Fandom: Marvel’s The Avengers 2012
Pairing: Tony Stark/Loki
Warnings: Light Hurt/Comfort. Light Angst. Fluffy happy endings.
Word Count: ~27,500
Summary: Set just after the film. Loki is banished from Asgard and stripped of his powers as punishment for his actions against Midgard. However even if Stark accepts being Loki's steward, can he manage to keep him safe from the Chitauri?
Disclaimer: Not my 'verse, I just play with them.
Beta: Pixelin & Mareel <3
Dedication: For Pixelin
Notes: First attempt in this fandom. I had been looking for something in character and properly full of fluff and a genuine relationship. When I didn’t find exactly what I wanted, this happened. Leave it to Loki to tempt me into writing fic again. I never imagined I could pull off writing action adventure sequences. This fic has been such an intense ride to write. Please be kind, review, and hopefully enjoy!
“And what am I to do with you now, brother?” came Thor’s booming voice.
The rock of a man stood with arms crossed. His tone was firm and direct, with more than a hint of anger and frustration, but there was a softness that he never seemed able to let go of when speaking with his brother. He cared for him, of that Loki was certain. The only reason he was here - back in his old quarters in Asgard and delicately perched upon the edge of the bed – was because of Thor. If not for this man he would be dead or the very least at the ‘mercy’ of SHIELD.
However, he rather wished he were dead at this point. He knew neither Thor nor Odin would kill him. He knew it was unlikely they would torture or harm him. He was instead likely faced with imprisonment, with little means of escape, for the rest of his natural life which was quite long indeed. He was in no mood for a lecture from Thor or the man’s attempts at reaching him emotionally. Loki was mentally switched off. He was exhausted. He was deflated. He sat on the end of the bed with his legs folded in front of him staring at his hands in his lap, utterly oblivious to Thor as he went on and on about responsibility and trust, family and honor. He had no interest in discussing his reasons with Thor. He did not need to be lectured about the meaning of life from a man such as his so-called brother. Perhaps if Odin had come… but his ‘father’ had not seen him since his return. For the last week he has seen no one but Thor. Neither parent-that-would-call-him-son bothered to see him. The ostracization hurt more than he’d care to dwell on but truly what did he expect? This was not his home. These were not his people. The man prattling on was not his brother. He clenched his fists and let the anger and bitterness swell inside of him, focusing on it as a balm to his hurt pride.
“Do you even listen to me?” Thor demanded, picking his lean brother up off the bed by his shoulders.
Loki’s gaze was rather bored and uninterested as it met Thor’s eyes. “What do you want of me?”
Thor gave the man a shake and then tossed him back down onto the end of the bed. Loki merely bounced twice and collected himself. Thor bellowed at his nonplused brother, “I would have you speak! I would have you explain your heart and your mind. I would have you moved by what you have done and the pain you have inflicted not only on the people of Midgard but on your own honor and the honor of your family-“
Loki interrupted with a snide but soft spoken, “I have no family.” Loki collected himself back into his previous position, folding his legs underneath himself as if he had not been manhandled by Thor.
“You are wrong. We do not disown you, not even now as you worked against us. You are and will forever be my brother. Nothing in all the realms will change this fact. I know you see slights from me and father but they are not as you imagine them to be.”
Loki’s gaze returned to his hands and he went quiet once more. He ignored Thor and his returning to the subject of family honor and ties. No words could change the fact that he was not Asgardian. He was not one of them. For this, and for so many reasons, he was not respected, not noticed, not treated as an equal. His bitterness swelled again but his inner musings were cut short as a few key words from Thor broke through to recognition. Loki’s gaze jerked up as Thor continued on with a firm, suddenly decided tone, “Banishment is the only way to attempt to teach you humility and humanity. I fear leaving you here would only push you further into despair and misery and I cannot see my brother lost to such dark thoughts forever. Father has chosen me to see to your punishment and I will carry on his wisdom.”
The doors opened with a thunderous clap as two rows of guards marched within. Loki was instantly on his feet as the locked Tesseract was carried within his chambers. “Banishment?” he couldn’t help but wonder, his now wide eyes looking to Thor.
Thor gave a grim nod as the guards came to an abrupt stop to his sides. He stepped forward to stand face to face with his brother. He spoke in a softer tone for Loki’s ears only, “I learned much in my time as a mortal. You too will find your true path. I will not see you lock yourself away in your mind and grow mad over the years to come. I give you this chance, brother of mine. Redeem your honor. Reclaim your rightful Odinson name. Reform your heart and mind.”
Loki could only stare with wide eyes at Thor. Banishment? All this time Thor had wanted nothing but to take Loki back home and now he was to be banished? Whatever was the reason for… Then his thoughts leapt forward and he exclaimed, “You will strip me of my powers.” It was not a question.
Thor nodded all the same and reached to the Tesseract glowing blue beside them. “I give you one choice, brother. I will send you anywhere in all the realms but this one. Choose your fate wisely.”
Loki’s heart hammered in his chest. Banishment? Stripped of his abilities to protect himself? There was not a place in all the realms where he would be safe. The Chitauri were even now hunting him down for his failure. The Frost Giants would no more accept him than the Chitauri. Where could he possibly be safe but here locked away? He had not thought of this eventuality. He had not planned. He had not thought Thor or Odin so cruel. Do they not realize he will be hunted the moment he’s banished?
Thor’s look softened as he saw the flash of fear over his brother’s features. “You are still my brother, Loki. They may look for you but they will not harm you.” Then his tone turned hard as he added, “For long.”
So he would have some protection from afar? Still there were other unpleasantries to consider. Lodging. Food. Safety from those not Chitauri. He had no friends, certainly none off realm.
