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Hold me Close (and don't let go)

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Humans were fleeting, this Loki knew well. 

Their affections ebbed and waned, their lives over in the blink of an eye. Perhaps it was their freedom, that bright temporary spark, that drew Loki in. 

In this sense, Tony Stark was the most human of them all. The man was both broken and melded in steel, his very essence wrought with pain yet strengthened through those experiences. He reminded Loki of himself, and it was that connection that led to their current relationship. 

After the invasion, after his struggles and the reveal of his true Jotunn nature, Loki had felt lost. He’d walked the roots of Yggdrasil, letting them lead him wherever they wished. After all, he had no where left to go. The home he thought he’d had was never his to begin with.

When the paths spit him out into Stark’s workshop, he wasn’t sure who was more surprised, him or Stark. Judging by the fact that Stark recovered quickly, a bark of orders at JARVIS and the quick arming of a repulser aimed his way, Loki would say he was the one most shocked at this development. 

Before Stark could ask questions, ones that Loki couldn’t and didn’t want to answer (he was exhausted, a bone deep weariness that weighed his shoulders down with their truths and lies), Loki straightened up and shot Stark a smirk. 

“This is quite a rude welcome, Stark. I was promised a drink.” 

It was a long, tense moment, with Stark’s eyes searching his. He must have found what he was looking for because he slowly lowered his hand, the glow dimming into nothing as he disengaged it. Ignoring the protests that JARVIS raised, Stark sighed and jerked his head towards the doors. 

“Guess I can entertain you for a while. Nothing else to do.” 

That obviously wasn’t true, and Loki finally took in the state of the workshop, the disarray and the dark circles under Stark’s eyes. The man looked like a mess, but he knew he didn’t look much better. They were kindred spirits. 

More than that, Loki could see the burning curiosity in Stark’s eyes. Despite that, he had enough sense to not ask questions, which Loki felt a modicum of gratefulness for. 

“For your sake I hope your drinks will be sufficient. Wouldn’t want to destroy another window, now would we?” 

When Stark barked out a surprised snort of laughter, Loki smiled, glad he’d taken the words as the joke they were meant rather than a true threat. He followed Stark to the main room, wondering if he’d made a mistake in coming here. It hadn’t been his intention, but if Yggdrasil led him here…then perhaps this was a fated meeting. 

One drink became two, and then many more as Loki came and went. The paths always led him into Stark’s workshop, as if drawn to the very heart of him. Loki knew this freedom with Stark’s home and heart was rare, but when Stark didn’t ban him from the workshop, the relief that followed was almost staggering in its intensity. 

Perhaps it wasn’t such a surprise then that fond friendship grew into attraction. Until Stark became Tony in his eyes, and Loki became someone Tony viciously protected. Loki hadn’t planned to act on the feelings, after all, he knew humans. They were fickle, and their affections changed many times over the course of their lives. For beings who lived as long as Loki did, relationships weren’t something that could be easily dismissed. A god’s love was devotion, a love that lasted for decades if not centuries. He wouldn’t survive having Tony only for a few scant years. 

Even as he thought that, he couldn’t resist the pull of calloused hands and playful remarks. Sweat slick bodies and mutual release soon grew into casual physical affection, and whispered words of love in the darkness of night. It was more than Loki could have ever hoped for, more than he could have predicted when he first stepped into a workshop and into the heart of Tony Stark. 

But he had always known there was a time limit, that eventually he would overstay his welcome. He’d learned after all, that home was not something a monster like him deserved. 

He didn’t think that time would come while sitting on a couch with Barton stuffing his face, giant handfuls of buttery popcorn staining his lips with grease.

“Awww look at them.” 

Usually Loki would ignore Barton, their co-existence amounted to very pointedly ignoring each other whenever they were in the same room. The Avengers had found out about Loki a few months into his…relationship with Tony. Until then it hadn’t been intentional avoidance, but certainly strategic timing so that his visits coincided with times when most of the Avengers were out of the tower. 

They’d been distracted, lost in panting mouths and wandering hands when Steve Rogers had wandered into Tony’s living room looking for him. Suffice to say the confused shouts and near injuries were enough to dissuade both Tony and him from keeping it a secret from the rest of the Avengers. It wasn’t a smooth transition, and the Captain’s disappointment had left Tony morose for days, but the Avengers slowly learned to accept Loki’s presence. A resigned acceptance but one nonetheless. 

