Thank you all, once again, for your support. This is the last chapter! I'm a bit sad, since this was my first FrostIron fic. However, do not despair (I sound like a tool, don't I?). I think there will be more FrostIron from me in the near future. :)
"I can't believe you're ready on time," Pepper comments as Tony gets into the limo. She's wearing a high-necked black dress with opal jewelry, and her strawberry blonde hair is pulled back into an elegant twist.
"I have to keep you on you toes," Tony replies, looking her up and down appraisingly. "You're beautiful. Looking to score at this gala? I'm going to have to fend them off with a stick. Can I be your wingman?"
Pepper rolls her eyes, exposing delicate smokey makeup on her lids when she blinks. "I'm looking to network, Tony. You know, for your business. That I run." She pauses, and then says, "You don't look too bad yourself. It's been a while since you've worn a tuxedo."
Tony speaks Pepper Potts' language, and what she's trying to say is, It's been forever since you graced me with your presence at events you need to attend. He gives her the satisfaction of playing along, offers her his toothiest smile, and tugs on the lapels. "Of course I look good. Who do you think I am?"
"I should have learned by now not to give you compliments," she sighs.
"Women can't not give me compliments. I just have this air about me."
"It's definitely an air," Pepper responds with a pretty smile.
Tony winks. "You minx, you."
They sit in silence for a minute, and then Pepper breaks it. Shatters it, really.
"What about you?" she asks casually. "Are you still waiting, or are you moving on tonight with some saucy gala guest?"
Tony jerks his head towards her so quickly pain shoots up his neck. Pepper's looking at him with a relatively neutral expression, mouth set in a soft line, eyebrows raised, but he sees that glimmer in her eyes reserved for discussions about feelings.
Tony is really goddamned tired of feelings.
For the millionth time, he regrets giving Pepper any ammo. While he has kept most everything to himself concerning his Norse god, he's mentioned the visits— and the subsequent absences— to her, not because he wanted to, but because she is an expert pesterer and he didn't think he would stay sane if the only person he had to talk to was Dum-E.
So, Pepper knows the details. She knows it's been six weeks since Loki graced Tony with his presence after saving his life, and she knows Tony is ready to pull his hair out. She knows that the arc reactor hidden by his tuxedo is laced with the god's magic, and even though Tony could trade it out with a different one, one of the spares he keeps for instances like this when he probably shouldn't have a magicked piece of metal in his chest, he really can't. Because he's fucked. Totally fucked. And it bothers him that Pepper knows that, which is funny in itself considering Pepper knows his weaknesses best.
When he doesn't answer, she says, "Tony, it's okay—"
"You're right," Tony replies scathingly, pouting for good measure. "You're right, it's okay. I'm moving on. I'm going to bang every single person with a pulse at this gala, Ms. Potts, and you can only blame yourself when you need to hospitalize me because my most important part doesn't work any more."
Pepper's eyes widen, and then she starts laughing. "Tony," she begins, but she can't finish the sentence because she's still laughing.
Tony smiles. It's not often he can elicit such uncontrollable laugher from Pepper. It soothes him a bit.
She dabs at the corners of her eyes with a knuckle, still gasping out a chuckle here and there, and when she's finally composed herself, face much more flushed, she gives him a bone-meltingly sweet smile. "It's not okay, is it?"
"Fuck no," Tony says quietly, but he smiles back at her. "But I'm okay. I promise, Pep. Don't worry."
"When you tell me not to worry, my automatic response is to worry," she says, shaking her head.
"I've got to work on this conditioning thing. Maybe I can clicker train you."
She smacks his arm.
They're bombarded by camera flashes, hand shakes, and kisses to either cheek when they arrive, and by the time Tony can escape to the bar, he's exhausted. He hates these functions. Everyone panders, simpers, and all together annoys the hell out of him, and he has to take it smiling because if he doesn't, Pepper will murder him in his sleep. It doesn't stop him from having fun— it's easy enough to talk over their heads, to make witty jokes Pepper glares daggers at him for— but he'd rather be in his workshop.
He orders a drink and leans against the bar, surveying the room. Pepper is surrounded by several men and a few women, all of whom Tony recognize but can't remember the names of, so he decides not to rescue her and either embarrass himself or get sucked into some long-winded conversation he doesn't care about.
"Mr. Stark, it's a pleasure to meet you."
