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Desperate for Change

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Chapter #1 – More Information  

“Hey Phil, guess who made the newspaper again this morning?” Tony called, coming into the lab.

“Phil? Really Stark?” Loki asked rolling his eyes.

“You, big guy,” Tony said smirking and pointing both index fingers at Loki as he walked past him and over to his own work bench, “are well on your way to losing your title as the Prince of Darkness. So you are just going to have to settle for being Phil, the Prince of Insufficient Light.”

“Ah. So what did you do that made it into the papers this morning? Another Avenger faux pas? Another fight with Ms. Potts?” Loki asked absently, going back to the file he was working on.

Oh. No sting there. Merlin didn’t like when Tony and Pepper fought. Thank God, the main one, not the prissy god in front of him, that Loki hadn’t been there when Tony and Pepper had fought and broke up ‘once and for all’ several months ago. While they had both missed Loki and were glad he was back with Stark International after an unexpected two years absence, Tony was very glad that he hadn’t been here during their break up. 

The rat bastard always took Pepper’s side.

Tony knew, just knew, Pepper waited until Tony and Loki were together before she came to get him to sign things or agree to appearances. She knew Tony could only give her so much grief before his lab partner got vindictive. And a vindictive, magic-using god was a force to be avoided whenever possible as far as Tony was concerned.

“No, mega bitch, I did not have another public fight with Pepper. I think the last one was bad enough thank you, and I didn’t make it into the paper today, Loki of Asgard did.”

 “WHAT?!” Loki yelped, reclaiming Tony’s attention as he leapt to his feet, spinning around to stare at him. His face was pale and his pupils were so dilated his eyes looked black.  It really wasn’t his best look.

Tony was actually amazed at the speed of Loki’s turn; he half expected a shock wave or something.  But he could see why he was dismayed, Loki of Asgard was a name only known in a few very private government files.

“Jeeze, Cupid, you need to take it down a notch. Breathe in, breathe out.”

“Stark!” Loki shouted.

“Okay, okay.” Tony rolled his eyes. “Well it was a local paper and not a major newspaper.” Loki took a deep breath and started to relax. “But it is a main stream news publication, unlike the last five articles that were only in gossip rags.”

“So, okay. Maybe the Enquirer is a national publication, but still their circulation numbers have been slipping for the last ten years.”

Loki stared at Tony like he was trying to decide if he was crazy or if it was just Tony.

“Umm, tell me Gandalf, how is it that you did not know this?”

“Know this?” Loki growled, glaring at him, “How, by the nine, do you think I would know this? Why are you just now mentioning it? How long have you known about this?”

Tony often wondered if there was some way to harness the energy of the glares Loki gave him. While it surely was a lesser amount of energy than the reactor powering Stark Tower, he was fairly sure each and every glare put out at least as much power as the arc reactor in his chest.

 “Calmly grasshopper, it wasn’t your picture or anything, it was just a short article.” Tony laughed as he hooked an ankle around his rolling stool and sat down at his favorite work bench. “I only keep track of my own publicity. I just figured I would remind you that Pepper has to approve all interview requests.”

“Interview requests?” the now vengeful god demanded. He stalked over to the main design table and pulled up an internet connection, flinging it wide with an abrupt, angry gesture.

“Jarvis, please call up any news articles using Loki of Asgard as the search criteria.”

Looking forward to an entertaining morning, Tony rolled his stool over so he could watch the screens the Rock of Ages was pulling up.

 0ooo0

The archived news accounts of the invasion only ever noted Loki as the Chitauri Battle Commander, as did all but the most classified government files.

Mister Wizard seemed dismayed when the news search actually picked up seven articles, two from the last twenty-four hours. Granted six of them seemed to be almost identical, however the seventh one was completely different and actually linked to a WikiLeaks article. Really? WikiLeaks? Loki opened that link and choked when it displayed copies of actual Asgard Judicial Findings.

Loki’s further web search to see how widely referenced the WikiLeak site was, brought up numerous web pages, one of which was lokiofasgard.com. That one even had a large picture of Loki in his dress armor complete with scepter, horns and a huge list of links on the right side, including the top one labeled, ‘What Really Happened’.  He turned to glare at Stark who was snickering.

“You know,” Tony said thickly after tossing a handful of trail mix in his mouth, “You really should have reserved that name for yourself, just to keep control of your message.” He smirked as Loki turned up the voltage on his glare. “Oh look.” He said happily and pointed, “They have a Facebook and Twitter link. Jarvis, open up the Facebook page in a new window for me, will ya?”

Which of course Jarvis did. Tony thought he was going to die. Both from the furious look he was getting from the internet’s newest star and…. Trying not to drop to the floor howling with laughter.  Of course a few snerks slipped out and for each new one that escaped, his death did get a little closer. “Hey, not bad for an ex-war criminal, 8,759 followers and the page has only been up for a few months, shall we check the twitter and tumblr account?”

Tony wanted to howl with unholy glee as the god cringed.

Oh, okay, flinched microscopically, but for the Lokmeister that was the same as a cringe.

“Wait.  Jarvis, first let’s check out the other Facebook pages and see if any of those are actually for you. Although I am pretty sure ‘Loki God of Fashion’ is one of yours,” Tony snarked.

“Hey, Jarvis, open up the link for that one would you,” he called out. The page opened and several posts featuring candid shots of Loki in outfits ranging from his Asgard gear, to his GQ suits, to his incredibly over tailored casual wear popped up. Tony clicked on one and then scrolled merrily through the picture gallery accompanied by low hisses of anger from said fashion god. Until they got to one that showed him and Thor waiting in line at an airport that got a guttural growl.

OoooO

What had he ever done to be cursed with such people in his life he wondered? Darcy Lewis. He was going to have to kill Darcy Lewis. Loki collapsed on a nearby station chair and buried his head in his hands while that idiot Stark snickered and smirked. He looked up again, watching Stark gleefully flipping through the pictures and noticed several from Stark International events.

Loki scowled. “Jarvis? Ms. Potts is back from Germany, isn’t she?”

“Yes sir, she is in her office, I believe she is getting ready for a production meeting in an hour.”

“Tell her I’m coming up to talk to her please.” Loki said, grabbing his suit coat as he strode towards the door.

Tony just looked over at him and laughed. “Um, be gentle with my CEO there, Mister Blonde, I kinda need this one. It’s not like I have another one stashed in the supply closet or anything.”

Loki reflected that Stark was surely born under a lucky star. He had to be, otherwise Loki would have killed him by now.

 

Chapter Text

“Lucas come in, I was sorry to be away when you returned. I’ve been meaning to come down and visit you and Drífa, how is she this morning?” Pepper called, getting up to come around the desk and hug him.

While brilliant in her own way, Pepper Potts was not, was Loki’s opinion, always very wise. She obviously knew he was angry, Jarvis certainly would have warned her, yet she made it a point to put herself close to him. Or perhaps she was reacting to the Lucas Laufey that worked here a few years ago. Understandable, but not… wise.

He embraced her, while tamping down the random thoughts of violence he was feeling over the posted pictures and then took the seat she indicated as she returned to sit behind her desk. “So. You look upset? What’s wrong? Is it Tony?”

He sat down and regarded her steadily. She was fearless; he would have to give her that. He was more than certain that Jarvis had alerted her to the reason for this visit. Yet there she sat waif like, big blue eyes and not the least bit afraid of him, or at least pretending that she wasn’t. It amazed him that Stark could not alter a few minor habits to keep this woman. Ms. Potts was clearly crazy about Stark, ran his company and his personal life for him, but understandably would not allow him to walk all over her while in the throes of one of his bad habits. He shrugged mentally; he’d always thought that supposed genius or not, deep down inside Stark was a drooling idiot.

She was always deceptively tricky; he always kept that in mind when dealing with her. Not like Agent Romanoff, you knew Romanoff was waiting to spring something on you, you just didn’t know what. Ms. Potts would sit there radiating innocence, while preparing to spring something on you, and then she would go ahead and set up something that would come at you at some later date, from out of nowhere.

Another thing he had always liked about Ms. Potts is that she did not shy away from confrontation, she didn’t invite it like Romanoff, but she didn’t avoid it in the least. “Why?” Loki asked, leaning back in the chair and watching her carefully.

“Why not?” She countered with a composed expression. “Don’t you think it is time that we rehabilitate your image here on earth?” She folded her manicured hands on top the folder she had been reviewing and gave him a wide smile.

“I am not unsympathetic to your wish for privacy Lucas, lord knows after Tony doing his best to get into every gossip rag in the country with his idiot behavior, not to mention the antics of a few of our higher placed executives who should know better, I do find your more subdued behavior refreshing.”

His sense of irony was tickled. “Subdued? You call the invasion of New York subdued?”

“Well there is that,” she admitted, with a smile. “But it’s not like you’ve done anything else the last several years that has made it to the public domain. And we do have to look to the future yes?” She leaned her head back against the soft black leather of her chair, eyes un-focusing a bit, her face becoming more serious. “You didn’t know if you were ever coming back, but didn’t want to us not to be warned so you left Tony those files you had made about Thanos. Why shouldn’t important people know about that threat? Maybe not everyone - why panic them? But the important ones should know about your efforts to help earth. A place that isn’t really even your home.” She shot him a look, “No one knew you were coming back, so when I found that Darcy Lewis had started up that web site I called her.” Her eyes refocused on him.

“She was mad you know.” She said softly.

Loki was aware of this, Ms. Lewis had been livid when she found he had returned. Not that that wasn’t something he was familiar with, but in this instance she wasn’t mad because he was here, but rather she was mad because he had left. He hadn’t expected her to be in contact his downstairs neighbor, first landlady, then cat sitter, Clara Fogal, which is how she found out that he had returned.  He certainly hadn’t expected her to show up at his door one evening screaming at him hysterically and then zapping him with that damn illegally over-powered taser of hers when he tried to calm her down. It hadn’t hurt him of course, but by the Nine it was annoying… especially when he found out the hard way that she carried two of them.

“Anyhow, she told me why she was doing it, because she didn’t think you were all that bad and she just wanted to get some info out there that you weren’t really a monster. I agreed it seemed like it couldn’t hurt for people to know the truth, And besides, if you ever did come back, I needed to lay down some public relations ground work to protect Stark International. So I fed her a few things, and then saw that some of the other sites that popped up got a few tidbits as well.” She smiled sadly, “It isn’t main stream info by a long shot, but some of those sites do get a lot of hits, and my PR people have managed to steer most of the forum posts we’ve come across in a more positive direction.” She smirked, “Or at least a more neutral one. Who knew that you looking so good in a tailored suit would help so much?”

“Is that the only reason?” he asked her ironically.

“No, of course not, it is and will always be politics. You need to be ‘rehabilitated’ so to speak, so you won’t be a political liability. I can never get Tony acknowledge how important politics are, but you’re smarter that way than he is. You grew up in a place where you had to deal with politics all the time, a place where you can’t wait for your political enemies to die off, because they won’t. We’ll need support for some of the things we are going to have to do if we want to get ready for a threat that may be generations away. This planet has a horrible record for preparing for the long game; we get easily excited and then forget about or get sidetracked from issues we should be remembering.” She sighed, “It’s an earth thing.”

“Ah.” Loki was not exactly appeased, but he knew she was right about that. He did need to reduce the risk of the general public finding out about his past actions. Also it most likely was true that while Midgard moved at a quicker pace than he was used to, as she pointed out, the issues had to be constantly re-introduced to new generations. The Midgard attention span was as short as their lives.

“Fine,” he said, resigned but not happy. “Is there anything you need me to do?”

“Besides staying out of trouble? Or rather making sure that any trouble you do get into stays out of the public view?” She asked with while calling up something on her phone. “No. We’ll try not to let it get too personal, and of course alert you if there are any problems that you looking good in a suit can’t solve.”

Pepper acknowledged his chuckle ruefully and looked up from her phone, eyes narrowed speculatively. “Speaking of looking good in a suit, I need an escort to some of the parties at the National Governors’ Conference in Washington next month. Think you can you help me out?”

She was like a youngling’s ball, he thought. She bounced from one area to the next and you never knew where she was going to land. He hooded his eyes to hide the twinkle that rose up to them as his lips thinned and twitched holding back a smile. “Ms. Potts, why?”

“What do you mean, why?” Pepper laughed reaching her hands out across her desk and then lacing her fingers together in a cat like stretch, before bringing them back to fold them together again on her folder.

“Why wouldn’t I want a good looking accomplished guy escorting me to a few parties? You have manners, grace, power, I’ll be envied. Nothing gets to the over-achieving asshats I hang with like a little one-upmanship. You’ll be prettier and smarter than their dates, and are frankly a less obtrusive and better body guard than I could ever hope to hire.  You can gather intel better than S.H.I.E.L.D. and you wield off handed comments like a poison stiletto. Heck, according to Tony, you’re an ace when it comes to using an actual stiletto.”  

Loki laughed delightedly, “Why Ms. Potts, are you are trying to make me blush?”

“Could I?” she asked, pausing thoughtfully before continuing, “No blushes, just trying to use all my assets, especially the smooth talking ones that don’t create embarrassing incidents for me later.”

He titled his head and looked at her quizzically, the words ‘New York’, practically hanging in the air between them.

Pepper made a face, laughing, “Okay, well not ones connected to busty little blondes in inappropriate places.”

“Well no. I’m not a fan of blondes… or ‘that’ kind of acting inappropriately in public places,” Loki agreed smirking, “but I not sure, what with me being ‘outted’ that others might not want to create an incident, like perhaps the governor of New York.”

“We’ll make sure he is in line; he wouldn’t want Stark Industries to shift some of its operations to Detroit. Michigan is making some wonderful overtures towards us, and it would be a big public relations coup for Stark Industries to help with rebuilding their manufacturing base, so they’ll certainly not be making any problems either.” Pepper’s phone beeped a warning that she ignored, “Besides, Lucas, you are an unsung hero now, please try to remember that.”

Loki stood up, “Well I’ll let you get ready for your meeting.” He looked rueful, “I do thank you for your efforts on my behalf, even if sometimes it doesn’t appear that I do.”

Pepper nodded, then a frown passed over her face and she bit her bottom lip a bit. “Lucas, I can’t tell you how glad I am that you’re back. I hope everyone in Asgard is okay.”

He paused, halfway to the door, and just stood there, not looking back at her. He knew she was just trying to be polite. “Everyone there is as well as can be expected, Ms. Potts.”

Before he could start walking again, Pepper spoke once more, a strange tremble in her voice, “Tony told me that your offer is still good.” She cleared her throat, “I’m… I’m thinking about it. Can I have until after Christmas to decide?”

Loki turned to look at her. Pepper was sitting there with a worried expression that he didn’t think suited her. “Ms. Potts, whenever you decide, whatever you decide.” He smiled gently at her, “I assure you, there is no time limit, so there is no need to fret.”

Relief skipped across her features, and she seemed to pull back to the now.  “Thank you.”

Loki stood there looking at her a moment, hoping that she wasn’t feeling pressured, by him or Stark.

As he watched she smiled a wicked little smile, “And my Governor’s Conference? What about that?”

Pepper was not the only one who could smile wickedly; only he’d been doing it for far longer than her and had perfected it to an art form. “My dear Ms. Potts, how could I refuse you the assistance you seek? Of course I’ll go with you, provided you give me a briefing detailing what message you want put out there and who you need information from.”

Pepper nodded politely as he slipped out of her office. As soon as the door closed behind him she grinned.

Chapter Text

Chapter # 3 – Not Amused

Loki was tired; you couldn’t tell it by looking at him because after all, he was a trickster god. However god that he was, with the greater strength and stamina that went with it, by Yggdrasil’s roots his schedule was getting ridiculous lately. His plans of slipping into Iceland under the radar, planting a few physical records, opening up a few bank accounts and then glamouring his way into getting some official to actually issue physical identification for him and Thor had been… expanded, so to speak.

He hadn’t expected his personal trip to turn into the Stark Industries pageant that it had become, complete with, thank you Ms. Potts, a private jet; with a half dozen body guards, two public relations officers and one of Ms. Potts’ executive assistants in tow. He certainly hadn’t been expecting the weeks of paperwork and meetings that ended with everything in train for him to be a Stark International board member as soon as his country of origin problems were fixed. 

And fixed they were going to be, he was headed to Reykjavík to become a naturalized citizen of Iceland. He would then be issued visas and his current paper work would be quickly and quietly amended. He was still going to have to scheme a bit for Thor’s paper work, not that he was even sure he needed it for him anymore, but he did like to be prepared.

It was strange and a bit amusing having Ms. Potts assign him so many mortals for defense. While she didn’t think that his security needs would be that severe, she hadn’t wanted to take any chances either. Neither with his safety nor perhaps more importantly to her, Stark International’s reputation. He was to leave the security issues, if at all possible, to them. If something went down, she wanted mortals shooting other mortals, not the public relations nightmare of a god killing people in ways that might not be understood. 

A soft touch on his shoulder brought him back to present. One of the cabin attendants, the little brunette one named Nancy, was asking him if he would like something to drink or eat. She wasn’t really surprised when he asked for a hot chocolate instead of coffee or liquor; she assured him that it was available and she would be right back with it.  Which she was, along with a basket of breakfast breads, muffins and… “Were those brownies?”

“We heard you were a bit of a chocolate fiend sir,” Nancy laughed, brown eyes sparkling merrily, apparently in response to his surprised mutter. “Take as many as you like, we have enough for the others,” She assured him in a low whisper.

So Loki placed three of the chocolate cakes on a small plate and set it on the work table in front of him. He decided that private planes definitely beat regular airline flights and most definitely, S.H.I.E.L.D. transports. David, the up and coming executive assistant that Ms. Potts had sent with him, took the opportunity to hand him a copy of his revised schedule, this one having some free time blocked out for him during regular business hours so he could slip out and take care of his private errands.

After the naturalization ceremony, he was immediately scheduled to meet with some government officials about a small testing facility that Stark International was building in Europe. The hope for them of course, was that their favor for Ms. Potts would translate into easier approval of an Icelandic site. A site which had previously been a long shot at best when compared to the top two proposed locations in Germany and Belgium.  Well, they certainly had an advantage now, as he had always thought that cooperation should be rewarded… However he would work with them to make sure that their offer was not substandard. He owed them a chance, an edge so-to-speak, but he was not gifting anything. 

OoooO

Several days later, mid-afternoon and Loki was sitting at his desk, taking advantage of Tony’s absence in the lab to work his way through a progress report for the Iceland expansion project. His office door was shut, and he had told Ms. Krebs not to disturb him for anything short of Ragnarok. His charcoal suit jacket and current favorite tie, the dark charcoal one with thin emerald and black stripes, were both thrown over a small occasional chair. The office was mostly quiet as he flipped through screens, with the occasional Æsir swear word when he had to stop and make notes being the only sounds heard. He was about half way through the report when Jarvis broke the silence.

“Sir, Mister Stark would like to talk to you immediately.”

Tony’s voice drifted down from the speakers, he was breathing heavily and the back ground noise went in and out as he spoke, “Yo, Flawed Design* we need you here.  Now even. We’re already shorthanded without Thor and things are getting away from us. ”

Loki kept his eyes and his concentration on the display, almost absent mindedly answering. “I’m not an Avenger, Stark. Also I’m busy and I don’t work for you. So no.”

The outside noise continued to bleed over the speaker for a moment, before a thoroughly pissed Tony retorted, “I have news for you, Reindeer Games, I own the god damn company, that means whatever you and Pepper might tell each other, Pepper works for me and guess what? Newsflash! You work for me too, and I want you to use your super-secret mystical goat paths to get your godly ass out here to Atlanta before anyone else gets hurt. NOW. Understand me? Or you, me and Pepper are all going to go a few rounds when I get back. You got that?”

Loki’s brow clouded and he looked up pensively, gaze focused on the bookshelf on the far wall. “Stark, I don’t think so,” he said slowly.

The only reason Loki had accepted a position at Stark International was due to the understanding that he did not work for Stark. This had worked out well the first two years he had been there, and hadn’t been an issue in the several weeks since he’d returned. Had immortality changed Stark this much? So Soon? He wondered darkly.

“What the fuck!” Tony all but shrieked in frustration, “What do I have to say to make you realize I’m serious? You have a contract. That’s the same as those fucking oaths that you and Thor are always going on about isn’t it? And your contract says Stark Industries can assign you outside projects and I’m telling you that I am authorizing a contract with S.H.I.E.L.D. as we speak, so get your magic twitching fingers here to Atlanta right now!”

Since no one was in the room with him, Loki didn’t have to hide the fact that he was completely and totally furious. It was readily apparent in his expression, or at least it was for the first moment or so until he remembered that being alone in Stark Towers was not the same as being unseen, Jarvis most certainly would have recorded everything. Knowing Stark’s prurient curiosity about everybody he interacted with, Loki knew that there was a high probability that Stark would check on that recording. “Fine.” Loki finally breathed softly, saving his files with delicate touches on the keyboard, rather than the savage punches he would have liked to use.

Loki walked over and put on his tie and suit coat, making sure that his movements were smooth, controlled and didn’t betray his anger.

Why should I be the only one upset right now?

“Jarvis, please forward Ms. Potts recordings of the entire conversation Stark and I just had for her immediate attention and let her know I would appreciate an appointment with her, at her earliest convenience when I get back.” he asked softly as he twitched his cuffs smooth and settled his jacket, again masking all the irritation in his movements.

“Yes sir Mister Laufey, I will do so immediately. May I suggest that you take your Bluetooth headset with you sir? Mister Stark and the others will need some way of keeping in communication with you once you arrive in Atlanta. Since you don’t have one of their communication headsets I will have to use it to direct and then patch through any their communications to you sir.”

Loki huffed quietly and strode over to the desk, just stopping himself from snatching, rather than lifting the headset up, turning it on and putting it in his ear. “Jarvis, please let Ms. Krebs know where I’m going and ask her to feed Drífa before she leaves for the day would you?” he asked in a detached voice.

“Of course sir,” Jarvis said.

“Where are they in Atlanta, could you please forward a map to my phone?”

“I’ve sent it sir; they are in the hotel district, Peachtree and Baker Street.”

“Thank you Jarvis,” he took out his phone and looked at it, inwardly raging. “Please tell Stark, that I’m on my way.” Loki said as he vanished from the office. 

 

Chapter Text

“Mister Laufey has arrived in Atlanta sir; He is currently on the roof of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where do you want him to go?” Jarvis asked as Tony took a sweep of Centennial Olympic Park looking for energy signatures that could be bombs. If he could declare it clear, they were going to have the civilians move there, out of the way of any exploding building debris.

“Where is that? About four or five blocks from here isn’t it Jarvis?” Ton asked, turning for another swing through the park. Not able to see anything, but not really trusting this good fortune he turned for one more pass, “Tell him that’s as good a spot as any, have him stay put, I’ll be there in a minute.”

“Yes sir.”

“Stark! Whatever you’re going to have Loki do, you need to do it fast, we just had another explosion, on the south side of Portman Boulevard, some expo place,” Steve yelled via his headset. “Quite a few people there for some sort of trade show.”

“Understand Spangles, I’ve got the fragments and I can see him right now.” Stark replied. Of course what he could see was a tall, thin guy with long black hair, elegantly lounging against an air conditioning unit, in a frickin’ designer suit. Seriously? Elegantly lounging on top of a building? Elegantly lounging on top a building in a suit? The guy was enough to enrage a saint.

Are you insane? No scratch that question, I know you are.” Tony shouted, landing heavily near the god and flipping up his face plate.  “What the hell are you doing here in a suit? Where the fuck is your armor? We have explosion debris flying all over the place and you are protected by fine worsted wool? I don’t think so, come on Alice, let’s see the Wonderland armor. Oh, and the goat horns too, the big ones, not that little streamlined thing you wear now, if I’m going to get my ass handed to me by Pepper… And she has already left me a nasty message with Jarvis, thank ‘you’ very much, I want Jarvis and the news crews to get some nice, recognizable publicity shots of you being a ‘good boy’.”

“Stark!” Loki snarled. Tony did his best to ignore the flames of anger dancing in the mad god’s eyes.

“Hey, no back chat, you’re on my clock now, make with the armor, so we can get started.”

“Fine!” the wrathful god hissed, anger pressing his lips in a tight line as his suit shimmered away and his heavy armor took its place, complete with the requested horned helm. “Fine,” he spat. “Now, what do you want me to do?”

Tony motioned him over to the edge of the building and placed a few scraps of metal on the parapet. “These are fragments from two of the bombs; I want you to use your mumbo-jumbo to see if there are any more items made from ‘this’ material around here.  I mean I know it’s metal, but it should have residue on it that you can track back to find its brothers.” He looked up anxiously up at Loki, “Can you do it? I mean I would think you could, I wouldn’t ask, but it’s really important.”

Loki looked at the metal and then looked at Tony. From the haughtily controlled expression, marred only by an incipient sneer and the way he was looking down his nose, standing there all tall and Norse godly, it was readily apparent that Loki was here under duress.  And fuck it, right now Tony could live with that in exchange for some help.

Loki’s hands shot out and he spread his pale long fingers perhaps three of four inches above the metal fragments. Tiny wisps of faint blue haze drifted up from the metal, wreathing his hands, Loki stretched out his arms, closed his eyes and slowly turned on the roof. Occasionally, he hesitated, frowned and again held his hands over the fragments. After about ten minutes, he opened his eyes and spoke.

“There seem to be twelve; they are in various places, some in buildings, some hidden outside. I would have to move to cardinal points to make sure I haven’t missed any, but are you ready for me to point out the ones I have found so far to you?” he asked coldly.

Tony relayed the information to the rest of the team and asked Jarvis to notify the Atlanta Bomb squad that they had some locations for them.

“Tony,” Clint called over the com-link. “Ask him if he can mark the targets with light like he did when he did when we were doing equipment placement at that hidden lab during the Chitauri invasion?”

Puzzled, Tony turned to Loki, who nodded before closing his eyes. Tony glanced around the city and suddenly there were twelve beams of light streaming up in the air like special event spot lights. “Oooh, very nice Nikola Tesla, very nice indeed.”

He was still getting the stink eye from the god; so Tony figured he might as well push his luck. “Is there any way you can light up the actual location inside the building and maybe have a warning siren go off from the location of each one? That way people will be warned away and the bomb squads can find them faster.” That look of Space Viking disgust, now other people might have thought that the god was miffed, but Tony knew it was just Lokmeister’s way of showing how happy he was. If by happy, you of course were referring to that warm fuzzy feeling a young godling got while envisioning someone spread out in a blood eagle. 

“Anything else ‘Stark’? Please don’t hesitate to draw down my powers for whatever other trivial embellishments you can think of.  Perhaps gift wrapping?” he asked coldly. 

“Yeah, sure whatever, bows if you can manage them.” Tony saw Loki making a few flowing hand movements and then faintly heard warbling sounds coming from several different directions. He looked over the ledge and decided that the light about a block away needed personal investigation. Or at least it did as soon as Loki had hit the major compass points to make sure there were no bombs he’d overlooked. “Alright Merlin, make with the compass point checks. Chop-chop.”

After perhaps ten more minutes Loki had not found any more bombs. So Tony pointed to the light he had noticed earlier and told Loki to meet him there. The beacon light was coming from the top of a large office tower, but the warning strobe light and the siren were at ground level, which is where Tony landed. The entrance boasted that among other things, this building housed a German Consulate’s office and more importantly to Tony, a strangely noisy FedEx drop box right inside the entry area.

“Seriously, Milamber?” The siren and pulsing light seemed to be doing a fine job of making the civilians shy away from it, although Tony wasn’t sure what they made of the poison green silk bow wrapped around the drop box.

Tony was scanning the box, trying to decide if he could safely open it so he could pass on information on its construction to the others when a large explosion occurred behind him, closer to the door of the entry hall, the blast wave throwing him and Loki out of the hall and across the large adjoining atrium. Tony landed against a large concrete plant filled divider with a body deep grunt, while Jarvis yammered in his ear about this system and that system going down. He had absolute faith that there had been a bomb in the FedEx box, but he knew, just knew that they had been played by the terrorists who had planted multiple bombs. So how had Loki missed it? Two bombs? Perhaps two different types of bombs? Why?

“Stark!”

Unable to easily move with the damage done to his suit, Tony shifted as much as he could to the right as an elusive thought tried to get his attention. Loki was scrambling out from under the remains of a large circular reception module that apparently had been what hit him in the back before gathering up the god who had been beside him. The desk and the god had slammed to a stop several yards away on another section of the concrete planter.

Two? “Reindeer Games, the bombs you tracked are to take out the response teams; they had a different type for initial damage.” Tony tried to sit up, but his suit was holding him down. “Oh my god. Jarvis warn Capsicle, tell him he needs a bomb squad where he is, not rescue workers. Tell the there are two different types of bombs.”

Loki’s head whipped around to stare at the epicenter of the blast, eyes narrowing as he started sweeping the area looking for fragments or anything that could identify the first bomb.

Tony sighed. Brilliant though he might be, the god did not have a lifetime of weapons development and testing experience, and would be hard pressed to find what he needed in time. “Jarvis, any joy getting my systems back up? I’d like to be able to get up buddy.”

“Sorry sir, it appears that the problems are damaged mechanicals from the blast, you were after all very close to the blast center, this is not something that a system reboot can fix or work around.”

Tony sighed. “Okay Jarvis, Eject.” Exactly nothing happened, wonderful. “Hey Comet, could you give me a hand here with the manual release?”

His range of vision did not currently include the direction that the pissed off god of mischief approached from. So one minute he was staring at damaged ceiling and the next he was being stared down at by an implacable Asgardian or Æsir or whatever the fuck they called themselves. A green pitiless glare caught his and he tried to smile back at the angry god with his most charming smile. “Pretty please?”

Nothing.

“Umm, Loki?” Not that he usually considered, or truth be told cared, how much he aggravated other people as a rule, however, Tony figured this just might be time to quit with the nicknames for a while. “I know you’re pissed, but we are in a time crunch here. Could you please give me a hand?”

“Fine,” spat the unappeased god as he reached for the release levers. “I think you should leave now, without your suit you are vulnerable,” he mocked, matching his cadence to parody Tony’s voice when he had said the same thing earlier. Various areas of the suit began to begrudgingly fold back and with a little forcing from Loki when the one arm section wouldn’t, Tony was able to free his upper torso enough to sit up.

“Hey, I am a god among men you know.”

“Yes, Stark,” Loki retorted, without any hint of softening in his face or posture. “I do know, better than anyone else on this wretched mud ball, I know. But I also know that a Midgard ‘god’ is not quite as fatal injury proof as perhaps an Æsir, Vanir and certainly not a Jotun.”

“Besides” Loki continued in a decidedly snide voice, “We have explosion debris flying all over the place and you are now protected by a silk body suit. No armor, no combat zone. I believe those were the rules. Yes?”

“Fine,” Tony huffed back mockingly in ‘Loki’ tones, before a slightly bitter note crept into his ‘Tony’ voice. “Let me get this off, I’ll find you some shards and then I’ll leave. Will that make you happy?”

You smug son of a bitch was added internally, and perhaps unfairly, but now he was getting pissed that Loki was still so pissed. Cripes, could the guy not let it go already? And he had another suit to repair, that just added to Tony’s pissed-off-iffy-ness. Which isn’t even a word, but who cares, that’s how he felt, damn it.

It took a few more minutes to peel off his suit, and then he crawled out in all his body suited glory. He sighed. While it might make the suit more comfortable to wear, the black silk outfit that he wore when he actually had time to dress properly was not really something he really wanted to waltz around in too much, there just wasn’t much of it after all.

He walked over to the entryway where Loki was and started kicking around a bit with his trainers, looking for something bomb-ish.

“Stark, we do have another unexploded bomb just down the hallway, perhaps you need to call S.H.I.E.L.D. and arrange some transport.”

“Yeah, yeah. In a minute,” Tony replied absently, while studying the debris on the ground. Okay… now if I were a bomb fragment, where would I be he wondered. He looked over when Loki sighed; noticing his hands were doing a blue, white glow-y thing and then his attention shifted a few yards away. There! That must be part of the other bomb, he was sure.

Oh.

And there was another one. He picked up the shards and walked them over to Loki.

“What do ya think? Enough for you to use?” Tony asked as Loki accepted them with a sour look and tucked them in an interior pocket.

“Enough, Stark.” Loki agreed flatly, wrapping his long fingers around Stark’s bicep. “I’ll take you back to that roof top, we can wait there while Jarvis calls a transport and I can look for the other bombs. Are you ready to go now?”

“Yeah, I gue--”

Chapter Text

Chapter # 5 – Feeling Better?

“Hey, Tony.” A voice called as he opened a bleary eye, trying to figure out where he was. Female, nasty? Well close, Natasha.

“Hey Nat, what’s happening?” Tony mumbled as he managed to get his other eye open and with a supreme act of will power, got both of them to work together and focus. Briefly. He was in a QuinJet, okay. It wasn’t moving. Humm, why? No movement and hard seats… Why are these damn seats so hard?

“Where’re we at Red?” he asked the spy sitting across the deck from him, again managing to focus his eyes.

Natasha stood up and came over to sit beside him. She wasn’t in bad shape for this time in a mission, at least as far as he could see. Oh yeah, she had a few scratches, some scuffs on her clothes, but nothing major.

“We’re at a golf course, just outside the beltway.” She said as she peered into his eyes, “As soon as the others finish up, we’ll go get them. We would have taken you to a hospital already, but Loki said he did a healing on you, so you should be okay.”

Tony started to lift a hand to wave away her concerns, but quickly changed his mind. The muscles in his arm hurt like hell, in fact all of his muscles were screaming at him. And he was wearing weird scrubs of some sort, light green, faded, ugly. He peeked down the inside of the scrub top and noticed that his body suit had a few tears in it.

Oh.

All right, his body suit had a lot of tears in it. If the lower part of his body suit looked anything like the top… Then he had to be seriously exposing some skin. Not that his skin wasn’t lovely to look at mind you, but still modesty was called for when around those who were not endowed with such a god-like, yep he was gonna say it, god-like form.

“You guys had another bomb go off beside you.”  

Tony’s scattered attention coalesced fleetingly as he considered that. “Ah. I wondered what happen to my body suit,” he said conversationally, before his thoughts collected enough to remember the important shit.

“Oh shit. What happen to my suit?”

Natasha was looking at him intently. “Loki said it’s in pieces. But before he agreed to help anymore, he did get Steve to promise to have all the bits picked up and returned to you. All the bits. He was pretty emphatic, so you may end up having to go through a bunch of bomb debris that gets gathered up too. I don’t think Cap wants to give him a reason to flip out on us.”

“What about the other bombs? Did he find them?”

“Yeah, he found several more; some of the sites only had the one, and the first explosion site had a dud, that’s why you got the wrong fragments, the first bomb never went off.” Natasha sighed, “If it had, who knows what would have happened while you were gathering fragments.”

Tony added a sigh of his own, “Probably the same thing that happened while Loki and I were together. It just would have happened sooner.”

They sat quietly for several minutes.

“Loki okay?”

Natasha laughed, “Yeah, a bit scorched, and mad as hell that you didn’t leave as soon as you got out of your suit. Once Steve got him calmed down about that and agreed to his demands about retrieving the fragments of it, he did look for the rest of the bombs. Right now I think he’s transporting bomb squad peeps to some of the more inaccessible sites. I understand he is still pretty bent.”

Tony started to shake his head ruefully, but decided against it in mid shake, so he just looked at her semi-woefully and said, “Yeah, tell me about it. He’s been PMS’ing since I called him in.”

An amused expression seemed to flit across her face, as if to wonder when Loki wasn’t PMS’ing about something. Which really wasn’t fair Tony thought, not really. Granted he was a lot moodier than he had been previously, but even still, he was not even close to how over the top psycho mad he had been the first time he’d met the Avengers.

Natasha rummaged around in her jacket pocket, “Oh, here,” she said handing him a phone. “Loki said you need to call Jarvis and let him know you are okay.”

Tony took the offered phone, “I guess.” And then he paused a moment thinking furiously, before turning to her and asking. “Wait a minute, did you tell Jarvis I was okay?”

“I didn’t she said, but Cap did.”

“Then forget that.” He groused, handing her back the phone. “He just wants me to call so Pepper knows I’m free, so she can call to kick me while I’m down.” He made a face, looking at the growing amusement on Natasha’s. “He’s an evil bastard that way you know.”

Tony leaned back on the hard bench seat and closed his eyes. He was entitled, he had bomb go off beside him. Without the suit even. He wished the seats were more comfortable.

He gave a deep sigh. If Loki hadn’t been there to lie about healing him, he would be so busted right now. Of course if it hadn’t been for Loki he would also be a dead mortal right now too, so…

“God,” he groaned, rolling an eye over towards Natasha and returning to his main worry. “He was already pissed at me for calling him in on this, Nat and now it’s worse with me not listening to him, so getting myself hurt is going to totally cheese him off.”

Natasha was brushing his hair off his forehead, stroking underneath a long cut with callused fingertips. “Oh, I don’t know Tony. You had a concussion, lots of lacerations, well those might have originally been punctures, a few broken bones, nose and ears were bleeding…”

“Nat is this going somewhere? Or are you just getting off by listing my many pains?” Tony asked grumpily as he sat up, rolling his head away from her questing fingers.

“He must not be too mad at you, you’re still healing and you aren’t screaming.”

He huffed, looking blearily at her. “Why should I be screaming?” he asked. A delicate shudder, almost unnoticeable, wafted through her, although her calm expression didn’t change. As quick as it had been, Tony wondered if he had actually even seen it.

“Well if he had been really mad at you, he’d have done a battle healing. Trust me when I tell you those are extremely painful. You’d still be screaming.”

“Really, well maybe I’m just good at handling pain? Huh. Ever think of that Ms. Smarty-pants?”

Natasha’s brow quirked, her face now sporting a rueful lop-sided grin, “Actually, no Tony, I didn’t think that. Just let us say from personal experience, my own with one of Loki’s no frills healings and watching you with your past whining at minor injuries, I don’t think you would be this good with that type of pain.”

“Anyhow, I’m glad it’s not hurting you. We’ll have you to a doctor in no time.”

“Whoa, wait a minute, there is no way I am going to see doctor, I’m okay.” Tony pulled away from her, glaring from the safety of a few more inches of distance. “You know what? I’m better than okay, I am ‘fine’. With the emphasis on spitting that word out I might add.”

Tiny creases appeared at the corners of Natasha’s mouth, not a smile per say, but rather a smile-to-be. “Tony, what are you talking about now?”

“Fine, I’m fine. The Prozac god is not the only one who can be ‘fine’ you know.” Tony knew he was being petulant, but hey, if anyone could carry off immature and bratty, it had to be him right?

“And I am so not seeing a S.H.I.E.L.D. doctor; I have my own you know.” He lay back closing his eyes.  He could say he was tired, ‘cause he totally was, but he also wanted to stop talking to Natasha before something he said or she noticed got him caught. Besides, he had been hit with two bombs today; he was entitled to a nap.

“Whatever Tony,” said an amused voice from very far away.

Chapter Text

Chapter # 6 – Furious Really

Fury, totally living up to his name was snarling and stomping across the small conference room. “Stark how are you even alive? Him I can see, it would take a nuke to bust Loki’s punk ass, but you just have your tin can, and you weren’t even in the damn thing for the second one.”

Tony winced as Fury’s voice hit that low, throbbing, head splitting bass tone that he got when he was good and truly… wait for it… furious. He rolled his tumbler full of ice cubes and single malt scotch across his forehead. He wasn’t sure which was more soothing, the coolness of the iced glass or the promise of forgetfulness which was the full glass of scotch. Only sissies go with that two fingers in the bottom of a snifter crap, he thought, anything less than half a glass was for poofters. Besides, he didn’t have all day to be pouring the crap, the sooner he got toasted, the sooner he could forget today and make his drunken escape from big daddy eye patch.

“Well?” Fury demanded, again hitting those agonizing lows tones in his voice.

Tony peered wearily up from underneath his icy glass of amnesia-to-be, “I’ll have you know my tin can was the super deluxe model and it saved my sorry ass. Bummer if that pisses you off.”

“And the second time?” Fury demanded.

“Director Fury, I did throw up a shield at the last moment.” Loki said, giving up looming menacingly by the door and walking over to the table that Tony was sitting at. “That is what saved Stark from the second bomb,” He sat down and glared at Tony a moment, before turning again to back to Fury. “Sadly I was in a bit if a rush and some of the over blast bounced back and hit Stark. Fortunately, the debris was no longer traveling at full speed by then. Hence he survived long enough for me to heal him.”

Tony so wanted to roll his eyes. Loki was such a bull shitter. But Tony was willing to take all the help he could get right now. Especially since Loki knew that Tony didn’t intend to tell anyone about his change of mortal status right now, or even ever. And let’s face it, no matter how good Tony was at shoveling the shit; the god of lies has had centuries more practice and his delivery was just that much better.

“Yeah, thanks buddy. My phone was toasted, you want to call Jarvis for me and ask him to make sure my jet is ready or me?”

“Oh, Stark,” Angry God purred in full sadistic bastard mode. “I’ve already promised Ms. Potts that I would personally transport you home the instant Director Fury is done with you.” He flashed Tony a very unfriendly tooth filled smile.

“Fine,” Tony groaned. “Look, could you go terrorize someone out in the break room or somewhere? I need a few minutes with Mister Happy Face here. I’ll come get you when we’re done.”

Tony made love to his icy glass of forgetfulness for several long minutes after Loki had given Fury a curt nod and then left the room. But like all good things, this came to an end when a very pointed ‘harump’ was shot his way.

Oh yeah, Fury.     

“Nick buddy, I want one of those damn scroll things for Martin Riggs, not one of the little ones either, I want a big one.”

Fury huffed, leaned against the wall and folded his arms before smirking at Tony. “Stark, S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t have a contract with Loki for this afternoon. We didn’t call him, you did.”

Tony nodded. He thought this might go down like this. “Ya know Nick, as a S.H.I.E.L.D. operative I did an emergency consultant contract for Loki on your behalf. So now you either pay up or I am going to have to. Because just between you and me, I am not going to be the one who finds out what happens to someone who stiffs an Asgardian Prince, especially not the pissy one.”

Fury just rolled his smirk into that lopsided grin of his and looked at Tony steadily for several long moments of silence. More days than not, today being one of the more days, Tony hated the misbegotten S.O.B.

“And if I have to,” Tony continued after taking a big fortifying sip of his scotch, “If I have to Nicky, I’m going to buy him a big chunk of Stark Preferred stock for his services today.” Fury shrugged. “And I am taking the cost of said stock out of the funding I donate to you guys.” Tony was rewarded not with a change of expression, but at least with stiffening, which for Fury was a big reaction. “A really big chunk of stock,” Tony said twisting the knife. “And I’ll pay premium to get it if I have to.”

He put down his drink and gave Fury his sweetest smile, “Oh, and you have to give Pepper her standard fee. Or else that will come out of your funding too.”  

Fury just stood there, shit eating grin frozen in place, not saying a word. This was fine with Tony, heck he had more than enough words to finish this conversation. “Furthermore, Nick. Just so this never happens again, I want a services agreement that mirrors the ones you give Pepper, so that I can use it in an emergency to call him in without having to argue with you.”

Fury raised an eyebrow at him. “I don’t think so Stark.”

Tony spun his chair around in a circle. Damn straight he was aggravated, he so did not want to deal with this right now, he only wanted to get drunk enough that Pepper couldn’t hold a conversation with him when he got back to his tower. “Oh come on Nick. What’s it going to cost you, a sheep skin? Some ink?”

Fury started pacing again. “Those are pretty open documents Stark; there is no telling how much they will cost us. We can’t be careless.”

“Yeah, well how many have you already given him?” Tony shot back at him.

Fury paused. “Eleven. He has eleven big scrolls.”

“Really? And how many has he cashed in yet? I can tell you that, none. So far all his assistance has been at the cost of a few freaking pieces of old style paper and some ink.” Tony snorted and turned his attention to making his half empty glass, emptier. 

“No, but Coulson has had to redeem two of the small ones, and of course what we paid Stark International.” Fury snapped.

“Chump change for what you got, Nick, and what was really done for the ones redeemed? Were those favors a big problem for S.H.I.E.L.D.? I know about the one to help the Fogal lady and the Lewis kid, what was the other one for Nick?” Tony asked angrily. “Something horribly complicated? Expensive to achieve? What?”

Fury glared at him. “Traffic Tickets,” he growled.

“Excuse me? I thought you said he asked you to fix some traffic tickets for him?” Stark rolled his eyes at Fury’s nod. “Oh. My. God. Will the horrors never end; he made you fix some tickets for him. The dastard.”

“Actually it was twenty-seven highly toxic parking tickets written to your secretary’s nephew. Kreb’s was worried that her nephew might be targeted in Philadelphia’s scofflaw round up.”

Tony took a large drink of his scotch, trying to keep a hold on his temper, “So not even chump change right Nick?”

“Stark, we didn’t call him, you did.” Fury said dismissively. “What’s in it for S.H.I.E.L.D.?”

If Tony hadn’t been a better poker player he would have gasped. After all he had done for S.H.I.E.L.D., the Cyclops in front of him thought they were going to try to chisel him for more? “Oh hell no,” he thought angrily.

