The lights of the club were bright, the music loud and there were people everywhere, dancing, drinking, laughing and flirting.
Loki could not believe his magic had taken him here of all places and he crossed his arms with a scowl. He also turned to look to the side, trying to imagine what the man beside him was thinking. Loki--the mortal Loki--was sipping a drink and scanning the crowd absently. He was in a suit; rumpled from a day of wear. Loki was scrutinising him, trying to understand why his magic had brought him to this version of himself.
The truth was, Loki was bored.
He was on Midgard, staying in Stark Tower with the Revengers and with nothing to do for the evening; he’d alighted on something the mortal sorcerer had mentioned about the multiverse. Loki rarely spent his time viewing the thousands of different lives he could have lived; it gave him a headache and was liable to send him down paths he didn’t wish to walk.
But he was bored. So he’d cast a simple spell to look for patterns in the universes. He’d also added an indulgent addition, a ridiculous inclusion that would pinpoint what made the majority of his alternates... happy.
He couldn’t see what was meant to brighten the life of this mortal version of himself. He’d been in the club for at least fifteen minutes and nothing had happened. His alternate had already turned down both a man and a woman who had approached him.
Loki was beginning to wonder if something hadn’t gone wrong in the spell.
It was as he was scanning the club again that Loki froze, his eyes going wide as a familiar figure walked across the dancefloor, his brown eyes directly on Loki - on the mortal version of the mage. Loki's alternate noticed as well and his body shifted; curious, open and receptive.
Loki could only stare in wide-eyed incredulity as Stark, as an alternate Stark came up to his alternate and began to flirt. Loki’s mouth fell open further when his alternate flirted back. Their hands were brushing, their smirks matching. His alternate quipped that Stark was wearing his favourite colour shirt. Stark replied that it was obviously 'meant to be’.
And when Stark asked if Loki wanted to come back to his place his alternate had said yes.
Loki could only stare after them as they disappeared. He’d always known Stark was attractive, he was hardly blind. The man was also intelligent and amusing, but Loki had never honestly looked at Stark as a perspective partner. Their history alone was reason enough to dismiss the idea.
But then, in a world where they were both mortals... apparently his alternate was not so willing to ignore his baser interests.
Loki shook his head at the whole experience and decided to move to the next universe. Obviously, he’d merely found a more abstract version of events.
Only, it happened again, and six more times when he was a mortal:
One in a coffeeshop with Stark passing over a napkin with a number and winking at Loki before walking away, leaving his alternate staring uncertainly after the brunet.
Another when they were attending a mortal school (and he would never live down a youthful version of himself flushing when Stark had told him ‘wow, I think love at first sight exists’ before introducing himself.).
Once when they had been friends for most of their lives and Loki found himself watching his alternate confessing to Stark. He had been waiting his entire life for a moment only to be interrupted by Stark's kiss. Stark had held him so tightly, whispering ‘me too’ as they both smiled like the sun had broken through the clouds.
He witnessed a proposal with Stark on his knees and his alternate laughing and crying and kissing him like he’d never been happier.
He witnessed a wedding with their hands bound and smiles on their faces as they kissed in front of a crowd of familiar faces as everyone cheered.
Loki also witnessed them in bed together whispering their first love confession before his alternate was rolling over and Stark was wrapping legs around his waist as they finished an emotional intimacy with a physical one.
But it wasn’t just a mortal universe.
He witnessed Stark as an Asgardian weaponsmith twice. He saw himself as a jotun prince with Stark as a mortal. There were versions where they were both Avengers, were they were both villains, where Stark was an Alfheim prince courting a mortal Loki, where Stark was an Alfheim prince courting an Asgardian prince Loki.
It was a dozen different universes all swirling through his mind and by the twenty-fifth Loki was breaking the spell and jerking himself back to reality.
Loki let out a shaky breath once the trance was broken. He also ran a hand through his hair and sat up in his bed feeling slightly shaken.
When he looked around the room, he saw it was early morning; that he’d spent all night traversing the multiverse. He’d spent all night watching his alternate find love, find happiness in the arms and heart of Anthony Stark.
It made Loki grimace and a part of him wanted to scoff at the ridiculousness of it all but... but twenty-five universes and all featuring Stark in some way was not something he could easily dismiss. Fate, it seemed, had a habit of making them find each other.
Loki was certain that the more he looked through the universes, the more he’d find other versions of events; times where he and Stark did not complement each other. Times when they were both happy with different partners or no lovers at all... yet the constant and consistent images still plagued him.
So much so that Loki found himself unable to focus on anything else. Sleep would have been an impossible task and he didn’t even attempt it. He’d moved directly into his morning routine, his mind continuing to linger on the puzzle that was Anthony Stark.
