'Evening, kids!' Tony called as he walked into the kitchen. Before turning his back to go to the fridge, he noted that he didn't get the expected eye-roll from Steve or Natasha, or the small smile from Bruce. Hell, even Clint hadn't reacted, and he was usually all for acting like a child with Tony.
Instead, the four team members were sitting at the table, a file in the middle, either staring at it or Tony. Bruce looked nervous- like he was about to Hulk Out nervous- while Clint was as still as a statue. Both Steve and Natasha were staring at Tony, their faces stony, their eyes hard.
Tony ignored them all and opened the fridge, letting a smirk stretch across his face as he reached for a can of soda. So... they'd finally figured it out. Tony didn't doubt that that folder contained enough evidence to convince the team- and Tony- that it was all over; that they'd finally figured out what Tony had been up to for the past six months.
Good, Tony thought as he popped the tab of his Coke. It was about fucking time.
It had all started six months ago... well, this part of the plan had started six month ago. Really, it had started before; before Afghanistan, before Tony even started creating weapons for Stark Industries, hell, before he attended MIT. It started with a little boy whose parents didn't have time for him; a little boy who was never good enough, who was always thrown to the side for more important things like business meetings and hair appointments.
It started when Tony Stark realised that nobody, not even his parents, cared about him.
Tony schooled his face into his usual bored expression as he shut the fridge and turned to face his team mates- former team mates? Whatever, Tony didn't care. He just wanted to move this along so he could bring out his new suit. God, he'd been dying to get to bring it out and play.
'So, what's happening?' Tony asked, taking a sip of soda. 'Where's Point Break and Agent?'
It was odd, not seeing the entire team together. Sure, they each had their own things to do, but Tony had thought that, given the situation, the other two would be here as well. Then again, maybe Thor was out trying to catch his brother. And Tony wouldn't be surprised if Agent Coulson was on the Helicarrier co-ordinating everything with Fury. Because if the Avengers finally knew, then Fury did too. Hell, Pepper probably knew.
Clint and Steve continued to remain silent, but Bruce sighed and took his glasses off. Natasha tapped at the file on the table, not taking her eyes off Tony as she said, 'They both had business to attend to.'
Tony just nodded and took another sip of his drink. 'We having a team meeting without them?' he asked. ''Cause I gotta tell you, I could get used to reading over files without Thor spraying Pop Tarts everywhere.' He chuckled, though nobody else did, and again Tony had to hide his smirk.
God, did they really think that they could catch him unawares in his own Tower? Really, he'd been expecting to just wake up in a SHIELD holding cell. Then again, maybe the Avengers wanted to hear him say it themselves; maybe they wanted Tony to tell them why he'd betrayed them.
'What's in the file?' Tony asked after he'd finished half his soda. He was growing bored already; he wanted to jump into his suit and fight, maybe blow some shit up. Blowing shit up was always a favourite past time of his. The past few weeks had been boring, what with Loki pulling his punches. 'New orders from Fury?' he tried, watching as all eyes turned to him. 'Agent Coulson find something weird in his apartment?' He paused, licked his lips. 'New enemy?'
Steve flinched, Clint's jaw tightened, Natasha gave nothing away (of course), and Bruce sighed again.
Tony bit his lip this time trying to keep the smile in. Seriously, they were all so predictable. Well... everyone but Bruce.
Tony had discussed this on many, many occasions; just what would happen when the Avengers found out. He knew that Natasha and Clint would try to take him down; they were SHIELD through and through. Steve would feel bad about it, but he'd side with the agents; he was a good little soldier. Thor, of course, would continue to do what he'd always been doing; fighting for what was right while insisting that the bad guy really was a good guy, deep down... deep, deep down. But Bruce...
Tony hummed to himself as he took another swig of Coke. Bruce was a wild card, even after knowing him for the better part of a year. He was a good guy, Tony knew that. But he and SHIELD had more bad history than Tony and SHIELD did. Bruce just wanted to be safe, he wanted to be a free man. He was only partly that now; Tony gave him a place to live, a lab where he could do whatever he wanted, free food and friends to talk to; friends who didn't care that he was the Hulk.
