingerie?"

Mid-step Loki suddenly walks backwards so that his back bumps into Tony's chest; Tony instinctively wraps his arms around his waist. Loki laughs and puts his hands on Tony's arms and awkwardly walks him into the living room. Tony doesn't mind, presses his face between Loki's shoulder blades and breathes out hotly against his skin, making him giggle.

"Are you going to explain about the lingerie?" Tony asks when Loki leads him towards his chair.

"Eventually." Hips swaying, Loki walks back into the kitchen. When he returns he's carrying two plates filled with what he informs Tony is steak and peppercorn sauce, green beans and chili cheese potatoes.

Everything is perfect. The green beans are crisp and the steak tender and still pink in the middle, just the way Tony likes it, with the peppercorn sauce adding delicious flavor to both. The chili cheese potatoes are the perfect balance to all the high-end food, hot and delicious. Tony is not ashamed about how loudly he appreciates the whole meal.

Dessert turns out to be poached pears in spiced red wine – it's delicious, especially with the unusual spice combination of vanilla, cinnamon and thyme. Tony loves it and eats all of it, not getting impatient at all about finally getting to strip Loki because it's delicious, not too sweet at all.

But once it's all gone Tony doesn't want to wait any longer. Going by his heated looks, Loki agrees with him; they get up simultaneously and don't even pretend to care about the dishes. As one they move towards each other and kiss, bringing their bodies together up close. Tony melts into Loki, wrapping one arm around his neck and the other around his waist. That blowjob should have taken the edge off and maybe it did a little, but by this point Tony feels no effect of it; all he wants is to finally get Loki into bed.

The kiss turns heated very quickly; Loki has pulled Tony close and is doing a very thorough job at making him breathless and hard. He's getting dominant in a way he hadn't quite before, first pulling Tony along and then pushing him into a wall in the hall. It makes Tony shivery and breathless; everything, just everything. The way Loki tried so hard and went through so much effort to please Tony, prove to him that he's a good partner – usually things are the other way around for Tony, he has to do some smooth talking and proving his impressiveness to people before they land in bed. It's just, people expect Tony to do things, they don't do things for him and they certainly don't woo him like Loki did. It just… does things to Tony, especially considering who Loki is.

Tony moans loudly and wraps one leg around Loki's hips, bringing their groins together better. They both make approving noises at that; Loki takes Tony's leg and pulls it up higher but Tony is only that flexible. Eventually they compromise and Loki lifts Tony up completely, which, wow. That has never happened to Tony before. He's not really the kind of guy people lift, and Loki's arms aren't even straining. It's incredibly hot.

"Take me to bed," Tony pants against Loki's lips. Loki immediately pulls away from the wall and carries him over, not taking his lips off where he's definitely sucking a mark into Tony's neck.

In the bedroom Loki lets Tony down carefully on the mattress and immediately sets to peeling him out of his clothes, pressing his mouth to each inch of skin he reveals. Tony feels utterly worshipped; it turns his limbs into pudding and he can't stand it when Loki tries to pull away. He wraps both arms and legs around Loki and pulls him on top of himself, turns them on their sides. They make out like that while Tony opens Loki's shirt and pushes it off him, starts working on his jeans next.

"Tony," Loki gasps when Tony deliberately brushes over his cock.

Tony hums and leans in, puts his mouth to Loki's ear. "Remember that phone call? When we talked about what you're going to do to me in my car? And you told me what you're going to do to me afterwards?"

Loki gulps and nods, pupils blown wide.

"I want you to do all of that to me," Tony growls.

Loki bites his lower lip and his eyes go even darker. Wordlessly he pushes Tony on his back and quickly pulls the rest of their clothes off. Tony willingly spreads his legs when Loki moves between them and tilts his chin up in a wordless demand for a kiss that Loki meets willingly. The next moment Tony feels wet fingers between his legs; he doesn't even know when and where Loki got the lube but that's less than important now. All that matters is Loki's probing finger that pushes into Tony's body, smooth and careful.

"Come on," Tony grinds, rolling his hips up. "You said hard and fast."

"That's why you're going to need to be well-prepared," Loki purrs, voice dark. "I'm going to fuck you, and then I'm going to fuck you again."

