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The Caladrius and the Blacksmith

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Anthony Edward Stark was a renowned blacksmith across the land, known as the Iron Man, although if you asked him about it, he’d crack a joke about working with other materials as well.

He spent his entire life in his forge, creating and creating, and the rest of the villagers tended to look down on him for it.

He did leave to go to church, solely forced by social convention, so he wouldn’t get associated with the devil. He probably would have, already, if he wasn’t so useful to the community. Hell, at least a hundred other blacksmiths could say the same. Something about working with fire and the creation of things, and all that. Tony didn’t care, and he didn’t think he would run into an issue.

That was the case, until he did.

Tony Stark didn’t believe in God. He was the only one in the village, probably the entire damned world that didn’t. He didn’t even know when exactly he stopped believing in God.

Well, that’s a lie. He just didn’t want to remember when he stopped believing. Tony stopped believing in God sometime around the first time he thought he died. If God’s plan was to make him suffer, then Tony was far too stubborn to pray for help or forgiveness.

He was working on a commission of horseshoes when they came for him. He saw it coming, too. The ‘rumors’ had surfaced months before, and he would hear the talking and the muttering, the hushed whispers that followed him around.

Heretic. Sinner. Miscreant. There were plenty of names they called him, but he never bothered to listen.

When he heard the mob gather outside his workshop, he wished he had. He had known that refusing would only condemn him, and he had known it was too late to run.

When he stood in front of the court, preparing for what they called a trial, all he had were wishes. He found no mercy from the courts when they sentenced him to a trial by fire, when the red-hot iron stood in front of him. Of course, it was mockingly fitting, to render a blacksmith’s hands useless.

Tony wasn’t a stranger to burning. He worked with iron all day and night, and the heat didn’t bother him anymore. His hands were already calloused from accidents, but it didn’t matter.

Nothing could ever prepare him for the searing pain that seeped into his hands right as he clamped them onto the bar of iron.

He didn’t remember walking forward, barely remembered anything that happened before bandages were being wrapped around his hands. Before it was covered completely, he looked down at the red, raised skin, and his heart sunk.

 

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Tony sat alone in one of his chairs, his cup of wine having run dry. Unable to sleep, he had been watching the embers burn, but the fire had burned out long ago, leaving him in the dark and cold. He wished they would just execute him already. It wasn’t as if he could do anything but slowly come to acceptance with his death while he waited, if he ever could come to acceptance. 

He only got up to light a candle, when the room became too dark, and it reminded him too much of a cave.

Getting impaled by an arrowhead had to be the quickest, most painless way he could die. And yet, he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

So he sat, he waited, and he watched the candlestick burn, time passing by. Insomnia struck him, and even as he laid down his head to rest, he could not bring his eyes to close.

He stared ahead, watching the wax melt down in its holder, watching it slowly drip and drip. For once, his mind was empty. There were no ideas, no tinkerings, nothing. For all the wit he had, he could not save himself this time.

He blinked, and the candle went out, a grey smoke trailing up towards the ceiling. The room went dark, and he silently sighed. It was just as Tony started to get up that it lit on its own, startling him back into his seat and becoming far more aware of his surroundings.

There was a man leaning against his forge, legs crossed. He was dressed in a simple green tunic but had gold draped around his shoulders and arms, shining brightly in the dark. He would have looked like a normal lord, except for the embezzled blindfold across his face. The decorated emeralds across the front were mesmerizing, the fabric tied back with long strings that flared out like feathers as they draped down behind his legs. His hair was black and slicked back, braided into bright white feathers.

“It hasn’t been three days yet,” Tony informed him, voice full of bitterness.

“Been counting your time?” The man asked, an amused smile blooming on his face, and Tony could feel irritation building up.

“Who are you?”

“Some call me Loki,” He replied. His voice was smooth, but something about the way he talked felt recited, as if he’d said it a thousand times before.

“So you’re a Pagan deity. Very funny,” Tony huffed, the humor and irony barely dulling his mood at all. He expected a response, but the man didn’t move. There was no way he could see through the blindfold, but Tony could feel his gaze piercing through the fabric. There was something ethereal about him, so pure and divine, like an aura, and he didn’t seem real. Tony glanced out the window, staring into the night. How long had he been awake? He brought his attention back to the man, still unmoving. “Oh great, I’m hallucinating,” Tony muttered, stopping himself just before he could run a hand through his hair.

“Is that what you believe?” Loki asked, hands gliding over the side of the forge. “I could be a sign from God.”

“I don’t believe in God,” Tony told him, carefully monitoring for any sort of reaction. Damn that blindfold, though, for he could barely tell what the man was truly thinking.

“Then you don’t believe in witches?” He inquired, and Tony rolled his eyes at the question.

“No.”

“And of me?” Loki asked, striding closer.

“You’re not real,” Tony said, but there was hardly any conviction left in his voice.

