“Get up!” Loki snapped, breezing into the other man’s room and throwing a pile of paperwork onto his groaning, cursing form. “Those need to be signed for Miss Potts. You’re required to attend a parent-teacher conference in seven hours and you’ve got a conference call with your Japanese investors in one hour. So, get up.”
“I despise you,” Anthony Stark hissed from where he was half-buried under his pillow.
It had been almost two years and as much as Loki was outwardly unaffected, inwardly a small part of him flinched. “So do many people, Stark. Now, get up before I leave you to be murdered by Miss Potts.”
“Some fucking bodyguard that would make you.”
“I am under no obligation to protect you from my employer,” Loki answered simply before turning on his heel and exiting the man’s bedroom.
If someone was to tell Loki a decade ago that he would be exiled from Asgard, stripped of his godhood and magic and thrust down onto Midgard where he would become a protector of mortal celebrities, Loki would have scoffed and dismissed the very idea.
Yet, it was exactly where Loki had found himself; discarded, rejected and left with nothing on this mortal rock but his wit to save him. He had been forced to adapt, to seek as much information as possible on this new world and find a means of establishing himself.
There had been much trial and error but he eventually found himself joining a protection agency. His centuries of battle experience combined with a quick but thorough training on mortal weapons and incendiary devices found him a successful and highly sought after bodyguard. Loki had been on Midgard for five years and the last two had been spent in the employ of Stark Industries protecting Anthony Stark; the genius, billionaire, engineer, philanthropist as well as the mortal man’s adopted son Peter Parker-Stark.
Anthony was a brash, sarcastic, eccentric individual and Loki had spent the first half year disliking the man. It was a live-in position and being around the arrogant, infuriating mortal on a daily basis quickly eroded Loki’s professionalism. They’d spent much of the first six months arguing and delivering scathing insults towards one another. Yet, his distaste for the man aside, Loki wasn’t foolish enough to miss how brilliant he was. Anthony Stark was a mortal, but he was staggeringly intelligent and remarkable. Loki was impressed, but he had refused to let that admiration show, preferring to treat Anthony the way he often behaved; like a stubborn, petulant child whose ego needed bludgeoning.
And perhaps things would have remained as they were with nothing but aversion and fury between them if something hadn’t changed - if seven months after arriving there wasn’t a threat to Anthony’s life.
It was the first time Anthony could have been hurt, could have died and it made Loki remember how breakable and mortal Anthony Stark was - it highlighted to Loki exactly what he would feel if something happened to Anthony.
Loki had watched the man in every aspect of his life for half a Midgardian year. He lived with the man in his mansion on the outskirts of New York. He knew Anthony could be kind, loving, entertaining and generous. He knew Anthony was the brightest mind on Midgard. He knew Anthony couldn’t function without his morning coffee and that he would peevishly refuse most orders that Loki gave him just to be stubborn and frustrating. He made Loki want to kill him most days. He also made Loki feel abject terror at the thought of losing him.
Loki, somehow, someway, had grown attached to Anthony. He’d grown attached to tired eyes blearily peering up at him from the lab as Loki sighed and coaxed the man through the house and into his bed. He’d found himself fond of the man who would drop anything he was doing if his son entered the room and wanted his attention. Loki gained enjoyment and amusement from the few moments they agreed on something; exchanging a wordless glance, a smug smirk or an eye roll.
Loki discovered that, despite everything, he genuinely liked Anthony Stark; the mortal however, still despised him.
It was why Loki didn’t say anything about his realisation not when it happened, and especially not when they had a moment of privacy at the police station. Anthony, instead of thanking him for foiling the assassination, had complained about the slam to the ground. When Loki had growled that he was ‘saving his pitiful life’, Anthony had just argued that Loki should have seen the threat coming long before needing to drop him to the concrete. Loki had snapped back that few people other than Loki would have even been aware of the threat and Anthony should learn to be grateful for once in his life.
Their argument would have progressed into something much worse from there if Peter hadn’t burst into the room they were in to throw himself at his father in a hug. It had instantly softened Anthony’s whole demeanour as he hugged the teenager back, assuring Peter that he was fine. It had made Loki’s heart twinge to witness, not only because of the tender sight, but because of a wish to be a part of it.