“Your choice, Loki, or I will make it for you,” Thor insisted. He placed a hand on the Tesseract and the other on Loki’s chest, waiting to enact the spell.
What realm was there but Midgard? Yet he could not hope to hide there from SHIELD or any other malicious entities. Thor’s watchful eye would make certain all would know where he was placed. They would come for him. So what if he went to them first? None of them could truly be trusted but he needed someone who would let him hide in peace. Well certainly he was not going to that big green behemoth. His muscles still ached from the pummeling. Romanoff and Barton would likely slit his throat the moment they glimpsed him. Rogers was the perfect little good soldier boy but if someone ordered him to hand Loki over he would do it in an instant. That would only leave...
“Are you sure you can’t fly back tonight? There are some urgent matters for you to attend to.”
Pepper’s feminine snort was cute even over the loudspeaker system. “I’m sure you can attend to those urgent matters with your right hand tonight, Tony. You’re a big boy, I know you can take care of yourself.”
Tony Stark shifted on his leather chair before his array of computer readouts floating just above the desk. “Ya, but the big guy is gettin’ really tired of my sweaty palm.”
“So give him a date with your left hand instead? Listen you’re the one who made me CEO. I have responsibilities to take care of and you know it.” Her chiding tone took on something softer as she added, “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“You’re lucky you’re worth the wait,” Tony groaned.
“Am I now?” Pepper wondered, a slightly accusing tone in her voice before she hung up on him. He let out a long-suffering sigh and moved to stand, maybe order in some burgers and beers, when a loud thunderous clamor resounded through the Malibu house. He tensed as his gaze jerked up to the ceiling, though he was several floors down in his lab.
“Jarvis?” he wondered as his feet instantly took him toward the array of Iron Man suits.
The computer’s voice rang clear and calm, “An abnormally large lightning bolt seems to have struck the building. Rooftop sensors are currently overloaded.”
“Fantastic.” Tony stepped into the latest suit, metal quickly encasing his body. The moment the helmet enclosed his head, he flipped the visor down and blasted off the ground and up the flight ramp out of the house.
“Is this not a little extreme for home maintenance?” Jarvis wondered in his ear.
“Let’s hope that’s all it is.”
As soon as he was out of the house, he did a quick back flip, looping around and facing the roof. Nothing seemed wrong. No holes, no damage, nothing picked up on sensors. He came down for a smooth landing on the flat rooftop, thrusters turning off as he looked from left to right. He was beginning to feel a little foolish and jumpy. There’s no way any Asgardian would return to Earth, to his house, just a week after-
A groan sounded from behind him and he spun around, sensors on his readouts flashing red as body heat was detected and a glowing circle highlighted a slumped body on his roof. The dark hair was a dead giveaway, along with the form fitting green and black jacket. “Loki,” he snarled as he stepped toward the collapsed man. What was he doing here? Shouldn’t he be under Thor’s care? Locked up forever in some atrocious animal hide-covered Viking prison? He stopped just before the downed man and roughly nudged him with his boot. There was an instant cry of pain as Loki rolled over onto his back, coughing and moaning, eyes closed and looking a fucking mess. There was something off about the man. He looked… paler, if that was possible.
“What are you doing here?” rang Tony’s voice through the helmet.
Loki could barely open his eyes to look up at him. It seemed to take all his strength. Tony’s hard features softened just a little at the vulnerable flash in Loki’s eyes. “I… I need… help.”
“Well that’s fucking obvious,” Tony snapped as he nudged the man again with his boot, “But why are you here? Where the hell is Thor?”
Loki made to answer him but whatever was ailing the bastard of a demigod overtook him and his eyes rolled back, swiftly passing out in front of Tony. Tony glared down at the unconscious man.
“Oh ya this is just what my day needed.”
He hurt. From head to toe his body ached from impact onto the solid rooftop but nothing compared to the throbbing in his left hand. He gave a rather pathetic little whine as he opened his eyes.
“Good afternoon, Princess,” came Tony Stark’s voice from his other side. His aching left side. Stark would not be so cruel as to torture him, would he? Loki’s gaze flashed to his left, blinded a moment at a bright light shining down on his outstretched left arm. His vision cleared to see something metallic encasing his lower arm down over his palm, opening like a fingerless glove to allow his digits to move freely.
“What have you done to me?” Loki snarled, fire in his eyes as he looked to Stark.
“Relax. You broke your wrist on impact with my house. A few weeks and you should be fine. Just don’t fiddle with the cast.” He slapped Loki’s right hand away from the metal encased cast. “The real question should be how a ‘god’-“ Stark brought his fingers up in an air quotes motion. “-broke his wrist when taking a means of travel he’s been accustomed to for what now? Centuries?”
Loki’s gaze fell away from the man, glancing down and to the side, long tendrils of dark hair falling forward to half cover his face. How was he to even begin? How could he appeal to Stark? He had had no time to plan, to think, to formulate as he would other situations. He hurt, in many more ways than one. His mind struggled to obey him and focus. Yet Stark had not taken him directly to the authorities or a medical facility. He was on a propped up bed or table of some description in a large room that was far too well lit for his throbbing head. Stark had seen to his wrist, hopefully. These were all very good signs. He must figure out how to build upon this initial reaction. He had to play upon sympathies. Yes.
Stark had enough of standing there, watching Loki try to pull off a battered puppy pose while remaining quiet. “See now the silent treatment? Doesn’t work on me. That gets you a one way trip to SHIELD.”
Those words frightened him more than he’d like to consider. He looked up from behind his bangs. “I have been stripped and tossed aside.”