“What ‘was’ in it for S.H.I.E.L.D. was finding a bunch of bombs in a hurry,” Tony spat. “But seemingly that doesn’t matter to you, so I thought maybe keeping your funding intact might be an incentive, but you know what? Don’t worry about it Nick, my offer to let you handle it is off the table; your funding is buying some stock and paying Pepper.”

“Now see here Stark--” Fury growled, moving to loom over Tony.

“No, you see here Nicky.” Tony snarled, reaching back and slamming his drink down on the table behind him. “I want a god damn future services contract in my office by the end of the week. You got that? Or Pepper will not be okaying any future work for you at all.” He stood up, glaring angrily at Fury, “Pepper may run Stark International, but I own a controlling share of the god damn company and even though everyone seems to try to ignore it, including Mister Wizard, the fact is that said god of mischief ultimately works for me.”

Fury stood his ground, standing chest to chest with Tony. “Stark, you need to be reasonable,” he growled.

“You want reasonable, Nick, here it is. As much as you are pissing me off right now, I am still an Avenger. Don’t make me rethink that.” Tony pushed past Fury and wrenched open the door, turning he narrowed his eyes and rumbled, “On my desk, one week from right now Director Fury, not a minute longer.”

OoooO

As he was propped up against the wall at the end of the hallway, it only took Tony a few seconds to find Loki. A dark haired, ridiculously graceful, elegantly armored, sardonically head tilted, eyebrow raised Loki. Who was smiling and showing way too many teeth for Tony’s current mood. “You don’t start with me,” he snarled pointing a finger as the god of mischief stood away from the wall.

“Fine. Are you ready to leave now Stark?” Loki asked coolly as he straightened up.

“Yes as a matter of fact, I am. And I have had just about enough ‘Fines’ for today Laufey.” Tony snapped stomping over to stand beside the tall man.

“Fine.” Loki snapped grabbing his arm as blackness and a tugging sensation rolled over Tony.

Chapter Text

Chapter # 7 – Principal’s Office

Pepper looked up from her desk startled as Tony and Loki appeared in front of her. Tony saw her eyes widen and out of the corner of his eye he saw Loki sketch a small bow and then disappear.

What a damn Asgardian fricking rat bastard he was. Tony had wanted to come back to his part of the tower and maybe avoid Pepper’s phone calls for a few days, not be planted on her carpet like a school kid being sent to the principal’s office.

Tony reached over Pepper’s desk and punched the intercom button, before dropping down into one of the leather guest chairs in front of her desk.

“Six fingers of scotch on the rocks, now.” Tony called out smoothing down the stupid scrub top he was wearing. “Single malt preferred.”

“Ms. Potts?”

“Thank you Jeanine, could you please hurry with Mister Stark’s drink?”

“Yes, Ms. Potts,” said the voice from Pepper’s phone.

“Jarvis,” Tony called.

“Yes sir?”

“Any idea where the Prince of Prissiness is right now?” He asked, leaning on the arm of the chair, holding two fingers against his temple to support his head.

“Yes sir, he is in his office, he has called up the Iceland project that he worked on this morning, and is getting ready to pick up reviewing it where he left off this morning. Do you need to speak with him sir?”

Tony’s face screwed up in a grimace, “No Jarvis, just tell him I said he was an asshole and we are now even.”

Pepper arranged her papers, replacing them in their folder and closing it, her manicured nails tapping on the folder as she sat there examining Tony.

It had been a really crappy day and Tony saw that it was going to get much worse before it got better.  He really needed to chill out, he thought, letting his mind wander, not even wanting to think about the reaming Pepper was planning on giving him. Or, the one he was planning on giving her. He really liked Pepper, better than anyone, and he hardly ever got mad at her, but if she thought she could… Tony started to feel tight, like his skin was too small for him, like he did before a really big fight.

No. Not yet. Casting his gaze around the room he looked for something else to think about.

Oh look, what a great sunset!

Pepper had a good view from her office, he’d always liked it. The setting sun cast a warm glow that just set alight the rich wood grain of her desk. She favored a much more traditional office that he did. None of the polished steel and glass and sleek lines he had in his minimalist modern ‘official’ office. Rather Pepper had fine antiques, gorgeous woods, exquisite objet d’art and crap like that. He didn’t spend much time in anyone else’s office at Stark Industries, so he honestly couldn’t say if many others had their offices set up like hers, well obviously not as nice, she was the CEO. But say the traditional styling and all, most of the offices he glanced at in passing were contemporary style, with maybe a lean towards slightly modern and crap like that.

Tony frowned, temper coming back for a moment; the only other office that Tony remembered at Stark International that even resembled hers was Loki’s. In fact… He rolled his head back, looking towards the wall unit on the left side of the office. A bowl so translucent it appeared to be gently glowing from within rested on one of the middle shelves, very close to the unit’s center in a place of honor. It was, even he had to admit, a lovely piece, shallow bottom with tall sides, about ten inches wide and six inches tall, all cream porcelain with a wide rich brown irregular stripe running from bottom to top, accented on either side with two equally irregular stripes of  real gold inlay for crying out loud.

Loki had given the bowl to Pepper for her birthday, about a year after he had started working for her. He’d commissioned it special for her in Asgard for crying out loud and had it filled with La Maison du Chocolat truffles. Loki was a fucking kiss ass, that’s what he was.

With an internal snort Tony recalled how he would have needed a scientific calculator to tote up all the god’s damn brownie points that day. He got the thinking ahead to commission something special points, ordering it soon enough for it to be done on time points, a style she liked points, exquisite workmanship points, not duplicable anywhere on earth’frickin’gard points, filled with her favorite type of chocolate points, actually thought of it himself points, intricately wrapped points and last but not least, a personalized calligraphed card that he had done himself, complete of course since he was the God of Bullshit, with original verse, cherry on the fucking top points. As soon as Pepper had opened the gift, Tony had expected a swat team of federal authorities to show up and take away Loki’s damn man card.

The memory of Pepper holding the bowl up for everyone to see still made Tony’s teeth clench, and he had more than once considered what kind of ‘accident’ it would take to break the damn thing without her shooting him. He had told her order any freakin’ sports car she wanted as his birthday present to her and that hadn’t gotten half the ooh and aww’s that Loki’s damn candy bowl did. Well, okay most of the guys present had drooled, but most of the women had been clinging and climbing all over Stark International’s very own Don Juan. And if Tony’s own experience let him correctly read Loki’s fatigue levels, they must have continued their attentions for several weeks afterwards.

Tony did a little internal eye roll at the memory of several of the more ‘sensitive’ men, including that insanely good looking Eddie guy from marketing, who had joined the ladies in vying for the god’s attention that night and heck, for all Tony knew the weeks afterwards as well.

Bastard.

Not that Tony had been jealous or anything, after all, who doesn’t want their fiancé to get nice stuff on her birthday. But he could have done without the sardonic smug smile the god had given him when he had mentioned, just in passing, how overly new age sensitive Loki’s present had been. He certainly did not deserve to have to endure Loki’s wickedly delighted chuckle as he agreed with Tony and suggested that perhaps Pepper would have liked a basket of strawberries better.

Fucker.

‘Stark, how could you not know that Ms. Potts likes intensely personal gifts of a splendid nature? How long have you known her? Good heavens, didn’t she have a hand crafted display case made for your first arc reactor? As soon as I saw what she had sent my mother I knew, yet you’re engaged to her and you don’t?’ Smug jerk. Worse, Pepper didn’t see him for the smarmy bastard he was. Oh no. She thought he was adorable. Seriously? Adorable? Honestly, some days Loki was enough to make an ex-fiancé hurl.

Pepper smacked a hand on the folder in front of her. “What?” Tony jumped recalling his scattered scotch soaked attention, which Pepper had totally seen.

“We might as well wait for my drink to get here before we start,” he growled, letting her glare roll right off of him. Tony noticed that her lips thinned as if holding back a biting remark. Tony felt his momentary escape into memories of the past end as his bad mood merged with the now ‘remembered’ irritation of Loki’s constant one-upmanship. Which he totally did not need to add on his big pile of crap for today. Tony’s own mouth thinned in anger and he glared at Pepper.

“Pepper, don’t start with me. I have had a really bad day, lost a suit, been blown up twice, fought with the magic man ‘and’ the one eyed menace, I am not really in my happy place right now.”

Pepper huffed, brushing a bit of non-existent lint off her red suit sleeve. She turned her watch face up and Tony knew she was wondering why it was taking so long to get his drink here. A few minutes later, when that Jeanine chick finally brought it in, Pepper ended up tapping her French tipped nails on the desk in an agitated pattern waiting for her secretary to hurry up and close the door and leave.

“Well you have your drink now Tony, can we get started with the yelling? I have things to do before I go home tonight.”

“You want to yell first or you want me to?” Tony asked taking a large drink and leaning back with a deep frown as he tried to calm down before he said something he would regret. He looked up and the exasperated expression on Pepper’s face focused all of today’s irritations into one big ball of mad.  He leaned forward and slammed his drink on her desk just as she opened her mouth to speak.

“On second thought, this is my company, so I get to yell first.” Feeling his anger wash over him, he continued harshly, “Not only that but you and the snarky one both work for me, so maybe you both need to dial your normal pissyness down a couple of hundred notches so maybe I wouldn’t have to yell!”

“Tony, you need--”

“NO!” He slammed a clenched fist down right beside his glass. A small splash of scotch spilled onto the rich mahogany finish. “You need to understand that this is ‘my’ company and occasionally I will make a decision that people disagree with. And when that happens you both will just have to put on your big girl panties and accept it!”

“No! You listen to me Antony Edward Stark, this very much concerns me.” Pepper spat. “And it concerns the good of ‘your’ company, which I run for you,” She leaned forward placed both palms flat on the desk and glared at him, “So don’t you yell at me when you step out of bounds and get in trouble.”

Tony’s face plainly showed his incredulousness. “What bounds are you talking about Pep?” Tony retorted. “How did this even get me in trouble? Snarkmeister works for my company and that makes him my freaking employee you know, therefore, I am allowed to tell him what to do! And if he doesn’t like it, he--”

 “Oh no you don’t,” Pepper hissed jumping to her feet, the muscles in her neck taut, her arms crossed and every bit of her posture closed off to him. “I hired him to help me, which he has done. He only agreed to take the job on the understanding that he ‘wouldn’t be working ‘for’ you. Amazingly enough Tony, he’ll work with you, but he doesn’t like taking orders from you, but he will take them just fine from me.”

“Well that’s too damn bad, because--”

“And besides he works for Stark International, not S.H.I.E.L.D., you might want to keep that in mind, you can’t force someone to take outside contracts as a superhero!”

They stood there, both breathing heavily and suddenly Tony could see all the fight just drain out of Pepper as she crumpled down into her chair. 

Pepper leaned her elbows on the desk and peered wearily out from under the hands framing her flushed face. “Tony,” she pleaded in a low whisper, “please don’t mess this up for me.”

Wha--?

What?

Tony stopped, mouth hanging open, devastatingly cutting retort to her superhero crack forgotten as he looked at Pepper, as undone as he had seen her in many a year.

Mess this up for her? What the hell was she talking about? Not her and Loki surely? Tony’s heart stopped a moment and then restarted with a painful thump. He loved Pepper, he really did. Well he obviously didn’t love her enough to make her happy, but still, more than anyone else he knew. And besides... Much as he sidled away from admitting it, he liked working with Loki. And yes, if you held a gun to his head, he would admit that he enjoyed Loki’s company socially. He was as smart as Bruce, as funny as Bruce and more importantly to Tony, he could be aggravated in ways that would just be way too stressful for Bruce to handle without Hulking out. But Pepper and Loki? Tony knew he had been  going to events with Pepper lately, which got Tony off the hook. Not that Tony would have gone willingly of course. But…

Tony honestly felt a little faint as he groped for his scotch. His expression must be something extraordinary judging from the look Pepper now gave him. But still, Tony thought it would kill him if they… NO. He didn’t even want to think about that. He couldn’t think about that... But he did.

“Pep, how long has this been going on?” he asked hoarsely.

Chapter Text

Chapter # 8 – Tony Unhinged

While no one would know it, including the short goateed troll that would almost certainly be examining Jarvis’ security recording of his office, Loki was still absolutely livid. However centuries of having to remain placid and calm in the face of provocation in Asgard had taught him how to look composed even when he would rather be dismembering someone. Of course, the fact that he had to sit here in his own office with a mask on his emotions due to Stark and his ubiquitous recordings was only adding to his anger and made the idea of dismembering someone, especially a short brunette male really appeal to him right now. 

It’s ridiculous, he thought, I can hide my activities from Heimdall and Odin, but not from Stark.

While he understood, and indeed sympathized, that Stark had control issues, Loki thought perhaps it was time to stop humoring the man’s bad habits, especially since Stark’s issues had started adversely affecting him. Loki didn’t let Odin watch or control him anymore, so he certainly wasn’t about to let Stark continue to do so. Stark had not really been a problem for him in the past, which is why he had let the matter slide; in hind sight however this had turned out to be a mistake that now had to be corrected.

Frowning at the screen, he paused a moment considering… Stark would have to be handled very carefully, he thought or this could spiral out of control… and that would, if not derail, at least impede his long term plans.

Loki decided to put coding a privacy routine on his mental to-do list, with perhaps a bit of magic thrown in to keep the code hidden or prevent it from being removed. And perhaps it was not too soon to start planning a reality check for Stark. Yes, he would definitely have to ‘carefully’ find a wayto make sure Stark did not get too out of hand. Not that Stark’s current behavior was too unexpected what with the recent changes he had gone through coupled with his normal obnoxious ‘Starkness’.

He continued to work on the Iceland expansion project, determined to finish at least of draft of his recommendations this evening. He wanted to have his final recommendations done before the weekend, it wasn’t due until midweek, but he did like to allow time for problem resolution if needed.

As Loki flipped through the screens, resolutely concentrating on the expansion project, dark thoughts about Stark’s recent actions kept intruding on this thought processes, to the detriment of his completion estimate.

Damn. 

Thankfully, about an hour later, despite his mental state, Loki was finally able to finish a draft of his initial recommendations. He allowed himself a few moments to stretch in his chair and then with just the tiniest bit of internal embarrassment, he casually walked over to the small Coffee Bar beside his sitting area and looked in the small cube refrigerator under the counter. Inside the fridge were the normal items for guests like creamer for their coffee, bottled water, various sodas and the like; however they were not the magnet that reluctantly drew Loki over to peek inside. While you would never get him to publicly acknowledge that his latest guilty pleasure was a bit childish, he still couldn’t stop the small smile from playing at the corners of his mouth when he saw he still had one bottle of chocolate milk from the Battenkill Valley Creamery left on the refridgerator door shelf.

Ms. Krebs was indeed a crown jewel of a secretary. She had started stocking chocolate milk for him after he had returned, when she noticed that he almost always allowed his hot chocolate to cool before drinking it. How she had found out about the Battenkill brand and made arrangements for its delivery he had no idea, but in his opinion, that discovery alone was going to guarantee her a year-end bonus. And it was going to be a very nice bonus; he knew this because even if it wasn’t due to be turned in for a few months, he had already filled out all the paperwork.

Loki bent down to get his last bottle of chocolate milk and then grabbed a napkin before retreating back to his desk. He was going to skim through the Iceland report one more time and then call it a night. He took a long, satisfying swallow of his milk and then set it down on the desk.  Running his fingers through his long hair, he leaned back and then stretched one more time. It was a wide, muscle relaxing, tension relieving stretch that didn’t end until Loki’s arms were totally outstretched over his head and even his fingers were arched back. 

Which is when his office door blew in off its hinges, Loki ducked his head and covered it with his arms to protect his eyes and face from door shrapnel which also exploded his two monitors, the glass milk bottle, his picture of Frigga and everything else that had been sitting in his desk. Covered in wood debris, plastic fragments, glass shards and dripping chocolate milk mixed with blood, he looked up at the clearing smoke to see Stark in one of his other Iron Man suits leveling his hand repulsor at him.

Even as Loki called his armor to him and heaved the huge desk up, first as a barrier and then as a missile headed towards Stark, his first though was, Seriously? After all the crap Stark has pulled today he is now trashing my office? Of course his second thought as Stark was exploding his desk in midair, was that Stark was going to be lucky to get out of this alive, grand plan or not.

“You fucking backstabbing bastard!” Stark screamed rushing into the office and lighting up his lasers. Loki dropped flat to the floor as the wall behind where he had been standing became a scored and smoking ruin. Before he could move Stark had him full on targeted with various panels in his suit retracted and missiles prepared for launch.

Releasing his armor, Loki put up both hands, palms out and sat up as his armor dissolved and his business suit shimmered back into place. “Why?” he croaked, looking up at Stark, drawn brows and a worried confused expression washed over him as he tilted his head, trying to understand what was going on. He could feel the blood from various cuts on his face, neck and forearms starting to trickle down his skin. Even without being able to see behind his mask it was apparent to Loki that Stark was breathing heavily.

“I thought we were, maybe not friends, but at least buddies. But you are such a deceitful prick it’s no wonder everyone else in the nine realms hates you!” Tony shouted, his outstretched arm trembling.

“Stark, I don’t know what you are talking about.” Loki told him, hands still in the air, but leaning forward and getting ready to stand.

“No, you stay right there, don’t you even fucking move or I will blast you into tomorrow!” Tony shouted, firing a small projectile which just skimmed a tendril of Loki’s hair before impacting into the wall behind him with a small explosion. “Next one is going right between your lying eyes. How can you even live with yoursel--?”

A blast of green energy came out of nowhere to hit Tony’s left side and threw him hard into the wall. Shaking off the broken plaster he spun, mask turning quickly in the direction that blast had come from, while reorientating his weapon lock on Loki.

“What the hell did you just do?!” Stark hollered almost vibrating with anger.

Making small placating motions with his hands, Loki quietly said, “Stark, please tell me what’s wrong? Surely you aren’t this mad because I dropped you off in Ms. Potts’ office.”

Another small caliber missile bracketed the other side of Loki’s head causing him to flinch in the other direction and then stop, holding his head stiffly. “Don’t you even think about mentioning Pepper to m…” Tony was almost stuttering from anger “I can’t believe you have the balls to stab me in the back like you did and then pretend nothing happened. Okay, I can believe it. Hell I watched you do it to your own brother time and again. Maybe I am as stupid as you thought I was,” a short bitter laugh escaped him. 

“Oh please Stark, just tell me how you really feel” Loki said, beginning to feel much less conciliatory towards Tony. What, he wondered, was going on with Stark? That he had drinking sometime after Loki had dropped him off in Ms. Potts office a few hours ago was obvious. Of course Stark seemed to be having some difficulties right now, and alcohol was not doing him any favors there.

“How stupid you two must have thought I was,” Tony hissed. “And you! You damn psycho, how could you talk to me every damn day like nothing was going on? How could even you carry that off with a straight face?” Another bitter laugh escaped him, “Oh wait, god of lies. Let’s not forget that.”

“No Stark, I am not the god of lies, I am actually a trickster god, very different, although I will admit that most people are too stupid to see the difference.” Loki said in a testy voice. “If you don’t tell me what this is about right now, I’m afraid you’re going to be very unhappy, very soon.”

“Tricks huh? I suppose the ol’ silver tongue is a help there, a good whore has to make magic with the mouth don’t they? Oh, and you even have the magic part down pat too. Lucky you,” Tony mocked, a nasty smirk apparent in his voice, at the enraged expression that flowed across Loki’s face. “I doubt if you can make me any unhappier than I am right now, but bet you’ve always kept your tricks really happy with that talented, lying, whoring mouth of yours.” He taunted hatefully.

Loki surged to his feet, eyes blazing with anger, ignoring the weapons trained on him. “How dare you speak to me like that,” he said savagely. “I don’t know what has gotten into you Stark, but I’ll have the skin from your back for this insolence!”

“So? How else should I speak to the back stabbing scum who fucked my fiancé while pretending to be a friend?”  Tony flipped up his face plate and glared his expression tight and hard.

Loki’s body went rigid with shock, his mouth opened, but then closed again in a hard thin line as he stared unbelievingly at Tony.

“But hey, you must be a pretty good fuck to get her to give you a board seat. I guess you’re lucky that she’d taken over as CEO by the time you showed up again.” He continued dismissively, “I don’t care how good your mouth is, I’d have only bought you dinner.” He looked Loki up and down, “or if your tongue was really ‘that’ good, maybe a nice pair of earrings.”

Loki eyes widened and then he let out a ferocious snarl and closed the distance between him and Tony.

“Don’t even,” Tony growled, slamming his replusor directly over Loki’s heart. “You’re done, I’d kill you but you’re just not worth it. I want you out of my building now. Do you understand? And don’t ever come back.”

Tony was pushed forward hard enough that he fell against the unmovable god in front of him. He looked at the feral grin that Loki flashed him, as the emergency eject levers on both sides of his armor made the unmistakable sounds of locking into the retraction position. Instinctively, he knew that Loki had something to do with this and he fired his repulsor straight into his chest, creating a large charred hole in the white dress shirt as Loki was blasted into the wall in front of him with a sickening thud. Over the clacking noise of his suit folding away, he felt a cold chill to run up his spine as a soft voice behind him whispered menacingly in his ear, “I understand a lot of things Stark. First and foremost I understand that you’re a suicidal fool.”

The dark haired figure that was crumpled up on the floor in front of him shimmered away.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter # 9 – Jarvis Overide

“Jarvis,” Loki called as he tripped Tony and then slammed him back hard so that he bounced off the scorched wall and fell where the Loki duplicate had previously fallen, “Where is Ms. Potts right now? Is she still in the building?”

“Yes Mister Laufey, although she will be heading down to the parking garage any minute now.”

“Jarvis,” Stark yelled. “I revoke all of Loki’s authorizations immediately. Every fucking one, right now do you hear me!”

“Of course sir,” Jarvis said. “All authorizations for Lucas Loki Laufey have been revoked.”

Loki’s murderous stare bored into Tony. How dare he, Loki thought, honesty unsure if he would ever be able to forgive Stark. It wasn’t only the insults that he was furious about, but also the fact that Stark actually thought him stupid enough to betray his own handpicked partner. He could not have even imagined that Stark could find it in him to believe such slander about Loki when he had never given him any reason to even suspect such a thing.

“Jarvis,” Loki said, maintaining a calm voice with difficulty. “’Override’, authorization, ‘Viking Space Punk’, voice verification ‘Loki’, protocol ‘Spoiled Brat’, execution, ‘Immediate’.”

“Hey! Jarvis don’t listen to him! He can’t give you orders.”

Very good Mister Laufey, protocol ‘Spoiled Brat’ in place.

“Jarvis, immediate suspension of all authorizations for Anthony Edward Stark. Verify please.”

Tony came boiling up off the floor swinging a scrap of desk at Loki’s head while screaming, “Jarvis, Override, authorization Blue 2165, voice verification ‘Tony Stark’, Protocol ‘Hostile Takeover’, execution ‘Immediate’, verify now!”

Loki ducked under Stark’s swing, stepped forward and slightly to one side as he pounded a vicious elbow into Stark’s right side, dropping him to the floor with an ominous crack of his ribs.

“All authorizations for Anthony Edward Stark have been revoked.” Jarvis intoned in his dispassionately cultured voice as Stark lay on the floor gasping for air.

“Jarvis, please forward Ms. Potts the recordings from this office starting the minute the door blew up. Ask her to review them immediately,” Loki reached down and grabbed Tony by the shoulder of his shirt, yanking him up off the ground. “Please let me know as soon as she had started to view the recordings.”

Loki yanked Tony through the debris and into the outer office where Ms. Krebs spent her days. Just as they cleared the door, Loki closed his hand around Tony’s throat and jacked him up against the wall with is feet dangling.

While he kicked and clawed at the arm holding him, Tony screamed strangled curses at Loki and unheeded commands at Jarvis.

After trying to get his attention several times to no avail, Loki backhanded Tony before growling, “I am willing to forgive you many things Stark, however naming me whore is not one of them. It is only because of the friendship you have given me these last few years that I haven’t already slit your throat.” His narrowed eyes trapped Tony’s gaze.

“Mr. Laufey, Ms. Potts has started reviewing the recordings.” Jarvis said.

“Excellent, thank you Jarvis. The minute she is done viewing them, please ask her to come to this office, Mister Stark is in need of her immediate presence.”

“Jarvis, no! Don’t listen to him. Override, authorization Blue 2165, voice verification ‘Tony Stark’, Protocol ‘Hostile Takeover’, execution ‘Immediate’, verify now!” Tony screamed as he struggled.

Loki hissed as Tony kicked him hard on his knee.

“Jarvis! Answer me!” Tony screamed as he was dropped back onto his feet.

“SILENCE!” Loki roared as he dragged the curse-screaming Tony to the center of the office.”

“You fucking bastard! How dare you mess with Jarvis!” Tony yelled, alternately trying to break away from Loki and then when that didn’t work, trying to punch him.

He was very much like an enraged toddler Loki thought despairingly. He had always known that Stark was unstable, and truthfully, he acknowledged that he was not one to harshly judge someone for this, as he had his own moments of ‘unwise’ decision making. But no matter how brilliant the engineer was, what had Loki been thinking to pin his hopes of assistance on Stark. It was sheer madness, clearly, Loki had not been thinking properly either or he would have just taken the longer route. It was also fairly obvious to Loki that he had allowed wretched sentiment for the foolish man and Ms. Potts to cloud his judgment.

This, he thought angrily is why he hated having to work with others. If it wasn’t his affection for Thor and tolerance for Thor’s despicable friends ruining everything, it was Tony Stark and his baggage. Despite his pride in his decision making capabilities, it was becoming apparent that he was no better than Thor some days. 

Loki had been thinking, absent mindedly fending off various blows from Tony and ignoring his litany of curses when his attention was caught by the man screaming, “Mother fucker, let me go!”

What?! Surely he didn’t say that?

He stuck the engineer’s forehead with his other hand, little sizzles of blue flame exiting from his fingertips, “You will shut your mouth until Ms. Potts speaks to you.”

Tony’s brown eyes widened and locked on to Loki’s, the muscles in his face rippling as he tried to open his tightly sealed lips. His struggles, which had momentarily stopped, renew with increased frenzy accompanied by his now muffled screaming.

“You will kneel here Stark and wait for Ms. Potts. You will do it now, for I have lost all patience in dealing with you.” He said furiously, pushing Tony down to the floor. “You will save yourself a world of aggravation by kneeling ‘right’ now.”

Which of course didn’t work as Tony bounced back up like a child’s ball, but Loki was not surprised or indeed unprepared.

 “KNEEL!” Loki screamed, as power surged from him, dropping Tony to his knees and holding him there.

Loki ran agitated hands through his hair. His jaw tightened and the tension in those muscles ran down his neck to his shoulders. Glaring down at Tony with his chin raised, he smoothed his expression with visible effort until only his firmly held lips gave any indication of how enraged he was.

“I suggest,” Loki said in a tightly controlled voice, “that in addition to slanders and insults you offered me, you also think about what you implied about Ms. Potts’ fidelity. Perhaps if you are contrite enough, ‘SHE’ may forgive you.”

Ignoring Tony’s furious stare, and the muted sounds escaping him, Loki turned and headed towards the door leading to the hallway.  

“Jarvis please make sure Ms. Potts knows that Mister Stark will not be able to move until ten minutes after she has left the building. Also ten minutes after she has left, you can cancel Protocol ‘Spoiled Brat’ and return control of your systems to Mister Stark and reinstate all of his authorizations. Acknowledge please.”

“Understood sir, I will pass on your message and return system control to Mister Stark, ten minutes after Ms. Potts has left the premises.”

“Thank you Jarvis. You have always been most helpful.”

“You are quite welcome sir.”

“Sir,” Jarvis continued, causing Loki to pause just before he exited the room. “Ms. Potts is asking to speak to you sir.”

And what a fun conversation that would be right now, he thought. No, best to let her and Stark argue in peace. He would no doubt speak to Ms. Potts some other day.

Please convey my apologies to Ms. Potts and inform her that I have to go now. He turned and threw a nasty smirk at Tony. “Tell her that Stark has forbidden me the building and told me never to return, so I think it is best I take my cat and leave.”

Stark was already glaring daggers at him, but who knew that Stark’s glare could intensify that much more when Loki announced he was taking Drífa?

Chapter Text

Chapter # 10 – Pepper Frowns

Loki had left. Tony knelt on the stupid tan Berber carpet, unable to get up, unable to scream his frustrations, furiously unable to do anything but think about what had just happened. There was of course a small voice trying to tell him that he was lucky to be alive right now, not that he had really been afraid that Loki would kill him. And through the clamor of all his other thoughts, that annoying voice pointed out that the only reason he hadn’t been afraid was because Loki was indeed a friend.

Not that Tony didn’t try to drown that voice out with his other various grievances’. But the trifling idea that his biggest complaint might possibly have been an error on his part was a bitch. If that was true, while Tony would be really relieved in one way, but it was going to totally suck in so many others.

He should have talked to Pepper. Well, okay. He had asked her, “Pep, how long has this been going on?” but Tony had the sneaking suspicion that perhaps he should have asked her for a bit more information before blindly stumbling out of her office. Tony shuddered, forcing back the bile that threatened to choke him. No. Not details. If it was true he definitely did not want the details. But rather he should have asked her for clarification and possibly made sure that their definition of ‘this’ was the same. Yeah, clarification, that would have been better.

Going down to his lab and knocking back so much damn scotch, before coming up to see Loki might have, in hindsight, been another error he made this evening. Of course that one paled when put alongside his bright idea of putting on the suit and blowing away Loki’s office door before attacking him. If Loki was telling him the truth and not even the alcohol fumes in his brain could convince him that this was not a high probability. Then he had just totally fucked himself. Not that Loki wasn’t a fucking jerk for ratting him out to Pepper, first by calling to complain about this afternoon’s little adventure and then by sending her those recordings of Tony accusing the two of them of fucking around on him. Oh and not to forget, high jacking his AI and making it impossible for Tony to order Jarvis to delete them before she could see them. He was a class one jerk for sure.

Tony had plenty of time to mull over all of his dark thoughts, since it didn’t seem like Pepper was in any hurry to come see him. He glanced up at the wall clock, wondering what he would do if Pepper just left the building, without coming to see him. He would be able to move after ten minutes, but he would not want to bet that he was going to be able to open his lips until he she actually spoke to him. That would be so wrong. But still, in the end he might actually deserve it; he had made really hurtful accusations, possibly unfounded, against two people who were his friends.

I am such a dick Tony thought. After another ten minutes he slumped down, rubbing his hands though his hair before finally clenching them together and letting the drop into his lap. I am so totally fucked, he thought tiredly, and I have been for years.

OoooO

After forever, which was actually only a bit more than an hour, a small scuffing noise in the hallway made him glance up to see Pepper looking at him like he was crazy. Well it could have been his expression; painful grimaces were not a good look for him. But Tony wondered how long she had been standing there watching him try to ward off a low grade panic attack by hugging his injured side while rocking back and forth. 

Tony tried to say several stupid things like, ‘where the fuck have you been’, ‘so did you or did you not do the nasty with Loki while we were engaged’, or ‘what in the hell ‘years’ were you talking about’, but fortunately, since she hadn’t spoken to him yet, the spell still held his lips sealed shut.

“Tony?” Pepper called tonelessly.

Tony gasped and pitched forward with relief as his lips unsealed, “Oh Pepper, thank god you’re here,” he told her palms on the carpet to keep from falling flat on his face. “I don’t feel so hot Pep, I think I may have a cracked rib. Or maybe it’s just bruised, but damn it hurts. And my knees are freaking killing me; I am too old for this crap.”

Pepper started back a pace and from the looks of her these were not the first thing she expected to hear him say.  Then she gifted him with one of her very memorable ‘Pepper Frowns’.

“And how did you bruise your ribs Tony?” Pepper snapped looking far more serious than she had a few hours ago when he was in her office. But hey. Serious is good, Tony will take that; if she was serious she wasn’t too mad. “You were fine when you left my office. And besides, if you heal so fast now, why is it giving you trouble?”

Tony’s thoughts were totally hijacked by her last question. He used his shirt tail to wipe the sweat from his forehead and temples, stalling while he pondered this. Why did it hurt so bad? He’d had cracked ribs before and so he did know that they felt like this, but he was stronger now, with better pain control and all… Unless… Unless the son of bitch had actually fractured one or more of them… and it just felt like a cracked rib to his immortally enhanced body. Well okay, so he might not feel anything at all here in a couple of hours, but damn it hurt right now.

“Tony?” Pepper impatiently brushed a loose stand of her hair back as she recalled his attention to the discussion at hand.

Oh yeah, hours. Tony looked at Pepper with narrowed eyes, “Why did it take you over an hour to get here? Almost an hour and a half,” he asked accusingly. “Why so long Pepper? You stop to do your nails or something? Did Loki stop down to talk to you?”

Pepper’s lip curled and a decidedly unpleasant look entered her eyes. “Oh don’t you start on me Anthony Stark. You are not going to make me feel guilty about how long it took me to get here.” She entered the office, and stared down at him with her armed tightly folded across her chest. “You’re just damn lucky I just didn’t decide to sleep on the couch in my office and let Doris find you here tomorrow morning.” 

Okay, maybe this was not the good serious Pepper, maybe this was a seriously mad Pepper. Tony rolled his eyes, could today have been any worse than this? Pepper’s back stiffened and an outraged expression flowed over her face.

“And don’t you ‘dare’ roll your eyes at me Anthony Stark! I am so angry with you right now, the temptation to start slapping you around while you are nailed to the floor is almost more than I can take, so you just back up the attitude mister.” Pepper threw her head back and groaned in frustration before stepping closer and poking him hard on the side of his leg with the pointy toe of her high heel. “I’ll have you know I have spent the last hour ‘trying’ to calm down before I said something we would both regret. And then the first words out of your mouth made that effort wasted.”

Pepper paced around the room in agitation a bit before she spun one of the visitor chairs around to face Tony and plopped down in it, burying her head in her hands. Tony was not happy to see that her hands were trembling.  

 “How could you Tony?” she asked glaring at him while he tried to formulate some kind of answer for her. “How could you accuse me of having an affair while we were engaged?” She looked away, angry tears started welling, and her voice took on a husky note.

“How many times have you embarrassed me with your cheating? And now…” her voice gave an angry little hitch. “Now you came up here with no proof to tell a friend of ours that you thought I was the kind of person who would do something like that. And worse! With no proof at all, you accused him of being the person I was cheating with.”

Apparently too restless to remain seated, Pepper came and stood in front of him, her hands clenching and unclenching as fine tremors ran through them. “And then if the embarrassment of you telling that to our friend wasn’t enough, you attacked him. You were lucky you didn’t kill him. Hell Tony, you were luckier that he didn’t kill you.”

“Pepper—“

 “What kind of person says stuff like that,” She demanded riding right over his attempt to speak a note of despair edging in. “What kind of person would actually ‘do’ stuff like that? Have sex with their friend’s fiancé?”

Tony’s eyes went wide and he swallowed down the retort he has been about to make, suddenly unable to look at her, he jerked his head down and stared at his hands. That censorious voice in his head, the one he was always trying to drown with alcohol scolded him yet again. You do stuff like that, it said. And not just once, you’ve done it multiple times, you’ve slept with the girlfriends of your college buddies, the wives and fiancés of your business associates and your co-workers. He scrubbed his hands roughly across his face as that traitorous voice went on to point out that he didn’t really even have co-workers, he had employees. As in people who depended upon him for their livelihood.

And yes he had slept with several of his employees’ wives and girlfriends… It wasn’t the person involved per say, it was that Tony did love a challenge, even if it was morally ambiguous. After all, just because he pursued, didn’t mean they had to let him catch them.  Sometimes it even meant stepping out of his comfort zone and nailing the occasional good looking boyfriend or husband. Which could be interesting on occasion, but not one of Tony’s normal kinks, unless the whole forbidden challenge thing was the kink he craved. His lawyers had lots of experience making those lawsuits go away; they were probably the only people he knew who were glad that Tony drank. After all, alcohol, especially on both sides made his defense just a bit easier and the payouts a bit cheaper. Maybe this is why he didn’t have many friends, he thought, at least none that had significant others.

Pepper crouched down in front of him, but he refused to meet her eyes. “I forgot,” she said tiredly, I forgot about how Jason and Nichol spilt up right before their wedding… and the others.”

Yeah, there had been fewer of those episodes since Afghanistan, but even so, Jason’s Nichol was possibly not one of his finer moments. “I’m a bad man Pepper, you know that.” He grumbled, half ashamed and half defiant. “And, yeah, I thought it might be possible,” he huffed an unhappy laugh, grimacing a bit and holding his side tighter when that caused a twinge. “Hell, Pepper, why wouldn’t I think he would do it, I’ve done it several times.”

Tony took a deep breath, and then continued in a more censorious voice, his brows lowering as he stared up at her. After all this whole mess was mostly her fault. “And I did ask Pepper, you said it had been going on for years. What more proof did I need? If it was years, we would have been engaged then. Come on, what was I supposed to think?”

“Yes! Yes, him ‘helping’ me,” she yelled, flinging her hands up to either side of her head, fingers outstretched in exasperation. “Helping me! With work! Not banging his boss into a headboard while she’s engaged to his friend!”

“I know you wouldn’t do that to me.”

“How does that thought process even work then Tony? Could you explain that to me? If you know I wouldn’t cheat on you, how could you think that he could have had sex with me? I may not be the genius in the room, but I am seeing an error in logic here. Do you see it? Or do I have to lay it out for you?”

“Yeah, so. I was just mistaken,” he said with more than a little bit of a whine in his voice. “I misunderstood. I’m sorry Pepper.”

“You’re sorry, Tony?” Pepper stood up and started pacing, “Like you have been sorry all these years every time you do something without thinking it through? How is your being sorry going to help me with this situation? Tony, this has got to stop, you’re a genius for Christ’s sake, how can you not see where your actions will take you.”

“And more importantly, what are you going to do now?”

Chapter Text

Chapter #11 –Alone Time

Oh Tony usually could see where his actions would take him, no matter what he lies he told to others. It was just that he seldom cared. He was fucked up like that. He was generous, and could be kind, but he could also be a real dick, treating people like dirt and blind to anything except what he wanted. Especially when he was drunk and he had to admit he was quite often drunk.

He had, occasionally when things had gone really bad, debated with himself if he drank because he liked the taste and the way it relaxed him, or if it was because it gave him an easy excuse to do things he knew he shouldn’t do, but was going to anyhow.

He was still undecided, so for now he was sticking with both. He liked the taste and the warm feelings alcohol provided and he liked that he could use it as an excuse to do any stupid or vile thing he could think of.

He was just that kind of jacked up actually.

OoooO

In the weeks that followed, what Tony had come to privately refer to as his ‘Mega Big Norse Fuckup’, he and Pepper had talked several times and the phrase, ‘Well have you fixed it yet?’ started most of those conversations. Tony wondered how he had never realized that Paper was a nag. So, okay. He had realized that in the past, but he had never realized that she was the Queen of All Nags, who knew? He had Jarvis order her a scepter with her title inscribed on the handle. It was a really nice scepter, tastefully done and a very thoughtful gesture on his part, but for some reason when he presented it to her, she did not appreciate it.

Not only was Pepper the Queen nag, she was an ungrateful too he told himself looking at scepter that had been immediately tossed into her trash can. Tony sighed, he had been hoping for at least space in one of her desk drawers, even if he couldn’t get a place of honor on her trophy display area. He glared at the offending shelf; he was seriously going to have to have an explosion go off in her office one of these days, perhaps when she was away on travel and accidently like break that damn bowl.

“Well? Have you fixed it yet?” Pepper asked with exasperation.

“Fixed what? My suit? Yeah, it’s good, hell, it better than good, it is marvelous, it would have to be, I made it.” He grinned cheekily, but watched her closely, lest Evil Pepper decide to come out and play.

“Tony…”  She warned her expression and her posture as severe as a max security prison matron’s.

Really, he thought, she needs to ditch the red and just start wearing black leather. And chrome, lots of chrome… And maybe boots, tall ones… With lots of shiny metal fancy work.

“Tony!” She snapped, “Are you even listening to me?”

And just like that Tony’s little foray into fantasy collapsed and the reality of a pissed off Pepper poured down on him like a cold heavy November rain.

“I can’t even get a message through to him Pep,” at her incredulous stare, he huffily defended himself. “Oh, no. Don’t give me that look. I tried. Really, really tried. But Prince Petulant is having none of it.

“You should call him,” Tony decided to see if whining would work. “He’ll answer you.”

“Do you think I haven’t?” she shot back at him. “As embarrassing as this has all been, I did try to talk to him. All I got back was a text message that he would be in contact with me, ‘eventually’. Every single call, text, and email anything gets me that same text message.” She frowned. I don’t even know if he has seen or heard my messages or if this is just some kind of message rule reply that kicks back to me automatically, while sticking my message in a holding file.” She glared at Tony, “You of all people know how I hate to be ignored. I’d be mad, but maybe he’s just embarrassed too.” 

“So, I’m blaming you.” She finished with a tiny shrug.

Great, thought Tony. Not only am I getting blamed for the stuff I do, but now I am going to get a ration of shit for whatever the god of assholes does. There just is no justice in this world.

Which of course is when that annoying, fucking voice decided to chime in and remind him that if there was justice in this world, someone most likely would have killed him years ago. Or at least more recently had him arrested for unprovoked assault. Thank God, the big one, not the two he knew personally, that Asgardians didn’t really take advantage of Earthgard’s legal system.

Even in the midst of these thoughts, another one horned in and he started thinking that perhaps he needed to name this voice, kinda like how lonely kids name their invisible friends. Only of course with his luck, he got the annoying kid no one wanted to play with as his inner buddy.

Figures.

“Tony!”

“Do you think maybe you could try to concentrate and stay with me for just five minutes please? I know you like to escape having to deal with relationships, but trust me when I say you are going to have to fix this thing with Loki and fix it soon. ” 

Tony slumped in his chair and scowled, “It’s not fair, you should do it. He likes you better, worse you like him better than me. We’ve been friends for years, but you prefer his company over mine.” 

Pepper rested her forehead in the palms of her hands. She was gently shaking her head back and forth as if trying to massage the pain away. After a few moments, she raised her head and looked seriously at pouting man sitting across for her.

“Tony, did you ever think that maybe, just maybe, I appreciate someone who is not trying to make my life more difficult. Someone who will actually agree to help me if I ask and more importantly, follow through so I don’t have to worry about at least that one thing? How often have you done that? Have you ever since you joined the Avengers?”

Smoothing a hand down his ‘Done with Mirrors’, Aerosmith tour t-shirt, Tony fought against the jealousy that threatened to wash over him, as he fingered the logo on the faded navy shirt.  “Come on Pep, you know I don’t have a lot of time anymore. Heck if I’m not in my lab, I’m doing a mission or at some damn meeting or training.”

“Yes, and you make time for that, but not for duties you need to take care of for your own company. Not only that, but your frequent irrational outbursts make even the simplest company endeavors harder than they should be.” Pepper said in a calmly, but he knew that was a lie because her one hand was flat against the desk blotter, every tendon clearly visible, while the other tightly clutched a silver pen, tapping it end to end on her desk.

While it was true that he avoided company meetings like the plague, and hated to go to the social functions she always claimed were politically important, he didn’t really think he was that unhelpful. He did design a lot of the stuff the company sold, and heck he even voted her in a new board member to help rein in that fractious group.

‘Indeed you did,’ said that crappy voice of his, which Tony decided on the spot, would hence forth and forever would be known as Morty Dickerson. Morty, because it was as unpleasant an entity as any stereotypical used car sales man he has ever seen TV and Dickerson, because… Well, Morty’s a dick.

“And then,” Morty continued, “You went and attacked him and now she doesn’t even know if he is going to show up for the next meeting. He might resign for all she knows. Way to go jerk wad, fine help you turn out to be.”

Tony sighed, it wasn’t bad enough he had other people attacking his behavior, now his invisible friend was doing it. Tony would go pour himself a drink, but he just knew in his heart of hearts that Morty was a mean drunk.

“Am I boring you Tony?” Pepper asked coldly.

"What?” He looked up, focusing on Pepper. “Umm, I was just had a very odd thought. Sorry.”

“Tony, you don’t seem to realize, but with us branching out from weapons, we have a much larger group of relationships that have to be maintained. It’s isn’t just the ten or fifteen acceptable countries, with maybe six to twelve branches of government per country anymore.” She folded her hands tightly together, looking at a point just over his one shoulder. “Stark International is in contact with dozens of countries, multiple states or providences in each country not to mention hundreds of cities and manufacturing facilities in those countries.

“And guess what Tony,” She continued, but now her gaze was boring into him, as if the intensity of her stare, might actually help get her message across. “It’s no longer just some career generals we’re dealing with who’re going to be there for ten or so years. We can’t dine ‘em and wine ‘em and get a contract because we’re their old buddy or we let them use our company box at some football games. No, for our municipal customers, every time there is an election we potentially have to start all over again. Will you think I’m exaggerating when I tell you that Stark International is a much more exhausting company to deal with compared to when you actually ran the company selling weapons to your military buddies?”

Tony decided to admit she had a point, if only to shut up any comments from Morty. “Yeah… I guess I can see that Pep.”