Anthony did not do things in halves and when he loved, he did so with all his heart. There was no one who gained more love than Anthony’s son.
The envy and longing for some of that affection only worsened when Peter, once assured of his father’s safety, had hugged Loki just as tightly and thanked him for saving Anthony’s life. Loki had stiffened initially but very gently placed his hand on the teenager’s back, giving him a small smile that masked everything he felt. He offered a dismissive comment to ease the teen’s lingering fear, using the excuse to also make a snipe at Anthony. It made the mortal indignant, but had the goal of making Peter laugh and truly relax.
Loki had been fond of the teenager from the start. He was bright, mischievous, polite and kind. Loki was reminded of himself as a child and he often found himself helping the boy with his homework whenever Anthony was busy, and in return, Peter always dragged Loki to join him and Anthony for ‘movie nights’.
It was there in that police station however that Loki had another, painful realisation. He wanted this family. He felt as if he could be a part of their family - but Loki knew he was only fooling himself.
It did not matter how many times he thought it, how many times he looked at Anthony and felt there might be something between them - as if Anthony might slowly be warming to him. It would only take one glowering scowl and Loki would know it was the product of his own wistful thinking.
Loki’s feelings might have shifted and they might have continued to develop and deepen over the months that followed, but Anthony was still as antagonistic and unimpressed with Loki as always. He was not a part of the man’s family. He was merely the unwanted interloper into Stark’s world.
It made Loki wonder, in his more maudlin moments, if revealing himself as a prince, and mage from another realm could make Anthony have some interest in him - but then, there was no way for Loki to prove it and no certainty that Anthony wouldn’t be horrified or afraid of him.
No, Loki knew there was nothing to be done and nothing he could do to change his situation.
It had Loki resisting the urge to sigh. It also had him shaking off useless thoughts and memories as he reached the kitchen. He found Peter where he’d left him; eating his cereal and reading a book. It still made Loki smile to see that it was a text that Loki had recommended to him.
“Is he getting up?” Peter asked, pausing his reading to look at Loki with a grin.
“I hope so,” Loki answered while turning to the coffee machine which was now full percolated and pouring the liquid into a mug for Anthony. “If he hasn’t dragged his way out here in five minutes, you have my permission to jump on his bed.”
Peter laughed. “I don’t think I’ve done that since I was six.”
“Then he needs a reminder of the perils of sleeping in,” Loki answered, placing the coffee on the counter.
Peter just chuckled again. “I think you’re warning enough. I’d be up and out like a shot if you did that to me.”
“You,” Loki insisted, “are well behaved and therefore, will never experience it.”
Peter just grinned, looking faintly proud. He stirred his spoon and took another bite of his cereal before saying, “So, I’m pretty sure I convinced Dad to let you have Saturday off and get in a temp guard so you could take me to the new art exhibit we were talking about.”
Loki blinked, pausing halfway to the fridge to look over his shoulder. He felt oddly uncomfortable as he admitted, “I told you about that so you might go with your father.”
“Yeah, but he won’t be interested.” Peter smiled. “I’d rather go with you and listen to you complaining about how ‘this modern trash bears no resemblance to art’.”
He even attempted to emulate Loki’s accent, and Loki could barely repress his chuckle. “Very well,” he agreed, softly thrilled at the teen’s request. “I will happily attend with you.”
“Awesome,” Peter exclaimed, making Loki smile and go back to the fridge to pull out some juice. He poured some into a glass for himself before placing some slices of bread in the toaster.
It was only a few moments later that Anthony slapped down the paperwork on the table, grabbing his cooling mug of coffee and drinking from it greedily. He dropped down in the seat beside Peter, ruffling his son’s hair briefly before closing his eyes to focus on his coffee.
Loki took a moment to just enjoy the sight of Anthony wearing nothing but his boxers; his toned and tanned physique a delectable image no matter how many times Loki had glimpsed it while living with the man.
When he dragged his eyes away to focus on the paperwork, he was pleasantly surprised to find that Anthony had signed at all the appropriate places and legibly enough that he didn’t need to request it be done over.