Stark raised an eyebrow at the line, casting a long look down Loki’s lean form. “You look pretty clothed to me-“
“I have been banished and stripped of my powers,” he repeated less cryptically. A smug grin from Stark had Loki rushing on, afraid he might look too vulnerable to his would-be protector. “Thor still watches over me; he thinks to teach me a lesson!”
“The clever little bastard,” Stark muttered to himself. Then his forehead knotted with concern as he wondered, “So he made you mortal and placed you here? Why?”
Loki’s expression flickered a moment but Stark couldn’t read him as he smoothly lied, “I do not know.”
Stark’s gaze stayed firmly on Loki as he took in the comment. Loki kept his straight face and slumped pose. He could not tell Stark he picked him because he had nowhere else half as welcoming. He could not tell Stark that he chose to be here. It was best that Thor somehow willed him to be here and let Stark think Thor wished him to look after Loki.
“I don’t like houseguests,” Stark finally stated, turning to clean up the tray of equipment he had used to see to Loki’s wrist.
“Says the man who has bedded how many women?” Loki couldn’t help but sneer at the ridiculous comment from Stark.
“See but you’re not sleeping in my bed and they’re always gone by breakfast.” Stark cast a teasing, leering glance back at him. “However if you want the one-night treatment I could deal. The long hair is a nice touch but you’ll need a shower and something slinky-“
Loki abruptly sat upright, cradling his injured hand against his chest, as he struggled to stop the irritating blush that crept across his features. He kept his head down as he snapped, “I do not appreciate your ridiculous jokes.”
“Whatever you say, Snow White, but I’m not running a bed and breakfast for would-be world conquerors.” Stark’s tone turned dark and heated, “Or take pity on a weakened pathetic little man who killed my friend.” He clearly alluded to Phil Coulson and Loki’s stomach dropped. “You can go give blowjobs on Hollywood Blvd and sleep in a fucking box for all I care.”
He had spoken wrong. He should have stroked Stark’s ego more. He should have groveled more. He rushed to change the man’s mind. “Yet you do not turn me over to SHIELD. You saw to my hand.” He looked up to meet Stark’s firm gaze. “Please. They would find me. If not SHIELD then something far worse. I would be but a defenseless man left to the fate of those who claimed me.” Stark set his jaw but Loki continued on, softly pleading, “I am here to earn my second chance. Does that not mean anything to a man given his own second chance at life?” He nodded to the glow of the arc in Stark’s chest. “Forgiveness is not something I request, Mister Stark, only asylum. I do not know why my brother placed me here but I can hazard a guess it is because of your clear mind and ability to reason out situations. You are a man who keeps his word and does what is right. You are a man who has redeemed himself, no? I do see my brother’s wisdom in leaving me in your care.”
Stark took him in a long moment, arms folded across his chest. The longer it took, the more hope Loki formed. Perhaps he had swayed things. Perhaps he would let him stay. For where else would he go? This was his only option. Stark had to see this.
“Fuck that is a talented mouth you have there.” Loki’s growing optimistic smile faded as Stark went on, “I liked you better with the muzzle.”
“You cannot make me leave!” Loki shouted over the intercom into Tony’s property, holding his left arm against his chest with his right hand. The light was fading and a glorious sunset was to Tony’s back but he could still see the form of the ex-god unceremoniously tossed out of Tony’s house.
“No but the cops can make you leave.”
“You would not dare!” Loki sneered.
He kind of liked how worked up Loki was getting. For once the man was reacting honestly, not spinning pretty little lies. Loki was nice and frightened enough to speak without thinking. “Maybe Thor’s big plan was for you to spend a few nights in jail for trespassing. You would be the most popular guy in the joint.”
“Would you please stop thinking about my ass for two minutes and let me back in!” Loki snarled. There was a thud over the intercom, which was quickly followed by a rather cute little cry as Loki kicked the wall of the intercom panel and only ended up hurting his foot in the process. The man’s form slumped over in pain.
“No can do, sweet cheeks. You’re stuck out there in the big bad world. Deal with it.” Tony turned away from the security camera image and walked across his living room to pour himself a drink.
“Sir, his heart rate and respiration are at dangerous levels,” came Jarvis’ clear voice.
“Good,” he growled as he looked out at the sunset over the Pacific and downed his shot of scotch. His gaze slid down to the glass in his hand and added, “Let me know if he passes out again.”
“Cardiac arrest seems far more likely at this juncture.”
Tony only grunted at the comment and turned back to the slumped form of Loki on his doorstep. “You have five minutes to get off my property. Find yourself a box. Find yourself a pimp. I don’t care where you go. I’m not your fucking babysitter. Why don’t you go cry on Clint’s shoulder? He’d enjoy seeing you again.”
The readout of Loki’s life signs spiked at the comment and it gave Tony far too much perverse pleasure to see the man react to the thought of meeting Clint again. Good. The poor bastard was probably still recovering from being Loki’s mindless little bitch.
“You cannot leave me out here,” Loki pleaded, breathless and clearly shaken.
“Oh but I can. Your five minutes starts now, Little Riding Hood. Get a move on.” He reached to turn off the intercom. He watched from the security camera as the blue light of the intercom switched off and Loki crumbled into a ball just beneath it.
A timer came up on screen and began ticking down for him. Jarvis did have a way of knowing when he wasn’t bluffing. Two minutes ticked by and Loki hadn’t stirred. Tony turned to fill his glass again. “How about we get him moving, Jarvis?”
The far off sound of police vehicles resounded outside of Tony’s house. Loki’s readouts spiked as he leapt up and took off North, away from the sound of sirens. A map on the screen tracked Loki as he left the cameras view. Loki’s cast wasn’t all just cloth and metal casing.