Tony looks to right and almost spits his drink on the owner of the silky voice. She's tall and thin, wearing a strapless, dark green gown accented with a black strip of lace that encircles her waist. Her dark hair twists over one shoulder in a mass of silky curls. Her smile, painted red, is wicked, and Tony could cut metal for his newest suit with her cheekbones. It's her eyes, though, that make Tony's pants a little tight. They're the same color as her dress, and they're half-lidded with amusement and something a lot darker.
"Cat got your tongue?" she asks sweetly.
Tony works hard to keep his expression impassive as he sets his drink down and turns, then slowly crowds the woman against the bar. He places a hand on either side of her to box her in and tries to ignore the fact that his palms are sweating like he's in high school. He stops with a few inches at best between them and tilts his head. She tilts hers back, curls slipping over the pale skin of her shoulder, exposing more jutting collarbone.
"I want to kiss you," Tony whispers huskily.
She grins wide. "That would be inappropriate, Mr. Stark. We've only just met."
He leans forward and brushes his lips against hers. She softens under him, edging her body forward and her head back. She tastes his snow and mint. He pulls back slightly and then rests his cheek against hers, hands sliding on the bar until he's almost embracing her. "Loki, this isn't playing fair," he whines.
She chuckles darkly and one of her hands unbuttons his jacket, then slides over the buttons of his shirt to rest on the arc reactor. The dark-painted nails tap against it in a soothing rhythm. "I never play fair, Stark. I am surprised you recognized me so easily, however."
He snorts. "You're wearing black and green. You need a new color palette if you want to trick me."
She hums her agreement and turns her head slightly so that her lips skim his earlobe. "Shall I wear crimson and gold next time?"
He huffs out a laugh against her hair. "That would be the day."
She presses a kiss to his earlobe.
He sighs, entire body deflating, and asks, "Where have you been?"
"Oh, here and there," she replies.
Tony sighs, grabbing her wrist, stopping her gentle caress of the arc reactor so he can focus. "Why can't you just give me a straight answer?"
She pulls back as much as she can and pins him with a scathing look. "I do not recall you being my keeper, Stark."
Tony's brows reach for his hairline. "So that's how this is going to play out? You save my life— again— then just disappear for weeks, but you can't even tell me where you've been when I ask?"
"Do I have an obligation to tell you such things?" she asks cooly. "I did not think so."
"Are you trying to piss me off by being difficult?"
She cocks her head but saying nothing.
The annoyance builds up and he's pretty sure his eye is twitching. His hands slide off of the bar and up the small of her back, then to her hips. He curls his fingers in the silky fabric of the dress and hauls her forward until they're flush against each other, and he means to say something sexy and snarky into her hair, but what comes out is, "I missed you."
Loki stills, even her breathing, and Tony bites back a curse. He did not meant to say that, but the words just tumbled from his mouth. He thinks back to what could have fried his brain so badly, then remembers that less than two months ago, a robot crab army invading Manhattan managed to break his heart— literally— and then Loki put it back together— literally— and then Loki disappeared. As per usual. Except Tony's realized he doesn't want the leaving to be part of the usual.
So, really, Tony's not all that surprised his head-mouth filter is malfunctioning.
The seconds stretch out and he's about to pull away when she finally replies, "I missed you, as well." Her voice is soft, barely above a whisper.
Tony groans and dips his head to nip at the juncture of shoulder and neck. She shivers against him. "I never thought someone saying sentimental things would turn me on so much."
She doesn't respond, just leans into him, and Tony closes his eyes, his lips still pressed to her skin.
"You are acting quite odd," she muses, her index finger tracing circles around the arc reactor again. Tony can't see it, but he can feel the cold magic sinking into his skin.
"You have that affect on me," he says, then hurriedly adds, "especially when you show up as such a pretty woman."
Loki chuckles. "Do you prefer this form?"
There's no trickery in the words, just curiosity. Tony smiles and leans back slightly, allowing one hand to leave her hip so he can twirl a lock of hair around his finger. She smiles sedately, eyes hooded, as she stares up at him expectantly.
"I like it a lot," he answer truthfully, "but really, I'd take you in any form. I like all of you."
He bites back the grin that threatens when Loki flushes, her cheekbones tinging a pale pink. "What?"
He cocks his head to the side and raises his eyebrows. "I would take you in any form." He pauses, weighs the silence, and decides to go for it. "Even the blue one. I kind of like the blue one."
She flinches like she's been struck and her skin chills. "I ask that you do not toy with me, Stark."
There's a warmth and tightness in Tony's chest that's almost painful. He says, "I'm not toying with you."
