Rhodey had teased him when it first happened, told him “there are no accidents” in the face of Tony’s freak-out. He’d also been the first one to advise him not to try and reverse it - everyone else had soon followed suit, but Rhodey had taken his shoulder in the beginning and made him sit down. “You’re a good person Tony,” he’d said, and those words still comforted Tony to think of, “and you’re a genius with a lot to give. You’ll be fine, because deep down you know you want this. I don’t think it would have given it to you if you didn’t.”
The ‘it’ he’d been referencing had been an alien device that no one had known what it was capable of doing to a mortal.
No one had known that being a mortal who was smart enough to solve it meant that he’d passed some kind of test he hadn’t known he was taking and had been granted Aesir-like immortality for doing it.
Thor had been ecstatic and had hugged him, wanting to bring him to Asgard for a further celebration. Steve however, had quietly taken him aside and spoken to him about all the things no one had told him when he’d walked out alive but with a longer life than he’d anticipated.
Watching everyone grow old and pass away had been hard, a lot harder than Tony had imagined it would be. Even Steve started going grey after a century. He retired from hero work with Bucky and they got a farm; ‘took a page out of Barton’s book’ and lived quietly until their clocks ran out.
Thor had moved back to Asgard once everyone but Steve had passed on. He had visited Steve and Bucky and come down to help Tony when he could, but he had more duties now that Odin was getting even older. He kept asking Tony to come up and join him on the golden realm, but Tony had been resistant. His Tower and Stark Manor might have been filled with baby heroes and he might have felt like an old man in a world far too... different to what he wanted. But he didn’t think Asgard would give him what he was missing.
He still gave in after a decade without Steve and Bucky to visit and chat with; all Earth seemed to have left for him now were gravestones, and he knew his friends wouldn’t want him spending his time counting the days between one cemetery visit and the next.
So Tony had packed up, taken the most important things and left the rest for Earth’s Defenders and organisations to gobble up as they looked after Tony’s home planet without him.
Thor had been his usual boisterous self, hardly changing after nearly two hundred years and that was so comforting to Tony that he hardly knew what to do with it. He’d automatically been given rooms in the palace that were far larger than the single floor that Thor had been given on his visits to Tony's home.
He’d also had a gloriously intimidating meeting with the Allfather and had been introduced to Sif, Fandral, Hogan and Volstagg. Tony had winced a lot at the clash of personalities there, but he’d figured they’d just take some getting used to.
Six months in and he’d moved out of the palace and was still learning how to stomach Thor’s brainless jocks for extended periods. He’d taken to exploring Asgard instead, learning what he could and burying himself in the library. His little house in the ‘upper class’ section of the main city made him feel like he was living in a mash up between Ancient Rome and Medieval England. The science was worth it though. Some of it was things that Tony had been creating the basis of on Earth, but now, with unlimited time and source materials, he was looking at all the different directions he and it could go.
It wasn’t enough, but it was okay.
Asgard wasn’t Earth but Earth had stopped feeling like ‘home’ for a long time now too. He was just untethered, flapping in the wind and trying to find a new place to plant his feet and put down roots, but he still didn’t know where to make it.
Tony had decided he’d give Asgard a few years, making it a homebase as he travelled the other realms. He’d made an international translator a few years ago for Earth, so now he was working on a universal one with the help of some books from the royal library. The more he was looking up Allspeak, however, the more he was reaching the conclusion he’d probably need a Mage’s touch.
He’d been chatting to a few different people, asking questions and being mildly appalled at how single minded the Mage’s were. Thinking outside the box seemed to be a foreign concept to the Aesir and it made him even more interested in going to Alfheim, which by all accounts, were more fond of magical practices and, therefore, more likely to understand what he was trying to do.
Because ‘I’m making a translator’ only seemed to get him ‘why don’t we try to get you Allspeak?’ and when he explained he didn’t want Allspeak, they only frowned at him like he was unfathomable.
Tony had been heading back to his apartment after another failed mission when he’d heard some derogatory whispers. He wouldn’t have paid much attention if a specific name hadn’t cropped up; Loki.
He’d spun around, finding the source of the muttering and following their highly unsubtle glaring to spot the former villain lounging on a wall that overlooked some stairs. Tony knew the spot; he climbed the path often in order to reach the courtyard that the stairs turned into. It was a frequented area by pedestrians who wanted a shortcut between the buildings.
Tony had to fight a smirk at the idea that Loki had chosen that place to read his book, just to make everyone go the longer way around rather than walk in front of him.
He had his leg dangling over the side and his back to a rise in the wall. The spot was popular for people to sit on and the populace would normally continue to take the stairs, unconcerned by the chattering youths or lounging guards that found the multiple crevices comfortable. But apparently, that wasn’t the same with Loki there.
It wasn’t the first time Tony had seen Loki or known that he was on Asgard. Thor had told him when he’d arrived and a rush of anger had flooded through Tony before Thor had explained the circumstances as well as a lot of other things that Earth simply hadn’t been told about. The anger had faded after the hour long discussion and then he’d just felt tired.
He’d taken to ignoring Loki and it had seemed pretty mutual. He’d seen Loki twice in the months he’d been on the planet, once was at a feast that Loki had attended, never speaking and ignoring all the remarks flying around about him. Tony had been stunned at the amount of vitriol, especially since most of it seemed to have nothing to do with what he’d done and rather who the guy was as a person and for simply being different. Loki had left early and Tony hadn’t blamed him.
The second time had been at the library when he'd spotted Loki reading and making notes at one of the tables. The Mage hadn’t even looked up and Tony had quirked his eyebrows but otherwise left him alone.
The fear and fury he’d once felt for Loki had quickly fizzled up after a century apart and combined with Thor’s explanations, Tony just wasn’t keen on stoking that animosity back to life. Thor had said he was a good guy again - even if he was still on house-arrest and unable to leave Asgard until some sentence or another was fulfilled.