“And now, before you screwed this up for me, I had someone that I could begin to delegate some of this crap to, someone who has spent more years dealing with political infighting than the entire senate put together, and you attacked, slandered and fired him. Do you understand, just as Stark International’s CEO, why I am angry about this?”

“Yeah… I guess,” he said, giving her his best, ‘I am such a sorry puppy look’.

“And it’s not even just that Tony.”

Tony eyed her warily, “How so Pepper?”

“If we are going to do this thing properly, do the whole get ready for the Mad Titan thing, then this is going to be a really long term project. You don’t think in the long run it would help to have someone who had the long term interest in the company working for us? Someone we could absolutely rely on since their goals and ours are the same? Someone who actually has experience in having a project extend over a few centuries.”

“Hell,” Tony grumbled, “I bet he’s had practical jokes that took that long for him to spring.”  Smug git, he thought to himself.

Although possibly not quietly enough, even in his head since Pepper was giving him the evil eye. 

“Anyhow Tony, can you see why I might need his help and even prefer it to yours?”

“Well, he is better at putting up with crap, that’s for sure,” Tony groused. “He probably had centuries of experience in that from living in Asgard.” Pepper looked steadily at him. “Yeah, okay. I can see that he might be a lot more help than I’ve been lately.” He shot her a wry smile, “And I can see that you might have more on your plate, administration wise that I did when I ran the company.”

“And?” she prompted

“And what?” he asked. “Pep, I’m telling you, I honestly have tried to talk to him. Repeatedly. Heck, I got stuff he was working on in the lab that needs finished. Do you have any idea what a pain it is going to be to reverse engineer his stuff? He really needs to quit using runes speak or whatever the fuck he uses to write his preliminary progress notes.”

“Tony, please, please don’t take this the wrong way, but I could care less what issues you are having. You’ll figure it out, you always do. I just want my budding Chief Operating Officer and fellow board member back.”

Yeah, well did Pepper ever think how boring the lab had been these last two weeks without a lab buddy. Hell no, the only thing she was worried about was her administrative crap. Tony had just opened his mouth and was about to point this out to her, in a fairly sarcastic way when she continued.

“Tell Loki if he comes back he’ll be in the main offices when he gets back that might make him more agreeable. Bigger office, a personal assistant, out of sight, out of mind, so to speak for any future S.H.I.E.L.D adventures.”

What?!

“Umm, Pepper, he was hired to work in the lab.” Tony pointed out  

Pepper gave Tony a tired smile, “You didn’t even want him in the lab Tony.”

“Yeah, well that was then.”

“And then you fired him. After you made him go superhero-ing against his wishes and contract. Oh and then attacked him for no good reason.” 

“Look Pep, did I or did I not have Jarvis get you a bunch of good-boy hero Loki pictures for your public relations people?

Pepper examined her nails, not looking at Tony. But while her lips were pressed in a thin line, Tony could swear that the very ends of them titled up in the tiniest of smirks. She glanced at her shelf, but looked slyly at Tony out of the corner of her eye, “They were really good pictures.”

Tony preened.

“But,” She continued softly, “You fired him as a researcher, so when he comes back, I want him to be in the top office as my Chief Operating Officer in training.”

“Nah-uh. I don’t think so. Lab God knows magic, and he is the only one in thousands of years who has actually dealt with a Titian, he knows what all is in Asgard’s super duper magic weapon horde, and he’s the only one who has a chance of knowing how Chitauri tech works, I just can’t figure this stuff out without him,” Tony told her smugly, throwing down his arguments like a poker player proudly laying down a straight flush, king high. 

Pepper eyed him ruefully and Tony smiled, until a dangerous light appeared in her eyes causing his smile to evaporate even before she spoke, “No Tony. Loki has to become involved in the business and politics side of the company; we are going to have to deal with lots of that sooner rather than later. He needs to start meeting with heads of state and industries; you know we will need the cooperation of others to get this thing done.”

And Tony did know that, he may not have wanted to admit it, but he did know that things were going to get complicated. But that still didn’t mean he was going to give in on this.

Then Pepper then threw down her own straight flush, ace high. “Then once he has figured out our politics, we need him for this whole immortal thing. He has connections; he knows where the alliances are, where the bodies are buried. Loki was trained to be a chief advisor to a nine realms kingdom. He studied directly under the person who we will most likely have to deal with the most. I’m the CEO of a single company and you are an inventor. Do you honestly think we have the knowledge and experience to keep earth out of trouble once the other realms start interacting with us?”

Pepper leaned forward and asked softly, “Do we?” She waited for a minute in case he wanted to chime in, which he didn’t really, not right now. Then she continued.

“Tony, we have a lot of planning to set in place and it has to start soon. Maybe we could arrange it so he can work with me part time on this mad scheme and with you part time. But we don’t have a lot of time to waste before getting started, we don’t know how long this is going to take and we don’t know how much time we actually have. So it’s better than we don’t waste any of it.”

Okay, so Tony hated when she made sense like that. He also hated that in her own Pepper way, she was able to cut through the petty detail crap and see the steps needed to get to the big picture part of a project. Pepper may not have the test scores to say she was a genius, but honestly, Tony had never met anyone who could prioritize and plan like Pepper... Well maybe one other person… If a god could really be referred to as a person.

They sat there in silence a few minutes, both wrapped up in their own thoughts, and then Pepper asked him quietly, “Not even taking into account that he doesn’t want you to be giving him orders, do you honestly think Loki is going to have time to just hare off and help you with the Avengers, even if it isn’t all the time, while working both the business political side and the research lab side?”

Okay, Tony thought guilty; we circle right back to the main issue. “Well about that Pep, I was thinking something a little more…”

Pepper stared at him in dismay, “Oh, Tony. Seriously? You were not thinking of trying to get him as a full time avenger were you?” She let out an exasperated sigh. “I need him to help with politics; you want him to help in the lab. When do you figure he has time to be a super hero? He may be a god, but I am pretty sure he has to eat and sleep sometimes.”

“Look Pep, it may be nothing especially if that asshole Fury doesn’t send us a future services contract.” Tony stopped frowning and thought for a minute. “Without that, I swear unless the world is in danger of ending I’ll never call him again.”

Pepper cocked her head, raising a skeptical eyebrow, “And if he does send it?” She asked.

He dropped his eyes to the rug, “I won’t risk upsetting him again, if I think it’s that important, I’ll have Jarvis conference call you or something.” He looked up at her and asked in a small voice, “Okay?”

Pepper smiled, and Tony felt his heart lighten a bit. He hated when she was upset with him.

“That’s fine Tony,” She said getting up to come around her desk towards him. “I think I can work that with him.” But then she pulled him up out of his chair and looked at him with suspiciously bright eyes. “Unless you think your life or your freedom is at risk. If that happens Tony, you call him, you call him immediately and I will fix it later. Don’t you ever risk yourself, do you hear me?”

Tony folded Pepper into his arms and they just stood there for a long time. Even if Tony could have forced words past the lump in his throat, what was there to say?

Chapter Text

Chapter #12 – Midnight Visitor

Drífa was a bit disturbed; it has been quieter this week than she is used to. Accustomed as she is to having the lower intelligence robots play with her when she drops various toys in front of them, to Jarvis opening up the lab doors for her when she wants to visit Doctor Crane and Ms. Krebs in the outer offices and having free rein to go up to the penthouse garden via Jarvis controlled elevator and doors when she wants to sit in the sun, staying home all day with only a small patio to lounge on is a pretty boring for her. Of course she most likely also misses seeing Stark, who she has spent as much time living with as Loki. Face it; living with Stark while he was in Asgard for the last two years, spoiled her rotten.

All in all, Drífa makes a most demanding companion as Loki works on various override and privacy programs that can be slipped into Jarvis, just in case.  He smiles to himself at the thought of Stark going crazy looking over Jarvis’ programming line by line trying to find out how Loki was able to slip in an override command.  He has a few more hidden in there, but isn’t really worried. Even on the off chance that Stark manages to find and fix the all the ways he had previously hacked the AI, there are other ways to get Jarvis to take in a command.  In fact one of his previous side projects had been to protect Jarvis from anyone but Loki hacking him in those more esoteric ways.

He smiles as he thinks about how strange it is, to automatically, viscerally even, think of Jarvis as male. Jarvis has several times tried to contact him on Starks behalf without success. Not that he wasn’t appreciative of Stark safeguarding his home and more importantly his library while he was gone for those two years, but one of the first things he did when he got home from his fight with Stark, was to make Jarvis channel through his own more limited AI.  This allowed Jarvis to continue to work as security but only under limitations set by Loki. The gateway program definitely prohibited Stark receiving any information about his apartment while Loki was at present.  Something Stark was doubtless well aware of by now.

Loki smiled grimly as he wrote. No matter if he returned to Stark International or not, Loki foresaw several interesting code battles in his future, since Stark was not only unable to resist a challenge, but was most likely determined to hack his system as completely as Loki had hacked Jarvis. It was indeed a shame, for Stark, that Loki’s system wasn’t just code running through a machine, but rather the possession of his system by a spirit that monitored the wards on his building, his apartment and his AI. In exchange for protection from more powerful beings in the wild, Mimis had a safe haven and Loki had a fire wall that was unable to accept outside instruction unless it came from directly from him. Since Mimis knew, with every fiber of its being, what and who Loki was, and in a way that could not be counterfeited, no outside commands could be snuck onto his server. His eyes flitted over to the small granite gargoyle statue, with its vaguely catlike face and tall proud bat like ears, sitting on the shelf across from the door. Loki had allowed Mimis to pick its own exterior form, not that it needed it, but just something to make the spirit more comfortable, someplace for it to rest and center itself. It would be interesting to see Stark try to code around an entity that had been present for thousands of years.

OoooO

The last few days had been just as quiet, the only calls he has received have been from Ms. Fogal and his stockbroker. Mimis repelled various, increasingly ingenious attempts from Jarvis to contact Loki though the installed security system and protected Loki’s much more limited system from him as it blocked all calls and refused to take messages from Jarvis, anyone at Stark International and anyone at S.H.I.E.L.D, including ones made with their private cell phones. While he didn’t data dump anything belonging to Stark, despite the temptation to copy Jarvis’ source code, the stuff Stark hacked and stole from others was fair game for Loki to rummage through and copy as he saw fit. This of course included all known phone numbers for S.H.I.E.L.D personnel, important business and government officials and a tiny liberty on his part, the known numbers of Stark International employees.

The courier he refused to buzz into the building eventually ended up at his stockbrokers the next day. The broker called him to let him know about the Stark International Preferred stock that was being transferred to him in exchange for unspecified work that he had done a few weeks ago for Stark International.

Which was… Unexpected.  Generously unexpected at that, he wondered if the decision to send the stock was made before or after Stark dug himself into such a deep hole? Ah, well. He was sure he would find out eventually.

The calls from Ms. Fogal were mixed, one to ask if there was anything special he wanted for dinner next Wednesday and the other to get him on the phone so she could hand it off to Stark, who was apparently sitting in her kitchen. Points to Stark for being persistent even if he only got two words out, he hoped Stark enjoyed his evening talking to the gregarious old lady and wondered if Beau had driven him crazy demanding he play ball.

Loki had called Ms. Fogal back once Stark had left the building and explained to her that he wasn’t taking any calls from Stark and would appreciate if she didn’t contact Stark about his comings and goings. Which, as he suspected, Stark had indeed requested her to do. Loki also changed their dinner plans to a different night in a nice restaurant rather than one of her home cooked meals. He was sure she had mentioned the date and time he would be down there to Stark, and he did not trust Stark not to have placed something inert in her apartment that he could activate once he thought Loki was present. His system could make sure the wards blocked Stark from getting into the building again, but that would give Stark an unwanted insight into his capabilities. Better to let Stark into the building and just restrict him from getting off the elevator on his floor.  

Just to be sure he was not taken unawares again; Loki activated his AI’s access to all the cameras in the surrounding neighborhood as well as all the public areas in and around his building. Mimis would alert him to Stark’s presence, before he actually made it into the building in the future.  All in all, except the complete and total betrayal of their friendship by Stark, Loki was content to use this bit of down time for his own projects.  In fact the only other fly in the ointment, so to speak, was his worry that someone was screwing up the Iceland project. It was a small, relatively unimportant project, but he hated not being able to finish something once he started it.

OoooO

The insistent ringing of his door bell was interspersed with someone pounding on his door with their fist. Drífa was having a fit at the disturbance and Loki was actually wondering if for times like these, some small caliber machine guns a-la Stark shouldn’t be installed, hidden in the hallway flanking his condo door. Loki groaned, running his fingers through his sleep tangled hair to straighten it as he walked towards the front door. What time was it? He looked at the wall clock and saw that it was only a little past five in the morning.  By the Norns he was going to kill whoever was at his door.

Loki stopped before he got to the entry hall, his brain finally waking up enough to tell him to check who was out in the hallway before he actually got anywhere near the door. So he blearily cast a cloud of smoke in front of him, and scried the hallway on the other side of his door.

Darcy Lewis.

Trailed by a disgusted Drífa he threw open the door in mid-pound and caught Darcy’s fist as it came down for the next blow, stopping it from striking his bare chest.

As he released her hand, Darcy’s eyes widened appreciatively and her other hand came up reflexively holding her ever present cellphone. She snapped his picture.

“Ms. Lewis?” he growled in a voice roughen from sleep as he backed up a few paces.

“Whoa Loki!” Darcy cooed, looking over the tops of her glasses. “Where is a pause button when I need it?”  She kicked her small overnight bag into his entry hall, snapped another picture of him while he was again running a hand through his hair to get it out of his way and then pushed the door shut before walking around him.

“You know,” she said raking her eyes down him as she passed, taking in his low riding pajama bottoms, “Very few people can do that, ‘Just rolled out of bed but am still smoking hot’ thing. But you…Loki, you have totally nailed it. Congratulations o’god of gorgeousness.” 

Rolling his eyes, Loki turned and followed her into the living room, dropping bonelessly on the opposite side of the couch from where Darcy had kicked off her shoes and was sitting cross legged, back against the couch arm, snapping yet another picture of him.

“Honestly, you don’t even have a real case of bed head, just a ‘delightfully tousled’ look. How do you do that?” she asked unplugging her ear buds and stowed them in her blazer pocket before she began tapping away furiously at her phone. “Is it like a god thing? No, it can’t be. I’ve seen Thor in the morning, and the boy gets bed head from Valhalla.”

“Why?” he groaned, eyes half shut.

What, he wondered, had he ever done that that he deserved this? He’d been awake for at least the last two days or was it three? He had been putting the final polish on his ‘Don’t Watch Me Jarvis’ program and had only just gone to bed, what? An hour and a half ago? Perhaps, two hours ago at the most.

“It must be a Loki thing,” Darcy mussed still tapping away on her phone.

“Why are you here?” he mumbled sleepily.

“I’m here to put in some applications; podunk land gets sucky flight times and connections. So this is when I could get here. Clara invited me to stay with her for a few days, but I didn’t want to wake her at this early, she’s an old lady, she needs her sleep.”

Loki wondered which of his neighbors had buzzed the irritating child into the building. But perhaps he unjustly maligned them; the brat was capable of picking a lock, climbing over a fence or threatening  someone with her taser into letting her follow them through the door.

“Darcy,” he closed his eyes and laid his head on the back of the couch. “Do you forget? I’m several centuries older than Ms. Fogal and yet you woke me.”

“Yeah? Well, god years don’t count like old lady years.” Came her unrepentant reply. “Besides, I need to stay on her good side. If I actually find a job, I might need a place to stay until I can get an apartment.”

“But it’s okay to annoy me?” he mumbled. “There is no justice in this realm, I swear… Just go…” Not opening his eyes, he waved a hand dismissively, “The guest room is down the hall… Lie down or something until normal people are…” Loki yawned, “Awake.”  

Loki lifted his head, watching her with barely open eyes as she climbed off the couch to get her overnight bag and then taking advantage of her absence, he stretched out on the couch too tired to get back up and go in his own room. He barely stirred as the other annoyance in his house, the furry one, stretched out on the couch beside him.

Several hours later he woke to find a note tucked into his hand, telling him that both brats were downstairs visiting Ms. Fogal and that Darcy needed a letter of recommendation from Lucas Laufey, Stark International Board member, to take to her interviews tomorrow.

OoooO

Tony knew he didn’t deserve to have Pepper in his life. Every time he thought he had his shit together enough to be the kind of person she could stay with, he screwed up. The worst part was, no matter what he claimed to Pepper and Rodney, he did it on purpose. How fucked up was that? He, Tony Stark just couldn’t take being responsible, being accountable, being… an adult.

Every time he would run, from responsibility, from adulthood, from his own personal feelings. At one point in time or another he had pushed everyone away and crawled into the bottom of a bottle to hide.

Tony looked around, trying to figure out where he was. He had woken up this morning after a restless night, half remembered dreams of fighting with Pepper, fighting in Afghanistan, fighting the Chitauri and he had simply thrown on the clothes he had worn the night before and fled his tower. Tony looked up at the sky, the sun showed it was well into the afternoon, so he must have been walking for a couple of hours. Well one good thing, at least he hadn’t taken the suit or one of his cars, who knows where he would have been by now? Hell, if he had taken the suit he could have been over some damn no fly zone in another country for all the attention he had been paying to his surroundings.   

Now that he was paying attention, he realized that he was at Madison and 106th Street and that his feet hurt. Crap, he didn’t think there were any Starbucks over this far. Tony grimaced, and headed into the drug store he saw on the next block. Starbucks was Starbucks. He came out a few minutes later with a couple of bottles of Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino, okay not his normal tipple, but any caffeine in a storm hey? He made a left on 107th and decided to head towards the park, the reservoir was calling him, or rather the benches alongside of it were.

Okay, getting in to some serious shit now. It was one thing to think, ‘yeah I can save the world, cause hey, I’ve already done that’. But now, this time. It’s going to take more than a few bombs and a shiny suit. Before was play time, now the adults are talking and it’s time for the kids to go play in the yard while they get everything settled. And that is when it stuck him, he was not yet sitting at the adult table.

Loki and Pepper were at the big people table, he was just the annoying kid who kept bugging the adults while they were busy doing serious shit. I never really wanted to sit at the adult table he realized, so this is what happens. I either have to grow up, or let someone else make all the big decisions, while I concentrate on what color to paint my bike. Okay. Serious hyper ventilate time now. This is it Stark, what are you going to do? Man up and save your planet or keep being a fuck up and maybe interfere with the stuff that is necessary to do it.

Tony’s chest was suffocating him. Nothing had ever hit him this hard, not his parent’s deaths, not Obadiah trying to kill him, not being kidnapped by the ten rings, not even when he almost died. That was all personal, he could muddle through that, fuck it up however he pleased, it only affected him and maybe a few of the people closest to him.

But this, he couldn’t even look at the kids walking down the street without feeling guilty that someday their children might die, because he couldn’t ‘man up’ no matter how necessary it was. It was a horrible responsibility that he frankly didn’t want any part of. The weight of what they were trying to do was crushing. It was so hard that Tony just sat there on this stupid bench, with his stupid head hanging down, with his stupid sunglasses trying not to make any noise, as his stupid tears ran down his face. 

 

 

OoooO    OoooO    OoooO   OoooO

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter #13 - Music Sucks

Yesterday…

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away… ‘Okay so maybe it was the day before yesterday that his troubles had been less.’

Now it looks as though they're here to stay… ‘Like a huge weight on my chest. Bigger than a gorilla, Hulk sized even’.

God the Beatles had written some depressing shit.

But then who was Tony to talk about other people being depressing when you considered the mental mess he was half the time.

Tony was freezing. Of course the fact that he had spent over an hour laying on a bench with the wind picking up might have something to do with it. He sat up and looked blearily around. It wasn’t so much that it wasn’t a nice day. It was, at least nice for early autumn, but the breeze coming over the reservoir wasn’t helping. It really was a shame that the leaves hadn’t fallen yet. There was nothing that said depression he mused, like dead leaves swirling around you like so many broken dreams.

Yep, he was just wallowing in it. He wondered when his life had gotten to the point where it rated a Justin Hayward song like Forever Autumn. Tony decided to sit up before he thought of any more depressing music to add to his own personal Broadway Musical. Besides he was cold.

“Okay Jarvis, I am back among the living. You got anything important for me?” Tony asked adjusting his ear piece that he just pulled from his jacket pocket. He rubbed his hands across the arms of his worn brown leather jacket, trying unsuccessfully to warm up. “Keeping in mind that I only want to know if I would consider it important, I don’t care what level of importance other people might have put on their petty fucking problems.”

 “Understood sir. In that case I only have one item that you would consider important at this time.” Jarvis’ soothing voice washed over him, “I have a possible contact for Mister Laufey in Stark Tower at this very moment.”

Tony straightened up.

 “Really? Who?” he asked brows knitted in concentration, eyes unfocused as he tried to think who it could be.

“A Ms. Darcy Lewis. She is currently in the Human Resources office. Since she has a letter of reference from Mister Laufey they are asking her to wait until the department manager can interview her.”

“Darcy Lewis?”

‘Who the heck is that?’ Tony wondered as he quick-stepped over to the street looking for a cab, it didn’t immediately ring a bell, but he could have sworn he had heard the name before.

“Yes sir. Ms. Lewis was an assistant of Doctor Foster until she graduated a few years ago.”

“Wasn’t she the one who Thor said kept tasering him? The one Loki gets to babysit Thor while he travels?”

“Yes sir that would be her.” Jarvis replied.

“Jarvis call H.R. and tell them to stall her. I don’t want her leaving until I get there.” He paused thinking a minute. “Tell them to be discreet; don’t let her know I’m coming.”

“Of course sir.”

Tony saw a cab crossing the intersection a short distance away and before it could pick up any speed, he hopped out in front of it waving his arms. The cab braked hard, rocking to a stop a few feet away from him.

“Are you crazy?! The cabby screamed at him through the windshield, before Tony dashed around and tried to wrench open the door.

“Get away from my cab! I’m on my way to pick up a fare you moron!”

“Unlock the damn door. I’m Tony ‘Fucking’ Stark and I need to get to Stark Tower right away.”

The cabby started, narrowing his eyes to look closely at Tony. “What about my fare? I just can’t ignore them to drive off with you; my dispatcher will have a fit!”

‘Oh my fucking god,’ Tony thought rolling his eyes as he dug his wallet out of his back pocket, took out a hundred dollar bill and slammed it to the driver’s side window for the cabby to see. ‘I am totally surrounded by idiots.’

“Look Einstein, take me to Stark Tower, get your hundred and just tell them you got hung up in traffic or something. It really isn’t that hard to figure out,” Tony growled, gritting his teeth until he heard the door lock click open.

Scrambling into the back seat, Tony shoved the money through the slot before barking, “Stark Tower. Get us there double fast without us dying and there’s an extra fifty for you. Get us killed and my company will be suing your great grandchildren.”

The cabbie laughed as his vehicle shot forward as if it had been launched from a giant sling shot.

Tony barely had time to recover from being thrown back across the seat and to grab more money out of his wallet before he could see his tower in the distance.

Staggering into the lobby, he stumbled into the open elevator that Jarvis had been holding for him. Ignoring the startled looks of those already in the compartment he called out, “Make it fast Jarvis,” just as the elevator doors slid closed.

There was some consternation when the elevator bypassed all the floors that had been selected, but no one said anything to Tony. Which was good, it was his tower, his elevator and they all worked for him, so he didn’t want to hear any shit off of anyone.

He really wasn’t in the mood.

“Where’s she at Jarvis?” Tony called as he rocketed out of the elevator.

“Go left sir, she is in the H.R. Manager’s office right now.”

Tony breathlessly slid to a halt in H.R.’s outer office. Waving off the assistant, he hunched over trying to regain his breath, holding himself upright by resting his hands on his thighs. The startled assistant opened up her desk drawer and offered him a few folded paper towels, which he accepted, wiping the sweat off his face.

“Thanks,” he muttered, tossing the damp towels in to a nearby trashcan.  He smoothed his hair down and straightened his clothes, finally tugging his jacket back into place. He paused for a moment and examined the name plate on the wall. Melissa Myers. Okay.

Inhaling deeply a few times, he got his breathing back to normal and stepped forward to open the door.

OoooO

Two sets of surprised eyes met Tony’s as he stepped into the office. “Hey, Darcy right?” he said looking over a busty brunette with glasses.

“I’ll take that if you don’t mind Melissa,” Tony reached out his hand and took a resume and recommendation that the startled H.R. manager had been looking at. “Look,” he told the woman, “why don’t you go wait in the outer office? I’ll call you in when I’m finished.”

The manager, a short, plump, blonde woman, stood up and surrendered her chair to Tony. She smiled ruefully at Darcy, trying to make it seem like having the owner of the company shoo her out of her own office was an everyday occurrence. “Certainly Mister Stark, if you have any questions or need any assistance, just call me.”

“Yeah sure,” Tony responded absently, waving her absently towards the door, his attention now on the resume he was holding.

Like Tony Stark would need the assistance of a mid-level drone like her.

So not happening.

Tony glanced up briefly and considered the woman sitting in front of him. Dark brown hair twisted into a French knot of some sort, hazel blue green eyes, black rectangular glasses, a form fitting black skirt that stopped above the knee, short cropped matching jacket and a crisp white, traditionally collared blouse which did not do a lot to hide her… assets. Tony didn’t think she was very tall, but with her sitting down, it was hard for him to tell how not-tall she might be.

Turning his attention again to her resume, he scoffed internally. Political Science, really? What bull. Why didn’t she just get a degree in English Lit, it would have been equally useless. Of course at least an English Lit degree was more honest, they don’t try to pretty it up by tacking the word science on something that has nothing to do with ‘real’ science.  Experience? A couple of political campaigns that no one cared about, her gopher work while in college with the Foster chick and a stint as a daycare worker at the campus facility when she had started college.

Nothing. 

But despite her obvious lack of a useful educational or decent work experience, she was not without interest. Heck, she was decorative in a dark pouty kinda way. Not that Tony would even consider tapping someone that came with a glowing recommendation from the god of crazy. Besides, if he remembered Thor’s description of her correctly, this Lewis chick was her own special kind of crazy. Maybe that’s why her and wack god got along.

He waited until the door closed and then aimed a practiced glittering smile at Darcy. “So… Ms. Lewis, exactly what kind of job are you applying for?”

Darcy quirked an eyebrow at him and appeared to be smothering an internal snicker. Her expression plainly indicated that she knew that the owners of international companies did not, as a rule, interview entry level employees. “A job that pays better than average and has decent benefits would be my preference. If the job is in my field, well that would be a bonus.”

She looked at him over her glasses and smirked, almost certainly on the strength of her recommendation from Loki. Which Tony would admit, was a major plus when slapped on a resume like hers.

“Do you have a job like that available perhaps?” she asked.

Tony’s smile deepened, “Amazingly enough. Yes. I think we just might have something for a person of your talents… and connections,” he said.

Connections, Tony thought, being the only reason she was still in his damn building.

Tilting her head a bit, Darcy pushed her glasses up, the smirk stretching into a wide sardonic smile. “Really Mister Stark?” she cooed, “Why that would be wonderful. I would do ‘almost’ anything to get my foot in the door at Stark International.”

Okay, apparently Tony’s inner-dialog was leaking onto his face a bit and the Darcy chick was picking up on it. Either that or she was super octane nutso. It was a toss-up really.

Darcy stretched out said foot which was at the end of a very shapely leg and regarded the spectator heel she was wearing. While not quite ‘Fuck Me Pump’ high, the four and a half inch heels were still quite impressive and looked good with the outfit she had on.

Tony’s eyes gleamed a bit at both at the view and the reply.  While he might not have technically been interested in her per se… he wasn’t dead either.

“Except of course,” she continued, “anything that would scuff my new heels. Because I have to tell you, I really, really love a good pair of heels.” She fastened her changeable hazel eyes on his.

Hey. Tony could totally relate he was a big fan of high heels too. On the right person of course, from a certain vantage point…

“Or anything that would get me on the wrong side of Loki.” Darcy shot him a mischievous look, almost winking at him. “After all, it would be incredibly stupid to get on his bad side. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Chapter Text

Chapter #14 – Interview Continues

Tony’s smile faded a bit at Darcy’s last comment about how being on Loki’s bad side could be dangerous.

“In fact,” she continued pretending not to notice Tony’s change of expression, “you would have to have Thor-like stupidity to do something like that.” Darcy glanced off to the side through heavily lidded eyes as if thinking very hard about something that was just a bit too complicated for her cute little brain before she continued in a low sultry voice. “You know… To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think I’ve ever met someone besides Thor that was quite that stupid.”

Okay, Tony hadn’t liked her much to start with and now he liked her less. They were very close to negative numbers here.

Darcy flicked her still hooded eyes back towards him, arching an inquiring brow, “Can you imagine how terrible that would be, to have to look in a mirror every day and know you were just that kind of dumb?”

Well okay then. Tony could totally see why the bitch had to carry a taser. He would bet big money that her mouth got her in more trouble than her ass could handle on a fairly regular basis.

“Heh. Yeah, that would be rough,” Tony agreed, tapping his fingers in an irritated tattoo on her paperwork.

Darcy leaned forward, “So tell me Mister Stark, what kind of a position you have for someone with my talents… and connections?”

Since it was looking like he wasn’t going to get anywhere offering her a job and hoping she would cooperate in gratitude, Tony figured he didn’t have anything to lose by being direct.  Hey, greed and self-interest worked more often than most people knew.

“Look Darcy.” Tony gave her one of his most charming smiles. “I really need to get Loki to talk to me. Like yesterday even. And I am prepared to be pretty generous with whoever can make this happen.” He pointed his index finger at her. “And I think it could be you. What would it take for you to help me make that happen? Tell me and I bet we can make a deal.”

“So your being here has nothing to do with me and my job qualifications then?” Darcy asked, tilting her head and giving him a mocking innocent wide-eyed look. “I’m like super disappointed you know.”

Tony blew a raspberry. Darcy was turning out to be a real bitch, so Tony saw no reason to even pretend to play nice.

“No offense kid,” Tony said with a now nasty smile. “But you have no qualifications. All you have are connections.  If I were you I would use them. Trust me; they are the only chance you have of ever being offered a job here.”

Tony took out his tablet and tapped in a quick note to Jarvis.

“Seriously?” Darcy retorted with an amused laugh. Tony’s eyes flew up to meet hers. Darcy’s eyes were brimming with mischief, she lifted her brows inquiringly and said in a voice of concerned understanding, “I know you’re old, but I’m telling you I ‘do’ have other assets. Of course…” She peered into his eyes intently. “Humm, I can see you don’t have contacts.” She shrugged, “And you old dudes are pretty vain, so I can see that you might not want to admit you need glasses.”

Okay, so psycho bitch was now in negative number territory. Tony was pretty sure he would need a super computer to tote up how badly she was pissing him off before this interview was over. But first… If she thought she could diss him with no push back, she was very much mistaken. He was after all, Tony Stark.

Tony looked her up and down, openly dismissive, plainly allowing his distaste to show. “Trust me kid, you have no other ‘assets’ worth mentioning.” He held up his tablet, “And while you may have gotten decent grades, you only did it by taking every cream-puff course that was offered in that third rate school you went to.”

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever,” Darcy countered; easily shrugging off his efforts to upset her and firing back with her own dismissive attitude. “And you went to some big expensive school ‘cause your daddy and his money got you in.” She made a face and batted her eyes at him. “I am sooooo impressed.

Her expression abruptly turned feral, “Look old dude, we both know you’re a misogynistic jerk with really poor fashion sense and non-existent social skills. So please don’t try to lecture me on my supposed shortcomings. Not when you have so many of your own.”

They glared at each other for a moment. 

Darcy grinned lazily at him, “Hey! Do you know what they call a successful ladies man that isn’t good looking?” She did a short drum roll on the edge of the desk with her hands. “A billionaire.” At Tony’s outraged look she explained. “After all, numerous zeros tacked on to the end of a bank statement do wonders for a guy in the looks department. As I’m sure you are aware.”

Tony was actually stunned. It wasn’t that no one had ever said stuff like that to him before; it was just than no one person had ever said all of those things. Well okay there ‘had’ been a few, but none of them were people he couldn’t make fucking miserable by using either his brains or his money. Either the bitch was too stupid to know that pissing off a billionaire genius was dangerous to your happiness or… More likely she knew she had a Loki sized get out of trouble free card that she apparently wasn’t afraid to use. He was thinking the latter. Hell, for all he knew she had a stack of the damn things. Because regardless of what he had ‘said’, her SAT scores, grades and class selections did indicate that she was pretty sharp.

Tony hated not having the upper hand in a snipe-fest, so she was really starting to get on his nerves now.

“Are you always this miserable at job interviews?”  He demanded hotly, immediately pissed at himself for letting her know she had gotten to him.

“What can I say?” Darcy cooed, cocking her head and actually grinning at him. “You seem to bring out my ‘A’ game, cause you are just that much fun to mess with you know? But actually, no. When I am in a real interview, one being conducted by a real adult, I do try to behave. Besides, I think we can drop the whole interview pretense, ‘cause this isn’t one.”

He glowered at her, “You know, I can make it so no one in this state offers you a job.”

Darcy wrinkled up her nose, and narrowed her eyes in a way that was almost catlike, turning her blue green eyes into glittering self-satisfied slits. “Bring it on R2D2. I’d like to see what you can do.” She taunted with childlike glee, leaning forward, as if preparing for battle.

Did she just insinuate that Iron Man was a short round robot?

“You are just a big assed baby; you have no idea what I could do,” Tony told her tossing his tablet down on the desk in disgust.

“Hey! I do ‘not’ have a big ass. My ass, I’ll have you know is perfect. I’d let you see it, so you would know how wrong you are, but I don’t like you, so absolutely no tush flashing for Tony Stark.”

What in the hell was she going to say next, Tony wondered. Rude, crude lip was his deal, why was she channeling him in his own office? Well okay, it wasn’t ‘exactly’ his office, but it was at least in his building.

It had been forever since Tony had conducted interviews but he was certain he had never gotten the amount of lip this Lewis chick was giving him… even on the interviews where he had sat there sloshed to the gills and barely able to remain upright. Just as he was going to tell her to take her shitty attitude and leave, Darcy startled him by leaning forward and snatching her folder off the desk with one hand while she grabbed the loose resume and letter of recommendation with the other. She almost flipped his tablet off the desk as she yanked her paperwork out from underneath it

“But you know what; I don’t want to work for you anyway,” She said as she tucked her documents neatly in the folder and then stood, turning towards the door. “I can find another job in New York. Hopefully at a place where the owner is an adult.”

Okay, now Tony knew she was insane. Anyone with two brain cells ‘wanted’ to work for Stark Industries, but hey, what did he care, it saved him from kicking her out of his building. Darcy was striding towards the door when he reluctantly came to the conclusion that she did have a good looking ass.

In fact, after a few moments he thought it was possibly even a great ass. He might not have had time to come to the second conclusion, but apparently the door was stuck and she had planted her feet to try to tug it open. The angle, the lights, the tight skirt, the heels and the way she spread her legs trying to get more leverage... Yep. As annoying as she was, he had to admit she did have a really fine ass… And her legs weren’t bad either.

But as nice as Darcy’s backside was and as appreciative as he was for the view, Tony still wanted her out of his building.

Unfortunately, before she could get the door open or he could decide to go help her, she turned to look at him.

Busted.

“Seriously Stark?” Darcy demanded as a slight flush tried to rise on his face. “Are you seriously checking out my ass? I mean I know it’s great and everything and why wouldn’t it be? When I think of all the time I spend every day doing hip-lifts and dumb-bell squats it pretty much has to be, but do you really think you should be checking out the ass of someone young enough to be your daughter?”

Tony thoughts, both those greatly appreciative of the view and embarrassed by being caught admiring it, sputtered to a stop.

Daughter?!

What the Fuck? Again with the old thing.

And besides, while Tony had been busted before for openly checking out chicks, what made it blush worthy was that those other women…And the occasional guy, had not been people who were going to rat him out to his former friend/former co-worker who was already hated him.

Great.

He’d unjustly accused Loki of banging his former fiancé and now Loki’s little helper chick was going to tell him that Tony was rude to her and had been checking out her assets. Wonderful, why didn’t he just go for the jerk trifecta and grope her?    

“Hey? You. Stark. You want to help me open this damn door, or you just going to stand there and admire the view.”

Darcy narrowed her eyes at him as another thought occurred to her and said in a low menacing voice, “Don’t even think we are doing one of those kinds of interviews.” She tucked the folder under her arm and started tugging with both hands on the door, calling over her shoulder, “I don’t even want your damn job anymore. And even if I did, I wouldn’t ‘do’ you to get it. I have standards you know. Admittedly not high, but a lot higher than you.”

Okay, now the brat was just being mean.

“Listen psycho chick, I don’t troll interviewees for my ass, I mainly pick them up in bars and charity events, just so you know. But even if I did, I don’t do crazy. I have standards too you know.” 

Tony brushed her out of his way and twisted the door knob and pulled.

Unsuccessfully.

What the hell? Tony locked and unlocked it a few time, twisted, pushed and tugged, but the door remained stuck shut.

“Jarvis! Call someone from maintenance to get this damn door open will ya?”

“I’m sorry sir, but Ms. Potts is on her way down there and she asked me to make sure that you both remain there until she arrives.”

The AI paused for a moment and then continued. “And sir? She’s been listening in, and doesn’t seem to be very impressed with your interview skills.”

“Are you locking this damn door?” Tony twisted the lock a few more time and tugged. “You are, aren’t you? Jarvis, I don’t care what Pepper says, just open the fucking door!” Tony huffed, glaring at the door avoiding the amusement lighting up Darcy’s face.

“Now!” Tony ordered, slamming his fist against the door.

“One moment sir, Ms. Potts wants to talk to you.” Tony turned around leaning against the offending door, crossing his arms, glaring sullenly at Darcy.

 “Anthony Stark?” Pepper’s voice came over the PA system. “You just sit down, I’m in the elevator, I’ll be there in less than five minutes.”

“Peppppppeeer!” Tony whined. Yes whined. It was his damn building and he would whine if he wanted to. He kicked the door with the heel of his trainer leaving a scuff mark on it. 

“Tony, sit. Now. And not another word to Ms. Lewis until I get there.”

Tony threw himself away from the door. As he passed Darcy he hissed in a low whisper, “See what you’ve got me into!”

“Shut it Tony!” Pepper commanded.

“Ms. Lewis, I do apologize and would very much appreciate it if you would wait for me to get there.” Pepper said in a conciliatory voice.

Darcy grinned up at the ceiling, “Sure no problem. She tuned a gleeful look at Tony. “You dude are in troooouble.” She sang while doing a little victory dance.

“Yeah. Yeah. Look just park it will ya?” Tony told her, looking utterly disgusted as he flopped back down in the chair behind the desk. He totally was not paying attention to the bouncing view in front of him.

“Whipped,” mouthed Darcy, blue eyes alight with unholy glee.

OoooO   OoooO    OoooO   OoooO   

 

Chapter Text

Returning to Midgard after an absence of almost two years, Loki finds that as desperate for change as he has been, some changes will take time to get used to, especially when they concern his relationship with Tony and Pepper. Darcy lays down her taser, momentarily and decides to start wielding the internet to the dismay of both the fallen Prince of Asgard and S.H.I.E.L.D.  This sequel is complete and will update regularly.

 

OoooO    OoooO    OoooO    OoooO

The woman who opened the door and entered the room was no longer Pepper, Personal Assistant of Tony Stark, rather she was now the crisply tailored, Virginia Potts, Stark International CEO.

Darcy who had been fiddling with her papers and Tony who was angrily stabbing at his tablet, both looked up when the door opened. Pepper had stood there for a moment, observing them both closely before closing the door and relocking. “Jarvis, this door stays locked until I say otherwise.”

“Very good Ms. Potts,” he AI responded.

“So.” Pepper said as she walked over to the desk, motioning a sullen Tony out of his chair and into the other visitor chair beside Darcy. “What do we need to do to fix this?” she asked as they both followed her with their eyes.

"Nothing," Darcy and Tony said practically simultaneously.

Reaching across the desk, Pepper motioned for Darcy to hand over her folder. Hesitantly, Darcy held out her paperwork, releasing it only when Pepper tugged gently on it.

Laying the folder on the desk, Pepper smoothed out her coco colored skirt and twitched her matching jacket into place before sitting down. There was no doubt that Pepper knew what clothes suited her. The coco brown, almost mocha color of her textured suit perfectly complimented the caramel tones in her upswept hair.

When neither of them said anything, Pepper flipped over the folder and quickly scanned the enclosed resume, before turning her attention to the letter of recommendation that Loki had given Darcy.

“Very nice,” Pepper said, tapping the recommendation and raising an inquiring brow towards Darcy.

“Yeah, I know.” Darcy said her voice lightly laced with humor. “Loki told me that he’d perjured his immortal soul giving me such a glowing reference. But he was smiling when he said it, so it’s all good I guess.”

They shared a look which Pepper held as she considered the young woman in front of her. Amazingly, Tony didn’t start running his mouth. What was more amazing, had Pepper known it, Darcy was also silent.

Tony wasn’t the only one who had checked the background of one Darcy Lewis this afternoon. When Pepper’s PA had received a call from H.R. that Darcy was in the building looking for a job he had also pulled a background check and forwarded it to her. Pepper would have to find out who had originally alerted the H.R. Manager when Darcy showed up and then sent a follow up email to Pepper’s own PA.

People with high powered recommendations were not unheard of at Stark International of course, but normally those applications were merely forwarded up the food chain after the fact. Somewhere in H.R. there was a person that was so tuned in to the company grapevine that they realized, that at this moment in time, a Lucas Laufey recommendation was something that even the CEO would want to know about immediately.    

Tony shifted in his chair exasperated, while he originally had hopes that the Lewis girl would be useful, since that wasn’t going to happen he had other things to do. Okay, so maybe they may have involved a hidden stash of booze, but they were still things to do that didn’t involve sitting here with a lippy chick he couldn’t even hit on. “Okay, so this was fun, root canal fun, but fun none the less. I’ll just be going now. See ya later Pep.” He said getting up.

“Stop right there Tony,” Pepper commanded. “Before you leave, you need to apologize to Ms. Lewis for the worst job interview.”

“Ever.”

A rebellious frown started to form on Tony’s face, but Pepper stopped it with an impatient hiss of displeasure. Tony opened his mouth to argue, but Pepper lifted both brows inquiringly and gave him a hard stare. While it is plain to see that Tony hated the idea of ever speaking to Darcy again, Pepper knew he isn’t going to fight her on something like this.

“Fine,” Tony said scathingly. “Ms. Lewis I am sorry that I do crummy interviews.” 

When Darcy didn’t respond with anything more than a glare, Tony gave Pepper a disgusted look and muttered, “Happy Pepper? No? You know what? Just deal then, I’m out of here,” he mumbled before heading towards the door.

Placing his hand on the door know, Tony called out. “Jarv, open sesame buddy, I want out.”

“Jarvis, please open the door for Mister Stark. Oh, and Tony, please tell Ms. Myers to get me an employment packet ready would you please. ”

“Pepper!”

“Thank you Tony. That will be all. Please close the door when you leave.”

“Pep--”

“Close. The. Door. Please.” Pepper told him, forcing a pleasant tone through gritted teeth and turning up the wattage of her glare.

“Fine!” Tony spat, whisking himself out the door and closing it with a bang.

Pepper could almost feel the disgusted look Tony threw at her from the other side of the closed door.

While normally she didn’t like to get Tony unset, today she was going to be okay with it. He deserved it for interrupting an interview her people were already monitoring and then balling it up completely.

Hell, Darcy Lewis could sue them for some of the things that Tony had said. Not that Pepper thought she would, but it wouldn’t hurt to remind Tony of the possibility as soon as she could speak to him privately.

There was however something that she was not going to speak to Tony about. Pepper found it interesting, in an odd way, that Tony had seemingly adopted Loki’s use of the word ‘Fine’ as a swear word. That was going to stay her private amusement.

 “Now Ms. Lewis, let’s talk. I have been thinking about it, and I do think we just might have a position for you at Stark International…”

OoooO

About two hours later Pepper returned to her office to try and salvage her schedule for the rest of the day. She had been listening, via Jarvis to the conversation between Ms. Lewis and Tony, the first minute or so in her office. Then it had been forwarded to her cellphone so she could listen as she made her way down to the Human Resources office. Sometimes she just wanted to kill Tony. More often than not lately in fact, but he did own the company, so she tried to cope. And besides, she knew Tony wasn’t being an ass on purpose, it was just how he was.

Pepper had no doubt that they would have, in a day or so, called Ms. Lewis… Darcy, back for an interview and then hired her as a favor to Lucas, possibly in some sort of entry position in the public relation department. Ideally, she would have been hired with much less drama, in a job where her education and experience could have been of use. However, all bets were off once Tony got involved. Now pitching Darcy into the Public Relations was most likely not going to work, there would be too much gossip… And honestly, she didn’t think Darcy would be the kind of person to just ignore the teasing and sniping that would occur from that group once the grapevine got ahold of the story of Tony not only personally interviewing her, but running through the building to do it. Pepper smiled, tucking back a loose strand of hair. Drama should have been Tony’s middle name; as a full tilt diva he caused enough of it after all.

