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The Bend Before the Break

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They drop into the sea.

~*~

Loki runs towards the cabin. ‘’Tony?’’ he shouts. The elf looks up dazed at him, rubbing at his injured arm.

‘’Smooth landing,’’ he croaks, and Loki heists him up. The most that he and Birger could do was make sure they didn’t catch fire: he’s not sure where the other elf is now, but Tony is his priority.

Loki stumbles across the halls with him impatiently. ‘’We need to leave and get to land,’’ he says.

Tony grimaces. ‘’That’s no swimming distance. We’ll have to teleport again.’’

Loki looks to the windows, where the sea is where the space first was. There’s a good chance they won’t make it without teleportation, but he’s reluctant to try it again when it hurt Tony so much the first time. His laceration is not healed yet, far from it.

Tony grabs him by the arm and looks him in the eyes. The gold fits Tony’s fiery spirit. ‘’We have to,’’ he says, as he apparently notes Loki’s hesitation. ‘’It’s going to be worse if we don’t.’’

He has a point, Loki knows. He is ready to leave, when Tony stops him. ‘’Wait. We’ll need to tell Birger where we’re going.’’

Loki doesn’t care about Birger. But he knows Tony does care, so he lets go of Tony. ‘’Birger!’’ he yells, but no reaction comes forth. ‘’Stay here,’’ he tells Tony and stalks towards the room he came from. Birger is unconscious somewhere against the wall. Loki shakes him awake and gives him a quick summary. Birger only nods at him, and comes to follow.

‘’You’re alright, there?’’ Tony asks. Loki gives Birger no time to answer, but takes Tony’s hand and teleports them away.

~*~

Tony does not like teleporting, he decides as he vomits on the ground again. His entire body feels like it’s going to give out and he is trembling where he sits. His arm feels like it’s on fire.

Loki crouches in front of him, putting a hand in his hair. Tony closes his eyes at the contact.

‘’I moved us as close to the Compound as I dared,’’ Loki says. ‘’Everything’s going to be alright, Tony. Breathe.’’

‘’I hate,’’ Tony says with the breath that he has, ‘’fucking magic.’’

Then Birger is beside him as well, one hand grabbing his shoulder and the other his leg, before helping him up. ‘’I could’ve done that within a minute,’’ Tony snaps at him.

Birger looks oddly guilty and peers at him with eyes that are a glowing blue, today. ‘’I was only helping!’’

‘’Sorry, Birger,’’ he mutters, and leans against Loki.

‘’I need to shift,’’ Tony says. ‘’The Avengers can’t find me like this.’’

Loki makes a noise. ‘’We talked about this –‘’

‘’You promised me,’’ Tony reminds him. ‘’I don’t want them to know, Loki. Not now.’’ And Loki gives a curt nod, and Tony slips back into his lie – and shouts at the feeling of it.

His skin is on fire. He falls back to the ground, losing his hold on Loki. He thinks he hears Loki shout, but he can’t hear, he can’t see, there is nothing he can do as the pain intensifies. Tony doesn’t remember how to shift, how to even move. Cool hands grip him, hold him as he shudders. He thinks tears are leaking from his eyes; he focuses on that feeling instead of the excruciating pain.

Then he faints.

~*~

Loki is not sure whether to be glad or not that Tony passed out from the pain. On one hand, he doesn’t want him to hurt anymore. On the other, Tony is still in his human form, the one Loki still knows best. He is using magic, and the poisoned wound responds to the magic. One way or another, Tony will not be able to take continuous pain, so he needs to shift back.

He is not sure what option is best. The Avengers Compound is not that far away, but walking with an unconscious Tony is not the best option. Waiting for rescue is not something he prefers, even if it may be the wiser choice. He could teleport, but that would mean leaving Birger with Tony, and he doesn’t trust the other elf enough for that. He could teleport with Tony, but the shock of that may kill him. He could make Birger teleport, but again, Loki is not sure he trusts Birger enough.

The choice is not his anymore when the familiar face of Stephen Strange appears through one of his portals. ‘’I imagine you had a wonderful trip,’’ the wizard says.

Loki raises his eyebrows. ‘’I don’t think that words means what you think it means,’’ he replies.

~*~

Captain Rogers and Tony’s lifelong friends James Rhodes are awaiting them when Loki comes through the portal, carrying Tony’s slack body. Birger shuffles behind them, eyeing everything with a wariness that comes with a new planet.

Rhodes jumps up when they enter. ‘’What the hell happened?’’ he exclaims, rushing to Tony.

‘’I will explain later,’’ Loki says. ‘’Get Thor for me. I need to talk to him.’’

‘’Is Tony alright?’’ the Captain asks, a hesitant look on his face. Loki is not sure why the man cares, after all that he has done to Tony. He thinks it’s best not to voice this sentiment, though, seeing how much Tony has tried to rebuild the Avengers after their fall-out.

Loki doesn’t dare to hesitate. ‘’He will be,’’ he lies, because he honestly doesn’t know, if Tony refuses to shift to his natural form.

