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Loki dreamed of red and gold, of soft brown eyes that maybe, just maybe, had a hint of green. His dreams were filled with nipping kisses and the feel of rough stubble against his own smooth face. Calloused hands caressed his body, igniting a fire in him that he struggled to put out when he would awake. It was slowly driving him and Pepper apart; when her hands would linger upon his skin, all he could see were brown eyes sparkling mischievously. When she kissed him, it felt wrong. And that, in turn, felt wrong. He loved Pepper. She was his rock, and she had been for many years before they had decided to take the dive into a more… personal relationship. Before those damned dreams it had been going so well.

Well was a term he used loosely, of course, because once he had taken a nuke through a portal, given a terrorist their address, and then made a “murder bot”, things had gotten rather rocky between them, and understandably so. Pepper had given him an ultimatum. Stop being Iron Man, or they were through. It was simple really.

So the A on the side of the tower was gone, and he had shoved the Avengers into a remodeled warehouse in upstate New York and far away from him to keep him separate and her happy. He ignored phone calls in favor of texting a reply or sending an email, and hid all evidence of his attempts to track Bruce down. He never turned the news on, and after a dozen and a half ignored phone calls, Fury had stopped trying to call in Iron Man entirely. Loki had done all he could to convince her that she was what he wanted, that she was all that mattered to him. He did everything in his power to keep her from leaving him.

She dumped him over the phone an hour before the Gala they were hosting together. She acted like their relationship had never happened that entire night, like the last five years were nothing. Like he was nothing.

He told no one except for Rhodey, and then Steve when the other had shown up at the tower in the dead of night rambling about his friend, Bucky, and Loki had been much too drunk to either pay attention or keep his mouth shut.

What hurt most, was that after drunken rambling and all, when both of them had gone back to the compound, Loki realized he had no one. Rhodey was at the compound, with Natasha and Steve, 24/7. Thor was off doing god knows what. Bruce… well, Bruce vanished, and was being rather difficult to track at the moment. He did not even have JARVIS anymore, and words could not describe just how empty that left him. JARVIS had been through so much with him, had essentially kept him going since his creation, and now he was off fighting crime and saving the world with the Avengers.

Well, no one was not exactly correct to say. He was not the only retired Avenger that was currently mildly depressed and bored out of his mind.

“Feet off that table, Barton, were you raised in a barn?” Loki strolled into the main living room, glaring at the archer who was lounged spread from the couch to the coffee table. With his boots on. The blond rolled his eyes behind his shades, but did as he was told.

It was not without a sarcastic remark, of course. “Does the circus count as a barn? Because if so, then yeah, I was.”

Loki refused to reply to that, instead continuing along his path to the bar. He needed a drink desperately if Thor was going to make an appearance today. Or tomorrow. Or ever, seeing as the god – demigod – was supposed to have arrived two days prior. Loki pulled in a deep breath when he reached the bar, hands resting on the counter lightly as he did his best to ground himself. That bubble of panic settled in his chest was likely to be the death of him at this rate. That, and Barton having absolutely no manners.

“Do you let your children put their feet on your coffee table?” He grumbled, tossing an orange slice over at Clint from the bar. That got him a laugh from the archer, who smirked over at him as he caught it.

“You think I’m the disciplinarian? I’m the fun parent. I’m dad!” That got him an eye roll, which Clint of course took in stride. He waited for Loki to finish making himself a drink, watching as the engineer took a sip before speaking again. “Jane called me the other day.”

Loki spit his drink out all over the bar, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand as he set the glass on the counter. “Excuse me? Is Thor back on Earth?” She would only call for either that, or to see if maybe Thor was back with them. Poor girl chose the wrong man to fall in love with, although she refused to listen to anyone who dared to suggest such a thing. He unfortunately got his answer before Clint could even open his mouth, thunder crashing loudly in the background and flashes of lightning lighting up the room from the floor to ceiling window that over looked the city. Loki let out a long groan, picking his drink back up and downing it in one rough swallow. “I need a whole wine cellar to be able to deal with this man.”

