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Off the Record

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Tony wasn’t sure how or when it happened, but somewhere between a horrifying conversation with Thor and the three month anniversary of ‘Amorapocalypse’ (as Barton liked to call it) he found something his room.

Something weird.

Tony was pretty well-acquainted with weird. Weird was walking into the living room to find Natasha holding Steve in a headlock with her thighs. It was Clint sticking Bruce in the ass with his ‘viagrarrows’ (seriously, that name was never going to take off) to trigger his transformation whenever he wanted a good cardio workout. Because being chased by a limping Hulk with a hard-on was apparently how he got his kicks.

So yeah, Tony knew weird.

But there it was, sitting on his vanity. Perfectly aligned with the edge of the benchtop, teeth gleaming under the bathroom lights.

It was a goddamn comb.

For hair.

It wasn’t that Tony was shocked that Loki brushed his hair –honestly, magic could only do so much for what that mess turned into sometimes– or even that it was in his bathroom, where toiletries and hair care products traditionally belonged. Loki never left anything behind. Hell, Tony hadn’t even seen the damn thing before, but there it was.

It was just sitting there. Not in a drawer but on the bench, straight as an arrow, in full view, just…sitting there.

It meant something. It had to mean something.

Tony just didn’t know what it was yet.

Steve found him in the bathroom twenty minutes later, sitting on the rim of the bath and staring into space.

“Tony? JARVIS is worried.” He glanced around the room. “You didn’t get gassed with anything, did you?”

Tony just pointed at the comb. “That.” Reaching out, he grabbed the leg of Steve’s jeans like an anchor. “I don’t know what it means. Is it saying, ‘I’m putting my stuff here, get used to it?’ Or it is more like a test to see if I touch it? What if it’s cursed? What if my hair falls out? Steve, I need my hair. My hair is part of my identity.”

Steve sighed. “It’s just a comb, Tony. Is this some kind of commitment thing?”

It was a valid enough question. Was he having an internal freak-out about it? Had he been squashing it down for so long that seeing the comb snapped something in his brain? Tony didn’t think so; Loki was only there half the time anyway. Nothing much had actually changed in his life. He wasn’t sharing wardrobe space or wrapping up a plate of leftovers each night, for starters.

Sometimes it just meant rolling over in the middle of the night to find a naked sorcerer face-down in his bed. Other times, it was splitting workshop space with a Deadlock between them so Tony didn’t get shot in the ass with magic (again). But most of the time it was just an easy kind of camaraderie – the click of two self-absorbed geniuses with two completely different lives.

Loki had his plots and plans, thankfully directed at Doctor Doom these days instead of the Avengers. Tony had inventions and suits and Iron Man.

But sometimes they crossed over and collaborated; they laid spells on weapons and blocked their ears when they detonated into yodelling snakes. There was also that time when Steve was accidentally caught in the crossfire and grew a tail that spat bullets when he was angry. They experimented and learned that they should probably work alone if they wanted professional results – something about concentration, Loki had said.

The last three months had been light and fun and easy.

Now there was a comb.

Commitment issues.

Huh.

Tony blinked. “Thanks for the pep talk, Cap. I think we’re good here.”

He wandered out of the bathroom, followed by Steve’s confused gaze.

 


Tony circled the comb for two more days.

He eyeballed it when he was brushing his teeth. He started laying his stuff out on the other side of the bench. He did everything in his power not to grab it and scream ‘what do you mean?’ and have a nervous breakdown in the bathtub.

Loki had been gone about a week so far, having taken off to wreak havoc on Jotunheim. The faction that had followed Amora to seek revenge for their dead king were probably ass-over in the snow somewhere, begging for forgiveness. That or Loki had just gone to wave the casket at them and laugh. Either was pretty likely. In any case, the prolonged disappearance left Tony trapped in a paranoid hell of his own making.

Two more days after that, he was starting to fidget over Loki’s continued absence.

There was always work to do, things to fight and stupid sci-fi movie nights to be dragged to, but there was a glaringly empty space in his daily life that was supposed to be filled by things like subtle insults, wicked smiles and warm breath on the back of his neck. A hand splayed across the arc reactor. Reckless experiments in the lab. Having his scotch stolen straight out of his hand. Waking up freezing with his bare ass hanging out of the bed, all his blankets yanked away from him.

When Tony went to bed that night, he had all the blankets he could ever want.

He slept like shit.

 


The next morning, he threw out a load of hair products, cleared out a drawer and laid the comb inside it.