Shaking her head, Pepper had to admit though, in fairness to Tony, his interference gave her a chance to personally talk to Darcy and get information that H.R. wouldn’t necessarily have gotten. This meant Pepper hadn’t missed a golden opportunity to perfectly fill a very sensitive position, with the most seemingly unlikely, but eminently suitable candidate no less. While she did think her life held enough stress, she was looking forward to seeing what chaos her new hire would cause. It might not make her life easier, but it would be… a possibly helpful distraction for all others involved… Tony first and foremost, but definitely not last.

And then of course there was just the whole ‘Darcy-logic’ of it all to be considered.

A huge smile broke over Pepper’s face, remembering how frantic Darcy had been a few years ago when she learned that Lucas had returned to Asgard for an indefinite possibly permanent length of time. Pepper had thought she had known why. After all the website and forum were pretty classic ‘crush’ responses to unrequited young love. Which was understandable, hell if she thought Lucas was hot, what must a college kid have thought. Especially since Darcy had spoken to him on the phone quite a bit over the years, been his ‘Thor gofer’ several times and even stayed at his condo on occasion when she was in New York. So Pepper could have totally seen Darcy having a crush. What Pepper hadn’t known was that while Darcy most likely did have a crush on Lucas, the main reason she had been so frantic was that she was afraid.

Darcy’s reaction to being afraid was strange, but Pepper guessed it did make weird, if convoluted Darcy-sense. Not that Darcy had admitted it in actual words, but she had deflected and snarked around the topic long enough that Pepper was able to see the half-truths behind Darcy’s actual words. It had also helped that Pepper had known details, thanks to Tony’s penchant for classified information, of all the incidents Darcy was alluding to. All that back ground knowledge allowed Pepper to draw more information out of the girl by offering tidbits of information that even Darcy hadn’t known.

Apparently, Darcy had felt helpless at only narrowly escaping serious injury during the Destroyer attack in New Mexico. She had felt even more helpless when she was kidnapped and badly beaten a few years later. She apparently wanted to be close to and more importantly, even if it was only as their errand runner, be a significant person to the god powerful enough to rain destruction down upon both New Mexico and New York. Who had also been the only one skilled enough to rescue and avenge her when no one else could find her and doctors Foster and Selvig. With of course the added bonus of Loki being the only one on earth who could have healed her that quickly and without scars.

While she didn’t come right out and say it, Darcy had danced around the fact, that if she had to be someone’s minion in this life, it was safer to be the minion of the most powerful person around. Which Pepper had to admit, weird Darcy-logic or not, did make sense.

Pepper looked up with a pale smile as her assistant Jeanine brought her in her coffee with double cream. “Thanks Jeanine, you’re the best. I have something important that I just really need to finish up today, could you hold everything that isn’t life or death until tomorrow?”

“Of course Ms. Potts. Please let me know if you need anything else.”

“I will Jeanine, thanks.” Pepper told her taking a sip of coffee and preparing to dig into her neglected project.

OoooO

Sipping her coffee, Pepper palmed a disguised area on the side of her desk opening her personal safe. While she had a large walk in safe for general long term storage, the safe compartment on her desk was designed to stay open the entire time she was working with any sensitive files. Tony had designed this smaller safe for her years ago when she was his assistant. It was now second nature for Pepper to sweep any working notes and papers into the safe and push the lid down to lock it before she left her desk, for any reason no matter how brief. Her current project was a feasibility study on taking the company back private. Since she didn’t want any leaks to drive up the stock prices, she was doing all the primary research herself and taking security very, very seriously.

Tony did still have fifty-one percent of Stark International, so that was good. Both she and Lucas had small amounts also, but Pepper’s research was on how she and Lucas might set about acquiring the other forty-nine percent. As soon as Lucas came back, which she was certain he would, she wanted to have a plan ready to present to him and Tony.

She scribbled some figures down on her note pad and sighed. Taking Stark International private would be costly and doing it clandestinely would take time. However Pepper was determined that they ‘needed’ to do it. Projecting out, very long term, she thought they should have the time and with Lucas’ help the both of them could get the money. If they could accomplish the switch they would not have to worry about disgruntled stock holders interfering with long-term plans so they could get short-term gains. Because frankly, the risk of shareholders asking award questions about costly projects that didn’t exactly add to the company coffers was something they were going to have to deal with should the company remain publicly traded. Understandable of course, but not what was needed if they were going to get ready for an alien invasion on the Q.T.

It took a few hours to get the main plan fleshed out. Pepper had ended up with a list of items she stilled needed to check on, but she was pleased with her progress. She had safely locked up her notes and was just about finished encrypting the files she had been working on, when her phone chirped. Or rather ‘HER’ phone chirped. And a special little chirp it was. Pepper grinned to herself as she tapped the last few keys needed to secure her files and then dug her private, bought with cash with a prepaid talk and data plan, really private, smart phone out of her handbag. While not many, there were a few times she wanted to make calls or receive files without them going through Jarvis or anything Stark Industries related. It may not have been a Stark Phone, but it worked for her, because hey a girl was allowed to have a few guilty pleasures. And this one was so much less fattening than a pint of her favorite chocolate cherry ice cream.  

Pepper took the phone into her private wash room, tapping out the code to unlock it. Her bathroom was the one area of her office where she was absolutely sure that Jarvis had no cameras coverage. Sitting at the small vanity, she called up her messages. There were several pictures that had been forwarded and the daily digest of one of the forums she was currently following. She scrolled through the various drawings and photos and then had a few good laughs at some of the posts. She debated logging in and stirring the pot a bit, but with a quick glance at her watch, decided she just didn’t have time to get sucked into that today. And if she blushed while saving one of the pictures in her phones screen saver gallery, it was harmless and no one’s business but her own. While nothing interesting or blackmail worthy had come in from the StarkMadness site, the other site had yielded some great fan art, so it was still a good days haul.

Honestly, who could have predicted that she would enjoy lurking at the ‘Loki God of Fashion’ site so much? 

 

Chapter Text

Returning to Midgard after an absence of almost two years, Loki finds that as desperate for change as he has been, some changes will take time to get used to, especially when they concern his relationship with Tony and Pepper. Darcy lays down her taser, momentarily and decides to start wielding the internet to the dismay of both the fallen Prince of Asgard and S.H.I.E.L.D. This sequel is complete and will update regularly.

Chapter # 16 – Painful Discussion

After trying for weeks to get the god of aggravation to talk to him, he just turned up one day at Tony's gym. Tony had just turned away from putting his clothes in his locker and there was Loki walking into the changing room with a leather gym bag over his shoulder. Needless to say he was surprised, since Sitaras was a pretty exclusive place. Hell, Tony himself had barely made it past the mandatory entrance testing, so he was pretty sure that the god of impatience would not have put up with six assessment visits just to join. Besides, he knew that when Loki did train with mortals, or excuse him, 'spar', he did it with high ranked professional martial art experts that would put Natasha to shame. Otherwise it was too risky for the mortals and no challenge for Loki.

So if he wasn't a member, what was he doing here? Sitaras obviously did not have day memberships and their security was pretty fierce, so he couldn't have just popped in on a whim. Or rather Tony thought, shouldn't have been able to, but again, this was Loki.

"Hey Levi Meeuwenberg, what brings you here today?" Tony asked with seeming casualness as he slung a towel around his neck.

Loki opened up a locker and proceeded to strip, "I came to exercise obviously." He said, not looking at Tony, but rather concentrating on neatly hanging his jacket up one of the wide coat hangers inside the locker.

Tony swung a leg over the bench and sat down, straddling it. He quirked an eyebrow at the tall man disrobing. "Yeah I got that, but, this is a pretty exclusive gym; I didn't know you were a member."

A gentle smile stole over Loki face and he turned his head to look down a moment at Tony, amused. "I'm not, and yet I can come and go here as I please." The smile became wider and he wrinkled his nose in delight, "Wonderful is it not?"

Tony gave him one of his patented shrugs, "Yeah. Sure. That's cool and all, but how is it, o'prince of smugness, that you can come and go as you please like that?"

Okay, that unleashed one of the god's full on smirk-y smiles. His eyes twinkled a minute before they lost focus. He didn't answer, but rather slipped on a black form fitting tank top and a pair of black jersey shorts. And Tony was totally 'not' checking him out as Loki lifted his arms above his head to shrug on the tight tank top, smoothing it down over a mile of lean, taut belly, before he slid legs that went on for forever into his shorts.

It wasn't until Loki had pulled on some white crew socks and was tying his trainers that the god lifted one shoulder and said modestly, "John Sitaras is friends with Simon Rhee, who I have sparred with once or twice when he was in town. Apparently, Mister Rhee is a fan of some of the kick moves I use. Sitaras asked me if I could come in to show him a few things, and in return gave me entrance whenever I choose to come here. His green eyes hooded and he smirked down at a flushed Tony, "And before you ask, no, I did not have to put up with that assessment nonsense."

"Okay…." Tony swung his leg back over and stood up as Loki closed the locker. "So you just decided to come here today… and use the facilities?" he asked skeptically.

Loki chuckled. Coming up beside Tony he placed a friendly arm across his shoulder and steered him towards the door. "Don't be stupid Stark. You know that's not why I'm here," again he smiled. Eyes crinkling in humor, he gave Tony that stupid little mischievous nose wrinkle that he did. While the nose thing might have looked cute on an eight year old trying to get out of trouble for sneaking his big sister's diary out of her room, it was frankly a weird look for a Nordic god who was over several centuries old and towered over Tony by a good five or six inches. Or at least Tony tried to convince himself it was. Even if Tony knew several high society beauties who had confided in him at various charity events that they just loved Lucas' adorable expressions.

Gag.

"You wanted to talk Stark, so we will spar and we will talk," the god said as he gently pushed Tony through the door leading into the main gym.

"Hey, we could have talked at your place, or we could have talked in the coffee shop. Why do we have to talk here?"

Loki laughed and snapped the small towel he held, cracking it hard against an unoccupied elliptical cross trainer as he led the way past the machine room, towards several vacant glass walled rooms covered with floor mats. He looked back over his shoulder with an evil grin. "Now Stark, you're supposed to be a genius, you tell me why I came here to talk to you."

Tony sighed. "Yeah, I know why. You couldn't have pounded my ass to the floor in a coffee shop," he said resignedly, then he paused a moment in thought, "Well of course you 'could' have, but it wouldn't have looked good to the bystanders."

Loki just raised a brow in agreement and went in to the training room and over to the protective gear that was hung on the wall. "Pick anything you like Stark, I don't need anything."

Tony looked at the various chest plates, gloves, knee protections, helmets and such. "Is any of this stuff going to do me any good?" he asked with a deeper sigh. Knowing the answer, but hoping he might get a different one.

"Probably not," Loki told him throwing his towel on a small nearby bench and dashing Tony's small hope of getting out of this uninjured. The god stepped several paces away from the bench and started a weird stretching routine.

"Well, I am not going to spar with you like Natasha and Clint spar." Tony groused as he threw down his own towel and started to stretch. "I've seen way too many security videos of you hitting and kicking and I am not going anywhere near you when that is happening.

"Boxing?" Loki offered indifferently. "You could put on all manner of protective equipment; I would even wear the gloves."

Tony wondered if he could get away with suggesting something like arm wrestling.

Then he shuddered to himself at the mental picture of him getting his arm broken in multiple places by the pre-menstrual god of terminal crankiness. It would heal, but how fast? Tony knew from the whole bomb incident, that he could take more damage and heal much faster than before, but it still hurt. In fact it had hurt a lot and he was not sure how long a broken arm would hurt or take to mend. He had the fucking god apple but he still wasn't as strong and didn't heal as fast as prissy boy. Sure he was a ton stronger than he had been and yes he healed much faster, but still the boy from Asgard, Loki the Annoying was still stronger.

There just was no damn justice in this realm, he thought bitterly.

None.

"What part of no hitting did you not understand?" Tony asked, mood darkening.

"Don't be such a baby Stark," Tony's laser glare rolled right off of Loki as he essayed a small thin lipped smile leaning backwards at an impossible angle.

"Fine, we'll wrestle then. Did you not tell me you did that in college?" At Tony's wary nod he continued in a light friendly voice. "And while we are wrestling we will… talk. You can tell me whatever it is you were badgering me to hear these last several weeks."

"Yeah. About that, as I 'said' I wanted to talk to you in a coffee shop or your condo, not here in a gym where you will hand my ass to me. Probably broken."

Tony bent his arm up and behind his head, using his other one to put tension on it.

"No this is better. You wanted to talk, so we will talk, you just don't get to pick where and how we do it. We don't always get everything we want." Loki raised an eyebrow and did some almost double jointed stretch thing. He was a limber god; Tony would have to give him that.

"Life is full of such compromises Stark, don't you agree?"

Well he did want to talk to Loki, and Tony doubted that Loki would kill him, if he had wanted to do that, he would have done it weeks ago when they fought. Permanent injuries were not something he was really worried about right now, pain and discomfort yes, but not permanent disablement so much. Yeah, he 'knew' it was possible, but the probability had become so much lower that it was in the noise right now. So, Tony guessed that wrestling would be okay. It would have to be okay, it wasn't like he had any other choices available to him.

"Yeah, okay. If I must, we'll wrestle."

"No holds barred?" Loki asked off handedly.

"What?" Tony started. He stared at Loki, knowing he looked like nothing so much as a deer in the headlights.

Chapter Text

Returning to Midgard after an absence of almost two years, Loki finds that as desperate for change as he has been, some changes will take time to get used to, especially when they concern his relationship with Tony and Pepper. Darcy lays down her taser, momentarily and decides to start wielding the internet to the dismay of both the fallen Prince of Asgard and S.H.I.E.L.D. This sequel is complete and will update regularly.

OoooO OoooO OoooO OoooO

 

Chapter #17 – Drop Down

Tony was horrified? Freestyle wrestling? With someone like Loki? Not in this life time or the next. Not that he believed in that sort of thing obviously, but still.

“No holds barred? You mean freestyle?” Tony repeated slightly horrified. “Hell no! Greco-Roman. No throws, no trips and no holds below the belt.” At Loki’s decidedly amused smirk, he continued hotly. “I am so not going to let you fling me and slam me around freestyle.” As if he could do a lot to stop him, even when he had his suit on, but still.

“Very well Stark,” Loki sighed. “It seems a bit babyish, but I think I can adapt to those restrictions.” Then that patented ‘crazed evil villain’ look of his peeked out. “Well… At least I will ‘try’,” he amended.

Inner Tony just curled up and started to cry.  Sadly, even in his own head he received no sympathy, as Morty Dickerson, his annoying voice pointed out to him, that he had brought this on himself.

Tony bent down to lay his palms flat on the mat in one last stretch, trotted over and snatched up a padded helmet, for all the good it might do him. He put it on and then walked to the center of the mat, indicating to Loki that the beating could commence.

Loki joined Tony in the center of the mat and they began to circle. It only took Tony a minute to realize that he was in deep shit. He should have known that Loki was playing him. If there was one bastard in the entire realm of screaming swordsmen who knew how to wrestle, it would of course have to be the trickster god.

Loki’s first moves proved it of course. While they weren’t exactly classic, which was understandable since Loki had learned in Fairyland, not earth, they were solid. Loki’s long arm reached out and locked Tony’s arm against the joint, by using Tony’s shoulder as a fulcrum he forced him face down on the mat. He then locked his arms around Tony’s waist, pulling Tony’s lower body off the mat, which totally screwed up any chance Tony had of getting enough leverage to get out from under him. It only took a few more seconds before a long arm snaked under his chest grabbing his opposite shoulder and somehow he was flipped on his back with a slam that left him seeing stars. Then the weight of an angry god crashed down on him, pinning his shoulders and torso to the mat. Loki was slender, but he was really fucking tall, so skinny or not, he had some weight behind him.

Soft black hair tickled the side of Tony’s face as Loki’s angry hiss scalded his ear. “Do you have any idea how angry you made me?” he whispered. 

“Uhhhn,” Tony grunted, trying unsuccessfully to shift the weight holding him to the mat, “I kinda got the hint, yeah.”

That smooth intimidating voice rode over his. “The reason I refused to see you before this,” it rumbled menacingly, “Was that it took this long before I could trust myself not to do you a serious injury.”

Tony took a breath to answer, but Loki lifted up slightly and then slammed back down on him, knocking all the air along with any coherent thoughts, right out of him.

“Now, do you have any words or clever phrases you want to repeat to me from our last conversation?” the god asked, lifting his head to stare darkly down at Tony.

“No, not a one,” Tony told him anxiously, “We’re good.”

“No, Stark we aren’t, not yet anyway,” purred that dreadful voice as Loki’s eyes bored into him.

Tony shivered and he knew Loki had felt it by the low mocking laugh the god let loose, before slapping his hand on the mat and springing to his feet.

Tony took a breath, and rolled over onto his knees before standing up with his hand pressing the ache in the small of his back. He took as much time as he could doing it, trying to give himself a breather and time to consider what kind of strategy he might use. But despite the delay, he sadly had nothing.

Loki tilted his head, “You might want to use a different stretching routine the next time you anger me Stark. I don’t think the one you used was comprehensive enough.”

No shit, Tony thought as he waved that he was ready to resume.

As they circled, Loki seemed to be in no hurry to close with him. He danced out of Tony’s way when he lunged for the god, but didn’t seem too interested in following up with any offensive moves of his own.

“It always irritated me, Stark, that Thor caused me so many problems. Not deliberately mind you, but by not spending a single moment to think of what his actions might do. A momentary lapse of judgment on his part and I would be stuck spending the next decade rectifying the mess. And now, there is you, supposedly so much smarter, but doing the exact same thing. I can’t tell you how tired I get about having to deal with complications caused by the thoughtlessness of others. Especially others who have enough brains to know better if only they would think a few minutes.”

Okay. We definitely have an issue here, Tony thought as he backed warily away; one step, two steps. But then, quicker than he could track, Loki followed, grabbing him by the shoulders, then throwing himself backwards, flipping them at the last minute so Tony’s head and shoulders struck the mat with a boom.

Tony scrambled, managing to lever himself on the side, so it was not an automatic pin, which would have been deeply embarrassing. One real attack and he was pinned? Not this time!

And so it wasn’t. However, it was not many more evasive moves before Loki, who had been seemingly playing with him, decided that enough was enough. He twisted, shoved and effortlessly flipped Tony on his back, again with enough force to cause brain damage and again driving all the air out of his body by slamming down, pinning Tony flat against the mat.

“Hey wait,” Tony gasped, trying to get enough air. “I thought I was going to get to talk.”

“So talk Stark, no one is stopping you.”

Well other than the lack of air and the concussion, Tony thought sarcastically.  But other than that, hey we’re good.

“Look, Pepper is really pissed at me over this,” he wheezed.

“What do you care Stark, you never make any effort to avoid angering her. Why is this time any different?”

“Well this time is different, she said she isn’t eating one of your damn god apples unless I get this straightened out.”

“So, Ms. Potts is rethinking accepting the gift of immortality? She isn’t sure if the benefits of living forever in a youthful body and saving her world outweigh the fact that she would have to put up with sharing the planet with you and your bad behavior?”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much it,” Tony admitted.

“Ah.” Loki tapped the mat twice with his palm and then bounced up onto his feet again.

This time when Tony stood, he didn’t wait, he didn’t circle. Tony immediately dived towards Loki, grabbing his shoulders as he swung up his leg to hook it behind Loki’s tripping him. His momentum caused the god to fall backwards and Tony landed heavily on him. Before he could make good another move, Loki flipped him off, while spinning around and up over Tony’s lower body.  Straddling his hips, Loki planted his knees on the outside of Tony’s body, and pressed his shins firmly into the back of Tony’s legs. He grabbed Tony’s arm in a lock to prevent him from basing up before Tony could try a par terre position.

“Interesting leg move Stark, are we going to do no holds barred after all?” Loki asked, almost conversationally.

What?

“No. Shit, I forgot. Sorry,” Tony gasped, face pressed into the mat.

“Don’t let it happen again. Understand?”

Tony nodded his assent, as he couldn’t quite get enough air to talk.

“So Stark, do you think that the eventual protection of your planet is worth perhaps thinking for five minutes before acting rashly?” Loki asked as he eased up, letting Tony’s lungs inflate again.

“Yeah, pretty much,” he huffed, drawing in a deeper breath. “Come on Loki, I can do better, Just give me another chance.”

“Why should I believe you?” the god growled into his ear.

“Look, I’m telling you I can. Just give me another chance.” Tony desperately wanted this to be over. He wanted Loki to believe him, he wanted Pepper off his case and he just wanted things to get back to normal. Or as normal as Tony’s life ever was.

“Can what?” Loki challenged. “Think before you act? Use common sense? Stop being jealous?”

Okay, that one went a bit too far and Tony Stark wouldn’t be Tony Stark if he didn’t call him on it. “Oh that’s rich coming from you Prancer. How jealous have you been of Thor in the past? Or even right now?”

Loki’s chuckle has a black bitter edge. “Yes Stark, I’m well aware of the hypocrisy, but look how well jealousy
served me! It was a wedge for Thanos and the Chitauri to use in breaking my mind. I am well aware of the problems that ensued from the lessons I should have learned but didn’t. Wouldn’t you like to do better than that?”

“Okay, I got it now. No jealousy, no acting rashly, use common sense. I can do this,” Tony pledged, trying to force as much conviction into his voice as he possibly could.

“Good,” There was no movement for a minute. “You know Stark I am still upset with you?”

“Yeah, figured that.” Tony said with a rueful little laugh. 

Loki released the lock on Tony’s arm and lightning fast snaked his hand up inside the back of Tony’s AC/DC shirt. Hooking his nails deeply in the pinned man’s back, Loki dragged his nails from mid-shoulder, almost to Tony’s waist, leaving four long bloody stripes.

“Jesus Christ!” Tony screamed arching his back, trying to escape the sharp nails scraping his skin off. “What the hell was that all about?” he demanded angrily as he whipped his head to the side, trying to look at Loki.

Once again the god’s long hair tickled the side of Tony’s face as Loki breathed into his ear, “Stark, I will always keep my promises to you. The good as well as the bad, you would do well to remember that in the future.” Loki lifted off Tony and walked over to pick up his towel from the bench.

Chapter Text

Chapter #18 – Blind Sided

“Good heaven’s Tony, what happened to you?” Pepper gasped looking up from her paperwork.

“Hi Pepper. Umm, nothing.” Tony assured her breezily, or making his best attempt at it in the face of her scrutiny. “Don’t worry, it’s all good. Loki and I talked.”

“Talked?” She asked uncertainly while taking in the rapidly fading bruises on his arms and the side of his face. “With what Tony? Baseball bats?”

“Heh,” he offered, walking over and plopping down in one of the chairs in front of her desk. “Funny Pep, real funny.”

“Do you want some ice to hold on that?” she asked, stacking up the papers in front of her and placing them off to the side in her safe compartment, closing it gently.

Tony looked over at her with a rueful smile, “Well I wouldn’t say no.”

“And a scotch?”

“Well duh. Not to that either,” He laughed. Pepper had become much less stressed about his drinking since he had changed. Possibly because it was harder for him to get hurt or kill himself while drunk, but perhaps because it was harder for him to achieve anything more than a gentle buzz. Not impossible mind you, but it took so freaking long that he often got bored before it happened!

Pepper smiled and went into the small kitchenette attached to her office and pulled out an ice pack, one of those soft ones that looked like a chef’s hat with a screw top on it, and filled it with ice.

 “Hey,” he called, “Make sure you save some of that ice for the scotch okay?”

She smirked at him, and dropped several cubes in to a glass that she had poured about two inches of scotch into.

“Here,” she said walking over and handing both of them to Tony. “I had Jeanie leave the bottle.”

“Anyhow Pep, Loki said he would be calling you.” Tony told her, sighing as he rested the ice pack on his face while taking a small sip of his drink.

Pepper leaned against her desk right in front of Tony; she looked away for a moment. “He did, about half an hour ago.”

“Really? So when is he coming back?”

“I’m not sure,” she hesitated. “We will be meeting to discuss it.”

“Glad to hear it. Jarvis?” Tony called as he leaned back in the chair.

“Yes sir?”

“As soon as Pepper tells you to, reauthorize Loki’s authorizations, same level as before okay.”

“Very good sir.” Jarvis told him approvingly. 

OoooO

 

 “Sir?”

“Not now Jarvis. Busy.” Tony said, frowning down at his current project.

“Sir, I think you—“

“Shut it Jarvis, you can tell me when I’m finished.”

“But sir,”

“Jarvis, not another word or I’m selling you to a daycare.”

Always the problem was running all the wiring so that that mechanics didn’t interfere with it. Tony frowned down at the chest assembly he was working on. While the hypersensitive sensors he was trying to install were more vulnerable to damage on the chest than say his arms or shoulders, those areas were pretty much maxed out space wise by his weapon arrays. So, his current solution seemed to be heading towards placing them on the chest, but making them modular, so he could easily replace them when damaged.

Tony played around with the location and spacing for perhaps another hour or so before deciding to send the schematic to Jarvis to set up a few simulation runs. Just to see how often he would have problems and how the damage might affect quick replacements.

Sighing, Tony saved his file and then stretched.

“Jarvis go ahead and use the previous suit damage info we have and run some tests to see how this would hold up.”

“At once sir. Can I now speak with you with on another matter?”

“Sure thing Jarv,” Tony said with a yawn as he sauntered over to the elevator. “What ya got?”

“Mister Laufey is in the building sir. You asked to be notified if he entered an area where he could be contacted.”

Tony smiled as the elevator doors dinged open and he stepped forward. “Well, that’s an old order, not that I don’t want to know when he is around, but I’ve already talked to him. Pepper said he was going to meet with her soon.”

“Yes sir, he took her to Le Bernardin this evening, Ms. Potts was in the mood for seafood.”

Tony just stood in the doorway of the elevator. “Really? Le Bernardin? Isn’t that a really fancy schmancy restaurant? 

“Yes sir, I believe it is known for its fine French cuisine and its sophisticated yet romantic atmosphere.”

“Okay… Odd place to meet to go over a contract isn’t it Jarvis?” Tony asked almost absent mindedly as he finally noticed the soft chiming of the elevator trying to get him to move so the doors could close.

“Indeed it would be sir, but since Ms. Potts let the folder with the contract in her desk safe, that wasn’t an issue.”

“Oh. So that’s what he’s doing now? Going over the contract with her in her office?”

“The folder with the contact is still untouched in Ms. Potts safe.  At this time Mister Laufey appears to be sleeping on Ms. Potts’ office couch.”

“Really?” Tony said in a strained voice, his hand froze in front of the floor buttons. “And just where is Pepper?”

“Ms. Potts also appears to be asleep on the couch.”

Tony stiffened a moment, but then he stabbed at one of the floor buttons. He stood unmoving as his private elevator descended to the administrative lobby area. Just as the car came to a stop, he started, eyes gone wide as a horrible thought assailed him.

“Jarvis?” He asked hoarsely, “Are they both still dressed?” He waited inside the car, holding his breath and the elevator door until Jarvis replied.

“Yes sir, with the exception of shoes, ties and jacket, they are both still clothed.”

Tony breathed a quick prayer of thanks to whatever deity, please don’t let it be Norse, that was supposed to help people who fucked up relationships and then exited the elevator.

“I should let you know, the office door is locked sir. I don’t think Ms. Potts wanted to be disturbed.”

“Understood Jarvis. Unlock the door when I get there okay.”

“Of course sir.”

Tony quietly opened the door and immediately glanced over at the small conversation area facing the wall unit. Even with just the light coming through the open door from the outer office, he could see that the center section of the wall unit was covered by a drop down projection screen. Silhouetted against the white screen he could just make out an outline of someone with their head laid on the back of the couch. He stood there a moment, allowing his eyes adjust.

Tony saw long black hair draped over the back of the milk chocolate couch and knew it wasn’t Pepper sitting there. Loki’s head raised and he turned it halfway to cast one dark glittering eye towards the door. Tony saw Loki place his finger to his lips, clearly requesting silence; he then motioned Tony over with that same hand, pointing to one of the side chairs sitting across from the couch.

As Tony shut the door behind him Loki spoke.

“Jarvis, a bit more light please.” Loki asked in a low voice.

The light in the office brightened to about half what it normally would be as Tony walked around the back of the couch towards the indicated chair. He saw Loki’s Jacket and tie, which had been tossed over the other chair, and noticed two pairs of shoes discarded on the floor in front of the couch.

Loki was slouched down with one arm on the side of the couch, the other arm draped over Pepper’s shoulder, long legs stretched out and crossed at his ankles; Pepper was lying on her side, asleep, her head pillowed on Loki’s chest while her hand held his forearm captive. Pepper’s elegant blue knee length dress was at odds with the total lack of makeup on her face, until Tony noticed a face towel with an obviously used wet wash cloth, on the floor in front of her. 

Tony bit his lower lip and sat down. While his first impulse was to start yelling, he restrained himself, but not without with difficulty. After all he told himself furiously, Pepper wasn’t his fiancée anymore. So Tony really didn’t have a right to say anything about who she may or may not be using as a pillow. Besides, while he might be a bit hard headed, the whole ‘think for five minutes and watch the jealousy’ lesson from this morning had actually sunk in.

Or perhaps he should say raised up?

While it had only taken a few hours for the cuts he sustained during the bomb blast to heal and disappear, Tony still had four marks running down his back from this morning reminding him to be more careful. They were mostly healed, but hadn’t disappeared like the other injuries had. He wondered if Loki had done something to make those marks scar, perhaps to remind him to think first and not to be an idiot later. And then he wondered what kind of idiot he was, since it was obvious that the visible scaring was something only Loki could have had engineered. Perhaps the scars would fade after a while, but at any rate, like it or not, until they did, they were a reminder for Tony to think before he did something rash.

So Tony just sat there in un-Stark-like silence and took it all in. One thing he was ‘very’ glad of was that he wasn’t seeing any disheveled hair, clothing or other signs that a heavy make out session had occurred. Which was good, he didn’t think he could have maintained his cool if he had seen hickeys.

He watched Pepper sleeping for several moments, before he looked up at Loki. “Crying jag?” he asked.

“Indeed,” Loki waved his free hand towards the now blank screen, looking calmly at Tony. “Ms. Potts has already roughed out a work process chart to cover the mile stones she thinks we need to accomplish over the next decade which she was discussing with me.” He looked down at Pepper’s profile and a small smile stole across his face. “Quite well thought out actually,” he said before returning his gaze to Tony. “But I am afraid the long term ‘laundry list’, as she called it was just a bit over whelming for her.  Hence the ‘crying jag’ as you put it.”

Tony scratched his hair line on the back of his neck as he processed this, then he shrugged. “Yeah. Maybe. I bet there was some residual stress there from the last few weeks too.” He pulled a face and thought about his part in the recent shit storm Pepper had been dealing with.

“But she’ll pull through it,” Tony said looking at Pepper a fond smile spreading across his face. “She does that, sees too many possibilities and gets over whelmed. In a day or two, she will have sorted them out as to their importance and have figured out how things might be accomplished and she’ll be right back on top, hard as nails and as focused as one of my lasers.” 

Loki studied him as he spoke, one brow raised as if to say, ‘go on’.

“Her thinking gets incredibly stream lined you know, and she will come up with the weirdest idea to get a project moving in the direction she is looking for.” Tony continued looking up at Loki, who was regarding him intently. Who was, Tony thought, looking mellower that he had seen since his return. It was almost like pre-Asgard Loki was back. The before he found out about Odin’s betrayal Loki.

“So. Are we going to be working together again or what?” Tony grinned at him. “Oh, and what was with the ‘I don’t work for you melt down?’ Not that I can’t sympathize,” he hurriedly noted as the gods lips thinned in annoyance.

“Most likely Stark, although I haven’t seen the new contract yet, but I have spent a millennium taking orders from Odin - to say nothing of what Thor, the golden boy has put me through in the past; all the while reminding me to make sure I know my place.” Loki grimaced, “You will pardon me if, having escaped that, I am desperate for change, and loath to allow the same pattern to repeat itself on Midgard.”

Okay, Tony thought, I can see shying away from the one eyed control freak and his minions, and he could totally see where Thor could get on your last nerve. Hey he bugged the crap out of Tony and he wasn’t even related to the big blonde goof.

Hey!

“I’m not blonde.” Tony glared, a frown furrowing his brow.

Loki gave him a twisted smile, “Golden can also denote chosen or favored Stark, it doesn’t necessarily mean blonde.”

“So, you won’t take orders from them, or me, but have no problem taking them from your mother or someone like Pepper?”

Okay… A puzzled Loki totally reminded Tony of the RCA Dog. It was the head tilt of course, plus the expression of intense determination to understand.

“Of course I don’t object to my mother telling me what to do,” he said slowly. “I don’t always listen,” he laughed ruefully, “which generally rebounds to my detriment, but how could I object? It’s Mother. Her commands and advice have always first and foremost been to protect or benefit me.”

Crap. Tony ducked his head, turning slightly to look out at the night darkened window.

“Yeah… Well, my mother only ever had two pieces of advice for me,” Tony said trying not to look as sad and sappy as he felt. “First was to stop pissing off my dad by bothering him when he was drunk or working. And he was always either drunk or working and frequently combined the two. The second was that when my mother told me to get away from her so she could get ready for a party or whatever the fuck she was running off to that night, I needed to do it immediately if I didn’t want to get the crap smacked out of me or grounded to my room or both...” Tony’s voice trailed off morosely.  

They sat there for a while, the only sound being soft sighs from the sleeping Pepper. Tony looked out the window for a long time, when he glanced back at Loki, he quickly looked away, unable to bear the look Loki was giving him.

“I am sorry to hear that Stark. Both of them?” Loki’s eyes appeared to glisten slightly before he blinked them clear. “That would have indeed been hard to bear.”

Because Tony knew, no matter how much of a dick Odin had been, if Loki had to do it over again, he would have accepted Odin’s behavior as the price of his mother’s affection.

Tony ducked his head again, pretending to yawn, scrubbing his hands across his face and wiping away any suspicious moisture that might have been there. Not that there was mind you, he was Tony Stark after all.

“So,” Tony went on brightly, desperate to get away from all the touchy feely emotion crap that he had just never been able to handle. “No orders from the guys then?”

“I am afraid I am just a bit allergic to that now.” Loki sighed. “The last time it occurred was a in a very dark place indeed. I am not anxious to be reminded of it.”

“Well actually, that was the time before last. Your last go round ended up getting you blown across a lobby by a bomb. So ya know, I can totally see a pattern here.” Tony eyes crinkled and he grinned at the god. “Kinda like I don’t want people handing me stuff, because every time they do, major bad things seem to happen to me.”

Tony rocked back in his chair, totally struck by the comparison. “Whoa. Lokmeister, I can totally relate.”

“Indeed Stark? Well I am glad that you have achieved enlightenment on the subject at last.”

“You know Gandalf; eternity is a going to be long time to listen to you using my surname. If we are going to be working together, I really would prefer you call me Tony.”

“If that is your preference, I think I can do that…” The god replied with a small smile. “By the way Tony, my name is Loki.”

Chapter Text

Returning to Midgard after an absence of almost two years, Loki finds that as desperate for change as he has been, some changes will take time to get used to, especially when they concern his relationship with Tony and Pepper. Darcy lays down her taser, momentarily and decides to start wielding the internet to the dismay of both the fallen Prince of Asgard and S.H.I.E.L.D.  This sequel is 75,000 words long and will update regularly.

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Chapter #19 – Unwelcome Publicity

On Wednesday, Tony spent most of lunch snickering at something on his phone. It apparently even started to get on Doctor Crane’s nerves, as she finally had enough and reached over to snatch the phone out of Tony’s hands, sticking it in the top drawer of the small side table next to her chair.

Not that they were talking about anything important actually. Loki had missed Monday’s session while getting his second office set up and signing everything that H.R. kept handing him. His new schedule had him in his new office by eight, helping Ms. Potts…err, Pepper with administrative tasks in the mornings after breakfast with Doctor Crane and then working in the lab after lunch with… ‘Tony’. Tuesdays and Thursdays would most likely see him lunching in his lab office while catching up on various personal tasks that he was not really going to have any other time to do. At least until Monday when his new Personal Assistant, the one that Pepper had hired for him, was due to start work.

As they walked back into the lab, they found Pepper was waiting there for them. Loki thought this a bit odd, since she had made no mention of joining them when he saw her this morning.

“Hey Pep! What brings you down here this afternoon, as if I didn’t know?” Tony chuckled as he walked over to a display table and exploded several screens into the air.

“Good afternoon Tony, Lucas,” Pepper greeted them, walking over to stand by Tony at the display table. She turned and handed Loki a small card, “This is the contact number for one of our drivers, you’ll want to take a car home this evening I think.

Loki accepted the card, “I rode my motorcycle in this morning like always, why would I want to take a company car home?” He asked her frowning down at the small while card.

Tony snorted. “Lok, you have gone so viral this morning, on so many levels, I doubt anyone will be able to walk past our building for the cameras this afternoon.

Tony called up video feed from the cameras surrounding the building and Loki could see several camera toting individuals milling around outside and… Was that the NBC News truck?

“Jarvis bring up the fashion shoot will you?”

“At once sir,” an amused Jarvis replied and then the screens in front of Tony filled with various pictures of a seriously underdressed Loki, standing, sitting and sleeping?! While several of the pictures were of him awake, it was readily apparent from his half-closed eyes, mussed hair and picture captions that the bare chested god of mischief had just rolled out of bed in all his ‘caption proclaimed, low riding pajama bottoms’ hotness.

Why, he wondered, did the Norms hate him? He honestly did not to deal with... His chest felt tight and a sick feeling pooled in his stomach making him want to retch. He could taste the bile on the back of his throat. The Norms really, really hated him.

Both Pepper and Tony were snickering as he scrubbed his face in exasperation with both hands.

How did they get these pictures? When did they get these pictures? Who in Nine Realms thought that anyone wanted to see these pictures?” Loki moaned.

I’m trying to be taken ‘seriously ‘not look like some egri whore prancing around the barracks trying to discomfit or seduce.

“Apparently they were posted to your main web page a few weeks ago, and then just exploded a few days ago.” Tony told, him as if answering his un-vocalized question and laughing maliciously at Loki’s obvious distress. “Which kicked off a second explosion of hits of the documents you brought from Asgard.”

Okay, that was a problem, possibly even a big one.  Darcy and her damn web page, why hadn’t he killed her the last time she was in town?

“How’s the hit count increasing Jarvis?” Tony asked gleefully.

“It has doubled since I reported it to you before lunch sir.”

Tony studied the screens, pulling a mock serious face, “I don’t know Pep,I think the ‘Come-hither side glance’ one of Vixen sitting on the couch is the hottest. What do you think?”

“Honestly Tony,” Pepper shot an amused glance at Loki, before drawing their attention to two other screens near the top of the display. She was trying not to laugh at Loki’s dismay, but having a hard time repressing a smile. “Obviously it’s the ‘Full stretch while sleeping’ one, not only do you get a nice look at his hip bones, but that lovely taunt expanse of skin bellow the belly button definitely grabs your attention. Not that the ‘Raking his hand through his hair sideways glance’ picture isn’t also very nice. But the stretch picture is getting the most hits, so apparently the public agrees with me.” She said in her best CEO presentation voice.

Loki slumped in a chair, covering his eyes with one hand, as if that would make the pictures go away. Why didn’t he just stay in the void? Viral means something different in Midgard, and whenever he hears the term he has thinks of those stupid kitten videos that people email to everyone in their contact list. It is not exactly a term he had ever wanted applied to him. 

He looked up to see Tony flipping through all the pictures. “You should really read some of the comments Loki, especially the ones for the pictures that have Drífa sitting beside you. Those are just hilarious.” Tony threw him a smirk. “Well okay, mostly they are pornographic, but still, funny as hell.”

Pepper, taking pity on him, came over and laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. “It could be worse Lucas,” she told him. “At least they aren’t bare assed pictures of you and a blonde having sex up against a hallway wall during a charity event.”

“Hey” Tony yelped turning his glare on Pepper. “One time, one time that happened.”

“Yeah Tony, one time with the blonde and how many times with brunettes? Three?”

“Twice,” Tony smoothed down his Black Sabbath t-shirt. “But neither of those two were at charity events.”

Pepper rolled her eyes. “Well then that makes it okay I guess,” she said dryly.

“Mister Laufey, your new Personal Assistant has arrived at the elevator bank, she will be here shortly.”

“Thank you Jarvis,” Pepper looked down at Loki. “I know she was supposed to start Monday, but she was here this morning getting all her paperwork signed, so I asked her if she could start immediately. You’re going to need a lot of help today getting ready to field media requests.”

Tony was clicking on a link, and then peering at another screen. “Yeah, and most likely S.H.I.E.L.D. too, since a lot of these pictures link to the Asgard findings and those early news articles. That would explain all the news trucks out front.”

“Truck” corrected Loki.

 “Trucks, plural. There are two more out there now,” Tony said bringing up a new screen. He raised an eyebrow and smiled at Pepper. “You better start prepping for a news conference; this is going to get worse before it gets better.”

Pepper raised her brows and gave Loki a small smile, but then worried her bottom lip a bit, no doubt planning how she was going to handle today’s little bomb shell. Brow furrowed, Loki leaned back and closed his eyes.

Of course three news trucks were about five more than Loki ever wanted to have interested in him and his activities. It wasn’t that he had thought for even a minute that he would be able to get Midgard ready for Thanos without his involvement becoming known. But he had hoped to remain in the shadows for at least a few decades. Admittedly, that much grace would have been a miracle and in truth, he would have been happy to just get a few more years of relative peace. Unfortunately, like many other times in his life, event were conspiring to ensure that his task would be long and weary, with no very certain chance of success.

What Loki wouldn’t give for the chance to just once be responsible for something that was clear cut and reasonably attainable?  Smack some dull creature over the head with a heavy hammer and free a village from terror. He could do that, even if it meant firing off a few daggers to soften the creature up first. Go to some far off realm and find an item of immense power. He could do that… In fact he already had, that was what had caused this current mess. Perhaps, Loki thought blackly, it wasn’t the task he had to do; so much as it was that he was the one doing it. Perhaps that was why a simple task, like find the item of power, had twisted back on him like a bougainvillea vine. All pretty and doable on the outside, lulling him closer until the vine wrapped around him and the long nail like thorns dug and ripped into his flesh.

And right now those nail like thorns we the fact that he was being ‘outted’ as ‘Loki the Norse God’ long before he wanted to be. His personal preference would have been to wait until those directly affected by attack had passed, until time had softened the horror of those days. Admittedly, there was a large selfish component in that preference, because it would be so much easier for him personally. With the Chitauri and Thanos too far away to attack immediately, unless they found another Loki grade sorcerer and high power artifact, a more distant problem. Loki had found his recent anonymity among the majority of the general population here on Midgard very relaxing. He had been content and had generally enjoyed his life at school and at Stark International, in a way he hadn’t enjoyed living in Asgard for centuries.

But that was now at an end now wasn’t it? His plan to slowly allow awareness to the masses of Thanos’ threat against Midgard in tandem with announcements of how well the progress was going on preparing earth’s defenses was shot. While he hadn’t liked it, a few low traffic web pages being visited by bored Midgardians, had not been too difficult to ignore. This current media blitz however would prompt more exposure to the general public than could be easily glossed over.  So he would now have to scramble to find some way in the immediate future to allay any fears this caused without promoting compliancy that would work against them in the long run.

He had a sick coppery taste in his mouth, pain throbbing in his left temple and a nauseous feeling pooling in his stomach. In fact the only good thing about this whole mess that was that he would be able to outlive much of the enmity here, in a way that could never have happened in the immortal city of Asgard. Granted it would take fifty years or so, fifty years that he was not looking forward too at all, but at least it might be possible. At any rate he hoped so. He already had three realms he was not welcome on and now he had to try and make sure it didn’t turn into four. Truly the Norms did hate him.

“Here take this,” Pepper said as she folded his hand around a sweating glass of something cold and fizzy. After a moment, when he still didn’t open his eyes, soft hands guided the glass to his lips.

He opened his eyes and blinked, a very worried Pepper was holding a glass to his lips, “Drink.” She insisted.

So Loki drank, the bitter fizzy drink, trying to gather his scatter awareness. It was not often that he retreated so far into his own thoughts that he lost track of his surroundings. 

“Well thank heavens it’s at least started,” said voice from the direction of the elevator.

They all turned to stare in surprise.

“I was beginning to wonder what it was going to take to get the media’s attention.”

“Jarvis? Why is there a strange lady in my lab?” asked Tony.

“I’m not strange.”

“Umm. No. You forget I’ve met you. I’m thinking strange definitely applies,” retorted Tony glaring at the sharp featured brunette who was looking at him over the tops of her glasses.

“Ms. Lewis, welcome to Stark International,” Pepper said holding out her hand.

Loki felt his eyes go wide, he turned at looked questioningly at Pepper. “Darcy Lewis is my new PA?”

Feeling like he was missing something important, Loki stared at Darcy as she smiled at all of them and held up her cell phone to take a picture.

Faintly remembered images vied for his attention.

Loki stood and glared at Darcy. “You took and posted those pictures. Why?” he demanded wrathfully.

