Tony watches passively as the warehouse sets alight in a roar of emerald fire, the flames licking the walls and curling out of the open windows, engulfing the room in an unnatural way; a way that screams magic.
Tony hates magic, but he can’t help but let out a low, impressed whistle as he pulls forward, the stiff limbs of the Iron Man suit fighting him the whole way. The HUD is down, his faceplate has been discarded and his suit has taken a substantial amount of damage, incapacitating his movement; it puts him at a massive disadvantage.
Not that he’d admit that any time soon.
Mirth brimming over in his eyes, Tony meets the unearthly gaze of his foe.
Loki Laufeyson glares straight back, his teeth set in a grimace and his body encased in iridescent, undulating magic.
“You mean to interfere in something your placid, mortal mind cannot begin to comprehend! Let fate run its course!” Loki snarls, the sound feral, his composure barely holding on by a thread.
Willing the suit to take him forward still, Tony grins roguishly, eyeing his adversary’s skin where it is pockmarked by spreading patches of icy blue. It is cold, inhumanly cold, and Loki’s left eye has bled into an angry red.
“I’m afraid I just can’t do that, big blue. I told you once and I’ll tell you again: there will never be a version of this where you come out tops. You’re flogging a dead horse buddy,” Tony shouts, his voice brimming with confidence he doesn’t feel.
Loki snarls in response, his face contorting in anguish and rage. “You will rue the day you were born, Iron Man!" he roars, frost splintering across the floor at his feet as blue flesh yet further spreads across his body.
He takes steps backwards then and suddenly raises his palms to the twisted metal of the roof, his expression edged with psychotic intent.
And Tony immediately powers up his last functioning repulsor, a whiplash reaction, and fires it straight at Loki through the shimmering magic and cold mist that surrounds him. The blast hits the demigod directly in the chest, and Tony watches as he stumbles backwards, his arms faltering then flailing to right himself.
The blast doesn’t even take him off his feet. The last thing Tony thinks before registering how fucked he is, is that Loki means business.
Before he knows which way is up, he’s flat on his back, a grand spear embedded into the breastplate of his suit. The suit gives an ominous jerk and a recessive whir, and in that moment he knows that he is truly out for the count.
Above him, uneven eyes observe him with unbridled rage, a blue hand slowly crushing the spear further into the suit, causing it to emit a series of sparks. Tony gasps a strangled breath as the pressure constricts his airway and the suit bears down heavily on this body.
Loki’s rage turns into disgust. “Pathetic. You are weak, mortal, and you dare challenge me. I ought to grant you a favour and end your miserable life.”
He leans down, using the spear as leverage and further embedding it into Tony’s chest. Tony reluctantly shouts in pain, feeling the sharp end breach the metal of his suit.
Then Tony smiles, the expression tinged with pain and mischief as Loki slides to one knee and leans over him, levelling his face with Tony’s. His eyebrows rise into his hairline when Tony begins to laugh.
Sucking in a grounding breath, Tony decides to hammer the last nail into his own coffin.
“I get it, Lokes. I get the whole supervillain-with-daddy-issues-wants-to-take-over-the-world dig, I totally do. But let me spell it out for you – you’ll never win, Thor will always outdo you because he fights for what is right. You fight because you never got your throne, you have delusions of grandeur and you insist the universe owes you something. I hate to break it to you, but you’ll always be runner up. But don’t cry, I’m sure they’ll let you watch in chains when Thor finally takes the throne he deserves.”
Tony finishes his tirade with a large breath, and the silence that follows is deafening. Even the roaring green flames have vanished, leaving scorched walls and wrecked glasswork. The only tangible things in that moment is the unnatural cold frosting his suit, and Loki’s stare.
He looks undone. Unravelled. Laid bare and dissected.
Then the moment is gone.
As all of Loki’s skin turns completely blue and his eyes explode with the worst kind of uninhibited anger, the first thing Tony feels is a tearing pressure, not unlike a gunshot. Then the sickly feeling of hot blood fills the inside of his suit, spreading like thick tar.
The spear is protruding from his thigh, the blade going straight through and into the floor beneath.