But he still had SHIELD hanging over his head. He still had to work for them when they wanted, and if Fury decided that he couldn't be trusted, Bruce would be thrown into the Hulk Proof Tank that SHIELD had no doubt re-constructed after Loki had dropped the first one from the Helicarrier.
So Bruce... Tony didn't know what Bruce would do. He might side with the Avengers, which would be bad for Tony; the Hulk was apparently impossible to take down, though Tony didn't doubt that he'd eventually figure out a way to do it permanently. Or Bruce might run, disappear, leave the fighting to Tony and SHIELD.
And Tony would take him down. He liked Bruce; Bruce was awesome. But if the doctor made himself an enemy out of Iron Man, well... Tony's enemies never lived long.
Suddenly Natasha cleared her throat and Tony looked at her, eyebrows going up. 'Something's come up,' she said, completely at ease, not giving anything away. But she was staring too much, she was being too professional; that's what gave her away. 'Thor's been called back in, and we're meeting him on the Hellicarrier.'
Tony nodded. 'So I should suit up?'
Clint's eyes narrowed, his jaw twitched, while Natasha said, 'No, that's not necessary. It's just a debrief.'
Tony hummed to himself before finishing his coke. He wandered over to the counter, spinning the empty can between his fingers. 'Not necessary?' he echoed. 'Now see... why don't I believe that?' He set the can down, the noise loud in the near-silent room. Tony raised his eyebrows again and folded his arms as he leaned against the counter. 'What's in the folder?'
It was fun, it really was; watching as the Avengers learned the truth, learned that he wasn't the hero they all thought he was. But see, the thing was, Tony had never said he was a hero, and he never wanted to be a part of the Avengers. He only was because they'd needed him when Loki had attacked. They'd fallen into being a team, and after the invasion Tony would have been more than happy to never see any of them again (except Bruce, of course, 'cause Brucie was awesome).
But more and more bad guys cropped up, and the Avengers started staying at the Tower, and suddenly Tony had live-in team mates. It was their own fault, all of this. They stalked him, they spied on him, Tony was never good enough for them, for anyone. What the hell did they expect?
Natasha glanced down at the file in question, but didn't say anything.
'What's in the folder, Natasha?' Tony asked, his voice harder than before.
The others all glanced at it, and Tony knew. He knew what was in that file. But he wanted to see the pictures for himself.
'What's in the folder?!' Tony shouted.
Clint and Steve both flinched, and Bruce curled his fingers into fists before replacing his glasses, his eyes hard and unreadable. Natasha swallowed thickly and flipped the folder open before pushing it.
A dozen photos spilled across the table top, all showing the same thing; Tony and Loki. In them, the two men were sitting at a table, leaning over it, discussing something that looked important. They were on the landing pad of Tony's penthouse, standing close, Loki showing Tony the new spear he'd created, and Tony grinning like a kid at Christmas. They were in a dark alleyway, barely any light, but enough to show Loki pinning Tony to the wall, his lips attached to Tony's neck, and Tony's head thrown back in ecstasy.
Each and every photo showed Tony and Loki talking, planning, kissing and having sex.
The photos only went back two months, and Tony couldn't help but shake his head. SHIELD had only been onto them for twomonths? Tony and Loki had been fucking for five, working together for six.
'I'm disappointed,' Tony mused as he looked across the photos. 'Only two months?'
'How long?' Natasha asked, not beating around the bush.
Tony didn't see a reason to either. 'Six,' he said before shrugging one shoulder. 'We've been fucking for five.'
Bruce closed his eyes and Steve looked from the photos to Tony and back again. It was Clint who asked, 'Why?'
'Why not?' Tony countered.
'He's evil,' Clint growled. 'He tried to take over the world, he tried to kill Phil, he-' Clint cut himself off, his fingers holding onto the table tight, his jaw twitching.
'He... mind controlled you?' Tony finished for him. 'Yeah, that was pretty awesome. But this time around, we both figured that minions weren't needed; less chance of them fucking up the plan.'
The team all looked at him.