“I needed a push, to get people to notice the other stuff. And let me tell you, nothing gets reposted like pictures of a smoking hot guy...”  She quirked an eyebrow at Loki and bumped her fist against his shoulder, “And you Loki are as smoking hot as they come. Okay, so you’re also a freaky alien Viking god, that looks good in a suit, but you are really, really hot when you are half naked. Trust me, people notice that stuff.”

Loki would only remember later that he had dropped the glass, leaving it to shatter on the hard polished concrete floor.  It seemed to him that one moment he was standing there as hazy images of Darcy sitting on his couch with that damn phone snapping pictures of him while he was more than half asleep flitting across his memory and the next second he grabbed the phone out of her hand, throwing it so hard that it shattered it against the far wall of the lab, spraying plastic debris everywhere. Somehow he had her spun her around before grabbing the back of her neck and using an iron grip to force her up and almost off her feet. Darcy, toes barely touching the floor tried to keep up with him as he shoved her towards a storage room at the other end of the lab. All while Darcy was berating him for breaking her cell phone, which still had nine months to go on its contract, thank you very much. He was vaguely aware of dropping out of All Speak and screaming at her to shut up in Æsir as the door slammed shut of its own accord and various items in the store room explode around them.

At various times when he paused for breath, Darcy would try to make excuses, or as she would later claim, explain.

“We get everything bad out all at once, then start doling out the good stuff. The information they get in dribs and drabs will have more attention paid to it. Too big a data dump, like what is happening now, lots of the bad stuff will be lost in the noise.” Darcy told him earnestly, trying not to notice a box of blank circuit boards flying off the shelf, just missing her head.

Ducking a spool of wire that flew towards her she continued earnestly, “It was going to come out, so it needs to all come out at one time. If we let the media think they discovered it for themselves, it will make them complacent.”

“How many times did I help you, and yet you did this to me? Are you insane?!” Loki roared as Darcy threw herself backwards, slamming her back against a shelf, unable to get any further away from him. Actually he had shouted it numerous times, but finally realized that Æsir and old Elvish were not going to be understood, so he finally switched to English to scream.

Grabbing her shoulders hard enough to leave large bruises, Loki shook her. “Do you think this is a game? Do you have any idea what you have started?!” He lifted Darcy off the floor and brought her almost nose to nose with him as he screamed, “Please! Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kill you right now!”

Stark’s voice issued from a speaker in the ceiling causing Loki to freeze. “Umm, Rudolf? Please don’t kill the employee. For one thing it’s prohibited in the company rule book and for another it just causes no end of paper work. So please let the suicidal PA live.”

“I’m not suicidal, I’m right!” yelled Darcy at both of them.

“Nope, trust me,” Tony’s voice countered, “I wrote the book on suicidal behavior; you are fucking with a mentally unbalanced Nordic god. By anyone’s definition that’s suicidal.”

“Stark I swear if you don’t stop spying on me I will disembowel you, use your intestines to tie you to your work bench and then collapse this damn building down on your head! Do you understand me?!” Loki barked.

“Whoa, nice visual Patrick Bateman.”

“STARK!”

“Okay, okay, I got it. No more spying. Now could you bring psycho chick out so we can all yell at her? I mean it’s rude to keep all the fun to yourself.”

“I’m driving Clara to visit her niece in Cranston Connecticut this weekend. Big baby shower for her great nephew’s wife..”  Said Darcy in a conversational voice that did not even hint that she was suspended in the air and had two large hands digging bruises into her arms.

“What?” Loki dragged his enraged glare away from the ceiling and stared at her, while still furious, his brows furrowed in confusion as he searched her face.

“You said give you one good reason. She doesn’t have any other way to get there and she’ll be devastated if she has to miss it.” Darcy smiled at him.

Loki heard a muffled laugh from Tony, before the speaker cut out.

“Ms. Lewis, I want you to listen to me very closely.” Loki growled. At Darcy’s slightly wide eyed nod, he continued in a low threatening rumble. “If you ever betray my trust again you will most sincerely regret it for the rest of your life, which, depending on my mood at the time, might not be along as you think it will be. I am not Thor, I don’t think it’s funny and I have a very low tolerance for anyone making my life difficult.” 

“Okay…”

“You are a woman grown; it is time to stop acting like a child, stop expecting your bad behavior to be excused if you are cute enough. If you can’t act like an adult, you can’t be around me; I have no time for babysitting anyone except Stark. Who despite being yelled at is still most likely listening.”

“Yeah, okay, I got it.” Breathing heavily, Loki released her, allowing her to fall to her feet, which she retained with only a small stumble. Ignoring her, he turned and reached for the door knob.

“So okay.” As Darcy made to follow him out of the storeroom, she asked, “So Pepper Potts. You doing her?”

Loki turned on her, eyes wide with disbelief, “Do you have a death wish!?”

“See, I told you, suicidal.”

“STARK!”

“So that’s a ‘not yet’ then on Potts?”

Loki growled at her before roughly thrusting her out the door ahead of him.

“Hey, no need to be that way, I’m just asking.  Geeze.”

Chapter Text

Returning to Midgard after an absence of almost two years, Loki finds that as desperate for change as he has been, some changes will take time to get used to, especially when they concern his relationship with Tony and Pepper. Darcy lays down her taser, momentarily and decides to start wielding the internet to the dismay of both the fallen Prince of Asgard and S.H.I.E.L.D.  This sequel is 75,000 words long and will update regularly.

 

OoooO    OoooO   OoooO    OoooO   

Chapter #20 – Restrain Yourself

“So many people in this realm that need to die, and I’m not supposed to kill any of them.” Loki muttered angrily as he left the storeroom, pushing Darcy in front of him.

“I know,” said Tony cheerfully not looking up from the suit gauntlet he was fiddling with. “Sucks doesn’t it?”

“Stark.” Loki’s voice was low and dripping with loathing, “You know you are currently in one of my top five slots of people who deserve to die for being annoying don’t you?.”

“Heh?” Tony smirked. “Well yeah for me I guess. What about psycho chick over there?” Tony pointed to Darcy who was making a bee-line towards the other end of the lab, obviously in search of her smashed phone.

Loki’s glare was hot enough to ignite concrete as he looked at Darcy who was pawing through the remains of her broken cell phone, “Top ten easily.”

As they watched, Darcy gave a cry of triumph and lifted part of her broken phone and removed a memory card from it. “My memory card’s okay!” she cried ecstatically.

Tony looked at Loki, raising an eyebrow as if to say, ‘Are you going to let her keep that?’

Loki snapped his fingers and a bright flash of light flared out and Darcy hastily dropped the smoking memory card with a cry of dismay.

‘No.’

Tony snickered.

Pepper came up behind Tony, nudging him and giving him a ‘Will you stop that’ glare, with just a hint of a ‘Oh my god, you’re supposed to be an adult’ frown. “Tony, don’t encourage him.”

She then turned to Loki, “I know you don’t want to hear it, but Ms. Lewis is most likely right. It will be a bit messy for a while, but it has to be addressed sooner rather than later, so now is as good a time as any. I’ll let them hound me into a press conference tomorrow afternoon, so we can hit the evening news.” She patted his arm, “It will be fine, honest. We’ve dealt with worse situations.”

Loki frowned down at her, “Worse than invading New York?”

“Which you were tortured into doing!” Darcy said coming back over towards them, slipping past Tony and coming to rest on Loki’s other side......

Loki brushed off Pepper’s hand off his forearm and stared down with hard green eyes just as Darcy tightly wrapped her hand around his other arm. 

 “You know, I have your brother's pics posted on Facebook with a mouth full of pancakes.” Darcy said, “And with a terminal case of bed head and covered in mud after tugging our van loose on the dirt road to hell. That’s what I do, it wasn’t just you. But I admit, it originally started out as a thesis study for my Political Science, Bachelor degree.” Darcy patted Loki’s arm with her other hand while giving Loki an anxious look, oblivious to the incredulous stare that Stark was throwing her way or even Pepper’s concerned frown. “But the reason I chose you as a thesis project was to try and get the word out that it wasn’t your fault.  And… Well, you may not have liked it, but my last set of pictures seemed to have done the trick. The hits on the court findings and those news articles have gone through the roof.”

Darcy chuckled, hazel blue eyes crinkling behind the thin black frames of her glasses. “So it’s all good.” She said with a wide happy smile.

Darcy Lewis was very ‘Thor-like’, he thought bemused, in that she had a gift for skirting right up to the point where he would lose control, and then say or do something that would disarm him. He frowned; one of his main problems lately was keeping his temper in check, all of his life, while he may have raged inwardly, he had been able to keep others from knowing how upset he was.

But since that horrible day with Odin in the weapons vault, it was like a layer of control had been stripped from him once he found out that he was a Jotun, leaving him prey to wild swings of emotion. Visible emotion that is, he had always felt anger, frustration and pain of course, but he had never let anyone other than Mother or Thor see it, and not even them so much as he became older. Doctor Crane seemed to think it was not so much a shameful lack of control, as it was a willingness to let certain others actually see what he was feeling, along with a widening of the circle of people who he felt safe enough to express his true emotions in front of. Either way, it was still disconcerting to the point of a suppressed panic attack when it happened.

 “Darcy, I want you to listen to me, I don’t want you to ever post anything about me or provide someone else information about me, without my explicit permission or that of Ms. Potts in my absence,” Loki’s voice was resigned, but had a razor sharp edge to it. At Darcy’s emphatic nod, he continued. “Even if it happens through carelessness on your part, I swear I will break enough bones in your hands to make it impossible for you to use that damn phone of yours.”

“Okay then,” Pepper said in a falsely bright voice as she slid around Loki and untangled Darcy from his arm. “Now Loki, we don’t do stuff like that. However Darcy you have signed numerous confidentiality agreements and would be subject to suspension, dismissal and possibly a financially crippling lawsuit for unauthorized release of information.”

“Shut up Tony,” She growled, glaring at the snorting inventor. “Now, I want you two to ‘chat’, not scream, for a couple of hours, Darcy will be getting a bunch of back ground information from you, she knows what we need. I going to brief someone from PR and Marketing, get them to sign a few more non-disclosure contracts and then send them down to you to get you both ready for tomorrow’s media circus.”

“Marketing?” Loki asked skeptically.

“Ooooo Pepper, why not that Eddie guy from marketing? Psycho girl will love him and hey he’ll look good as background filler during the news conferences.” Tony smirked at Darcy, “And he is already a ‘big’ Lucas fan.”

“Yes Loki, marketing. We are going to sell this thing. You watch and see if we don’t”

OoooO

The press conference was just as bad as Loki had feared it would be. It wasn’t that he was uncomfortable with large crowds watching his every move, even as a second prince, he had come in for more than his share of scrutiny, from crowds much larger than the ones that showed up. But of course Asgard did not have media like Midgard; here it only took minutes for news, good or bad, to reach the outlying provinces. This meant of course that there was no second chance to shape the way that his message received in different places with different audiences.

Loki had of course solved the problem of keeping track of what was going on in a public venue without moving centuries ago. He scattered a few disguised clones around the large conference room, that way he could keep any eye on the reactions of those on the stage and in the crowd without the necessity of having his gaze do anything but serenely look upon the audience. On more occasions than he cared to think about, he had also used his clones to incite the reaction he desired from the court, or catcalls to interrupt others when they looked like them might be swaying the audience in a direction he didn’t want them to go. Of course it didn’t always work, but he felt that the split in his concentration was worth it for the advantage that it often brought him.

 

Fortunately Loki had learned years ago to allow semi-autonomous action to his clones when it was necessary for him to devote his full energies elsewhere. A thin smile spread across his face, after all, it wouldn’t do for the wildly applauding or cat calling person in the crowd to just disappear because Loki’s attention had to be directed elsewhere. That would draw too much unwanted attention to his activities after all.     

As he studied the room from various angles, he kept a close eye on today’s potential loose cannons. Stark, in a very good looking suit was of course fiddling with his phone, most likely getting updates from Jarvis, but that was not an uncommon activity for him when he wasn’t at the actual podium and shouldn’t cause any comment from the press. Loki was glad to see that not only was Stark sober but rather than exhibiting boredom, Stark was occasionally tossing very focused looks over the crowd.

Of course while few would label Director Fury a ‘loose cannon’, Loki felt that the one person who had chance to ‘go off’ and do damage this afternoon was Fury. While the man was noted for discipline in general, he did have a tendency to lose his temper when provoked by what he perceived was stupidity, hopefully Agent Colson would be able to share with him some of his legendary calm. 

Ms. Lewis was looking surprisingly professional standing behind and slightly to the left of him. Her well-tailored grey, knee length suit complimenting Loki’s own dark charcoal one, which of course it should since she had gone through his closets last night pulling out the outfit she wanted him to wear today. Apparently there was a psychological code to dressing for Midgard media events, or at least the ones in the United States. Arguing with Ms. Lewis was pretty much a losing battle even for a god, much like Thor, she just would not shut up. While he had many times sealed Thor’s lips when he was being annoying, for reasons he couldn’t currently define, he had yet to do that to Ms. Lewis.  He smiled to himself as the visual of a lip sealed Ms. Lewis glaring at him while furiously and repeatedly texting him.

“Honest Loki,” Darcy explained last night, “I have worked on two major campaigns, this stuff does matter, especially when doing televised news conferences.”  So she had vetoed his black suits claiming that while he could totally do the ‘power color’ it would translate as too harsh visually and as a ‘space alien’ who had invaded their planet he needed to soften his image quite a bit to get people to listen to him.

OoooO

Tony had got his makeup done early and was hanging around waiting for Loki to show up, the vestige of a smile tugging at his lips. He was looking forward to ragging the Petulant Prince while he sat in the makeup chair. At first, it had been as entertaining as he had thought it would be, he hoped Jarvis had gotten some good pictures at Loki’s appalled expression when the makeup woman discussed with him the merits of having his normally pale skin tone warmed up for the press conference. Tony had managed to keep a lid on it, but Darcy had trilled delightedly at Loki’s disgusted expression. Apparently Viking gods did not like bronzer and applying makeup implied that one was ergi, and Loki just flat wasn’t doing it. Who knew? Well Jarvis would as soon as Tony got a chance to ask him in private what the hell that meant. 

At any rate, despite Darcy’s pleas, Tony’s encouragement and Pepper’s flat out demand for him to quit being a baby, Loki didn’t have any makeup applied. Loki’s total involvement with Pepper’s makeup artist involved her telling him what she wanted while he made adjustments to a glamour. How magical photoshopping was ergi-free as opposed to regular makeup was something that Tony was at a lost to understand. But since it left Tony and not Princess Covergirl having to spend a good half hour with cold cream to get the crap off, it was total fricking cheating as far as Tony was concerned.

However, Tony was just glad that it was Loki and not him that was doing an exclusive interview and photo shoot afterwards. Darcy had, with Loki’s begrudging permission after taking Pepper’s advice, sold an exclusive interview, with the high six figure fee going to a charity of Loki’s choice. Oh wait, the press doesn’t ‘pay’ for interviews, according to what the news director had haughtily told Tony.

They weren’t paying for an exclusive interview; rather they were paying for the licensing fees of photographs from an exclusive photo shoot that was going to happen during the interview.  Yeah right, the hypocrisy was running pretty high today, but on the plus side it was Loki having to do it and not him and he was going to get a boatload of money for his Goat-horns of Mayhem charity.

Anyhow it had been pretty funny to see Loki wavering between disconcerted and calm-collected.   But since Loki had most likely done crazier public display things in Odin’s court for more centuries than newspapers had been around, he had settled down pretty quick. Which meant that Tony could still have fun harassing him while they were getting ready.

Also funnier than hell was watching that Darcy chick flutter around Loki, apparently she was the god’s biggest fan and she was pretty frantic about trying to make sure he was happy here on Earthgard. A Personal Assistant with separation issues, funny actually. While Psycho chick was not immune to the charms of Eddie Stennis, the ridiculously good looking guy from marketing, the minute Loki had showed up, she was all over the god like a kitten on a heating pad. Pretty cute in a ‘how in the hell is this going to work in the long run’ kinda way.  But hey, who is he to laugh. After all he had Pepper’s complete and total attention while she was his PA. 

Tony was checking last minute feed when Pepper finally decided to get started. He had been keeping an eye on the tweets of the news monkeys gathered in the room, and so far, with the exception of the ones who objected to people referring to Loki as a god, it was not as bad as it could have been. Okay so Faux News was stroking about him being an alien invader responsible for the death of hundreds, most of the other tweets were at least paying lip service to the judicial findings of Asgard as filtered through the U.S. government. Tony was glad to see that Stark International was hardly mentioned at all so far.

The questions were much as he expected, and he was doing okay until the one reporter asked her about dating Loki. Oh crap! Now what was Pepper saying?

Chapter Text

Chapter #21 – Lets Chat

Ms. Potts had done a brief introduction of everyone, told them they were going to restrict questions to three per speaker until everyone has finished, after which general questions will be taken. She then launched into a description of how she had discovered and tried to recruit a brilliant Carnegie Institute of Technology grad student, only to find out later that was actually him, Loki, an Asgardian prince and the brother of Thor.

Loki could 'not' believe the gasps that he heard at that last statement. Honestly, the number of mortals who apparently 'never' look up readily available background information was astounding to him, especially since the room was supposedly filled with people who worked for information disbursement companies. However he was sure that the same morons, who didn't know about Thor, would ask him stupid questions about his supposed children because rather than read a government document that clearly stated that Thor was considered in Asgard to be his brother, they instead were going off half remembered myths they learned in grade school.

Ms. Potts continued by detailing the discovery by Stark of who Lucas Laufey really was and her research into his part of the New York tragedy. After finding out that his participation had been forced by months of unending torture and mind control and that Asgard had deemed Loki not guilty by reasons of afore mentioned coercion, she offered him a second chance. She finished her statement by declaring him a valued employee, board member and a personal friend.

The personal friend bit engendered a bit of grumbling by a few in the audience, so he very slowly, without moving his hands from his lap, made a few gestures. While he doubted that anyone in the general audience noticed anything, he thought, going by the sharp look that Stark tossed at him, that Jarvis had.

Once the reporters realized that Ms. Potts had completed her statement, they all began shouting out their questions. Ms. Potts listened a moment and then pointed to a middle aged male near the center of the crowd.

"Stanley Tropes, WNYW Fox News, New York. Ms. Potts, why would Stark International employ a war criminal who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people and many billions of dollars in property damage?" he asked disapprovingly, his face a study in disgust.

"We don't and we wouldn't," She said calmly. "If you had listened to my statement, you would know that Lucas Loki Laufey was investigated and deemed innocent of those crimes and in fact-"

"Follow-up," The reporter called, interrupting Pepper. "So all those people he injured are just going to be forgotten?"

"In fact," Pepper said, smoothly continuing her reply, "our own government remanded him to the Asgardian Justice system and accepted this judgment." Her eyes swept the room, "As for the injured, Loki's absolute first act upon returning to Earth was to bring Asgardian medical aide to those still being treated for injuries sustained during the attack. Despite being a victim himself of the Chitauri and their controller, he made sure that the people still recovering were cured. All of them, even those still in critical condition recovered to perfect health.."

Before anyone could try to follow up, she pointed to a young-ish blonde in the front row.

"Cristina Danvers, Time Herald the woman said standing up. "Loki may have been himself a victim, but aren't you afraid that he might snap or relapse and injure his fellow employees or the general public?"

Pepper laughed softly, "I am no more afraid of that for Lucas than I am for any other person we employ."

Before the woman could call out a follow up, Pepper pointed to a tall male reported in the back. "You, in the middle, with the brown jacket."

"Thank you Ms. Potts. Samuel Westerly, WFFA Dallas. Exactly how long has Loki worked for Stark International? And what exactly does he do?"

"Well Lucas has worked for us for not quite three years. He was originally hired as a researcher and worked directly with Mr. Stark for the first two years." Her eyes again swept the crowd. "I have always known him by Lucas, so that is how I refer to him." She said in answer to a loud comment that floated over the crowd and then continued, "He was called away for a few years to help deal with a problem in Asgard and he now splits his time working with Mr. Stark as a researcher and myself as a Chief Operating Officer."

"Follow-up!" Westerly called, "Are you dating him? You've been seen out with him in public numerous times. How would you describe your relationship?"

Pepper looked grim, "As a friend? As an employee? Lucas has accompanied me to several company functions to assist as a Stark International employee. I'm his boss, I'm a personal friend but he's not my boyfriend. She then smiled slyly, "I understand he has cut quite a swath through the local model community. Apparently they will occasionally pass over a billionaire for someone tall enough to let them wear spike heels."

A low chuckle rolled through the crowd. Loki lifted a brow, exchanging an amused look with Ms. Potts before throwing a smirk at Stark who was shaking his head and looking at something on his phone.

OoooO

Tony looked up from his phone at the short joke and made a face at Pepper.

Pepper then sat down, ignoring further questions being called out from the crowd. Director Fury did not go to the podium. Instead he said a few words to the man standing behind him and Agent Coulson stepped forward, motioned for quiet and introduced himself.

Okay, apparently we are not going to have Nick going off at the crowd today, Tony thought. While Fury might, perhaps, in some people's opinion, but not his, be a good director, he was not exactly god's gift to press conferences. Agent was much better at keeping his cool.

"Hello everyone, my name is Phillip Coulson, I work for S.H.I.E.L.D. Since I have had a lot of direct contact with Loki, or Lucas as many now know him, it was decided that perhaps I should be the one to do this briefing for S.H.I.E.L.D. I was actually the first person that Loki contacted when he was released from Asgard and sent to Earth to give us the Æsir official judicial findings. I was also the first person to receive Asgardian medical assistance to cure me of injuries I sustained during the battle.

Coulson's lips turned up at the corners in a small smile. "Loki and I fought during the battle and he is the one who injured me. When he attacked me, I'm afraid I was both threatening him with a rather powerful gun and commenting on his lack of conviction during the invasion. In light of the findings from Asgard I have recently begun to think that perhaps he needed to stop me from making any more comments before I revealed to the Chitauri that many of his actions were sabotaging the success of the attack. Certainly he was fast enough and strong enough that the thermal blaster I was using was not that much of a worry for him." Coulson smirked and huffed a small laugh ducking his head to look over at Loki. "In fact I ended up shooting him with the darn thing, it blasted him through a reinforced wall and he just shook it off and got back up."

It had long been Tony's private opinion that Loki was either not exactly on board during the invasion, but he never could get anyone to agree with him on that theory. He smiled inwardly; well at least he couldn't before the Asgard findings were released. Afterwards all kind of people agreed with him. This after the fact finding was frankly embarrassing to the S.H.I.E.L.D. strategists. Something that Tony delighted in reminding them of occasionally… like every time he saw them.

Coulson continued, interrupting Tony's private smirk fest. "One thing that we didn't realize at the time, but have since found out was that as powerful as we thought Loki was at the time of the invasion, he was actually suffering from starvation, injury and mentally restricted from using most of his powers. At present, our strategists are working on the assumption that the only way the Chitauri could control him is if they kept him in a weakened state." Coulson again glanced back at Loki, who merely lifted his shoulders in a polite non-committal shrug.

"At any rate," Coulson continued, "I have personally seen Loki in action since then when he worked as a special consultant for S.H.I.E.L.D. He has assisted us in many rescue missions and I can tell you that he did not use his full strength or powers during the invasion." Coulson motioned for the reporters to quiet back down.

"S.H.I.E.L.D., as a duly constituted government agency has thoroughly investigated the events of the invasion and Loki's activities since his return. In co-operation with our sister agencies in the United States and our allied agencies in Germany, we have concluded that he is not a threat to either of us and should be allowed to pursue his private activities without any more over sight that is given to any other government contractor.."

During the pandemonium of reporters trying to get chosen to speak, Tony took a moment to see if Jarvis had any more information on what Loki had been doing during Pepper's statement. There had been an energy surge, not one that would register with anyone else's sensors, but Jarvis knew Loki's energy signature like nobody else on the planet, so Jarvis caught it. According to what was being reported, Jarvis still didn't know what Loki had done, it wasn't like any of his previously recorded patterns. Rather than dispersing like it usually did when Loki had summoned something, or affected some other change in the lab, the energy was still present. It was obviously doing something, but neither Tony nor Jarvis knew just what.

Tony knew he could of course text Loki and ask him. But Loki most likely would not reply until later, since he didn't like to be interrupted by his phone and often had it on vibrate so he could ignore it. So Tony retrained himself from sending such a text. Loki could get awfully snippy when asked to explain his magic and besides Tony was pretty sure that he would be able to figure it out by the end of the conference.

Rather than choose someone to speak, Coulson had decided to just pick whatever question he wanted to answer from those being shouted at him.

"Yes, the picture in today's New York Times was Loki assisting with a S.H.I.E.L.D. operation. He was instrumental in locating the remaining bombs in the Atlanta incident before they could injure any more civilians or first responders. He also marked their locations so that the bomb squads could find and disarm the before anymore exploded." Coulson listened a minute and then continued.

"I'm not sure how he did it. But I do know that he was able to place flashing lights and a warning siren at each bomb location to both alert people to evacuate and to let the bomb squads know where to go. He also assisted in the rapid transfer of personnel to deactivate the bombs."

Coulson smoothed his suit jacket and stood just a bit straighter, if that was even possible. He listened to the calls for a few minutes, his brows drew together and he then he frowned and motioned for silence.

"Asgardian justice apparently is a bit more 'robust' than what we practice in the states." As the noise level again rose, Coulson again motioned for quiet and then just stood there until the room was completely still. "As I said, they have a different way of doing things in Asgard. They do not use a jury, or lawyers, nor do they apparently have any postponement period while evidence is being gathered. Rather, within the hour of his return Loki was judged and sentenced by single individual."

Tony noted that all eyes were now on Loki, who had his Egyptian mask face on, absolutely no emotion showing.

"Within two hours of his return he was being flogged… one hundred and eighty- two times wasn't it?" Coulson asked looking over at Loki. At Loki's abrupt nod, Coulson looked down at the notes in his hands and continued.

"Then without having his injuries treated he was chained and thrown in a cage hanging from the ceiling that was only four feet wide. He left here at the beginning of May wasn't released from that cage until January our time. Nine months, this is also when he was allowed his first bath, first change of clothes and finally had the shackles removed from his wrists. February through November were spent in a more traditional cell, again without any medical care, shower facilities, change of clothing or being allowed outside the cell for even an hour."

Colson looked up from his notes, ignored the murmuring from the reporters and continued in an impassive voice. "In October testimony and evidence confirming the torture and mind control were finally presented but before any decision was made it was November and Loki had become critically ill. He was unresponsive for several days and near death before he was finally taken to a medical facility, his first visit there since leaving earth nineteen months earlier. His condition was so serious that he was kept in a medically induced coma for six weeks and then spent another two months under constant medical supervision before recovering enough to be released.."

Coulson looked at one of the reporters in the crowd. "So, while it was not quite two years since the New York invasion, it seems to have been a very intense time, especially for someone who was declared innocent due to coercion. A month later he was deemed strong enough to travel which is when I met him again, as I said, he contacted me while delivering medical assistance for those injured in the attack."

After a minute Colson waved down the noise and smiled at the assembled reporters. "No, I do not consider him to be a danger to other law abiding citizens. Once he was released from the imposed mental constraints he became quite reasonable. According to his brother Thor, who was able to observe and speak with Loki several times during the attack, the person we saw during the attack did not in any way resemble the brother he has known his entire life." Coulson nodded and then walked back to stand again behind Director Fury.

As Coulson moved to the back of the stage, Tony, along with everyone else turned their eyes to the god sitting at the end of the stage.

Chapter Text

Chapter #22 – Loki Speaks

Tony was shocked to see that Loki’s hands were covering his face and that his head was down. Puzzled, he watched as the god took a deep, shuddering breath and then raised his head, suspiciously bright eyes looking over the crowd as he stood.

Loki walked slowly to the podium and then stood there a moment, gripping either side of it, his knuckles white with strain. He lowered his eyes, brows knit, looking at the podium surface even though he had not placed any notes there. The reporters were silent; the only noise in the room came from the whisper of cloth as people shifted, the small creak of a chair being shifted and a soft hum from the lights above. After what seemed like an eternity, the god’s painfully straight shoulders sagged and he flicked his brilliant green eyes up sighing softly as he worried his lower lip.

Tony was not sure what exactly was happening with Loki, but it seemed like half the reporters sighed with him. 

“I want to first apologize for my part in the invasion of earth by the Chitauri. While my participation was forced, I still am deeply sorry that I was not able to resist participating in the injury and destruction that occurred.”

Even though Tony very familiar with Loki’s normal voice, which in and of its self was pretty captivating, he was shocked at the mesmerizing  rich warm chocolate tones that Loki was using to speak to the reporters. Where had this voice come from Tony wondered and more importantly why hadn’t he ever heard it before? Tony stared at the god fascinated; he knew he could have happily sat there for hours and listened to Loki recite anything, heck the phone book, so long as the god used that voice. A quick look at the crowd in front of him told him that he wasn’t the only one Loki’s voice had affected.

Loki lowered his bright green eyes a moment, touching this tongue nervously to his lips as he glanced back up at the assembled crowd.

“I would also like to thank the governments of the United States and Germany for their understanding and for continuing to allow me to reside here on Earth. Additionally of course I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to your culture that is afforded to me by Stark International and the opportunity that S.H.I.E.L.D. allows me to make amends in some small way for the damage that I was unfortunately part of.”

A small, sad smile danced briefly across Loki face as he flicked his eyes to look at those sitting behind him on the stage. “And I am of course, deeply appreciative of the many kindnesses that so many of you have shown me on Earth where I wrought so much pain. Kindness… And understanding, that I did not even receive on my own world.”

Tony was amazed at how quiet everyone was, even as the god stood there without speaking for several moments. Which Tony supposed was only natural, since even though he knew the god in all his moods, the good and the bad, right now the only thing Tony wished he could do right now was to settle Loki somewhere soft and warm, assure him that none of it was his fault and comfort him with a cup of cocoa… Or something.

He watched as Loki slowly drew himself tall and straight, like some invisible armor falling into place on the man.

“Since almost everything about me and my participation in the invasion is public record, I don’t see any need to go into too much detail, especially since much of it is not appropriate to speak of when children may be watching. I will merely state that events outlined on the Æsir legal documents posted on WikiLeaks are accurate as are the statements just made by Agent Coulson. So I will take questions now, I just ask that you keep them appropriate for a mixed audience.”

Like Coulson, rather than single out any one person for a question, Loki selected his questions from the ones being shouted out to him.

“Am I really a god?” Both brows raised and Loki looked thoughtful. “Rather say that I am an immortal who visited earth enough times in the past, that shorter lived, less advanced people remembered me and the assistance that I gave them.” Loki essayed a small sweet smile, “But the truth became, let us say, ‘embroidered’ during the passage of this information from generation to generation. I am after all not a spiritual being, nor did I create life or the cosmos or anything like that.”

Loki held up a hand for silence and waited a moment. “Why should you believe me if I am the god of lies?” he repeated. “Well because I’m not. While almost everything written about me on Wikipedia is wrong, even there you won’t see me listed as a god of lies. I am listed as a ‘Trickster’ which actually denotes an Agent of Change. And as a scholar in Asgard and here as a researcher, I have always been at the forefront of change.”

Loki looked out over the audience and sighed, “And truthfully, my unwitting role in the invasion was also a change in direction for Earth, since you are all now aware of other planets and realms.”

Unlike the clamoring the instant that Coulson was finished speaking, there was a small pause after the god, or immortal, or whoever was done with each question. It was almost as if no one wanted to interrupt, just in case that glorious voice wanted to continue speaking. Tony had already decided he was going to have Jarvis make a copy of this for his private server. Just so he could see if he could figure out the harmonics or something… After all, it was his tower and Tony could save what files he wanted, for whatever reason he wanted.

And he knew for a fact who was going to do the voice overs for their next Arc Reactor Proposal. ‘Hell, maybe Pepper was right, send that voice and that face to Washington or Berlin and they would never have to worry about approvals again. Not to mention that brain. But did he want that voice, face and brain going on all those meetings with Pepper?’ Tony’s mood darkened for a moment as he struggled to keep from frowning.

‘Stop. Just don’t go there,’ Tony thought. ‘Think science project. Yeah, is it universal? I know Loki has that all-speak thing, I wonder if those tones translate into say Mandarin? Or is it his accent mixed with those tones?’  Now Tony actually did sense a science project. And then another thought hit him, ‘Damn. Can it be transferred maybe? Thor has all-speak, can Pepper and I learn it?’

“Am I glad my army was destroyed?” Loki swept the audience with a pained and puzzled look. “Well they weren’t my army, but of course I was. I wanted desperately to get away from the Chitauri and more than that, I wanted them to lose. They had tortured me, invaded Earth and threatened the other Nine Realms with invasion.” He looked up at the ceiling as if he could see the stars and the universe above them, “Earth is a gateway to the other eight realms. They can’t get there except through Earth.”

He shook his head and took a deep breath before lowering his eyes again to his rapt audience. “But I have to say in fairness, as much as I myself suffered during the many months that the Chitauri leader had me tortured, the general Chitauri population is an enslaved race of the Mad Titan.”

Loki paused to let the surprised murmuring die down before continuing, “The Mad TitanTitan has a true name, but we don’t speak it. Much like Lord Voldemort in your children’s narratives, we do not to name him, so as not to draw his attention in our direction. Unlike the book however, this is not a child’s tale but a very real skill that the Mad TitanTitan possesses.” Loki looked like he might say more, but then this lips tightened into a thin line. 

After a moment, Loki swept his right hand up and spread his long fingers out to rest elegantly on the left side of his chest. He bowed his head slightly to the assembled reporters before stepping away from the podium, ignoring the additional questions and comments being called out to him. 

At Pepper’s nod, the podium was bundled off stage by two Stark International employees, while a third passed out microphones to the main figures on the stage. Fury looked at his sourly; making sure it was turned off, before passing it to Coulson who was standing patiently behind him.

OoooO

While it had gone better than Loki had hoped, he was stilled worried about the follow up questions. There he would not be able to pick and choose his questions, so it could get ugly. Fast. He felt a soft pat on the back of his shoulder from Darcy Lewis, but rather than look at her, he squared his shoulders and focused his attention on his disguised clones in the audience. While some of the reporters looked troubled, no one looked excessively upset or agitated.

Amazingly, the first question was for Ms. Potts concerning his employment with Stark International. The reporter wanted to know how a supposedly a good corporate citizen that ‘gave back’ to the community could put corporate profits gained by hiring someone like him over the pain and money he had cost the citizens of New York.

Ms. Potts responded credibly he thought, but the increasingly hostile follow up questions made her smile fade a bit. Just as Loki was getting ready to step in, Stark interrupted her.

“I got this one Pep,” Stark said with a badly concealed smirk.

“You,” he said as he pointed disdainfully at the reporter that had been the most vocal. “Obviously, ‘you’ don’t do your homework.” Stark stood up and walked to the center of the stage. “Okay, I want to see a show of hands for everyone who actually did a real investigative check of Lucas Laufey the current alias of Loki the God of Mischief before they got here?”  Numerous hands were raised.

Stark stuck his lower lip out nodding. “Great. Now how many of you geniuses knew he was the sole support of a charity?” Almost all of the hands went down.

“Okay, where you from?” he asked a short plump brunette woman. “USA Today? Good, What about you with the beard?” He listened  for a moment, “The Wall Street Journal? Great.” Tony laughed, “Hey, you know I love you best right?” His eyes shifted to the back and he pointed once again. “What about you? Yeah, you with the blue blazer.” He paused for a moment and then turned and grinned at Pepper, “The Los Angeles Times? Hey Pep, from our old stomping grounds.”

Tony waved a hand dismissively and returned his attention to the audience. “Okay, a few more of you which is good. But honestly, the rest of you need a little more prep work next time. Just saying. We’re not always going to be able to spoon feed you guys.”

Loki was surprised when Tony turned to him and asked. “So Loki, tell the ones who didn’t do their prep work the name of your charity.”

“Ah… That would be the GOM Foundation, I established it when I first started working for Stark International.” A few reporters snickered.

“I know,” Tony smirked winking at the crowd. “Seriously? The God of Mischief Foundation? But I guess he couldn’t exactly call it the Poor Tortured Bastard Tries to Make Good Foundation. Heck even if he just used the initials PTBTTMG is a bit of a mouth full. Yes?” Tony’s face crinkled up and he laughed. “Sounds like a baby trying to spit out oatmeal doesn’t it.” There were enough chuckles from the audience that Tony smiled and wagged his eyebrows up and down a second.

Loki merely raised one of his eyebrows at Tony as he paced across the stage. “Anyhow, because I did ‘do’ my homework, unlike most of you drones. And no, I did not get this information from our payroll department.” Tony tossed a glance at Loki and then stopped in the center of the stage. “I did a web search of foundations dedicated to helping New Yorkers affected by the invasion. Anyhow, I know that every dime of Loki’s pay check goes into a stock account that funds the thing. Every single dime. Not once has Loki personally profited from working for Stark International. “

Tony grinned evilly down at the reporter who had started this line of questioning. “So you could say that by hiring Loki, Stark International has provided him with seed money to help the New Yorkers affected.”

“So. Loki, what else have you done for the citizen affected by your first visit?” Tony motioned Loki to come stand by him and then said, “Apples?”

Loki walked over and stood by Stark frowning slightly at him, “Well yes, as soon as I was released and allowed to leave Asgard, I did make arrangements for healing apples to be delivered to all of those that S.H.I.E.L.D. indicated were still having problems of any kind with their health.”  Loki looked back at Coulson, “Well over three thousand yes?”

Coulson turned on his microphone and calmly spoke over the rising tide of voices. “Yes, everyone that received one recovered fully. Even those still in ICU or extended care.”

“Well tell them about the lump sum you gave the city?” Loki narrowed his eyes at the snippy tone in Tony’s voice. Tony looked over at the sea of faces watching him in disbelief. “Oh come on people. Tell me you at least knew about the money he gave to the City of New York.” Tony cried in disbelief. He glared into the crowd as his lip curled. “Jeeze, are you sure you guys are reporters. That’s a public record for crying out loud, how can you not know about it?”

“I did liquidate my Asgard holdings, some of it before I left there,” Loki told the reporters. “Except for the gold used for a wergild paid to two guard’s kin and a patronage gift to one of the prison guards, I gave the rest of it to New York City about three and a half years ago. It was to be earmarked for restoration of public property that was damaged.”  He looked down for a moment and then glanced sideways at Tony before again looking over the assembled reporters. “I did check on the disbursement of those funds a few months ago through a public records request that Stark was kind enough to explain to me. All the monies were all properly expended.”

“Really,” the annoying reported questioned scornfully. “Was it enough to pay for all the damages?”

Loki turned a baleful stare upon the reporter. “It was eight and a half million of your dollars. I was only a second prince you know; I had no great Æsir property or assets. Most of the items were not in themselves worth a lot, but many had great historical value since some of the ones from this realm were over a thousand years old.” He smiled thinly, “And I of course was able to supply provenance.”

Loki had to admit that his own bad decisions had contributed to his present dilemma and that he had a crying need to have been seen to make amends if he ever hoped to be accepted. As Ms. Lewis would say, he needed the ‘good press’. And as a master manipulator, he knew that doing these things years before anyone else found out about them would give him additional credit. It was a shame it took so long for him to learn about trading stocks, he might not have had to sell everything but his books.

However, since he had brought his trouble on himself, there was no sense crying about the loss of his childhood trinkets.  His favorite toy, a small, intricately carved long boat, complete with figurines would be greatly missed. And of course selling his finely detailed Hnefatafl set had also been a blow. Loki had spent many hours at that board, playing against his mother, Odin, Heimdall and numerous others. Loki sighed to himself. However much he hated to part with it, the ‘Viking Chess’ set had been, in and of itself, worth a fortune since actual gods had played on it. It was especially valuable when he had been able to provide a complete set of the ‘lost’ rules for it. Provenance  of origin and previous players and Rules had been authenticated by Thor, the one Norse god the public had known about. Which was funny in a way, since Thor barely knew the rules and played at the level of a novice and Loki had been barely speaking to him at the time.

While he would be the last to whine about the sentiment attached to the items he had sold, Loki had tried to place as many of them as he could in museum collections so he could at least view them in the future if he desired. He tried not to bemoan the sale of the ones that had gone to the higher paying private collections. Those ones were now lost to him, most likely forever. Still he had been lucky he had so much to sell. Retention of keepsakes was an ingrained part of the Æsir life span, memories that were centuries old needed some anchors after all. Now in time those memories would fade and he would have to substitute new memories, Midgardian ones. 

 “So,” Tony overrode whatever retort that the reporter was trying to make. “This guy,” he pointed at Loki. “Who was absolved from blame for the attack due to torture and mental coercion, liquidated his entire princely estate and donated that money to the City of New York AND donates his entire Stark International salary to an investment account used by his foundation. Which by the way, the GOM Foundation has paid out almost what? Nine million dollars in the last four years according to my research.” Tony looked over at Loki, who shrugged and nodded agreement with his total. Tony continued with narrowed eyes and revulsion dripping from every syllable, “So what exactly are you are complaining about? It’s not normal for conscripted soldiers to have to pay damages to the countries they invade. And with the medical assistance his mother helped him provide I would say Loki has gone above and beyond what anyone can expect of him reparations wise.”

“If that’s the case, what do you live on?” shouted a reporter from the back of the conference room.

Stark shook his head in exasperation and returned to his seat. Holding his microphone away from him, Tony leaned over and angrily whispered something to Pepper, who shot him an irritated glance before hushing him.

Loki’s lips twitched in a self-depreciating grin as he answered that last question. “I live off the investment dividends from a stock trading account I started while going to the Carnegie Mellon University. I originally funded it by doing free-lance work as a college student.”

One of his clones on the far side of the room became aware of odd activities by one of the video camera operators. While Loki was not looking in that direction, via his clone, Loki was saw a stocky camera man pull items out various equipment bags that were lined up against the wall. As the man began snapping them together, it became apparent that the man was not putting together a tripod or anything that looked camera related, but it didn’t really look like a gun either.

Coulson was coming forward to answer a question about why S.H.I.E.L.D. had allowed his identity to be kept secret. As Loki headed back towards his seat, he began making changes to the wards he had placed around the podium.

Coulson hadn’t yet started answering the question when all hell broke loose.

Chapter Text

Chapter #23 – Take Down

After Loki was finished with his initial statement he turned his back on the audience catching Tony’s eye. The god briefly raised both brows as his lips twitched into a smirk, both movements vanishing so fast that Tony almost didn’t catch them. 

The son of a bitch was acting?! No way. 

“Seriously Snape? A Harry Potter reference?” Tony scoffed in an undertone as Loki passed near him. Although of all the cultural references Lokmeister had, he really did have his Potter lore down pat. If Tony had known that he was going to become so immersed in Potter-verse he might not have recommended it. Although being called a muggle was a nice change from Loki telling Tony he was rebel scum. Star Wars being the first Midgardian classic he had recommended to the god.

“Why not,” the god retorted automatically in a low whisper, pausing for a moment. At Tony’s skeptically lifted brow he said, “And despite the black hair and green eyes, I would not have been in Slytherin you know. I’d have been in Ravenclaw same as you.”

“No way, I’m Gryffindor. 

“Will you two concentrate?” Pepper hissed without altering the serene mask she was wearing as she watched the crowd being released from Loki’s voice and the podium finally being bundled off the platform.

She then stood up to answer a question insinuating how Stark International couldn’t be a good corporate citizen since they hired Loki.

Well that was total crap, so Tony decided to pitch in and give her a hand.

That jerk reporter was really, really pissing him off. Tony wondered if maybe he should have Jarvis see about buying controlling interest in whatever company the reporter worked for so he could fire his annoying ass.    

As he returned to his seat, he leaned down to hiss at Pepper, “I thought we screened these fuckers?”

Disgruntled at Pepper waving him off, Tony sat down, pulling out his phone and texting Jarvis with a request for the name of the annoying reporter and his company.  While he knew he shouldn’t do it, he decided to look up a few news feeds while he was waiting for Jarvis to answer him. Hey he was still listening, kinda. After all he was Tony Fucking Stark, and he was a god among multitaskers.

His split attention meant when the shit starting raining down, he got soaked. One minute he was cruising twitter-verse, the next he being knocked to the floor by Loki as Coulson leapt in front of Fury. Tony fell heavily, almost bouncing the back of his head off the platform floor, watching as Loki dove at Pepper, rolling her underneath as their momentum carried them over the side of the platform by the stairs and out of sight.

“Holy crap, what the hell is going on?” Darcy yelled from the back of the stage where she and Eddie were tangled up on the floor, covered by one of the backdrop curtains that had been pulled down on top of them somehow. “Eddie, kindly get the hell off of me.”

“Everybody down!” Loki called from the far side of the room, where he was pushing reporters aside heading towards the camera set up area.

Okay, that’s was weird Tony thought. If he looked one way he could still see Loki in a suit, dragging Pepper behind some metal equipment containers, if he looked the other way, Loki in armor was wading through reporters on the other end of the room. Which meant those damn clones were in play.

Tony really, really hated those clones. Besides it just wasn’t fair. If Loki could multitask with actual bodies, why couldn’t Tony? What freaking kind of fruit did he have to eat to become the God of Multiplicity?

“Coulson, get some agents in here now!” Fury shouted, pulling out a gun and trying to figure out where the threat was coming from.