Loki glanced at the screen where the movie was playing, squinting at the dramatic kiss under the rain. It was movie night, something Tony had insisted he join even when he’d curled his lips at doing something so mundane with a bunch of mortals. The glare he received reminded him that Tony was a mortal as well, and that it would be wise for Loki to make an effort, otherwise he would be forced to sleep on the couch again. An undignified position for a once-prince of Asgard. 

He’d agreed on the condition that he only attend when Thor was away from Midgard. They hadn’t reconciled yet, and he wasn’t eager to face the pitiable faces Thor would throw at him. As Tony had called it, Thor’s ‘puppy dog’ faces irritated him as much as it made him grudgingly guilty.  

When he turned back to Barton with a raised brow the other man wasn’t looking at the screen but rather into the kitchen. Confused, Loki leaned back into the loveseat, squinting at the kitchen. All he saw was Rogers and Tony bickering over the popcorn, both having different opinions on how long to pop it for. Tony grabbed the bag and tugged, but he was no match for supersoldier strength. He stared up at Steve with a betrayed pout until Steve finally gave in with a sigh and relinquished his hold on the bag. 

“Mom and Dad are at it again,” Natasha spoke up dryly from her armchair, playing with a dagger procured from…somewhere as she threw it up and flipped it in dazzling arcs.

Loki felt a cold trickle travel down his spine, a confusion that he didn’t enjoy and the sensation that he was the butt of a joke. 

“What is it?” Loki all but barked out, his eyes narrowing when Bruce was the first to answer, taking his glasses off and wiping it with his shirt in a nervous gesture. He didn’t meet Loki’s eyes when he put them back on, a small smile on his face that didn’t soften the blow of his words. 

“Well, we always called them that. It’s an Avengers thing.” 

Loki was about to snarl and demand answers when Barton snorted, almost inhaling a popcorn up his nostril. “Yeah watching Tony with Steve was just pathetic. Glad you’re here to put a stop to that now.”

Barton paused, his face going through a complicated series of emotions before settling on a constipated look. “Although I have to say it might be fucking worse now because we have to see you guys suck face everywhere,” Barton shrugged, as if he didn’t just uproot Loki’s entire world. “It’s like a given, the Avengers are heroes, Tony has a crush on Steve, and you’re evil.” 

Loki barely reacted to the finger pointed at him, his breath coming out in a sharp hiss, feeling like he’d been punched in the guts. When he stood abruptly, he didn’t even have the presence of mind to enjoy the yelp of terror from Barton. 

“That was a joke! Only two of those three were true I swear!” 

Loki turned just before he left the room, and he knew from the way the Avengers discretely reached for their weapons that his eyes were Jotunn red and his expression murderous. “I hope for your sake it is the correct two.” 

With those ominous parting words he left the room. He was just close enough to hear Tony’s confused “Where’s Loki?” before he stepped onto Yggdrasil’s paths and left. 

He needed to think. 

xxxxxx

He slipped into bed that night much calmer and feeling a tad embarrassed that he’d been so affected by Barton’s claims. When Tony grumbled and turned towards him, sleepily hooking an arm around Loki’s waist, Loki knew he had nothing to worry about. 

“Where’d you go?” Tony mumbled, still half asleep and his words muffled by Loki’s chest. 

“I went to Alfheimr to peruse their tomes. I hope you fared well in my absence.” 

It was a prodding statement, almost with the lilt of a question and filled with the need for reassurance. Tony seemed to sense that because he cracked his eyes open, just enough to squint grumpily at Loki. 

“Was quiet without you.” 

Loki smiled and pressed his lips to Tony’s hair, breathing him in. He knew the unspoken ‘I missed you’ and ‘I love you’ Tony just gave him, and it made him hold Tony tighter against him. 

“I’ll try not to leave for too long.” 

Tony snuffled contently at that and drifted off to sleep, his fingers curled on Loki’s chest and his head resting on the vulnerable dip where neck met shoulder. Each puff of breath calmed Loki, and soon he was pulled into the darkness of sleep. 

xxxxxx

For a while everything was well. Loki did not think again of Barton’s words, and he didn’t need to because he spent every waking moment with Tony, pressing kisses onto his skin and resting his hand on his mortal just so he can feel his warmth. It settled him, this casual possessiveness Tony allowed and gave back tenfold. If Loki wasn’t a god, he would be marked with bruises from Tony’s mouth. As it was, Tony complained often but he was the only one painted with marks of their affection and passion. 

Sometimes though, it was hard not to notice, once he started to look. 

“Can you pass me the sugar?” 

Loki flicked his fingers and the sugar container floated over with a wave of green magic. When Tony grabbed it, however, Loki raised a brow as he placed it next to the cup at the head of the table. He waited, and when Tony didn’t use it, he sat down next to the man with his cup of tea in hand. 