But that didn’t bother him, after all Tony had always been a little bit reckless.
Making his way over to the stairs, he mourned the fact his Asgardian tunic didn’t have pockets, so he couldn’t look even more blatantly unconcerned as he reached the bottom and started making his way up. Loki seemed pretty focused on his book, but he still wanted to get the first word in, “Does this mean when I want a crowd to part, I just need to call you up?”
Loki startled slightly and looked down at him. Tony grinned in the face of his confusion, but even when he looked surprised; his gaze was still incredibly penetrating. It took him a moment to translate the words and by that point, Tony was walking backwards so that he could keep his eyes on the Mage while he continued to climb. “I beg your pardon?”
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a successful translation. “You. People.” He gestured around at the mostly deserted area. “I walk this way a lot and you, Blitzen, have cleared me a significant path.”
He turned back to his book when he realised what Tony had meant. He still answered him though. “And you are surprised? You have been here some months, Mr Stark, I credited you with a touch more intelligence than that.”
“Oooh, so you have noticed my rakish presence here.”
“One of Thor’s pets made it to Asgard, yes, I was intrigued when I first heard of it.” His eyes flicked to Tony as he rounded the stairs and came to stand in front of the other. “Unfortunately, there was little to hold my attention when I noticed it was you.”
Tony barked a laugh. “Hah! Liar.”
He leant a shoulder against the stone, unconcerned that Loki might try to kill him. Not only was he fairly indestructible nowadays, but doing it in the middle of an Asgardian afternoon just seemed stupid. Plus, Loki didn’t seem hostile in the slightest.
“I had to be at least mildly interesting to an inquisitive creature like you,” Tony continued, “Especially considering how I came to be alive so many years past a mortal’s standard.”
Because Loki had to have been curious. He was the only other person Tony had found who consistently used the library and seemed to have a brain between his ears. Tony had also wheedled some Loki stories out of Thor and they had only further proved his theories on Loki’s intelligence. Out of everyone on Asgard, Tony probably had the most in common with the Mage sitting in front of him.
And that was kind of sad.
Loki slowly drew his eyes away from his book. He didn’t close it, but he leant back further against the stone, eying Tony with barely hidden bemusement. “Thor had long expounded on your little trick, I was well aware of what had happened before you even arrived.”
Tony made a sound of mock outrage. “Stealing my punch line before I even showed up? I know golden boy likes his spotlight, but that’s just rude!”
He was granted the glimpse of a small smile crossing Loki’s mouth before it disappeared. “You should be happy for his remarks; they are what have allowed you such easy acceptance into this realm.”
“Yeah, and that’s a delight,” Tony commented, somewhat under his breath. It still made Loki shift, intrigued and assessing over his less than flattering tone. He didn’t really want Loki to press that though. Hell, he’d almost forgotten what it was like to watch what he said. It went right over the head of everyone else. “So hey, ye of significant knowledge, who was the one that pointed out to Thor that I shouldn’t have been playing with that device?”
“Myself,” Loki answered simply.
Tony tilted his head, but not only couldn’t he hear a lie, he also instinctively believed him. Loki knew what he was talking about. He knew magic like Tony knew science and they both sought knowledge the way the Aesir seemed keen to bash each other’s brains in.
“Huh. Cool. So that makes you the guy I go to when I have a problem that needs an answer? Good to know.” He paused, almost missing Loki’s startled look at his response. “Actually, thought; what’s your knowledge on Allspeak and translators? Specifically of the ‘made for a mortal’ kind.”
Loki blinked at him slowly but answered almost by rote. “There are numerous versions but none are particularly impressive in comparison. Most mortals do not bother as so many beings have the ability to be understood.”
“That’s just slack,” Tony complained. “Maybe I should start Stark Universal. I’m still trying to find a conversion rate for US dollars to Asgardian... do you have a currency name here?” Loki opened his mouth but Tony was already waving him off. “Unimportant. Can you magic up my translator for me? I’m trying to make a mechanism that translates as it goes and I could use a magical prototype to work against.”
“You wish for me to place a spell on your technology?”
“Yeah?” Tony answered. “I mean, I’ve spoken to some other Mages but they are really useless and also, no one will admit it, but you’re very grumpily considered to be the best magic-user on Asgard. I always use the best, you are the best. Will you wiggle your fingers in my translator’s direction?”
Loki just stared at him for a long time, thoughts Tony couldn’t decipher going on behind his eyes. He even narrowed them briefly, suspicion passing through his gaze before seeming to be dismissed if his subsequent relaxation was any indication. The silence couldn’t have gone on for more than a minute before he let out a brief sigh.
“Mr Stark,” Tony didn’t like that tone, it was way too formal and distant, “your unusual willingness to trust me, and your surprising candour about my magic ability aside, I’m afraid I will be declining your offer.”
Tony frowned. “Okay. Why?”
His persistence knocked that polite layer off and made Loki’s eyebrows rise and his mouth twitch. “Because I have said so.”
“Will it help if I say ‘pretty please’?”
The smile became a bit wider, he almost sounded like he was holding back a chuckle. “No, Mr Stark, it will not.”
Tony couldn’t say he wasn’t disappointed, but it had been a bit of a long shot. Loki wasn’t his enemy - they were both very obviously neutral towards each other - but he supposed helping a former opponent with a mundane task wasn’t high on Loki’s priority list.
He supposed it was back to pestering the other Mages.
Didn’t mean he couldn’t still bug Loki too.
“What if I buy you that drin-”
Tony groaned under his breath and tilted his head back, rolling his eyes and looking skyward for some kind of fucking strength. When he looked back at Loki, he looked dumbfounded at Tony’s reaction, he also looked exceedingly interested. Tony just felt frustrated that he’d been found and couldn’t keep poking Loki into a new response.
He felt a clap to his back that made him jerk as Volstagg reached him. He looked over his shoulder to find Sif was there as well. She was smiling at him in that flirtatious way that seemed to be half a ploy to make Thor jealous (and failing) and half an actual interest in sleeping with him. Tony was pretty good with that not happening ever, actually - he was fairly sure she killed after mating.