Clint laughed loudly as he got up, stretching his arms over his head. “What, don’t enjoy dealing with your brother?”

Green eyes glared daggers at him, and Clint laughed more. “He is not my brother, and you know that. He is just… well, crazy, obviously. Absolutely bonkers. There are no screws in that head to even be tightened down.”

Loki still found he enjoyed Thor’s presence, even if he believed the man to be crazy. The whole brother thing was something he had gotten used to long ago, and was not really annoyed by anymore. Thor had also toned it back quite a bit since their first encounter, which had been strange to say the least. He was a good friend, and a valuable ally. Loki would put up with a little bit of weird to have the god of thunder have his back. Who wouldn’t, right?

Clint and Loki slipped into the elevator, riding it up to the roof where Thor was likely waiting for them. Hopefully the blond had not left another huge as burn pattern on his roof, especially if he had gone to visit Jane first. The cleaning crew had struggled with that job for days. Although, he supposed it would be better than the one he left at the Avengers’ compound, which had permanently damaged the outer lawn. Seriously, some people had no respect for proper lawn maintenance.

Neither of the ex-Avengers in the elevator were surprised to find Thor waiting directly in front of the elevator doors, smiling brightly at them and throwing his arms out wide. “Friends! I have missed you so!” Loki was unsuccessful in slipping away from the incoming hug, and internally cursed both Thor and Barton as the archer snickered off to the side.

“Yo, Thor, who is this?”

“This is the last straw, Loki.”

“Father, I-“

“Odin, you can’t-“

“Do not defend him, Anthony!”

One hand was gripped tightly onto the rail before him, his breathing erratic. He just- who was that? Brother Tony, Thor had called him, but they did not necessarily look related. Thor was large and blond and the epitome of heroism, and Tony was… not. He was small, and had eyes that flitted about and seemed to size up everything and everyone in the room. You could see his mind working, feel the intelligence ooze off of him. He was a literal know-it-all, or that was the vibe Loki had gotten from his extremely brief interaction with the newest demi-god to just decide to walk on into his life.

Tony looked nothing like Thor, and everything like the figure that had haunted his dreams for years now. That same scruffy brunet hair, and doe brown eyes. Loki wondered vaguely if those hands were just as calloused in the ones he dreamt of, if they would feel just as amazing caressing his skin and-

“Nice night, huh?”

He spun half way around, his left hand tapping his wrist watch quickly to have the gauntlet it hit snap into place. His eyes locked onto Tony, heart beating loudly in his ears as he stared the now startled man down. Tony’s hands went up – that was apparently a universal sign of surrender, who knew? – and he took a single step backwards. “Woah! Don’t shoot!”

“Who are you?” Loki practically snarled, keeping his gauntlet trained on the man before him. He did not plan to shoot the other, but Tony had no way of knowing that. Loki just needed answers, and he needed them now.

The brunet slowly lowered his hands, maintaining eye contact. He spoke slowly, keeping his voice level and sounding completely calm. “I’m Tony, Thor’s brother-in-law. I’m also the unlucky bastard they sent to make sure you were okay after running off up on the roof. You scared Thor and… uh, Clint? Yeah, Clint.” Decked out in ornate red, gold, and black leather clothing that should have made him look threatening, Tony somehow seemed small. It was the hunch to his shoulders, pulled in and forward as if to shield himself. He did not look regal like that, like a prince even though his outfit suggested it. He looked human.

The gauntlet slowly retracted as Loki lowered his arm down, eyeing Tony skeptically still but feeling himself calm down slightly. “Unlucky, huh? I’m offended.” It was slightly joking, trying to lighten the mood and feeling to see how the other might respond.

It earned him a bright smirk and one raised brow, “Is that so? Well, sorry, princess, but no one getting a weapon pointed at them is lucky.” He rolled with it, bantering easily with Loki as they slipped back inside from the balcony.

Tony seemed alright, Loki decided, although he would still keep his distance some. But anyone that could keep up with his level of sarcasm and sass deserved a chance. And Tony was shaping up to be one of those lucky few.