It was early morning, or very late at night if one was to ask Tony. They’d both stayed up in the workshop working on their respective disciplines and had come up for breakfast. 

When Steve came in, looking much too awake for how early it was, Tony gestured to the cup of coffee and the sugar. Steve flashed him a brilliant smile before taking a seat. 

If that was it, then Loki could have dismissed it. It wasn’t unusual for teammates and friends to learn each other’s preferences, especially when they lived in such close quarters. But the soft, pleased smile Tony hid behind his own coffee cup was what made Loki tighten his grip and look away. 

“Uh, reindeer games you might want to loosen your hold there.” 

Loki blinked and looked at his cup, realizing there were small fractures on it now from his tense hold. “My apologies,” Loki murmured before sending a wisp of magic and repairing it. 

Tony eyed him worriedly, and his hand stroked gently down Loki’s arm in a gesture of comfort, but Loki couldn’t enjoy it. Not when his mind kept repeating that look Tony had worn, the true pleasure and almost love in his eyes as Steve had smiled at him. Loki would know, after all he’d been the recipient of such a look for months now. 

Loki glanced at Tony as he spoke with Steve, his hands waving animatedly and the coffee in his cup threatening to spill. He watched as Steve would exasperatedly place a hand on Tony’s to still his movements, just enough that Tony kept talking without even noticing the subtle guiding touch. 

Tony was a jewel in this otherwise useless mortal realm. Loki had thought he was the only one who saw that, but he realized now it was foolish. The Captain was well loved and respected. He was practically a god on this realm, and faced with his affections, it would be difficult to feel anything but joy. 

Why would Tony ever choose Loki over Steve? Loki was a disgraced once-prince of Asgard, a Jotunn and a monster. He could see now that Tony loved him, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t love someone more. Someone like Steve. A hero and a good man. 

“Loki.” 

Loki turned to face Tony, a falsely pleasant smile on his face. By the deepening frown Tony wore, he knew he had failed to fool him. 

“I am well, Tony. Just distracted by some spellwork I need to unravel.” 

Tony nodded, taking his answer at face value, but Loki still felt the concerned glances Tony and even Steve sent his way. 

Loki took a fortifying sip of his tea, his mind already starting a countdown. It seems his time with Tony would be shorter than he’d anticipated. 

If his hands shook minutely, and the despair in his heart felt like the first time he’d experienced the ice of his Jotunn form, he didn’t acknowledge it. 

xxxxxx

Loki started noticing more things from then on. Tony was an absentminded person, that’s why he had JARVIS to set reminders for him. He liked to immerse himself in his inventing, usually for so long that he forgot his own bodily needs. That was when Loki stepped in, to remind Tony he was still mortal and would need more sustenance than the oil concoctions DUM-E tried to feed him. 

Loki knew Tony was a genius, his mind filled with only what he deemed important. That was why it had surprised him when he found out Tony had Steve’s routine memorized. Steve was a man of routine, understandable when he’d been thrust into a world unlike the one he’d been born in. 

Tony would ask JARVIS what time it was, and immediately knew where he could find Steve, often bringing his inventions with him that he needed Steve to test. Loki had trailed along at first, his excuse was that if anything went wrong with the new equipment, he could step in and help. But after watching the way Tony helped Steve into his new armor, the jokes and admiring looks at Steve’s form-fitting armor, Loki had started avoiding the whole ordeal. 

It was too much for him, to see the man he loved admire another. Loki should be used to it by now, after all, he’d lived his whole life as the second choice. He was second to Thor in everything. It would stand to reason that even on Midgard, his place by Tony’s side would be taken by another blond-haired warrior. 

It felt hard to breath sometimes, the choking vice on his heart making his conversations with Tony more subdued. They used to banter and snark, but even Tony seemed to be affected by Loki’s mood, his smiles a little sadder and more resigned as Loki retreated. It wasn’t that he started ignoring Tony, he couldn’t do that even if he tried, but he was readying himself for the inevitable end. Building up the walls around his heart so that when the day came, he could leave Tony graciously and with nothing but well wishes. 

Loki sighed, staring down at the tome he’d stolen from a light elf. He hadn’t lied to Tony, he’d went to Alfheimr to use their library, only he’d decided to keep one of the books rather than borrow it. 

The tome was interesting, but his mind was still on Tony, knowing he was with the Captain in the gym where Steve was testing out the new arm braces Tony had made him. 

“Is something wrong Mr. Liesmith?” 

