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For the night is dark

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1—to sleep

When Loki walked through the door of the cheap motel room, Tony nearly had a goddamn heart attack.

He knew that the whole team were cramming in together, that there hadn’t been enough beds available for all of them in the only accommodation they had managed to find after an exhausting day in the middle of absolutely bloody nowhere. But the following morning was looking to be even worse in terms of required energy, and they all needed rest– and an uncomfortable rest was always going to be better than nothing.

But, that didn’t change the fact that—

“I thought I was sharing with Bruce,” Tony said bluntly, narrowing his eyes at the still armour-clad god hovering in the doorway. Tony was already stretched out on the bed, just about ready to finally get some rest, and he wasn’t too keen on suddenly finding out that instead of his science bro, he was being forced to share with the guy who had thrown him out of a window not too long ago.

“I refuse to sleep in the same bed as Thor,” Loki explained as he cast his gaze over the room, quite clearly unimpressed by what he saw. “He snores.”

“Yeah, well, I have nightmares, so that’s probably worse—”

“No,” Loki said simply, clearly not willing to accept any argument. “It isn’t.”

Tony seriously doubted that– he knew he woke up thrashing and screaming on the regular, his limbs twisting in sheets that felt more like iron restraints and gasping for a breath that should have come easy, but never quite did. JARVIS’ routine morning greetings usually calmed him, reminding him of where he was– but there would be no such comfort in an old motel room.

He wouldn’t have minded sharing with Bruce– Bruce knew, after all, and he understood. But Tony couldn’t imagine that Loki would be willing to put up with it.

Nightmares really was an understatement.

But then, Tony had been witness to Thor’s snoring in the past. Any louder and the vibrations could probably bring down his entire tower.

“Okay, whatever,” Tony allowed with a mutter. “You still could have gone in with anyone else.”

Loki gave him an odd look, something that might have been a mix of a bit of confusion, a bit of hurt, and a bit of stubbornness. “I could have,” he said sharply. “And yet, here I am. Take the compliment, Stark, and move.”

Tony glared and crossed his arms, refusing to shift even an inch from his spot on the only bed. “I’m not sleeping on the floor,” he snapped. “If I’m expected to have a working spine for the fight tomorrow, I need a mattress under me. Even that lumpy thing has to be better than…” He trailed off, glancing down at the patches of mould and mildew on the ground. He didn’t quite have the words to describe the horror that was the sorry excuse for a carpet, but he didn’t think he needed to– Loki’s expression was just as horrified as Tony’s, his nose crinkled in disgust.

“Well, I am not sleeping on the floor either,” Loki said a moment later. “Even my seiðr could not remove the dirt from that carpet.” While Tony highly doubted that fact – Loki’s magic was capable of some of the most amazing feats Tony had ever seen – he understood Loki’s hesitation. Even if it were magically spick and span, the even just the memory of that muck… yeah, it was enough to put anyone off.

“Of course not, your royal highness,” Tony drawled. “Then I guess we’ll just have to share.” He arched a brow. “Are you still sure you want to stay with me?”

“You aren’t scared, are you?” Loki asked, that odd glint of hurt back in his gaze even though his tone of voice was completely wry. “Afraid I’m going to stab you in your sleep?”

“I don’t think you’re going to hurt me,” Tony muttered. “I just… I’m not used to sharing with people. I nearly killed Pepper once, you know? I summoned the suit in my sleep, and that was when we were together, when I was used to being with her. I don’t…”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Stark,” Loki said, rolling his eyes. “I am not afraid of you.”

Tony eyed him for a moment, taking in the way that Loki’s shoulders had relaxed when he realised why Tony was trying to shoo him off, how the tension had bled from his body as he came to understand that it wasn’t him Tony was objecting to– at least, not entirely.

And Tony had a realisation of his own, because– as much as everyone was still wary of Loki, Loki was just as wary of them. He had very little reason to trust them, and yet he had been willing to leave the safe option of sharing with Thor to share with Tony instead, for the simple reason of Thor’s snores.

The reality was that Loki was just as exhausted as everyone else, but he also really did mean it when he said that he had no qualms sharing with Tony. And considering Loki still froze sometimes when Bruce entered a room, or when Clint made a comment about his time under Loki’s thrall– that probably meant a bit more than Tony currently understood.

“Fine.” Begrudgingly, Tony moved a little further over to the side of the too-small double bed, and Loki gracefully slipped under the covers next to him, the armour transforming into soft cotton as he did so. Thankfully, there was enough space to leave a sliver of no-mans-land between them, the tiny gap feeling both all too close and yet a yawning expanse just the same.

Tony shifted, unable to get comfortable. The mattress was lumpy, and he was lying right on the edge, feeling like he might fall off at any moment. He couldn’t shift left, and he couldn’t shift right, and he couldn’t spread out like he was used to—

“Stop moving,” Loki hissed.

“I did warn you,” Tony hissed back.

