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Loki’s hand in his kept Tony stable as they moved out of the bedroom, having broken contact only long enough to get dressed. Tony would have been fine, because even though the nightmare had thrown him it hadn’t been his– but he couldn’t help but glance at the door to Barnes’ room as they passed, and the sight of it almost made him miss a step. There was no outward indication that there was anything different with it, but Tony knew that if he were to press his hand to the white surface, he would see the familiar ripple of orange energy.

It was more than enough to remind him of what he was trying not to think about, of the new and old enemy that had been lurking in the shadows for who knew how long.

HYDRA.

Barnes had not given them any details, and Tony grit his teeth at the memory of the way the assassin had curled in on himself, as if his programming was trying to fight what Loki was doing with the pink ring. It was almost impossible to believe, and when that Hail HYDRA had left Barnes’ lips, Tony’s first instinct had been to deny its plausibility. But he trusted Loki when he said that Barnes was telling the truth. HYDRA had returned, or perhaps had somehow managed to survive all this time.

It was an awful thought, and god, but if Steve knew that his best friend was not only alive and kicking but had been made to work for his first real enemy…

Whatever. Steve might have been a willing and even valuable ally against HYDRA, but he wouldn’t be against SHIELD.  Two steps forward, one step back– it was a hit, because they were already dealing with so many enemies, but… he already knew that trusting anyone other than Loki and JARVIS would be a mistake. It was already them against the world– this was just one more creature in the shadows that needed to be accounted for.

Tony forced the thought from his mind, offered Loki a short smile to ease the concern he could see in those green eyes, and then he led the way down– knowing exactly where he needed to be in that moment.

After all, the workshop was where Tony always felt like he was in his element, and having Loki there only made it easier to think. They split apart as soon as they stepped through the door– Loki going to his own desk on the other side of the room, while Tony headed straight to his planning table.  

With enemies pouring against them from all sides, the only thing they could do was prepare themselves for the inevitable onslaught.

Tony had thought long and hard on how he wanted to fight with Loki from now on– because while he was perfectly capable of holding his own with his gauntlets as he had in Miami, he did miss the extensive arsenal he had always carried as Iron Man, the flexibility and adaptability that the suit had given him. He’d been continuously updating it, improving after every fight, adding and fixing and bettering to make himself stronger and stronger.

The suit they had retrieved from Arlington was the newest model, but even now as he skimmed his eyes over the pieces he had already pulled apart and put back together again, he could think of so many more upgrades, so many things he could do to make it even more impressive.

“Hey, JARVIS?” he asked, causing Loki to look up from where he was considering the pink ring, poking at it with his seiðr in an attempt to find a way to get through to Barnes.

“Yes, Sir?” JARVIS asked.

“The Iron Legion.” Tony frowned, thinking hard.

“What about it?”

“Well… how are they, J? SHIELD didn’t sink their claws into them, did they?”

“I believe I have already told you that Ms Potts has kept all of your assets safe and untouched, Sir, save for this one suit,” JARVIS said.

“And War Machine,” Tony pointed out. “Don’t think I’m going to let any of you forget that any time soon.”

“Of course not.”

Tony pushed away from his seat so that he could move around, being on his feet helping him think. He slapped the screwdriver he held in his right hand against his other palm, the quick fidget settling his mind a little.

“Okay, JARVIS. I’m assuming you already initiated Protocol Batcave. That means that we can’t get them out, not from here. Can I use the emergency override?”

“You can,” JARVIS said. “But forty suits flying from the mansion is going to draw some attention.”

Yeah, that was true– and it was why Tony had decided against it in the first place.

“Okay,” he said, flicking the screwdriver again, feeling the sharp sting on his hand when one hit was a little harder than the others. “Okay. So we can’t get at those, at least– not right now. I can’t get them out altogether, but maybe one at a time, in darkness.”

Tony stored the Iron Legion in the space below his workshop, and there was an exit through the cliffs. In the cover of darkness, so long as the house was not being watched too closely, he should be able to get them out one at a time. He could use one of those to go through with their plan of properly resurrecting Iron Man, and use the suit he had to fight alongside Loki.