The entire room was filled with a hubbub of noise. Murmuring voices, small shuffling noises, tiny exclamations of puzzlement, little gasps of surprise which turned in to big gasps of dismay when Fury pulled out his gun.

Then expletives, some soft, some shouted as the reporters turned towards the exits and several more Loki clones shimmered into existence and began shoving and encouraging those frozen into place to move out of harm’s way.

“EVERYONE STOP RIGHT NOW!”

Tony’s head whipped back around in the direction of Armor Loki. People were now frantically trying to get out of his way. There only a few yards away from him stood a screaming camera man… Holding a gun of some sort.   Of course there was. Tony sighed internally, he really couldn’t get a good enough look to tell what kind, but he really, really hoped the gun wasn’t something Stark Weapons had manufactured. Because honesty, that would be the cherry on the dog shit sundae that his day was turning into.

“Jarvis! Suit please!”

“Right away sir.” Jarvis replied over the PA system. Startled by either his yell or Jarvis’ reply, several of the reporters stopped and tried to move back towards the platform. Apparently a news scoop was worth possible injury or death.

Morons.

Tony would never, never if he lived to be a hundred, which he actually had a pretty good shot of doing now, understand reporters.

“I SAID, STOP RIGHT NOW!” screamed the camera man, face flushed as he pointed the gun at the stage, pulling the trigger and releasing a freaking shit-load of bullets.

For a few moments, Tony lost sight of the gunman. Well he had been trying to burrow into the platform floor, covering his head with both arms, so that wasn’t too surprising. The area in front of the platform glowed and shimmied and did some sparkly shit that quite honestly Tony’s mind could not comprehend. Were they in some kind of freaky green Jell-O mold? None of the bullets made it onto the platform. The god damn things were just ‘stuck’, freaking stuck hanging in mid-air in the pale, translucent green glow-y crap that was in front of them. As Tony watched, they began to slide down towards the floor.

“Jarvis! Tell me you’re getting readings of this?”

“Of course sir.”

“Well done Jarv.”

Tony decided to trust his life to the Jell-O shield and stood up to better see what was going on.

“What the hell is that mess all about.” He heard Darcy say, apparently about the Jell-O shield.

“Stark! You have any idea what is going on?” Fury asked, also rising from the floor.

“Yeah, I do. There’s a crazy person with a gun Nick, what the hell do you think is going on?”

They both flinched when the unmistakable sounds of another round of bullets being fired was heard. Fortunately, if it could be called fortunate that someone was shooting at you, the bullets were being caught in the shield.  Tony wondered if his suit would be able to make it through the shield. Or since it might completely surround them, if he could get out?

He heard Darcy screaming for Eddie to let go of her, and Eddie yelling at her to stay down.  Coulson was talking to someone on his phone, talking fast, but not yelling or anything. Because hey, it was Coulson, the guy probably didn’t know how to yell.

The camera man was screaming that they were all traitors for allowing the maniac who killed his wife to walk free.

Tony walked to the front of the platform, gingerly touching a fingertip to the where the shield seemed to be. There was nothing there. No resistance, no tingle, no nothing. His finger went right through it.

All right, freaky magic shit.

Tony reached over and took hold of one of the bullets that was slowly sliding towards the floor. He tugged on it gently and was able to pull towards him. It released like something that was stuck in warm taffy or something.

What he hell.

Tony jumped off the platform and headed towards Amour Loki and the suddenly not so screaming camera dude.

 Ignoring shouts from Fury ordering him not to do anything stupid, he stepped over reporters who were huddled on floor and various personal items that had been dropped or discarded in the rush for the door.

Armor Loki, who had the camera man pinned up against the wall by his throat, turned his head at Tony’s approach, snarling, “Stark you idiot, why aren’t you behind the shield!”

“Now, now Clone Warrior, just calm down.” Tony said soothingly as he picked up the gun that had been knocked to the floor. “It seems perfectly safe; you seem to have the howling madman under control.”

Armor Loki released the camera man, who slid down to the floor and lay there gasping. He then shimmered, Tony heard Pepper yelp and suddenly Tony was looking at… he peered closely, the real Loki, slightly disheveled suit and all. 

“So you can change places with your clones huh? Cool.” he said and then started as the camera man started to scream at them.

Loki flicked him an agreeing grin as he gestured at the raging camera man, whose nostrils suddenly flared, trying to suck in air with lips that writhed, unable to part. Glowing green ropes snaked around the man’s wrists and ankles before Loki shoved him sideways to the floor.

“Humm.” Tony hummed examining the gun. “You know it’s lucky that he was stupid enough to fire his second magazine into that shield of yours rather than the crowd.”

Loki agreed with an absent minded grunt as he pawed through various equipment bags lined up on the wall.

“No really,” Tony insisted. “This is a Steyr TMP, it’s fully automatic, it can release its full clip in under a minute just by holding the trigger down.”

Loki's grin faltered.

“He could have wounded or killed half the people here with just one of those clips.” Tony expertly released the empty clip and examined it. “These are modified clips; they they probably held at least fifty rounds each.”

Loki held open one of the bags and tilted it towards Tony, “he had a lot more clips.”

“Yeah. Okay. That could have been bad.” Tony looked around the emptying hall. “That could have been very bad.”

Coulson, followed by several agents walked over towards them. As the accompanying agents took control of the cameraman, he walked over to stand beside Loki and peer into the equipment bags.

“That is a lot of ammo, way more than one person needs.” He said quietly as he looked at Loki, “We need to know if he was expecting a partner or was working for a group.”

“Yes you do,” agreed Loki.

Shaking his head, and staring at Loki, Coulson said, “No. Seriously. We ‘need’ to know this.”

Tony listened to the Loki and Coulson with half an ear, while watching Stark International security Preventing people from re-entering and encouraging those still in the room to leave.  He heard Darcy, assuring everyone in the hallway that a press release would be issued in the next few hours. Eddie was getting the names, cell phone numbers and list of the items that needed to be retrieved by various individuals, Also making note of which reporters were going to wait in the lobby coffee shop to retrieve their belongings as soon as the police had taken their pictures and surveyed the crime scene.

“What do you want me to do?” Loki hissed at Coulson, recalling Tony’s wandering attention.

The god’s lips were tight, his jaw clenched, it was very apparent that he was annoyed.  “Do you want me to use the scepter to mind control the man, here, in front of all these media people? Don’t you think S.H.I.E.L.D. should at least try to get the information before asking me to do that?”

“No, you’re not doing that. Not now, not at all.” Said a barefoot Pepper, walking up behind Loki. “That would be a PR nightmare of horrific proportions.”

“Now Ms. Potts, we may need to keep it in reserve at least.”

Pepper grabbed Loki’s arm, “No Phil. The man said his wife was killed, that would be a monumental mistake, emotionally for him and Loki… And there is no way it would not get out to the media eventually and become a disaster for everyone, including Stark Industries. So, No.”

Coulson looked at Loki, getting nothing back. Ah well, thought Tony. He grinned and shook his head when Coulson looked over towards him for possible support. “Come on Pep,” he said grabbing her free arm and pivoting both her and Loki towards the door leading into the service hall, “let’s go find your shoes.”

“I have them right here Ms. Potts,” Darcy said, trotting over and handing them to Tony to carry.

Darcy consulted her clip board, looked at Loki and proceeded to rattle away, ignoring the chaos around her. “Unless you have something else for me to do right now, I’ll stay down here until the preliminary investigation is done. I want to make sure that none of those goofy reporters start anything.” She waved her rescued clip board in the direction of those maligned members of the media that were clustered by the main doors and continued speaking at top speed. “I have Eddie baby, making nice with the reporters in the coffee shop, stuff enough free muffins and lattes down ‘em and they’ll be in too much of a sugar stupor to cause much trouble today. Also the senior PR peeps that weren’t already involved with this are going to go into a huddle with everyone and I’ll bring you their recommendations as soon as they come up with them.”

She ticked a few things off her list. “Ms. Fogal called, there are people snooping around your apartment building. Which is like totally a pain, but hey it happens. Anyhow, I had Eddie call to one of Stark International’s senior lawyer’s. They are currently having a come to Jesus meeting with the your building management and then will contact all the concierge’s individually to make sure no one says anything about you living there. Legally, they aren’t allowed. But people get stupid when you shove a camera in their face. So best to threaten first and not have to repent at all.”

“What?” She said, looking around at the expressions of disbelief being directed her way.

“Oh, and I need you to give me your key.” She held out her hand, waiting as a bemused Loki dug his key ring out of his pocket to give it to her. “Eddie and I will stop over later tonight to pick up some of your stuff and throw out a false trail if we need to. I’ll wait with Clara while I send Eddie back with your toiletries and a few changes of clothes and have him stick them in one of the guest apartments on the Seventy-ninth floor. Jarvis will let me know which one. Once he gets you your stuff, he’ll come back and we’ll spend a few nights in your guest room. You place is deeded under Clara’s name, but people may have noticed you going in and out of the building. I’ll just tell anyone who asks that I’m Clara’s niece who’s keeping an eye on the place until she can get another tenant. ” 

“Darcy Lewis!” Tony laughed, letting go of Pepper and touching a hand to his chest, “I am shocked. Shocked I say.” Tony’s entire face was lit up with amusement.

“What?” Darcy smirked. “The Eddie part or the lying part?”

“Well no, of course not the lying. The lying goes without saying; you are a Personal Assistant after all, the lying is in your job description. But you could at least pretend Eddie was going to sleep on the sofa.” Tony was amused; Darcy was turning into quite the efficient little Stalker-slash-Personal Assistant and was entertaining to boot. Something that even Pepper had not managed to do very often.

“Please. Have you seen how nice his couch is? I would not even think of letting a body less fine than Loki’s sleep on it.” Darcy rolled her eyes over her shoulder to make sure Eddie was still out of hearing range. A wide wicked smile blossomed on her face and she leaned in to whisper, “Besides, I’m not exactly Eddie’s flavor of the month… If you know what I mean.”

“Darcy, be nice!” Pepper choked, trying to stifle a laugh.

“Oh I am going to be very nice. Yep, I am going to be very, very nice. I’ve always wanted to try that you know. Turn one.” Darcy closed her eyes and let a dreamy expression flow across her features. Taking a deep breath, she tilted her head and fanned herself gently with her free hand. “And he is so pretty… Oh, Eddie….” She moaned softly before opening her eyes and then winking at Loki. “It won’t work, but it will bug the hell out of him and be lots of fun for me. Oh and don’t worry, I’ll ask Mimi to lock your bedroom door so he can’t go fondle your head board or anything.”

Loki, who had been watching her with mild amusement, let lose a strangled cough of his own at Darcy’s last comment. Tony snickered, and earned himself a halfhearted glare from both Loki and Pepper.

“You know what Darc, take one of the senior drivers with you and have him wait, don’t tell him what you are doing and don’t let him come into the building. Eddie can run the stuff out to him, and that way you won’t be alone for more than a few minutes.”

“Why thank you Stark.” Loki said appreciatively. “Ms. Lewis, I will call Mimi and let him know you are coming. And yes, please ask him to secure my bedroom and keep it safe from headboard strokers.”  

“Lewis!” Fury roared.

“Yeah, yeah. Keep your eye patch on, I’m coming.” Darcy yelled over her shoulder. “I swear, you sign one little non-disclosure form with S.H.I.E.L.D. and they think they own your ass. Like that is ever going to happen.” She dimpled and looked meltingly at Loki, “Unless it’s your non-disclosure form, then I am totally on board with you owning my ass,” she mockingly cooed at the god.

“Ah. Thank you… I think.” Loki said amusement keeping his tone light. “Perhaps later, for right now I think we’ll just stick with the standard Stark International non-disclosure forms. Loki tossed a glance at Fury, before meeting Darcy’s eyes and continuing in a more serious tone. “You don’t have to tell him anything, debrief or do anything he asks.  You work for me and me alone, via Stark International and I have the only legitimate claim on your time. If he wants to talk to you in any depth, tell him I said he needs a subpoena.”

“Lewis! Now!”

“Okay,” Darcy breathed happily. “I will very definitely keep that in mind. 

Chapter Text

Chapter #24 - Stark Tower

“Jarvis, let me talk to Loki please.” Tony said, studying the offending email closely before calling up a file from Stark Internationals Project Group.

“I’m sorry sir, but Mister Laufey is not available at the moment. Shall I leave him a message to call you in the morning?” 

 Tony threw the tablet down on the couch beside him and frowned slightly. “He can’t be sleeping already can he? My lord, he just got down there a half hour or so ago. He should still be unpacking his hair care products for crying out loud.” Tony stood up, kicked his shoes he had taken off earlier under the couch before heading over towards the bar. Okay, so he was supposed to be cutting back on the alcohol, but honestly one drink was practically nothing for him, especially with his godly strong liver, so what could it hurt?

Putting the whiskey back on the shelf, Tony reached down to open the small bar fridge, he splashed a bit on tonic in his glass and then threw in a few ice cubes. See he was being good; he diluted his drink for crying out loud. He wryly considered the days in his recent past where he would have considered it sacrilege to add water in any form to his whiskey. But hey, he was now the new and improved Tony Stark 3.1, complete with not only god-like powers, which would be the three, but also the point one, which was a smidgen of common sense. That was new.

Speaking of which… “Jarvis, where is Pepper right now?”

“Ms. Potts has gone back to her office, she is getting ready for a conference call with the Tokyo Electric Power Company and does not wish to be disturbed by anyone,” said Jarvis firmly, “not even by you sir. She did say that if you had anything to talk to her about, she was willing to meet with you over breakfast in the morning.”

Tony looked mildly pained at the thought of actually eating breakfast food at breakfast time, or indeed waking up at that time. “Yeah. Like that is going to happen.”

“True sir, the earliest you normally like to wake is how do you put it? Oh yes, the ‘crack of noon.’”

“Funny, Jarv. Besides, I don’t even want to see Pepper right now. I just wanted to know where she was,” the engineer said, he had changed the minute he got back to the penthouse, he was now wearing only black sweat pants, socks and an old ZZ Top t-shirt. Swirling his drink, Tony padded over to the elevator

“I think I will go visit O’cranky one and make sure the guest suite had towels and fresh sheets and shit like that.”

OoooO

After having Jarvis make sure that Loki wasn’t doing anything private or embarrassing, Tony had him unlock the door for him. It had been said before, by Bruce as a matter of fact, that Tony had no concept of privacy for other people. Which if Tony was going to be fair, he would have to admit. So he thanked heaven that he wasn’t exactly fair sometimes, because if he ever came to believe that statement, he might actual have to deactivate a lot of cameras and totally rework Jarvis’ operating parameters. And that was never going to happen, he was just too nosy.

Peering unseeingly into the night, Loki was sitting on the long low window seat, one leg resting on the floor, the other resting against the window and bent almost to his chest, his arm was draped over his drawn up knee, long pale fingers idly brushing the glass. Loki had discarded his jacket, tie and shoes on a nearby chair and had even undone three or four buttons on his shirt. He was looking as casual as anyone could who was still wearing dress pants and a button-down collar shirt.  

Tony walked over to Loki’s seat, sipping his drink, he settled, almost mirroring Loki’s posture on the other side of the wide window seat. “What ya looking at Reindeer Games?”

Turning to face Tony, Loki huffed. “Nothing really Stark, it’s too dark. The only things you can really see are the lights.” He looked at Tony a minute and then turned back towards the night view.

Tony held his drink up to his eyes and examined it, then looking over the top of the glass, he studied Loki. There was an unfamiliar look on Loki's face, tight skin around down cast eyes, lips pressed in a thin straight line, knitted brows and tight jaw muscles.  Not that any one of those things were unusual, but what was unusual was to see them all at once.  They were just slightly wrong, not unlike like the tension hidden in what was an outwardly a graceful, open sprawl. 

“You know,” Tony said in a disinterested, detached voice, “as a catalyst of change, you don’t seem to be very good at dealing with it personally.  Just saying.”

Flicking a rueful look at Tony, Loki snorted. An unusual sound for him, but then today had been anything but normal. “No Stark I really don’t.” He crossed his arms. “Remember your cracks about me being OCD? I will admit that there might be a tiny bit of that in my mental makeup.”

The god looked up at Tony and almost managed to restrain a flash of panic as it flitted across his features.  There and gone, so fast that Tony almost questioned if he has seen it at all. “Recently it has seemed to me that every change in my life has been catastrophic. Don’t forget I have lived centuries with only minor changes occurring every few decades.  But now, every year, sometimes every month it’s something life changing. It’s tiring for me to say the least. At the very least…” Loki’s voice trailed off, he ran a hand through his hair, resettling it off his face.

Running his finger around the rim of his glass, Tony said thoughtfully, “So Asgardian’s really don’t like change huh?”

A sinister chuckle slipped out and for the barest moment of time his expression became darkly gleeful. “No. Not at all, why do you think they disliked me so much?”

“And, you aren’t doing so well either huh?”

Loki replied with a delicate shudder, “I may be a catalyst for change, and I maybe better at it than any other Æsir, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.” He waved his other hand around, indicating the large apartment they were sitting in without actually looking at it. “Even this chips away at me. By the Nine, I slept in the same set of rooms for hundreds of years. Granted, I went on trips, sometimes for years, but my apartment was unchanging, always there to come back to...”

Tony wondered what it would be like to spend hundreds of years living in the same place. Yesterday, he might have thought it would be boring beyond words… But perhaps it would be more of an anchor to bring you back to yourself. Pepper had been his anchor for so many years when he went off the deep end. She had been someone safe and familiar to cling to, no matter what changes or disaster occurred to him. What would happen to him if ever he didn’t have her as his friend and anchor? Just thinking about a life without Pepper in it caused black despair to pool in his belly, heavy, wet, suffocating as it rose into his chest, his throat, threatening to choke him.

Whoa.

Okay, this is not good. Just the ‘thought’ of losing his anchor was making Tony almost panic. How much worse for someone it was actually happening to? Someone who had gone centuries with that same anchor before it became unavailable to him?

“Asgard, untouched, unchanged,” Loki said in a low voice, almost to himself, eyelashes trembling against pale cheek bones, “One millennium then another, seemingly so perfect that none can even consider something different. Desperate for growth, desperate for change, but unable to take the steps to achieve it. So familiar and comforting that anything the least bit different is repulsed with savage reprisal.”

Tony wondered how much savage reprisal a boy who would rather sling spells than learn to swing a sword would have to put up with in Asgard.

Loki’s breath hitched and he opened his eyes, still gazing out the window; Tony realized with a start, that while he had looked out the window, and had looked at Tony, Loki hadn’t once looked into the apartment that he was staying in. Studying him closely, he saw a slight sheen of sweat on Loki’s face.

Tony knew the cause of Loki’s perspiration had to be emotional; the room they were in was definitely not warm. Having been empty for weeks the apartment had been only minimally heated and it would take several more hours of slowly increasing temperatures for all the surfaces to stop radiating a slight chill. 

“I’m going to have to move, I know I have to. It wouldn’t be safe to stay at my condo, it’s too exposed, it wouldn’t be safe for me to stay there, or for Ms. Fogal and the others.” Loki’s voice had a bit of a tremor in it. He looked up at Tony, his pupils wide despite the bright lights holding back the darkness in the room. “Did you know that everything about my condo I controlled. Everything, from the size and placement of the rooms, right down to every fixture and finish, it was a shell when I bought it.”

The corners of Loki’s lips pressed down. “It took months to finish. I was staying at Ms. Fogal’s, I hadn’t started college yet. I went to the condo every day to check on the progress and place protective spells. I had to find things to occupy me while I waited, I painted every room in her house; I scraped and painted the every bit of the outside. I almost never slept; I would work all night long.” His lip twitched into a momentary smile, “Her neighbors were incensed.” 

Both knees were now pulled up to Loki’s chest and his arms were wrapped around them, holding them tight. His voice was faint, “I was going to start building a seven foot brick wall around her property when she suggested I take some night classes to distract me.” Loki’s face was turned against the cool of the window. “So I joined Carnegie’s engineering program, I would leave a clone here so I could switch locations quickly and keep an eye on my condo.” Loki buried his head on his knees, breathing in short rapid bursts.

Double Whoa.

Tony eased softly to his feet, placing his drink on the window seat. Sliding over to the stricken god, he snaked an arm behind Loki’s shoulders pulling the Loki to his chest. “Hey,” he said gently, turning Loki’s face towards him and stroking the long black hair back out of the way.

Tony lifted Loki’s chin, fastening worried brown eyes upon frantic green ones. 

“Rock of Ages, are you getting ready to have a panic attack? Please. Please, no panic attacks.”

Of all the things Tony did not want to see this evening, a sorcerous god losing his shit was number one on his list. He was fairly sure that panicky deities did more than toss around a little furniture when they snapped.

Tony had not only touched Loki, not in the fun way sadly, but still he had to a certain extent manhandled Mister Untouchable and he hadn’t been thrown out a window.

This was so not good.

“Come on buddy,” he said soothingly, tugging on Loki’s knees, getting him to put his feet on the floor. “Jarvis, open the elevator, we’ll be out there in a minute.”

“Very good sir,” the AI replied.

“Oh, and power up the lab.” Tony thought furiously. “Open up the complete drawings for this building, highlight every floor that hasn’t been finished out.” He looped Loki’s arm over his shoulder and held on to it, his other arm slid down and tightened around the god’s slender waist. Moving slowly he steered the unresisting, shallowly breathing deity towards the entry hall.

Bruce’s lab had a Hulk-slash-Almost-God-Proof containment room. It might not be very calming to Loki, but Tony would feel safer.

Chapter Text

Chapter #25 – Uninhibited Design

Tony wondered if he was crazy. Which was a stupid thing to wonder about; obviously he was, despite what he told other people about the jury being out. That was most likely the reason he had decided to bypass Bruce’s lab, popping Loki in a containment room might make him feel safer, but it most certainly wouldn’t be very calming to Loki.

After entering his own lab and settling Loki in his own high backed station chair, Tony went over to the lab’s kitchen area to fix them both something to drink. One bottle of scotch and a bowl of ice for him and a large pitcher of vodka and orange juice, very heavy on the vodka, for the Lokemeister. Add a couple of glasses and they were good to go. Tony carried the tray over and set it on the design table beside Loki, who was currently being badgered to accept a damp towel by one very insistent robot.

“Look, you know he isn’t going to leave you alone until you take the damn towel, so just do it okay?”

“Thank you,” Loki said in a faint voice, accepting the towel from Dummy with a shaky hand. He folded it into a small pad and pressed it against his forehead.

“Okay Dummy, back it up now, he’s fine.” Tony said, making a shooing motion.

Dummy tilted his camera with a small disbelieving blurt, peering closely at the god. This earned the robot a sidelong look from Loki.

“Dummy, would you please go hold the supply closet door closed for me until morning? I don’t want any of the bolts or wire spools to enter the lab this evening,” Loki requested in that same faint tone, before wiping his face with the towel.

The robot immediately turned and trundled away with a determined trill.

Rolling his eyes, Tony smirked and handed Loki a large tumbler of vodka and orange. “Well I could have got him to move too if I had cheated. Drink your Screwdriver; you look like you need it.”

“Stark…”

“Yeah, okay.”

Tony grabbed his own chair and bellied up to the design table pulling tower blueprints apart and flinging them into the air.

 “Look,” he told Loki pointing to the tower’s overall wire rendering. “These are the floors that are empty. Nothing. Nada. Metal studs on the walls and that’s it. Would that suit you better? You design it to suit you.”

Blinking a time or two and taking a deep breath, Loki rolled a distracted glance at the screens floating in front of him.

 “Here give me that,” Tony said reaching for the damp towel. He folded several ice cubes into the towel and then handed it back to Loki, guiding the god’s hand until the wrapped cubes were pressed against a pulse point on Loki’s neck.

“Two weeks tops, we could have it done.”

Loki pulled his gaze from the rendering and looked at Tony, disbelief evident on his face.

Tony was relieved to see that Loki’s breathing was becoming less shallow as he focused on Tony. “I’m telling you, Danny Loyola has an excellent crew and is a genius with outside contractors. You’ve met him. We tell him two weeks and it will be two weeks.”

 

Eyes that were still so dilated that they were almost entirely pupil, flicked to the floor plans floating in the air and then turned back to Tony.

“Drink,” Tony ordered.

“Jarvis, what’s Danny working on right now?”

“Mister Loyola and his crew are currently installing blast resistant windows at the Fifth Avenue townhouse, sir. After that they are tentatively scheduled to remodel Ms. Potts condo.” Jarvis intoned.

“See?” Tony said cheerfully as he refilled Loki’s drink from the pitcher. He made a mental note to add a few ice cubes next time he filled it.

Loki’s eyes narrowed and he absent mindedly drank his Screwdriver. While the god did not normally indulge in alcohol, he was very fond of orange juice and a real sucker for any girly drink that included it. Yep, a total pushover for sissy drinks especially ones with garnishes. He had been known to chug a drink just to get at the alcohol soaked fruit that had dropped to the bottom of his glass.  While the Trickster pondered, Tony sent Jarvis a text message to have one of the night crew to put a few bottles of peach schnapps, orange juice and some containers of pitted cherries and pineapple chunks in his private elevator and send them up.  Top the Screwdrivers off with a few pitchers of Fuzzy Navels with pineapple and cherry garnish and the god would be lucky to know what planet he was on, let alone what had freaked him so bad.  Tony grinned to himself. He had no intention of making the fruit easy for the god to get either. Nope, no placing it on toothpicks or anything like that. It could just roll around in the bottom of Loki’s glass with the ice cubes.

Thinking about ice cubes, Tony had just dropped a few in his own glass and poured a few fingers of scotch over them when the god spoke.

“Ms. Potts needs to move here. Her current apartment is not secure enough.” Overly bright eyes bored into Tony.

“Not a problem,” Tony assured him. “I’m sure between the two of us we can talk her into it.”

“And we need to own the floors we live on.” Loki said eyes unblinking and still focused on Tony; without breaking eye contact with Tony he wiped the cold towel across the back of his neck, his hand shaking only a little now.

“Sure. No Problem.” Tony’s mouth said before his brain caught up to it.

Hey.

“Hey. Wait a minute; this is my tower.” Tony stuttered, unsure what had just happened.

“And it will be our home. We need the security of owning our own home. You will still own the tower; we will just own the floor that our apartments are on. It is not unheard of Stark.”

His initial gut reaction was to tell Loki to take a flying leap at a rolling donut and fuck off. But as Loki was still staring unblinkingly at Tony, he decided to spend a few minutes to think this through.

Okay, while he might not like it, it was doable. While he didn’t think Pepper would care… Who knew? It ‘might’ be important to her to actually own the floor she was living on, just like she owned her current condo.

He took a small sip of his drink and Loki mirrored him, but with a much larger swallow.

From the certifiably intent way Loki was staring at him, it was obviously very important to the god that he actually own his own floor. But with a few minutes more reflection, Tony decided that a guy who had lived in the same suite for centuries in his family’s palace, might have a crying need for a permanent space now that those rooms were no longer available to him.

Tony took another very small sip of scotch, more to buy time than anything else. After all, his getting drunk was not the plan this evening.

While Tony had originally planned to have the Avengers move into his tower, the thought of Fury and his drones having access to secure floors that he also lived on had put the kibosh on those plans. Hence the modifications to the Fifth Avenue house. He also, had some hazy future plan of perhaps giving the Avengers their own tower.

If his property purchase worked out for Potts Tower he would have enough space for a four tower complex, with Stark Tower being one corner of that development, the Avengers being another. Tony brightened slightly as he considered his future plans. He would keep that forth tower in reserve… just in case he ever screwed up enough to need to offer naming rights to his favorite insane Norse god.

The thought of all that wonderful, possible, future construction formed a huge smile form on Tony’s face. He just couldn’t help it. And that in turn made the thought of losing two floors out of ninety-three not so big a deal. Especially since those two floors would mean two of his best friends were so close by.

“Yeah, sure.” The engineer said, focusing on crazy god rather than his own thoughts. “You could buy your floors.”

“And we need one more floor with apartments to keep valued minions safe and close at hand,” Loki insisted.

“Yeah and no. Yes to the apartments, no to the minion thing.” Tony chuckled into his glass. “We don’t call people that here, pick another term.”

Loki’s brow furrowed in concentration. “I would not call Ms. Lewis a thrall,” he said in a troubled voice. “Favorites?” he offered.

“Sure, I’m good with favorites. Anything but minion. You aren’t blue and Darcy doesn’t float around in a fish bowl.”

At Loki’s confused look he continued. “It’s a cartoon. Jarvis, put Megamind on rotation for the next time we have dinner down here. Okay?”

“Of course sir.”

Not that looking at Darcy floating around wet in a giant hamster ball wouldn’t be an entertaining experience. Of course that being said, Loki could totally rock the skin tight leather and latex look even if his skin wasn’t blue.

“Stark?”

Tony did a mental head shake, wondering how long he had been lost in the mental image of a nice set of floating boobs. Not to mention skin tight leather on something tall, hot and… Focus. Tony needed to focus.  

Focus.

“So. A floor for you, one for Pepper and one more for our assistants?” Tony recapped. “Oh, and they don’t own the apartments, only you and Pepper do.”

Loki indicated his agreement with a short nod.

“Fine. Jarvis, look up square foot and location price comparable.” Tony popped a few ice cubes in Loki’s glass and emptied the last of the contents of the pitcher into it.

“You,” he told the god as he headed into the kitchen, “decide which floors we should use.”

“Me? I’m going to get some stuff out of the elevator and pop into the kitchen for a minute,” Tony said, plunking the empty pitcher down on the kitchenette’s counter. He almost skipped to the security door, gleefully tapping his finger on the lock and entering into the elevator foyer. He had drinks to make and design work to do. Did it get any better than this he wondered?

OoooO

The rest of the evening went by in a blur for Loki. Floors were chosen and elevator accesses were decided, favorites would use the main elevator, but have access to the Penthouse levels from both the ground floor and the executive level. Several one room apartment spaces were roughed out, with a common gathering area just as you exited the elevator. The floor below it, where Loki was currently staying in the large guest apartment, would remain with the rest staying individual guest rooms with attached baths, sharing a central gathering and kitchen area just as you exited the elevator. 

The top three floors were already Tony’s, his apartment, his lab and then the formal entertainment floor with theater room, card room, professional chef’s kitchen, and an enormous entertainment area with attached terrace. Since neither the entertainment floor nor the roof garden was used much, it was decided that they would be shared among the three of them and have an inner connecting stair with the two new floors for emergencies.

Pepper would have the floor immediately under the entertainment floor, with Loki below her. The favorites would be several floors lower, with the floors between left empty for the time being.  Tony didn’t care; he kept saying something about uncompleted space not being taxed.

In between drinking and trying to rescue fruit from the bottom of his glass, Loki roughed out his space, three bedrooms with attached baths, a library with a blast proof safe room for his magical artifacts and rare books and a secured waiting room as you exited the elevator. The windows in his living room were to be recessed and disappeared completely into the wall, allowing access to a wide porch with an invisible glass railing that went the entire length of his living room.  He had liked that idea so much that they added one outside the master bedroom.

Tony had already had Jarvis send a message to Stark Industries building crew, alerting them to meet their supervisor Danny Loyola at Stark Tower in the morning, rather than the Fifth Avenue location. They could begin prepping Loki’s floor for construction and spend the rest of the day shifting basic material up there, while Loyola walked the preliminary plans through city hall for a building permit.

“Jarvis, will this plan be enough for the permits?” Loki asked slowly as Tony busied himself in the kitchen area.

“It is sir, once the initial permits have been secured, quite a bit can change before even a permit amendment is required,” Jarvis assured him. “You will have time to fine tune the design at a later date when you are perhaps not so… relaxed.”

Loki grinned, leaning back in his chair and throwing his free hand up to lay it on the top of the chair, before curling it over the top of his head and smoothing his hair away from his face. Tony bumped his knee against Loki’s causing him to roll his head over and look at the man. He dropped ice and fruit into Loki’s glass, before filling it with the pitcher he held.

“So. Sugar. Any idea what you want to do with the kitchen area?”

OoooO

Sometime during a discussion of various floor finishes, Loki woke with a start. Stark was trying to pry the glass out of his hand. “What the hell are you…,” Loki batted at him petulantly. “H-hey. My glass. Get your own.” Loki was confused and indignant. After all night of filling his glass, the bastard mortal was now trying to take it away. It still had fruit in it!

“Give it back. M-my pineapple,” he demanded.

Blinking his eyes several times to try and clear his blurry vision, Loki tried to glare at Tony, who just laughed and set the glass down on the tray.

“Come on sweet cheeks, up and at ‘em,” Tony said, grabbing Loki’s arm and hauling him out of his chair.

Or rather he tried to haul him out of his chair. Halfway there, Loki fell back, causing the chair to roll backwards with a bit of a spin.

Drunk? Loki wondered dizzily. His brain was trying to tell him something, but his thoughts were so fuzzy that nothing was really making any sense.

Tony sighed.

“Come on buddy, let’s go for a ride”, he said putting a hand on either arm rest and pushing the chair, Loki and all over towards the kitchen area.

Loki closed his eyes against the spinning, dizzy feeling caused by being pushed backwards.

“Loki?”

Tony was patting his cheek, “Loki? Hey, listen to me. Do you need to go to the bathroom before you go to sleep?”

What odd things Tony asked sometimes. But since the annoying human just kept nudging Loki and repeating himself, Loki considered the question.

Slowly.

“Y-yes?”

Tony grinned and moved the chair again, this time towards the bathroom.

“Come on,” he encouraged, dragging Loki to his feet right in front of the bathroom door.

“I can s-stand, you know.” Loki told him holding on to the edge of the door. He let go of the door frame and stood straight, haughtily adjusting his clothes. 

At Tony’s disbelieving stare, he raised both eyebrows inquiringly. “I am a… god you know,” Loki informed him loftily before stepping confidently into the bathroom.

“Oooffh.”

Tony caught him around the waist before his knees hit the floor. 

He grabbed the nearby sink with his free hand and Tony quickly ducked under one arm to lift and support him.

Loki turned amazed eyes towards Tony.

Brows drawn together in bewilderment, he looked at Tony. “Why c-can’t I walk?” he asked the man supporting him.

“Tony snorted, “Oh I don’t know Princess, because you spent all night drinking pitcher after pitcher of chick drinks?”

“I am a p-prince of Asgard. I do not… drink chick drinks,” the god huffed with offended dignity.

“Yeah. Okay.” Tony said steering him to the commode and undoing his belt.

Aghast, Loki struck his hand away, what in the Nine was Stark doing?! “I’m not ergi you know,” he muttered angrily, leaning a shoulder on the wall for support, as he fumbled his pants button open and worked the zipper down with the other. He waved Tony away, managing not to fall more through luck than coordination.

Tony faced the wall, returning to help him walk once he was finished.

He held the wall with one hand, while Tony supported him on the other side. Tony’s arm was around his waist, while Loki’s arm was flung across Tony’s shoulder, leaning heavily on the shorter man, Loki staggered to the large couch just past the kitchen.

Evading his erratic slaps, Tony got his dress shirt off, leaving Loki sitting there in a slim fitting, light grey, V-neck t-shirt.   

 “Stop it Stark,” he snarled as Tony finished getting his dress shirt free. “I told you. I am not ergi. They s-slander.”

OoooO

Okay… the toddler slapping was new.

 “No. You stop it,” Tony finally ordered grabbing Loki’s left hand and prying the shirt loose so he could throw it over the arm of the couch. “Okay now, where’s your wubby?”

At Loki’s puzzled look the reluctant adult in the room laughed, which the god did not like at all.

So Loki frowned up at him, brows all furled and… quite honestly pouted Tony decided. Yeah, that was a pout alright, worthy of a four year old girl who really, really wanted a cookie. This only made Tony only laugh more. Okay, so adorable was not usually a look attributed to six foot three guys who could bench press Bentleys, but seriously, how cute was that?  It was all Tony could do not to flick Loki’s nose, kiss him on the top of the head and promise him ice cream tomorrow if he went straight to sleep.

“Don’t look at me like that Bambi.” Tony told him, hoping that Pepper never saw Loki making that face. Christ her ovaries would explode.

“Come on, make with the Wubby? You know that little dream cloth thing you used before your mom wove you the big blanket. The thing that keeps the bad dreams and Chitauri mind-fuckers away from you while you sleep?”

Oh.

‘Oh.’

Befuddled comprehension flowed onto Loki’s face, But the god still had had to wave his hands several times before he could triumphantly hold up the small white cloth and show it to Tony.

“It shouldn’t have taken that long to retrieve,” Loki said fuzzily before mumbling something under his breath about ‘maybe’ having a bit too much to drink.

“It’s okay. I’d say good night, but it’s almost dawn.” Tony said stooping down to swing Loki’s feet onto the couch before covering him with a small fleece throw.

Loki closed his eyes so the spinning would stop and clutched his dream cloth under his chin, sighing deeply.

“Sleep tight Bambi,” Tony said softly.

“G’night Tony.” Loki breathed before sleep closed over him.

OoooO

“Sir? Ms. Potts is calling.”

“Put her on Jarv,” Tony told him, not taking his attention away from the floor plans.

“Good morning Tony, you’re up early.”

“Morning Pep, and no I’m actually not. I’m up late.” Tony replied absently as he manipulated the images on the floating screen in front of him.

She laughed, “So what are you working on this morning? Suit upgrade? Consumer product? Football pool?”

“Oh, nothing much Pep. Refining some electrical blueprints, looking up the meaning of Norse insults, drinking coffee, stuff like that.” Tony told her, saving his file and closing it since he was as finished as he could be right now.  Floor plans he was having no problem with, the term ergi, he would have to do a lot more thinking about.

“Sounds like fun,” Pepper told him. “But the reason I called is to see what’s up with Loki this morning. He’s blew off Doctor Crane, Darcy can’t reach him, he’s late for a meeting with me and Jarvis tells me he’s down there with you but not able to take a call.”

My, my, my. Tony chucked to himself. How the mighty have fallen? “Loki? Late for a meeting? Never say.” he tapped rapidly on a nearby keyboard and hit send.

“He should have been here almost fifteen minutes ago; could you remind him and ask him when he’ll be able to make it up here?” Pepper requested.

“No can do Pep. Check your email.”

“Why? What are you sendin—” Pepper broke off with an indignant gasp. “Tony! What did you do to him? And you remove that thing right now!”

Tony grinned and glanced over at the peacefully sleeping god. “Can I help it if he got totally hammered last night? Besides, I think he looks cute snuggling that Ironman plushie sample. I’ve already uploaded several pictures of him sleeping with it to the lab computers screensaver and I’m thinking about sending copies to marketing. ‘Ironman Plushies, so adorable even the god of mischief can’t resist’.”

“How’s that for a tag line?” Tony laughed.

Chapter Text

Chapter #26 – Never Again

Panic struck Loki hard. Where in nine was he? He felt sick and confused and why couldn’t he move?!?  He tried to remember what he had happen? Coulson… he’d been going to meet Coulson, who he hadn’t seen since the press conference the week before. It was a S.H.I.E.L.D. job, but… He couldn’t remember if he had even made it to the meeting place. Why? Loki’s head felt like it would explode, his heart was trying to beat its way out of his chest.

Pray the Norns not Asgard, not Thanos. 

WHERE WAS HE?!?

Either he wasn’t screaming, or he couldn’t hear. He thought his eyes were open, but he couldn’t see anything. Loki tried to form a spell, a restoration spell so he could concentrate, only to have it refuse his will. The channels his magic would normally have followed were roiling with left over traces of energy not his own. How could that have happened? Panic was an understatement to what he was feeling. Giving in to the raw visceral fear that he had been holding back so he could try to think, Loki twisted and strained, willing something to move so he could break free, his movements growing more and more frenzied, until at last, something did give. At first he thought it might have been the bone in his forearm, rather than the restraint, but then he suddenly had more range. His lower arm was free, he was able to grip the edge of a hard flat surface, using this leverage to pull his left side up against the restraint on that side.

Loki stopped suddenly, a thought colder than a Jotunheim winter ran down his spine, he was being controlled. HE was being controlled! Someone other than Loki had decided that he would be here, helpless, unable to move… restrained… moving, speaking, living, dying… at their will… not his!

His world narrowed.

Loki threw himself into a mindless struggle to get free. There was nothing held back, every bit of will, every ounce of strength that he had ever possessed was offered up to secure his release. There might not be a ‘Loki’ when he was done, if it took every particle of himself to achieve it, so be it. The creature that remained might not be Loki, there would be no controlling it and the world would tremble and fall down before it, Ragnarök would fall upon all the nine realms, but the creature would be free.

His heart was racing, and Loki was sure he should be panting from the shallow breaths which were all his constricted chest could produce, but he couldn’t, he couldn’t get enough air, suffocating, dread racing through him. All would fall, all fall, even as it rose up.

Even as it rose up… which it did. The restraints on the other side broke lose. He was sitting, his hands were free, he lifted them to tear off the device on his head, ripping it away from whatever held it, crushing it, throwing it. Blinking, sight, much too bright at first returned, metal, glaring white hard surfaces. Hearing, sirens, screams, his, not his. He twisted against the strap across his thighs, pulling on the restraints on each foot, someone was going to die, and it wasn’t going to be him.

Suddenly, pain raced his legs, searing, agonizing, overwhelming, his back arched in an impossible manner, slamming his head against the hard padded surface as electricity caused his muscles to contract and white hot fire to shoot through every nerve. Screams, long and agonizing, heat and pressure growing… until he was no more.

OoooO

It felt different. He wasn’t laying down this time, his disordered body began reporting to him, he opened his eyes and he could see bright light, a low moan, told him he had voice and hearing.  Moving stiffly his limbs told him that he was heavily chained; the arm chair he sat in was of a heavy metal construction and seemed to be fastened to the floor in some way.

After an eternity a voice decided to talk to him. “I know you can hear me,”

He opened his eyes again, blinking up at the ceiling, trying to get his muscles to obey him and not the stray jolts still racing up and down his nervous system.  Behind him, a hand grabbed his hair, pushing his head up so he could see the figure seated in front of him. Well mostly see it. He was in light, they were in dark, if it hadn’t been for his enhanced vision, doubtless he would have only see a bright light in front of him. But he was Loki, and after blinking a few more times, he did see someone, and they were sitting behind a very thick, clear wall of some sort.

“Who?” Loki croaked, blinking to clear his eyes.

“Loki of Asgard,” the voice sneered. “How easy you were to take down without your army around you.”

“What do you want?” Loki asked keeping his expression and voice as blank as he could. His channels were still fouled, but at least this time he had an idea of what had caused the overload. He was dismayed at his body’s refusal and wanted to know how had they done it, but that was for later, now he had to keep this cretin talking to give him time to respond. Besides, he was determined to pull himself together without letting this lump of a mortal see how shaken he was.

Stalling for time, Loki continued in a disdainful tone, “You know, you haven’t yet introduced yourself. Don’t you think that’s a bit rude?”

That sally earned him a contemptuous laugh, “And you think rudeness is the worst thing that can happen to you this evening?” He settled back in his chair, not noticing how Loki was watching his actual movements, not just looking unseeingly into the light shining on him.

There really wasn’t anything special about the mortal who was taunting him. He was of a medium build, strong planes on his face with short brown hair, shot through with grey and steel colored glasses, which matched half his hair and his suit. While Loki could see him despite the bright to dark lighting contrast, he really couldn’t make out the color of his eyes, or complexion.

“What have I to fear?” he asked with a twisted smile and let his body posture project unconcern. “You have gone to a great deal of trouble to restrain me, so that you can talk to me. It would have been far easier to kill me and be done with it.” He shrugged, “Yet you didn’t.” He tried to work the stiffness out of his back and shoulders without moving too much. “But,” he said warningly, “I am not going to talk to you without a name.”

He saw the man flick his eyes right to whoever was behind him, so he was prepared for the blow, he allowed his head to rock to one side, lessening the damage.

“Actually, I don’t want to talk to you at all. All that is necessary is for the bidders to see that you are alive, effectively restrained and capable of communication. Now that you are with us, so to speak, they will be assembled and the bidding will commence.”

Bidders? What bidders?

The grey man sat there smirking for several minutes, then they gestured and Loki’s body jerked painfully as energy, but not as much as earlier, surged through him via the chair, chains and cuffs.

What was it? He raged silently, breathing through his nose, that every moron who got the drop on him used energy spikes. More so he raged at himself for letting a mortal, even a whole group of them get the drop on him. How did that even happen? How was that none of his shields had been alerted? You would think he was Thor for crying out loud. Was there some Norn-be-damned Nine Realms and Beyond Web Site with hints on how to incapacitate a trickster god?

Just stop he told himself furiously while keeping his face impassive; it’s counterproductive to channel Stark at a time like this. He needed to save his efforts for the corpse-to-be in front of him. Without, he promised himself, forgetting the person behind him. He started pushing his power channels clear, it was agony that he couldn’t let show on his face, but that didn’t really matter. He was going to leave and then he was going to have to find these damn bidders and take them out.  Why bidders he wondered?

“Bidders?” he asked.

“What happened to not talking to me until I introduced myself?” the man’s voice was amused.

“Why bidders? Who do you work for?”

“As if I would tell you, not that it would do you any good.” The man got up and approached the glass. “You, Loki of Asgard are quite the most profitable job we have had in a very long time. But still, even with the astronomical payment to take you out, there is yet more money to be made by selling a brief span of secure access to you before killing you.” He chuckled, “We honor our original contract and make a tidy bonus fee. How sweet is that?”