“So, why are you guys going to see art?” Anthony eventually questioned almost five minutes later when Loki dropped a plate with toast in front of him and refilled his coffee.
I am sure Heimdall is laughing at me, Loki thought with a sigh, but couldn’t bring himself to stop. Anthony didn’t eat enough and often needed a nudge in the right direction. Loki had found himself looking after the man around the same time he had realised he cared far, far too much for him.
“Loki suggested this new exhibit to me, and he’s going to hate it,” Peter answered cheerfully. “His insults are even more creative than yours.” He side-eyed his father and smirked. “And his have less swear words.”
“Why did he suggest it if he’d hate it?” Anthony asked, looking perplexed.
“Oh, he thought we could go, but you’d hate it too.” Loki cleared his throat awkwardly, not quite looking at Anthony as he focused on spreading jam on his own toast. Peter was oblivious to the way Anthony was staring at him. “But you’ll hate it in a ‘all art galleries are boring’ way. Loki will hate it in a ‘if it’s made in the last hundred years its garbage’ kind of way. So it’ll be fun.”
“Uh, huh,” Anthony murmured, sounding unusually thoughtful. “Well, I guess I’ll hear all about it when you guys get back.”
“Yeah,” Peter agreed before finishing the last of his cereal and taking it to the sink. He rinsed it and put it on the dirty side before heading to pick up his book. “But, I gotta go Dad or I’ll be late and Mr Hogan will scowl.” He gave his father a quick hug goodbye, getting a pat on the arm in response before Peter pulled back and gave Loki a wave. “See you, Loki! I’ll finish the book today and we can talk about!”
Loki had barely waved his hand in response before the teen was turning and hurrying out of the room to finish his final preparations for school.
It left Anthony and Loki alone.
It was often just the two of them when Peter was at school and no one from Stark Industries was in the mansion. The only reason it seemed different was the way Anthony was staring at him. Loki was focused on his breakfast, but he could feel that intense, puzzled expression boring into him.
Loki refused to be unsettled and simply told him, not looking at the man, “If you do not eat and shower quickly, you will be greeting your investors in your boxers.”
“I’m pretty sure I’ve been seen in worse,” Anthony remarked, but there was an odd note to it.
It was peculiar enough for Loki to look at the other man. His expression was strangely unreadable. Anthony’s standard emotional responses to him were usually; anger, irritation, grudging respect and, on very rare occasions, faint amusement.
This was something different and new and it made Loki uncertain how to react to it. He eventually decided on the default, “Miss Potts will be unimpressed if you don’t look your best.”
Anthony gave an indecipherable smile. “Can’t let the boss down.”
He pushed up from the chair a moment later, grabbed a piece of toast and walked away without another word or look. Loki found himself following the man with his eyes, wondering what he was thinking but doubting it was anything in Loki’s favour.
Anthony had resented his presence from the very beginning, and Loki was certain that not even a growing fondness and friendship between Loki and the man’s son was enough to change that.
Loki would have dismissed that morning from his mind, considered it a day like any other if things hadn’t started to change.
It was small things at first, so tiny that Loki would never have noticed them if he weren’t so attuned to Anthony. It was the way Anthony would send him small smiles more often, usually over Peter’s energetic recounting of his day or a discussion about his latest fascination.
The way he actually asked Loki how the art museum was, not just taking Peter’s answer as the only one that he needed. He even began to thank Loki for making him coffee and breakfast in the morning.
It was... nice.
Loki didn’t know what exactly had prompted the man’s shift in attitude, but Loki would hardly complain about sharing less hostile conversations with him. Loki even found them bantering in Anthony’s lab and mocking some of the idiots Anthony dealt with on a daily basis. Anthony started to listen to him more, complying to his requests without complaint and even asking for Loki’s opinion.
It seemed to take a blink of an eye, but within three months, they had moved passed grudging civility and into something bordering on friendly.
Peter had also continued to organise outings for Loki and the teen to take together, sometimes arranging a time for all three of them to socialise. It was different from the days when Loki shadowed them as a bodyguard, sometimes there were other guards there for that purpose, he was invited to have fun with them and it was both addictive and problematic.
His interest in Anthony was hardly waning as time passed; in fact it was becoming deeper and far more complicated.