There was metal in his heart, much too close for any of the healers to successfully extract. All they could do was keep it at bay and make Anthony comfortable. They were so sorry, the healers kept insisting, all casting sad glances between the prince and his betrothed. These things, they just happen, one had insisted. We advise you keep him happy and comfortable for his remaining time with the living.

Loki thought that perhaps the best way to make Anthony happy was to go ahead and get married already.

Thor and Tony stayed around for a while, Thor bouncing between the tower, Jane’s, and the Avengers’ compound as he saw fit while his brother just hung around with Loki. It was a tad annoying initially. While Loki had decided to give Tony a chance, and was slowly starting to trust the other, he still felt a certain level of unease around him. Which Tony did not appear to pick up on at all, since he followed Loki around almost like a baby duck.

If Loki was down his lab working, Tony was perched upon one of the desks, prattling away at the engineer as he tried to focus on his work. After a surprisingly short period of time, focusing while Tony talked became second nature, and almost easier than doing it in silence like he had once opted to before. Over time, Loki started to talk back, often times leading the conversation. He found that he missed this level of companionship, rivalling the friendship he had had with Bruce before. So, when Tony challenged him to chess or brought him various snacks from god knew where, Loki accepted it. Because, while Tony was still an annoying prat more often than not, Loki enjoyed his company. It filled a hole in his life that had long been empty. Having Tony around felt natural.

It was about four months into whatever sort of odd friendship they had developed when Tony had called to Loki from across the lab, motioning him towards where Tony was perched on a desk in the lab. “I just realized I have never shown you my magic; just simple tricks. Would you like to see it?” And before he even finished the question, Loki was before him. Of course he wanted to see. He wanted to witness it, to figure out how it worked. There had to be some level of science behind it, like the Maximoff girl’s ability to manipulate energy.

Loki leaned in close, one hand on the desk next to Tony’s hip and the other held between them. He struggled to resist the urge to move his hand he was leaning back on to Loki’s hip from the desk, to stroke his thumb along angular hip bones he once knew so well. Perhaps one day soon. Brown’s locked briefly on blue-greens –they were meant to be green, a lovely emerald – before he flicked his eyes down to his hand. The other’s followed obediently. Tony waited a brief moment, before exhaling and calling upon his magic – Loki’s magic – to summon a simple ball of light. His chest ached at the shade of green, the same green as the other’s suits, a green that almost perfectly matched Loki’s colors back on Asgard. He watched a set of mesmerized eyes widen, and then squint a tad. He chuckled softly as he saw the gears in Loki’s mind start working. Some things never changed it seemed. That thought put a small smile on his face.

What the other said next wiped it off. “Is that all?”

He leaned back from the other as if slapped, “Is that all? Excuse me? As if you have ever seen anything more amazing in your mortal life!” He shouted, utterly offended for himself and the Loki he had known ages ago. In response to his shouting, the mortal just gestured around him to the holograms in the workshop. “These are not real. They are just lights. Bells and whistles, as you mortals like to say. This?” Tony summoned the light again, holding his hand up. “This is my magic. With this, I could kill you, change your shape, take us through time. I could make little holograms as well, if you want.” He took the ball in both hands before expanding it into a rectangle, projecting on it his happiest memory. Doing so had been second nature; when he had been particularly lonely at times, he would do this very trick. But, perhaps, he should not have here. The other gasped some in shock, staring on at it.

“… wh-what is that?” Loki stammered, taking a step back but bumping simply into a work bench behind him. He inched to the side, eyes transfixed on the scene playing out. His eyes were bright with panic and wonder, and his breath was starting to come in heaves as he watched. Tony could not bring himself to stop it, to tell the other to stay. His hands just fell to his sides sadly, as he looked from his memory to the human trying to escape.

“You’re absolutely incorrigible, you know that?” The voice that spoke was Loki’s; it sounded much the same as he did now. He looked very similar, as well, although his hair was much longer. There was a twinkle to his eyes, and one did not have to really guess why from where they were in the memory, and their state of undress.

A much younger Tony leaned forward to kiss the trickster, singing to him happily in reply. “You love me.

