Author's Note: No excuses, only profuse apologies for being late. I have tried my best and this is by far, one of the shorter chapters in the story. On another note, I just spent my birthday last Saturday. Awesome day…

Thanks to everyone for all your endless patience.

Summary: Tony had always been careful with who he sleeps with. Man or woman, he always makes sure that there will be no accidents. Still, who really knew how potent a frost giant sorcerer was in bed? Well, now he had some idea.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

Warning: Violent toys and fluff… a little hint of danger at the end.

meru meru meru Page Break meru meru meru

Charles Anderson was an intelligent and hard-nosed man. He knew what he wanted in life and he's not afraid to get it by any means necessary. He was a force of nature in the business world, though not in the same level or line of business as one Tony Stark, he was still in the top twenty of Forbes' list.

He'd lived a life of luxury that very few had experienced or even dreamt of. He was born to a family known for its old money and most of his life was spent multiplying that wealth. He owned several properties all over the world – mansions in Los Angeles and New Orleans, luxury apartment units in New York, Singapore and Macau and vacation houses in Mexico, Hawaii and Sweden. He had vacations overseas frequently, spending time and money in casinos in the company of his peers and women.

Currently, he was sitting on the very expensive chair he imported from Italy, sipping a glass of fine tequila from his Diamond Sterling collection of liquor that roughly cost almost two million dollars for every bottle – an impressive status symbol if there ever was one. Tonight was a fine night for celebration. He smirked as he took another drink, reading through the fax message from one of his associates that one of their rival companies had been taken over. Old McKay's company was starting to ruin his wine business and he'd made sure to get him out of the playing field early on. His next task was overhauling the management and employees – they were pretty overstaffed, in his opinion.

Smirk still in place, he finished off his tequila and stood up to get the bottle, thinking that he could afford to buy a new one anyway. He was unaware of the other who had been residing in his home, watching him with curious red eyes.

Charles Anderson was an interesting specimen of his race. He resembled the men of Asgard, golden-haired and light-eyed though with none of their physique and prowess. It would not be surprising if he had Asgardian blood in his ancestry. But he was an intelligent and cunning man who knew what needs to be done to get what he wants. He was remorseless and proud, relentless in his pursuit of triumph without any regard to the consequences of his actions. The kind of man not far from himself.

He watched as Charles Anderson walked past him with a triumphant smile on his face, holding the thin glass that carried traces of the clear liquid. It was amusing to observe and learn about Midgard from him but his usefulness has been spent, unfortunately for him. The other followed him quietly, unseen to the naked eye.

There was a scream, muffled quickly, and the sound of glass shattering.

Four days before Christmas, Charles Anderson, as his family, friends and business associates knew him, was no more.

meru meru meru Page Break meru meru meru

It was five o'clock, too early (or too late, depending on whether he slept or not the night before) for Tony to be up but there he was, sitting on the couch with his bare feet propped up on the low table, wearing a faded, old shirt and some loose sweatpants he found at the very back of his closet. He'd opened his eyes at three o'clock in the morning for no apparent reason except for an odd feeling in his gut that he couldn't make sense of and had left him staring at the ceiling blankly for ten whole minutes with a heavy arm around his waist and a slender leg thrown over both of his.

Heh, who knew Loki was such a cuddler?

Unsurprisingly, it was JARVIS who noticed that he was awake and he had to tell him to shut it before he could broadcast the news or the latest in the stock market. It didn't look like he was going to sleep anytime soon, no matter how much he tossed and turned in bed so he'd jumped out of bed (figuratively) before he could even begin to contemplate the meaning of life, careful not to jostle Loki too much. Loki didn't usually sleep and he claimed that he didn't need it as much as humans did (which Tony called bullshit) but when he did, he was mostly dead to the world.

Tony leaned forward a bit and groped for the leftovers from dinner he had heated on the microwave and snagged a chicken wing, nibbling at it as he balanced the tablet on his lap. He played around with the unfinished blueprint of his remote-controlled suit, the one he'd been putting off for a long time now, the glowing interface of his tablet casting light on his face and shadows in the living room walls. It didn't take long before he completely lost interest in it. It was hard to concentrate on anything with his mind going back to that uneasy feeling. It felt like something went horribly wrong and he just didn't know what.

"Tony?" someone called, voice rough with sleep and Tony turned his head, seeing Thor approach almost zombie-like towards him. It still felt odd seeing Thor out of his armor and wearing a white shirt and old pajama pants but there he was. Well, better pajama pants than in his boxers or, God forbid, in his birthday suit. They already had enough after the first few times Clint came down in his underwear (which was kinda inevitable considering they lived together). "What are you doing awake? Are you and the babe all right? Where's Loki?"