Not a single thing happened in response.

 


The following days passed uneventfully, if you didn’t count the microwave exploding and taking JARVIS’s kitchen sensor out. Natasha was still apologising for that one, having learned that Barton’s chilli had more kick in it than was strictly safe for consumption.

Tony worked and slept and worked. He also conducted a small recon mission with Natasha to relieve Barton of his viagra-filled arrows, at Bruce Banner’s extremely pained request. He couldn’t stop Barton sticking Bruce with the substituted drug (“at least make it valium, for the love of God”) but it was good enough to minimise property damage for a while.

He was just getting into the swing of his routine when Loki returned. He materialised on the bedroom balcony in the middle of the night, covered in melting ice and trying to stamp it from his boots.

Tony watched him from the bed for a minute, tired and warm in his nest of blankets. Loki was back and being his usual inconsiderate self. Seriously, he wasn’t even trying to be quiet, snarling something in the dim light of the balcony and trying to pull his boots off. Tony had tried telling him he had too many belts and buckles, but there was common sense and then there was vanity. Not that Tony could talk – he had to be literally screwed into his favourite suit.

Well, there was no going back to sleep now, he thought. Pulling himself out of bed, he padded barefoot over to the balcony door and slid it open with a quiet rasp.

“Sorry, we close at seven,” he yawned, tensing at the chill bite of night air. “No admittance.” Tony blinked and tried to focus. “You have ice in your hair. Is this a new look?”

Loki darted him a frustrated glance and pointed to the buckle fastening his armoured chest-plate. “Get that for me. I’m freezing.”

Tony reached out and unsnapped the buckle, working icy leather back through it. “How does that even work?” He pulled the duster off while he was at it, slinging it over the outdoor chairs with a wet slap. “Cold shouldn’t be an issue.”

“It’s an issue when I’m in this form,” Loki grunted, wringing slush from his hair. “My blood is warm and red. I’m quite done with cold and blue for at least a lifetime.” Straightening, slightly out of breath, barefoot and half-undressed on his balcony, Loki finally looked at him with the full force of his attention. “Good evening, Stark.”

Tony’s mouth quirked. “Welcome back. Go take a hot shower and—oh my god.” Gasping under a freezing cold mouth, pulled in close against a damp and unforgiving chest, he had a singular moment of indecision. On the one hand, Loki. On the other, it was nipple-shatteringly cold. But the former won out, like it always did, and Tony shoved his hand up into wet tangles of dark hair and kissed him back as hard as the last two weeks alone demanded.

“You’re very warm,” Loki sighed into his mouth, cold fingers sneaking under his tank and running up the curve of his spine. “I haven’t felt warmth since I left.” Cold palms dragged freezing trails down his back, slowly warming as they went. “Did I pull you from slumber?”

“Nah,” Tony lied, his forehead resting against Loki’s cheek. “Did you do what you needed on Jotunheim? Kill a few frost giants?”

Loki tensed against him slightly. “No,” he said carefully. “But I completed my business all the same.” He pulled away, grimacing as water dripped from his hair. “Return to bed, Stark. I’m soaked.”

“You’re staying?” The question wasn’t needy or insecure; Loki came and went from Avengers HQ, perpetually resisting the idea that it was his home too, now. He’d only just gotten back but Tony never ruled out the possibility that his reappearance was just a quick stopover. “There’s half a pillow and a scrap of blanket with your name on it.”

Loki’s answering laugh was muffled by his shirt as he pulled it over his head, revealing the lean stretch of a hard stomach and the pale jut of a hipbone. Tossing it over the back of Tony’s desk chair, he smiled wickedly as he went to work on the fastenings of his pants.

“I’m staying,” he agreed, pulling off the last of his clothes. Tony didn’t even hide the travelling inventory his eyes took. Loki usually undressed via magic, so chances to watch him undress properly were few and far between. “Though I plan to shower for at least an hour before I join you.”

Tony scratched the seam of the arc reactor while he thought about that. “Well, if you’re going to abuse my water heater you could at least invite me in with you.”

Loki half-stifled a yawn. “You take up too much room.”

“See, I disagree there. I think you take up too much room. I’m perfectly proportioned for my size, beanpole.”

“My frame is broader than yours,” Loki frowned, deliberately squaring his shoulders and pushing his chest out. It was a nice chest, sculpted without being overly muscular. Lean and fast and hard, Loki was built right in all the ways Tony had missed. Not that he was going to admit that while being told he was small.