“Am I?” He smirked, sliding onto Tony’s lap and putting his arms around his shoulders. The blacksmith didn’t budge an inch, staying careful with his reaction as he was now very aware of the high probability that Loki was physically there. He didn’t know what to think, or why the man was here in the first place, but as he felt the heat radiate onto his thighs, his mind was scrambled. He had been accused of every possible sin, and proof of his homosexuality would in no doubt condemn him, but he found it hard to believe that this was some sort of test after he’d already been accused. And for what? If Loki told anyone, he’d be punished just as well. And the chances of an attractive, albeit strange, man waltzing into his house just to break the law and come onto him were highly slim.

“Nope, not real,” Tony responded, voice slightly higher than normal.

“Does this feel fake to you?” Loki whispered into his ear, voice low and heavy. His mouth hovered lower, and Tony let out a gasp as Loki softly bit under his jaw. There was no rational explanation for this situation. None. He felt like he was talking to the Devil. Maybe Loki was. That would make a lot of sense.

“If I throw holy water on you, will you burn up and leave?” Tony asked, tensing as the man leaned back, quirking an eyebrow but not directly facing Tony. He moved to push the man away but stopped when his hands reached the shoulders, not wanting to put pressure on his wounds.

“Do you think me a slug? Salt does not affect me any differently than it does you. The contaminants, however, will end up affecting these burns,” He lectured, taking Tony’s hands in his own as if he were examining them. The way he acted and glided his fingers carefully over them made it seem as if he were blind, but his movements were far too fluid for it to be true.

“What?” Tony asked, too distracted to follow the conversation.

“Holy water is not pure, and your hands will not heal while infected,” He informed Tony, holding his wrists and unwrapping the bandages, ignoring the protesting hiss coming from Tony’s mouth.

“And are you supposed to be my intervening God? You seem more like a witch to me,” Tony murmured, and he didn’t know whether that was sarcastic or not.

“Everything that you have learned about witches is a lie,” He responded, sounding bored, and it pissed Tony off. Loki was the first person who actually talked to him without either pity or resentment, and even though he was fairly certain that this was some strange hallucination, he was going to entertain. Two can play at Loki’s little game, and he had nothing left to lose.

“Damn, I was kind of hoping for an orgy,” He teased, and Tony was relieved to see the amused smirk returned to Loki’s face.

“I’m afraid that would get you prosecuted,” He told him, though he purposefully ground his hips, relishing the gasp that he elicited from the blacksmith.

“And if it doesn’t?” Tony challenged.

“I tend to be too possessive for acts like that,” Loki drawled, fingers lightly digging into the back of Tony’s neck.

“And what acts are you thinking of?” Tony asked, knowing full well his advances could easily come back to bite. Hell, he’s already drunk, his insomnia makes him restless, and he’s going to die in two days anyways. He might as well go out with a literal bang, and a distraction is well needed, so he kissed against the man’s jaw.

“You are an intelligent man, Stark, and a skilled blacksmith,” Loki murmured into his ear. 

Tony drew back at the words, now confirmed that he was definitely not hallucinating. Loki wanted something from him, and Tony felt disgusted for even giving the man a chance. Even in his last days, he was being used, like some sort of disposable tool. He suppressed the need to roll his eyes, although he didn’t know if Loki could see it. 

“Not anymore,” He sighed.

“I would like to strike a deal,” Loki whispered, a cursed smirk dancing across his face.

“You’re a little late, you know. I’m not welding anything with my hands.” He wiggled his fingers in front of the man, ignoring the pain it caused.

“Not even if I could heal them?” The man offered, trailing his thumb across Tony’s cheek. It was such a fond gesture, and it only served to cause another spark of anger in his chest.

“In two days?” Tony snorted, and he would be laughing if he wasn’t so tired of being used like this.

“I would not offer if I could not,” Loki responded, and it almost sounded genuine, but Tony didn’t trust him. He traced his eyes up the man’s face, from the slight frown and up the sharp cheekbones to the silky black blindfold covering his eyes. Maybe he was being serious, but Tony didn’t care to find out.  

“Get out.” He shoved Loki backwards and stood up, ignoring the shock of pain he got from his hands as the man nearly fell to the floor. 

“You would dare to send me away?” The man asked, much more surprised than annoyed. He towered a good few inches over Tony, but Tony was far too stubborn to let Loki intimidate him.

“Yeah, I would,” Tony answered, grabbing the bandage off the floor and starting to wrap his fingers again, ignoring the searing pain as he worked. Loki went silent for a moment, and Tony was starting to worry that he would have to force the man outside of his home until he finally turned around.

“What a shame,” Loki muttered, taking long, slow strides away, his boots clinking against the stone floor. He had an air of royalty around him, the strings of the fabric following behind, nearly touching the ground. Tony was so caught in thought, the bandage snapped as he wrapped it tightly, and he felt his blood run cold as the man reached for the door.

“Wait!” Tony called out, slumping back into the chair in resignation. He was Tony Stark. He was known for doing really stupid shit that got him into terrible situations, and although he knew this would end up in a terrible situation, he couldn’t refuse.

Loki simply stopped and turned, leaning against the door with his arms crossed.

“What would you have me make?” Tony asked, mentally cursing himself, and he could see Loki quirk an eyebrow in amusement.

