To put it mildly, Loki had never been the conservative kind. Change, chaos and upsetting the status quo, those were the things he believed in. But even he sometimes found truth in the old saying which predicted that “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.
Things certainly had changed, and still, so much remained the same.
Loki was standing by the huge windows in Stark Tower, hands lightly clasped behind his back, looking out over the endless city surrounding the tall building. Without turning he knew that Tony Stark was standing by the bar in the other end of the room. And it was all very familiar. They were in the same positions as they had been the last time they met here.
Only this time, the city was peaceful in the long afternoon shadows. No invading army was falling from the skies, there were no fires and screams. This time, Loki had come unarmed. Or rather, as unarmed as he ever was. He had magic without the scepter, he was lethal without steel. He had nothing to fear.
(But then again, he had said so the last time he stood in this very spot, hadn’t he?)
"I’m surprised to see you here."
Loki still did not turn, but in the reflection he could see the corner of his own mouth twitch upwards.
"Why is that? You yourself invited me, did you not?"
In a manner of speaking…
He had heard the mortal adress the public with his usual bravado, commenting that he knew about Loki’s escape on the way back to Asgard, that he was not afraid, and in fact, if Loki still wanted the drink he had been offered, he knew where he could find it. More of a dare than an invitation, to be fair, but the outcome was the same.
"Let me rephrase. I’m surprised to see you here like this. All… peaceful. And that you didn’t barge in here, guns blazing. So to speak. Or sneak in to throttle me in my sleep.”
This time Loki could see the reflection of his own smile in the window.
He had just silently stepped out of the shadows in a corner, quietly asking for his drink. For a moment he had suspected he would have the oppurtuniy to study a human heartattack up close, but after spitting out a few curses, with his hand pressed to his strangely glowing chest, Stark had calmed down rather quickly. All things considered, it had been quite impressive, to be completely honest. Not that Loki was planning on sharing this opinion, of course.
"I wanted what was promised", he told his reflection.
"Guess that’s easy enough."
There was the clear, ringing sound of glass against glass. Loki turned around to face the man standing behind the counter. Stark gave him a thin, tense smile before he picked up the glasses in front of him, walked around the counter and slowly came towards Loki. He held out his left hand, offering him the glass, half full of amber liquid.
"There you go, big boy."
Loki accepted the glass, and let his fingers slide along Stark’s in the process, just for the expected pleasure of seeing the man flinch. But Stark didn’t flinch, just held still and let him take the glass. Even so, Loki noticed when the dark eyes flitted to where their skin connected, and then back to his face.
Turning back to the view of the city, Loki sipped the drink. It smelled of rich smoke and tasted like wood and something sweet under the strong punch of alcohol. A complex flavour he thought he might learn to appreciate.
Stark cleared his throat behind him. “Would you mind not staring at that window for a minute? It’s freaking me out a bit, to be honest. Are you contemplating throwing me out of it again?”
"That depends on your behaviour, Stark." Loki could not resist adding a slightly threatening bite to his voice, but he did turn away from the window. "Are you contemplating insulting my manhood again?"
"That depends on your behaviour."
For a moment they glared at each other. The mortal seemed to be gripping his glass as if he was thinking about using it as a weapon. Between them, the air almost crackled with tension. Then Loki slowly and deliberately turned his back and walked over to the nearby couch. He sat down, leaning forward with his elbows on his leather covered knees, both hands around his drink. With his eyes in the golden liquor, he heard when Stark followed him, hesitating slightly, and felt the dip in the cushion when the man sat down. Surprisingly close, considering the size of this piece of furniture.
"Out to prove how little you fear me, Stark?"
"Sure. I’m feeling pretty safe right now, actually. You nearly scared the literal shit out of me, showing up out of nowhere like that, I’ll give you that one. But with that in mind, you could have turned me into a bloody pulp then and there. So I’m guessing there is something staying your hand."
Loki glanced up at the man’s face. It was still tense, clearly expecting anything at any time, but there was no real fear there. There was something else glinting in the dark eyes, though, something he could not put a name to just yet.
"Or you’re after something, besides that drink", Stark added and made a gesture towards Loki’s glass with his own before taking a sip.
Loki sighed and drank, deeply. It burned his throat rather pleasantly, warming his chest. “As a matter of fact, I am here for something else.”
Loki put his almost empty glass on the table in front of them, before turning his head to study the mortal. “I need something from you, Stark.”
"And what would that be?"
Stark’s eyebrows shot up. “Come again?”
"I am bored out of my mind. Being on the run, it sounds so much more exciting than it is." Loki pushed himself to his feet, walked over to the bar and picked up a square bottle, opening it to smell its contents. "All I do is hide. It is beyond boring."
Finding that the bottle held the same liquid he had already tasted, Loki brought it back to the couch, sat down and refilled his glass. Before he had put the bottle down, another glass was wordlessly placed next to his own. He filled that one as well, and then leaned back, the leather of his armour creaking just slightly.
"I need a distraction from my tedious lurking in the shadows. Your invitation came at the perfect time."