A fond smile had dawned Loki’s face, “I do.” They heard Tony’s responding gasp, saw him moving towards Loki as the other laughed brightly and taking his face in his hands. He had looked so beautiful.

Say it, Lo-

The memory was cut short, Tony swiping an angry hand through the magical projection. He kept his gaze off of Loki, not wanting to see his reaction. The other was stood by the door, likely just staring on at the dejected Asgardian. He shook his head, pulling in a deep breath. “Farewell, Loki.” He whispered, vanishing before the other could say a word.

Gods, he was such a fool.

Loki stood frozen for several long moments in his lab, one hand clenched tightly on the back of a chair. Even after Tony was gone, he remained there, staring where the demigod had once been. His heart thudded loudly in his ear, brain struggling with what he had seen. None of that… none of that could have been real, could it? Had Tony been sharing a fantasy of his? Did the demigod truly feel for him that way, after knowing him for such a short time?

Yet, the man had not really been him. His hair was much lighter brown, almost reddish really, where as the man Tony had shown him had dark brown, almost black hair. And his eyes were not nearly that vibrant of a green; they bordered on blue some days. So, what had that been?

He would have to ask Thor, it seemed. That farewell… well, Loki doubted he would be seeing Tony any time soon. He did not doubt that the other may watch him, as he had confessed to doing before. But, Tony would likely be licking whatever wounds he thought he had for a little while. And perhaps a bit of distance between them would do them each some good. Being around the demi-god just got more and more confusing as time went on and the other hung around him. Days melted into weeks that melted into months that Tony had hung around the tower, not seeming even slightly inclined to leave until that very moment. Loki had gotten used to the other hovering around him, asking all manner of questions and taking any chance he could to show off his magical and mental prowess.

Loki would miss their late night conversations down in the lab around the chess board, each trying to prove that they were the best (Loki held the current win streak, thank you very much). He found he did not want Tony gone. Quite the opposite, really. He very desperately wanted Tony to stay. Not just because he had grown lonely since Pepper left him, but because he found that, with Tony around, he was finally at ease. The ever present tension in his shoulders, the tension that only slept away with large amounts of alcohol, was gone.

Now Tony, just like everyone else before him, was gone. Loki needed to locate Thor, to get him to give him some answers or find Tony so Loki could get answers from him.

Thor brought with him a whole other layer of confusion, mind you. He had since they met; with Loki stalking into his tower to confront the demi-god, only to have the man tense up and stare him down before launching himself at the billionaire. Loki had assumed it was to murder him. Instead, he had been given what he still believed to be the world’s tightest embrace, while the other blubbered about his long lost brother.

“Brother, do not forget that we have training later.” Thor had reminded Loki as he rushed about his room, trying to find it. Where in the nine realms had he put it? He could have sworn it had been in his bed side table. How had he lost it?

Loki waved a hand dismissively back at Thor. “I might be late. Or miss it. I, uh… I have big plans for this afternoon, Thor.”

“Who are you?” Loki asked Thor, finding him lurking around in the main living room, watching a game of rugby on the television.

The blond looked over his shoulder, one brow raised in confusion. He turned the volume down a bit so the roars of the crowd at the game were not quite so deafening. “What do you mean? I’m Thor, your friend. Is something wrong, Loki?”

He stomped his foot down, hands clenching at his side and startling them both briefly with his sudden burst of rage. “You know very well what I mean, Thor! Who are you really? Why do you call me brother? What on Earth is going on?” Loki needed answers, and he was beyond frustrated at the point with feeling like something was missing. Tony was obviously not going to help; in fact, he had made the whole thing worse. “Why- why do I feel like I’ve known Tony forever?”

Thor’s answer was simple and not quite what Loki had expected. “Because you have.”

Loki tensed up immediately. “Excuse me?

“You have.” Thor repeated, shrugging some now. “I call you my brother because you are. You feel like you’ve known Anthony forever because you essentially have. His mother was one of our mother’s personal servants. He grew up with us.” Thor tapped a finger to his head. “Up here you may not remember that life, the one our father… stole from you. But here,” His hand rested over where his heart beat in his chest. “Here you remember. Here, you have always remembered.”