The man was handsome and intelligent; he was also affectionate and caring throughout the multiverse. He was just not someone Loki had invested energy in associating with; Stark was mortal and a former enemy. Loki had not seen a reason to seek out and speak with him or allow attachment to form. He had been certain Stark would want Loki nowhere near him.
Yet... twenty-five universes.
Happiness could still be fleeting, a moment of contentment in one universe could be over within a year; heartbreak could be around every corner. The heart was a fickle thing and far too easy to damage when someone was allowed inside to crush it.
Yet... perhaps they would remain happy forever.
It was such a sentimental thought, such a foolishly wistful idea and Loki felt frustrated with himself for even thinking it. A handful of alternates of himself and Stark were happy, it was hardly a large percentage among the thousands of versions of events constantly in play and changing. The multiverse was unreliable and constantly changing; Loki knew better than to place too much weight in it.
It was why Loki dismissed his discovery from his mind. He focused instead on the day ahead; he needed to speak with Thor regarding New Asgard, he would have to contact Heimdall and ask how he and the universe were faring and if his sight had perceived any disruptions or threats. He might even convince the Valkyrie to spar with him later in order to burn off any remaining irritation from his misguided spell.
Loki had truly planned to avoid Stark. They rarely crossed paths as it was and the mortal hardly ever awoke or was spotted before noon... and yet, Loki was walking towards the communal kitchens to search for Thor only to run into the mortal.
They met in the middle of a hallway; both of them pausing and looking at each other, but Loki’s breath had caught on... “Your shirt is my... colour." My favourite colour.
It wasn’t only a green to match the colour of Loki’s cape, but it was the same shirt that Stark had worn in the first universe; at a club where he came up and flirted with Loki and they left together with dark eyes and wide smirks.
Stark blinked at him, looking bewildered. “Wait. Were you actually in my dreams last night?”
Loki jerked his attention back from where it had trailed to the shirt once more to stare at Stark with shock. “What?”
He couldn’t... had Stark sensed the spell? Had he been pulled into it unknowingly?
The strings of fate follow their own weave, he remembered his mother saying with an unerring smile. And The Norns will guide that course however much they wish.
“I swear we had this same conversation,” Stark said, drawing Loki from his memories. “Well, sort of, erm,” Stark scratched the back of his neck, looking a little awkward. “It was an... odd conversation.”
“And you still wore the shirt?” Loki questioned pointedly. The shirt your alternate wore that helped my alternate choose to lay with you.
“Ah,” if Stark was flustered he was remarkably good at hiding it, but Loki could still see the signs catching at his eyes and colouring his neck. “I thought my subconscious was just picking my outfit. I also thought ‘hey, haven’t worn that in a while’. I also didn’t think we’d have a, um, similar conversation.”
Stark had been bolder in the other universe, so assured of his welcome and their mutual attraction - but then, hadn’t Loki thoughtlessly dismissed the mortal out of hand, knowing their history? Hadn’t he ignored and refused it despite twenty-five universes advising him differently?
The spell had pinpointed Stark as a source of happiness, and perhaps fate, perhaps The Norns themselves, were pulling him in that same direction.
Loki didn’t like handing himself over to destiny. He didn’t like the guiding hand of a prearranged future, but Loki respected it. He could choose to refuse and deny Stark his clumsy overture or he could accept. Loki had sought out an answer to happiness, and it now stood before him, full of potential and full of uncertainty about how Loki might react to his interest.
Could twenty-five universes be wrong?
“Your shirt is very flattering,” Loki told him quietly, watching Stark’s eyes jerk towards him with surprise. “I had intended to get something to drink.” He made a gesture towards the kitchens. “Would you like to join me...” he hesitated, “Tony?”
The mortal looked startled, his eyes widening, but it was only for a moment, the span of a heartbeat before he smiled, bright and wide and making Loki want to smile in reply.
“I would, yeah,” Tony agreed. He paused, his eyes flicking over Loki before finding his gaze and saying softer. “You look good too.”
Loki smirked. “I always do.”
It made Tony laugh and shake his head, but he was still grinning even as he fell into step with Loki. “Your arrogance is almost worse than mine.”
“It’s not arrogance when it’s a statement of fact.”
Tony grinned, he also remarked, more than a hint of flirtation in his tone as he looked Loki up and down. “Well, I can’t argue with that.”
Loki felt the flattery send a burst of pleasure through him. He also found his arm and hand deliberately brushing Tony’s as they walked.
Perhaps, he thought, as he looked at the mortal beside him, the fates might allow a twenty-sixth universe.
Cause I saw you in my dreams that night
And I knew that you were right
So I called you in the morning
And you took my hands and told me
"I've been waiting for you"
And I told you, "Me too"