“You said nightmares—”

“Well, I guess I should have said restless—”

“Clearly.” Loki moved then, and Tony glanced across to see that he had shifted to lie on his side, his green eyes glinting like a cat’s in the dim lights from outside the window.

Tony turned to mirror his position, one arm jammed under his head and the other pressed into the mattress at his side. “Okay, what?” he asked.

“You are a curious mortal, Tony Stark,” Loki said softly, almost as if he were expecting Tony not to hear despite their faces being mere inches apart.

“Not sure what to make of me?” Tony asked. “No one ever is.”

Loki smiled, a small thing that was nothing like his usual cutting sharpness. His eyes fell closed a moment later, his breathing beginning to slow.

And Tony… was… uncomfortable. He shifted again, his arm starting to ache, and god was it just impossible to find a decent position in a tiny space, or—

“Oh by the Norns,” Loki muttered, moving closer, reaching out—

“No, wait,” Tony said. “Don’t.”

Loki, to his credit, paused. “I will not hurt you. You said—”

“No, I know,” Tony agreed, half surprised himself to find that he really did mean it. Somehow, in the dim light and in close proximity, Loki seemed softer and… more at ease than he ever did during the day. “I know what I said, and I meant it. But it’s just…”

“It’s what?” Loki asked, tilting his head, his lips curling into a wicked smirk. “If you aren’t afraid, then why are you hesitating?”

Tony glared. “Is that a challenge?”

“Perhaps.” Loki’s teeth flashed as his smirk turned to a grin. “Do you accept?”

Goddamn it.

“Right,” Tony snapped. “Come here.”

Rather than waiting for Loki to make the move, he turned and shifted more into the middle of the bed himself, only half an inch or so but enough that his back was leaning into Loki’s chest. Loki’s arms were wrapped around him, his face pressed to Tony’s shoulder. It was definitely weird, but it didn’t take long for Tony to sink into it, the extra space for his legs to spread out and the support of Loki’s arms allowing him to find a position where his limbs didn’t feel all over the place and his back wasn’t aching from the cheap mattress.

They didn’t say anything else, finally able to settle. It was stupidly, ridiculously easy to relax, surrendering to the feel of another body against his own in a way that he never quite had been able to before. Maybe it was that there was no expectations, no requirement, no likelihood of it ever even happening again. Maybe it was that Tony trusted Loki enough for this, that Loki was close enough to be a friend, with no worry that it might turn into a bid for something else. But whatever it was, Tony found himself curling into Loki’s hold and falling asleep much faster than his busy mind would ever normally allow.

The next morning, they awoke lying far closer than they had been when they had fallen asleep. Tony was doubly surprised, as he couldn’t remember a nightmare. He had the vague impression of a hand stroking his hair and soft, whispered words, but he shook the memory away and pulled himself from Loki’s arms without a backwards glance. And maybe there was a small sense of loss, a tiny wish that he could have something like it again in the future, but that wasn’t enough for him to make his thoughts known.

Besides, Loki would never have done something like that. If Tony’d begun to struggle in his sleep, he knew it was far more likely that Loki would’ve thrown him to the ground.

The memory must have just been his imagination– and indeed, as they went out to meet the rest of the Avengers for the remainder of the mission, neither he nor Loki mentioned any of it.

 

 

2—to comfort

Nightmares suck.

There is no getting around them, no way to make them stop. Tony had tried working himself to exhaustion, he’d tried sex and booze, he’d even gone so far as to try a regular sleeping schedule– but they just kept on coming. He’d been told that maybe time would help, maybe confronting everything that had happened in the past, maybe dealing with the possibility of every future that left him trembling in fear could help calm his nights, but nothing seemed to work.

They just kept on coming.

Tony couldn’t even remember them most of the time– he would just wake up with a gasp, his body trembling with fear. Certain that he was somewhere else, caught in the terrifying space between not knowing where he was and not being able to remember why he was so terribly, awfully afraid.

So, yeah, it sucked. The nightmares were always there, they never stopped.

And some nights sucked worse than others.

“Sir, it is 3:27am, you are—”

No.” Tony’s breath came in painful pants, his back arching, his arms slamming down into the mattress, flailing, shaking—

There was a crash– his knees hurt, and his hands were pressing hard into the carpet by the side of his bed.

“JARVIS,” he gasped—

“Sir, you are in Avengers Tower, New York City—”

J—” Tony gasped again. He didn’t care about himself, he didn’t– he knew where he was, but where– where—

His breath evaded him, like the air refused to stay in his lungs for long enough, and his chest heaved faster and faster and the arc reactor wasn’t there anymore, but it was still a heavy weight pounding and scratching against his ribs. The others were in danger, but he didn’t know how or why, and he didn’t think he would be able to do anything about it anyway when the whole world was coming down in colours and blurs and a heavy, painful squeeze around his throat, choking and, and drowning—

“Shh, Stark, you are safe.” There was the sound of shifting material as someone knelt to the floor, though they didn’t come close. It was something to focus on, something that was more difficult to be drowned out than JARVIS’ routine.