“Whatever. Just don’t use all my conditioner while you’re in there, Hermione.” Turning to head back into his cooling tangle of soft blankets, Tony was caught off-guard by cold arms wrapping around his chest from behind, tugging him off his feet and swinging him in the direction of the bathroom.

“You can wash my hair,” Loki declared, “and explain to me that undoubtedly insulting reference you just used.”

Tony left himself be hauled toward the shower, his toes brushing the carpet. Going slack to be as much of a dead weight as possible did nothing – he’d figured that one out a while ago. Loki was just too damn strong to be fazed by it.

Showering was a predictably cramped affair, which Loki managed to complain loudly about even while having his scalp firmly massaged with soapy fingers, his eyes heavy-lidded and blissful. Tony gave him the overall plotline of Harry Potter while he was in there, then had to listen to a snobbish ten minute complaint about the fragility of a wooden wand in battle. Tony couldn’t really argue with that – there was an uru-based staff in his workshop that testified to Loki’s knowledge of magical augmentation.

As they dried off, Tony took stock of the lavender smattering of bruises across Loki’s back and legs, frowning as he tried to imagine what had caused them. Frost giants?

“Scaling a cliff face,” Loki replied dismissively, noticing his wandering attention. “My grip slipped.”

“Butterfingers,” Tony murmured, grazing his thumb across a deep purple welt across the rise of Loki’s ass. “Was it worth it?”

“Of course.” The matter-of-fact, smugly satisfied tone of Loki’s voice said volumes. His eyes scanned the bathroom in sudden interest. “I recall leaving a comb here.”

Tony glanced at the vanity. “Oh right, yeah. Hulk wanted a toothpick a week or so ago.”

Loki’s jaw dropped. Actually dropped.

“Stark, there was a protective ward on that comb. It was supposed to stay in your quarters while I was…” He trailed off as Tony grinned at him, pulling the drawer open with a small flourish. The comb lay lonely and pristine at the bottom of the cleared drawer. “You incorrigible liar.”

“Protective ward, huh? Scared something was going to happen to me while you were out of town on business? That’s so sweet.” Tony dodged the outstretched hand that was no doubt going to shove him out of the room, stepping inside Loki’s reach and pressing a kiss to the notch of skin below one pink earlobe, just behind his jaw. The water had been too hot for him, Tony noted as he felt the heat of his skin sink into his mouth, but for one reason or another Loki seemed to like it that way.

“I knew I would be gone a matter of weeks,” Loki explained, trying for an air of flippancy. It was ruined by the tilt of his jaw as he encouraged Tony to explore further. “It was insurance.”

“Okay,” Tony agreed, breathing in soap and shampoo and warm skin as he deliberately rasped his goatee across Loki’s neck. “What else was it? You could have hidden a spell anywhere you liked.”

The response wasn’t immediately forthcoming, but Tony knew patience was definitely a virtue where Loki’s truths were concerned. Drawing away with a stifled yawn, he was pulling on a spare pair of thin sweats to sleep in when Loki plucked the comb from the drawer and enveloped it in a green-gold haze of magic, bright enough that light almost seemed to drip from his fingers.

“It was a placeholder,” Loki said, and lifted his other hand palm-up to rest alongside his glowing hand like the scales of judgement. “You see, I misplaced something of yours on Jotunheim. It was time to retrieve it.”

Tony frowned at his hands. “I never gave you anything.” Did he? Deadlocks and a kiss had been the only thing he could remember giving to Loki before he left to hunt Amora.

Loki narrowed his eyes. His free hand began to glow vivid green. “Don’t be obtuse.”

Before Tony could process the insult and return fire, the magic began to coalesce into a shape. A very familiar, incredibly lethal shape.

Tony knew there was something wrong with being warmed by the sight of a dagger that had once been buried in his stomach, but just then with the light reflecting in Loki’s steady gaze he found didn’t care. Not even a little bit.

Loki had vanished to a world of ice and darkness and enemies to get that dagger back for him. It had just become the single most important inanimate object Tony had ever seen.

The magic from the comb danced through Loki’s body and bloomed around the blade, transferring itself from one object to another in the way that fascinated Tony, making his fingers itch with grudging curiosity.

Putting the comb down on the sink, Loki lifted Tony’s hand and opened it, pressing the hilt of the dagger into his palm and folding his fingers back over it. The grip that squeezed his curled fingers was sure.

“The blade will always find its mark. Now, the hilt will always find your hand.”