“Hey Ace of Spades, Queen of Hearts.” They both looked confused at his reference, but that was okay. He hardly wanted to explain they were derogatory and that he already felt like running away before his head was lopped off. “I’m not in the mood for croquet.”
Sif just laughed at him. “You’re so strange, Anthony. You must explain more of your world to us so that we may keep up.”
Tony smiled with all the good humour he didn’t feel. “Not sure how much you’d like Alice in Wonderland.”
Loki let out a sharp laugh and Tony’s head snapped to him, seeing those eyes fill with amusement and recognition. Tony’s smile abruptly turned genuine; fuck yeah, you got that reference.
“You would name her Queen of Hearts?” He asked, looking deviously delighted by the whole thing.
Which he would be, if he’d read the book and equally didn’t like Sif.
Tony didn’t get a chance to reply however, before Sif was snapping, her tone cold with the kind of loathing that took years to form. “I did not believe you were included in this conversation, Loki.”
“My dear, Sif,” and his voice was just as icy, but at least he pretended civility, “while I cannot account for your inaccurate beliefs, you did in fact enter our discussion,” his smile was as sharp as a blade, “it was not the other way around.”
“Well we will not have Anthony detained by you any longer,” Volstagg grunted while taking Tony’s shoulder in his firm grip and pulling him away from the wall. Tony stumbled he was so surprised, his head darting between the three of them.
The air felt thick with tension and Loki was coiled in a way he hadn’t been before. Either, he hadn’t seen Tony as a threat (slightly insulting) or he merely knew that they were.
Either way, Tony wasn’t inclined to be dragged off by people he could barely stand when he’d actually been enjoying his conversation with Loki. He was about to say as much and shrug out of Volstagg’s hold but when he opened his mouth, no sound came out and he was forced to close it. Knowing that wasn’t a command he had given, he flicked his eyes to Loki in time to see the smallest shake of his head.
Tony frowned at him, but he didn’t get a chance to answer as Sif gave a vicious parting comment that Loki gritted his teeth over but otherwise didn’t react to. Tony was then lead away and swiftly taken to the training grounds. He had wanted to turn back and keep trying to puzzle out Loki, but he was forced by magic to stay facing forward and moving along with them.
It had taken him an hour to wiggle away from their ‘friends don’t let friends beat each other up alone’ plan.
On his way back to his apartment, he’d needed to walk past the spot where he’d been speaking to Loki, but he wasn’t surprised to find the Trickster had disappeared. Tony had still let out a frustrated breath and grumbled the rest of the way back.
He’d turned his attentions on his workshop when he’d arrived; losing himself in equations and projects, but it only dampened his annoyance and encouraged his desire to speak to Loki again.
Tony wanted to ask why the hell he silenced him for one, and he also wanted to finish what they’d started. He still needed a Mage to help with his translator and any other obscure questions he might have - and he’d decided, until someone better came alone, that person was going to be Loki.
It took a couple of days before he found the Mage again. He wasn’t surprised in the slightest to locate him in the library.
Grinning at Loki's pensive form, Tony had hefted the books in his arms and made a beeline for the other. He plopped the tomes down loudly and made Loki startle and glare at him with only faintly hidden perplexity.
Taking a seat opposite the other, Tony went with the easiest question first, “Why didn’t you let me say anything?”
Loki didn’t even pretend to be unaware of what he was referencing, which Tony appreciated. “You were going to attempt to remain conversing with me.”
“And you didn’t like that? I made you smile. I know I was at least mildly amusing.”
That little grin twitched again, but it was quickly smothered. “Mr Stark, you treat me with civility and that is a pleasant break from the hostility that flows from every other corner of this planet with the exception of Thor.” His grimace indicated the change in pace there was not appreciated. “I have but a year left on my sentence before I can come and go as I please,” he continued, “I do not wish to have them attempting to increase that due to bewitching you or other such nonsense. They wish to see you dislike me as equally as they do.” He shrugged and turned back to his book. “A simple feat for you to achieve, I’m sure.”
Tony ignored the last part of that to focus on the juicer pieces. “I’d have thought they’d want you gone from the planet.”
“Oh yes,” Loki answered with a vague smirk, “but they would like me imprisoned far better.”
“Surely they’re not dumb enough to believe that the only way someone can like talking to you is because of a spell?”
Loki looked puzzled when he caught Tony’s gaze again. “Surely you do not believe there are people on this realm that would enjoy a discussion with me?”
Okay. That was an ouch if he’d ever heard one; Loki had handed that out like he was stating a fact, and based on what Tony had seen, it was a damn accurate one. Well, until he’d come along.
“Well, I was having fun before those two idiots decided to crash the party. I also like to think I was whittling you down about helping me with magic.”
Loki snorted, but he almost seemed a little softer. A little more malleable. No small wonder if he was used to people despising his mere presence.
Did that make Tony the first in a century to say otherwise? That was kind of horrifying.
“I made my decision quite clear, Mr Stark.”
“Tony,” he corrected, already long over the formalities. He’d also kill for someone to call him by his chosen name rather than the one Thor had popularised. Anthony. Ugh. “And I’m known for being persistent.”
“For you to complete that device that gained you your little extension, I have no doubt.” He paused, but his eyes were slightly crinkled in good humour, “Tony.”
Grinning, Tony plucked the first book off his pile and opened it. He also pulled out his notes as well, getting himself comfortable as Loki watched him the entire time, his eyes pools of curiosity.
“I take it you will be encroaching on my solitude?” Loki eventually asked when Tony didn’t offer anything further.
“I’m your study-buddy,” Tony told him brightly. “And I guarantee I’ll make reading in silence that much better.”
Loki shook his head, but didn’t even try to argue the company as he went back to his own work. Tony eyed him for a moment more before doing the same.