“Good boy,” Tony muttered at the security shot of Loki disappearing into the coming night. He swiped the floating readout away. It disappeared as he headed back downstairs into his lab. “Keep an eye on him, Jarvis.”
He had made a grave mistake. Perhaps he should have requested to be placed in Jane’s care. Thor would not have allowed a single thing to happen to her. She would have cared somewhat for Thor’s brother, would she not? Why had he chosen Stark? Why had Stark not listened to his pleas? The man was a confusing mix of signals and comments. No wonder not even SHIELD trusted him. He was not balanced. The only solace Loki had was not being instantly handed to SHIELD but it was merely a matter of time before someone found him so it was a cold comfort indeed.
The night was settling in. Loki had not gone far, perhaps a half mile at the most, just enough distance to elude any officers Stark may have called on him. He told himself that he stayed close because perhaps in the morning Stark would let him in, yet he likely could not have gone further if he had wanted to leave Stark’s home behind. His muscles ached. His head hurt. His hand throbbed. His heart hammered with fear and uncertainty. He was close to collapse when he hid down an alley in a strip mall and slumped to the dirty ground beside a pile of wooden crates, having just enough dignity left not to collapse beside the dumpster he’d passed by first.
It was long minutes before his breathing and heart rate settled into something remotely reasonable. His panic shifted into quiet, cold fear as he opened his eyes and looked up at the sky. Clouds covered the stars but he still cried out in a snarl, “Who knew you were so unreasonably cruel, dearest brother!” He waited but no response came. He thumped his head back against the brick wall but instantly regretted it as his headache intensified. “Fuck,” he swore and curled his legs up against his chest. His long leather jacket made for decent wear but with his heart rate down and stress filling his body a deep chill crept through him. He shivered in the silence of the alley but did not move from his spot.
His mind raced in so many circles. There was no way out. There was no way to escape. His only option was to find SHIELD and take the lesser of two evils, yet he wasn’t certain SHIELD could keep him safe from the Chitauri. He would not submit to their poking and prodding only to be captured thereafter by something even worse. Stark was supposed to perhaps be indifferent, perhaps see his need and his brother's attempt to reform him. How was he to proceed now? A dark thought crept up on him but he tossed that one aside. He was not ready to utterly give up and he knew Thor would likely stop him from suicide attempts even if he felt the urge to try.
All he could do was wait here until morning. He would beg at Stark’s door. He would practice groveling and he would plead his case. He had no other hope. Yet it seemed so futile. Stark did not care for him.
The last thought resounded through him and he slid down onto his side, curling up into a ball and letting everything of the last few weeks overtake him. He cried. He mourned the loss of his identity. He mourned the loss of his family. He mourned his failed victory. He mourned his lost destiny. There was nothing left for him, there was nothing left of him. Who was he? A gnat to be squashed by whoever came to find him here first, and perhaps he deserved to be squashed.
His tears came over him in such a rush that he did not feel the rain at first. He was lost in his mind and his self-pity and bitterness at the world. Only as the rain soaked his hair and slid down his neck underneath the collar of his jacket did he realize his situation. It was rather perfect. When but now would it rain in Los Angeles? Perhaps Thor sent it to mock him and his tears. He snarled at the thought and looked about himself. He ignored the dumpster once more and instead burrowed his way underneath the wooden boxes beside him. It smelled atrocious and was not entirely dry or waterproof but it was the best he could manage. He had no strength or heart to look for proper shelter. The rain lightly pattered against the wood above him and his fatigue overtook him once more. He slept in the cold and the wet. His dreams were filled of childhood memories. Frigga looking after him late at night when he had dark dreams as a child. Thor chasing imaginary Frost Giants with him. Their friends laughing as Loki fell and hurt himself but Thor stooping to pick him up and carry him gently to Odin for healing. They were warm and happy memories. He belonged. He knew his fate and himself. He had been safe. He had thought himself loved, at the time.
It was still dark when he woke but the rain had ceased. He groaned and shifted beneath his uncomfortable cover of boxes and the hard dirty cement bed. If only he could drift and sleep forever in those memories, even if the love within them wasn’t real any longer. He pulled himself out from under the crates; a clamor resounded as some rolled off and hit the ground. He shook himself and stood up on unsteady, shaky footing. He was chilled to his core and exhausted. He was too stressed to feel the hunger pains that gnawed at him. He brushed back his messy hair and made a disgusted sound as he found some dirt and muck in his hair. He cleaned it out as best he could and turned to find his place beside the wall again without the boxes atop him. All he could do was wait.
A figure sat on the edge of the dumpster at the entrance to the alley. Loki’s heart dropped but he kept his features calm. Should he ignore them or greet them? He turned to sit with his back to the wall and looked to see the figure still perched upon the dumpster. “I am no threat,” he said as calmly as he could, pretending to relax against the wall but truly searching for something that would protect him. Yet what strength did he have to fight someone off? What if they were not mere mortal or man?
The figure slid off the dumpster and with deliberate footsteps approached Loki. A man’s voice pierced the crisp air but Loki did not recognize it. “I haven’t seen you before.”
Loki rushed to speak, looking up at the figure as it approached. “Yes, well, I won’t be here past tonight so if this is your alley or some such claim I do not wish to have ownership of it.”
The man snorted and chuckled a humorless laugh. “Ain’t my alley.” He stalked his way up to Loki and paused at his side. The smell of liquor came from the man and Loki had a moment’s hope. He was a mere mortal. He could perhaps defend himself against such a man. “That’s a nice jacket.”