Stark stared, and nearly emptied his glass again. “You are bored, running from, well, everyone. Including the Avengers, I might add. And you come to me for a drink? Hoping I would save the day? Is this where I should feel flattered? I hope it is. Because I think I sort of do.”
"No sudden urges to call on the rest of your mighty heroes?"
"Would there be any point?"
"None. I would be gone before they could lay a finger upon me."
"Thought so." Stark finished his drink and refilled the glass again. "So, what do you want me to do? Obviously you don’t want to try and find out if i bounce this time. So how can I entertain you? Should I dance? Juggle?"
"Preferably not", Loki said, shrugging the armoured shoulders. "I would rather have you just… talking to me. You never said anything to particularly warm my heart before, but still, I have had my fill of silence."
"Then you are in luck. Talking, that I can do."
"That comes as no surprise."
The man wasted no time getting started.
"First of all, I just have to know how you got away from Thor. We got a message that you went missing, and that was it."
Loki huffed a short laugh, mirthless. “It was assumed the Cube would hold me fettered, not just open the path through space. It did not. All I had to do, was let go. Thor arrived in Asgard, while I never left Midgard.”
"Did you know that would happen? Where you would end up?"
He sat silent for a moment, thinking of lies, and then he decided not to use them. What did it matter now, anyway?
"No. I could have ended up anywhere. But it was a risk I was more than willing to take."
"Sometimes anywhere - and anything - is better than what you know."
Stark drank, seemingly deep in thought. Then he nodded slightly. “You did the same thing before, didn’t you? Leaving Asgard? Just… played some intergalactic roulette?”
The last part meant nothing, but the observation was true enough to make Loki turn his head away. He had not even let himself think about it that way. There was no answer he wanted to give, but he knew that in itself would tell the mortal more than enough.
"And you did the same coming here. Am I right?"
"Sometimes anyone is better than nothing." Loki gave the answer without turning back.
"Anyone?!" Stark gave an offended kind of snort. "Really? Do I look like anyone to you? That’s it! No more of the good scotch for you."
True to his word, the man picked up the bottle from the table, walked to the bar and exchanged it for another. With rather a lot of probably unnessecary rattling and banging of glass and the doors of cupboards.
After that, there was silence. Although sitting in silence beside another living, breathing, thinking being was better than lonely quiet. Most of the tension had gone out of the air between them now, perhaps because of the drinks.
Or perhaps not.
Even though he had gone surprisingly quiet, Stark’s thinking was almost loud enough to fill the silence on its own. Now, obviously more relaxed, the mortal stared openly, until his gaze almost burned Loki’s skin.
Finally Loki had had enough of it. He turned, pulling one leg up in the couch, slinging an arm over the back of his seat, to stare right back. The movement made the dark eyes blink, once, but the man still did not flinch. And that glint of something unnamed was stronger now, turned to a glow. That was what had burned him.
"Have I grown a second head without me noticing?" Loki heard the growl in his own voice. "What are you staring at so hard, Stark?"
"Well, at you, obviously." He made another gesture towards Loki with his glass, this time making the liquid slosh around perilously close to the rim. "You think I have this kind of company for drinks every night? You’re not exactly ‘anyone’ yourself. Actually, you’re pretty goddamn impressive." He pulled a face. "Perhaps not always in the healthiest way possible. But still. And I didn’t get a good look at you, this close, last time. The detail of your armour is really amazing. Why’d you pick that shade of green?"
So that was it. Loki straightened his neck as his eyes narrowed, studying Stark’s bearded face. The bright sparkle finally had a name - curiosity. Loki wondered if anyone had ever been curious about him before.
Stark was leaning forward now, putting the glass on the table while his eyes were still following the lines of black and green in front of him. Then he gave Loki a wide smile.
"Is there any way you could be persuaded to get up and let me have a look at what you’re wearing?"
Loki almost spat out a sharp refusal, instinctively, but he stopped himself. There was something irresistably flattering about this curiosity, the honest and very real interest in his person. He was not used to this amount of attention being turned on him - at least not voluntarily - and he found himself unable to refuse the request.
Slowly he unfolded himself from the half sitting, half curled up position, got to his feet and walked out on the floor. He turned, arms slightly lifted from his sides with the empty, white palms of his hands out.
A wordless invitation.
Stark was out of the couch in the blink if an eye. Every trace of tension and wary hesitation had disappeared by now. He circled Loki once, at a distance, and then moved in closer. With his eyebrows up, questioningly, he raised his hands and wiggled his fingers in the air.
Loki was the one to hesitate this time. But just for a moment. Then he nodded his permission.
Immediately the hands were on his arm, lifting it to study the ornamented metal bracer closely. They followed the black and green length of his upper arm, touching the thick, heavy leather covering his left shoulder, moving around his back to touch the intricate metal covering his right. He had expected the man to make another circle, but instead Loki felt the investigating hands sneak under his arms to the front of his body. There they pressed against the armour plate protecting his chest, before sliding down across green fabric and black leather. They were pulling at leather straps and metal buckles, touching the studs at the right side of his waist.