Tony recognised the voice, and he allowed himself to fall toward it, grabbing on like an anchor.

“Come on, now. Breathe.” The person breathed slow as they spoke, and Tony did his best to follow along, almost surprised when his lungs began to cooperate on the third try.

In and out, in and out, steady and calming.

“There we go.”

A gentle hand lay on Tony’s shoulder, hesitant at first– and then more firmly as Tony leaned closer, searching out that grounding touch.

“You are in Avengers Tower,” Loki said quietly. “JARVIS asked me to come and help you, as I was the only one awake. The others are all sleeping peacefully, with the exception of Thor, who sounds more like a herd of stampeding bilgesnipe than a simple Aesir.”

Tony’s surprised laugh turned into a cough, but it was enough to break the seal over his throat, and he drew in a deep, shuddering breath.

“Loki,” he said, his voice still hoarse but no longer the shaky mess it had been before.

“Yes,” Loki replied, hesitancy colouring the tremor of his hand against Tony’s shoulder and the nervous shine in his eyes, like he was afraid of being pushed away.

And maybe, had Tony been in his right mind, he would have. After all, they weren’t that close– sure, after that mission where they had been forced to share a bed, their usual banter had included more jokes than insults, more smiles than smirks, and maybe Tony would call them friends. Maybe.

But in that moment, it didn’t matter that they weren’t close, because Loki was there, and somehow, Loki felt safe. Tony fell against him, curling into Loki’s embrace, breathing him in and just letting the world fall back into place. Loki sighed– a long, breathy exhale that seemed to pull all the tension from his body, and he held Tony close with the kind of gentleness Tony wouldn’t have expected him to be capable of, if not for the small glimpses these stolen moments at night had given him. He couldn’t be sure, but it felt like maybe Loki found some comfort in it as well, in the simple closeness of another body.

Tony couldn’t say how long they stayed like that, curled together on the ground, holding each other close, but it was long enough for Tony’s eyes to begin to fall closed, his head resting on Loki’s shoulder.

“You are tired,” Loki said, gently beginning to pry Tony from his hold. “Come now, Stark. I should leave, and you must rest.”

Later, perhaps Tony would say it was because he was tired. But in that moment, as he curled his hands in Loki’s shirt and tried to keep him close, he did it for the simple fact that he didn’t want to let Loki go.

“Stay,” he whispered. “Please, Loki.”

The pause was long, the silence loud, and Tony was just accepting the disappointment when—

“Very well,” Loki replied softly. “I’ll stay.”

Tony curled back into Loki’s chest, and Loki let out a soft laugh against the top of Tony’s head. He lifted Tony up so that Tony didn’t need to let go at all, and they curled together under the covers just as they had once before.

“Thanks, Loki,” he whispered. “For staying.”

And just as Tony was about to surrender to the perilous darkness of sleep, he thought he heard an almost silent response.

“Oh, Anthony. You only ever need to ask.”

 

 

3—to pleasure

Tony supposed that it was inevitable. After all, they were both highly strung, both attractive, and both at each other’s throats almost as often as they flirted– not to mention the fact that they shared a bed every other night. So yeah, it was inevitable that they’d give in to the heat that burned between them, that they’d let themselves fall down another rabbit hole and into a wave of pleasure that was no doubt a terrible mistake, but tasted sweet all the same. 

Tony couldn’t even remember which of them had surged forward first, knowing only that Loki had slammed him against a wall in the workshop after Tony had licked his lips at one of Loki’s comments– and then their mouths were moving against each other hard enough to bruise, biting and sucking, both equally demanding and refusing to relinquish control.

The need for a breath offered a moment of clarity from the burn of desire, and Tony panted as he waited for Loki to realise what they were doing. But when Loki’s eyes opened, there was no regret or hesitation– they blazed with a need that had Tony leaning back in for more, pulling Loki closer by the lapels of his coat as he crushed their mouths together once again.

Lips and tongues and hands and bodies, pressing and dancing in a rhythm that set Tony’s blood aflame. His shoulders ached as Loki’s full weight leaned against him, and Tony groaned as their hips rolled together. He threaded his hands through Loki’s hair and dragged his nails over Loki’s scalp, drawing his head back as Tony worked his lips against the line of Loki’s jaw.

He was breathless and aroused and aching in minutes, and he ground his hips against Loki’s with enough force to cause Loki to break the kiss with a gasp.

“Bed?” Tony asked, the word a strangled hitch against Loki’s lips.

Loki’s answer was to hold Tony even tighter, and then Tony felt a spark run down his skin, shattering across every nerve– until it stopped just as suddenly as it had started, and his back hit the inside of his bedroom door. He was held up by the press of Loki’s body alone, his feet dangling an inch or so just above the carpeted floor.