Tony shivers and moans, eyes fluttering closed. "Oh god, yes." He lets his hands wander over Loki's shoulders and chest, pinches his nipples just to hear him pant and make those noises low in his throat. But even through all of Tony's teasing Loki doesn't lose his concentration once, keeps stretching Tony rhythmically, slowly. By the time Loki finally deems him ready Tony is liquid desire, just panting and moaning and very, very ready. When Loki pulls his fingers out and moves in Tony moans just at the sight of him, upright and focused between his legs, guiding his cock to Tony's entry.

"Yesss," Tony hisses when Loki finally pushes in, cock hard and stretching him just right.

"Tony," Loki chokes, freezing once he's in completely; he cups Tony's face and stares down at him in a way that makes Tony warm all over in an entirely different way.

"Yes," Tony pants again, takes Loki's hand and entwines their fingers. Their eyes catch and don't let go until Tony says, quietly and lowly, "Come on."

Biting his lower lip, Loki rolls his hips before he pulls back, pushes back in. They both moan and get gradually louder as Loki picks up a rhythm, picks up speed and force. It's shiver-inducing, the way Loki fixedly stares down at Tony, eyes half-lidded and mouth open as he pants loudly. Pleasure courses through his body and he clings to Loki, head whirling.

"Tony," Loki growls, making him blink and try to gather his scattered wits. "Touch yourself," Loki orders, and Tony moans and drops his hand from Loki's shoulder, obediently wraps his hand around his cock.

"Come on," Loki gasps, teeth briefly digging into his lower lip before he has to open his mouth again to draw in enough air.

"Loki," Tony whines, eyes fluttering shut. Loki is fucking him hard enough to shake the bed; were they in a hotel, the neighbors would call reception to complain about the noise.

"Yes," Loki hisses, grinding his hips. "Make me come."

Oh, Tony knows exactly what he means; he fists himself tightly and a moment later comes so hard his vision turns black for a second, his own scream ringing in his ears. Loki calls out his name loudly when Tony's body goes tight around him; his rhythm turns erratic and he spills deep in Tony's body.

Tony whimpers when Loki pulls out, moves away from his body to collapse on the mattress. He immediately turns and wraps both arms and leg around Loki's body, who returns the favor and pulls him close, not caring about their sticky skin at all.

It takes ages for their breathing to calm down; Loki keeps running his hands over Tony's body until Tony captures both of them, pulls them to his mouth to press tired kisses to them. They're sticky everywhere they touch, sweat and Tony's come mixing, but neither of them care.

"Sleep," Loki murmurs eventually, lips brushing over Tony's forehead.

Tony smiles tiredly. "Wake me up creatively."

Loki smirks. "As you wish."

Tony wakes up lying on his side; he's hard and there are wet fingers in his ass, Loki molded hot to his back. He moans and pushes back, still half asleep but rapidly waking up; Loki reacts by pulling his fingers out and replacing them with his cock. "Creative enough?" He pants into Tony's ear.

"Fuck," Tony curses. "Yes, perfect." He might or might not have fantasies about this sort of thing.

Loki keeps the rhythm lazy, letting the urgency build up slowly. The hand he isn't holding himself up with wanders over Tony's body, across his chest and thighs, only teasing around his cock by barely brushing his fingertips over it. Tony moans and keeps his hand on Loki's hip, feeling the movement of his body and letting him do whatever he wants. This is incredibly hot and a perfect way to be woken.

Eventually Loki stops teasing and properly touches Tony's cock, making him tense all over. "You're so good," he murmurs lowly in Tony's ear. "Now come for me."

Yeah, Tony can do that. Loki fucks him through it, heightening the pleasure; Tony feels used and treasured at the same time, he doesn't know how that works but it's so good, so good.

"Yes," Loki gasps, curling around Tony's body and wrapping his arm tightly around his chest as he comes.

They're even more wet and sticky now, too much to ignore, so they go take a shower. Tony feels deliciously lazy and languid, body twinging in all the best ways. Loki lends him some comfortable clothes and then they go make three am cupcakes.

"I can do coconut cream cheese," Loki says after perusing the contents of his fridge and cupboards, and yes, Tony is totally on board with that. He gets to help; they make the batter together, wait in front of the oven until the cupcakes are baked and then leave them to cool, making out on the kitchen counter and eventually taking care of the dinner dishes. Once Loki deems the cupcakes cool enough he slathers them with the prepared coconut cream cheese frosting and dips them in shredded coconut. Then he finally lets Tony try one.