'Oh, by the way, I'm not being mind controlled,' Tony said and gestured at his brown eyes. 'Loki doesn't have access to that sceptre anymore; he made a new one.' He pointed at the photo that showed the new staff Loki had created. It was long, but Loki had the ability to shrink it down and hang it from his belt. It had a long, pointed end, like his last sceptre, and a round crystal just beneath the tip. It held magic, Loki had explained, so that the God could shoot it at his enemies, just like he had before. Only this time, Loki was using his own magic, not the Tesseract's.
This time, Loki was completely in control.
'Why?' Natasha asked, pulling Tony from his thoughts.
'I think I just answered that,' Tony said.
'No,' Natasha shook her head before slamming her hand atop the photos. 'Tell us why, Stark. Why would you work for Loki, why would you betray us?'
'Whoa, work for Loki?' Tony laughed. 'I'm not working for Loki, I'm working with him.'
Natasha clenched her jaw, glaring at Tony with dark eyes.
'Because I want to,' Tony finally answered, shrugging again. 'Loki's powerful, he's hot, he... well, he offered to work with me instead of against me, and I said yes.'
'Why?' Clint asked again, and Tony was getting sick of that question. Didn't they understand? Hadn't they figured it out?
'I'm not a hero, Barton,' Tony said, holding his hands up. 'And I never claimed to be. I'm an Avenger because Loki decided to invade- because SHIELD needed me. And I'm still an Avenger because you lot decided to move in, and I never said anything. But I've never claimed to be a hero, or one of the good guys. News flash; I don't want to be.' Tony grinned at them, at the way Steve looked so lost and confused, the poor dear. 'I'm not a good person,' Tony continued, 'and Loki knew that before any of you. So when he offered to work with me, to help me, well... who was I to say no?'
'He'll betray you,' Clint snapped. 'He doesn't know how to work with anyone.'
'Hmm, I think I'll take my chances with the Norse God,' Tony smirked. 'You see, Loki doesn't lie about who he is.'
Natasha snorted, and Tony turned his eyes on her.
'He doesn't,' Tony said with a hard voice. 'Not once has Loki ever pretended to be anything other than what he is; the bad guy, the God with loose morals, the monster who hides under kids' beds. He doesn't pretend to care about anyone other than himself, and he doesn't pretend to be good like you all do.'
He had their undivided attention now, though Bruce still looked torn. Good.
'SHIELD pretend to be the good guys,' Tony said, 'they hide behind the government. They're the sons of the World Security Council, who had no problem sending a nuclear missile into a heavily populated city just to win. They employee agents with shady pasts who kill people on orders.' He looked at Natasha and Clint, who held his gaze. 'They employee super soldiers and guys who turn into giant green rage monsters.' Steve's lips thinned, and Bruce looked away. 'They spy on billionaire playboys and try to steal his technology.'
Tony's eyes narrowed, and he glared at the two SHIELD agents.
'See, I've never pretended to be anything other than what I am, either,' Tony continued. 'If anyone had asked, I'd admit to hacking SHIELD on a daily basis. Do you think Fury would admit to trying to re-create the Jericho Missile? Do you think he'd admit to trying to build his own arc reactor and Iron Man suit?' Natasha finally looked away and Clint's eyes flickered. Tony tisked and unfolded his arms, placing his hands on the counter. 'No, they wouldn't,' he said. 'And I don't like working with people who pretend to be the good guys, who pretend to be on my side. I've had enough. SHIELD have pushed me too far, and now they have to face the consequences.'
'So you're working with Loki?' Clint demanded.
'Why not?' Tony repeated. 'I want to take down SHIELD, and Loki does too. We both want the same thing.'
'And how long will that last?' Natasha asked. 'How long do you think Loki will keep his part of the deal?'
Tony whistled. 'Wouldn't you like to know,' he said, and added a wink, just to piss her off. 'You think SHIELD's the only part of our deal? We both have enemies, Tasha. And neither of us has anyone else we can trust. So the enemy of your enemy is a friend, etcetera.' He waved his hand and stepped back from the counter. It had been fun, but he was ready for the best part to start.