“Indeed, very clever,” Agreed Loki with a faint smile. “What exactly are your secondary clients looking for?”

The grey man looked at him. After a long minute Loki tilted his head and raised an enquiring eyebrow.

The man looked down at his phone and then shrugged. “Depends. Three know about your work at Stark International and have questions. One wants to test a weapon and one wants tissue samples of, well everything, and wants them from before you are dead. The last two are very wealthy New Yorkers who had someone killed during your little escapade there.” He tucked his hands in his pockets and smirked. Face it; you have pissed off some heavy hitters.”

Indeed he had, Loki agreed, all his life apparently, and far bigger ones than this cretin even knew. But it was now past time to leave, before any exterior witnesses were present. They may have fouled his magic, but Loki had another natural defense, much as he loathed having to use it, he did have it. Loki lifted his head and inhaled deeply, he readied his Jotun form. With narrowed eyes he smiled wolfishly at the man, all teeth, with threats of blood soon shed.

The man in grey eyes barely had time to flinch before the ice in Loki’s soul exploded out to cover everything with a biting, reinforced glass smashing, metal shattering cold that affects everything in the room. He heard sirens going off in the distance as he twisted himself off the chair. The chains were weak, but the metal of the chair broke first. Somewhere a switch was pushed, but the much abused chair only sparked a few times before black smoke poured out of the frozen control at its base. Loki rose, dripping frozen rime covered scraps of chain and looked at what was left of the grey man’s body. What hadn’t been ripped apart in the blast of reinforced glass shards was frozen and frost blackened, the man behind him much the same, if more intact due to the lack of glass, allowing the horrific look of pain on his face to be seen.

Good.

Sirens continued to blare, gritting his teeth against the pain; Loki pushed to clear the foreign energy away, to make his pathways again, ready for his own power. Shaking his head from pain and blinking to try and clear the spots before his eyes, he eventually stood and if it takes him more than a few seconds to master his nausea, well there is no one there to notice and in the end he does accomplish it.

Loki’s shaking arms reached out to either side, fingers uncurling slowly to stop, slightly crooked at the finger tips, his palms parallel with his shoulders he lowered his head, breathing in deeply. He whispered a few words as wisps of white rise up from his palms, then quickly rotating his palms, he brought his hands forward with a clap that boomed and echoed through the room. Everything that had been opened, tried to close. Outside the room, the noise of things slamming shut can be clearly heard, along with frantic cries.

OoooO

After several deep harsh breaths to steady himself, Loki waved his hands over each other and reached deeply to pull out a cloth sack filled with sparkling white crystals most no bigger than a grain of rice. He whispered over the crystals and then threw a handful of them in the air where they swirled near the ceiling looking for a way out. Some swirled down around the edges of the room and found an air vent, a few slipped under the door, which increased the noise level in the hall. The rest circled patiently, until he opened the door.

As Loki and the crystals exited the ice covered room, a wide eyed man with a small trickle of blood running down his face from his temple who had been running down the hall, skidded to a halt just out of Loki’s reach. Or so he thought until with Loki moving his feet in a complicated pattern that was normally used for closing with an opponent while sword fighting was suddenly, right in front of him. Loki reached out, long thin fingers closed around the frantic man’s throat. 

“Where is this place,” Loki growled as he slammed the man against the wall high enough that his feet didn’t touch the ground. The man clawed at his hands and kicked until Loki shook him and leaned in close, pinning the man gaze with his own. “I grow tired of waiting for an answer. Where are we? What is the address of this building?”

“Longmeadow… Massachusetts,” he gasped. “186… Park Street. Please… I c-can’t breathe.”

“I know.” Loki hissed, tightening his grip until something snapped. He used his other hand to search the man’s jacket, removing a cell phone he released his informant who slid down the wall with his neck at an unnatural angle. Somewhere swirling in the back of his mind was a voice telling him that he should just leave and let the mortals deal with their own. Instead with a thoughtful frown, Loki made a call.

Loki was not in the habit of appealing to others for justice. After all it had never worked for him when he was younger. He had learned the hard way that the only sure method of receiving justice was to administer it himself. Of course there were often repercussions, but those he wasn’t able to talk his way out of were to be endured. No matter the immediate suffering, the long term goal of teaching people to leave him alone, or else, was achieved.

With the crystals calling out locations, death stalked the halls; a tall, lean personification of inevitability, with inky black hair, flashing green eyes, dressed in leather and as unstoppable as the setting of the sun.

Chapter Text

Chapter #27 – Fun Times

“Sir, Mister Laufey is requesting that you join him in Massachusetts to break into some computers,” Jarvis announced. 

Tony’s head snapped up, smacking into a support strut that he had been crouched under making adjustments. “Ouch! What? Put him on the speaker Jarvis.” Always the head Tony thought sourly, rubbing an oil stained hand across his forehead.

“Unfortunately sir, Mister Laufey is no longer on the line. He called from an unsecure cell phone, left an address and a request for your assistance and hung up.”

Tony stood up, tossing his wrench down on a nearby tool cart. “He’s been gone for four days, I have Coulson and Fury bugging the crap out of me, like I’m supposed to know where he is, not to mention Pepper freaking out because she okayed this gig, and he doesn’t even stick on the phone to explain?”

“That is correct sir. Also Mister Laufey requests that you do not notify S.H.I.E.L.D at this time, or try to call him back.”

“He does, does he? Why no call back? Did he say?” Tony asked curiously as he wiped a bit of grease off his hands and with an afterthought dabbed at his forehead.

“Yes sir,” Jarvis answered, “Mister Laufey said he was going to be very busy for the next half hour or so.”

Tony pursed his lips thoughtfully and then shrugged. “Well let’s go see what his highness has been up to for the last few days shall we?”

0ooo0

All told it took about a half hour for Tony to suit up, hit some really impressive speeds and arrive on location in Longmeadow. The large traditional house was in a prosperous looking neighborhood, upper class definitely, but it still didn’t really seem like kind of place that their resident Slytherin god would spend any time at.

Willingly that is.

As OCD as the prince of prissiness was, Tony really didn’t see him missing an appointment entirely. He was never late either; he was a certain as atomic decay that way. So, for him to have voluntarily missed that appointment with Coulson, once Pepper had contracted out his services, was a likely as Fury singing soprano wearing a tutu… a visual Tony was really sorry he had even thought about.

In the interest of deniability, Tony decided to do a flyby and then come in low to the back of the house through the adjoining wooded area.

Sneaky like.

It only took a moment for Tony to twist off the door knob on the back deck and enter into the kitchen. The minute he did, he knew there was some bad shit going down, even before the door he had just entered jerked out of his hand and slammed shut. Through the filters in his mask the air had that metallic coppery smell of blood, lots of blood. Tony couldn’t see anything from the kitchen door, so he thought that it might be best if he went back outside and then flew to a few of the second story windows, just to see what was going on.

Which might have worked, if he could get the door back open. Or the window or even get the freaking glass in the window to break.

Freaky shit.

Had to be Loki. 

Tony sighed as he headed further into the house.

Okay… Slasher movie freaky shit. It seemed like every other room has a body in it, quite a few with slit throats. Messy. 

“Stark.”

Tony almost fired his thrusters in the hall way.

“Jesus Christ!” the engineer screamed, almost hyperventilating as he spun around to face the fully armored god of mischief. “Haven’t I asked you not to do that!?”

The blood bespattered god, had the grace to look embarrassed, which when Tony thought about it, was even weirder than it should have been. A mad slasher killer was embarrassed, not because of the multiple bodies lying around, but because he couldn’t… just couldn’t, resist scaring the crap out of someone for funnsies.

“Look Angel of Death, what is going on here?” Tony asked huffily as he raised his face shield, “Did you do this?” He demanded flinging an arm around to indicate the whole house. “Pepper’s going to be pissed man.”

Loki did a modified eye roll. It had the normal ‘duh’ component, with more than a hint of ‘are you really so stupid you have to ask’ and a bit of ‘I thought you were smarter than that’, or at least Tony hoped the smarter part was included. But Loki could roll his eyes all he wanted, that would not change the fact that Pepper was going to flip her shit when she found out about this.

“Yes Stark I did this. But what I need you to do is hack and copy any computer and phone files you can find,” Loki answered dryly. “I would do it myself, but I need to do a complete search of the house and we need to be finished quickly before anyone has time to muster a response.” He waved Tony to a small office where multiple laptops were set up and a small pile of cell phones and two tablets lay in an untidy pile on one of the desks. “If I find any more, I’ll bring them to you.” The blood bespattered god told him as he headed towards the stairs.

“Fine,” Tony groused, taking off his helmet and shucking his gauntlets so he could type.

“Jarvis,” he called, “Fire me up some clean servers that are secure and isolated from everything else we got. Offsite preferable, there may be something in here that tries to call home to momma if it’s copied or moved.”

“Two things to look for immediately would be S.H.I.E.L.D involvement and the three companies that were trying to buy access to me as a Stark International employee from my kidnappers.” Loki called to him as he went up the stairs to the second floor.

“Really? This was all about industrial espionage?” Tony asked frowning, stepping out into the hall to look up at Loki.

Loki looked over the banister at the top of the stairs, it was then that Tony finally noticed how worn-out he looked. He had big shadows under his eyes, his skin was chalky and the big tell was his hair. Loki’s hair always looked perfectly smooth, but not right now, it was brushed back as usual but it was messier than Tony had seen since… well since the Hulk had smacked him around.

“Really Stark, in fact there were seven bidders altogether, so I suppose I need to know about all of them. Although, in a way, I owe them my life, they were just supposed to incapacitate me and then kill me. They decided to wring a bit more money out of the deal by selling access to me before they killed me. Of course if there is any information on how they incapacitate me, I would appreciate knowing about that before it is wiped from their files.”

“So why kill them, why not just do your mind whammy on them and get your answers that way?” Tony asked confused.

The god’s eyes narrowed into malevolent slits of green. Because Stark, I wanted to kill them more than I wanted the information. I fear I have developed an acute aversion to being restrained, and I promised myself they would die. I do have one stashed, higher ranking I think, but I’m hoping you can get enough information so I can have the pleasure of killing him also.”

“Okay then,” Tony spun on his heel and went back into the office; how exactly Loki was going to spin this to Doctor Crane he had no idea. And frankly the inventor had bigger concerns right now as he was just a little freaked at the hopefully temporary, return of bag-of-cats-Loki.

“Jarvis, you ready with those servers?”

“Yes sir.” Jarvis replied.

“Good, let’s get started… oh and Jarvis? Let’s make sure to never be anywhere around if they ever have to restrain Loki for any reason. Okay?”

“Very wise sir, I will be sure to make note of it.”

0ooo0

About an hour later Tony finished downloading everything he needed, erased the stuff that no one else needed to know about, like the whole taking out a god thing, and threw a few sniffer programs out there just to keep track in case someone else came looking for the info he found and more importantly to see if he could locate and destroy any other copies of the more sensitive information.  He suited up and took a quick tour of the house, finally locating Loki down in the basement sitting on a table, not too far from a trussed up, individual, wearing what looked like a broken sensory deprivation helmet on his head.

Loki was… well slumped was the only word for it, looking sadly down at something in his palm. Hearing Tony, he closed his fingers into a tight fist and looked up.

“Well? What did you find out?” He asked in a distracted way.

“We have to call Fury dude, this isn’t S.H.I.E.L.D, but I think some of them might have been or at least had contacts. I won’t know for sure until we get back to the lab and go over everything, but we need to let Fury know.” 

Loki‘s head wrenched involuntarily to one side, and his shoulders twitched. He looked quickly at Tony and then averted his eyes. “No, not Fury,” he said in a low voice, “We can talk to Coulson, but not Fury.”

0ooo0

Standing quietly with clasped hands in front of the sullen god Coulson said, “Fury wants to do a debrief.”

Sitting on the couch, a few feet away, Tony and made a ‘good luck with that’ face. Tony watched Loki who was sitting in a side chair and staring out the window, pretending to ignore both him and Coulson.

“And?” Loki said almost petulantly, left hand once again clutched in a tight fist. “This affects me how? Stark here wants immortality, I want the Mad Titan’s and Odin’s heads on pikes, Fury wishes my presence, we all want something we can’t have Agent Coulson.” Loki said lifting his chin stubbornly; he tossed Coulson an irritable glare before crossing of his arms and again looking out the window.

Coulson stood silently, waiting, watching Loki take in the skyline. Tony decided that perhaps this one time he should keep his mouth shut, so instead of snarking at either one of them, the billionaire went to make himself another drink. He walked back and sat on the couch again, wondering how long Coulson was going to just stand there.

Bored with the lack of activity, Tony took his tablet from the table, noted the time and started going through some emails he had been avoiding.

“Could you please tell me why you won’t talk to Director Fury?” Coulson asks in a light conversational voice. 

Tony glanced back at the time. Whoa, twenty three minutes, add to that the time he spent jacking with his drink, we are looking at a half hour or more. Tony, as the King of ADD cannot even begin for fathom what kind of mind could stand there watching someone for that long without saying anything. Lord knows he would never be able to. Hell, if he hadn’t had his tablet to work on, just sitting here without music or conversation going would have made him go nuts.

“This was not a mission for S.H.I.E.L.D, so I have no intention of speaking to Fury. If this is a problem, S.H.I.E.L.D may want to rethink hiring me in the future.” Loki said firmly.

“Let’s be reasonable,” Coulson said as he looked steadily down at Loki. “If this wasn’t a mission, then you have just cold bloodedly murdered fourteen people. Do you really want to go there?”

Loki sneered, “I assure you Agent Coulson, the blood I spilled was not cold.”

“You know,” Tony said with a blank face in a ‘trying to be helpful’ tone of voice, “It’s these little psychotic episodes that you are prone to, that make people distrust you.” Loki bared his teeth glaring at him, while Tony just quirked him a glance and then grinned, “I’m just saying.”

Tony knew that Coulson wasn’t going to get anywhere, hell Coulson knew he wasn’t going to get anywhere, and Tony was sure that much though he hated it, Fury most likely knew he wasn’t going to change crazy god’s mind. It was amazing, when you considered how stressed the god of good tailoring had been when he left for Asgard that last time, that he was still pretty reasonable now that he had returned to Earthgard.

There was now an edge in him that hadn’t been there before, an old bat-shit ‘Loki the Conqueror’ edge that peeked out occasionally from behind Lucas Laufey, former god of mostly reasonableness. But once either Loki, the old or the new, took a stand on something, arguing with him did not get you anywhere. He was very Tony-ish like that.

Tony smiled to himself, imagining the fit that big, bad and bitchy was currently throwing; he had finally gotten to resume his ninja wizard god domestication, and now the smarter of the two gods he had access to, the one who could do more than smash things with a big hammer, didn’t want to talk to him anymore. Fury was most likely… Tony snickered to himself.  Furious.

“Agent Coulson, I was kidnapped, tortured and threatened with more torture and then certain death, how are my actions chargeable?” Loki asked, irritation overtaking his normally blank expression.

Coulson sighed, “You didn’t just kill the people who were holding you; you bypassed several exits and then went looking for anyone else who might be in the house. This is not really what is normally considered self-defense here in the United States. Yes, you had a right to use deadly force to escape, but only for that.” He shifted slightly, his expression serene, “Please tell me you understand this?”

Loki opened his hand slightly and regarded its contents sourly for a moment. He then moved his fingers in some sort of slight and whatever he had been holding was gone. Putting both of his hands on the chairs arms, he unfolded himself from the chair and since Coulson didn’t step back this meant he was standing only inches from the agent, towering over him as he looked down.

“Agent Coulson, please understand, I am not going to be debriefed by Director Fury no matter what you or he say. And since you do not have a contract requiring me to do so… It will not happen.” 

Holding his ground Coulson had looked up the god, but now he narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, “Could you at least tell me why?” he asked in a pleasant, reasonable voice.

Loki massaged his forehead with long elegant fingers and then sighed. “It’s personal, and I will not be discussing it with you. If S.H.I.E.L.D wants, I will get Ms. Potts to forward you a contract to assist and debrief with you on this episode, but that is the best I can do. If that is not acceptable, let me know and I will clear this up in another way, but it will not be one that involves a debriefing by the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Coulson looked at him steadily. Loki flung out his hand impatiently, irritation in his voice “Take the deal Agent Coulson; this is the best I can do for you.”

Coulson shrugged, “Why should S.H.I.E.L.D. have to pay for a debriefing? We just want to clear up fourteen murders.”

Looking up, Tony thought privately that this was the best offer that S.H.I.E.L.D. was going to get. He fixed his dark brown eyes on Coulson thoughtfully. He was pretty sure that Stark International Lawyers could make most, if not all of this go away.

“So hey, you could always ask Pepper to give you a discount. That has to be worth something yes? Besides, we, well okay, he, already did the work, and he did save you a witness. And let me tell you that was definitely not a sure thing, since Joe Black here really had his heart set on snuffing that guy too. I’d shut up and take the deal if I was Fury.”

Both of them turned to look at Tony, Loki slipped his blank mask back on, Coulson looked slightly peeved. Or as peeved looking as Coulson ever looked at any rate.

“Mister Stark, please be quiet. I ‘will’ taser you if I have to,” said Coulson.

“Says the man standing in ‘my’ living room.” Stark retorted.

Coulson sighed capitulating. “I’ll check. Give me a minute,” he said turning to look at Loki. Pulling out his cell phone Coulson stepped out to the terrace. As the door swung shut behind him, Tony looked over at Loki.

“You of all people should know I’m already immortal.” he said to Loki frowning.

“I understand that Stark. Do they know?”

“Ummm, no.” Tony admitted. That was a conversation he didn’t want to have with anyone, except maybe Pepper. That news was a shit-storm waiting to happen, so it was best not to think about it he decided.

“Look Gandalf, what is the problem with Fury all of a sudden?” Tony asked swirling the ice in his almost empty tumbler. “Just talk to him man.”

Loki had been staring lost in his own thoughts; he leaned back, raised his head and glared. Green wisps of magic swirled, and then faded just under the visible spectrum, but left little heat wave-like disturbances dancing in the air. “I said ‘no!’” he snarled at Tony. “What is it about that word that escapes your understanding?

“Seriously, can’t you jus-“

“Honestly Stark!” Loki shouted hoarsely slamming his hand down on his thigh, “What does it take to shut you up?”

Tony frowned at him, leaning forward to put his now empty drink down on the floor. While he was a little more wound that he had been the first time he worked with Tony, this was different. Mister Total-Control didn’t often get this upset over nothing. Therefore, Tony reasoned, it most likely was not over nothing.  Loki leaned forward scrubbing his face with his hands, before running impatient fingers through his hair. So okay. Now he knew this was not over nothing. The shouting, the spontaneous magic flickers, the face thingy. No this was not a cool calm collected god anymore.

“Something vexes thee?” he asked only semi-mockingly. Loki groaned and threw himself back into the chair in an ungraceful heap. Yep, Tony thought, something really does. When the god of aesthetic repose doesn’t sit with a posture that is straight out of a GQ photo shot, he was definitely upset about something.

Coulson walked back in from the terrace, “Director Fury wants to know if we don’t agree to you getting a modified contract for Ms. Potts, how are you going to make this go away?” he asked.

Tony smirked as Loki slowly turned slowly and gave Coulson a steady glare that said, do not fuck with me. You will not win.

“I still have my accumulated favors from my previous stay on Midgard you know, l will give up two large scrolls and no debriefing or insights for the house and one small scroll each for the five institutional bidders.” Loki’s lips thinned a moment, then he continued cold hard voice, “And it will still be S.H.I.E.L.D.’s problem.”

“Ah.” Coulson looked thoughtful, “Entire upper management or just the person who made the deal?”

“Agent Coulson,” Loki sighed as he rolled his eyes. “Please credit me with a little restraint.”

“Says the man who just killed fourteen people,” Tony interrupted. “What?” He asked with false innocence and a cheeky grin as both men turned on him with narrowed eyes. “I’m just saying.”

Coulson turned back to Loki inquiringly.

“Not necessarily the flunky who made the deal, but I will limit it to the person who okayed the deal.” Loki said.

Coulson ducked back out to the terrace for another few minutes and then shut his phone and came back in to stand in front of Loki. “You have Ms. Potts okay the job we originally wanted you for, our fee will be the cleanup for this mess. We get intel on anything important that you might find out from the bidders. Stark International won’t make any money, but think what they will save in legal fees.”

“And the debrief?”

“Director Fury still wants you to debrief with him” he held up a hand placatingly as an angry Loki opened his mouth to retort, “but if for some reason you can’t, you will debrief with me and Romanoff or Hill.” He shrugged, “Romanoff if she is available, Hill if not.”

Loki looked at thoughtfully at Tony, who gave him a ‘what the hell, why not’ nod.

“Agreed, provided Ms. Potts approves it.”

“It’s not like she wouldn’t is it?” Coulson asked, sitting down and pulling out his phone again.

“True, but that not really the point is it?” Loki said as he rearranged his limbs in a more refined manner. “The point is you have to ask her.” His head tilted as he raised one finely shaped brow and glowered at Coulson, “Do let me know if you need to borrow my phone again Agent Coulson. I assure you Ms. Potts will answer a call from my phone.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter #28 – Asking Questions

Perhaps a week after Loki returned from his rescheduled retrieval mission for S.H.I.E.L.D. Tony decided it was time to get nosy. It was fairly quiet in the lab, Loki was gingerly soldering some very small chips and contacts to a board he was working on, and Dummy was practicing making and delivering coffee without incident. While Tony, with several practice cups of coffee around him, was occasionally keying in a correction while his main attention was on a small tablet he held. He was angled in the lab so that he had about a three-quarter view of Loki’s face just over the top of his tablet.

“So, tell me Dancer... What is it that you keep looking at?” he asked off-handedly as he covertly watched the god.

Tony kept his head tilted down so it appeared that he was working on his tablet, but he saw Loki pause, a look of mild puzzlement flitted across his face. 

“This secondary servo control board Stark.” He reached over to pick up another set of chips and placed them carefully on the board. “Before that it was main power transfer switch board. Why?”

“No, I don’t mean right now, I mean that little disk thing you keep pulling out of your pocket of forever and looking at.”

Loki stiffened.

“What is that thing?” Tony asked.

Loki, expression went completely blank, he unplugged his soldering iron and placed it carefully on the work bench. Then without looking at Tony he stood up and headed towards the door.

Okay, Tony thought, this could be going better. “Seriously dude, you’re just walking out?” He ran his fingers through his cropped brown hair, causing tuffs of it to spike in different directions.

“Come on just talk to me. I’m just curious.” Tony called in a last ditch effort as the elevator door opened.

OoooO

Two days after Loki had walked out of the lab on him, Tony decided to try again. Not that it was even any of his business or anything, but this was some freaky behavior even for whack god… He was curious. Admittedly more curious now than he had been before, so…

“Okay, this is what we have so far as our energy projections,” he said as a list of numbers flashed up on the large screen. Tony pointed to one section and then looked at the lab god studied the screen intently; he tapped for the next display. An enlarged picture of a hand holding a small yellow gold disk appeared. “At this resolution you can’t really tell, but it appears to have some sort of writing on it. It’s most likely not decorative, there is no symmetry as you can see, so I’m going to go with writing. But even cleaning up the image, it doesn’t appear to be any language that I can find.” He swiped the image, further enlarging it. “What about you? Have you ever seen anything like this before?”

While he would not say his life was flashing before his eyes, Tony was aware that the primitive part of his brain that governed self-preservation was trying to get him to run. The strange thing was that nothing really happened, but it was a rigidly controlled nothing. It was the nothing you got right before fate decided to take you out. Loki didn’t move, didn’t look at him, didn’t flinch, wince, nothing. A nothing that for some reason was radiating so much hatred that his fight or flight instincts were in full blown ‘vamanos!’ mode.

Freakily scary.

So Tony did the only thing he could, he doubled down and exploded the display until there were dozens of different images of the gold disks that had been taken at various times. “Okay,” he said to his non-responsive audience. “Now one other thing I can’t understand is this. Jarvis pull out on all the images please.”

Most of the images shifted to a longer view of Loki with various expressions of either sadness or anger holding something small in his hand. “Again I ask you, what is that thing, and why has it got you so wound up?”

Again with the nothing. Sheesh. Tony wondered how on earth, or rather Earthgard, he was supposed to get any info out of this guy. Since talking didn’t work, and gonzo attacks weren’t working, Tony decided to channel his inner Coulson, which was going to be tough, because Tony didn’t have a patient bone in his body.

After about five minutes, he wondered how in the hell Coulson had the patience to just sit somewhere and look at someone. After ten, he had contemplated several new suit upgrades and an answer to a particularly annoying woman at the Mayor’s office who was bugging him to sponsor and host a charity event for a cause he didn’t particularity agree with. After twenty he was trying to decide which weapons he still had stashed from the bad old days that that would not destroy his tower but be harmful enough to successfully threaten some answers out of the poster child for obstinate behavior. And still Loki sat in his lab like a damn statue. Just shy of thirty minutes he had decided to fuck Thanos and just develop a weapon that would once and for all ice the stupid stubborn bastard sitting in front of him.

Tony had allowed his mind to wander so far, that even though he was technically looking at the annoying god, he wasn’t really seeing him. So the low voice with more than an edge of danger to it surprised the crap right out of him. His hastily gathered his attention found that Grand Moff Tarkin had at some point in time turned to give him, Tony, his undivided attention. So not good. Note to self for future Coulson channeling, pay better attention to the psycho god you are supposedly watching.

OoooO

There was, Loki thought, something deep inside of Stark that had a death wish. Fortunately for Stark, despite Loki’s supposed reputation for mental instability, he was rather stubborn when it came to plan follow through. After all if he couldn’t follow through on his own plans, how could he expect others to do so? Still the man was annoying and tenacious, so he was either going to have to shut him up by explaining or shut him down in some way that did not fracture the working relationship they currently had.

As angry as he was, a little side corner of his mind was amused at how much tension was flowing out of Stark. 

He reached into his inner vest pocket and tossed the small disk over to Stark. Despite his current mood, he couldn’t keep the corners of his lips from tipping up in a small grimace as Stark scrabbled awkwardly to catch the disk.

“It’s a coin Stark, a gold coin from Asgard.”

“And, so? You found some change in an old coat or something?”

“No Stark. Where did I find that?”

“Shit! This is a sample of the large amount of gold bullion that the kidnappers had in their records?”

“I would imagine so. I can’t think of any other reason that Asgard coinage has made it to Midgard.” Loki scoffed, “I know Thor certainly never brought any here.”

“Yeah, but it could have been someone else, hell it could just be an old coin that’s been passed around for forever yah know.”

“No, the year on the coin is a recent one I assure you. But the more pressing question is how it got into the possession of the group that kidnapped me.” 

“Now, let us ask ourselves what is the second and more personally pressing problem for me?”

“That you are not near as good looking as I am?” Tony joked, earning a sour look from the god.

“No Stark. Definitely not that. My second most pressing problem is that Odin will never voluntarily let go of a powerful weapon. And make no mistake; I am coveted as a resource not a family member.” Loki’s brows drew down, “but we won’t go into that.”

 Anger, sorrow and a multitude of disjointed thoughts swirled through Loki’s thoughts. Odin will fight tooth and nail to make sure that no one else has access to my talents. Talents which Odin would have been able to turn into a weapon had he allowed me to learn his true feelings. Odin King wishes he had done better at binding me to Asgard’s interests, I may only be a stolen relic, but Odin considers me ‘his’ stolen relic and there is not much he would not do to get me back. He probably wishes he ‘had’ kept me locked up in the weapons vault with all his other treasures. With effort, Loki forced his attention back to the conversation with Stark.

“Odin currently controls Midgard as a protectorate of Asgard. Once we have published throughout the Nine Realms that there is a legitimate Midgard immortal presence, Odin will no longer have final say within the realms of what does and does not happen here, who we interact with, what alliances we might make, what protections we might decide on. Odin will not be happy about that because when the Mad Titan does return, his preference would be to have Midgard be the battleground with all the damage that entails. He will want to keep his best troops and allies ready to withdraw to protect Asgard in case the fight goes poorly.”

With me being here, Jotunheim is a real possibility, the present king owes his position to me due to my… removal of Laufey for one thing. My adopted mother is a Vanir princess and her brother is now the ruler of Alfheim, I have spent a lot of time at both courts. Odin is not a favorite of their realms; they won’t necessarily accept his leadership when it comes to deciding what to do.

“So let me get this straight. This all powerful Titan guy has it in for you because you squirreled up his invasion of Earthgard and Odin, All Father has it in for you because as far as he is concerned you are ‘his’ living weapon and he wants you under his total control?”

Loki cocked his head and thought carefully for a few moments. Stark was always somewhat incomprehensible, so he didn’t waste a lot of thought on that, he would eventually explain how the strange Midgard cultural references he used pertained to the conversation. Or not. At any rate if Loki waited until Stark explained every strange phrase than came out of his mouth, they would still be standing in his penthouse quarrelling and the Chitauri personnel on the dreadnoughts would have died from boredom waiting for the war to start. Not that this would have been a bad thing in hindsight….

“Well except for the totally unnecessary reference to a tree climbing rodent… Your statement very neatly sums up the problem,” He said dryly, brushing his dark hair away from his face.

“Very funny smartass.” Tony said rolling his eyes. “I am beginning to think you are a heat seeking missile for trouble.” When Loki opened his mouth to disagree, Tony overrode him, “No. Seriously, Callahan. You seem to be able to find the biggest, baddest mofo in the room and piss them straight off. It’s like a super power or something.”

He gave Loki a searching look, “Is there some secret side effect caused by the adrenalin rush that we mere mortals know nothing about? Cause I’m thinking it must be, otherwise there is no way you could have survived this long.”

Loki was amused that Stark had the audacity to ask that question. “I could ask you the same question Stark, how have ‘you’ survived this long with all the powerful people you have antagonized?”

Tony looked sheepish, a small smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Hey, I’m Tony ‘Fucking’ Stark, I am a force of nature don’t ya know.”

“Indeed? Well chaos is also a force of nature, so in that we are perhaps well matched.” Shaking his head ruefully, a smile blossomed across Loki’s face.

Before Tony could take the conversation further Loki decided to distract him; waving his hands, he manifested the damaged control collar that Odin had placed on him during his stint in Asgard.

“Here,” Loki said handing the heavy metal object to Stark. “This can block the powers of a god. Perhaps you can figure out a way to increase its power so it can restrict or contain the Mad Titan.”

It was comical to see Stark, just on the verge of arguing with him, lose all interest in their conversation as he petted and caressed what remained of the collar. “It’s damaged pretty badly,” Tony said giving him a sideways glance. “Not a lot here to work with.”

“Ah,” Loki said with mock solemnity, inwardly laughing at Starks poor attempt to play him. Reaching out a hand to take it back, he said, “I understand, it’s too damaged to recreate. My apologies for thinking you could reverse engineer it from such a broken scrap.”

 “Hey, hey, hey,” Tony warned, moving the collar safety out of Loki’s reach. “What part of genius do you not understand here?” He wrapped his arms protectively around the artifact, peering down at it closely as he turned away.

“You, sweetie, are going to teach me such wonderful things,” he cooed to the metal chunk stroking it possessively. “Jarvis secure server for this project, we don’t want anyone getting any of my research on this, and S.H.I.E.L.D. would just love to know how to neutralize Mister Wizard here.” Tony’s eyes unfocused as he mapped out the various tests and scans he would need to try to reverse engineer the collar. Focused on the upcoming procedures, he drifted over to his work bench and continued almost absently in a low thoughtful voice, “And as annoying as he might be sometimes, nobody touches my stuff.”

“Understood sir, it wouldn’t bear thinking of,” agreed Jarvis wryly.

Chapter Text

Chapter #29 – Northward Ho!

“And as annoying as he might be sometimes, nobody touches my stuff.” Tony had said, completely oblivious to the fact that Loki was listening to him.

Loki wanted to blast Tony into tomorrow, but contented himself with just going back to his own work, assured that Stark would be fully and gainfully distracted for a decent amount of time. Of course he was less than pleased about Stark claiming him as ‘his stuff’, but understood that it was just how the engineer viewed the world around him. Tony Stark’s world was divided up into ‘his stuff’ and ‘nothing of importance’; it was just how he was. And if Stark did somehow figure out how it worked, his possessiveness would assure that no one else would have access to such potentially dangerous information that might damage ‘his stuff’. 

Whether he succeeded or failed Stark would learn something and the effort would at least distract him from delving too deep into Loki’s family issues. 

OoooO

Tony would dearly love to be flying solo instead of being stuck on the QuinJet with the others, but since time was wasting Coulson is going to do the briefing en route. The only thing Tony can be glad of is that he is already suited up. Otherwise he would again be sitting on those damn hard, uncomfortable seats. He really does need to take the time to nag S.H.I.E.L.D. into upgrading them. Or at least sneak upgrades onto the ones that he might be stuck on.

Of course the bad thing about being suited up is that he can’t while away the boring parts of the meeting by working on his tablet while pretending to take notes. Sadly gauntlets are just not touch screen compatible. Of course Tony could put down his visor, cut his outgoing com and have Jarvis stream anything he wanted to look at… But Coulson and Natasha would know. Daydreaming is of course also a possibility.  And while that chick from last weekend was definitely fantasy worthy, Natasha was insanely good at knowing when he did that any more… and he didn’t want her to get lethally cranky. So there was really nothing he could do but try not to fall asleep during the boring bits.

Sigh.

Tony hoped that humanity appreciated the sacrifices he made for it.

“Okay people, listen up.” Coulson called over the noise of the engines. “We have some really strange reports of an army of some sort in Alaska.”

Startled, everyone froze, before looking over at their resident Russian. Shrugging her jacket off, Natasha, huffed a lock of hair out of her face and steadfastly refused to look at anyone, keeping her attention full on Coulson. 

Coulson just shook his head. “No it is not the Russians, so there will be no need to look at Agent Romanoff for guidance.” Coulson pivoted a small screen out so it was visible to either side of the aircraft.

“Oh, Agent? If we’re going to be watching movies, could we please have some popcorn and maybe a few boxes of Jujubes?” Tony fluted, fluttering his eyelashes a few times in Coulson’s direction. “Or maybe Steve would prefer a box of Good n Plenty? You know what? We’re not picky; just whatever candy you have will work for us.”

Steve’s lips thinned, and like he always did, he ignored Tony’s attempts at humor with a small frown and a shake of his head.

“Can it Stark. We have a situation here.” Coulson said.

“Yeah. I understand that. We ‘always’ have a situation if we are getting a briefing from you. But did you ever think, just once, maybe you could do a little something, like the popcorn and candy to make the briefing more enjoyable?” Tony sighed theatrically. “You never even try. It’s disheartening really.”

Bruce shoved him gently. “Tony…”

Coulson waited a few heartbeats to see if Tony was going to actually shut up now and then flicked a picture up on the screen.

“Okay. Approximately two hours ago, we lost contact with the Elmendorf-Richardson military base on the outskirts of Anchorage, Alaska. Now since his is a fairly important base there was immediately a great deal of concern. However, the Fairbanks bases couldn’t pull anything up on their radar that raised any alarms, so at first it was just thought to be a communications glitch due to some freaky early winter weather conditions.”

“Then about an hour ago, these images started showing up on You Tube and Face Book.” Coulson frowned at the monitor for a moment, before switching to another screen. A horned monster out of nightmare was striding down a city street towering over the parked cars alongside it. “Which of course they shouldn’t have if there was a real communication problem due to the weather and not a hostile event at the base.”

 Predictably, the first person to comment was Tony. “Holy fuck. We’re being attacked by giant glass sword wielding Smurfs!?”

“I don’t know Tony. I don’t think your average Smurf is that ripped.” Banner drawled. “But the horns are a nicer touch that that white cap they usually wear.” He looked over the top of his glasses and smiled. “Much classier.”

That was why Tony loved Bruce. He was in tune with Tony’s version of insanity. Damned if it didn’t make him want to go ruffle Bruce’s hair or maybe pinch his cute chubby cheeks.  He glanced over at an extremely un-amused Natasha.

Her not so much. 

But Tony decided to restrain his self, since gauntlets were also not designed for gentle gestures of friendly bromantic affection, which meant touching Brucie-baby was out. However, if she annoyed him any more today he would keep his options open on perhaps using the gauntlets to pat Natasha on the head or maybe give her a friendly poke in the ribs.

“Well good, we wouldn’t want to battle someone with poor dress sense would we,” Tony retorted, his voice a bit more than sarcastic. “Are they demons or something, ‘cause I gotta tell you this is just like something out of the AD&D manual. First edition of course.”

“How do you even know that Stark?” Barton demanded.

“What?” Tony demanded rearing back in mock surprise.

“Listen Tweety, I was an engineering student at MIT, it would be more amazing if I didn’t know that.”

“The horns aren’t real,” Coulson told them, ignoring all the other side comments. They’re part of some weird kind of helmets that mostly protect the back of the skull and upper neck. What is important is that they seem to have successfully occupied the joint army and air force base there, and have branched out into the city in the area immediately surrounding the base. They seem to be more intent on disrupting communication and establishing an outer perimeter than actual looting or mayhem.”

“So we have supersized blue versions of Conan the Barbarian that have successfully taken over a military base.  Yea us, I suppose.” Tony said as he studied the screen. From the way they towered over the cars the super smurfs had to be at least ten foot tall and some of them bulked almost as much as the Hulk.

Tony’s brows knitted and he had a bit of a rictus grin. “So no worries then, hey?”

Bruce looked over at him, holding up his phone, “Well maybe one. It appears that the temperature in Anchorage is dropping.” He worried his lower lip a bit, “Pretty rapidly in fact.”

“Great,” bitched Barton, glaring at Coulson. “Perhaps someone should have mentioned that we were headed into Alaska during a freak cold spell. Some of us might have worn gloves or a scarf if we had known.”

Coulson merely lifted his chin at Barton’s complaint. After all, it wasn’t his fault that some people wore sleeveless outfits. Bruce just smirked, he was lucky to keep his pants on, so he had scant sympathy for the archer.

“Hey Coulson, how exactly did they even get to the base without anyone noticing?” Tony asked, peering at the screen.

Coulson shrugged, not even bothering to unfold his hands.

“Jarvis,” Tony called, “pull up a live satellite picture please. And then go back four hours and copy some sample shots and play them out will ya?”

Coulson sighed. But thankfully, he restrained himself from once again yelling at Tony for overriding the SHIELD computer system.

It was only a matter of a few minutes before Jarvis had a short snap shot video playing, While it only ran a few minutes, there was no indication that the military base had received any incoming traffic of note. Certainly not enough for an army to have been delivered there.

Natasha looked at Tony, “That’s odd; the only traffic in the area is just a few stray cars and trucks. Do you think we should go back a few more hours? Maybe they moved in earlier and were able to keep it a secret.”

Tony knows there are more ways to get in and out of places now. It’s not just roads and planes, it’s now portals and gates and rainbow bridges and who knows what else. And not all of them take a cosmic ice cube and a truck load of machinery sitting on top of his building. He knows that now. Heck, Loki just looks at a picture of someplace hard enough and opens up a gate. Of course when the god is just traveling in realm, which is a strange concept that Tony has had to get used to, he doesn’t even wave his damn hands, he just disappears.

“No… Jarvis, rerun it, but this time forget the roads and focus just on the base.” Tony asks as he stares at, but doesn’t really see the screen.

A few minutes later they re-watch the same time period, but this time with more magnification of the base area.

“Stop!” Natasha darts forward, bringing her face closer to the screen. “Play it again from the beginning please but much slower.”

“Go ahead Jarvis,” Tony says coming up to stand beside the assassin. He glanced at her, before turning his narrowed gaze to the screen.  “There! There, did you see that flicker?” he breathes to the still figure beside him. Natasha nodded without turning towards him.

“Okay Jarvis let me see about an hour before I stopped you. And bring up maybe five times the captures from that time span.” Tony started to rock back a bit, but bumped into something very solid. Glancing over his shoulder he saw that Steve and Bruce are both right behind them.

After Jarvis ran the modified film, he sighed. As plain as day they could see why no one had immediately noticed the invasion. One minute it was a normal sunrise and then suddenly an alien army was pouring out of nowhere. Well not exactly nowhere, it was most likely an inter-dimensional gate of some sort, probably like the ones Loki used to take him to Asgard. It was no wonder the base had been over run, there was no warning, no time to get ready, just suddenly thousands of warriors pouring out of a gate right smack dab in the middle of the base, warrior ranks six or seven wide and that then split off in three directions.

Tony sighs, this really is going to be one of those days.

Chapter Text

Chapter #30 – Communication Difficulties

“Lok-Luca-Mister Laufey! Come on!” Cried an extremely agitated Darcy.  Pushing past a senior department head and two aides who were passing out reports, she barreled into the boardroom.

Loki’s head snapped up from the file he was reading. Darcy made a bee-line for him, grabbed his arm and started trying to tug him towards the door.  He hissed at her. What the in the Nine was she thinking? He was wearing a new Caraceni, and she was rumpling the sleeve. A moment later it also occurred to him that she was interrupting a board meeting, which was, he supposed, equally unacceptable.

“It’s important. Come on.” She moaned in a low desperate tone, still tugging on his suit.

Of that, Loki was very skeptical. Darcy’s idea of what was important often differed from his own. He would be damned if she was going to hustle him out of this meeting to put out some meaningless little media fire with a quick phone interview.

“Ms. Lewis--” Pepper started, brows drawn together in bewilderment.

“It’s personal,” she groaned, glasses slipping down her nose, “important, honest.”

“Laufey. Can’t you control your people any better than this?” growled Saunders, the ruddy-haired man beside him who was looking scornful at Darcy’s lack of decorum. 

Apparently, he and Darcy needed to have to have another discussion on the proper behavior for a personal assistant. It wasn’t that she didn’t listen to Loki when he told her what he wanted her to do, she did. Training her to do things the way he wanted them done was easy. Getting her ‘not to do’ thoughtless things was impossible, or at the very least, wearisome. Darcy was like a lawyer, every single annoyance had to be addressed in detail and individually. It was getting to the point where the phrase, ‘you didn’t say not to do that’, was starting to haunt him.   

Loki glowered at Saunders as he pulled his sleeve from Darcy’s grip, before turning his chair to face her.

He was unprepared to suddenly have his aide fling herself at him, straddling his lap, plastering herself against his chest, almost tipping herself, Loki and the chair over onto the annoying Saunders. Wrapping her arms around his neck like a vise, Darcy put her lips to his ear and whispered frantically. “Jotuns. Loki there’s a Jotun army in Alaska. The Avengers are heading there right now!”

For a moment, Loki was frozen. Of all the horrors he imagined to arrive on Midgard with no warning, Jotuns were not one of them.

Of course, of all the ways he imagined he would ever leave a board meeting, standing up abruptly, supporting the weight of his assistant with a hand clasped against her lovely ass, as she wrapped her legs around his waist, was also not one of them.

But today was a day of firsts it seemed as he strode quickly out of the room, ignoring the outraged mutters from the others and Pepper’s voice in the background trying to drown them out with soothing murmurs.

In hindsight, he should have put Darcy down as he headed for the privacy of his new office. Admittedly he wasn’t thinking about how it would look as she continued to rapidly whisper news into his ear. Carrying her did get them there faster, but letting her walk on her own would have avoided scandalizing half of the executive floor. It also would have also avoided his actions inciting the envy of the other half. Of course just changing the placement of his hand would have helped there.

Possibly, he should have also pushed his office door shut before he threw her on his desk. Not that he didn’t magic the door shut with a wave of his hand the minute he set Darcy down. But still the desk tossing was not without its witnesses.

Yes, in hindsight all of those things would have been good ideas, but at the time he just wanted to know how Darcy even knew about Jotuns in the first place and more importantly, did she know that he was a Jotun?

 “Jarvis,” Loki said, trying to at least sound calm. “’Override’, authorization, ‘Bag of Cats’, voice verification ‘Loki’, protocol ‘Extreme Privacy’, execution, ‘Immediate’.”

OoooO

Thor. Of course it would have had to be that big muscled, big mouthed oaf describing them to Darcy so she could recognize them from the feed she had idly asked Jarvis to show her.  “Jarvis, please remind me that before the year is out, I need to write a very detailed, extremely embarrassing, biography titled something along the lines of Thor Odinson the Idiot.”

“Of course sir.”

The temperature in the room seemed to plummet as Loki stood there, one long shapely finger tapping his lips as he thought. Outwardly calm, his thoughts were so jumbled and furious he failed to notice Darcy leaving and then re-entering his office a short time later.

“Jarvis, can you give me a live time visual of the inside of the Avenger’s QuinJet?”

OoooO

“Sir, I must warn you that Mister Laufey is heading your way.” Jarvis told Tony.

“To Alaska Jarvis, or here on the jet?” Tony asked as a ripple started near the cargo bay door.

“Never mind, I think this is him.” Tony saw the frowns being directed at him. “Loki.” He said, pointing to the disturbance by the bay doors.

The finely suited god tripped through the portal with much less than his usual grace, although that could possibly be attributed to Darcy Lewis hanging off his back like a demented attack monkey.

“Darcy!” Loki roared.