Tony didn’t mind, but when he hooked his feet around Loki’s calves, the god gave a short laugh.

“I’m afraid I’m not accustomed to skywalking with someone of your limited stature—”

“Oh, shut up about my height,” Tony growled, pressing his words against Loki’s lips. “Just—”

“I just hope your height is not proportional to, ah, other things—"

“If you keep this up, you’re not going to find out.”

By the glint in his eye, it was clear that Loki knew Tony didn’t mean it, and was rising to the challenge just like they always had. Loki ducked his head to kiss Tony again, and Tony’s hands scrabbled at Loki’s coat, pushing it down and off his shoulders with some difficulty due to their closeness. Realising what he was trying to do, Loki leaned back slightly, and Tony felt another spark of magic—

And then their bare skin pressed together with nothing in between, and Tony’s fingers dug hard into Loki’s skin, raking down his back as he pressed his gasp into Loki’s smooth shoulder. His teeth grazed at the skin there, and when Loki shuddered, Tony took that as his cue to press his teeth harder, nipping a line of bites along the collarbone to the soft expanse of Loki’s throat.

Loki responded by gripping Tony’s waist and hitching up his legs, holding him entirely against his body as he spun them away from the door. Tony knew what Loki was doing, but he didn’t care– he continued to suck at the curve of Loki’s throat, trying to leave a mark even though he knew it would likely be gone in a few hours. He paused only as Loki pressed him into the mattress, leaning over Tony’s chest and standing between his legs, not being particularly gentle. Then their mouths pressed together again, the kiss deep and slow, the hand that wasn’t holding Loki up sliding down over Tony’s stomach and between his thighs.

Tony gasped as Loki’s fingers curled around the base of his cock, his back arching against the mattress even as he pressed up into Loki’s hand. Loki chuckled into Tony’s mouth, his probably magically slick hand sliding up and then pumping back down in one smooth stroke before letting go.

Tony whined, and Loki laughed again.

“Impatient,” he teased.

“Asshole.”

“Well, if you wish.”

Tony almost rolled his eyes, but his wry amusement was lost to a groan as Loki’s fingers brushed over his balls, a feather light touch which tortured more than anything else. Loki shifted his weight, then ran a hand along the inside of Tony’s thigh, stroking slowly but firm enough that it wasn’t hard to understand what he wanted. Tony obediently spread his legs apart, and then Loki’s hand slid higher, circling Tony’s entrance. Tony gripped at the bedding, trying to steady himself as Loki pressed a finger inside him, not even trying to fight against the groaned name that broke from his lips.

Loki paused at that, and when Tony lifted his head to see what was wrong, he saw that Loki’s eyes were both dark with need and wide with… surprise? It didn’t take all of Tony’s genius to work out what had done it – which was good, considering that most of his genius was offline – and then Tony decided that the best thing to do was probably just to spur him on with more.

“Loki,” he groaned again, letting his head fall back to the mattress, shifting his hips so he could feel the movement against Loki’s knuckles.

It seemed that Tony had guessed right, for at the sound of his name Loki leaned down to caress Tony’s lips in a dirty kiss, at the same time twisting his wrist and curling his finger, stroking, searching—

Oh, fuck,” Tony hissed, hands burying into Loki’s hair, trying to find something to hold on to.

Loki pulled his hand back before thrusting in again, this time with two fingers instead of just one, rubbing over Tony’s prostate and tearing curse after moan from Tony’s lips. And, god, if this was what Loki could do with his fingers, what was it going to feel like with Loki properly inside him?

Tony was painfully hard, his cock heavy and aching. He reached for it, needing to feel some friction, his breath coming in pants as he began to stroke himself. Loki moaned at the sight, but then he pushed himself more upright again and used his free hand to catch Tony’s wrist, stopping his movement– and Loki’s own movements stopped as well.

“Loki, I swear,” Tony growled, “If you don’t hurry up—”

“You’ll what?” Loki asked, pulling his fingers out entirely and causing Tony to whine at the loss. “If you want me to go—”

“Don’t you dare,” Tony threatened weakly, not really caring that it made Loki smirk. “Just– want—”

“I know,” Loki purred, the sound catching Tony’s breath and going straight to his groin. “Do not worry. I will give you everything you need.”

Tony felt empty as Loki moved away, sliding back up over Tony’s chest to kiss his lips hungrily once again, as if he couldn’t help himself. Then Tony felt the head of Loki’s cock press against his hole, and he drew in an anticipatory breath.

Loki pushed in slowly– too slowly, and Tony wanted to curse at him again, but it was lost to pleasure as Loki buried himself deep inside. Then Loki paused, his eyes closed, his lips parted slightly. He looked almost reverent, and Tony took in the sight appreciatively for a moment before he hooked a leg around Loki’s waist, lifting his own hips off the bed and pulling them even closer together.

“Loki,” Tony whined. “Move.”