The metal in his hand felt warm. For the first time Tony wondered exactly what the dagger had been forged from. Some small instinct told him he already knew. There was only one type of metal that could hold permanent spells of that calibre.

“Are you sure you want to give this to me?”

“I gave it to you long ago.” Loki’s mouth tightened slightly. “Did you not realise it was a gift?”

“You threw it at my head.”

Confusion creased Loki’s face. “I missed on purpose.”

“At my head,” Tony repeated incredulously. “Several strands of hair lost their lives that day. I thought you were just leaving it behind to remind me of how you stuck it in my gut.”

Loki’s expression flickered. A shadow of something unhappy and tired passed across his face.

“I apologise,” he said stiffly. “I didn’t realise it held unpleasant memories for you.” He reached out to take the dagger back. Tony slapped his hand away.

“Get your own.”

Loki frowned. “You needn’t feel obligated to keep it, Stark. I assure you, I’m not offended.” He held his palm out patiently. “I’ll return it to my collection.”

Maybe he wasn’t offended, but there was a clue in the set of his shoulders and the slant of his mouth that said Loki was definitely something, and that something wasn’t good. Tony wasn’t exactly sure what hurt feelings looked like on him but he had an inkling this was coming extremely close. Really not what he’d intended – sort of the polar opposite of what he’d intended, actually.

“It’s mine,” Tony insisted. “I want it, even if it’s full of magic and of incredibly shady origin. Why do you think I kept it through all that shit with Amora and Doom?” His mouth quirked slightly. “I think I thought it was just one from your endless supply. Kept it as my personal souvenir.”

The speculative look Loki gave him seemed to indicate he was debating whether to believe him or not, which Tony found a little offensive considering he wasn’t the one famously known for bullshitting the entire cosmos. Besides, he didn’t do sugar-coating. Not very well, anyway.

“It’s one of a kind, actually,” Loki said eventually, turning away to hang his towel over the rail. “My aim is near perfect. That particular dagger is spelled to never miss when I dare not risk otherwise.” He tilted his head slightly. “Perhaps even then I knew you would become valuable to me.”

“Valuable?” Tony crossed his arms. “You’re not going to sell me for my hide, are you?”

Loki dressed in a brief flare of power. “Stop fishing.”

Tony watched him smooth a hand over the low waistband of his pants, as if he was debating whether to wear them or not. Loki usually preferred to sleep buck naked but at Avengers HQ it tended to result in completely accidental operational breaches of privacy. According to Clint, there was only so much magical ballsack he could see before he turned to illicit drugs and a life of crime.

They headed back out into the bedroom, Tony immediately grateful for the cooler air. Inspecting the dagger as he walked, he tripped on Loki’s discarded pants and nearly gutted himself with it all over again. Loki politely pretended he hadn’t seen it happen, but his mouth was twitching suspiciously.

“So, about that comb,” Tony said casually, trying to pretend his heart wasn’t hammering beneath his ribs. “The very strategically placed comb that you put in my bathroom. Are you moving in?”

Loki frowned, pulling back the blankets on his side. “I already live here.”

“Well, yeah, in a manner of speaking. I thought it was your way of casually moving your stuff in.” It was almost a disappointment to learn otherwise, but hell if he was going to acknowledge that. Putting the dagger down on his desk, Tony backed up to Loki’s side and pointed at it. “Okay, tell me you meant what I think you meant with this thing. How do I make it work?”

Loki gave him a long look. “There’s no incantation,” he said finally. “Hold out your hand and desire it.”

Holding out his hand as instructed, Tony thought hard, imagining the dagger’s hilt thudding against his palm, his own fingers wrapping around it. On the desk, the dagger rattled twice in acknowledgement and shot straight toward him.

Tony had a brief moment of terror as he watched it spin through the air, hoping to hell that he hadn’t just botched it and the blade wasn’t going to stab him in the face. But the dagger obediently smacked hilt-first against his palm, just like his own personal stabby version of Mjölnir. He caught it before it fell, laying it out flat across his hand.

“All right, I might be slightly impressed by this particular application of magic,” Tony admitted, glancing up at Loki. “So it’s mine? I get to keep it? Because take-backs are a dick move on any world.”

“It’s yours,” Loki confirmed, his eyes gleaming. He was so obviously proud of himself. “Though I should warn you that the spells will not work if you attempt to use it against me.”