Not surprisingly anymore by this point, it's delicious, made perhaps more so by the fact that it's four am, they finally had sex and are now sitting naked except for boxers in the kitchen.

Loki hums in agreement, licking some coconut cream cheese frosting out of the corner of his mouth. That and the fact that there's some frosting leftover gives Tony ideas. He takes the frosting, dips his finger in it and smears it over Loki's nipples. Loki stills when Tony then leans in to lick it off.

By the time Tony pulls away, licking his lips, Loki's breathing has quickened and he's looking at Tony with half-lidded eyes.

"Bedroom?" They both suggest at the same time, then laugh and wander off, Tony taking the bowl with the frosting with him.

In the bedroom, Loki shucks his underwear and throws himself onto the mattress, turning on his back. Splayed out like that he's all angles, long legs and expands of satiny skin. Tony can't wait; he crawls after him and puts his mouth to his hipbone, nibbles at it and sucks along the sensitive skin where thigh meets hip. Loki seems to like it, he makes approving noises, but Tony brought the frosting for a reason; he takes it and starts to dot it all over Loki's upper body and belly, his thighs.

Loki lets out a breath when Tony licks a long stripe across his shoulder down towards his nipple. At first he's mostly silent while Tony licks the frosting off him, but he starts to sigh quickly and make frustrated noises as Tony avoids his nipples. And when Tony starts to scrape his teeth over Loki's belly he moans and goes tense all over; clearly, Tony discovered a sensitive spot. He makes thorough use of it, licking and nibbling and sucking little red marks into Loki's belly, almost forgetting the frosting over it but he left some on Loki's nipples and eventually he remembers. Loki gasps when Tony suddenly latches on to his nipple and sucks the frosting off.

"Tony," he breathes, voice low and raspy. Tony wants to hear him say his name like that again, but when he sucks the frosting off Loki's other nipple Loki only moans. Which is good in its own right but not exactly that he wants.

"Ah!" Loki exclaims when Tony suddenly takes hold of his hard cock.

Tony leans over and nibbles at Loki's earlobe, letting his breath fan over the shell of his ear. "Say my name."

Loki grunts and lets his legs fall open, giving Tony more room to move but Tony keeps his hand still.

"My name," he insists lowly, flicking the tip of his tongue over Loki's nipple again.

"Nh, Tony!" Loki gasps and, oh yes, perfect. Rewarding him for his obedience, Tony tightens his grip on Loki's cock and starts to jack him. He starts to nibble down Loki's neck, sucking a mark into the sensitive skin.

"Got the lube?" he eventually murmurs.

Loki hums and stretches across the bed, fishing out a tube of lube from among the sheets that he unceremoniously hands to Tony.

Tony presses his grin into Loki's collarbone and coats his fingers with lube before moving his hand again between Loki's legs, massaging around his hole. Loki can't seem to be able to stand the teasing for long; he pulls his knee up and grinds out, "Get on with it."

Ah. Obediently, Tony pushes one finger in and leans over to capture Loki's mouth in a kiss. Loki returns it eagerly, open-mouthed and wet. They have to pull away to catch their breaths regularly and Tony takes the opportunity to lick across Loki's throat; he has a thing for that, how vulnerable it is. Maybe it's that, maybe it's just a mood, but Loki stays completely pliant under him, just runs his hands over Tony's skin and makes breathy noises, lets Tony do all the work.

Once he deems Loki ready Tony pulls his fingers out and coats his cock. Loki shifts and makes room for Tony as he moves between his legs and holds still as Tony guides his cock to his entrance. When Tony thrusts in at a slow, even pace Loki lets out a long breath before he bites his lower lip as Tony stills, in to the hilt.

They pause, staring at each other and panting. Eventually Loki reaches out, takes one of Tony's hands and entwines their fingers. Tony takes his hand and presses a kiss to the back of it before he pushes it into the mattress next to Loki's head, pulls his hips back and pushes back in again.

"Hnngh, Tony," Loki makes.

Yes. Tony quickly finds the right angle to make Loki's eyes roll up and adapts a pace that makes them both moan, somewhere between fast and languid, but just right. Loki's hair is splayed darkly around his head, one of his legs wrapped around Tony's hips. He just loves this, loves the rhythm and their bodies coming together like this, working together towards the same goal. It's even better that this is Loki, who wants Tony so much and who's been driving Tony crazy in more than one way lately.