"You tell me, then, that you prefer a monster," she hisses.
He leans close, until they're sharing breath, and whispers, "You're not a monster. Would you like me to prove it? Teleport us out of here and drop all the glamours. I'll show you how much I want you."
Loki looks downright terrified.
Tony steps back, his hand falling from her hair. He doesn't know what to do with that expression. It's open and vulnerable, and good things never happen when Loki feels open and vulnerable. "Hey, listen—"
He growls under his breath and turns to find Pepper walking towards him, one eyebrow arched. She looks smug and disapproving at the same time. She almost stumbles when she's about ten feet from him and blinks rapidly, her smile faltering.
Tony closes his eyes and clenches his fists. He wants to scream. "She's gone, isn't she?" he asks without turning back towards the bar.
"She just disappeared!" Pepper snaps, trying and failing to yell at him under her breath. The bartender gives them a sidelong glance but otherwise ignores them. "What the hell, Tony?"
"I didn't think the bastard was going to spook," he mutters and finally grabs his drink, knocking it back in one swallow. It burns deliciously. He sets the glass back on the bar top, then waves down the bartender. "If you see this empty," he says, "you fill it, do you hear me?" He reaches into his jacket, pulls out a wad of bills, and tosses them onto the bar.
"Yes, sir," the bartender says, and immediately pours him another finger of scotch after pocketing the tip.
"Tony, who was that woman?" Pepper demands.
Tony just smiles blandly and takes a sip.
"No," Pepper whispers, stepping closer. She's been with him long enough to read his looks. "No. It can't be. Was that seriously him?"
Tony closes his eyes for a second, trying to steady himself. He feels like his head might screw off if he isn't careful. "Yup."
Pepper clucks her tongue and flicks his upper arm. "What did you say to him to cause that kind of reaction?"
"You know, Pep, oddly enough, I wasn't the one being an asshole for once," he responds tightly.
She gets that look again, the soft one that makes his stomach clench because yeah, Pepper Potts can read him like a book. "Jesus, Tony."
"I'm going outside," he sighs. "I need some air."
Pepper just nods. She doesn't follow him. She knows better.
Tony finds a door, then another door, then a stairwell. He hikes fifteen flights of stairs before he finally makes it to the roof, and he's in damned good shape, but he's still breathing a little harder than normal. He thinks some of that's from his nerves, so he takes another drink, because that's how Tony Stark deals with nerves. He drowns them in booze.
It's a bit cold for September. The delightfully chilly air cuts through his clothing and cools the sweat beaded on his forehead and the back of his neck. It feels good, and he leans against the door, surveying the view. The city stretches out around him in a constellation of bright lights. He feels comfortable up here, away from everything else. If it wouldn't disappoint Pepper, he would have called his suit and taken to the skies because that's where Tony likes to go when he needs time to think: either high in the sky or deep down below Avengers Tower. Tony never liked the middle ground. He always strives for extremes.
He closes his eyes against the swarm of drunken butterflies that are pinballing around his stomach. He thought he wasn't sure where he wanted it to go, the tense relationship he has with Loki, but he's known to some degree since he saw the god's face the day he pieced Tony's arc reactor back together like it was a kid's Disney puzzle that the odd, violent limbo they're in isn't enough. Tony Stark wants extremes.
"I am so fucked," he mutters to himself and finishes his drink.
He isn't sure how long he stands there, but his feet are starting to go numb when he feels a more intense cold wash over him along with a tingle that crawls across his skin. He opens his eyes slowly, already knowing Loki will be there, and he is, standing less than a foot from Tony.
The god is dressed in a dark suit that offsets his blue skin and crimson eyes, and there's a look on his face that screams trepidation. He doesn't move, doesn't speak, just stares at Tony, his mouth set in a grim line. Tony slowly bends down to set the glass on the floor, then he moves. He grabs Loki's face, fingers digging into cold skin, and draws him down until his own back is pressed against the door with Loki's lips slanting over his own.
"You are mad," Loki hisses against him. "You are mad to want this."
"I'm madly something," Tony agrees, fingers combing through Loki's hair.
His heart flips around like a fucking dolphin when he feels Loki's slow smile against his lips. He pulls his phone out of his pocket and sends Pepper a text that he's going to be otherwise engaged for the evening just before Loki's magic surges through them both and they're back in the tower, standing at the foot of his bed.