“It turns off the auto-targeting?” Turning fully toward Loki so he was standing in front of him, Tony lifted the dagger until the point rested in the hollow of his throat. “Guess I’ll have to get in real close then. You know, if I want to properly do you in.” The hands that grabbed his waist and tugged him forward seemed to more than agree with his theoretical murder attempt.

“I recommend an intensive seduction beforehand to keep me sufficiently distracted from your bloodthirsty intent,” Loki said, like that was helpful at all. It had been more than a fortnight since Tony had so much as shared blankets, let alone anything else.

“I think that might distract me more.”

“And thus, my life was spared,” Loki whispered, a hint of laughter in his voice. Pushing the dagger away from his throat, he leaned in and brushed his mouth along the line of Tony’s jaw, catching the faint stubble there and rasping it with his lips. Facial hair jealousy, probably, though it was hard to mind it just then. Thinking office chair thoughts, Tony tossed the dagger over his shoulder, snorting when he heard the tell-tale thud of metal embedding itself in leather. Best present ever, hands down.

It didn’t take long for amused affection to evolve into the gripping hands and hungry kisses Tony had craved for the last two weeks. He’d missed it all; the welcome pressure of a mouth against his, a heartbeat thumping strong and steady under his fingers, the taste of clean skin and salt under his lips. Loki was getting so familiar to him now that he knew every inch of what he’d missed, every scent and taste and sound catalogued and greedily stored away. Maybe it was possessive want, maybe it was just gladness at his return, but as they tangled up the sheets and lost all their pillows Tony couldn’t help but wonder how he could make Loki stay for good.

It was an impossible thought, but he’d always liked to aim high.

“I have a confession to make,” Tony told the curve of Loki’s neck. He really couldn’t be bothered moving from his half-sprawl. “I think I’m having commitment issues.”

Beneath his cheek, Tony felt Loki tense slightly.

“The dagger was a gift, Stark, not a declaration of my intent to wed you.” He paused for a long moment. “Did you bed another in my absence?”

Tony snorted. He couldn’t help it. “I’m not a bored housewife. No, there’s no one else.”

A hand pressed into his shoulder, pushing him onto his back. The eyes that locked with his were dark and swarming with tension. Tony knew he probably could have introduced the topic a little better, but even he was having trouble sorting out truth from confusion. This was far outside his comfort zone.

“We’ve been keeping things pretty relaxed, haven’t we? You do your thing, I do my Avengers thing and we meet in the middle. Usually here, right here in this room. In this bed.” Pressing his fingertips to the glow of the arc reactor, Tony thought hard about how to word what he wanted to say next. “I thought it was enough, but in the last couple of weeks, I don’t know. So I want to ask you something, in all honesty.”

Loki’s expression was fractured, caught somewhere between dread and fury. But he nodded once for Tony to continue, his eyes burning. After that, all Tony could do was ask and hope for the best.

“Do you want to go out to dinner with me sometime?”

For a long second Loki just stared at him, strangely pale. Then he shoved him clear off the bed.

“Your flair for the dramatic does you no favours with me, Stark.”

Shoving himself upright, a little worried he had carpet-burn on his cheek, Tony leaned on the edge of the mattress, his hands up in the universal gesture of surrender.

“No, see, it’s—I’m not joking,” he said rapidly. “I mean out-out. In public. We’ve been playing it safe these last few months, keeping the media in the dark, pretending everything’s like it used to be. I’m sick of reading about how single I am. Why don’t we just yank the cat out of the bag tail-first?” Pulling a pillow off the ground beside him, he tossed it at Loki. It bounced back off his head. Still mad, then.

“That decision was made by you and yours to protect the reputation of the Avengers. Why rebel against it now?” Loki studied him through narrowed eyes as he got back up on the bed, yanking the sheet up from the bottom of the mattress. Grabbing the pillow from the floor, Tony jammed it under his head.

“Maybe I just want to show you off.”

“Maybe you’re lying.”

“You can’t prove anything,” Tony grunted, rolling onto his side. “It was just an idea. JARVIS, get the lights.” The room plunged into full darkness, safe and concealing. But the mattress was still dipping under Loki’s weight as he slid closer, close enough that cool breath touched his cheek.

“Stark.” Fingertips brushed his shoulder. Tony squeezed his eyes shut. How the hell was he supposed to explain when he didn’t even know why he’d asked?

“I refuse to eat raw fish,” Loki said decisively. “I don’t like meat with small bones, tomatoes or that herb you call thyme. I prefer red wine to white and I prefer spirits to both of those. Serve me mead and I will injure you.”