~*~

Tony wakes up slowly. His head is throbbing and his body doesn’t feel like his own, but he can move his hand and grab a handful of sheets, so that’s probably not true. He only opens his eyes when he hears a familiar voice.

‘’Loki told me to talk you out of a bad idea,’’ Pepper says, ‘’But I’m afraid I’m not sure which one he refers to this time. The one where you get yourself hurt all the time? The one where you go to outer space without further notice? The one where you don’t even tell me goodbye anymore?’’

‘’I’m sorry,’’ he croaks. He knows it’s none of those, though. He knows it’s the fact that he’s shifted again that causes his injury to clash with the magic.

Pepper sighs. ‘’No you’re not,’’ she says simply. ‘’You’re never actually sorry. Oh God, Tony, this is not the time to talk about this. What happened to you?’’

‘’Got sliced up by evil aliens,’’ Tony manages. ‘’Nothing new. What’s up with you?’’

Pepper laughs in that way she does when she doesn’t know how to handle Tony. He is used to it, by now, but that doesn’t make it better. Pepper used to be his rock, but even rock can crumble down, in time. Once, he imagined spending his life with her.

Now, he knows it would drive them both mad.

It doesn’t matter with Loki. Loki is his own kind of madness, has been through enough shit to not care about it anymore. Tony needs someone like that, someone who can relate. Pepper deserves someone as complete as her, someone who can give her the rest she needs. Someone she won’t spend all day and night worrying about.

That was never going to be Tony.

‘’The Avengers were worried about you,’’ she says then.

That draws a slightly painful laugh from Tony. ‘’Maybe some of them. How about you?’’

Pepper smiles softly at him. ‘’You’re like a cockroach, Tony. I’ll never be rid of you.’’

‘’No crying for your old boss anymore, I reckon.’’

She shakes her head, and lays a hand on Tony’s. ‘’Maybe for an old friend.’’

~*~

When he awakens the next time, it is Loki beside him.

‘’Did you tell them what happened?’’ is the first thing Tony asks.

Loki raises his eyebrows at him. ‘’I told Thor that Frey and Freya were less than friendly and the other Avengers to watch out for them. For everything else, I imagined we should first talk together.’’

Tony huffs out a laugh. ‘’We should’ve talked a lot earlier,’’ he says. Loki bows his head.

‘’Maybe, but would you have told me that you were an elf then?’’

‘’No. Would you have told me you’re Jotun?’’ he shoots back.

Loki gives a grim smile. ‘’It does not have the same connotations for humans, as it does for the other realms,’’ he says. ‘’I may have shown you, had I not known you were an elf.’’

‘’Does that mean you’re not going to show me, now?’’ Tony asks, and somehow, the thought hurts. He hates that Loki feels that he has to keep a part of himself hidden. ‘’I don’t care, Loki. If I’d cared, we wouldn’t be here right here.’’

Loki turns away his head. ‘’The Jotun are the nightmare material for children,’’ he says resolutely. ‘’I grew up myself hearing horror stories. Odin used to tell us how he fought them. Thor and I loved that story, and we never understood why our mother wouldn’t tell us about them. But I do now.’’

Tony doesn’t care how much he is hurting. He tries to get out of his bed, and when that fails, just drags Loki in with him. He suspects that Loki lets him, but he doesn’t care. He doesn’t stop until his lover is lying next to him, and Loki presses a kiss to his hair.

‘’How did you find out you were Jotun?’’ Tony asks, not sure if Loki will want to tell him.

But Loki doesn’t seem to hesitate, his voice low as he speaks. ‘’It was just before I fell from Asgard. We fought some Frost Giants, and one managed to touch my skin. I did not want to believe it, at first. I thought perhaps it had something to do with my magic. But I took the Casket, and it did the same thing. It was only then that Odin admitted to adopting me, a cast-out baby. Laufey’s son.’’

‘’I hate that they did that to you,’’ Tony starts, ‘’And I hate it that you want to hide it away. You don’t want to be Jotun? Fine. Don’t be one. God knows we can make our own choices. I don’t want to be an elf. I like being human, and I like living on Midgard. But there’s always going to be a part of us that is defined by history. I learnt that the hard way, when I became Iron Man. Because there’s more than one thing we can be. There’s more than what we let us be defined by. I am Tony Stark, and I’m Iron Man, and I’m Egil of Alfheim. I have trust issues and daddy issues and probably a lot more issues I don’t want to look too closely at, and so do you. And you know what? I don’t care. I’m not going to let it be in the way of my future, of my goals. I’m not going to let it stand in the way of us being together. Because I love you, despite that you are a Jotun, because of you being a Jotun. Be Asgardian. Be Midgardian. I don’t care, as long as you’re Loki.’’

Tony feels Loki turn his head away into the crook of Tony’s neck, breathing there for a moment. It’s surprisingly intimate, and Tony is afraid that he’s said something wrong. But then Loki moves again. ‘’You give startlingly good speeches,’’ is the only thing he says.

But Tony can hear the hidden ‘thank you’, in that.

~*~

Loki wakes up because of a rueful Thor standing by the bed. ‘’A word, brother,’’ he says softly, glancing at the sleeping Tony.