“Indeed but it is mine-“ Loki began, meaning to spring up and knock the man over, but he was too slow. The drunkard swiftly kicked him in the ribs and knocked him over with a hard hit to the shoulder.
“Get off!” Loki yelped and kicked at the man, driving a boot up into the man’s stomach and knocking him off. Loki struggled to get up onto his knees. His body was all aches and pains and his strength was gone many hours ago yet he was not about to let this bum take his coat.
The man lunged at him as soon as Loki got to his feet, knocking them both down onto the cement with a hard thwack of Loki’s cast against the ground. He saw stars. The painful jolt was unexpected but his wrist did not approve of the hit to solid cement. He could barely breathe as the stranger ripped at him to get his coat off. No he would not dare stand for this. He willed his body to move, kicking the man off him once more. He was no mere mortal; he could defend himself against a drunk idiot bum!
The snick of a switchblade sounded and he felt the cool steel of the blade against his throat as the stranger glared down at him. “Hold still.”
He froze as the man ripped his coat off his shoulders and roughly past his cast, ripping the leather some but not seeming to care. Beaten by a bum. He was defeated by a drunk mortal bum.
The man pulled back in a leap and removed the blade from Loki’s throat, sliding on his jacket and turning to leave back out the alleyway.
No. This was the final straw. He would not accept this fate! He shifted up and reached for a wooden crate, rushing the man and making to bash him over the head with it. He missed and hit his shoulder as the man dodged and spun around to face him. The knife darted forward but he repelled it with his metal covered wrist, bashing the crate into the man’s side so hard the old rotting wood splintered and broke. Then he was left with nothing in his hands.
“Maybe I’ll take everythin’ you got!” the drunk sneered and leapt forward again, knocking Loki down and driving the knife toward Loki’s throat.
A blast of light erupted in the air and knocked the man off him, straight back into the side of the dumpster, denting it in before slumping down unconscious.
“When a drunk with a knife wants your stuff, you let him keep your stuff, Lois.”
Loki jerked his gaze back to see Stark in his suit just behind him, his visor up and looking far too amused at Loki’s state. He gasped up at Stark, “It’s my jacket. Not his.”
Stark snorted a laugh and walked over to check on the drunk. He gave him a slap to the face, then paused, listening to something Loki couldn’t hear, before he started to strip the jacket off the drunk bum. Loki slowly came to his feet, unsteady and not daring to admit he was pleased to see Stark, though he was truly more than pleased to see him.
“He should be able to sleep that off,” Stark muttered at the bum. He turned to Loki and tossed the jacket at him. Loki barely caught it with his good hand, swiftly clinging to it against his chest. Stark stood silent, watching him, and it took a good minute before Loki lifted his gaze to meet Stark’s. He was too exhausted to school his features, too pleased to see Stark not to have it show on his face, too drained not to show the turmoil the evening out had caused him. His wide eyes were honest as they met Stark’s gaze.
“You are a fucking stubborn little Prince,” Stark sighed, looking relieved himself, if Loki could believe it. “Come on.” He flipped his visor down and reached for Loki, wrapping an arm around his waist and taking off before Loki could think to protest.
Loki’s arms were firmly around Tony’s neck as they came in for a landing in his lab. They came down the flight ramp and he flipped his legs out beneath himself. He landed on his feet, the thrusters turning off as he thumped onto the solid floor. Loki was not exactly quick to let go of him, though normally he’d be light on his feet. He took a moment to settle and collected himself before slowly pulling away. Tony didn’t even try to hide his amused grin as he flipped up his visor and took in the disheveled and rather meek Loki standing before him now. So long as he continued to honestly interact with Tony, he was ready to let the man stay.
“You want a room with a view or not?” Tony wondered casually as he stepped past the man and stood still to allow his robots to strip off the Iron Man suit.
Loki still looked stunned at the turn of events but gratitude flashed in his eyes instead of self-righteousness. “I do not have a preference.”
“A view it is then,” Tony decided as he stepped out of the last of his suit and escorted Loki up the flight of stairs out of his lab.
“Thank you,” Loki whispered to him as they made their way to one of the many guest rooms in the house. Tony picked the closest one to his own bedroom, wanting to keep an eye on the man.
He took a step ahead and spun around, pointing to the various highlights. “Shower. Closet. Bed. I’d suggest hitting those in that order because homeless hobo is not the new Old Spice, m’kay?” Tony slapped the man’s shoulder as he headed back toward the door. “The cast should be fine. Scrub away and dunk it all you like.”
Loki took a step to the walk in closet, pulling the door open experimentally. “But there are no garments…”
“Take a shower and there will be,” Tony promised as he headed down the hallway. He paused as he heard an actual amused little chuckle come from the room he’d just left. Who knew Loki’s laugh could be anything but condescending?
He continued on down the hallway and into his own room. He pulled out old t-shirts and sweatpants that he wasn’t too attached to. The lanky ex-god wouldn’t ever be able to fit those long legs in his jeans so he skipped them. He scrounged for a new package of underwear hiding in the closet and some sandals that might fit the man. Tony paused a moment to look at the pile of collected clothing on his bed. What was he doing? Clothing, sheltering, saving, protecting this man? Why? He wasn’t afraid of his big bro Thor. All things being equal he should be taking Loki down to SHIELD or maybe killing him himself just to get even for Phil. But what good would either of those things do? Loki was here to learn a little humility. It was the only thing he believed from Loki’s earlier speech. A man like Loki with a sound mind? That was a powerful thing for more than just this world.
He sighed and scrubbed a hand down his face. He could come up with all the reasons he wanted but he knew none of that was really why Loki was here in his house again. Was he really so desperate to be the fucking knight in shining armor?