But that left him with the problem of how to make it different, because even if he drastically recoloured it, the shape was still so iconically Iron Man that it would be difficult not to make the connection.

As he thought on it, his gaze slipped back over to Loki for a moment, and the corners of his mouth turned up as he watched him. The god looked so focused on his task, hardly noticing that his hair was falling into his face.

Despite the fact that their trips to Florence and the surrounding towns had meant that Loki could pick up his own clothes, he had still taken to wearing Tony’s older stuff around the house. He was wearing a pair of black sweats that he had resized to fit properly – to fit really well, in Tony’s opinion, way better than sweats ever should on a person – and a shirt that he clearly had not resized at all, for it hung too big on his thin frame. It had once been black as well, though it was rather faded, and bore the silver logo of one of Tony’s favourite bands.

Hmm.

Feeling inspired, Tony turned back to his holograms, flicking things into place and making notes on the new suit. The colour scheme was definitely better than the grey he’d had before – this was both practical and intimidating, and with that added touch of shine…

The problem was still the shape though. He could hide the arc reactor with a thick chest plate, but that didn’t change the helmet. He could alter the shape of the faceplate, but that didn’t change the unique sound of the repulsors.

Tony rubbed his hands over his face with a groan. Clearly, this was going to take a bit more creativity.

“Sir,” JARVIS said suddenly. Tony knew that tone, and his hands paused as his head snapped up.

“What is it?” he asked.

“The Avengers are currently having a discussion that concerns you in Stark Tower,” he said. “You, and Mr Liesmith.”

“Lokes,” Tony called, pushing out his chair immediately. “You might want to come and watch this.”

As they watched the footage, they remained entirely quiet, both of them taking in what was being said, what Tony’s former teammates were planning on doing. They stood close but not touching, Loki leaning forward with both hands pressed into the edge of the table, Tony turning the screwdriver over in his hands again, his frown etching hard lines into his face.

Loki hissed when he heard what Odin had told Thor, his lips twisting with hatred. Tony didn’t even say anything then, but dropped the screwdriver to the bench and gently touched his hand to Loki’s arm, just reminding him that he didn’t have to deal with this alone. Not anymore.

And when it was done, Tony turned to Loki with a concerned frown.

“Are you all right?”

“I will be.” Loki pushed up from the bench, and turned to face Tony properly. “What did you think?”

“I think they know more than they’re letting on,” Tony said, pressing his lips tightly together. “Did you see Natasha?”

“That one is smart,” Loki said immediately.

“And she’s with SHIELD,” Tony pointed out. “I’ve never been sure who she would pick, if it came down to it. I think it would depend on who Clint picked, but then I’ve never been entirely sure about him, either.”

“Barton would go with the side he thinks is right,” Loki said, “Though his own compass is… not directed the same way that you might expect.”

Tony inclined his head curiously, and Loki’s gaze darkened a little.

“Do not forget, Anthony,” Loki said. “I know Barton better than you ever could.”

Tony nodded, not willing to argue that point.

“Besides, it is not them that we should worry about,” Loki said. “They maybe be clever, but they are no match for us– and they are mortal. But Thor,” he hissed, his lips twisting into a snarl. “My brother, who knew where I was and left me here to rot—

“Hey, hey,” Tony said, stepping into his space. Loki wrapped his arms around Tony despite the way that he remained tense. “We’re going to be fine.”

“He will fight us,” Loki said. “He will fight me, he always does, he never listens. And he will try to take you away from me, I know it.”

“He can try,” Tony said. “But I know I’m sure as hell not going to let him succeed. What about you?”

“You already know the answer to that,” Loki muttered.

“Well, there you go,” Tony said. “Thor’s pretty strong, yeah, but you’ve almost beaten him loads of times. And one of those was when he had me on his side– and when you weren’t even trying. What’s he going to be able to do now that we’ve joined forces?”

“Be realistic,” Loki said. “He’s…”

“A pain in the ass?”

Loki snorted, and Tony leaned away with a grin.