Tony rolled his eyes. Everyone was just too paranoid nowadays. "JB and I are doing good and Loki's still sleeping. I just couldn't sleep for some reason." He raised a brow at Thor as he plopped down on the couch, bouncing Tony up a good inch. "I should be asking you that question though. What are you doing awake?"

"The same," Thor responded in a hoarse whisper. The living room was still dark but the tablet cast enough light for Tony to see that Thor didn't look as if he slept at all.

"JARVIS, turn lights on at fifty percent," he announced and the lights lit up thankfully without any wisecrack from JARVIS.

He was right. Thor looked like shit. There were bags under his eyes and his mouth was drawn in a tight line. He looked exhausted and Tony felt a twinge of guilt that he hadn't really noticed with all the Christmas-related uproar the team had subjected him to. He debated with himself a little whether he should ask about it then decided that they were practically related anyway so, what the hell, he could be as nosey as he wanted. "So," he ventured carefully, "what's eating you?"

Thor sighed, rubbing a hand on his face as if exhausted. "Nothing," he grumbled.

"I doubt that," said Tony, reaching for a dumpling and popping it in his mouth. He chewed on it thoughtfully, keeping a careful watch on Thor. "You wouldn't look like someone's pissed on your Poptarts if everything was alright."

Thor looked at him with his brows furrowed, his default expression when he couldn't understand something, then sighed again, looking a little conflicted. "Jane has found someone else."

"What?"

"She has met another man and she appears to be very happy with him."

Oh, fuck. "You broke up? Since when?"

Thor took a little time to get his meaning but he grew more miserable when he realized what it meant. "There is no… breaking up. We felt very strongly for one another but we have not acted on it as most of you thought. I suppose we drifted apart. Then I visited her one day and she introduced him to me." He shrugged his shoulders and tried to smile but it was shaky at best. "I knew it would happen sooner or later. I think it would be best for her in the end."

Tony bit his lip because he'd heard Pepper talk about things like this when she's around and he's very sure about one thing. "I don't think I have to tell you this, buddy, but women… Well, women don't like it when you make decisions for them. I can't speak for her but maybe she's waiting for you to get her back?"

Fuck. Tony just can't believe how the day's shaping up. In the past, if anyone ever told him he'd be giving relationship advice to a Norse god, he'd have them sent to the nearest mental hospital and undergo shock treatment.

"I know. Believe me, I know," Thor answered with a fond, unhappy chuckle. "Jane is very particular about her independence. And as for getting her back… I thought about it but we have different… expectations of what our lives will be in the future. I cannot be what she wants and I do not want to cause her harm or heartache. Her life will be filled with danger should she remain involved with me." He paused, contemplative, before he shakes his head and tries to beam at him. "Enough about that," he said, waving his hand dismissively, "this is supposed to be a happy time, is it not? Have you decided on what to name my little nephew?"

Tony accepted the change of subject for what it was and smirked, inwardly taking note to slip it by Loki later. The things I get into with that guy, honestly, he thought to himself. "Dunnow yet, but, it's gonna be one hell of a confusing mess, that I can tell you," he said as he pulled a piece of chicken wing and popped it in his mouth. "We're looking at two sets of names. So, on Asgard, he'll be a Lokison and back here on Earth, he'll be a Stark. Of course, one name was the original plan but your mom wants a 'proper, Asgardian name' and Nick wants it as legal as it can get." He shrugs and throws him a smirk. "It's gonna drive JB nuts."

"I doubt it. He is bound to be a very intelligent boy," Thor replied with a smile before he glanced away wistfully. He was quiet and for a second there, Tony wanted to say anything because he never really liked silence. It was too unsettling but Thor beat him to it. He didn't know if he should feel happy or if he wanted to die from embarrassment as he listened. "Tony, I thank you. I do not think there is a better time than now to tell you this. I am very grateful for you and what you have done for my brother. It was difficult for him to stay in Asgard and you have given him a home and your company.

"He has changed from the lonely and angry soul he had been. He is not the boy I grew up with but I can see him again in Loki's eyes and I am very hopeful that, while things are not the same, it will get better for us."

Tony looked at him uncomfortably, mouth opening and closing as he tried to grope for the right words and cleared his throat instead. "It's not like I did anything in particular. I was just the commentary, you know."

"Do not think for a second that your time with him means little," Thor scolded him. "When I first found out about you, I have to admit that I was envious that Loki would put his trust on a stranger and a foe instead of his brother," he confessed. "When I found out that the two of you are together and having a child, I was alarmed.