He gave an all suffering sigh at himself and gathered up the clothing, heading straight back down to Loki’s room. He could hear the shower running and spotted the door to the bathroom shut. Thank god. That was not a smell he wanted lingering in his house. He put the clothing in the closet neatly. It wasn’t a lot of choices but it would do. He called out to Jarvis, “When he’s done be sure he sends his clothes out for dry cleaning immediately.”
“Understood.” There was a pause and then Jarvis questioned, “Shall I inform Pepper of our houseguest?”
“Fuck no,” Tony answered swiftly, heading back out of the room and downstairs. She was going to be livid and he wasn’t completely sure how to smooth talk her into it. He needed more time to think about how to approach her but morning was coming and he was fucking exhausted and hungry. Food first. Then bed. And then finally work. Yes. Definitely that order.
He returned back upstairs stuffing his face with Wheaties, the random-meal-of-the-day of champions. The bowl was perched on a large muffin and sat rather steady atop it as he continued to spoon up heaping mouthfuls of cereal. He could hear the shower was off by now and stepped around the door to Loki’s room. His spoon stopped midway from bowl to mouth as he caught sight of Loki with his back to him in clearly nothing but one of Tony’s sweatpants. It hugged the man’s backside and thighs so tightly that it was obvious the man had not found or had ignored the package of tighty whities. He was topless and his pale back stood out starkly against the black sweatpants. He was lean but he was not without muscle mass. Of course he knew from experience that Loki was no weakling but even mortal he probably packed a punch when not at the end of his rope. The muscles of his shoulders and arms were defined and his back was as smooth as porcelain as it slid on down to that just barely hidden round ass.
His gaze jerked up as Loki slid on a matching black t-shirt and looked back over his shoulder to the doorway. Tony feigned innocence as he leaned against the door jam and finally continued on with that bite of cereal. “It’s a few sizes too small, Alice in Wonderland, but it’ll do, huh? You hungry?” He crunched down on his spoonful of cereal and then slid the spoon into the bowl, using his now free hand to toss the muffin at Loki inside the room.
Loki caught it with a surprised blink and turned to face Tony. He had picked out a Black Sabbath t-shirt from the collection. Tony couldn’t help a grin at the choice. “It’s blueberry. It’s awesome. Eat it and get some real sleep, huh?”
Loki’s gaze met his in the shyest of glances. “Thank you. For it all.” Tony took him in, scrutinizing for any attempts to play up the kicked puppy gig, but he seemed to be truthfully grateful and a little nervous about Tony’s lingering gaze.
“Okay enough with the groveling. You get some sleep.” Tony turned to head down the hallway. He called back to Loki, “And no trying to kill me until I’ve had a good four hours of sleep or you’ll get a grumpy ass kicking.”
There was another small amused chuckle from Loki, and Tony grinned as he stepped into his own room and shut the door behind himself. It was a little frightening how easy he could get used to that laugh.
Loki’s dreams were filled with monsters. He was lost in a black nothingness filled with terrible creatures that stalked him. He ran but he never seemed to run far enough. They were always nipping at his heels. He fell and collapsed. The great beasts morphed into towering Chitauri and thundered their way to him, making the formless world shake around him. They had found him. They would tear him apart piece by piece. They would see to their losses during the failed invasion of Midgard with his blood. They would leave him just barely alive for ages to come while they tortured and mutilated him. He was too weak to fight back. His limbs did not move and his body would not respond. He could not breathe in the suffocating blackness around him. He could not put but a scratch on them as they surrounded him, grabbed for him, each of them taking a limb and picking him up by it, stretching and pulling him nearly to pieces. He was screaming. The world went bright and he saw sparks and light and a flash of brilliant red and gold streaked between him and the Chitauri before his eyes flew open.
“Easy, easy,” he heard Stark tell him in a soothing tone, the man looking down at him. He had a firm hand on Loki’s chest, both to still his thrashing and to calm him down. “Breathe deep. Slow.”
Loki gasped as he found himself back in Stark’s home in the ridiculously comfortable bed. He was safe. He was warm. He was whole. Sunlight filtered through the sheer curtains to his right, casting warm shadows over the entire room. His eyes finally focused on the man looking down at him with concern and Loki gasped, “Anthony.”
Stark cocked an eyebrow at him and teased, “Well let’s hope you weren’t dreamin’ of me. I like my fair share of screamers but-” He cut himself off as Loki leapt forward and clung to him. Tears came unbidden but he only clung tighter to Stark. The metallic cast kept his one arm merely wrapped over Stark’s shoulder but the other hand clung to the back of Stark’s neck, twisting the collar of his tank top in his lean fingers. It took but a moment before he felt Stark’s arms wrap around him, holding him firmly against his chest.
Loki sobbed his hurt and his relief into Stark’s broad shoulder. Where would he be without this man? Who would have found him in the morning out there? What would become of him without Stark? He deserved no pity or help from him yet he received it. Why? Why would Stark help him? He had to know, if for no other reason than to be certain he would never lose Stark’s protection. Although he knew the warmth he felt as Stark held him was not simply from the protection Stark brought him.
His tears slowly ceased and his thoughts mellowed into simple happiness to be right where he was pressed against Stark. He did not move even as his hold on the back of Stark’s tank top eased. He could feel the metallic arc just beneath the thin cloth covering Stark’s chest. His scent was warm and lightly spicy. He momentarily regretted that he was not on Stark’s lap as well before a deep blush overtook his features at the thought. This man was a tease but he was not interested in men, much less the man in his arms. Loki did not move, soaking in the feel of being so close to Stark, as he was certain he’d have limited chances to be so close.