“Anthony, dear,” Loki had to pause to clear his throat, feeling oddly anxious under the other’s teasing grin. Brown eyes watched him curiously as he shoved a hand into his coat pocket to fiddle with the trinket it held. “I-I have loved you for almost as long as I can remember. My love is one that has not faded, and I doubt it ever will. And, because of this fact…” He slipped the amulet from his pocket, holding it out to the other. “I ask for your hand in marriage. We have been together for so long, and I feel it is-“

“About damn time!” Anthony cut him off, launching forward and completely ignoring the ornate amulet in favor of hugging him tightly before peppering his face with kisses.

Loki laughed brightly, a heavy weight easing of his chest as Anthony’s weight settled on it, “Is that a yes?”

Tony did not come to see him again for another six months. In that time span, Loki had ruined everything. Absolutely everything. The Avengers had been torn to shreds, because he had tried to protect them all. They hated him, had to with how Steve had nearly killed him back in Siberia, with how Clint had spoken of him. Although Rhodey insisted time and time again that he most definitely did not blame Loki for losing the use of his legs, Loki found it extremely hard to believe his oldest friend. He had pulled a kid into the hero business, much deeper than he had already been, had nearly gotten him killed, and the kid still seemed to hero-worship every move Loki made.

When Tony did come back, it was to Loki in a drunken stupor on the floor of his lab with a flip phone in one hand and a’ bottle of jack in the other. He stared at the depressing image the other made on the ground for a long time before saying softly, “You don’t need them, Lo.”

Loki did not move or look to him, simply continued to lay there. “I ruined it. I ruin everything. You know that.” One hand finally moved, as if to wave him off. “It is why I’m like this, is it not? Thor… he would not tell me what exactly happened, but he told me enough. I ruined something, and now I am like this.”

The demi-god’s form went completely tense, as if spring-loaded. What all had Thor told Loki? And why did that make him impossibly anxious. He wanted to say it was rejection that he feared, but knew it was not. He feared acceptance, if only for a brief decade or so, and then losing the other once more. Tony feared getting to touch the other once more, and then having him snatched away again. Tony did not want to experience the same heartbreak over and over and over again. It was torment, and he wanted to be done with it already.

“Did he tell you about us?” Tony asked softly, needing to know, no matter how much he hated it. What he really wanted to know was if Loki remembered him, remembered their time together. Remembered why he was banished, and how much it hurt and amazed Tony at the same time.

Loki actually looked at him then, shaking his head. “He did not have to. I-I’ve been having these dreams for years that…” Loki trailed off briefly, and Tony vaguely wondered if the other could also hear how loudly his heart seemed to be pounding. “They’ve plagued me for years, and when you appeared with him, I recognized you instantly. I thought this was some sort of cruel joke, if I am honest.”

“May as well be,” Tony admitted, forcing out an awkward chuckle. So, Loki did have some memory of him, it seemed, for better or for worse.

Loki snorted some. “Whatever I did… was it worth it?” He asked, watching Tony carefully.

Had it been worth it to lose Loki, just so he would not die? Was it worth it, having to watch his husband suffer repeatedly? Tony did not think so, but knew very well that Loki would have thought so. Loki would have given anything for him, just as he would do for Loki. If he based it on those grounds, then yes. “It was.”

The other nodded some, laying back on the floor. “Good.” He muttered, staring up on the ceiling. A long moment of silence passed between the two as Tony struggled with what he was supposed to do now. Did he hang around the other? Did he leave? What did he do?

Loki thankfully answered that question for him. “You should come kiss me. I want to see if it is as good as I remember.”

A smirked spread across his features, “You don’t have to tell me twice.”

Anthony was going to die. His love, who had been by his side for as long as Loki could remember at that point, was slowly fading away before his very eyes. He had to do something, seeing as the healers had given up on Anthony completely. He refused to watch the man die. He refused to spend the next few thousand years wandering the universe until finally his time came and he could join his husband in Valhalla. Loki would not let him die.