"Tony," Loki gasps again, making Tony moan.

"You- Loki," he whines, dropping his head and concentrating only on keeping the rhythm steady even as Loki starts going tight around him. Eventually Loki starts making noises high in his throat until he moans Tony's name, eyes fluttering shut and muscles locking up as he comes. Tony groans and finally lets himself go, rhythm faltering as he follows Loki into orgasm.

Loki's fingers slide into Tony's hair and guide his head to his chest; Tony lets himself sink down and relax as his breath and rapid heartbeat slowly calm down. Loki's heartbeat is strong in his ear, lulling him into a doze. But at one point they have to separate to wipe themselves off cursorily before they curl back together to fall asleep.

Tony wakes up still tangled up with Loki, only now he's lying on his belly and Loki half on top of him, one leg and arm wrapped around his waist. When Tony stirs he murmurs sleepily and nuzzles between Tony's shoulder blades, arm tightening.

"Pee," Tony utters. Loki makes an unwilling noise but lets go of him.

After his brief trip to the bathroom Tony crawls back into bed with Loki, nuzzling his shoulder until Loki rolls to his side and pulls Tony into his chest for some bona fide cuddling. "What've you got planned today?" Tony eventually murmurs. Loki is carding his fingers through his hair and if Tony could, he'd purr.

"Nothing much," Loki replies. "You?"

"Photoshooting for the expo," Tony grumbles. It's in the afternoon and not supposed to take long so he'd found it acceptable at the time, but right now he's pretty annoyed by what's going to hinder him from spending the day in bed with Loki.

"Better let you sleep some more, lest you look exhausted," Loki teases.

There's only one reply for that. "Photoshop."

"You don't need that," Loki scolds. "You look perfect." Loki isn't fond of this sort of thing; when they'd been in Japan Loki had held a twenty minutes long speech about people's tendency to make everybody look the same, starting from make-up concealer over photoshop to magical glamours. He really doesn't like the root idea behind that at all, that people have to look a certain way to be deemed acceptable.

"Darling, your idea of perfect and most of Earth's vary somewhat," Tony says. "Not that I disagree with you, I'm awesome. But I totally need to look inhuman to be acceptable in print."

Loki snorts derisively and buries his face in Tony's hair; eventually, they doze off again.

The next time he wakes up Loki is nuzzling his neck and rubbing circles in the small of his back.

"I was starting to think I'd have to wake you up," he murmurs, nibbling at Tony's collarbone.

"Now I'd love to know how you would have done that," Tony rasps, voice hoarse from sleep. He lets his hand slide down the curve of Loki's spine and cups his ass.

"I guess you'll never find out," Loki sighs, one of his hands winding between their bodies to take hold of Tony's cock.

"I think I can make a guess." Tony bites his lower lip and spreads his legs.

"I think you might be right." Starting to bite along Tony's neck, Loki tightens his grip on his cock and starts to jack him as he starts to fill up.

Tony groans and squeezes Loki's ass before returning the favor, pushing his own hand between their bodies to take hold of Loki's cock. Loki moans happily and leans back to involve Tony in a sloppy kiss that lasts until they both come messily all over each other.

They shower and then have an easy breakfast; some scrambled eggs and cupcakes. Tony takes the rest of the cupcakes with him when he returns home, much to the enthusiasm of Clint, whom he meets in the hall.

"Oh," Clint makes as he bites into the cupcake, sounding like a man who discovered god, which is sort of true, actually. "Oh god. Please never break with him, I'll have to kill you if you do."

"Thank you, Clint, you're a true friend," Tony replies sarcastically.

Bruce chooses that moment to enter the kitchen, stopping dead in his tracks when he sees the box Tony is holding. "Cupcakes?"

"Want one?" Tony offers the box and Bruce snatches a cupcake faster than he can look.

"These are delicious," Bruce sighs. "Don't stop sleeping with Loki, Tony, please."

Tony rolls his eyes. "Not gonna stop, I only just started."

"Started what?" Steve catches the tail-end of the conversation as he enters the room, followed by Thor, both looking post-shower. Tony tries not to wonder whether they showered together or what.

"Sleeping with Loki," Tony replies, offering both of them the box. They each take a cupcake, looking like the sun just broke through the clouds when they bite into them.

"That is good to hear, friend Tony," Thor eventually says, mouth full.