Loki is annoyed that he is being woken up, and doesn’t care to hide it. Still he manages to subtract himself from Tony’s side and join Thor in the hall.

‘’You have a good thing, here,’’ Thor says, and it’s kinder than Loki remembers him being. Thor has changed though, for the better, and Loki remembers when he sabotaged Thor’s crowning. Now, Thor is king, and rightfully so, Loki knows. They have both changed and grown, and they have both learnt to accept the other.

Loki glances back at the room they just exited. ‘’I know,’’ he says. Thor’s relationship with the mortal didn’t work out, but Tony is different. Besides, Tony isn’t quite mortal anyway.

Thor smiles at him. ‘’Where is the necklace?’’ Thor asks then, as they walk to the living room.

Loki comes to a halt. Thor looks back worriedly. ‘’Tony has had it, since Alfheim,’’ he says slowly. He can’t believe he forgot to check for the necklace, despite all the distractions they’ve had since. Because he’s quite sure Tony doesn’t have it, anymore. He undressed him himself, and didn’t encounter it.

Quickly he turns back, Thor following him. Tony is still sleeping soundly, and Loki is reluctant to wake him, but he has little choice in the matter. ‘’Tony,’’ he whispers, and the man’s eyes flutter open at the sound of Loki’s voice.

‘’Tony, where did you last have the necklace?’’ he asks, and sees Tony become more alert.

Tony tries to sit up and grimaces. ‘’It’s in my pocket. I checked when we crash-landed if I still had it. You have it now, right?’’

Loki shakes his head. Thor looks at them, worriedly. ‘’Who does, then?’’ he asks. ‘’Dr Strange felt pulses coming from it, somewhere near. We assumed you had it.’’

Loki shares a look with Tony. ‘’Where is Birger?’’ Tony asks, a threatening voice in his note.

‘’I am going to kill him,’’ Loki decides. ‘’For real, this time.’’

~*~

They don’t have the time to find Birger.

The alarms sound just as they come to the conclusion that their ally has turned on them. The Avengers and co that are in the Compound at the moment rush to Tony’s bedroom. ‘’I built you guys a perfectly good room of your own to confer in,’’ Tony snaps at them, but he is ignored.

‘’It’s Freya,’’ Loki says, ‘’And possibly Frey, if she took the time to rescue him. She probably did. Family is very important to the Vanir.’’

‘’Great, two homicidal gods,’’ Bruce comments. ‘’Why did they even come after you?’’

Loki shrugs. ‘’She took me prisoner, Tony and I staged an outbreak and killed, oh, maybe fifty elves. Then we stole a ship of Frey to return here. I’d say she started this.’’

Thor’s face darkens. ‘’Imprisoning a prince of Asgard is an act of war.’’

‘’She didn’t seem to care, buddy,’’ Tony pops in.

‘’We need to figure out what they want,’’ Steve says. ‘’I say let’s take them in. Avengers, assemble!’’

The group leaves the room, readying themselves for the coming Vanir. Thor waits a moment for Loki to come, but Loki waves him away as he watches Tony. Thor leaves them, and then it’s just the two of them in the room.

‘’You’re injured,’’ Loki says to Tony. ‘’You can’t fight this one.’’

Tony huffs at the remark. He’s well aware, but that doesn’t mean he’s helpless. ‘’I can fight,’’ he says stubbornly.

Loki raises his eyebrows at him. ‘’You’re in constant pain until you stop using magic,’’ he remarks. ‘’That means shifting back, Tony. You are the one who doesn’t want them to know. Besides, for all the Avengers know, you’re still incapacitated.’’

Tony faces him. ‘’I can shift back. I’m in the suit, they won’t see. We’ll just tell them it’s remotely controlled.’’

Loki sighs, but doesn’t protest again. Tony counts this as a victory.

~*~

And so it is that they join the fray, under the guise of Iron Man being controlled by Tony from the Compound. Considering the team believes Tony is far too injured to actually put on the suit right now, Loki and Tony don’t have trouble selling the lie.

No need for them to know it’s actually Tony in there, elven appearance and all.

‘’I’m searching for Birger at the same time,’’ Tony tells Loki via an earpiece. Having shifted back into his natural form, he feels a lot better. It’s a shame he’s not quite ready to tell the team, though.

Loki is too far away for him to make out his face, but Tony likes to think he is smirking. ‘’I am running my own investigation with the help of a bit of magic,’’ he is told.

Tony huffs. ‘’Let’s first focus on Freya, though. Birger has no way of leaving Earth, anyway.’’

Freya’s ship is not too far away. How they found them after they teleported away, Tony isn’t sure. But it doesn’t matter much, either. All members of the Avengers that are present beside Tony and Loki, which are Thor, Steve, War Machine, Strange and Hulk, are warily approaching the vehicle. It’s bigger than the one Loki stole, that’s certain, and not crash-landed. The vessel gleams in the sun.

‘’Careful, Avengers,’’ Steve says over the comm. ‘’We don’t know what we’re dealing with here.’’

Then a powerful dark blast colours the sky black, and all hell breaks loose.