“Nothing outside of your abilities. You could work under me,” Loki told him with a fake smile that only looked threatening when you couldn’t see his eyes. Tony bet that he was ecstatic under that blindfold, knowing full well that he would come out with the better part of the deal.

“I am not going to be a slave . No fucking way,” He hissed.

“You would be paid very well,” Loki told him, and Tony subconsciously flinched as the man walked back over as if he were cornering an animal.

“I will never work for a royal family again,” Tony scorned, voice full of rancor and underlying fear. There were too many memories that he didn’t want to bring up. Too many betrayals, too many lies, and far too many near-death experiences.

“Because of this?” Loki asked, hand hovering over the center of Tony’s chest. His breath hitched and he felt his heart nearly stop.

“It was an accident,” Tony insisted, pushing Loki’s hands away from the contraption embedded into his chest, holding together scorched and scarred skin.

“I’m to believe that you accidentally poured molten metal onto your own chest, keeping it there long enough to burn through?” His words were like ice, and Tony could feel the shivers running down his back as Loki continued. “I would be impressed, as it would be rather hard to do without someone holding you down.”

Tony froze as the man brought his hand down to pinch at the edges of his wrists, words stuck in the middle of his throat. No one knew about what happened when he went to strike deals with the Persian Empire. He thought back to the faulty contracts, the angry lords, the molten metal that burned and bubbled on his skin, and the familiar feeling of dying; the feeling of dying and knowing that he would not survive.

Yes, he was betrayed the last time he worked for royalty, and he would never give his loyalty to another, especially not like this.

“How do you know about that?” Tony asked, tensing every muscle in his body to avoid getting into a fight, especially when he was at a disadvantage. Either Loki was one of the royals directly involved in his torture, or he had heard about it from someone who was directly involved, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to know either way.

“I have not the time for a discussion about what I know,” Loki said simply, and it took years of control for Tony to not punch him right on the spot.

“But you had time to come onto me?” He grit out instead.

“Just a bit of fun.” The man shrugged.

“You know, I could get you prosecuted for that,” Tony threatened, but he knew it was empty. He doubted Loki was his real name, and he didn’t recognize the man from anywhere.

The man knew it was empty, too, because he simply frowned once more, and Tony could swear he looked bored .

“I gave my offer, Stark. Do you accept?” He asked, and Tony bit his tongue. He hashed out a pro and con list, the majority of the cons ending in him dying or tortured or cheated, or all of the above. But how was he currently better off? He was accused and betrayed already, but desperation was setting in. He was going to get killed in two days, executed in front of all those he knew. But maybe, if Loki wasn’t lying, he would be healed. He would be healed, and he would be paid. It wasn’t the best situation, but it wasn’t the worst.

He must have taken too long to answer because he heard those boots clack against the ground once more.

“Wait! Wait, yes! I accept,” he answered, looking down at the blisters scattered across his fingers.

Loki’s head cocked to the side, and he simply gave another smile. Tony briefly thought he looked like some extravagant bird, with his hair slicked back, and the flared strings that rested behind his armor.

A delicate hand came up to those strings, and Loki released his blindfold. Tony watched it fall to the floor, and he looked up to see two crimson eyes averting their gaze as Loki walked closer.

Tony didn’t say a word, didn’t make a comment. He only thought about how truly and utterly fucked he was. Normal people didn’t have bloodshot eyes. Normal people couldn’t light candles from halfway across the room. Normal people couldn’t heal blistered hands in under two days.

He started to curse himself for all the time he spent in church simply screwing around or fiddling with new pieces of jewelry. Maybe if he paid attention, or actually had some faith, he wouldn’t be facing death right now.

But Loki didn’t look like death. His eyes were gentle, and he was no longer smiling like a maniac. There was sorrow in his gaze as he dropped to his knees, eyes trailing up until they were level with Tony’s. He didn’t feel as if anything happened, didn’t know why Loki was staring at him for so long, with those eyes, until it hit him.

He stopped feeling. His hands were no longer in pain, and he couldn’t feel a thing. He simply kept focused on that gaze, that soft gaze that drew him in, and he watched as the crimson faded away, as each iris slowly turned into green.

Loki broke the gaze with a harsh breath, nearly falling to the floor, but he quickly regained his composure and stood up. Tony was shocked as he looked down at his palms. There wasn’t a single scar or scratch on them. He looked up at Loki, about to speak, but he felt the entire night catching up to him, and for once, he felt exhausted. His head instantly rolled to the side, and he did nothing to catch himself as he slipped off the chair.

He didn’t need to, though, as nimble hands caught him, and he was lifted into the air. He could hear Loki’s heart beating through the soft fabric of his tunic, and the man was radiating warmth. Tony might have been imagining it, but those fingers didn’t feel nearly as soft as they were before. They were strong, though, much stronger than they should have been, especially as they laid him onto his bed so delicately.

“I will see you again, Anthony,” Loki whispered, his voice so gentle it was a lullaby to Tony’s ears.

He felt a soft kiss on his forehead and smiled as he drifted off to sleep.