Tony had been waiting to feel the breath leave his chest, waiting for the inevitable. But instead he feels this leg begin to throb, and he stares at down at the wound. He then meets Loki’s eyes in bewilderment, his teeth clenched as the pain begins to mount.
Loki lives up to his name and smiles a smile that is full of wrath and chaos. “Unfortunately I have need of you, Iron Man. You are, as of this moment, indispensable. But I promise, when it is time for you to meet your sorry end, it will be at my hand.”
The demigod leans ever closer, bringing them nose to nose. Tony looks up unflinchingly into a pair of now matching red eyes and a blue face scored with ancient markings, as old as the birth of galaxies. The smell of autumn, leather and ice floods his senses, and Tony feels his chest hitch and shudder on an inhale.
The vicious smile holds true on Loki’s face, and he leans closer yet to bring his mouth to Tony’s ear. “Be still and heed my words, mortal.”
Tony can feel the deathly-cold sneer on Loki's lips more than he can see it, with the way their faces are pressed together. He rolls his shoulders in discomfort before stealing himself against the warnings of self-preservation blaring in his head once again.
“I never was very good at doing what I’m told,” he whispers back, only relishing a small moment of surprise on Loki’s face, before bringing a twisted steel rod he finds behind his head cracking into Loki’s temple with all his remaining strength.
Loki falls sideways with a light thump and a small skid, and Tony watches as he easily rolls up into a crouch with the motion. Loki brings his hand up to his face, the blue digits smoothing over his flesh in a quick examination. Tony knows that he isn’t hurt and that the blow was pointless from the get-go, but he isn’t known for his inaction or idleness, even when all hope is lost.
Then red eyes transform into a look that would surely strip the skin from a man’s bones, Loki’s teeth pinching together in an ugly snarl as he rights himself, standing tall and proud above Tony in his wrecked suit.
He rips his spear from Tony’s thigh with no mercy, and Tony lets a rough shout of pain erupt from his throat, scrunching his eyes against the pull of sliced flesh as the serrated edges catch on the way out.
Loki swiftly brings the bloody spear to meet Tony’s throat just above the neck of the suit, looking high on his rage. “On second thought-”
A huge explosion takes out the far wall in the warehouse, glass and debris flying in every direction and cutting Loki’s proclamation short. The heat of it touches Tony's exposed skin, and he angles his head past Loki’s imposing form to get a look.
Loki whips away, bringing his spear up and snarling like an animal, his posture defensive and battle-ready. Tony can’t see who caused the explosion, but he can hear distant, commanding voices as the din of the explosion recedes to a quiet echo.
Tony turns to Loki again, an unhelpful grin painting his bloody and bruised face. “Always a step behind, eh?” he rasps against the pain in his leg, daring himself to meet the demigod’s eyes as he turns at Tony’s voice.
Loki looks back, his expression a mix of desperation, frustration and madness. It’s a confusing array of emotions, but somehow Loki has the capacity to feel all of them at once. He looks down to Tony’s leg, and then to the hole at the far end of the warehouse, where people are just beginning to pour through with guns raised.
He meets Tony’s unflinching stare again just as a laser point sight meets his forehead, glowing there ominously between his eyes as someone screams erratically that he should stand down.
“Another time, then. Until we meet again, Stark,” Loki whispers viciously with unrestrained contempt, never once breaking eye contact with Tony.
Tony stares in abject disbelief. “You’re leaving now? But the party is only just getting started!” he goads, panic constricting his lungs at the thought of Loki getting away again.
Loki’s body starts to shimmer with the same green that engulfed the warehouse in flames, and Tony watches in disgusted awe as his physical form starts to disappear, the magic glistening as he is swallowed into abyss.
The last thing his sees before Loki is completely consumed is a look akin to resignation tempered with petulance, his eyes gouging into Tony’s unbelieving glare.
Gunfire cracks across the building, but the shot only whistles through the space where Loki once was, swirling the sparkling green mist left in his wake like fine snow.
And Tony shouts loudly into the humid air, punching his fist into the ground by his side and cursing Loki to hell and back.