He had to admit, he was honestly surprised that Loki was taking his badgering so well, that he was conversing so easily. He’d built it up in his head that Loki would be the same pacing, growling man that he’d watched on the hellicarrier. This man was quieter and thoughtful. He was also alone and free of any sort of social stimulus that wasn’t hated slurs or forced brotherly affection.
Loki might not overly like him, but he sure as hell wasn’t rejecting him. Loki was also the closest to a like-minded individual that Tony was going to find on Asgard. Tony had missed talking to people about something other than battle and Thor’s all consuming prowess in everything he attempted. He'd missed witty banter and intellectual conversation.
It didn’t mean he’d find it in Loki, but at the same time, his gut was telling him that he would. It was worth a shot, right? And really, what did he have to lose?
It turned out he had nothing to lose and everything to win. It turned out that going over and bugging Loki had been the best thing he could have done.
Loki had been reserved at first, responding to his banter but never offering his own, never deepening it. Tony had been the one to constantly search him out and drop down beside him to discuss anything that came into his mind. Such as how he knew Alice in Wonderland. (Finding out Loki had been to Earth numerous times and had so much stuff from throughout history had been mindboggling. He was a magpie, although Loki hadn’t seemed to understand the reference when Tony had accused him of it.) Loki was always happy to oblige him and they spent a few weeks with nothing more than simple, friendly chatter going on between them. The first time it had been different was when Loki had come and found him.
He’d been working in the library and lost in the scribbles he’d been making on parchment (he was still getting used to that). He’d been calculating how to incorporate a welding method into his armour when an item had been dropped down onto the page he’d been reading.
Tony had blinked owlishly, trying to change tracks in his mind and taking a few moments to even register what it was. When he did, he dropped everything to pick it up, near vibrating with excitement. It was an antique Alfheim translator
“I am not helping you with your invention,” Loki insisted, “but this battered thing was at the markets and may-”
“You are the coolest fucking person,” Tony announced standing up and making a move to get closer before he stopped, watching the way Loki had tensed. “Right. Not a hugging kind of guy. Got it. But seriously, thank you, this is going to help a lot.”
Loki was cautiously relaxing at least, once he knew Tony was staying where he was.
“Yes, well,” he smoothed down his leather day-wear, looking oddly uncomfortable and making Tony bite down on a smile. He could just imagine Loki having seen the device as he perused the stands. He could picture him hesitating and walking away multiple times before he finally convinced himself to get it. “Perhaps now you will cease blathering to me about it.”
“Nah,” Tony instantly answered, “I’ll still find something else to come and annoy you about.” Something flickered across Loki’s face in response, and while it was too fast to be certain, Tony was pretty sure it was something close to relief. Was he growing on his little reindeer? “So what else is going on? Anything new to impart? No other gems at the markets?”
“That is not a gem.” Loki argued, but he was already taking a seat at Tony’s table, picking up and examining Tony’s books absently. “What in the realms are you researching now?”
Tony grinned wide and slightly maniac. “Excellent question my stuck-up and reticent Mage.”
He got a glare for his choice of description, but Loki didn’t leave, he also started rapid-fire discussing and arguing with him as they contemplated Tony’s designs. Loki actually helped him and scrawled his own notes on the paper.
It was only when he got home that night, hours later, that Tony realised that it was the first time Loki had actually seemed involved and fully immersed in their interactions. He hadn’t sat back and offered nothing but the tiniest observations - instead for the first time, the man behind the masks; the scholar and the intellectual had finally broken through.
Tony had grinned, wide and proud and more than a little giddy, feeling like he’d cracked an elusive and complicated puzzle right open. There was still a lot more to go and nothing was anywhere close to solved, but Tony felt... excited and he hadn’t felt like that over a person in a fucking century.
Loki was a friend, he’d realised that night, and it had bought nothing but complete and utter relief to come to that conclusion.
I’m immortal but I’m not alone.
It took a few hours more for something else to register and it made him stop with a hammer raised over his head, mid-swing. And now, neither is he.
Tony hadn’t brought up his epiphany with Loki, he’d just kept on, business as usual. He’d still smiled privately at how much more time Loki now spent around him. He also noticed the way gazes would sort of... fall away from them, as if, say spelled away. He didn’t call Loki on it verbally, but he did send him a few pointed looks that Loki noted but still didn’t comment on.
He figured he shouldn’t mess with a good thing and just kept hanging out with Loki when he could and avoiding Thor and his friends the rest of the time.
They were getting relentless though.
He’d been hanging out with Loki for about three months now and during that time Loki’s clever magic had helped in keeping them hidden from unwelcome interruptions. He was paying for that now as the Warriors Idiot had not only caught him the previous morning when he’d been trying to leave his house, but they’d kept him occupied all day.
They’d even started planning a hunt.
It turned out to be some god awful camping trip on horseback where they went into the forest and did some kind of warriors against nature event. It seemed to take them days to complete and they only returned when they’d killed enough to look like champions. Tony would rather shoot his own foot off.
Luckily, they’d parted in the evening to sleep and Tony had set an alarm early - aware now of their ambushing techniques - and had used stealth technology to sneak his way into the palace. He’d never actually been to Loki’s wing of the royal quarters, but he’d been given the guided tour by Thor and with a scan of the building he was able to put two and two together.
He’d been making his way down the last corridor, his eye on Loki’s giant doors when something had made a fizzling noise and he’d looked down in time to see his technology spluttering and his reflector panels losing their ability to make him invisible.
“You are lucky that I have some fondness for you,” Loki informed him, “otherwise the response of my wards would have been much fiercer.”
Tony looked up to find the Mage doing his own appearing trick; green and gold light shimmering down his form and revealing him leaning against the door.
Tony poked his still spitting suit. “Fiercer? I think you fried it.”
“They could have fried you,” Loki told him simply before gesturing him forward with his fingers. It took that motion for Tony to notice that Loki was wearing pyjamas. Or well, what he took to be pyjamas; they were linen pants and a tunic but that was still pretty relaxed for a guy like Loki. “What are you doing here?”