Loki’s penance on Midgard had no fixed rules or solutions. He was here under the whims of the Allfather and although bitterness and anger had suffused his very being for years, Loki had felt it wax and wane around the Stark family.
Loki was mortal, and so were the people around him. He liked them, he cared for them and he wanted them as his own.
It often found Loki lying on his bed in the man’s mansion and staring at the ceiling, wishing he knew what to do. This wasn’t some fling he sought, some meaningless fuck with an attractive man, this was... deeper than anything he’d ever desired or felt in all his centuries of life.
It should have terrified Loki, but mostly it just depressed him.
Loki also didn’t have the option of secluding himself in his rooms to either sort through the problem or pretend it didn’t exist. He needed to get up when his alarm blared, shower and dress before making his way to Anthony’s penthouse to force him out of bed.
On weekends, Peter would be allowed to sleep in, but in order to keep Anthony on a reasonable sleep schedule; Loki only gave him Sundays without a wakeup call. Since it was Saturday, Loki made his way towards the other man’s bedroom. He was startled however when, instead of pausing at the kitchen to turn on the coffee machine, he found the man he had intended to wake already sitting at the breakfast bar, a coffee in one hand and a glass of orange juice ready and waiting further down the table.
“How long have you been awake?” It was the only thing Loki could think of to say.
Anthony gave a one-shouldered shrug. “About twenty minutes. I set my alarm.”
Loki blinked. “You never set your alarm.”
“This was important.” He made a gesture at one of the seats. “Sit down. The kid’s asleep and I thought we should have a chat.”
Loki stiffened slightly, but tried not to let his trepidation show as he slowly stepped towards the offered seat and drink. “What do you wish to speak about?”
“I've been a giant asshole to you since you showed up and I’ve only just started to realise exactly how much." Anthony answered, letting out a frustrated breath. "I never liked the idea that I needed protection, not when it meant some stranger in my house, around my lab and near my kid. I knew you signed like, fifteen NDA’s, but I still just wanted you out.” He ran an awkward hand through his hair. “You got the brunt of that resentment and anger when you really didn’t deserve it. I mean, you never took any of my shit, hell, you just argued back, and I’m still pretty impressed by how good your comebacks are.” He flashed Loki a faint grin, trying to lighten the mood and Loki found himself smirking back, pleased by the compliment, but Anthony quickly sobered, glancing away. “I also never once thanked you for saving my life, both when you kept me from being shot and every other time since.”
“That’s my job,” Loki quietly told him.
“Yeah, I know,” Anthony was scowling. “But just... you deserve a thank you for it anyway. You also deserve a lot more.” He let out another frustrated breath and looked back at Loki. “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for how much of a jerk I was to you. You never deserved that, not when you’ve been looking out for me and Peter every damn day since arriving; not just protecting us, but looking after us. So, thank you.”
Oh, Loki realised, suddenly understanding what had made Anthony change all those months ago. He’d noticed what Loki did, even if he’d misconstrued the reason behind it. Anthony thought it was Loki’s professionalism as opposed to his affection. It made Loki repress the wry smile that wanted to escape.
It wasn’t everything Loki wanted, but it was still a giant leap forward. He smiled more neutrally. “Thank you, Anthony.”
“So you forgive me?” Anthony pressed, even leaning forward, anxiousness obvious in his eyes.
It made Loki’s expression become softer and he picked up the orange juice Anthony had poured for him with a soft thrill. He made sure to keep it from his countenance while gently teasing the other man, “I suppose so.”
“Sweet, awesome, phew.” Anthony took a large sip of coffee, looking, if possible, even more tense and uncomfortable. “Now, the hard part.”
Loki frowned with confusion. “Hard part?”
“Yeah, um, I kind of do realisations in a giant tidal wave that drowns out my obliviousness.” He gave an uncertain smile. “That was, um, realisation one.”
Loki waited, but when nothing followed and Anthony just seemed to stare at his coffee, Loki prompted, “And what did you realise?”
Anthony jerked slightly, and as if Loki had pushed a button, the other man blurted out, “I worked out I want you here.”
Loki... well, he felt warmth spread throughout his chest, a gentle affection that he could barely keep off his face.