'You aren't going to get away with this,' Clint said and stood, Natasha and Steve joining him. Bruce stayed at the table, but he was looking at Tony now, his eyes unreadable. Tony hoped that he'd make the right decision; he'd take down the Hulk if he had to (and Loki would be more than happy to), but if Bruce didn't make himself an enemy, Tony would let him go.
'Really?' Tony laughed. 'That's what you come up with?' He snorted and shook his head. 'Really, Clint, that was so not original.'
'We won't let you,' Natasha said and took a step forward. Tony didn't move. 'You're already surrounded, Stark, and SHIELD won't let you go. Do you really think Loki will save you?'
Tony grinned and stuffed his hands into his jeans pockets. 'See, the thing about fucking a Jötunn sorcerer...' he pulled his right hand from his pocket, showing the purple stone he'd been carrying since he and Loki had first decided to go into business together, '… is that he's magic,' Tony finished.
He twisted the stone, just once, and between one blink and the next, he disappeared.
Tony re-appeared in his work shop and immediately shouted, 'JARVIS, activate programme Tango-Lima-4-4-2-9, put it into immediate effect.'
'Yes, Sir,' the AI replied, and Tony watched as the glass cases containing his Iron Man suits disappeared into the floor. Tony knew he'd be back; there was no way SHIELD could kick him out of his own Tower. But for now, he wanted to hide his most prized possessions. The only way SHIELD could get to them was letting off a nuclear bomb in the middle of the work shop, and that'd take out all of Manhattan. Tony didn't doubt that his work would be safe.
'Sir, Captain Rogers, Agent Romanov, and Agent Barton are on their way down.'
'Did you tell them where I was?' Tony asked as he walked towards the blank concrete wall to his left.
'Like you ordered,' JARVIS replied.
Tony smirked. JARVIS always knew what was happening, and he was firmly on Tony's side. He could never go against what Tony ordered, and JARVIS' main function was to keep Tony healthy and happy. He was the best friend a hero-turned-villain could possibly need.
'Make sure the doors are locked, and make sure they can get out of the Tower when I leave,' Tony ordered. It'd be no fun if they were stuck in the Tower when Tony and Loki decided to start blowing shit up. 'Have you sent a message to Loki?' he asked as he pressed his hand against the concrete wall.
'Yes, Sir,' JARVIS said.
'Good,' Tony murmured. The hidden panel scanned his palm before it glowed red. There was a hiss, and Tony watched as part of the wall vanished, revealing a smooth silver box that slowly slid from the wall.
There was a bang on the glass door, and Tony looked up to see Barton, Romanov and Rogers, each of them banging their fists against the glass. But see, Tony had hacked into SHIELD, and had downloaded the blueprints for making Hulk Proof glass. He'd added his own magic, and Loki's, to make sure that not even Thor could smash his way in.
'Sorry, kids, but I have an appointment,' Tony called to them. He looked back down at the drawer, which was opening with a low hiss to reveal Tony's latest baby.
The Stealth XXII was Tony's latest invention. It was made of an alien metal that Loki called “försbattor”. Tony had no idea where it came from- some dwarf realm, from what Loki had said- but really he didn't care. It was stronger yet thinner than the alloy he used for his Iron Man suits, which meant Tony could use less of it. It made the suit sleeker yet stronger, and it was painted a dark, smoky green, with a purple faceplate and highlights, and the arc reactor was covered.
It resembled one of Victor von Doom's bots more than any of the Iron Mans- thinner in the shoulders and waist, but with added guns on the shins and shoulders- which was good for Tony; SHIELD and the media could try and pin this suit on him, but he'd made it to look like Loki; it made more sense that Loki would get a doombot from von Doom than somehow try and sway Tony Stark to his side.
The Stealth XXII had all the same abilities as Tony's Iron Man suits, but the metal was laced with runes that made it stronger, faster, able to teleport like Tony had done earlier with the stone. It was a product of both Tony's genius and Loki's. But it had the ability to run without magic, something Tony had insisted on installing. If the magic ever failed, Tony wanted to be able to still use it. And, this way, Tony could cut the magic out completely to ensure that Loki could never take control of the suit. He might have trusted Loki, but he wasn't an idiot. And Loki understood, of course. Neither of them had lasted this long trusting everybody one hundred percent.