“Seeking sanctuary,” Tony answered honestly and earning himself raised eyebrows.
Tony grinned as he was let into Loki’s rooms. “They’re trying to take me on a three day hunt,” he didn’t have to specify who. “I may actually go insane if I’m forced to do that. It’s better for everyone if you hide me with magic until they leave.”
Shutting the door behind them, Loki followed him inside while Tony twisted his head in every direction, taking in the space that Loki called home. It was much like Tony expected; filled with books, trinkets from his travels, and an understated luxury that was different to the brasher more overwhelming nature of the Aesir.
The main room that they were in was for entertaining while two doors lead into other areas that Tony was just as curious to see the insides of, but he contented himself with finding the nearest settee and flopping down on it. The whole place had a faint smell of herbs as well as the undefinable but prevailing scent that followed a crackle of magic just performed. He also caught the strong fragrance of sandalwood too.
Loki was taking his own place in an armchair as he replied to Tony’s remark, “They will hardly leave if they think you’ve gone missing. You won’t be able to hide here for long before Heimdall will be ordered to search for your presence.” He smiled ruefully. “I will not hide you from him, and even should I do so, they will suspect me as the culprit and find you here regardless.”
Groaning at the answer, Tony draped further onto the settee, aiming for pathetic and woeful. Maybe Loki would take pity on him? “Well then tell them we have plans. You beat them to the punch. I’m doing something with you. Hell, I will literally cut spell ingredients for three days rather than go with them.”
“Tony,” Loki was speaking to him like a particularly dense but still well-liked child. “I cannot simply fabricate some excuse for you.”
Tony lifted his head. “Why not? Isn’t that supposed to be your godly gift?” Loki looked like he was trying to be exasperated but kept ending up amused. “You don’t even have to lie,” Tony compromised. “We can totally do something. What do you want to do for three days? I guarantee it will be better than their plan.”
“You’re missing the point,” Loki told him gently. “That still implies an association between us. You’re far better off fabricating an injury or other such conflicting issue. It will be better for you to say that rather than tell them you are choosing to spend your time with me.”
Tony frowned at him. “Why? You’re my friend and I can’t stand them. I don’t like that it’s going to be the cause of them getting all pissy at you, but I am more than ready to cut them the fuck down for making out that I can’t choose my own damn friends.”
Loki looked a little stunned and Tony felt suddenly uncomfortable, like he was too big for his skin. “I mean, you don’t mind our friendship being public knowledge, right?” When he only received astonished silence, he added, “You know we’re friends, right?”
The look on Loki’s face said no he did not know that, or at least, hadn’t thought Tony considered them as such. The expression was quick to wipe away though, hidden as he glanced to the side and composed himself with a clearing of his throat. When he turned back to Tony it was as if he’d never been so painful honest in his shocked insecurity.
“I suppose I can include you in the next few days plans, if I must, if only to keep you from pestering me.”
Tony grinned, willing to ignore the slip of his mask if Loki was willing to save his ass. “Wouldn’t know what I’d do without you, Lokes.”
“Yes, yes, so you say.” He narrowed his eyes. “And enough with that infernal nickname.”
“Sure thing, Lokes.”
Loki sighed the sigh of the world-weary while Tony just laughed before peeling off his now fried invisibility suit (and he was going to make Loki pay for that). Loki was already asking what he wanted for breakfast and what they planned to do for the day as he called for the servants. Loki also informed him that Tony would have to remain in Loki’s chambers until Heimdall could be called upon to search for Tony, but he wasn’t concerned. Honestly, Tony was looking forward to seeing Sif’s face when she stormed her way in here and found Tony lounging happily and comfortably with Loki - when he picked Loki over her and her irritating group.
It was going to be just as much fun as spending the next few days with Loki - where they could be uninterrupted, unconcerned and open about their friendship, displaying it for everyone to see.
Yup, Tony thought while lying lengthwise on the furniture and querying Loki on his latest magic project, life is good.
The confrontation in Loki’s rooms was actually a lot more heated than Tony had anticipated. Sif in particular had growled all manner of slurs about Loki’s character until Tony had gotten up in her face and cut her to ribbons in all the ways he’d been holding back on previously.
She’d been shocked and so had the others - with the exception of Thor who walked in a little late, but quickly put two and two together. He’d still stood back with narrowed eyes and watched the arguments unfold. Loki had been quiet as well, but his small smirk had been a testament to his enjoyment, especially when Tony came back and stood beside him with arms crossed, glaring at the foursome of assholes.
Thor had been the one to succinctly end the standoff by being pleased at their new friendship. He then dragged the others away after making everyone agree that they would forget the insults and take a step back from each other.
He really had come a long way after all his time on Earth. It didn’t meant Tony wasn’t furious that he wasn’t demanding Sif apologise for her remarks about Loki. Which, okay; while some of them were fair after some of the shit Loki had done, most of them just stunk of sour grapes.
And even if Loki might have deserved some of the names he was called, it didn’t mean they were allowed to say that shit about Tony’s friends in front of him.
He’d bitched about that to Loki, but the Mage had been quick to dismiss it and turn Tony’s attention to their plans for the week. It annoyed him how unconcerned and used to their behaviour Loki was, but Tony also didn’t want to ruin their three days of freedom, so he’d zipped his lips.
And the time together had been awesome.
They’d spent a whole day in Loki’s chambers discussing books as well as the benefits and contrasts of magic versus science, only stopping to eat and get more tomes from the library. The following day had involved them going to a series of markets with Loki showing him the best wares and Tony giddily enjoying himself. The third and final had been spent in silence and was much like their days in the library; doing their own thing and asking questions or offering to help on occasion.
Tony hadn’t wanted it to end. And it hadn’t, not really.