“Listen, I’m not trying to underestimate him. I just… don’t think we should see this as the end, either. We can use this.”

When Loki arched a brow in obvious question, Tony responded by tugging at his hand, pulling him over to where he had been working on his plans for the suit.

“Don’t you see?” Tony said. “They think that you stole Iron Man. That means that we can put Iron Man on your side, and they still won’t link it to me. It changes things, but not too much– we can hold on to the original plan.”

“The Ten Rings will know what we’re doing,” Loki said shrewdly, though his eyes were gleaming as if he were already coming around to the idea. “SHIELD, and that HYDRA. They will know what we are up to—”

“Yes,” Tony said. “And if we’re controlling what they know, then we can predict their reactions. I’m telling you, this is definitely something we can use.”

Loki’s eyes narrowed, as if he still did not yet see how, but was in the process of puzzling it through himself. Tony knew that they had both planned on the Avengers being out of the loop for just a little longer, on Thor remaining up on Asgard as he had ever since the Battle of New York– but that didn’t mean that they couldn’t adapt. Them realising that Loki was involved in all of this was a setback, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Come on,” Tony said, squeezing Loki’s hand before letting go so that he could focus back on what he had been doing before JARVIS had interrupted with the news about the Avengers. “There’s something that I want to show you. There’s just…” he turned his head, glancing back to where JARVIS had dispelled the screen. “There’s just one adjustment that I’d like to make first.”

“What are you planning?” Loki asked curiously, standing over Tony’s shoulder as he flicked his finger across the hologram, making a single small change.

“Well, we knew that having Iron Man on our side will be useful,” Tony said. “But they think that you stole him, so whenever he shows up again, he’s just going to be treated with suspicion, right?”

“Right,” Loki said, his frown still in place. “So, will you disguise him?”

“Kind of,” Tony said. “You know I was planning on changing my colour scheme anyway. I did have a plan, but… I just had a great idea of what to change it to, something better than what I had before.”

Loki moved a little closer, curious—

And Tony threw out his hands, pulling up a life-sized and coloured hologram of what Iron Man would soon look like, exact to the last detail.

Loki’s eyes widened immediately, his lips parting. “You’re going to wear that?” he whispered.

“I was just going to use the black and silver,” Tony said, pulling up a much smaller image of the original design. “But… I realised, if the Avengers think you’ve stolen Iron Man then we might as well play into it. If they think this is you, then there’s a chance that they still won’t link it to me– and we can bring Iron Man back using one of the other suits, or more than one, when I manage to get my hands back on them without arising suspicion.”

Loki looked like he was hardly listening– he had raised his hand to the hologram, as if he wanted to run his hands over the smooth black metal, the matte colour both better for stealth and a little frightening. Tony watched with bated breath as Loki’s fingers hovered over the faceplate, which was black as well but retained that iconic Iron Man shape. Tony was, admittedly, still a little hesitant over that because he didn’t feel like he should be Iron Man anymore– but the change of colour felt like enough of a difference, and the knowledge that this was the best plan made it easier to swallow. Then Loki’s gaze was following the thin silver lines that ran like veins down the arms, over the chest, and spider-webbed toward the arc reactor in the centre.

The reactor was no longer circular, but nor was it the triangle shape he had worn when he had first met Loki– it was closer to a heart hardened with too many sharp edges, or perhaps the simple outline of a round cut diamond. But Tony knew that it was not the shape of it that had caught Loki’s gaze, that had him reaching out as if he wanted to trace the coloured light with the tips of his fingers.

“What do you think?” Tony asked, reaching out to brush his own fingers over Loki’s wrist, the gesture a familiar comfort.

“I like it,” Loki breathed. He stared at the green reactor for a few moments longer before turning without warning, his hands curling around Tony’s hips to pull him closer as he crashed their lips together. Tony gasped, but he didn’t hesitate in returning the embrace, kissing Loki back with everything he had. His hands sunk into Loki’s hair, and Loki pressed him back against the table, pushing him through the hologram to do so. JARVIS must have dismissed it because then it was just them– it was just Loki, his hands sliding over Tony’s back, under his shirt, then further down to the curve of his ass as he pulled them together closer still.