Loki’s eyes flew open at the sound, and then with his hands gripping Tony’s hips, Loki pulled out almost all the way before thrusting back inside. They groaned together as Loki moved again, setting a rhythm that grew harder and faster as their moans grew louder and more desperate. Tony’s feet slipped at Loki’s waist but he held on tighter, one hand clutching at the bed, the other taking his cock in hand once more. Loki didn’t stop him this time, but shifted so he was leaning forward again. His thrusts didn’t slow as he missed Tony’s lips and mouthed at his jaw, and Tony tilted back his head as the new angle sent a wave of pleasure shuddering through him.

Beads of sweat ran down Loki’s temple, Tony could taste salt on his lips, and Loki was trembling with every thrust. Tony’s eyes ached to close but he forced them to stay open, not wanting to miss a moment. He could hear himself muttering yes and more and Loki’s name over and over, but it all felt so very distant, a dream compared to the heat and the shaking pleasure. His cock twitched in his hand and he knew he was close, but he tried to hold on, not wanting the moment to end, wanting to feel everything Loki had to give.

“Anthony,” Loki whispered, his voice low and twisting the syllables, one of his hands sliding over Tony’s. The feel of their hands together, the sound of Loki’s voice, a deep thrust that matched their joined stroke on his cock—

Tony’s cock jerked as he orgasmed, his thighs spasming as he pulled Loki closer still. Loki fucked him through it, not slowing– then he too came with a cry, his muscles quivering, his expression holding Tony’s gaze even as Tony rode his own waves of pleasure to completion.

When they were both spent, Loki fell onto the mattress beside Tony, neither of them moving any further up the bed. They were close enough that their arms remained pressed together, and Tony didn’t want to move, not when he felt so comfortable, not when he worried that if he did, Loki might go, just like everyone else once they had got what they wanted. Loki had promised he would stay before, but this was different. He just… he didn’t know what to expect, and he didn’t want to risk ending the moment by stepping into the unknown. But he knew that if they didn’t clean themselves up they would soon regret it, and he sat up to go to the bathroom with a heavy sigh.

Loki didn’t stop him.

Tony wiped himself down slowly, wanting to delay the inevitable, and by the time he was done, his pessimistic thoughts had fully convinced him that Loki would have left.

But when Tony returned to the bed, Loki was still there.

Tony paused in the doorway, staring. Loki had moved so that he was lying on the bed properly, the covers thrown back, and he must have cleaned himself and the sheets with his seiðr. As Tony watched, Loki glanced up and arched a brow.

“Are you just going to stand there?” Loki asked, though his tone was more tired than harsh.

Tony grinned, and moved to slide in beside him.

It shouldn’t have felt awkward, because they had shared a bed so many times before– but for some reason, it was. Loki felt like he was drawn a little taut, and he didn’t pull Tony close like he usually would, like he always had since that first time.

“That was fun,” Tony said brightly, glancing over his shoulder to flash Loki a flirty grin, hoping that it would help to ease some of the tension.

It seemed to work, for Loki relaxed at that, curling an arm around Tony’s waist. “Well… I suppose it wasn’t bad, for a mortal,” he whispered teasingly.

Tony didn’t respond, his grin fading. Instead, he buried himself deeper into the blankets in a clear indication that he wanted to go to sleep. Loki seemed to accept that, leaning his head into Tony’s shoulder. 

Tony knew he was being ridiculous– he and Loki spent their whole lives arguing with each other, and such a small quip shouldn’t have affected him the way that it did.

But… unlike their usual bickering, that word had hurt.

Mortal.

It was a reminder of how they were different, a reminder of exactly why Tony would never be good enough—

A reminder that he would never be able to have exactly what he had come to want.

 

 

4—to despair

Tony probably should have expected it when he heard his bedroom door crash open, cracking against the wall with the force of an angry god. He still winced, though, ducking further under his covers as if that would help him hide from Loki’s stare.

It wasn’t that he was afraid of Loki himself– he knew that Loki would never hurt him, at least, not physically. But he was worried about what Loki would say, because the god had never hidden his disdain for the comparative fragility of Tony’s body, for Tony’s mortality. Tony had always tried to shrug it off, to remind himself that neither of them really cared, that their arrangement was simply sex and a body to warm their beds to help keep the nightmares at bay.

But sometimes, that… was hard. Sometimes, Tony wished that Loki’s soft touches when he thought Tony had fallen asleep could mean a little more, and that when he whispered into Tony’s hair with words too quiet to make out, he was whispering words of love. But down that road lay only pain and heartbreak, because Tony knew that something so perfect would never fall into his grasp, not without there being a catch.

Loki paced at the foot of Tony’s bed, and Tony knew that he was angry. So Tony swallowed thickly, and spoke firmly, hoping to head off an argument before it could begin.