Tony ran his fingers down the chest plate and watched as the runes beneath lit up in emerald green, the same colour of Loki's magic. He smirked to himself and swiped his finger of the dark purple face-plate, watching as the suit whirled into life thanks to his fingerprint. It lifted itself from the drawer, which slid back into the wall, the panel once more hiding it from view.
Tony turned to watch the gathered Avengers as the suit landed on its feet in silence. 'Do you like it?' he called, the Avengers' eyes on his suit. 'It's my new baby, a bit of a different style, but still awesome. I call it the Iron Mage.'
He chuckled as he caught the looks on Barton and Romanov's faces.
'I know, I know; but it's part me, part Loki, and I was drunk at the time. It stuck and JARVIS and Loki worked together, the bastards. They refused to call it anything else.'
'Don't do this, Tony,' Rogers pleaded.
Tony grinned. 'Really, Rogers? What are you appealing to, hmm? My humanity?' He snorted at that. 'I thought I made it clear; I really, really don't care about people. Kill 'em all, I couldn't care less.'
'You're just going to let Loki slaughter hundreds, like he did during the invasion?' Rogers asked.
'No, no, no,' Tony waved his hands. 'We are gonna slaughter thousands. That's how many people work for SHIELD and the Council, right, Romanov?' Tony threw his last sentence at the agent in question, who was glaring at him. 'Well, this has been fun,' he clapped his hands together. 'Jarvis, if you would.'
He gestured at the Stealth XXII, knowing that JARVIS had constant access to the suit if Tony didn't order him out of it. The suit peeled itself apart while still standing so Tony could climb into it, and he smirked at his former team mates as he did.
'JARVIS, you know what to do,' Tony said.
'Of course, Sir,' the AI replied, no doubt already moving onto the next phase of the plan.
'Tell Fury I said hello, if you talk to him,' Tony said as the suit closed around him. 'That's if Loki and I haven't killed him before then.'
He winked before the face plate closed over him, and the suit came fully online. It was easier to handle, thanks to Loki's input, as well as the changes Tony had made since first coming up with the idea. The wall to Tony's left opened, leading into a tunnel Loki had helped build and keep from both SHIELD and Pepper, and Tony gave the Avengers a cheery wave before he took off, his repulsors leaving a stream of green light in his wake.
Tony made sure to use the suit's teleporting ability before appearing outside his tower. Besides Loki, JARVIS and himself, only Barton, Romanov and Rogers had seen him personally step into the suit. He didn't need the media getting pictures of him and the suit together.
JARVIS would already be in Tony's latest Iron Man suit, ready to join him and Loki, so it appeared as though Iron Man was out and about if the media caught wind of the attack. JARVIS had been ordered to not do much other than fight a few of Loki's clones. It would appear as though Iron Man was on SHIELD's side, leaving Tony free to do what he wanted; attack the Helicarrier.
As soon as he appeared, Loki was by his side, the two hovering in the clouds thanks to their own brands of “magic”. Tony had been right in thinking that what the Æsir called magic was just a very, very advanced form of technology. He and Loki had already found that they could mix Tony's tech with the God's magic, teaching each other about their specialities.
Tony was hoping that, one day soon, he'd be able to preform magic like Loki. He'd never be as good as Loki; the magician had had thousands of years of practice, and Tony was only forty. Plus, Loki was just naturally gifted with magic, while Tony was naturally gifted with Midgardian technology.
He could already do small things; summon something from across his work shop, manipulate metal, and create wards that only really powerful sorcerers, like Loki, could break. It was what now protected his workshop and Iron Man suits. And Loki had already used the knowledge Tony had taught him to create better armour and fortify his various safe houses even more. He could even hack into SHIELD if he was so inclined.
Loki was wearing his newest armour; mostly green with a matching cape, but he'd traded the gold highlights and horned helmet for dark purple, deciding that his latest fall into “villainy” needed a new outfit. Tony could dig it.
'Hey, babe,' Tony greeted when he turned to look at Loki.
The Jötunn smirked before turning to look at Tony. 'I was watching, after I detected that you had used the stone I gifted you.'