“I hardly see how that is hard to say,” Loki told him gently. “I’m glad our animosity has faded too. I enjoy my time with Peter and-”
“No,” Anthony interrupted almost biting the word out. He also shifted, very slowly and precisely putting down his coffee. He then looked back at Loki, nervous brown eyes finding uncertain green. “I worked out I want you here, not... not as a bodyguard, but as... um... something else.” Loki’s eyes widened and Anthony glanced away, running a hand through his hair. “Look, I get you probably think I’m the biggest jerk and have about as much fondness for me as something you scrape off the bottom of your shoe, but you kind of... you just fit with us. I saw it at that breakfast months ago – the one when you and Peter were talking about that gallery, you remember it?”
Loki nodded numbly and Anthony took in deep breath and continued, “Yeah, well it was there that it all fucking clicked. I suddenly saw the god damn obvious; I saw how important you are to just... everything. My day is filled with you and you actually fit with me. I have no fucking idea how you do that.” His eyes found Loki’s again, looking somewhere between awed and incredulous. “You are so much more than a bodyguard. Fuck, you’re smarter than most of the people I work with and you make me laugh. I kept telling myself I hated you but I don’t, god, I really don’t. How could I? You’re incredible and I’m pretty sure I’m completely in love with you and-” Loki put down his orange juice and pushed his chair away from the counter. Anthony hunched his shoulders and grimaced, looking as if he’d been punched, “and I’m pretty sure you’re going to quit now, fuck, but I-”
Loki stepped in close to the other man and cupped his cheeks. He stared down at Anthony with both amazement and disbelief before hissing, “You stupid mortal.”
Anthony made a small sound of confusion but Loki captured it by pressing his mouth against Anthony’s. It made the other man groan, one hand coming up to cling to Loki’s arm while the other wrapped around Loki’s back and drew him closer.
The kiss was everything Loki had imagined it would be; the man’s talented mouth opened before him and he kissed with the same passion and fire that had been in their arguments, but it was softened by just enough sweetness and affection for Loki to know that there was more than just lust in his actions.
“I love you as well,” Loki whispered when they broke apart, their breathing heavier and a high flush in their cheeks. “I have loved you for a year, you oblivious moron.”
Anthony let out a huff of laughter but his eyes were warm and filled with delight and relief. “Well, gee, honey, thanks for the compliment.”
“Fool,” Loki repeated again, but the words were all but breathed against the other man’s lips before he was kissing him again.
They remained there, just like that, until some five minutes later when they were broken apart by a loud laugh. They quickly glanced behind Loki to find Peter beaming so wide it looked like it might hurt his cheeks.
“God, I was starting to doubt it was ever going to happen,” he remarked, looking like he was only just resisting throwing himself at them in a hug. “Wait’a’go Loki!”
“Hey!” Anthony pouted. “I made the first move, I’ll have you know.”
Peter scoffed. “Yeah, right, Dad.”
“I did!” Anthony insisted. He looked at Loki and gestured at Peter. “Tell him!”
Loki was utterly failing to hold back his smile. He was too happy, too grateful for what was happening and what he was a part of. He knew it couldn’t be this simple, that they would have to discuss their relationship, his position as a bodyguard and what would change going forward, but Loki was willing to dismiss it until later. Loki wanted to enjoy the moment.
Yet, before Loki could quip anything in response to Anthony’s comment, a sound Loki hadn’t heard for years rattled the windows and echoed throughout the house.
It made all three of them snap their heads to the window which overlooked the mansions gardens where a beam of light was cascading down only to disperse and reveal Loki’s brother and mother.
Loki sucked in a shocked, disbelieving breath, a feeling only amplified as he felt his seidr flood him again for the first time in years. His banishment was over, his punishment revoked. He dragged his eyes to his hand and felt the strength and power of the Aesir fill him once more.
“What the actual fuck?” Anthony hissed and Loki jerked his eyes to the other man who was looking tense and panicked as he stared at the bifrost site.
“Ah, Anthony, Peter,” Loki murmured with a slight grimace as he looked between the two men who meant the world to him. “I’m, afraid I have a small confession to make...”