The Warriors Four had made themselves scarce once they’d come back from the hunt and Tony had spent most of that free time with Loki. They didn’t spend every waking moment in each other’s company, but a tension Tony hadn’t noticed seemed to have disappeared from the air between them. Loki seemed to relax those few degrees more after their friendship was publically acknowledged, and it really made all the difference. Loki also finally started using magic to actually help Tony with his projects.
He even began to assist with the translator - but the breaking of that particular barrier hadn’t happened overnight. It hadn’t been until Sif had crawled out of the woodwork to speak to Tony that the wheels had started to turn. Tony had spent a productive night inventing and chatting with Loki only to come home to sleep for a few hours. He’d been groggily heading to the markets for food when Sif had found him.
Tony had been unimpressed at the interruption to his day, but he’d been willing to hear her out. When the crux of her conversation seemed to be to ‘offer him a new Mage’ so he didn’t have to ‘put up with Loki anymore’. He’d almost lost control of his temper and said something he probably wouldn’t have regretted, but wouldn’t have helped his case as Loki’s friend rather than his thrall.
Tony had growled out his happiness with the Mage he’d chosen and had stalked off. He’d spent a few hours walking around Asgard with a storm cloud over head, but when that didn’t help, he’d buried himself back in his workshop until he’d eventually calmed down.
He’d ended up making his way to see Loki later than he’d intended as it was almost growing dark. He’d been making charms in his spare moments for Loki to imbue (they had more power when handmade apparently) and figured it was as good a time as any to pass them on to him; further solidifying the friendship that everyone seemed so keen to doubt.
Loki hadn’t been in the library like he’d thought, so he’d gone to the other’s chambers and found him flipping through a book, but hardly giving it his full attention. Something was on his mind though, if they way he’d jerked at Tony’s presence was any indication. Sure, Loki could get lost in a book like anyone, but it was weird for Loki to be unaware of someone entering his chambers what with his numerous, complicated and dangerous wards. He’d actually revealed some of them to Tony during their three days together and they were fucking stunning; glittering and draping through the air like spider webs.
Loki had been intensely pleased - preening - at how much Tony liked them and it had made Tony chuckle and shake his head at the other.
Still, none of that accounted for the look on Loki’s face now.
“I thought you wouldn’t be visiting today.” Loki eventually commented while closing his book.
Tony let out an angry huff of air before taking a place on the furniture closest to Loki. “I would have been here earlier if I hadn’t been intercepted on the way.”
“Ah,” Loki pieced it together after a few moments. “One of the Warriors Three?”
“Sif,” Tony clarified. “I ended up having to go back to the workshop to hammer out my anger before I took it out on her. What the hell did you do to make her hate you so much?”
Loki shrugged, refraining from elaborating in the way he always seemed to do when it came to the mottled areas of his past. “Merely existed, should you ask her.”
Maybe. But Tony still had to wonder. “Would she?” He waited until Loki caught his gaze. “If I asked her, would she say that?”
Loki held his eyes for a long moment before he sighed and allowed, “No, Tony, you know as well as I do that it isn’t the case.”
“So what did you do?”
He laughed but it was hardly humorous. “Thousands of pranks across many centuries.” He half-smiled but there was also an added edge to his voice. “Most were in retaliation to her behaviour – although she will never see it as such - while others were merely because I have always disliked her.”
The sharpness to Loki’s words was like a blade being drawn, or a defensive brace, like he expected Tony to disagree with his actions.
Well, he was wrong there.
“Can’t say I blame you.” Tony shrugged and Loki’s smile was a flash; sudden and bright for all that it was brief. “I guess this friendship is just the biggest thorn in her side.”
“Yes,” Loki said the word with so much satisfaction that it made Tony chuckle. He also found a lot of his irritation drifting away too. “What did she wish to speak to you regarding?”
Wait, no. There was that lovely frustration, flooding right back in and making him scowl. “Apparently she has a list of more acceptable Mages for me to associate with, rather than you.”
“Oh?” He sounded curious. “And who did she suggest?”
“A couple of idiots. It didn’t matter since I told her I had already made my choice and it was you. It was the biggest waste of my time.”
"Oh?” This time, Loki sounded nothing but gleeful. His eyes were shining with pleasure and he was like a kid on the edge of his seat, being told a favourite tale.
Tony’s mouth quirked upwards at the sight. “I told her she had no idea what she was talking about if she was offering me an inferior Mage to work on my projects with.”
“Go on,” Loki purred, leaning forward and making Tony laugh.
“Arrogant, are you?”
“Yes,” Loki answered simply, but no less happily, “but so few disagree with Sif about me. I am enjoying myself.”
Tony felt a sharp stab of anger, but he did his best to bury it. “Well, she’s going to get that anytime she tries to tell me who I should be friends with.” Tony’s lips became thin. “I don’t know how the people here can think she’s a better person than you. They’re complete dickheads.”
Tony had intended to catch Loki’s eye, to see agreement and hear his vindicate posturing about his own superiority, instead he looked shocked. It was as if Loki had been caught off-guard, hit by something he hadn’t expected. He hid it quickly with a smirk and a shuttered expression but there was something almost shaky and not-quite recovered about it even then.
“There is prejudice against me,” he answered carefully, “it’s nothing uncommon.” He cleared his throat. “So, she cannot have taken up your whole day. What else kept you?”
Tony brightened, ignoring Loki’s expression for now to dig into his pocket and pull out the small satchel. He tossed it to Loki who caught it easily with one hand. He frowned before opening it and peering inside. The moment he did, Loki stilled and it made Tony smirk and languidly relax back against the furniture, more than a little pleased with himself. “I figured anger was a great thing to forge with when I had the ‘aggressive’ charms to make, right?”
Loki didn’t take his eyes away from the bag as he turned and tipped it up, numerous small items falling into the palm of his hand or onto his book.
There were ten in total and were in a variety of shapes and designs. Tony had scrawled down the crafting notes from referencing magic books and had inscribed them in certain places so that Loki would be able to feed magic into the runes. Their power should be bolstered - if Tony had read right - because of the goodwill and protective intent he’d automatically forged into each token by making them for a specific person.