“I’m fine,” he said, but before he could go any further—

“That was not fine,” Loki hissed. “I saw you fall thirty feet, I saw a building fall on top of you—”

“And I’m fine.” Tony knew that he wasn’t, not really, but he was fine enough. He had waved away the medics when they had tried to swarm him the moment that the fight was done, because… he didn’t need to look any weaker than he already did.

Most of the other Avengers had something going for them. Nothing was ever going to hurt the Hulk, Cap had enhanced healing, and Loki and Thor weren’t even human. Tony didn’t want to announce his mortality any more than he already did on a daily basis, didn’t want to shove how pathetic and breakable he was into Loki’s face by asking for a medic.

He didn’t want to give Loki any reason to want to stop what they were doing.

So even now, even when his injury was screaming at him despite the Tylenol he’d shoved down his throat, he sat up in bed and pinned Loki with a hard stare.

“I really am okay,” he said. “I’m sorry if I made you angry, but—”

“I’m not angry,” Loki said suddenly, his brow creasing with a frown. “Well, I am angry at the níðingr who did this, and I’m angry that no one was there fast enough to catch you. I’m angry that you were in harm’s way, and that I almost could have… I’m angry, but I’m not angry at you.

Tony blinked, feeling like his mind was a little clouded, like he couldn’t quite work out what was going on.

“Loki?” he asked. “If you’re not angry, then… why are you here?”

“Where else would I be?”

There was something in Loki’s expression that made Tony pause. Something hesitant and pained and, maybe just a little bit broken– as if he hadn’t meant to say it, but couldn’t bring himself to take it back.

It made Tony feel almost a little bit hopeful, and he reached out as if trying to pull Loki closer. Loki obliged, and Tony was just able to reach far enough to curl his fingers in the hem of Loki’s shirt.

But before he could say anything, Loki was talking again.

“You asked if I was angry,” Loki said. “And I said that I was. But more than that, I’m scared.”

Tony blinked, not comprehending, but… still hoping, maybe, that this was a little more than he thought that it was. “Why?”

“I can’t lose you,” Loki whispered, stepping closer and hesitantly perching on the edge of the mattress, as if worried that Tony was going to push him away. “Watching that today was the worst thing that I have ever suffered. When the building fell, I thought that I had lost you. I… suppose one of the others told you what I did?”

Clint had, yeah– and he had painted a rather terrifying picture of the way that Loki had torn the villain-of-the-week apart, leaving almost nothing behind, and certainly nothing that needed to be locked up. It probably should have been a little worrying, but Clint had pointed out that they had all thought Tony had been crushed.

Still, a reaction on that level was pretty extreme, especially for Loki– and even with the strange pounding behind Tony’s eyes, it wasn’t difficult to reach a certain conclusion.

“Oh,” Tony breathed, his eyes widening. “Loki, you… this isn’t just…”

“It’s not,” Loki said again, his voice broken and harsh. “I know that you do not feel for me as I do for you, but if you care for me at all, then… please. Don’t be so reckless. Don’t make me watch you get hurt, don’t make me need to continue on without you, because… I don’t think that I could, anymore. I wouldn’t want to.”

Tony could do little other than stare. He had spent all of this time believing Loki could never love him, and all the while Loki had been feeling exactly the same way.

The realisation, it seemed, had hit Tony hard enough that things had begun to spin, the whole world tilting on its axis.

No, really, the room was spinning—

“Loki,” Tony gasped, “I think—”

“Shh,” Loki said, reaching out with trembling fingers stroking over Tony’s cheek, his hands then smoothing down over his shoulders and to his waist. “I do not expect anything in return, and I am sorry for being upset,” he said. “I shouldn’t have—”

Tony whimpered as Loki’s hands hit somewhere tender, a spark of pain lancing up his side.

“Anthony?”

Then Tony felt fingers tugging his shirt up, and Tony would have made a comment about now probably not being the best time but he was cut off by Loki’s gasp.

“JARVIS,” Loki said, and Tony felt his brows pull into a frown, a weird feeling, like he hadn’t quite meant to do it himself.

“I’m Tony,” he said. Why was Loki calling him JARVIS?

“JARVIS, where do I take him? Tell me—”

“He needs a hospital, Mr Liesmith,” JARVIS said, and then he rattled off the direction and distance of the nearest one– but as the crow flies, which was weird—

Tony smiled as he felt Loki’s arms wrap around him, pulling him tight and snug against Loki’s chest.

“Loki,” Tony said, and he meant to say it nicely but it came out in a bit more of a groan. And then it felt like something else was going to come out too, and he groaned again. “Loki, I think I’m going to be sick.”

“Anthony, you’re going to be fine,” Loki promised, his words a little frantic like maybe he was trying to convince himself more than Tony.

“I know,” Tony whispered. Despite the haziness and the headache and the pain, he knew that it was true, because– “You’re here.”

He felt the familiar spark of Loki’s seiðr over his skin, and then he knew nothing more.

 

 

5—to reassure

Tony felt a little fuzzy.