“I’ve already told you to call me Loki, computer.” 

“I will when you call me JARVIS,” JARVIS replied primly, an indignant tone to his words. 

It was an ongoing game between them, one that had concerned Tony at first but that he’d allowed once he realized it was Loki and JARVIS’ weird way of bonding. Loki had a healthy appreciation for Tony’s brilliant creation. After all, it was likely the only thing that kept Tony alive for so long. Without constant reminders and an omniscient AI to watch after Tony’s health, Loki was fairly certain Tony would’ve died of dehydration and starvation long ago. 

Perhaps Tony’s subconsciousness had created JARVIS in a bid for survival. It amused Loki to no end that JARVIS had sounded genuinely relieved once he’d realized Loki would be sharing in the task of taking care of their resident genius. 

He’d never seen it as a burden and he knew JARVIS didn’t either, no matter how much the AI complained. They loved Tony. 

Loki tapped his slim fingers against the weathered pages for a few moments more before he gave in. 

“Has Tony ever spoken to you about the Captain?” 

In answer, JARVIS threw up a wall of information, spinning blue lights that flicked through file after file. 

“Steve Rogers, commonly known as Captain America is the Stark’s greatest achievement as well as a source of pride.” 

Loki watched as picture after picture flew past, black and white photos of Steve’s bright grin as he joked with his comrades. The grim press of his lips and the snarl of his mouth as he fought and saved lives. He was a hero. 

Loki waved a hand, dismissing the images as he stared down at his tome with a distant gaze. 

“If you’d like,” There was a flash of amusement in JARVIS’ voice, the information he’d deigned to share clearly a source of embarrassment for Tony. “You can ask sir on the contents of his secret room.” 

Loki’s head shot up at that, his grip on the metal table hard enough to dent. “What secret room?” 

He didn’t mean to sound harsh, but JARVIS was an intelligent AI, and it seemed he’d picked up on the fact that Loki didn’t share his humor over the situation. 

“It is not an actual secret,” JARVIS replied, more hesitant now and careful with his words. “But it is best if you ask sir yourself.” 

The room was tense after that, a silence to it that was only broken by Loki’s harsh breathing. Eventually he closed the tome and stood up, tucking it under an arm. He frowned at the finger shaped dents on the table and sent his seidr to it, fixing the damage he’d wrought. 

He left, steps stiff as he felt his hackles rise. He may be a disgraced prince but he was still more than a mere mortal. He would face this with dignity, and let the pieces fall where they may.

xxxxxx

Tony wasn’t sure why Loki was pulling away. Things had been going great, awesome even. For once in his god damn life he had someone who didn’t want to change him, who matched him biting remark for teasing smirk. Loki was everything he could wish for in a partner, and he was so grateful he’d decided to let him into his heart that very first time. 

Loki seemed more distant now, pensive and more prone to snapping words with the intent to hurt. Of course, Tony had been spared his ire, but the rest of the Avengers had raised their concerns over Loki being more…volatile than usual. 

He’d meant to talk to Loki that night, but instead his plans were put aside for Loki’s bizarre question. 

“I asked your computer something today.” 

The words were flippantly casual, Loki wasn’t even looking at him, his eyes on the ceiling and fingers tracing patterns onto Tony’s back where he was laying on Loki’s chest. 

“What did you and JARVIS talk about? Conspiring against me again?” Tony grumbled half-heartedly as he raised his head up enough to rest his chin on his hands, flat against Loki’s chest. Instead of taking the bait and flashing him an exasperated smile like he usually did, Loki only frowned in answer. 

“He said you have a secret room.” 

Tony blinked at him, confused. “You mean my workshop?” 

Loki made a small sound of frustration, his fingers pausing his soothing motions. Tony made a noise of protest and only relaxed when Loki continued his ministrations. 

“He had implied this room had something to do with that Captain of yours.” 

Loki’s words had an odd tinge of bitterness to it, an emphasis on the ‘yours’ part of the sentence that made Tony wary. 

“Oh, I think I know what you’re talking about. You mean the Captain America room.” 

Loki tensed at that, and Tony felt himself grow concerned when Loki removed his hands entirely from Tony’s back. “You have a secret room for the Captain?” 

Tony shrugged, still unsure as to what this conversation was about. “It’s not really a secret. I mean, every American basically has a shrine for the great Captain America. My dad just took it a step further and made it an entire room full of Steve’s stuff. I have to tell you, if you’re a Captain America fanboy it’s the stuff of dreams,” Tony squinted at Loki for a moment before his mouth broke into an amused grin. “Are you a Captain America fanboy? Why Loki, you could’ve just asked. I’m sure I could ask dear old Steve for an autograph for you.” 