Loki is painfully still as Tony undresses him. His expression betrays nothing, but he shivers when Tony trails his fingertips along the lines that mark his body and lets out a breathy gasp when Tony repeats it with his tongue. His skin fluctuates in temperature when Tony kisses him, too, dipping colder before heating back up, and Tony doesn't care. He enjoys the chill, groans when Loki finally tears him out of his tux and splays frosty, blue hands across his chest before kissing him with a desperation that makes Tony wrap his arms around the god as they tumble into bed.
He bites, licks, kisses, caresses until Loki is all but baring his teeth in frustration and need, and when Tony finally wraps his hand around Loki— he is so deliciously, almost painfully cold— it only takes a few slow pumps before the god climaxes with a strangled groan. Tony uses the god's come to slick himself, and Loki stares up at him, panting and wide-eyed, as he positions himself and then slides inside.
Loki is freezing cold, and Tony is burning hot, and he can't hold himself back. Loki clings to him, nails digging into his shoulders, and all but snarls Tony's name when Tony finds the tangle of nerves that makes Loki buck up against him violently. Loki comes again, clenching so tightly that Tony has no choice but to follow, and he kisses the god, swallowing his strangled sobs.
Tony thinks Loki is going to glamour himself again afterwards, but he doesn't. He lays on his side, one arm pillowing his head, and stares at Tony between the locks of dark hair that fall over his face. Tony stares back, mimicking the pose. They stay that way, not speaking, and eventually, Loki reaches out to touch the arc reactor almost reverently.
"You did not remove it for another," he says quietly.
"Why would I?"
Loki's eyes narrow. "It is imbued with magic. My magic. You do realize this, do you not? It will cease to function properly if you were to use your pulse, or if another magic user targets it."
Tony nods and shrugs. He doesn't trust himself to speak.
"I can stop its function at any time," Loki continues, his voice becoming more strained with each word. "I will be able to find you anywhere, should you ever chose to run from me. Do you understand these implications? Do you understand the power I now hold over your mortal life?"
"Yes," Tony says.
Loki's mask falls away, leaving him looking vulnerable and broken. "And yet you will leave it in your chest?"
Tony shrugs again, and while he wants to look away, he doesn't. He can't. He just says, "It's where it belongs."
Loki swallows, his jaw flexing, and keeps his hand pressed to the arc reactor. Tony thinks he might say something else, but he doesn't, and Tony's okay with that. He's surprised they got this far, and he's not about to push it, not when he has Loki in his bed, all pretenses dropped. He's going to cherish it like the sap he's become because he doesn't know the next time he'll even see the god.
They lay there for awhile, and Tony's eyelids finally get heavy. He smiles, rests his hand over Loki's, and passes out.
Tony wakes up alone, and he's not surprised, but he's gotten soft, so it still feels like someone's torn out his reactor and the shrapnel is making minced meat out of his heart. He tries not to think about it. He showers and dresses, then heads downstairs, feet dragging. It's Sunday. Sunday mornings are a toss-up for breakfast, depending on who's around. Tony hopes it isn't Clint. His omelets are terrible.
"Coffee," he groans as he enters the kitchen. "Give me coffee."
Then he freezes.
Natasha and Clint are sitting at the table with Steve behind them stirring batter in a glass bowl, and Loki is sitting at the table with them, wrapped in Tony's red, silk robe like a fucking Christmas present. He raises a brow, then nods towards the coffee maker.
"Agent Romanoff has just made a fresh pot, and Captain Rogers has kindly offered to make waffles," he says, then grins wickedly.
"I call first dibs on waffles," Clint says.
Tony is still standing there, mouth agape, when Bruce steps into the kitchen.
"Aw, dammit," he mutters, fishes a bill out of his pocket, and then dead-man-walks towards the table.
"Thank you," Natasha says with a bat of her lashes as she takes the bill. It disappears into her pajamas.
"No gambling at the table, guys," Steve says.
"Seriously, why is no one involving me in these bets?" Tony stutters. "What was this one even about?"
No one answers. Natasha just smiles.
"This is like the Twilight Zone," Tony says as he sits down, accepting the cup of coffee Clint offers him. "Nat's smiling, and we're eating breakfast with a semi-reformed super villain from space who I'm sleeping with, and Steve isn't wearing the apron I bought him."
"It's in the wash," Steve defends.
Clint groans and claps his hands over his ears. "Seriously. It's too early for this."
"Maybe we've all finally gone mad," Bruce offers as he makes his tea.
Loki's eyes glint and his lips turn up in a small smile. "Madly something, indeed," he says quietly.
Tony just grins.