Loki found himself holding his breath. And that was before the hands continued moving even further. He looked down to see fingers pulling at the metal edge of the leather falling diagonally over the top of his thighs, finding their way in under it. Then the tips of those fingers brushed against his skin, and he was unable to stop himself making a short, sharp intake of air.
No-one had touched him in what felt like forever. At least for any other purpose than to do harm, and this did not feel the same. It did strange and unfamiliar things to him. He was not at all sure he liked those things.
The fingers didn’t pull away. Loki raised his chin and stared straight ahead.
"I think that is enough looking."
"Oh? Sure. I’ll just…"
Loki felt a pull on his armour. Then another. But the hand was still there.
"You’re probably not going to believe this", Stark mumbled. "Actually, I know you won’t. But I can’t get my hand out."
"What are you talking about?"
"Yeah, well, I think my watch is caught in something. I probably have to reach further to unhook it." He cleared his throat. "Sorry. I’ll be out of there as soon as I can."
Loki kept his eyes fixed on the darkening city skyline as he felt the hand, now trembling slightly, reach in further under his armour. Stark was almost invisible in their reflection in the window. Just one hand still splayed over his chest, the other disappearing under the black leather. The sight made Loki even more uneasy, and he shifted his focus back to the city beyond.
When the hand finally left his bare skin he didn’t even have time to feel relieved, before it moved down over his pants, and then…
"That, Stark, is not part of my armour.” There was a horrible, hoarse catch in his voice that he immediately blamed on the liquor.
"You sure? Hard enough to be." Stark tapped his fingertips against Loki’s breastplate, as if in comparison. His voice had an almost identical hoarseness.
Definitely the liquor then.
As he felt fingers trace the curve of him, a tiny voice in Loki’s mind reminded him that he had come here to get away from his dull hiding. That he had known, all along, that Stark was the only one who might be, well, interesting. Why else had he chosen to come here, of all places?
But even having entered this room alone and unarmed, Loki had not felt vulnerable. Now he did. And it was utterly unbearable.
He grabbed Stark’s arm and pulled it away, not caring about what might get ripped in the process. In the same movement he spun on his heel, staring down at the mortal’s face.
"Is this when the insults start coming?" Standing this close, Loki felt more comfortable behind a familiar hostility. Another form of armour. "What do you have brewing in that clever, insolent head of yours?"
"I’ve got nothing." Stark’s voice was still husky. His eyes were suddenly very wide and almost black. "Actually. I think I may have to take back what I said before as well."
The tension, strong enough to make the air crackle, was back again. But this time, it felt different.
When the hands reached for him again, Loki could not feel any surprise. Not after seeing that curious sparkle in the dark eyes. It was sharper this time, more intense. Demanding satisfaction.
The tremble was gone now, fingers nimble as they worked on freeing him from his pants.
"What do you think you are doing?" Loki’s voice sounded distant even in his own ears.
"I’m not. Thinking, that is."
That was when the fingers had navigated the lining of his pants, reaching in, touching, closing around him. A firm, warm press of flesh and bone.
Loki decided that Stark had the right idea. Thinking was completely overrated.
Slowly backing towards the couch, he pulled the mortal along with hands gripping muscular shoulders. When he sat down, he pushed Stark down on the floor between his thighs. There was no resistance, and the hands where back on him at once.
"I guess you were right. In the end, we always kneel." Stark flashed him a grin, in spite of the admission.
Loki’s throathy laugh turned into a moan as he let his head fall back, the words undoing him even more than the stroking hands.
It did not take much to send him helplessly tumbling over the edge. It had all been pain and horror and isolation for far too long to hold anything back. The hot slick of a mouth closed around him in the final moment, preventing him from soiling himself. Not that he would have cared about the stains in the least, but the warm wet made him tumble further, lost in a whirl of smoky exctacy.
When Loki was able to lift his head and open his eyes again, his armour was as if it had never been touched. Stark was sitting next to him, looking just as unruffled. And rather pleased with himself.
"How you feeling?"
Stark chuckled at that.
"I have to admit, you exeeded all possible expectations." Loki allowed himself a wide grin. That had also been too long ago. "You saved the day."
Stark’s laugh was deep and honest. “Does that make me your knight in shining armour?”
Loki rolled his eyes. “I very much prefer you without the armour.”
"You want to find out if that feeling is mutual?"
Their eyes met for a few long, silent moments.
"May be that I do", Loki finally said. "When I feel safer about removing it. When I’m not hiding from everyone. Including you, Stark."
"That day may never come. You know that, right?"
"Oh, I am well aware." Loki slowly got to his feet, once more looking out over the city, now all floating lights in the darkness. "But at least I did get my drink. At long last."
Loki studied the man’s now serious face. “If it’s all the same to you, I might want another.”
He remained in the room long enough to see one corner of Stark’s mouth pull up in a familiar movement, then he reached for his magic and let the swirl of green swallow him.
Once more he was lurking in lonely shadows, running away, about to be bored out of his mind all over again. And perhaps - no, probably - a lot sooner this time around.