Loki scoffed. “I would hardly count myself as one of the Captain’s vapid fans,” He paused for a long moment before finally meeting Tony’s eyes for the first time that night, a vulnerable gleam to them that made Tony want to hold him close. “So it is merely a room your dad created in honor of the Captain?” 

“Yeah,” Tony sighed, feeling the tense moment pass. “I gave most of it back to Steve when he came back, but there were some things he didn’t want anymore and I thought it’d be a shame to throw away. They’re kind of collecting dust in that room now.” 

Loki was quiet, his eyes darting over Tony’s face as if trying to find any hint of a lie. Eventually he relaxed, his hands coming up to Tony’s back and resting there with a possessiveness that made Tony sigh happily. 

“I see, then you must show me this room some time,” Loki’s voice had a teasing note to it, and it wasn’t until Tony heard it again that he realized how much he had missed it. It was mischievous and Tony just knew Loki wanted to check out the room because he hoped to find some blackmail on Steve.

Tony was about to open his mouth and agree when JARVIS spoke up. 

“Sir, apologies for the interruption, but the Captain is requesting your presence in the gym. His arm brace seems to be broken.” 

Tony let out a string of curses before sighing, a helpless smile on his face. Steve didn’t seem like it but he was prone to accidents like this, still largely unused to the strength the serum had given him. Although it was a point of pride for Tony that Steve always used his full strength when testing Tony’s tech. Steve trusted him to create the best protection for them, and Tony was loathe to disappoint him. 

He turned back to Loki, a little absentminded as he was already making plans in his head for possible improvements to Steve’s brace. “Duty calls,” Tony pressed a kiss to Loki’s lips, one meant to be quick and chaste. 

He let out a grunt of surprise when Loki’s hand shot up and clamped itself on his neck, pulling Tony down until he was straddling Loki and his mouth was being ravaged. He was effectively distracted by the kiss, so much in fact that he only broke off with a pant when JARVIS let out a pointed cough. 

“Yeah, yeah I’m going,” Tony grumbled before turning to Loki with a blinding smile, a joke about cockblocking AIs and captains on the tip of his tongue. His words died in his throat when he saw Loki’s expression though. 

It was something Tony had only seen when he spoke about Odin and his adoptive family. The flat tone of voice he used as he tried to hide his pain, the reminder of his family’s abandonment always causing a distinctly desperate look in his eyes. Tony was faced with those eyes now, and he was knocked breathless at how utterly distraught Loki looked. 

“Stay.” 

The word was a quiet, hoarse sound. Rough from emotions more than the kiss they’d shared. 

“Loki?” Tony reached a hand out, wanting to comfort and throat closing up from the pain he’d heard in Loki’s voice. Loki caught his hand before it could make contact and laced their fingers together, a desperate hold that made Tony wince. “Is everything okay?” 

Loki didn’t meet his eyes, and Tony watched him swallow hard once, twice before he closed his eyes and his face went startlingly blank. Loki let go. 

“I am well, go tend to your Captain.” 

Loki gently moved until Tony was no longer on top of him, until Loki could turn his back to Tony and burrow himself deeper into the blankets. Tony wasn’t sure what had just happened but he had a sinking feeling in his chest that this wasn’t something he could fix. 

“Are you sure?” 

“Yes, Stark. I am merely tired. I wish to rest.” 

Oh, and that hurt a lot. Stark. Loki hadn’t called him that since they’d become involved. He didn’t know what was happening, or why Loki was acting this way. Tony just knew that things were falling apart faster than he could keep up with, and he wasn’t sure how to fix it. 

“Yeah I…okay. Whatever you need, Loki.” 

Tony got off the bed and turned to go but hesitated for a second more. He swiftly turned back to Loki and leaned over his curled up form, just enough to press a kiss to Loki’s dark hair. 

“I love you,” Tony whispered, a little desperately. When Loki didn’t reply other than his fist clenching harder into the bed sheets, Tony leaned back, trying not to let it get to him. Loki had his bad days, just like Tony did. He shouldn’t take this personally. 

He left the room soon after, the soft click of the door closing sounding heartbreakingly final in the stillness of night. 

“Sir?” JARVIS’ voice was soft in the hallway, and Tony looked up, realizing that he’d been leaning on their bedroom door. 

“I’m fine,” Tony said, wiping a weary hand down his face. He didn’t know what to do, but he knew this was how it had felt those final weeks before Pepper had left him. “Let’s go help Steve.” 