“A guy like you,” Tony told him, “probably needs all the good luck charms he can get.”
Loki wasn’t even looking at Tony he was stroking one of the designs and swallowing. Tony was about to prod him for a response when he moved his hand away and although Loki otherwise didn’t move, the charms all lifted into the air.
Tony sat up, intrigued as he watched them seem to pulse in the air and glow green with Loki’s magic. It was only for a few seconds before they dropped back down onto Loki’s book. When Tony looked away from them, he found Loki’s eyes piercing into him.
“You made these for me.”
That sounded weighted. “...Yes?”
Loki’s mouth opened before he closed it, his brow furrowing deeply as he looked at them again. He seemed conflicted about something before thinning his lips and blinking it away. When that worrying series of expressions cleared, he packed the items back into the bag slowly.
Tony was beginning to regret the surprise.
“Um. If you don’t want them you can-”
“No!” Loki abruptly cut him off, making Tony’s eyebrows rise. “Do not take them back.”
“I wasn’t going-”
"Even verbally,” Loki cut in, “they will lose their power if you do that. I... please don’t take my silence as a refusal or unhappiness with your gift. They are...” he seemed to be searching for words before deciding on one, the gift clutched tightly in his hand. “They are wonderful. Truly, Tony, thank you.”
The carefully hidden emotion in Loki’s voice and the uncertainty about how to act, it made Tony wonder if anyone had taken the time to make him a gift just because they could and because they’d thought about him fondly.
Tony didn’t like how (once again) the evidence pointed to no.
He didn’t say anything about it though; Tony just smiled as Loki stood up to take the items over to one of his workspaces. “You’re welcome. I was thinking maybe you could hang one from the antlers you call a fashion statement. Some gold string, a couple of baubles, it would be very festive.”
Loki froze with the satchel over a set of books. His back was to Tony and he had gone tense but before Tony could question it, Loki announced, “I apologise for attacking your world.”
Tony could have fallen over he was so shocked. “Wha-”
“Your world,” Loki turned to face him, leaning back against the table, but looking uncomfortable for all he was attempting to display ease. “It was many years ago, but I know it will still be a recent wound for-”
“Okay, no, it’s fine, seriously. Thor explained what happened and-”
Loki was shaking his head. “I still attacked and my presence could hardly have been palpable to-”
“Loki, if I still had a problem with that, we wouldn’t be hanging out the way we are. Seriously, it’s okay. Thanks for the apology, but it’s not really necessary. You weren’t acting on your own accord and,” Tony let out a harsh laugh, “I’ve seen enough of Asgard to know the low opinions everyone would have had about us Midgardians if it wasn’t for Thor.”
Loki grimaced. “Thor’s opinion should not change the atrocities I have actioned-”
“And they don’t,” Tony told him, standing up and coming closer, “not to me. But you’re not the guy you were when you threw me out a window.” And the wince of regret that took over Loki’s face was almost sweet. “I’m not the guy I was when I played around with the device that got me here. We’re both different people and well... Earth hasn’t been ‘my world’ for a while now.” Tony frowned pensively. “I wouldn’t say Asgard is either, not for you or for me.” He caught Loki’s eyes again, seeing something odd in his face, but continuing regardless. “The guy you were doesn’t change who you are now, and that’s a friend.”
Okay. The odd expression got even deeper at that, something in it twisting until that wince was almost back on Loki’s face.
“What?” Tony couldn’t stop himself from questioning.
Loki just shook his head. “You are far too forgiving.” It didn’t ring quiet true, but the next words distracted him significantly. “But enough of that; I have had some thoughts on your translator.”
“Oh, yeah?” Tony eyebrows rose at the sudden change of topic, but he was also too excited to ignore it. Of all the things Tony wanted at the moment, an ability to be free of Asgard and to travel on his own was the biggest one.
Although, maybe he’d have to revise that to include a plus one.
He’d be more than willing to be shown the universe by Loki. Of course, that would be for Loki to chose when Tony had a working translator on his side.
After all, who was to say Loki wanted to slum it through space with someone like him?
He didn’t bring up his tentative travelling plans over the coming months. Tony also didn’t mention those weird looks he’d received that day. They didn’t come back, so he’d just ruled them out as being related to the charms. They didn’t seem to be negative after all, so why worry?
Loki had imbued two of the tokens that day and had slipped one into his pocket like a lucky coin. He’d also fashioned one into a necklace, but had surprised Tony by giving it to him to wear as a sort of good luck and good inspiration medallion. He’d liked the idea and had strung it instantly around his neck, feeling Loki’s eyes on him but having the Mage glance away when Tony turned to him.
The rest of the charms popped up here and there around Loki’s rooms or on his person as the weeks went by and it always gave Tony a soft thrill when he spotted them. He’d shoot Loki a pleased, happy grin and gain a small one in response.
The best thing though, his favourite thing that happened was the first time since their friendship was aired that a banquet was thrown.
Loki had been sitting at the royal table while Tony was with the Warriors Four. They were slightly cold to Tony now, but he could deal with that, he amused himself by making faces at Loki and trying not to be caught trying to capture a magic bean that Loki had enchanted to run off his plate and around the table.
When the dining part of it was finally over, Loki had made his way down to join Tony. It had caused whispers to start as Loki always left after the meal was finished. Tony had ignored it and they’d made their way to the sidelines to make snide comments about the other guests. Tony also got to watch Loki’s tricks get performed with increasing daring as the party goers got drunker. He’d ended up muffling a laugh into Loki’s shoulder at one point after a particularly hilarious spell.
It hadn’t been enough for Loki who’d asked him, bright-eyed and slightly flushed as if he’d been the one drinking, “Do you wish to help me with the next, Tony?”
Who was he to resist a good prank?