Even when Tony leaned away, gasping for air, Loki didn’t stop– he moved his mouth to Tony’s throat instead, sucking and nipping at the skin, pulling blood to the surface and no doubt leaving a mark. Tony arched his neck for a few moments, trying to catch his breath with heavy pants—

And then Loki was kissing him again, and Tony lost sense of where Loki’s hands were, because they felt like they were everywhere, tracking blazing trails of heat wherever they touched. His own were at Loki’s hips, his fingers slipping under the waistband of his sweatpants, stalling when he realised that in the few quick moments they had used to change out of their pyjamas Loki hadn’t bothered to put on any underwear. The thought was more than enough to make Tony groan, and he tugged Loki closer, pulling their hips, their arousals flush together.

Loki muffled his own response into Tony’s shoulder, his arms around Tony’s waist now, just holding them close together, their bodies touching everywhere that was possible.

In that moment, there was nothing Tony wanted more than to move, to find that desired friction, to take this exactly where they both so clearly wanted it to go. But… they had agreed to take this slow, and they knew they weren’t in the best state of mind. And yet…

“Do you need longer to work on your armour?” Loki asked, his voice hoarse.

“No,” Tony replied. It came out as little more than a rasp, and he cleared his throat before trying again. “Uh. The suit itself is ready, I fixed it up the other day. JARVIS just needs to paint it.”

Loki didn’t give a verbal response. Tony felt his seiðr curl around them, and he pressed his face into the curve of Loki’s neck, not wanting or needing to see the bright array of colours, even if it was only for half a moment.

They arrived back in their bedroom, still in each other’s arms. Loki hadn’t brought them to stand directly by the bed, and for that Tony was grateful– it gave him a moment to think, or, well. At least to try to.

Loki leaned down to kiss him again, and this time he seemed almost… hesitant, though not in a way that suggested nervousness.

“Lokes,” Tony said, thinking that he knew the problem. “Whatever you want, okay? Only what we both want.”

It seemed to do the trick– Loki relaxed, his full body melting against Tony’s.

Their next kiss was slow, but still heated– and it built back up again with strokes of their tongues, with the grazing of teeth over already swollen lips. One of Loki’s hands slid down Tony’s chest, over his stomach– and then Loki swallowed down Tony’s gasp as his hand cupped the aching bulge between Tony’s legs.

Is this okay?’ Loki’s voice whispered, still nipping at Tony’s lips, his thumb stroking over denim and causing Tony’s thighs to shudder.

‘God yes, Lokes,’ Tony said, thanking whoever was listening that they could talk this way, because he didn’t think he’d be able to manage anything other than a moan, otherwise. ‘Fuck, please don’t stop.’

To make his own desire abundantly clear, Tony slipped his hand back into Loki’s sweatpants, dragging down to the inside of Loki’s thigh.

A low growl sounded deep in Loki’s throat, and then he backed Tony toward the bed, pressing him into the mattress with a hand on his chest, breaking their kiss only long enough for them to find a comfortable position. They’d had to move their hands to do so, and Tony used the opportunity to shove at Loki’s shirt – at Tony’s shirt that Loki was wearing, and fuck but that was suddenly hotter than it had been half an hour ago – but Loki, it seemed, was impatient. Tony felt the familiar prickle of seiðr, and then their clothes were gone.

Tony ran his eyes over Loki, and he knew that Loki was doing the same. He couldn’t help but reach out and touch, to run his hands over the plane of Loki’s chest, and then lower, brushing just either side of the swollen cock that curved up over Loki’s stomach. Loki’s breath hitched and then he pulled Tony closer, his hands sliding down over Tony’s body—

And fuck, the feel of so much skin against his own, oh, Tony knew that he was never going to be able to get enough of it.