It was a feeling he knew too well, despite not having felt it all too often– that dopey heaviness that comes from too much sleep and yet not enough all at once, weighed down with drugs and somewhat aware of what was going on around him, but as if he were hearing voices through thick glass, and as if his eyelids were made of steel. There was nothing he could do but stay lying down, to try and drown away the voices and maybe go back to sleep with the hope of feeling a little better upon next awakening.

But the voices were familiar, and Tony realised that he wanted to know what they were saying. So, he fought against the haze and pushed his head through the surface until he could properly hear what was being said, even if his eyes remained closed.

It sounded like an argument, and that was familiar enough that it made Tony relax even despite the harsh voices.

“It is late,” Thor was saying. “The nurses have already been kind letting you stay this long. The other Avengers have made food back at the tower, brother, come and rest. You can return in the morning.”

“No,” Loki replied. “I won’t.”

“You must.”

“No.”

“Loki,” Thor said, his tone still firm but half way to a sigh.

Their argument paused for a moment, and in the interim, Tony felt a hand run gently through his hair, and had he been more awake he would have pressed into the touch. It was soothing and calming in a way that nothing else ever could be, and he allowed it lull him a little deeper into sleep.

“You know you can’t stay,” Thor said after a moment. “They’re not going to let you—”

“Do you really think that a few mortal nurses could stop me from staying with Anthony tonight?” Loki asked.

“No, brother,” Thor sighed softly. “I do not believe that they could.”

Nothing else was said. Tony thought he heard footsteps and the click of a door, but he didn’t focus on that. For he could feel arms curling around him and lips pressing into his hair, and he couldn’t help but shift slightly closer, leaning into Loki’s hold and melting against the familiar comfort of his body.

Loki stilled for a moment, but not for long. Then his breath left him in a sigh that ruffled Tony’s hair, and his arms tightened just a little– not enough to jostle Tony’s injury, but enough to make his affection clear.

“You’re safe,” Loki whispered, and this time, it was just loud enough for Tony to be able to hear. “I’m here, and I’m not going to let you go.”

And with those comforting words lulling him to rest, Tony drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

 

 

+1—to confirm

When Tony woke up, he was disappointed to see Pepper at his bedside, and it only took him half a moment to be fully alert.

“Loki was here,” he said, glancing to his side. But the bed was empty save for himself, and it felt colder than it should have with the blankets piled on top of him.

“He visited with Thor last night,” Pepper told him. Tony was half expecting some amused comment about where she stood in his eyes, but she merely gave him a soft smile. “Thor returned to the tower alone.”

Tony sighed. “I just… I think he might be mad at me. And he didn’t stay.”

“I saw something green flash when I came in,” Pepper said gently. “I don’t think he’s been gone long.”

“I need to talk to him,” Tony muttered, pushing up to sitting.

“You need to get better first,” Pepper scolded. “Lie back down.”

Tony huffed, but did as he was told. Thankfully, though, he didn’t need to stay still for long, because the doctors reported that his injuries had healed at a remarkable rate– an impossible rate. Tony had the feeling he might know what had caused that, and when the doctors marvelled, he merely reminded them that the Avengers had certain off-worlders with advanced technology and incredible skills on their side. The doctors still wished to keep him longer for observation, but Tony trusted that he was fine to leave, and discharged himself the first moment he could.

His hands were twisting in his lap the entire drive back to the tower, and he was out of the car before Happy had even pulled to a stop. He didn’t know why he was in such a rush– JARVIS assured him that Loki had not moved during Tony’s whole trip, and that he didn’t look like he was thinking of leaving. Tony had time, but… he couldn’t help but think that he had wasted so many moments, and he didn’t want another single one to pass him by.

When he stepped into the elevator, he had been expecting that JARVIS would take him to the penthouse, since JARVIS had said that Loki was on his bed– and the bed that Loki used most often these days was Tony’s. But, instead, when the doors slid open it was to show Loki’s floor, and Tony felt a little disorientated.

It wasn’t that he hadn’t been on this floor before– of course he had, he’d built the place. But it was only as he was walking through the rooms that he realised he hadn’t been there since he and Loki had started their thing. Loki had always come to Tony’s bed, but Tony… had never returned the favour.

When he came to Loki’s bedroom, he knocked on the door with a few light raps. The door, it seemed, hadn’t been latched properly, for that was all it needed to swing open.

Tony knew that he should wait for an answer, but he couldn’t help but try to steal a glance– and what he saw caused his breath to catch in his throat.

Loki was curled in a ball in the middle of his mattress, his head pressed into his knees. He wasn’t shaking, but he didn’t look far from it, his hands clenched over his elbows so tightly that his knuckles were shining white.

“Go away, Thor,” Loki hissed. “I told you, I am fine.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” Tony whispered, taking a small step into the room, his hand reaching forward just slightly before falling back to his side. “Loki—”

“Anthony.” Loki’s head snapped up, his red-rimmed eyes widening. “Why are you here?”