"Uh, thanks." Tony shares a look with Clint, both vaguely disturbed.

"I would have regretted having to kill my brother to restore your honor," Thor continues blithely. "So I am relieved decorum was maintained."

Yeah, Tony's not going there. "Where's Natasha?"

"She should be-"

"Here," Natasha says, entering the room. "What's with the conference? It's past breakfast and too early for lunch."

"This is where the food is," Clint explains. "Namely, cupcakes Tony brought."

Natasha's eyes hone in on the box in Tony's hands like a rocket launcher with target finder. "Hmm," she makes, eyes fluttering shut as she bites into one Tony has surrendered. Now there are two cupcakes left.

The others have noticed this as well; they're more or less obviously staring at them.

"One is mine," Tony hastily claims, before they start to form alliances and fight each other. "The other one is… Clint's."

Clint whoops and swoops in, snagging the remaining cupcake. "Why me?" he thinks to ask a little later, mouth full.

"Because I like you best," Tony simpers. Clint immediately plays along, tilting his head and fluttering his eyelashes.

"Oh my, Mr. Stark," he breathes, putting a hand to her chest. "How forward of you!"

Tony leers and wriggles his eyebrows. "You can reward me later."

Clint starts to laugh, breaking character. "In your dreams, Stark."

"Really not," Tony returns, making Clint laugh harder.

Later that day, after the photo shooting, Tony mails Loki one of his favorite photos pre-photoshop and another that Pepper had liked best. He looks all business tycoon in the first one, cocksure and sarcastic, and in the second he's laughing freely at something somebody said, he doesn't remember what now.

"The first one makes me want to do things to you. You look beautiful in the second." Loki writes back.

To cover up his flustered blushing – not many times has Tony been called beautiful – Tony writes back, "What things?"

Loki sends him a long, graphic but not vulgar paragraph detailing what exactly he was thinking about, how he's going to bend Tony over his desk and fuck him raw – or maybe he's going to come into Tony's office and crawl under his desk and blow him.

After having taken care of urgent business arising from that email Tony calls Loki. "That was naughty," he says as soon as Loki picks up.

"Oh, yes," Loki purrs. "I trust you enjoyed yourself?"

"Most certainly. You got time today?"

"I have a deadline Monday morning," Loki declines apologetically. "But if you can bear with my dancing class on Tuesday, we can share the night afterwards."

Tango with Loki followed by some more tango of the vertical kind? Fuck yeah.

"What are you all dressed up for?" Clint asks when Tony walks by the living room on his way out on Tuesday evening.

"Dance class," Tony calls back, not stopping for the inevitable teasing; he's running a bit late.

Loki's waiting for him in front of the studio. They kiss and then Loki leads him inside, where there are a couple of people engaging in small-talk. "There's a sort of snobbing going on," Loki murmurs in his ear as he leads Tony to where they can change their shoes. "I'm a very fast learner; they moved me from the beginner's class to this intermediate class last week and some of them here object to that. Especially since I didn't bring a partner and they had to break up couples and dance with one of the instructors."

"How dare you," Tony murmurs sarcastically. Loki had talked about that before; he had told Tony that he was kind of sticking it to them by bringing Tony. He had surrounded it with apologies and disclaimers that Tony didn't have to come, Loki is perfectly capable of dealing with them on his own, but Tony really doesn't mind. He's been used that way before and depending on who it is and how they go about it Tony had felt that way too – used – but with Loki it's different; he knows Loki doesn't want him here just for that. Tony is actually quite enjoying the way it ripples through the crowd, once they recognize him.

A woman loudly clapping her hands draws everybody's attention. "Welcome, class, to another lesson of intermediate Latin dance; it's tango week today and I see everyone managed to bring a partner, brilliant. Without further ado, then, move into positions. Let's dance!"

Tony never entered a class; he had a private instructor (in more than one way, which had vaguely annoyed his father, but she had taught Tony well). Dancing with Loki is better; he's not more skilled than the instructor or anyone Tony had tangoed (no pun intended this time) with, but he's naturally elegant and very adaptive. Within ten minutes they have adapted to each other and Loki responds easily, naturally to Tony's cues.

"Beautiful, you're very in sync," the instructor compliments when she comes around. "You've danced together before, yes?"

"The first time today," Tony replies with a wink, "the vertical kind of dancing, anyway."