So, he was going to steal him an apple.

Loki had too much to drink.

They were celebrating, of course. They had a lot to celebrate; love, freedom, the future… And Tony. Tony, in all of his otherworldly splendor. He was Loki’s light, his purpose. It was a grand affair, the party they had been at. Well, the gala. He was amazed that he had been able to drag Tony along as his date; he had expected the other to scoff at the idea of attending a simple mortal’s gala. Things had to be much grander on Asgard, right?

Yet, there Tony had been, right by his side. Loki felt on top of the world that night, like nothing could stop him. He had easily handled all of the business men and women that had wanted to talk with Loki – or even Tony a few times – to just be able to say that they did, to try and get their foot in the door with Stark Industries. He had handled drunk guests trying to grope with amazing amounts of grace, and had kept Loki endlessly entertained with his whispered sarcastic remarks.

Unfortunately, Loki found that he, too, was a bit inebriated at the end of the night. Nothing terrible, mind you, he was just a little more buzzed than usual. Tony offered to transport them via magic, but Loki absolutely hated the feel of it. “I’m fine to drive 3 blocks back to the tower, dear. Don’t worry.”

He had been so terribly wrong.

“Loki, that is not what I think it is.” Tony whispered, eyes darting around as he inched away from the other slightly. He did not want to get his hopes up; Odin would never allow the other to go and ask for an apple for him. Tony had long since accepted that fact. He was going to die. Why did Loki have to give him hope it will be alright?

A different drunk driver ran a stop light when Loki was taking a left turn, slamming straight into the driver’s door and flipping their car back into oncoming traffic. Tony had instinctively gotten himself away from there, not even thinking about transporting himself to the nearby sidewalk. Stuff like that had become second nature from his many adventures with Thor, Loki, and their band of absolutely moronic “heroes”.

He had not realized his mistake until he was standing there, alone on the sidewalk, staring at the wreckage of Loki’s favorite red convertible. The same red convertible that now still trapped his beloved. Oh gods, no. No, not again. He was rushing forward, using his strength to pry the door from the car so he could get to the other, to pull him from the flaming heap and to the glass covered pavement next to it.

Loki was dazed, and bleeding from too many places for Tony to count. “O-oh, fuck, no, Loki… just- just hold on, okay? I-I can get, Thor. He-he can appeal to Allfather for you again; you’ve done so much for this planet now, y-you have to be redeemed. And then you’ll be safe. And you’ll have all you’re memories back. W-we can go home.”

Loki looked in tears, staring at the just as distraught demigod. “I do remember you.” The words came out in a harsh whisper. “I know who you are. Sometimes… Sometimes I just don’t recognize you up here.” Loki lightly tapped his temple. A shaking hand reached up to gently caress Tony’s cheek, thumb brushing away a few stray tears. “My heart knows yours. It always will.” He whispered softly, not finding the strength to speak any louder than that. He was dwindling fast.

“J-just hold on.” Tony begged, mind working quickly. He needed to send a projection to Thor, something he had not quite mastered even with the help of Loki’s magic. “I… I will get you an apple. We do not need your father to deem you forgiven. We can… we can travel the universe on our own. Forget him.”

Loki gave him the saddest smile at that, shaking his head. “I’m not really the one you want… you… you want him. The old me.”

He could not stifle his growl at that, holding the other tighter. “You are him. I am not after you for who you were, but who you still are.” Tony had to do something. He needed to get word to Thor, to get an apple, but also needed to try and keep Loki stable. He was never good at multi-tasking with magic; he did not have the control. Lip between his teeth, he hugged Loki close as he put his focus to the mortal, to keep him from bleeding out there. “Heimdall!

There was no immediate response, and as Tony opened his mouth to call to the watcher once more, a hand gently squeezed his arm. “Tony, love… no.” Loki spoke as firmly as he could, and the finality in his voice shattered whatever was left of Tony’s heart. That small scrap of hope, that maybe this would work out, that Loki was on his way to redemption at last, seemed to crumble up inside of him at the look in the other’s slowly fading eyes. “You… you will find me again, yes?” Words would not come to Tony, who settled for a teary-eyed nod and a soft kiss to the other’s slightly bloodstained forehead. “Then it is fine. I will… I will see you again. Be patient with me… if I don’t remember.”