‘In the drawer,’ Tony said, unable to think particularly coherently either now, just trying to impress upon Loki the image of what he wanted– and then he felt that familiar touch of magic again, and his hand was suddenly slick. Deciding not to question it and preferring not to waste any more time, Tony curled his hand around the base of Loki’s cock and then stroked up toward the head, swiping his thumb over that sensitive tip before pumping back down. He could hear Loki’s gasps and moans in his ears but his mind was full of something else, full of promises and whispers and vows and declarations and, he knew that Loki must be hearing the same because all Tony could think as Loki’s hand began to stroke Tony’s cock was how fucking much he wanted this, not just this one time, but always. It was a mess of heat and emotion and everything that had been building up for what felt like forever, and Tony moaned into every touch.

Their mouths were occupied with kisses that grew ever sloppier until their lips were just sliding against cheeks, until Tony pressed his face into Loki’s shoulder instead muffling his cries but still wanting as much contact as was possible. And as they both stroked each other to the edge of ecstasy, all Tony knew was the heat of Loki’s body, the whispering pants of his breath, the taste of his skin, the sound of his voice, the feel of their minds pressing together.

Tony came first with a shuddering cry, and Loki followed almost immediately after, the two of them holding each other through the waves of pleasure, knowing without a doubt that they were both equally lost.

It didn’t make a whole lot of sense, because it had only been a handjob but Tony’d had sex in the past that didn’t feel this good. Maybe it was the connection Loki had talked about, or maybe it was just that he’d never felt as strongly about any of his other partners as he did Loki. But whatever it was, Tony let the sensation wash over him as he leaned into Loki’s chest, feeling like he didn’t want to move for at least a week.

Loki cleaned them up with his seiðr – honestly, Tony was loving Loki’s magic more and more with every passing moment – and they just lay entwined, their breathing slowing, fingers trailing lazily over sweaty skin, holding on to that connection for just a little longer.

“So,” Tony said, his voice still sounding a little low. “I guess you really did like the new armour, huh?”

Loki’s fingers stilled for a half a moment. “I… yes,” he said thickly. Then Loki swallowed. “You… it’s in my colour.”

“Yeah,” Tony said, wearing a pleased smile. “I thought that it would help make everyone think you enchanted the suit or something and… well. I guess it makes us look a little more like a team, right? Like we’re together.”

Loki made a strangled noise, his eyes blown wide.

“This is something more to you,” Tony realised. “This… Loki, what?”

There was a moment where all Loki did was stare at Tony with shock, as if he couldn’t believe that this was something Tony wanted. He parted his lips as if he were going to speak, but then, as if he didn’t trust his voice, Loki began to talk with his mind instead. ‘In Asgard,’ he said, ‘In a wedding ceremony, those who are to be bound will exchange their cloaks, a symbol of acceptance, protection, and love. And so, when a person wears another’s insignia, or their colours, it is seen as a declaration. Not necessarily of a betrothal, but certainly one of loyalty and… devotion.’

Loki’s eyes were bright and nervous, and with a rush of warm realisation, Tony thought back to the sweatpants Loki had stolen, to the T-shirt that he hadn’t even resized– and then, well, he couldn’t really help it. Tony turned his head and drew Loki into a kiss, slow and sweet and aching with that single emotion that he didn’t want to name just yet, even though every fibre of his being already knew what it was.

They didn’t go further than a kiss, already satisfied and more than content to just stay close together. And when their lips parted, Tony just leaned back down against Loki’s chest, curling into him with a sigh.

“Do you think you’ll be able to sleep?” Tony whispered. 

“Yes,” Loki replied, his voice equally soft. “I don’t think I’ll have a problem with that again, tonight.”

Tony smiled into Loki’s skin, and splayed his hand over the centre of Loki’s chest, just as Loki had done to him earlier. Loki placed a hand on top, and then Tony turned his own so that their fingers were entwined, curled together and resting over Loki’s heart. Loki’s other arm was snug around Tony’s waist, and he felt so completely calm that even as his eyes began to slip closed, his mind remained calm and quiet.

Sleep, Anthony, Loki whispered. ‘I have you.’

Tony tightened his grip on Loki’s fingers.

‘I’ve got you, too,’ he said.

And as they drifted their minds pulled together, mixing their dreams in a soft comfort that they never would have been able to find alone.