She laughs. "Yes, familiarity with each other's bodies is always helpful in dance, especially as intimate a dance as tango."

Tony grins and whirls Loki, ending with a nice dip; when they pull up again they smoothly and wordlessly switch lead.

"I'm looking forward to what you'll do once you've had some time to get used to each other," the instructor comments before wandering away. After a while it's half-time break; champagne flutes with chilled lemon water are brought out and people start to chat and mingle. A woman immediately finds her way to them, a disinterested guy in her wake.

Married couple, Tony registers automatically, he's having an affair and she knows about it. They're both pretending she doesn't. At one point Tony might have moved in to seduce the frustrated wife, but not anymore. Not since before Afghanistan, and certainly not now.

"Loki," she says, saccharine sweet. "I see you're not alone this week. Who's your friend?"

"Boyfriend," Tony corrects, smiling just as sweetly.

Loki puts a hand in the small of his back. "This is Tony. Tony, Pamila and Andrew."

Tony doesn't offer them his hand; he's particular about who he touches and because he's rich and famous people let him get away with it.

"So, Tony," Pamila says, turning to Tony, entire demeanor changing to simpering. "Have-"

"Loki!" A loud voice interrupts her. "I'm so glad to see you, I really need to talk to you." A woman swoops in and takes Loki's arm, leading him – and with him Tony – away with an apologetic wave to Pamila.

"I don't really need to talk to you, I just thought I'd save you from her. She's a terrible gossip," she reveals to Tony. "The unhappy, nasty kind, you know."

Tony nods neutrally. "I am familiar with the type, yes."

"Thanks, Tina," Loki says. She winks and wanders off again, presumably to join her husband.

"She's the nice kind of person who likes to take people under her wing," Loki tells Tony once she's gone, moving in to kiss him.

"Hm," Tony hums absently; he honestly doesn't care much. Mostly because Loki doesn't seem to care either. "I like dancing with you."

Loki smiles, surprised and delighted. "I like dancing with you too."

"That guy over there is taking pictures of us," Tony notes, tilting his head into the direction of the guy who's trying to surreptitiously take pictures of them with his mobile phone.

"I can delete them if you would prefer," Loki offers, not looking. "The ones over there as well. And Pamila's."

"I'll think about it."

"Just let me know before any of them leave," Loki says, taking Tony's hand and leading him back to the dance floor.

Tony does think about it; the consequences to them letting the photos leak would be a couple of weeks of intense media attention. That's nothing new and Tony has long since stopped letting himself be bothered by that sort of thing, so that's not the problem – what Tony doesn't like about the whole thing is the fact that these people will get some money off it. It's also something he's had to live with all his life, intruding assholes will make money by taking pictures of him, but these assholes are bothering Loki and that's what's annoying him.

When he eventually explains this to Loki his boyfriend laughs and waves it off. "I don't care about these people. If that's the only reason why this bothers you, there's no need."

So they leave it; after the dance lesson Loki takes Tony home. They have a quick snack – Loki pre-prepared some awesome potato salad – and then go to bed.

A couple of hours later Loki is running the tips of his fingers up and down Tony's naked back, sending small sparks of warmth through his tired muscles. "We'll be all over the gossip magazines tomorrow," Loki says quietly.

Tony hums sleepily. "What about it?"

"I'm just wondering." Loki shrugs and leans down to press a kiss to Tony's shoulder. "You have never been seen with a man like this."

Kissing is what Loki means, obviously intimate and anything but platonic. He's right, there have been rumors but the most people got photos of was of Tony leaning in too close. It's more by accident than by design, Tony generally is more drawn to women and most men just prefer things more discreet.

Tony turns his head to peer at Loki from the corners of his eyes. "Are you asking if I'll mind?"

Loki shrugs, moving more into Tony's line of vision. "I think I'm more asking where we are. I doubt you'd let any such thing as the public's opinion impress you."

With a frown, Tony turns around completely to better look at Loki, furrowing his brows. "You proposed a partnership, didn't you? And I accepted and returned your suit."

"So we're partners," Loki presses.

"Yes." Tony frowns, sitting up. "What-?"

Loki shrugs. "I just wanted to hear it." He leans in to kiss Tony softly.

"Okay." Tony can't say he doesn't understand Loki's need to have it spelled out for him that he belongs somewhere. "We're partners. I'll tell anyone who asks."

Loki's smile is sweet as he presses it against Tony's mouth.