A bitter laugh welled up out of him before he could stop it, “You never do.”

Loki just kept smiling up at him. “Yet you love me all the same.”

Tony nodded once more, pressing his nose against Loki’s throat and breathing in his scent. He did love the other, always would. He was Tony’s other half, the better half to his soul, although Loki had always argued otherwise before. He would continue searching for him after every death, and hoping that maybe this time would be it. That maybe, unlike the Loki laying in his arms with one hand shakily trying to run through his hair and comfort him even while Loki was dying, this version of his love would survive. That maybe he would not fade away in his arms, just like then.

That maybe Loki would one day be able to hear Tony’s whisper of always, and his voice would not sound like his heart had been ripped out through his throat.

Chapter Text

His first death had pained Tony to watch. It was not quick, or painless. Loki had suffered greatly, tied to a stake and burned alive. Tony had to be restrained as Loki cried out for someone, anyone to come to his aid. When he realized no one was coming, he instead just begged for death.

Odin had refused to make eye contact with Thor or Tony for a long time after that.

The next time Tony found Loki, he was reincarnated as what the humans referred to as a mutant. One with psychic abilities, of course; it seemed almost fitting, although perhaps not as fitting as if he had been born a shapeshifter. The demigod lingered around the boy whenever he could, watching his love grow up and discover his abilities, and how to use them. He watched as Loki was sent off to a school, for “gifted youngsters” funnily enough. He watched the boy come into his own there, and grow from boy to young man in the process. He was proud of his progress, and he knew Frigga would have been as well, if she had been there to witness it.

The second time he died, Tony had spent a few Midgardian years silent and mourning. Thor had tried desperately to snap his longtime friend out of the funk he had sunken into, but had failed to do so. Nothing anyone did could pull him from his slump. He lurked around the castle, a ghost of the formerly mischievous youngster that had scampered around with the princes.

When he was twenty-two, he left the school, promising to keep in touch but stating that he had important business to take care of. (This all came secondhand from Heimdall, of course.) Tony, claiming that he was simply worried about the other getting into trouble when Thor had given him a wary look, had made his way to Earth and followed the boy discreetly for many months. He never left the shadows or revealed himself, yet was startled to find the mortal staring right at him at times, even if he were not visible. Green eyes seemed to hold him in place, looking about as frightened as he felt by it generally. Often after one of these episodes, Tony would distance himself from Loki for a brief time, to clear the chill that would settle in his gut at those bright, emerald green eyes locked onto him even though he was not visible.

Frigga would find him each time Loki came back, often times in the room he had shared with the trickster. The sheets and pillows had long since lost Loki’s scent, but that did not stop him from burying himself in them and inhaling deeply as if maybe, just maybe, he might catch one last whiff of the other trapped in the threads. And, when Loki would inevitably die once more, she would be waiting in their room to hold him close as he just cried quietly, clinging to his mother-in-law like she was the only thing he had left of the man he loved. She may as well have been, as far as Tony was concerned.

“Your thoughts are loud, you know.” Loki whispered from where Tony had thought he lay sleeping, making the demigod nearly jump out of his skin. Tony stilled, making sure he had not physically revealed himself. How… “Because you think loudly. You project your thoughts, almost. Although, those aren’t nearly as loud as your memories. Amazing you never noticed me probing.” Which Tony had not. Had the other really… why was Tony surprised by that, really?

A soft chuckle and Loki was rolling over to look directly at where Tony was still standing shrouded by magic. “I wonder the same thing. Why are you surprised, Anthony?”

The magic fell away almost immediately, showing him to the young mortal as desperate hope seemed to claw its way up his throat. It could not possibly… No. No, it was not possible. Yet, how the other addressed him, as Anthony instead of merely Tony. Could it be? “L-Loki?”

A bright smile lit the other’s slim face. “Hello, love.”