Tony took a few steps forward, pausing when he reached the bed, not sure if he was welcome. Loki watched him approach but didn’t say a thing in protest, so he perched on the edge of the mattress, one knee pulled up onto it so he could face Loki properly. “I want to talk to you.”

Loki froze. “No,” he whispered.

“I think we need to,” Tony said. “Loki, we haven’t… we’ve never really talked about anything, and the last time we tried—”

“No, don’t,” Loki rasped. “Don’t tell me this is over—”

“That’s not—”

“I know that I shouldn’t have said what I did,” Loki interrupted, his knees falling to the side as he leaned closer to Tony, his hand pressing into the bedding between them though he wasn’t quite reaching out. “I was… I was scared, and caught in the moment. Just, forget it, forget that I said I– please. Just let us continue as we were, I know that you enjoyed the time we spent together. Please don’t say goodbye.”

“Oh, Loki,” Tony said, shifting his hand so that it rested on top of Loki’s, hoping to calm him down. “I’m not, I promise, that isn’t why I’m here. “I did enjoy it, I do—

“Then you won’t push me away?” Loki asked, his voice cracking with desperation. “I can keep coming to you at night, to, to sleep in your arms, to share your bed—”

 “If you want to, then yes,” Tony said instantly, not pausing for a moment. “Whenever you want.”

Loki seemed to relax at that, the fight going out of him. And Tony felt… confused, because he thought that he would be the one distraught, begging, pleading. He was expecting that Loki would be mad at him, because he had been the last time Tony had seen him, back in his room in the penthouse. Tony had stupidly risked his life and gotten hurt and then he hadn’t told anyone, because he hadn’t wanted to appear weak. He knew it was a bad move, but he’d done it anyway, because he hadn’t wanted to disappoint Loki– and then he’d just gone and made it all worse by passing out.

But Loki… didn’t look angry. He looked relieved, as if knowing that they could continue their arrangement was the best news that he could have heard. But Tony knew that Loki wanted more than that, because… well.

He might have been a little out of it at the time, but looking back, he could remember what Loki had said– and he could deduce what those words meant.

Loki was watching Tony with a nervous expression that didn’t quite seem to match the arrogant mage that Tony had come to know, and yet… he did know Loki, and had learned that he was not quite as hard as he liked to pretend.

So Tony pushed himself back so he was level with Loki, and gently reached out to touch Loki’s shoulder. Loki leaned in willingly, relievedly even, resting his head against Tony’s shoulder.

“Thank you,” Loki whispered.

“Of course,” Tony said, his voice a little thick. He hadn’t thought that it would go this way, but maybe… there was still a way to salvage this, to say what he had come to say.

“Loki, I’m sorry,” Tony said, rubbing his hand into Loki’s back with smooth, calming strokes. “I know that I’m mortal, and that I’m weak– I know that I’ll never be what you need. But I remember what you said, about being scared of losing me, and I think that maybe there’s a chance that this isn’t a mistake. So I’m just going to go for it.”

Loki glanced up, his eyes confused and his lips parted as if he were about to argue– but Tony didn’t give him the chance. He leaned forward and drew Loki into a kiss. 

It was nothing like the heated kisses they had shared in bed before, those desperate clashes of lips and tongues that had always felt like a means to an end, just part of a lead up to something else. This kiss was slow and gentle, and spoke only of the affection that burned between them with a soft glow. Loki gasped into Tony’s mouth and pressed closer, and Tony’s arms curled more securely around Loki’s waist, not wanting to let go, not wanting the moment to end.

But they did have to stop eventually, and Tony leaned back only as far as was needed to breathe, still feeling Loki’s soft pants against his skin as he spoke.

“Loki, I love you,” Tony said, holding Loki’s gaze, growing more confident by the moment. “I promise, I don’t ever want to let you go, not unless you want me to. And I think, that maybe… You might feel the same.”

“I do,” Loki whispered, cupping Tony’s cheek. “I love you, too.”

The kiss that followed was short and chaste, and it didn’t last as long as Tony would have wanted. But when he opened his eyes it was to see that Loki was staring at him as if he couldn’t believe Tony was there, his still reddened eyes shining with awe.

“I’ve never cared that you are mortal, or that you have nightmares, or that you are a terrible hoarder of blankets,” Loki said. “I worry because I don’t want you to be hurt, not because I think you are weak. You are the strongest man I know, Anthony Stark, and I would give you my heart, should you want it.”

“I’ll try to take good care of it,” Tony replied.

Loki smiled at that– an honest, delighted smile that brightened the green in his eyes. The sight of it had Tony smiling as well, and then they were moving forward, their mouths sliding together for a moment before they just leaned into each other, heads resting on shoulders, arms holding each other close.

And in that moment, Tony felt like he could stay right there on that bed for years and remain just as happy as he was now– so long as Loki was there with him.