"I did not think that it was the proper time and it hurt that I had to find out the way I did." He sighed and looked at Tony straight in the eye. "But I have seen the two of you. You bicker and tease each other and Loki smiles more than he ever did in Asgard. He loves you. I know him, at least, that much to see it with my own eyes." He paused, eyes dark as he looked at Tony with a seriousness that sent a shiver down the billionaire's spine. "Tony, you are one of my brothers in arms and very soon, you will be my brother by marriage. I hope that you do not do anything to break my brother's heart. For all his invincibility and strength, his heart is fragile still and I will do all that I can to protect him even if I have to keep him away from you.

"He will hate me, I know, but I will endure his scorn forever because he is my brother, no matter what he is."

"I understand," Tony replied gravely, relaxing a bit when Thor grinned at him. "Not that it matters but I already have two variations of that speech from your parents through rainbow post. It's a little strange they know where I sleep but what can you do, right?

"But, I get what you're saying, Thor, don't worry." He went back to his snack but his hand froze as his mind backtracked to what Thor just said. "Wait a damn minute – you know what he is?"

Thor looked at him flatly. "Of course, I do. I am his brother, after all."

"But how? And since when?" Tony didn't mean for it to sound accusing but he couldn't help it when Loki had been talking about telling Thor what he was. He'd been stressing about it for such a long time and had once considered keeping it under wraps forever if he had to and frankly, as much as Tony loved him, it was getting very irritating.

"The interwebs and books are quite helpful. It was not too difficult once I thought about it," Thor answered. "Granted, it did take me a while to, ah, figure it out."

"And, why the fuck didn't you tell him that you know and get it over with?"

Thor shook his head. "Loki is very stubborn and he needs to do this himself. He'll have to learn to trust that I would not forget he is my brother simply because of what he is." He paused. "When that time comes, I shall embrace him and tell him what an idiot he is."

That brought a surprised snort from Tony, leaving him grinning. "Heh, I can just see it. He'll be bitching about it for a long time."

The two stared at each other beaming before Thor cleared his throat. "I think I should go back upstairs and have a few more hours of sleep before we break our fast."

"Okay then. I'll be staying here a bit longer," said Tony as he went back to padding around his somewhat cold food and grabbed another chicken wing. "I don't think I'll be getting to sleep anymore anyway."

"Then I shall see you in a couple of hours, my friend," Thor said patting Tony's shoulder as he stood up.

"Yeah, see you later, buddy."

Thor left and he was alone again. He began to concentrate again on his project and it was silent for a while and he didn't really notice time pass by until sunlight began to filter in through the windows. JARVIS was thankfully silent throughout which was great for his concentration and he'd managed to finish the design in a relatively shorter time than he thought he would.

He looked up from his work just in time to see Loki come in and for once, he didn't look like he stepped off a freaking fashion magazine or strutting down a catwalk. Maybe it was because it was too early. There was a scowl on his face, his eyes half-lidded and hair a total mess as if he literally just got up from bed and trudged his way down to where Tony was. He was wearing a loose green robe thing draped over his shoulders and tied at the waist, a hint of pale skin showing from the deep V on his chest.

"JARVIS?"

'On it, Sir.'

Tony decided to ignore his obviously exasperated AI. He grinned and then raised a hand, waggling his fingers playfully in greeting at Loki. "Hey there, sleepyhead," he said.

Loki approached him and sat down on the couch as close as he could, crossing his arms over his chest and looking at him from the corner of his eye like he'd kicked his puppy or something. "You were not in bed when I woke."

"Aww, missed me already?" Tony crooned at him, snickering when Loki glared at him. "And I've only been here since three, I think."

"Is there anything wrong? Are you feeling alright?" he asked urgently.

"What is it with all of you asking me if I'm alright?" Tony asked, annoyed. "You'd think I'd know when I'm okay or not."

Loki scoffed. "You, of all people? I highly doubt that."

"You make it sound like I'm suicidal or something," he said offhandedly before he realized what he just said. "Those few times don't count and they were for the good of humanity."

Loki huffed and didn't say anything else.

"Anyway, have you noticed anything, oh, I don't know, strange about Thor?" he ventured casually, keeping his eyes locked on his pad.

"Strange? In what way?"

"I don't know. I mean, he looks a little down. Maybe a little homesick?"

Loki snorted. "Thor is in love with Midgard and all its little quirks and he is also incredibly bored in Asgard. He likes it here better. Plus, that wench – oh, all right – that girl is here."