JARVIS was quiet for a long moment before he replied. 

“Of course, sir.” 

xxxxxx

It wasn’t long before his feelings of inadequacy manifested themselves through tricks. 

The first time was during breakfast, when the Captain had poured his sugar into his coffee and took a sip only to choke, his face scrunching up at the bizarre taste of salty coffee. 

“Is something the matter, Captain?” Loki asked sweetly, and he could already feel Tony’s suspicious squint drilling into the back of his head.

“Must have used the wrong shaker,” He replied before getting up to dispose of his coffee. 

The team was there as well, and though they’d paused at Captain’s sputtering sounds, the conversation soon picked up again around them. Barton reached out and took the shaker and dumped some onto his eggs before shoveling it into his mouth. It took him a few chews before he seemed to register the taste and make a face. 

“What the fuck? Why is this sweet?” 

The team rolled their eyes at his antics, likely dismissing it for his usual flair for dramatics. Barton, however, seemed to cotton onto the fact that something was wrong and he settled his glare at Loki. He pointed two fingers at his own eyes before stabbing them in Loki’s direction, a clear message that he would be watching the trickster. 

Loki hid his smug smile behind the lip of his mug. When he met Tony’s eyes, he saw a hint of worry there but the mortal toasted him with a matching mischievous look. 

xxxxxx

Things soon grew worse for the poor Captain, as his day to day life was plagued by incidents that could be chalked up to bad luck, but was really the direct result of Loki’s gleeful ire. 

Rogers seemed to finally catch onto the fact that Loki was the culprit when he came out of the shower bright pink, courtesy of a simple spell that had tinged the water with pink dye. He’d sat them down and frowned at Loki disappointedly but Loki refused to admit to anything. He’d seemed resigned to suffering through it, but Loki should have known the conniving Captain wouldn’t back down without a fight. 

“So, word on the Avengers grapevine says that you’ve been up to something.” 

Loki glanced up from where he’d been sitting at Tony’s penthouse bar, a glass of wine in hand. He closed the book he’d been reading and set it down gently before taking a sip from his glass, an eyebrow raised. 

“Perhaps your Captain is delusional. Not everyone is out to undermine him,” Loki sniffed primly, his smirk definitely making his words even harder to believe. 

Tony shot him a helpless smile before stepping closer and pressing a kiss to his hair. “Just give the Captain a break. He stopped using utensils because every single one turns into a snake. Now who could’ve done that?” 

Tony pulled back enough to send Loki a barely held together frown, his eyes sparkling with amusement. 

“Hm,” Loki hummed, turning in his seat so that he could pull Tony in close and bracket him with his legs. “It is unfortunate the Captain doesn’t appreciate snakes.” 

“I think it’s less about the snakes and more about the fact that he can’t eat with anything but his fingers.” 

“That problem could be solved if his fingers also turn into snakes-“

“Nope, we are not going to do that,” Tony pressed a kiss to Loki’s pout. “We are going to leave the good Captain alone and prank someone who really deserves it,” Tony paused as if thinking of a sacrifice. “Like Barton.” 

Loki nodded quite seriously, a smile on his lips. “He has grown too comfortable lately. Almost complacent.” 

Tony pressed in again, unable to resist kissing Loki when he was so obviously planning chaos and mischief. “Yes, we need to keep him on his toes.”

“That we do,” Loki murmured before closing his eyes and deepening the kiss. He held onto Tony’s hips, digging his fingers in with the kind of desperation borne from not knowing if this would be the last time. He nibbled on Tony’s bottom lip, just enough to pull a groan out of the man before he soothed the pain with his wicked tongue. 

“Come to bed with me?” 

Tony’s hands tangled into his hair, his breathing labored as he grinned. “Thought you’d never ask.” 

xxxxxx

It was easy to forget sometimes. 

Tony just fit so perfectly in his arms, tasted so sweet on his tongue, that Loki almost let every moan wipe away his worries. But then in the aftermath, in the warmth of sweat slick skin, Loki would be thrown into reality again. 

Loki let out a huff as he clutched Tony tighter to him, smiling when the mortal struggled futilely to break his grip. “Is there somewhere you need to be?” 

His voice was smug and by the huff of irritation Tony let out, Loki knew he was aware. Loki quite enjoyed manhandling Tony, and the mortal took great pleasure in it as well. Usually. He complained often and loudly if Loki used his strength to make sure Tony stayed in bed and slept. 

“It’s barely eight, I need to go finish up my specs for the team comms. They need an update.” 