Tony’s eyes sprang open. “You know, I’ve never seen you in a tailored suit. I bet your ass would look fantastic.”

“It always does.” A fingertip trailed over the ball of his shoulder, moving down his arm in an aimless trail to his wrist. It stopped over his pulse point. “You have a habit of admitting truths and recanting them here. I quite clearly recall last time this happened.”

“Lies. God of lies. You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“Tony.”

Uh oh.

“You did not just—”

“I did.”

“That’s dirty.” Rolling onto his back with a groan –seriously, Loki always forgot his legs only bent so far– he turned and eyeballed the dark shadow pressed against his side. It wasn’t like Loki to stay so close. Neither of them really did the clinging thing, unless it happened while they were asleep. “You never use my name like that. Been saving it up for a rainy confession?”

“Only if it succeeds.”

“I’m not giving you the leverage without something in return.”

“Are you bartering with me?”

“Only if it succeeds.”

Loki snorted. “What would you want in exchange?”

Tony thought about it. What he could demand in return depended heavily on what the information was worth to Loki, which was unknowable. Still, the game was putting him in a great mood so Tony decided it couldn’t hurt to aim high.

“Become an Avenger.”

Aaaaaaand silence. He grinned up at the ceiling, knowing Loki had just been stunned absolutely speechless. It was important to know he could still do that much.

Truthfully, knowing Loki was still curious about the accidental ‘I love you’ said a whole lot more than knowing what he’d trade for it would tell him. Being the clever bastard he was, Loki would have figured out a while ago just how much truth there had been in the words, which meant there wasn’t much he’d give Tony for them. Making a safe bet like that wasn’t cowardice under those circumstances.

“Setting aside the sheer impossibility of Captain Rogers ever allowing such a thing, you already know I’d rather have my fingernails pulled than join your team.” Loki didn’t sound disappointed or angry, no, he sounded thoughtful as he cupped one hand around the arc reactor’s light. “Do you regret your words that much?”

Turning his head, Tony gave him a dirty look. Loki’s eyes were washed-out blue in the light of the reactor, watchful and calm.

“You’re not getting a knifepoint confession.” Rolling them both over until he could pin Loki down with his weight, Tony pressed a warm kiss to the turned-down curve of his mouth. “You wouldn’t even want one.”

“If it’s true, then I would hear it from you.”

Maybe the commitment issues stemmed from both sides, just a little. Different angles, same meaning, same awkward attempts and bribery and tricks to get the same result. God, they were a messed up pair.

He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It was true,” Tony said simply. “It’s too early to say it, it was way too early three months ago, but it’s true and it sends me nuts because you’re as easy to hold onto as a wet bar of soap.” Pushing a few strands of hair off Loki’s temple, he lightly tugged on the dark length. “I want you to stick around.”

Loki snorted lightly. “As I said earlier, I already live here. I have no possessions, Stark, beyond a book of old spellwork, my staff and that comb. My clothes are oft magic-based, my weapons tucked inside it. When I came to you, I came with all I could still claim to own.”

Tony stared. “You’re poor? Unbelievable. So much for my alien sugar-daddy.” When hands rose to no doubt cause him some kind of injury, he grabbed them and pressed Loki’s wrists against the mattress, grinning at the iridescent green glare that was being levelled at him. “Guess I’m definitely paying for dinner then.”

“Naturally.” Rotating his wrists slightly, Loki tested his grip but didn’t make any move to get free. “I will warn you, my tastes are expensive.”

“Put out on the first date and we’ll call it even.”

“I could be persuaded.” Loki’s smile was a knowing curve. “If your behaviour is to my liking.”

So it was settled then. Going public. Commitment, at least in the sense of the media getting hold of them. Not literally of course; the paparazzi wouldn’t so much as sneeze in their direction as long as Loki had them in his sight. But it was going to be a hell of a scandal all the same. Steve and Pepper were going to have simultaneous heart attacks when he told them it was time. Fury and the majority of SHIELD would definitely shit a brick over it, which Tony was perfectly happy to facilitate. They’d been getting off scot-free for too long as it was.

“You know, you should probably come with me on a couple of missions,” Tony suggested a while later, listening to Loki adjust his pillow and work out the blankets again. “I don’t see why our dates shouldn’t include blowing some stuff up.” He was startled by the kiss Loki stole in reply, the pressure of his lips there and gone before he could react.

“Truly a mortal after my own heart. Continue in this fashion and you may never be rid of me.”

Tony smiled into the darkness.

“Thanks for the tip.”