And it had been glorious. The ale was spiked with a flower that acted like a truth serum while a pissed off goose-like creature had been let in from the kitchens to cause havoc. Sif had also fallen onto a table that tipped the warm (very hard to clean, Loki had assured him) gravy all over her outfit.
They’d fled before they could be blamed - although they’d both known they would be - and had laughed their way down the corridor. That evening had been and still was perfect. It was just the rest that was still causing Tony some problems.
Tony had been expounding on the genius, the skill behind the execution of each trick and Loki had hugged him. Literally wrapped him in his arms and drew him in close. He’d startled at first but quickly held him back. Loki had been warm, smelling faintly of herbs and had enclosed him in arms that had made him feel... happy.
Oh, he’d thought, even as he’d stayed where he was in Loki’s embrace, not just friendship anymore.
It was a simple realisation, but it had hardly made it an easy one.
He’d contemplated kissing him, just putting it out there for Loki to decide on, but he’d held back in the end. Loki was his friend, his first and only friend since this whole mess had started. Loki was someone that would live as long as Tony and who he could see himself being friends with in five hundred years.
It was too much to risk, so he’d smiled, pulled back and done nothing. He hadn’t changed a thing; he had just folded that realisation and tucked it carefully into the back of his mind where it could be ignored for all time.
He probably would have kept it there indefinitely too, gone on with things as if he’d never recognised his deepening feelings, but unlike all the times in their past when it had been him pushing their association forward, this time, it had been Loki.
It had happened when he’d rushed into Loki’s chambers with his completed translator and had grabbed Loki’s wrist, begging him to teleport them to somewhere in Asgard where he could try it out. Loki had done just that and they’d spent hours talking to different people as Tony worked out the final kinks.
He’d been so giddy, so full of bubbling enthusiasm that he hadn’t noticed the way Loki had been a second slow in his matching excitement. How he’d dragged his feet a little and his eyes had tightened as the day had worn on.
When Tony had done all he could for the day, Loki had taken them to a secluded field where Tony could collapse onto the grassy hillside and where Loki had carefully sat down beside him. They’d been sitting in silence for a few minutes with Tony looking at the clouds and Loki staring sightlessly at the forest below them.
“You have nothing stopping you now,” Loki had broken the quiet to remark.
“Hmm?” Tony had hummed; his eyes half-closed and still lost in thoughts of how to further improve the translator. Smaller and unnoticeable would be his next goal.
“It was why you remained on Asgard so long, wasn’t it?” Loki guessed. “You wished to have a means of communicating before you travelled.”
Tony shrugged, shelving his inventing thoughts to focus on Loki. He didn’t bother to deny the accusation, “Well, yeah. I can’t depend on people having Allspeak everywhere I go, can I?”
“No,” Loki agreed quietly, “no, you can’t.”
The tone of his voice made Tony frown and push up on his elbow to look at Loki. He was frowning darkly and seemed lost in his head. “Loki?”
The Mage blinked and focused back on Tony. He stared at him for a long moment before asking, point-blank and with eyes Tony couldn’t read for the life of him. “When do you leave?”
Tony was sure he was missing something. “Huh?”
“Asgard,” Loki clarified, sounding frustrated and extremely unhappy about showing it. “When will you be leaving Asgard?”
It honestly surprised him, but Tony still answered, “Well, I don’t know. I wasn’t exactly booking a time with the latest travel agent. I guess in another...” he did a quick mental calculation. “Four months?”
“Four-” Loki cut himself off and sat up straighter as he stared at Tony, his emotions completely masked from his face. “My freedom to leave this planet is granted in four months.”
“You caught on to that, huh?” Tony grinned. “I’m happy to wait for a travel buddy to tour the realms with.”
Loki sounded numb. “You wish to travel with me?”
“Uh, yeah? Exploring the universe is always better with a frie-” A hand suddenly pressing against his chest made Tony cut himself off to look down. He then turned his attention to Loki who was watching him intently. “Um. Lokes?”
Loki held his gaze for a long moment before he bent down and tilted his head. Tony knew what was coming seconds before their lips were connected. Loki only held himself there for a few moments before he pulled back to a comfortable distance for them to look at each other.
“And what of that?” Loki asked quietly. “What if friendship is not what I want from you, and have not wanted for some time?”
“How much time?” Tony couldn't help asking, even as his hand came up to grasp Loki’s shirt while the other moved towards his neck.
Unseen tension began to flood from Loki at the gestures and he shifted until he was kneeling over Tony’s legs, their eyes having never left each other. “Since you gave me these charms.” His hand moved to brush the necklace under Tony’s shirt. “Since you treated me like someone you wished to spend time with. Since you surprised me with your wit and impressed me with your intellect.” He licked his lip slightly, nervously. “And you?”
“Since you pranked people with me.” Tony smiled. “Since you were the only person on this planet I could stand. Since you made me laugh and have fun again. Since you made me think being immortal wasn’t going to be so bad, if it had you in the future with me.”
Loki smiled widely, his eyes reflecting how delighted he was with those words before he leant forward and kissed Tony once more. Tony responded back this time, deepening the kiss and sliding his fingers into Loki’s hair, gaining a purr against his mouth when he twisted deep in the strands.
When they broke the embrace minutes later, Tony was pressed back against the grass and Loki was holding himself propped over him. Tony ran his fingers lightly through Loki’s hair, feeling the warmth and weight of Loki along the length of his body and feeling completely relaxed and content.
“Come travelling with me,” he invited again, correcting his original offer to match what it soon would be. “It’s always better with a lover.”
Loki’s smile formed slow and soft, but even if his mouth looked pleased, his eyes were dancing with wicked mischief and the start of a baser desire. Tony just wanted to see more. “That, my dear Tony, is a much better offer.”
And leaning down to capture his lips again, Loki not only whispered his acceptance, but he showed it just as thoroughly. Tony could only respond back and enjoy the knowledge that the long future he’d been given was suddenly looking a hell of a lot brighter.