"Well," Tony started. "I'm just saying that a change in scenery is always a good thing. To relieve some stress and all that crap." He chanced a glance at Loki who was looking at him suspiciously. "What?"

"What are you not telling me?"

"What do you mean?" he asked innocently, his eyes wide.

"That look hardly works on me, Tony."

Tony sighed, caught. "It's not something I can tell you. I think some brotherly bonding will get it out of him." He beamed. "So, I think you should go hunt some things or pillage a village. Whatever it is you Asgardians do on your spare time."

"And you decided this when?"

"Just a few minutes ago, really, but you know I have good instinct when it comes to these things."

"Oh, I don't know about that," Loki scoffed. "And if I don't agree?"

"Well, your conscience, dude."

Loki shook his head before turning to give him a kiss. "I shall think about it."

meru meru meru Page Break meru meru meru

Tony sat on a stool, idly drinking a bubbly, mango smoothie through a straw and watching "Battle Royale: Toy Story Version" on his kitchen floor as Steve alternated between looking at the pancakes cooking and the voiceless Valkyrie screaming a silent war cry as she brought hell to the poor soldier she was victimizing.

It shouldn't have come as a surprise that the toys Loki's mother sent them a while ago were enchanted. It was a whole trunk of things that embarrassed the hell out of Loki especially when they started to come out of said trunk on their own and running amok in the mansion, breaking things or being general nuisances of themselves. He didn't know if he should be surprised or disturbed that they had violent tendencies though.

The Valkyrie, one of Loki's old toys and a pretty awesome piece of craftsmanship, was dragging a protesting soldier by its ankle across the kitchen floor, waving a spoon it stole from the cupboard around in its other hand. He looked up and met Steve's incredulous gaze before they turned back to the toys and saw the Valkyrie raise the spoon then hit the soldier on the head with a loud thunk. It then proceeded to pull the now limp toy out of the kitchen just as Clint came in.

"That? Is the freakiest thing I've ever seen in my life," said Clint as he stepped into the kitchen, looking a little mortified. "And I've seen a lot."

"Welcome to the club," Tony deadpanned. "That's like only the second match of the day probably. I saw the dragon and the wizard battling it out in the hallway a while ago."

Clint helped himself to some coffee and sat on the stool next to Tony's. "So, what are we having for breakfast?"

"It's gonna be a buffet. Like always," Tony answered without looking at anyone.

"Pretty much," Steve answered, flipping a pancake before starting on eggs. Looking over his shoulder, he asked, "sunny side up or scrambled?"

"Scrambled for me," Tony answered.

"I'm okay with scrambled," Clint shrugged. "Eggs are eggs."

'Miss Potts has arrived.'

"No need to announce me, JARVIS. I'll just be dropping these files here for Tony to look at later," said Pepper as she strode into the kitchen, carrying several folders in her hands. "Good morning," she greeted everybody as she dropped the files on the counter, doing a double take as she saw Tony waving at her lazily. "Wow, you're up at eight o'clock in the morning. Should I be worried?"

"That depends really," Tony answered with a shrug. "You staying for breakfast?"

"Can't. I have a meeting with the Board of Directors today," she replied, looking at him pointedly. "You should be there."

"I'll be in video conference," Tony grinned at her.

Pepper rolled her eyes, sighing. "At least make sure you wear something presentable."

"Can't make any promises, Pep."

Pepper didn't dignify that with a reply and looked around. "Where are the others?"

"Natasha's in the shower," Clint supplied as he hungrily watched Steve put large, steaming plates of food on the table. He stood up and grabbed some plates setting them on the counter as he took a glance at his watch. "She'll be in about ten minutes from now."

'Dr. Banner is on his way from the laboratory.'

"Thor and Loki are having a powwow upstairs," Tony supplied as he grabbed a plate and began scooping some scrambled eggs.

"Oh, by the way, I have the invitation for the Christmas Charity Gala," said Pepper as she pulled a glossy, black enveloped with a red silk ribbon tried at the front. "This time it's going to be held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art."

"Is that the one Anderson hosts?" Tony asked as he took the invitation from Pepper and looked at it with disgust. "This doesn't look anything like a Christmas invitation. Halloween party's more like it. A tacky Halloween party complete with satanic rituals and blood sacrifices."

"Tony, it's the same charity ball you go to every year," Pepper answered with a sigh. "Though I'm not surprised with the theme change, really. Charles Senior isn't hosting this year since he's resting so his son is taking over."

Tony groaned. "I don't like Charlie Junior, Pep. He's a douche." His nose twitched in disgust. "Why does it have to be in the Museum of Art?"