“You know Loki, you only get S.H.I.E.L.D. frequent flyer miles if you’re on the plane when it takes off.” Bruce told him with a gentle smile.

“But hey, a companion flies free when you use a space-portal-thingy.” Tony quipped.

“Can it, both of you.” Coulson snapped pausing the video and looking intently at Loki. “Why are you here?”

Somehow, the other Avengers were aware of the fallout from Tony calling Loki into the Atlanta situation. Although how they knew he wasn’t sure. Tony refused to believe that Fury would tell anyone the time of day, let alone anything else. However Agent was his fair haired boy…

“He’s here because those are--”

Loki threw his hand up, snapping his fingers and Darcy’s mouth slammed shut. Ignoring her furious glare, he pushed her into a seat beside Barton, indicating that the archer needed to strap in the now mute PA. Moving forward, Loki nodded to Tony and Steve before turning his attention to Coulson and the screen they had been studying.

“Sucks, doesn’t it,” Tony said leaning back and looking around Steve to commiserated with the struggling Darcy. Since it wasn’t him with his lips zipped, he was able to be amused by it this time. 

“Jesus Christ will you hold still,” Clint demanded, trying to hold Darcy down and get the straps snapped at the same time.

Furious, Darcy slapped at his arm and directing muted screams at him as she pointed emphatically towards her sealed together lips.

“Hey, that’s not my problem, I just have to get you buckled in; I refuse to be responsible for damages caused to psycho god’s property because of turbulence.” Clint laughed, ducking away as Darcy let loose another muffled scream and tried, unsuccessfully, to punch him. She did however manage to land a solid kick to his shin.

At Clint’s yelp, Loki turned around to see him rubbing his shin, “The bitch kicked me!” He complained, glaring at the god.

“Barton, watch your mouth. You do not speak of my assistant with those words.” 

Loki then pointed to the now strapped in, but still struggling Darcy. “Leave those straps alone! You are in enough trouble already. Best behavior. Now.”

Since several of the Avengers knew Darcy, Tony was not the only one surprised when she immediately folded her arms and slumped back on the bench. Her lips may have been sealed, but that didn’t stop Darcy from trying to stick the bottom one out in a massive pout. It didn’t work, and looked funny as hell since the top one went right along with it, but hey, give the kid credit, she tried. 

Since he had already seen the video Coulson was running several times, Tony drifted back and stood in front of Darcy with a huge shit-eating grin. “So. You know, you just might be in trouble. Unless Prince Psychopath said, sure, crawl on my shoulders, I like carrying people piggy-back. That is not to say that he didn’t, but I am pretty sure that’s one of his new suits, and as you know how fussy he is about his clothes.

Darcy shot him a glare over the tops of her glasses hot enough to melt metal. She said something too, but it obviously came out as one big mumble.

“I like you like this. I wonder if I can get Mister Wizard to make me a magic Darcy Remote Control with a giant mute button? I have a birthday coming up, perhaps I’ll suggest it.” Darcy swung at him, but strapped in as she was, she just didn’t have enough reach. So she took her knit hat off and threw it at his face. Since knit caps aren’t terribly aerodynamic, it landed on the floor at his feet.

“Nice hair.” He laughed. Ignoring the frustrated temper flashing in Darcy’s blue eyes, Tony leaned down conspiratorially, “Pretty soon he's going to be busy dealing with giant smurfs, if he doesn’t undo this really soon, you’ll be lip locked for several hours, maybe until tomorrow if we’re lucky. And not the fun kind of lip lock either.”

Face getting redder by the moment, Darcy strained to enunciate, what Tony believed were several swear words with no success.

“I’m sorry? Did you say something? I couldn’t understand you, could you repeat that please?” Tony asked, totally enjoying teasing her. Okay, he was being a bit childish and maybe more than a bit mean, but what the hell, he was enjoying himself.

Rather than repeat herself; Darcy decided to communicate with sign language. Not formal ASL, but rather the very emphatic use of the center finger on both hands.

“Ms. Lewis, could we not stoop to vulgarity?” Loki requested in an infinitely patient tone not unlike that used to request a five-year old for the fiftieth time to please stop kicking the back of mommy’s seat.

Tony smirked at her, the lights in his eyes dancing as he watched the blush slowly staining Darcy’s cheeks.

Avoiding everyone’s gaze Darcy focused her attention on her hat lying on the floor. 

“And you Stark, could you please quit baiting my assistant? You are older than twelve, please act like it.” Loki asked, looking a bit put out with the interruption.

“Yeah, okay. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think she is just perfect the way she is right now, but you might want to un-whammy her lips, in case she needs to call for help or something. We are going into a fight. If it’s a choice between not talking at all or being quiet for the while, I bet she’ll promise to shut up until we get there.”

Loki looked thoughtfully at Darcy, after a moment, aware of his scrutiny, she looked up at Loki. From her stiff posture, and the evil glare she tossed at Tony, it was apparent that she was pretty pissed, but she wiped that look off her face before turning to face Loki’s regard.

“Well?” he asked, lifting one brow inquiringly.

Darcy gave an abrupt nod.

“Very well,” Loki said, snapping his fingers and then turning back to the screen.

“Bastard!” she mouthed at Tony, before folding her arms tightly and averting her gaze.

Tony gave her one last grin, which from the way she stiffened and turned away from him, he knew she saw. As fun as it was to fuck with Darcy…, verbally, Tony still wouldn’t touch her physically with a ten foot pole, he decided to go for the big money and annoy Loki for a while, which was a lot of fun in its own right. It was even more fun when he knew Darcy would just be dying to jump in and lay down some snark in defense of her beloved god, but would have to restrain herself if she didn’t want lip whammied again. 

He walked over and nudged the Fashion God.

“So, Loki. Should I have brought Pepper?” He turned to Coulson, “Why didn’t you tell us it was bring your aide to work day?” 

“Stark…” Coulson said in his voice of extremely limited patience. “So. Loki. You just decided to come join the party? You know anything about these things?”

It was always interesting to watch Coulson and Loki try to out poker face each other.  At the end of perhaps a minute, with neither one getting anywhere they apparently decided to call it a draw and get back to the business at hand.

Loki gestured towards the screen. “These things, Agent Coulson are Jotuns, also known as Frost Giants. They are strong, quick, fast and can summon ice right out of the air. Enough of them can, as you see, change the local weather. It took Asgard a thousand years to bring them to their knees.” Loki told him, staring at the video, tapping a pale finger against his lower lip.

“They have invaded earth before, the last time causing a mini ice age before they were driven off by the Æsir,” Loki paused.

“This occurred shortly before I was born.”

Although his expression hadn’t changed, it seemed to Tony that Loki’s voice had become a bit harsher.

After a moment, Loki narrowed his eyes, glaring at the images on the screen as if his look alone could cause the invaders to self-combust. “They are as long lived as the Æsir, Their king during the invasion of Midgard was killed several years ago along with his eldest son, a cousin named Býleistr is his only remaining heir and their current king. This invasion is doubtless to show him as a worthy successor and consolidate his rule.”

“You seem to know a lot about them,” Natasha said slowly. Much like Coulson and Loki, her face was a blank mask, but it seemed to Tony that she was a bit suspicious of Loki’s unasked for assistance, coupled with his in-depth knowledge of the invading force.

Watching the video unfold and still tapping his lip softly Loki replied, “Yes, I do.”

“So,” Natasha countered watching him closely, “how is it you know so much about them? Are there many Frost Giants in Asgard?”

Loki’s turned glittering green slits of malice upon Natasha, “No, Agent Romanoff, there are not many Frost Giants in Asgard.” His thin lips curled away from his teeth in a nasty grimace. “In fact,” he continued, his voice is absolutely rimed with hate and venom, “to the best of my knowledge there was only ever one Frost Giant in Asgard after the Great War.”

Bruce shifted uneasily, watching Coulson and Loki carefully.

Even Coulson was reacting to the naked hatred Loki was exhibiting. His raised eyebrow marring his otherwise a picture perfect poker face, Coulson started to ask him a question when Natasha rode over him.

“So then how do you know so much about them?” she pressed, arms folded, observing him intently.

“I was to someday be the Æsir chief advisor, so over the years I learned many things.” Loki said. He regarded them all for a moment.

When Loki’s eyes swept around the group, Natasha tilted her head and gave him an unmistakable, ‘go on’ look.

 Loki sighed heavily, “What do you want to know Agent Romanoff?  That Frey, ruler of Álfheimr is a puppet king who is Vanir by birth?” Loki voice started to rise a bit, “That the Vanir have the best Seer’s in the Nine Realms?  That the Muspelheim king is Surtr and his consort Sinmara is distantly related to previous Frost Giant Kings?”

Loki’s was almost shouting, “That Hreidmar, who has terrible table manners is the king of the dwarfs on Nidavellir, Bor is his head craftsman and leader of the Dvergar council and that they share Svartálfaheimr with the Dark Elves?

Okay… someone is headed for a meltdown, thought Tony, as he shifted closer to the now shouting, trembling god.

“That Malekith, while not the ruler of the Dark Elves is an utter bastard who delights in and excels at strife and warfare?!” Leaning down, his nose almost touching Natasha’s, Loki screamed, “What else do you want to know that can’t wait for later?!”

While she didn’t move her feet, Natasha was leaning back as much as she could to get away from the enraged god.  To her credit, her expression hadn’t changed during the yelling, but she did flinch when Loki’s armor, complete with helm and scepter manifested itself on him while he glowered at her.

“Okay. Well. I don’t know about you Red,” Tony said with false cheerfulness. “But I think we’re good on the Nine Realm history lesson.” Since there was no chance of getting Loki to move away, as Tony stepped towards her and Loki he pushed Natasha back a few feet so he could stand between them.

Tony was frankly amazed that Clint hadn’t tried to put an arrow through the now enraged god when he started screaming at Natasha and pointing at her with his scepter.

“Okay everyone, let’s all focus on the problem at hand,” Coulson told them in a calm, yet authoritative voice. “So… Loki. Frost Giants? Can we communicate with them?” He asked, deliberately turning his attention back to the screen before frowning and turning back to look at Loki. “Ah… You wouldn’t happen to know how we can verify why they’re here would you?”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter #31 – Alaskan Trip

 Loki was tired, trying to port to a fast moving vehicle was hard, really hard. All the god really wanted to do was sit down and rest for a few minutes.  As much as he would like to blame his fatigue for his inexcusable screaming at Agent Romanoff, he knew that wasn’t the cause of his humiliating loss of control.

Frost Giants. He had never wanted to see another one. Everything that had gone wrong with his life seemed to be connected to that accursed race. Just the thought of them being on the same planet as him made Loki want to shudder.

He could feel Stark watching him, concerned for his realm of course, but also concerned for him. Sentiment. Loki felt both trapped and comforted by it. Stark, Pepper, Darcy and in a way even Agent Coulson, all of them worried for him. Comforting in a way that he has not felt since he actually believed that Odin, Thor and Frigga loved him whole heartedly, before he knew… Before they knew what a monster he really was.   

He couldn’t help but wonder what Fury would do if he knew who and what Loki really was. Would he assume that Býleistr was invading Midgard on account of Loki’s presence?  Fury might. And truth be told, it might actually be the reason for the invasion.

“Come on buddy,” Tony said, awkwardly patting him on the back, recalling Loki to the task at hand.

Scrubbing his face and neck wearily with his free hand, Loki avoided Tony’s sympathetic look instead focusing on the screen trying to get his breathing back under control.

“Can we get live feed?” he asked Coulson.

“Sure. Anything in particular we’re looking for?”

“Býleistr, I need to find Býleistr.”

Over the next hour, they watched live feed from as many different angles as they could manage. Jarvis and some of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s brighter tech were finally able to hack them into the base and reactivate their security cameras.

While watching feed from one of the equipment hangers, Bruce asked quietly, “Who are all these little guys?” Of course little was being used here as a relative term.

Inside the hanger there was several of the large ten plus foot Frost Giants, some of them holding and threatening obviously wounded base personnel. But working along with them were numerous smaller Frost Giants who looked to be between seven to eight feet tall. Some of the smaller Frost Giants were crowded around wounded soldiers, watching them closely as they begrudgingly explained the operation of the various transport trucks. Other groups of them apparently were being tutored in weapon use.

“Artisans. I think,” Loki said, voice tinged with uncertainty. “I have never seen one, but I have read about smaller Frost Giants who do crafting and other detailed work. They are supposed to be very clever and are very valuable, but are seldom used in battle and only then in the most desperate of defensive circumstances.”

Loki and Tony shared a thoughtful look.

“What do Frost Giant’s usually use for rapid transport?” Tony asked.

“Dire Bears, each of which is large enough to carry several warriors and many supplies. Even the smallest would be larger than one of those transports. And occasionally they use Ice Dragons, but those are rare and very difficult to handle.” Loki looked very thoughtful.

“Of course…” he said wonderingly. “When the BiFrost was destroyed instead of being directed, Yggdrasil’s power overflowed opening ancient channels between the worlds. It is still not easy to traverse the branches of the world tree, but possible if you are skilled and determined. However it takes a certain firmness of mind and purpose not to be driven mad by those old paths. And Dire Bears and Ice Dragons would be far too large for the raw gate, even if you could keep them under control on the paths.

Tony laughed, “So they are trying to use trucks instead of their usual Giant Bears?” He grinned at the other Avengers. “They’ll be lousy drivers and I would be willing to bet no matter how smart they are they won’t be able to use the planes or choppers this quick, which are too small anyhow for their real warriors.

“And no matter how skilled their artisans, it’s unlikely they will be able to become really proficient with our rifles and mortars in a few hours.” Natasha said in a satisfied tone.

“Okay. That I’ll grant you,” Bruce said in his soft voice. “But some of those big bruisers look like they could take on Thor without his hammer; several of them and even the Other Guy might have a problem.”

OoooO

As the transport bay door opened, Tony turned to Loki and said, “Remind me when we get back to the lab we need to build a Chitauri battle scooter for you. Or a quidditch broom, honestly either one works for me.”

“Quiet muggle,” Loki retorted absent mindedly, his eyes unfocused as he prepared for the battle ahead.

Okay. As often as Loki was at a loss with random cultural references, Tony did have to admit that the god was a freaking infallible encyclopedia of all things Star Wars and Harry Potter related. While Tony just could not convince him that Star Wars episodes one thru three were utter rubbish, Loki did agree that Jar-Jar Binks was a worse abomination than any Ewok.

As they swooped out of the transport bay, Tony sighed over the necessity of having the god ride piggy-back. However, bringing the QuinJet down low enough for him to accurately deploy would put it too much a risk for attacks from the Frost Giants, so an undignified mode of transportation was called for. Tony was just glad that Loki went invisible before he climbed on the back of the iron man suit. Not only did that eliminate Natasha snapping a blackmail picture with her cell phone, it also kept Clint’s mouth shut. Not being able to see the god meant that Clint had no way of defending against him, should the god take offense at Clint’s sick humor.

Flying low and fast, Tony circled the base to provide an invisible Loki with one last chance to look for the Frost Giant command cluster. 

“Stark, over on the right, past the tree in that training field, do you see them?” Loki said.

Tony huffed to himself. Asgardians have some seriously fucking good eyesight because at the speed they are travelling and the distance they are away from the parade ground, Tony needs both heavy duty magnification and Jarvis processing the images to make out anything in the area Loki indicated.

“Looking at the amount of amour ornament Stark, I would think that’s them.”

“You don’t know what he looks like?” asked Tony, scanning the approach for problems.

“Stark, I was only on Jotunheim three times in my life, all of them brief and once I was too busy running for my life while being chased by a Dire Bear and a horde of screaming berserkers.”

“I thought Dire Bears were really fast?”

“They are incredibly fast, but I’m still here, so let’s just say I was inspired to be faster.” Loki said smugly.

Tony grinned behind his mask as they banked a turn heading east. 

“There. Just drop me off on that light grey roof over there,” Loki said into the com, “and then go help the others with their containment efforts.”

“Not going to happen, Princess,” Tony told him as they angled into the drop point. “There is no way I’m leaving you here alone surrounded by an alien army as you drop into visit their heavily guarded command structure.”

“Stark, don’t get too close to them; they can burn your armor right off of you if they touch you. From a distance they shoot razor sharp shards of ice or can even cover you in an ice that doesn’t melt.”

“This is Titanium Gold alloy, I doubt if a few icicles are going to hurt it,” tony said dismissively as he swooped down close enough to Loki’s preferred landing spot for him to jump. 

Tony bobbled in the air a bit as he adjusted to change in weight as Loki jumped off. Tony still couldn’t see the crazy god, but he did see a dent appear on the roof surface as Loki dropped down about twenty feet.

“Jotun ice shards can cleave through dwarven steel Stark, they are nothing to dismiss.” Loki said over the comm.

Tony knew from Loki’s breathing that he was running along the roof, but he still had no idea where the chaos god intended to emerge.

“Okay, we all copy on the ice shards, Loki any idea how far they can throw those shards or do that covered with ice trick?” Steve asked over the comm.

“No. As I said, there is not much interaction between Jotunheim and the other realms; most of what I know comes from old stories.” Loki’s said, but then continued thoughtfully, “and heat of course, they are very sensitive to extreme heat.”

Tony pulled up high and hovered above the base, “Jarvis, keep an eye out in the air and let me know if anything is coming in. And let‘s rotate some high explosive heat rounds as first missile choice.”

“Very good sir.”

Tony could feel faint vibrations as the requested missiles were slotted into place.

Bruce was hanging back at the carrier with Coulson, watching feed until they really needed him. That was the bad thing about the Hulk, he could beat anyone down to the ground, but the collateral damage from his actions was even worse than what Thor’s could cause. Tony at least could try to wait until he was clear of buildings before launching a missile, or choose a different weapon to reduce damage, but he had seen the Hulk go through a building rather than around it for crying out loud.

“Warriors of Jotunheim, you are being lead into certain doom by Býleistr. There is no way you will prevail here. If the Avengers and the military forces of Midgard don’t destroy you, your actions will incur the wrath of Asgard.” Loki’s voice boomed across the base causing a ripple in the troops gathered in the parade ground.

Tony zoomed his vision in on the likeliest area.

“Who dares to address the king of Jotunheim?” called a deep rumbling voice as the various Frost Giants looked around for the source of the warning.

“Loki, the speaker is in the left hand group. Right in front of those three big bruisers wearing the cross braces.” said Tony into the comm.

“Ah. That would be me.” Loki said in a conversational tone that was somehow amplified to reach all parts of the base.

It took a second or two until all the Frost Giants were looking at in the proper direction. There, on top of a building that was slightly to one side of the parade ground stood a tall slim figure in black, green and bronze.

Several Jotun’s started and a low buzz of comment in their previously quiet ranks broke out as the most ornately armored figure in the group pushed to the forefront and pointed up at Loki.

“Kill him!” Býleistr commanded.

Amused, Loki cocked his head slightly to one side and regarded him with skeptically raised brows. “After all I’ve done for you?” he queried.

Broken whispers flew around the parade ground, coalescing into the words, ‘Loki of Asgard’ which was repeated over and over again spreading out like ripples in a pool of previously still water.

Holding his scepter which was growing as he moved, Loki nonchalantly walked through the snow to the edge of the roof and jumped down. He landed in a crouched position, head down, left knee and finger tips touching the ground, his right hand now holding a glowing gold and blue staff with a wickedly sharp looking blade. Displaced snow swirled lightly around him before settling on anything but him.

Loki held that pose for just an instant, before raising his head slowly and allowing an insane grin to stretch across his face.

There was a ripple of movement towards him in the Frost Giant ranks, Loki’s gaze tightened and snapped slightly to the left where there was movement.

“Please don’t.” He chided them quietly, causing the movement to cease. He stood slowly.

Hundreds of pairs of eyes watched him as Loki reached up, took off his helm and then vanished it. Holding his staff, Loki stretched both arms aloft as he closed his eyes. He took a deep breath in and as he exhaled it, dark blue flowed across his face and hands, as in an instant all of his visible skin had turned blue, almost cobalt, with an intricate pattern of slightly raised lines.

“Holy shit!” Tony exclaimed into the comm, “Loki just turned into a smurf?!” Over the exclamations of the other Avengers, Tony heard Darcy shouting at Coulson in the back ground.

 Loki slowly opened blood red eyes and surveyed the crowd in front of him.

 “He’s not a Smurf you idiots, he is the heir apparent to the throne of Jotunheim!”

Tony saw Loki’s expression flicker for the merest second, “Darcy, be quiet, not another word.” The dark god said under his breath. Loud enough for his microphone to pick it up, but not anything that was broadcast to the alien invaders.

“So he’s playing us?” Natasha asked slowly, as Barton yelled over her.

“I knew it! I knew the bastard had something up his sleeve!”

Tony wasn’t quite sure what to think, neither Thor nor Loki had ever mentioned anything real information about Frost Giants. And then Tony had an epiphany.

Loki! There was only one Frost Giant in all of Asgard. Thor had mentioned that Loki was adopted; the muscled blond meat head had just neglected to mention that Loki was apparently not adopted from another family but rather a whole different race.

And from the virtual spitting that he had used when speaking of Frost Giants, they were an entirely objectionable race as far as Loki was concerned. This could be a problem.

The Avengers were not the only ones caught off guard. A ripple of surprise ran through the crowd of Frost Giants below. Tony heard the words ‘Laufey’s marks’ and ‘First born’, ‘Missing’ and occasionally ‘sorcerer’ whispered and then shouted by small groups of Frost Giants as Loki finally lowered his arms to his sides to stand regally before them his head raised arrogantly, the jewel in his staff throwing off streamers of light that caused his ruby eyes to glow.

“Laufeyson!” shrieked a Frost Giant who then spun and began sprinting with a few others through the deepening snow heading towards the center of the base.

“Stop them!” screamed Býleistr and dozens of warriors chased after the fleeing group.

Loki’s staff tossed a bright blue bolt into the pursuing warriors, felling two of them. “Stark, don’t let anyone stop that group!” he cried, before throwing himself at the crowd in front of him.

Tony saw chaos break out as Loki threw himself at the Frost Giants blocking him from Býleistr, some attacking Loki, some backing away from him and some turning to attack those beside them.

“Kin Slayer!” howled Býleistr surging forward with a tight knit group around him, trying to get through the confusion in front of him.

Another bolt from the staff struck the ground between the group shouting ‘Laufeyson’ and the much larger group pursuing them. As dirt and snow fountained up from the explosion, Loki yelled, “Stark! I’m busy here! Protect the first group! If Býleistr wants them dead, they can only be helping us!”

“Okay. Yeah. I guess.” Tony sputtered. He watched as Loki spun in to action, sweeping his staff to slice into Byleistr’s defenders, before spinning it around and using it to vault over the group directly in front of him.

“Stark!” Loki roared.

“Right. Got it. Defend the first group.” Tony turned and targeted the group of pursuers, firing multiple rounds that cut their numbers by a quarter. Frost Giants were tough; it pretty much took a direct torso hit to stop them. A few that were down with leg injuries had turned and were firing ice daggers at him.

“Coulson! Loki is going to need some help, he just took on half their frickin’ army.” Tony shouted as he dodged the daggers. “And he is going to need it fast!”

“We’re on it Tony,” Bruce told him soothingly. And Tony could hear the QuinJet approaching his location.

“Fuck!” Tony screamed as a dagger sliced through the armor on his thigh, leaving a searing pain behind.

“Tony are you alright? Do you need help?” Steve called.

Tony’s thigh was on fire, but the suit seemed to be still be functioning okay. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m okay,” he panted. “But you might want to take the jet up a bit, those damn ice daggers sliced through my armor like it was made of cloth.”

Still dodging daggers, Tony put more distance between himself and the ground and then fired again. “Loki, you hanging in there okay?” Tony asked, unable to take his eyes away from the group he was firing at.

“He’s fine Tony,” Bruce assured him as the bark of the Quinjet’s guns sounded. “Oh. Even better now. Coulson is a good shot.”

As Tony continued to fire, the first group plowed into the bewildered defenders of the portal and disappeared within it. “Oh no you don’t,” Tony muttered, as he targeted the guards and remaining pursuers.

After that it got a bit messy.

“Guy’s there’s a retraction going on, we have smurfs outside the base heading back our way,” Clint called from his perch on the highest building in the complex.

“Any particular area?” called Steve in a slightly breathless voice.

“A few on the back and side, but most coming from town and converging on the main road Cap, looks like they are headed to the Entry Gate. But everybody needs to be aware that they might be coming in from behind you in those other areas,” said Clint. “Damn, I wish I had brought more Incendiary rounds, I’m going to have to use them sparingly.”

“I wish I’d have brought a flame thrower, my pistols aren’t doing a thing,” Natasha grumbled.

For several minutes Tony only heard the occasional swear word over the comm, as he picked off warriors that were heading towards Loki. He knew Loki was still going strong from his occasional taunting of ‘Býleistr’. Then his attention was caught by some changing colors in the area of the portal.

“Shit! Loki! I think your group is back, and they brought the three wise men with them.” Tony called. “Oh wait, there are more of them. Looks like a bunch of old Frost Dudes in really fancy dress. Or furs. Or loin cloths or whatever.”

“Good.” The god panted into the comm. “Don’t touch them. In fact, none of you should engage anyone that doesn’t engage you. Stark, Coulson, I’m going to try to separate Býleistr from his supporters. Keep anyone from following us and don’t either of you touch him!”

Wondering what the hell Loki was up to, Tony soared back to the parade ground.

While the whirling, kicking, slashing god had reduced the number of warriors a lot, the Smurf king still had plenty of help.

“Cousin!” shouted Loki, again using his magic broadcast voice which echoed from one end of the base to the other. “Are you so afraid of me that you must hide behind an army? How poor are your fighting skills that you hide behind their arms fearing to meet a runt like me face to face?” Loki swayed, bent knees dropping him backwards as a guard’s killing stoke passed over him, no sooner had it passed than he lifted up, twisting to follow the movement, stabbing underneath the guard’s unprotected sword arm, almost severing it from the shoulder.

“How sad,” Loki cooed, spinning his staff backwards, knocking the feet out from under the warrior coming up behind him, his amplified voice laden with false sympathy as he spun and slashed the Jotun’s throat open, “the would-be-king of Jotunheim is afraid to face a foe half his size.”

Head snapping up, an enraged Býleistr shoved the guards in front of him out of his way reducing the number of bodies between him and Loki.

Large hands reached out to grab Loki’s staff, grasping it perhaps a foot from the cruelly curved blade. Using his left hand to retain a hold on his staff, Loki spun and thrust a materialized misericorde into the warrior in front of him, bringing the long thin blade up through his ribs into his heart. Taking blade with him, he ducked away from the fatally wounded spasming Frost Giant and reversed his grip on the weapon flinging it into the eye of his next victim.

“Kinslayer!” Býleistr snarled as he at last came face to face with a blue splattered Loki.

“Gentle cousin,” Loki amplified voice cooed stepping backwards to avoid a chest slash that would have opened him from neck to hip. “Poor bumbling Býleistr, who has to lead his people into war to distract them from his own inept rule. So sad,” Loki mockingly commiserated, his voice rolling across the base.

Occasionally sending a repulser burst in front of anyone beside Býleistr who tried to follow the retreating god, Tony watched as the gap between the main fighters and the two cousins widened. While he could easily hear Loki’s mocking comments, the answering roars of the Smurf King were audible even without magical amplification.

Springing backwards to escape a particularly vicious slash Loki spun his staff forward parallel to his falling body, slashing the Jotun King across the stomach. Using the momentum of his fall, Loki tucked his staff in close and swung his legs up and over his head until he was once again standing.

Unfortunately, from what Tony could see when Smurf King twisted away from Loki, the injury seemed to be shallow. However combined with Byleistr’s check and turn, the back rollout move opened up enough distance between the two that Loki could spin around and take to his heels, still of course calling out insults over his shoulder.

This was Loki after all; Tony supposed the god of mischief would be three days dead before his essential Loki-snark stopped.

Bellowing in triumph at his attacker’s flight, the king tore off after him. Tony had a moment or two of worry when it appeared that Loki might be over taken. “Lokiiiiii?” Tony called apprehensively, “buddy you need some help?”

“Stay where you are Stark,” huffed the sprinting god over the comm. “Don’t. Touch. Him. Mine.”

Loki was at a flat out run now, the Jotun easily keeping up with him, but no longer gaining. “Get. Ready. I call. You. Pick. Up,” he forced out, sacrificing his normal elegant speech for air to fuel his flight.

Tony was getting worried, while still running at top speed, it seemed that Loki was losing a half step or so in distance every few steps. Worried, Tony ghosted towards the running figures.

“Coulson, keep this bunch here, I’m going to go help Loki.” 

Before Coulson could reply, Býleistr stretched out, swinging his icy razor sharp sword across the god’s back.

“NO!”

Tony couldn’t believe it, the dark god pitched forward, a huge slash open across his back.

Loki was down.

Loki was hurt.

Loki was hurt bad, real bad.

Chapter Text

Chapter #32 – Very Bad

No.

Loki wasn’t moving and Tony was freaking.

Tony watched in horror as the Frost Giant King howled in triumph, his feet planted on either side of the fallen god.

He fired both repulsors, blasting Býleistr forward, to tumble a few feet in front of Loki. Snarling, the Frost Giant twisted, flinging a handful of ice shards.  Tony narrowly avoided being diced by cutting all power and dropping like a rock to the ground as the shards passed through when he had been just a moment earlier. The leg of his suit that had been damaged by an ice shard earlier buckled when he landed causing him to lurch to the left as the shock absorbers on that side failed. The jolt of pain up that leg was so bad it made him dizzy and slightly nauseous.

Oh no.

Hitting all his thrusters as hard as he could Tony rocketed up in the air narrowly escaping an ice spear that the leaping Jotun had fired at his chest.

In one smooth motion Býleistr pivoted again planting his feet on either side of the fallen god and grabbed Loki’s long black hair wrenching his head back.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. The angle was all wrong for repulsor shots and incendiary rockets this close might take out Loki also.

Before Tony could reverse his direction of flight, Býleistr grew a short ice sword and sliced through the fallen god’s neck.

“NO!”

“Tony? Tony are you alright?” Bruce called.

Loki was dead?  Tony thought he was going to pass out. Jarvis was trying to tell him to breath or something, Bruce was yammering at him on the comm, but Tony ignored them, shocked at what had just happen. Gods... Gods were immortal… Weren’t they?

Loki couldn’t be dead. He was a god. He was Tony’s. Dread curled around him, crushing his chest, pooling in his belly, dark, black, clawingly painful. His vision tunneled, the only thing he could see was his god laying in the snow surround by a pool of blue blood.

Suddenly, Tony’s chest felt like it was ripping apart. Screaming savagely he fired a barrage of missiles at the bastard holding the sword.

He was Tony-God-Damned-Fucking-Stark. And nobody takes his stuff and gets away with it.

Nobody.

Several things happened as Býleistr lifted Loki’s bloody head in triumph.  

The missiles Tony fired splattered harmlessly against a green tinged force field. Loki’s head and body both disappeared causing the Jotun ruler to shriek in rage.  And then Loki, his Loki, appeared leaping up directly behind the king, swinging the blade on his staff with both hands across Byleistr’s own neck, slicing it almost all the way through.

Tony thought he was going to faint.

While it took another swing to finally part the head from the body, Tony was fiercely glad to see that Jotunheim no longer had a king.

Deciding that he had been in the air long enough, Tony dropped down, landing heavily right behind Loki and pulled him into an almost bone crushing hug. He wasn’t crying or anything. He was Tony ‘Fucking’ Stark, and Tony ‘Fucking’ Stark didn’t cry. He was just… a little moist. And maybe he was a little light headed with relief and really really glad that his god wasn’t dead.

“Stark!”

Ignoring the indignant squawk Tony spun Loki around, running his gauntleted hands up and down him, checking for injuries.

“Stark! You’re bruising me you idiot,” Loki snarled, trying to back out to the way of those hard metal hands.

Which wasn’t strictly true. Many of those bruises, slices and shallow scrapes had come from the fighting. Tony flipped up his visor. “Loki, you have to quit scaring me like that!”

Just as he was getting ready to unleash a scathing reply, Loki paused, taking in Tony’s anxious expression, he sagged a bit smiling. His eyes half hooded in gentle humor he asked in a warm, but mocking voice, “Stark are you ever NOT going to fall for that?”

He is such a bastard, Tony thought fondly as he roughly pushed the god away.

“Loki, Tony, you have company coming!” Coulson called urgently. “I can’t keep them contained anymore without killing a few.”

Tony spun around to see dozens of Frost Giant warriors stalking grimly towards them weapons raised.

Loki, clasping the severed head to his chest, slipped between Tony and the advancing threat. “Take us up. Now.”

Putting and arm around Loki who had the dripping severed head clasped to his chest, Tony shot straight up, not doing too horribly bad a job of keeping them stable with only the repulser in one palm to balance with. 

As they climbed high enough to be out of range of flung ice shards, Loki asked Tony to just hold them in place so he could address the remaining Jotun warriors. Tony was fine with that, what he wasn’t fine with was all the blue blood that was getting all over his suit. Heck, forget wiping it down when he got home, at this rate he was going to have to run himself through a fricking car wash. And Loki… he was covered worse than Tony, the god had better have a lot of bibbity-boppity-boo at his finger tips to get himself clean or Tony was going to drag the god through a carwash too, custom leather outfit be dammed, no one was dragging that much blood into his tower. Some of the entry rugs were antique for Christ’s sake.

Loki, with a hand on either side of Byleistr’s severed head, held it out at arm’s length as he called out loud enough for all to hear, his features stern and his voice harsh as it rang across the snowy landscape.

“Warriors of Jotunheim, Býleistr is dead. If you leave now, no one else has to die. Go back to your homes, mourn your slain and never more challenge Midgard. Twice you have trespassed here and twice you have been sent home at a loss. Should the Jotun people threaten this realm again they will all be destroyed and the story of your race will pass from the branches of Yggdrasil into the void eternal.”

“Kinslayer! Kinslayer!” Shouted several groups in the crowd, other clusters were shouting, “Laufeyson,” but Tony noticed all of them, even the ones not shouting were regarding Loki with either fear and uneasiness or hope and expectation. Strangely, he did notice that many of the warriors alternated from one set of emotions to the other. 

Tony could see the whole fear and uneasiness thing. He knew how scary Loki’s green eyes looked when he was angry, so Tony was totally sure that the god looked even scarier with angry ruby eyes. So yeah. Tony was totally down with the fear thing. For some reason that whole expectant hope look on so many of the other faces was making Tony really nervous. Something was happening that he wasn’t sure he would like.

Tony also didn’t like that they now had two or more groups of powerful warriors who might at any moment start to tear each other apart. Better of course that tearing civilians apart… but it could still get pretty messy, collateral damage and all that. “Coulson, you might want to move the QuinJet so it’s a little more conspicuous, this could go bad real quick.” Tony muttered into his comm.

“Silence!” roared a deep voice. The warriors below parted, allowing that group of ornately helmeted old Jotuns to stand between the crowds and where Loki and Tony hung in midair.

“Crown Prince Loki, son of King Laufey and Queen Fárbauti, I am Speaker Karthey, head of the Jotun Royal Council. If you would descend, I would have words with you.” His steady gaze regarded them as the ranks of councilors formed behind him.

“Loki, don’t forget, you are not authorized to make agreements for earth.” Coulson said through the comm link.

“Fuck that,” Fury’s voice intruded. “He’s already made promises and threats, what’s next? A god damn treaty? Coulson, get down there, freelance contractors don’t get to make first contact with Royal Councils of an alien planet.”

“Do forgive me Directory Fury, but I thought you wanted them to leave,” Loki said sarcasm laden on every syllable. “How was I mistaken?”

Darcy’s agitated voice drifted over the comms, “Fury, Loki is a god and a royal prince of two fucking realms, both of which also have an interest here and the most powerful sorcerer on earth at this moment. You might try to remember that, he’s not just some two bit S.H.I.E.L.D. contract employee!”

“Coulson! Get her off the comm.” barked Fury. 

“You want down Loki?” Tony asked amused at the byplay. Coulson really needed to remember to mute his mic when he was not speaking if he wanted to keep Darcy out of the conversation.  Or maybe shoot her if he wanted to be really sure she’d shut up.

The god nodded.

Landing Loki several yards away from the Head Speaker, Tony released his hold and then stepped sideways a bit more to get a clear line of fire. He also un-racked some missiles just in case, grinning as some of the warriors flinched at the sound of his suit retracting and the firing racks locking into position.

“Bide.” Said Loki’s low voice over the comm.

Setting Byleistr’s head down in front of him, Loki straightened, head slightly tilted, one eyebrow raised in inquiry.

“Head Speaker Karthey, esteemed council, to what does Midgard owe the honor of your visit.”

“Býleistr sought to bolster his popularity by bring invading Midgard. He promised spoils to his followers. To say that the council was divided on act would be an understatement. However the one thing council has not been divided on was trying to find you Prince Loki.” He gave Loki a look not unlike that of a beleaguered headmaster confronting his most troublesome student.

“You,” he said sourly, “were a very difficult prince to find. Our best scryers could not find you, nor could our spies in Asgard get any word of your whereabouts for many years. Then just when you were found, reportedly imprisoned by Odin for starting wars in Vanaheimr  and Dvergar prior to the convergence, we received word that you had been killed in a battle against the dark elves on Svartálfaheimr.  It was not until today, that we were even able to confirm that you were still alive.”

“Why would you think me dead?” Asked Loki in his amplified voice, his lips in a thin bitter line that twitched up at the corners.

“You have many enemies, do you not?” The old speaker responded tartly.

“Well there is that, yes.” Loki said with a small chuckle. “And yet I still stand. Marvelous isn’t it.”

“Indeed.” Karthey gestured to the councilors behind him. “When news of your presence was brought to us, we held a meeting, a very brief meeting. Since your ties have been severed with Asgard, we resolved to offer you a chance to challenge your cousin for the throne of Jotunheim.”

“He’s very proactive you know,” Tony interjected.

“What?” Tony whined at the vengeful look Loki tossed over his shoulder at him.

Loki looked back towards Karthey, eyes roaming over him and the councilors behind him.

“Why?”   

Karthey snorted, “Perhaps we hope if you rule Jotunheim you will no longer try to destroy it. Perhaps we tire of having kings that you will slay?” He inclined his head, looking down at Loki, “Or perhaps we think it would be a good thing to have a king with so many varied gifts and connections on the throne. Powerful reasons all.”

“I don’t see how, I don’t even know much about Jotunheim.” Loki hesitated a moment and then continued, “I was raised in Asgard, your bitterest enemy, I was taught to think of the Jotun as Frost Giants, as monsters.”

 “So?” The old Jotun countered, “Your mother Fárbauti was a gifted Æsir magic user. There is no law that the king must be full blooded Jotun. Odin is part Frost Giant through his grandfather Bölþorn, yet he reined in Asgard. Many Jotuns consider the Æsir to be ravening beasts of war, but it was not always like this, once we were allies. And having been raised there, you will know exactly what they are thinking and what they might do in a given situation.”

“And I am not exactly on good terms with Asgard’s king or heir, so that could be a problem.”

A loud sound like two rocks slapping together came from Karthey, who wiped a tear of laughter from his eye. He looked to the sky a moment and then with a wide grin fixed his gaze on Loki. “And as that, it has been more than a millennium since we have had a king that has been on good terms with Asgard. Should such a condition persist, I doubt it will trouble us unduly.”

Karthey dropped to one knee, the council behind him following suit immediately. After a moment of stunned incredulousness, the warriors behind them also slowly dropped down to their knees.

“Well hey,” Said Tony brightly. “At least that would solve the problem of you being involved in the decision making here.”

“Coulson, land that damn thing and get your ass down there right now!” Fury shouted. “And don’t you dare let Lewis or Stark talk to anyone important!”

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It had been an interesting hour of jockeying between all the concerned parties, with Darcy and Tony flitting around, talking to everyone and getting on the absent Fury’s last nerve.

“Such a decision of course cannot be made immediately.” Loki said smoothly with a regal dip of his head, indicating respect for Head Speaker Karthey. “Such an honor would require additional discussion, before accepting, to make a decision while standing here, your words esteemed Speaker Karthey still hanging in the air…  Well that would be like a child accepting a treat, not nearly respectful enough of the honor you and your council have offered. ”

There was some shifting, a few veiled glances on both sides and more than a few pleased, if suppressed, smiles on the faces of the Jotun council. Coulson of course maintained his polite smile, perhaps deepening the creases on the corners of his lips just a bit at the depth of the bullshit piling up around them.

We could arrange to leave a delegation here to ‘discuss’ terms and acceptance while sending the main body home tomorrow.” Karthey said with a faint scowl, his large blue hand brushing down the side of his fine white fur kilt. “However that would also send several lesser contenders home to work dissension while the main council is here talking terms.

The old frost giant stepped closer, his chains of office chiming gently on his horned head piece as he lowered his head towards Loki.  “Loki Laufeyson,” he rumbled in a low voice. “Quick decisions and changes of direction are your trademark. It would be best for everyone if you could speak privately to council this evening and perhaps come up with at least a preliminary answer by tomorrow midday.”

Loki huffed, the small laugh drifting away to be lost in the light breeze as emerald eyes locked upon ruby.  “Speaker Karthey, I will be frank with you on that subject. The decisions I have made in haste have not always been my best.” He raised his brows as if in pained reminder as his polite smile twisted into more of a lop sided grimace.

The rest of the assembled might well have been absent, for all the attention either man was giving them.  Loki could feel the old Jotun trying to look inside him, perhaps trying to see if the advantages that Jotunheim would gain through Loki’s powers and connections were worth handing over the direction of the Jotun people to someone who would not willingly give up his Æsir appearance and whose mind had more than once been given up to insanity.

Among the small noises surrounding them, Loki was sure he heard teeth chattering behind him.  “If you and the council would like to make sure your troops are stood down, perhaps I can arrange a meeting in a few hours?” He pulled his phone out, it was almost five. “Perhaps at we could meet again in three hours? I could send someone to you with a transport to bring you to the meeting site?”

Loki looked over to Coulson and received a small nod. He then drew the shivering Darcy forward, giving her an admonitory look. She responded with a quirked eyebrow but then indicated assent by tilting her head and smiling at him. “I am sure that Ms. Lewis would be charmed to wait with you, and facilitate any matters that come up while you are waiting.”

Darcy stepped forwards as Loki pushed her gently before removing his hand from the small of her back , She looked up at Karthey a moment before giving him cheerful grin, “Sure, why not. I’d love to.”

Karthey stared at her a moment, something, perhaps puzzlement flitting across his face. Cocking his head he studied her intently and after a momentary pause, smiled at her. He ducked down and held out a large hand; Darcy promptly held hers out to him. At first it looked like Karthey was going to kiss her hand, but he merely inhaled deeply, his smile increasing.

“We would be most honored by your company,” he told her solemnly, before straightening up and nodding to Loki. 

Loki manifested a heavy green hooded cape which he draped across her shoulders. Darcy turned slightly towards him; Loki then waved his hands again and put a soft black and green scarf around her neck before tugging the hood over her head. Leaning forward, Loki whispered in her ear, “The cape is much too long for you; please make sure you don’t trip.”

“Yeah, right. You just want me to make sure I don’t drag it in the dirt.” Darcy retorted, tugging him down slightly so she could whisper back at him.

“Well there is that of course. It’s my favorite winter cape you know.” Loki responded in a more conversational tone as he straightened up and turned her again to face Karthey.

“Loki.” Coulson called. “If you don’t mind, I’ll leave Agent Romanoff to assist Ms. Lewis.” Loki indicated his assent with a wave of his hand. Coulson snapped his fingers at one of the other agents and said something to him that couldn’t be heard where Loki was standing. But the command was easily deduced by the way the man skinned out of his over coat and handed it and a pair of gloves over to Romanoff. 

“We will meet again in a few hours then,” he told Karthey, the frost giant indicated assent. “Ms. Lewis will let you know as soon as we have arranged a meeting location.”

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“One last thing before we part,” Karthey said, drawing Loki slightly away from the others for privacy. “Tell me Loki, son of Laufey and Fárbauti, how do you intend to rule this realm?” Karthey asked, with a dark smile.

Stealing a glance back at Tony, Coulson, Darcy, Romanoff and the rest of the on lookers, Loki widened his eyes innocently and turned a charming smile upon Karthey.

“Lightly,” Loki breathed, amused at Karthey’s insight. “Very lightly and at a distance.”

Karthey roared, his laughter startling some of those distant watchers. “Well Laufey was a strong king with a gift for finding faithful assistants, but he could never have consolidated his rule without your mother Fárbauti’s cunning.  She was a jewel of an Æsir female you know, able to bend her mate and all around him to her will without any of them realizing it. A master manipulator as it were.”

He looked over Loki’s shoulder at those distant watchers, before smiling down on Loki.  Karthey’s eyes glowed a few moments with amusement, before dulling somewhat as less pleasant memories. “If she had lived, there might have been a different ending to the war.” He sighed, but then brightened back up a bit, his gaze boring into Loki’s. “I have no doubt you, Loki, have inherited that gift along with the many others Fárbauti possessed. Manipulation is not a common Jotun trait; it will give you quite the edge,” Karthey’s smile deepened, “even if it is wielded very lightly.”

~Fini~

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