Finally Stark spoke, “You wanna talk about it?” His tone was soft in his ear and his voice rumbled in his chest. Loki shivered at the sound of it so close and gentle. Stark seemed to take the shiver as a reaction to whatever nightmares had been plaguing him. His arms tightened around Loki. “You don’t have to. Not yet.”
Oh my, if Stark kept holding him, he would do something he would quickly regret. He forced himself to focus on his nightmares and the dark thoughts that had fled with Stark’s mere presence. “I dreamt of the Chitauri,” he stated in a soft, breathless tone. “When they find me-“
“If they find you,” Stark interrupted.
Loki turned his head, looking up at the man holding him, his own head on Stark’s shoulder. “They will torment me with pain that I cannot begin to describe.” He sighed and slowly pulled away from Stark, sliding back to rest against the plush headboard and pillows. He pulled his legs up to his chest and hugged them instead of Stark. There was a fleeting look of disappointment on Stark’s features. Loki rested his head on his knees and looked down at his bare feet against the cream bedding. “I dreamt of their finding me.”
Stark shifted on the bed, moving to sit with his legs folded in front of him. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees as he questioned intently, “Why did Thor send you here? Truthfully, Loki. He would have kept you locked up away from the Chitauri if they pose so much threat to you.”
Loki chewed on his lower lip a long moment before he spoke softly, “He felt I would not change locked away. He felt pity for me and did not wish madness and hate to grow within me. Perhaps he is right about that much. I would be safe in a cell in Asgard but I would not have changed.”
Stark took him in a long moment before he pushed more, “So he thought I could keep an eye on you? Why didn’t he come and tell me all this?”
Loki blushed just lightly and tightened his good arm around his legs, his gaze still on his feet. What use was lying now? Stark wanted the truth. He had seen through all his pretty lies. He answered softly, “He allowed me to choose where to be exiled.”
Both of Stark’s eyebrows rose at the comment. He tilted his head not unlike a curious puppy. “You picked me?”
The blush deepened on Loki’s features but he ignored it as he tried to reason, “Who else would not likely harm me? Who else would not likely send me to SHIELD? Who may but have a chance against the Chitauri? Only you. I have no friends. I have no one. No people. No home.”
“And you thought you could sweet talk me with Thor’s want for you to find redemption?” Stark questioned with a firmer tone.
Loki looked up with wide eyes. He could not bear being tossed out of this home again but he knew nothing but the truth would be acceptable to this man. His voice trembled as he answered, “Y-Yes.”
Stark’s gaze was firm and unwavering as he took Loki in. “Those are all the reasons you picked me?”
Loki felt his ears turn pink as he returned his gaze back down to his bare feet and tightened his hold on his legs. He could not possibly want him to say this aloud to him. The man did not want to hear this. He only wanted to see him squirm and embarrass him thoroughly. He bit down on his lower lip as the blush overtook him. He loathed this human body. Must it always give him away on this?
He heard an amused chuckle from Stark and he chanced a glance at the man, surprised to see him smiling at him. “Thank you for the honesty, Abe.” Loki blinked but then he rarely understood Stark’s pet names. Stark smiled and squeezed Loki’s nearest forearm wrapped around his legs. “I want you here, Loki, so long as you continue with the honesty.” His grin grew cocky as he continued, “And those Chitauri bastards won’t get their grubby hands on you. Promise.”
Loki’s gaze was more than grateful as he took in the man. He surely understood what his blush meant and yet he still wished him here? “Thank you,” was all he could think to say.
Stark gave another squeeze to his arm and smoothly slid to get up. “You hungry? Come on. I’ll order in a pizza.”
Loki moved to get up just as the disembodied voice of Stark’s computer spoke, “I do believe Pepper has arrived with burgers, if that’s to your liking?”
Stark froze a moment and snapped, “You could have told me she was coming home!” He rushed out of Loki’s room, the computer’s voice following him downstairs apologizing. Loki cocked an eyebrow at the sudden, fairly panicked response. He ran fingers though his messy hair as he padded more slowly after Stark, who had disappeared down the stairs.
“I figured you’re always hungry so why not bring a peace offering?” Pepper was all smiles as she handed the Burger King bag over to Tony and stole a kiss before slinging her purse over her shoulder. “Did you just get up?” she wondered with a teasing giggle.
“I… I was up late.”
Pepper cast a questioning glance at him. “Oh really? Working I hope?” There was suddenly a hint of accusation in her voice.
“Kinda,” Tony answered, which was not exactly what she wanted to hear and he knew it. He rushed on. “Listen. I have a houseguest.”
“You hate houseguests.”
“Ya, but see this isn’t exactly a usual set of circumstances.” He still had no idea how to get Pepper to come on board with this idea. His analytical side was placing bets on her storming out and oddly he was not too upset about the prospect. He really just didn’t want her to make a scene or hurt herself.
Pepper’s features narrowed as she glared at him. “Who is she?”
Tony blinked at the sudden accusation. “She?”
“This unusual houseguest of yours,” she snapped as she marched her way further into the house, high heels clicking against the polished wood floors. “Don’t tell me she’s a colleague, I know everyone under your supervision, so who is she? Please don’t tell me you went dumpster diving for company last night. I swear to God!”
“Pepper stop. Pepper!” He rushed after her but she kept up a fast pace straight for the living room. “He isn’t what he appears to be and you’ve gotta listen to me about what’s going on-“
“He?” Pepper turned to look at Tony with a surprised expression. “He?” Tony nodded and opened his mouth to continue explaining but Pepper cut him off, “When I think you can’t fucking surprise me any longer, you bring home some guy?”