“You can finish that later,” Loki pulled himself up until he was leaning his head on the palm of his hand, looking down at Tony. Even disheveled and ravished, Tony seemed to already be miles away, his mind running through inventions and calculations. “Let us rest for now.” 

“No can do,” Tony sighed as he sat up with a stretch, letting out a pleased moan when he felt the soreness in his muscles from their mutual pleasure. “Cap wanted it up and running by tomorrow so we could use it during team exercise night.” 

Loki couldn’t help the way he stiffened, his tone biting as he spoke. “You’ve been spending a lot of time with the Captain.” 

Tony shrugged, already getting out of the bed as he gave himself a cursory wipe down with a discarded piece of clothing. “Yeah, we’ve been trying to work out everything. After the last battle it basically brought up a lot of glaring issues in their tech and I’ll be damned if I let that be the reason they get hurt.” 

“But you don’t entertain those same requests when it comes to your other teammates,” Loki sat up, feeling almost vulnerable as the blankets pooled around his waist but left the rest of him bare. 

“Sure I do,” Tony turned to look at Loki, fingers slowly buttoning up his dress shirt as he finished getting dressed. “But you know how it is, the Captain’s orders always comes first.”

Loki didn’t want to say that only Tony seemed to follow that unspoken rule. That the other Avengers did whatever they wanted, but that Tony had a soft spot for listening to the Captain’s orders

“I seem to remember you being much more contrary when it came to the Captain.” 

“Well,” And here was where Loki’s heart truly broke, because the soft and genuinely happy smile on Tony’s face was overwhelming in its intensity. It spoke of both love and respect. “We’ve had our ups and downs but we’ve come to an understanding. The old man isn’t so bad once you get to know him.”

Loki was mute after that, and Tony seemed to take that as an acceptance to Tony’s departure. He pressed a warm kiss to Loki’s forehead and left the room soon after, a skip to his step that hadn’t been there before. 

He waited a few minutes more in stony silence before his breath came out of him in a big gust, his face dropping into his open palms. What was he doing here? He was only delaying the inevitable. 

It wouldn’t be long before Rogers realized how wonderful Tony was and decided to pursue him. Loki didn’t want to be there when it happened. It would finally be the thing to break him and leave him scarred worse than his adopted family had ever done. 

Taking a fortifying breath, he squared his shoulders and got up, putting on clothes and cleaning himself with a quick spell. 

“Computer, how much longer until Tony completes his current project?” 

“Judging by the speed of his calculations, sir will be done within the week. He is working on several projects simultaneously.” 

Loki nodded to himself. He would confront Tony on the situation after he was done with his work. It was an arbitrary deadline, one that he’d decided on impulsively, but it loosened something in his heart knowing that at least he had made a decision. If the deadline was also because he didn’t want to part with Tony just yet, well, only he would know. 

xxxxxx

The week wasn’t over, when everything changed. 

Loki had taken to staying in the workshop for hours at a time, keeping Tony company and watching the mortal more than he was focusing on his own tomes and spells. He couldn’t help the way he soaked in Tony’s every move. The way he hovered near and kept stealing kisses from his distracted lover. 

He wanted to commit every touch to memory, to breathe in the scent of Tony and hold it close to his heart. Tony for his part just shot Loki irritated yet fond looks, complaining loudly about how Loki was like a cat and liked to get in his way when he was busy. 

It was one such incident, with Loki hugging Tony from behind and pressing light kisses on Tony’s neck that the mortal seemed to have had enough of his teasing and turned around to swat at him. 

“Seriously, I need to finish this,” Tony let out a laugh when Loki only pressed closer and nuzzled against his cheek before pressing their lips together. 

“I swear to god,” Tony groaned as his hands clenched and unclenched in helpless pleasure, grasping at Loki’s clothes. “If you’re the reason I can’t finish this shit and make Steve late for his date you’re taking the fall.” 

It took a moment for the words to register but the moment they did Loki pulled away abruptly enough for Tony to let out a quiet whine of protest. When Loki didn’t press back in, Tony opened his eyes. 

Loki stared at Tony, searching for something, some sign of pain or perhaps heartache that the Captain had decided to give his affections to someone else. When he saw nothing but confusion, Loki tentatively kept his hands clasped at Tony’s waist, a small frown on his face and a furrow in his brow as he tried to formulate his question. 

“Are you well?” 

Tony blinked at him, only growing more confused if his baffled expression was anything to go by. “Why wouldn’t I be?” 