'Were you now?' Tony hummed. He glanced down through the clouds, spotting the Helicarrier as it glided near-silently through the air.
'I particularly liked the “are you trying to appeal to my humanity?” part of the conversation,' Loki said.
Tony smiled. 'I thought you might. Oh, how about the “kill 'em all” thing?'
Loki chuckled and reached out to brush his fingers along the purple faceplate. Tony pulled it up, and his smile widened when his brown eyes met Loki's green.
'I think it's the first time you've told them the truth in six months,' Loki said.
Tony's smile turned into a smirk and he closed the gap between them. He caught Loki's lips in his own in a hard, bruising kiss. Loki's long fingers twisted around his chin, close to bruising as the God dragged Tony closer. Tony wound both arms around Loki and tugged him that bit closer, groaning when Loki's tongue pushed into his mouth without invitation. Neither of them had ever held back, not with each other.
Not since the apple.
When they finally broke apart, both were breathing heavily, and there was a light shining in Loki's eyes that Tony could definitely get on board with.
'Finally,' Loki murmured, his finger tracing Tony's beard. 'After six months.'
'Longer, if you count all the times we wanted to do something like this, but didn't have the means or opportunity,' Tony said.
The taller man smirked and turned to once again look down at the Helicarrier.
'Romanov's probably already called Fury,' Tony told him. 'I made sure JARVIS didn't block any out-going calls. They should be jumping on a quinjet right about now.'
'Good,' Loki murmured. He hadn't moved away from Tony, and his hand was now wrapped around the human's neck. His fingers stroked along the alien metal that encased Tony as he said, 'SHIELD will be prepared.'
'We'd slaughter them if they weren't,' Tony reminded him.
'Yes,' Loki nodded, 'and we both want to have fun, don't we?' He turned to Tony, one eyebrow quirked, and Tony snickered.
'I knew there was a reason I loved you,' he said and kissed Loki again.
'I thought it was my charm and good looks?' Loki asked.
'Nah, that's why you love me,' Tony said.
Loki grinned. 'Ah, I knew there was a reason I put up with you.'
'Aww, come on,' Tony teased. 'You know I'm your favourite.'
The Avengers could say what they wanted; he trusted Loki. They'd been through things that the others wouldn't understand; Tony had seen things about Loki that even Thor didn't know. They were both dark, twisted, broken. What were they to do but work together to bring down their common enemies?
Loki didn't want to rule Midgard like he had. Tony already did, what with his weapons and his technology, his popularity. Take down SHIELD and the Avengers, and Loki would be free to roam Earth as he pleased, especially if he and Tony were working together.
Tony had known, back when he and Loki had first met, that under different circumstances, they'd be fantastic together. So when Loki had escaped Asgard and come to Tony with an offer, the billionaire would have been stupid to refuse. Loki stabbed the people he didn't like; Coulson and Thor could tell you that from first hand experience.
But Tony? Loki had thrown him from a window, knowing full well that Tony's suit could fly. If that wasn't love, Tony didn't know what was.
'You definitely are,' Loki said. He kissed Tony one last time before they broke apart. Loki held his hand out and his new spear, named Vánagandr, disappeared from his belt and re-sized in his hand. There was a story behind the name, but Tony hadn't asked. There were things that they'd never tell each other; Tony didn't talk about Yinsen or the worst parts of his childhood with his father, and Loki didn't discuss his own childhood or the myths about his children. If he wanted to, Tony would listen; just like he knew Loki would listen it Tony decided to share. But until then, there were some subjects that neither of them broached.
Suddenly Loki drew back, and Tony knew it was time. He turned when Loki did and spotted the red-and-gold armour of his Iron Man suit as JARVIS blasted towards them.
'Ready?' Loki asked, turning to look at Tony.
Tony grinned before pushing his faceplate down. 'I've been ready for six months, Lokes.'
Loki chuckled and took off without invitation, slicing through the clouds without a word. Tony blasted after him, both of them leaving a green trail of energy behind them.
Fury could arm the Helicarrier all he wanted.
It wouldn't save them from Loki and Iron Mage.