“He showed up here and he’s not just some guy-”
She interrupted him, the both of them talking over each other now in a rush of words, “Well clearly he’s just some fanboy with a cute ass that you-“
“He is not a fanboy. You know him. And you’re going to be fucking pissed so let me explain.”
“I’m already pissed! And how is it that my knowing this guy is a selling point? What is wrong with you?”
“It’s not a selling point! It makes it worse!”
“Exactly!” she shouted and shoved Tony aside, marching her way into the living room.
Oh ya, this was gonna go well.
He rushed after her but he didn’t have to go far. She was frozen just inside the open space, staring at Loki sitting on the far sofa. She was pale and stiff as a board. Loki merely raised an eyebrow at the red haired woman in front of him.
Tony came around to face her, putting himself between her and Loki. “Okay. See? This is why I wanted to talk first.”
“What-What is he doing here? Why is he here? How is he here? I don’t-“
“All very valid questions and concerns.” He stepped closer to Pepper as he soothed softly. “He was sent here by Thor to live with mortals and learn a little respect for the ants he tried to crush, ya know? He won’t be here forever. He has his own room. Everything’s fine.”
“Everything’s fine?” she repeated back to him, still staring at Loki over his shoulder.
“We’ve done some bonding and talked some things out.”
“You’re his counselor now?” she wondered, mystified.
“I dunno. Kinda.”
“He’s wearing your shirt,” she said pointedly.
“Oh. Well I made him sleep in the rain and then a hobo jumped him but really that’s beside the point. He had to wear something clean.”
Pepper’s stunned gaze turned to Tony as she shook her head at him. “He’s a mass murderer.”
Tony cocked an eyebrow. “So was I.”
She shot him a look, “That’s not the same, Tony.”
“Look. He was a bit of a handful at first but since he’s mortal he can’t do too much harm and… What? What are you doing?”
“He’s mortal now?” Pepper had her purse open and was digging through the bottom of the large designer bag. “Well then this is for Phil.” She pulled out a Stark brand stun gun and Tony’s eyes widened.
“No no no. You put that away right now, Pepper.”
“He killed Phil!” she snapped at Tony, then looked back to Loki, her fear of him quickly replaced by her hatred of him now that she knew he couldn’t harm her. She snarled the words out as she tossed her purse aside, “You killed Phil Coulson.”
“Indeed I did,” Loki said flatly as he sat on the sofa, not moving from his place.
“You. Quiet.” Tony pointed to Loki, then turned back to Pepper. “What good is this gonna do? Huh? You tase him once? Twice? He passes out and you give him a kick in the balls. What good does that do anybody?”
“I’m not stopping after he passes out,” she growled, taking a step toward Loki.
Tony raised an eyebrow at that and stopped her by her shoulders, holding her back. “You? Beautiful, wonderful, puts up with all my bullshit Pepper Potts. You are going to kill someone? Maim someone? That’s not you, Pepper.”
“Don’t make me use this on you too,” she snapped, waving the stun gun toward him.
He stayed in place, keeping Pepper’s gaze. “You are angry. You are hurt. You want to lash back out. I know the feeling, Pepper, but hurting him won’t fix any of those things. He’s here to better himself. Wouldn’t Phil rather see some good come out of all this bad?”
She lowered the stun gun but still implored him, “How can you let him stay here? How can you give him your clothes? How can you?”
“Everyone deserves a second chance, Pepper.”
“Not everyone,” she growled, casting a look to Loki still unmoved from his place on the sofa. Tears began to fill her eyes as she gasped, “He’s a monster.”
“I’ve decided to help him, Pepper. He’s staying. Please. Just. Come back here and-“
“No,” she snapped and jerked out of his grip, stepping around Tony to face Loki once again. “Phil Coulson was a wonderful human being and you will never in a thousand lifetimes be able to come close to just how remarkable and thoughtful and special he was.” Tears streamed down her cheeks but Loki sat quiet and unresponsive. “You were a monster and you are a monster and nothing you ever do will wash the blood off your pathetic little hands.” She threw the stun gun at Loki but he smoothly ducked and it hit the back of the sofa, spinning off behind it. She made a loud sound of disgust and picked up her purse, marching back out of the living room toward the front of the house.
Tony rushed off after her, “See? Feel better? It does help and if you’d sit and talk with him-“
“I don’t know what’s wrong with you and all the theories I have on why you’re harboring him here make me pretty disgusted with you so if you would just not speak to me right now.”
“I told you why he’s here. If they’re honest about it, everyone deserves a second chance, and I have this feeling that he’s truly giving this a shot and-“
She stopped abruptly at the end of the hallway and faced him, tears still on her cheeks. “I can’t deal with this. I can’t deal with you. I’m done.”
“What? Over a houseguest? Pepper, don’t be silly.”
“This isn’t a houseguest. This is… doing the opposite of what any normal human being would do to the man who killed their friend. This is crazy!”
“I never said I was sane,” Tony half joked but Pepper was having none of it.
“I’m done with this. You enjoy your little creepy ex-super villain reform school you’re building here.”
“We’re over. I’m done.” She threw open the front door and paused a moment, reaching for the burgers sitting on the entryway table. “Why don’t you cook him some omelets,” she sneered as she slammed the door behind her.
Tony stood dumbfounded. Of all the things to break the two of them up, he never would have guessed this one.
He stared at the closed door a long moment, lost for words and feelings. It hurt just a little in return that she couldn’t see what he was doing here. She usually eventually understood what was going on and why he did what he did. Maybe they had been spending too much time apart lately.
He gave a drawn out sigh and turned around to walk back down the long hallway.
Was he going to have to find a new CEO too?