Loki shrugged, dropping his eyes to Tony’s chest as he raised a hand up and traced the arc reactor. He could feel the hum of it with his magic, the way it kept Tony alive. Despite his own misgivings of the situation, he genuinely only wanted to protect Tony’s heart. Whether it be his emotional well being or his physical health. “Your dear Captain will be going on a date. Does it not bother you?” 

“Bother me?” Tony scoffed, pulling away so he could stretch his arms above his head and send Loki an odd look. “Why the hell would it? I’ve been trying to get that fossil to go on a date for months now. If I didn’t know better I would think he was a rock. Always focused on the team and doing good, but never actually going out and finding some happiness for himself. It would do him some good to be selfish for once.”

“So, you are alright with the Captain going on a date with another?” Loki asked slowly, his heart growing lighter as he realized what this meant. 

“Again, why wouldn’t I be? I- oh.” Tony seemed to finally cotton on that there was something more going on here as he took in Loki’s tense form and the way he wasn’t meeting Tony’s eyes. “Were you jealous?” 

Loki automatically scowled at those words. Jealousy was such a mundane petty emotion, one that he’d never felt for any of his past lovers. “I am merely observant. You know the Captain’s schedule despite your general forgetfulness in all other areas,” He ignored Tony’s indignant sputter of protest as Loki continued, his voice growing louder and more bitter as he spoke. It was weeks of pain, of thinking that his lover was in love with another, and it showed in his clenched fist and the fire in his eyes. “You go to him whenever he calls for you. You admire him and he is a hero, just like you are.” 

As Loki spoke, Tony seemed to change from incredulous anger to a soft sort of love, a look in his eyes that made Loki’s breath hitch. Tony stepped closer and cupped his cheek, a huff of disbelief falling out of him as he stared up at Loki. 

“Loki, honey, love of my life-“ 

“Tony.” 

Loki’s warning tone seemed to settle him and Tony rolled his eyes before pressing a chaste kiss to Loki’s lips. He pulled back to give Loki a firm stare. “You’re a fucking idiot.”

Loki glared at him, hackles rising at the insult when Tony pressed a finger to his lips, effectively stopping any words he wanted to say. 

“No, hear me out,” Tony took in a deep breath, his other hand coming down to link their fingers together. “If I wanted a hero I could’ve taken my pick. If I wanted a villain I could have too, though that might have given me some complications,” Tony muttered the last part, obviously lost in his thoughts. Loki cleared his throat and Tony focused back on Loki, his smile warm. 

“I don’t want anyone else, Lokes. I don’t need a hero or a villain, I need you. I love you.” 

“But, the Captain…” Loki protested weakly, his eyes clenched shut against the overwhelming look of adoration Tony had on his face. 

“If it came down to it, if you defected and went rogue, I would go with you.” 

Loki stilled at that, his breath caught in his chest as his eyes flew open. “You would pick me over the Avengers?” It was an awed whisper, a question he had never dared to ask. He loved Tony, and Tony was a hero. He knew that Tony was a man filled with guilt, that his obligations were one of the only things keeping him focused and filled him with purpose. Loki would have never forced Tony to pick between him and the Avengers, because he knew what the answer would be, and it would never be in his favor. Just because Tony would always be Loki’s first choice, didn’t mean that he would be Tony’s.

Evidently, he’d been wrong. 

“It’s an easy choice to make, Loki. You or everyone else? I will always pick you. I’m always on your side.” 

“You truly love me,” Loki’s voice was filled with awe, his heart felt too full all of a sudden and for the first time in weeks he felt like he could breathe again. 

“What I feel for Steve is admiration and respect. He was my childhood hero, so give me some slack,” Tony laughed, obviously trying to lighten the mood as he pressed another kiss to Loki’s lips. 

Loki couldn’t help the breathless moan he let out, pushing close until he had Tony backed against his work table. They kissed for a long time, relief in both of their clutching hands and wandering touches. 

Finally, Tony broke away first, a laugh that sounded more like a sob falling out of him. “I’m so glad you weren’t planning on breaking up with me.”

Loki frowned. “I would never. You underestimate how much I need you, Tony Stark.” 

“And you need to understand how much I love you,” Tony admonished, pulling just far enough to send Loki a stern look. 

Loki kissed the scowl off his face, a helpless laugh falling out of him as he felt joy overtake him. 

“I understand now, and I will never forget.”

“Good,” Tony grumbled before smacking his hand against Loki’s shoulder. “Now either teleport us to a bed or let me move because this table is digging into my ass and not in the fun way.”

“Always so romantic,” Loki chuckled but did as was requested and sent them to their bedroom. 

Their touches were softer that night, love infused in every breath, and at the end of it all, they knew they would always be each other’s first and only choice.