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serrated: Adjective - Having or denoting a jagged edge; sawlike: "a knife with a serrated edge".

Loki is in his floor. Blood is soaking into the carpet, though Tony can't see where it comes from, only the wet gleam of leather and green turned brown beneath the blood. If not for how Loki is curled on himself, a hand pressed against his side and usually expressive face pinched, Tony might hope that it wasn't Loki's. Tony stands at the door, and for a moment, he is only an observer.


Loki is gone. Not physically--physically he has buried himself in Tony's bed as if he has a right to it. But he's gone in other ways, and his breath has gone so still and shallow Tony has to rest a thumb on his lips to feel the brush of air and know he is not dead.

(Tony does not know where Loki goes. Tony does not know why Loki returns with these shards of other lives buried beneath his skin. Tony does not know what Loki sees in these other lives he traverses, what futures he sees woven into the cosmos. He does not know why Loki does this, though sometimes he catches glimpses of desperation, has heard words repeated like a child's prayer in the space between waking and sleeping.)

Tony leaves him in the still blood stained bedroom, and goes to his collection of knives. Broken knives, knives he would barely call knives, throwing knives, knives that are actually daggers, knives that are swoops and curves, knives made of metals and alloys he has never seen.

He didn't used to have this collection.

He has another knife to add today, while Loki will not think to ask where Tony takes it. This one is curved and wicked; this one is magic. It took nearly an hour to work it free, each serration a barb digging far deeper than it should, Loki's lip torn bloody as he bit it to keep from screaming. Tony cleans it entirely once it's free, except for a single groove. Tony's hand is steady as he adds it to the rest of the knives, each also marked with a single blood-stain.

A charm.


Loki sleeps three days before waking.

While he sleeps, Tony cleans clothing already mended and binds red thread inside of Loki's coat, above where his heart will beat.


The first day he wakes, Loki paces, restless, eyes wandering over futures and realities that Tony cannot see. Tony ignores the newest scar, a half-circle mockery of Tony's scars around the arc reactor; Loki does not notice. 

(Penance--all the scars Loki keeps mirror ones that in his other lives he gave Tony. Once, Loki came back from journeying and crawled into Tony's bed and held tight despite how his wounds yet bled, shadow words on his tongue about throwing Tony out of windows, tearing out his arc reactor, creating the incident to cause Tony to need the reactor, ripping his throat out, destroying all he loved. Shaking and dried eyed, Loki whispered as Tony lay in his arms, terrified.

Not for himself, though the others think he should be. Loki is desperate, Loki is vicious, Loki barely remembers the humanity of those around him, barely remembers this reality.)

"Hey," Tony says, casual, and waves a hand in front of Loki's else-seeing eyes, snagging him by his shirt to pause his pacing. Loki's pupils shrink before settling in the light of this room, focusing--at last--on Tony. Actually sees him. "I'm right here, Loki."

Loki does not say anything, gaze as intense as the sun at noon; Tony watches as he hears the words, watches them swim down beneath the surface layer of his physical senses to his thoughts before they process.

Tony holds his breath, waiting, hope and dread knotting his chest.

"You are," Loki says, and he smiles.


Loki stays as long as he can. Tony takes the days like a gift and pretends they are lifetimes.

In the time Loki has been gone, Tony has created multitudes; with Loki here, he shows Loki his creations. He tries to stay casual though he borders on desperation. Loki smiles, pleased and amused with what Tony has wrought, and does not notice Tony's desperation because Loki barely remembers Tony is human at all.


Once, Tony asked Loki not to go, pleaded in the blue glow that is Tony's dark. Stay, he begged, stay. I love you, don't go, I will die Loki, don't you want to have this while you can? Stay.

Loki wept. Loki wept, sobs ugly and wounded, as if Tony had torn his heart from his chest, and Tony hated himself for throwing his mortality in Loki's face.

You do not know what you ask, Loki whispered.

Tony has never asked again.


"Come back," Tony reminds Loki on the fourth day Loki is awake, because Loki no longer focuses even when Tony kisses him and bites his skin, because Loki looks half-ghost despite Tony being able to touch and hold him, because Loki is torn to a thousand other places that must need him more than Tony needs him.

Loki nods, absently, fingers tracing something not in this reality.

"Loki," Tony repeats, desperation and love making his voice shake against his will, "come back."

He feels like a child, powerless, praying to divinity gone deaf.

Loki's eyelids twitch, then he blinks, slow.

"Come back," Tony says a third time, a charm sealed, just like the knives with their drops of blood, just like red thread he ties inside Loki's coat. Loki stares at him, uncomprehending, then he smiles.

"Tony," Loki says, his voice warmth, here, and his hand slides to Tony's neck. "Of course."


Tony fights to stay awake. Loki will leave today. Loki will leave today, and Tony is not strong enough to ask him to stay again.

Loki does not lose focus; Loki never does in the spare hours before he departs, his attention bright as the earth's core, fingers mapping Tony's bones, lips dry and scarred ove Tony's flesh, committing all of Tony to memory.

"Why me," Tony asks, like he always asks.

"Because you are real," Loki says, simple, like it is a fundamental law of the multiverse. "Because you are star fire," he adds as after-thought, pressing his hands against Tony's hips and sliding up along his ribs, breath warm against Tony's belly. "Because I love you," he whispers in Tony's ear, prayer and promise, chest pressing to Tony's back, Tony delirious, one hand fisted in Loki's hair, babbling Loki's name as Loki fucks up into him.

Loki does not satisfy himself with only speaking these things; he writes them on Tony's skin, maps them across Tony's bones, connects them all to Tony's soul, as surely as Tony creates his charms to bring Loki back to him, and Tony weeps beneath the weight of a god's love.


When Tony opens his eyes, starting up in the bed, Loki is gone.