"Because there's going to be an auction and you'd know that if you actually bother to read through the itinerary on your invite first," Pep replied smartly.

Tony childishly stuck his tongue out at her. "He's still a douche."

"Who's a douche?" Natasha asked as she went inside, a towel draped over her shoulders. She made a beeline for the counter and grabbed a plate, sitting at the stool beside Clint's. "And what the hell is going on with the doll and the dragon in the hallway?"

Clint perked up. "Who's winning?"

"The doll," Bruce answered as he went inside after Natasha, adjusting his glasses.

"Anyway, who's the douche?" Natasha asked again as she poured some orange juice for herself.

"No one important," Tony answered offhandedly around a mouthful of eggs, waving his hand dismissively.

Pepper cleared her throat. "In any case, you still have to go, Tony. You don't even have to stay for long – just enough for you to shake hands with our investors then you can go home." She turned to Bruce. "It's alright, isn't it? He doesn't have to stay for more than an hour at the party and I'll keep watch over him."

"Hey, no fair, Pepper," Tony cried out over his stack of pancakes.

Bruce passed the plate of bacon over to Steve. "I don't see why he couldn't. He can go just as long as he doesn't do anything too strenuous or drink any alcohol."

"Bruce, you traitor," he hissed before sighing. "Fine, I'll go. And when I say yes, don't bother trying to change my mind."

"Go where?" Loki asked as he caught the tail end of the conversation, his gaze locked with Tony as he and Thor strolled inside, Thor visibly perking up at the sight of food behind him.

meru meru meru Page Break meru meru meru

Loki sat on the bed staring at the soft, bright yellow cloth in his hands, its hood with the ridiculous, black-tipped long ears and red cheeks and the lightning-shaped tail at the back draped across his lap, drawing an unbidden smile to his lips. He could already imagine what his son would look like in this ridiculous (and adorable) suit and it made him want to go back to Asgard if only to get the tailors to make his son's clothes.

They would be in green, of course, embroidered in rich, gold thread – his colors. Tony would definitely want something in red, something that would definitely stick out in a crowd.

What would his son look like? He had no doubt that his little one would take after him. According to his book, all half-blooded Frost Giants born take on the same appearance as a full-blooded Frost Giant. But what would his illusion look like? Would he have his green eyes or his other father's sharp brown? Would he have his black hair? Tony's eyelashes?

Images flittered in and out of his mind and for the life of him, he could not remember a time that he was this eager to meet anyone. He could not help the smile that curved his lips as he wondered if his son would be as mischievous as both his fathers. He would wreak havoc upon Asgard and Midgard alike and he'd have Tony's cocky grin.

A surge of protectiveness welled up in his chest and the one thing that frequented his mind was that he'd do anything for his child and the realization was jarring to him. The sheer amount of love he felt for his boy was staggering and overwhelming and for a moment, he wondered if Odin felt remotely the same when he'd taken him. He wondered if Laufey felt none of it which was why it was so easy for him to throw him away.

He was saved from sinking further into depressing thoughts when Tony burst into the room.

"What the hell is wrong with your brother?" Tony demanded.

Loki raised an eyebrow as he watched Tony plop on the bed beside him, brows furrowed. It wasn't like Tony to lose his temper but he did had his moments so it wasn't out of the ordinary. Making him laugh was the best option to diffuse his fits. "I asked Mother that every day and she never gave me an answer. I was under the impression that he was just born the way he is."

"No, seriously, take a look at this and tell me there isn't anything wrong with him." Tony pulled up a piece of paper with Thor's handwriting scrawled on it, waving it at him.

"What's this?" he asked, taking the paper carefully in his hands.

"Remember when we were talking about names? Just look it over and you'll understand."

"Ah," Loki responded in comprehension.

The subject of names had come up during breakfast after Tony told him about that party that he was supposed to go to two days from now. Everyone seemed quite excited about the whole affair and was quick to offer their own suggestions. When it was explained that his son would have a name for each world, Thor was the first to list down all Asgardian names he found appropriate for his favorite, little nephew ("He's your only nephew, Thor.").

Loki's brows rose slowly up his forehead as his gaze widened while it traveled halfway down the piece of paper before turning to Tony with an incredulous stare.

Tony crossed his arms. "Your brother should have his own baby. He keeps trying to name ours after him." Then, his gaze turned suspicious. "You didn't promise him your firstborn, did you?"

"Not in recent memory, no," Loki answered slowly. "If anything, I think he owes me his," he continued, shrugging as he continued reading through the list of names that even he found odd.

"I could accept it if they were, you know, cool, Asgardian or Nordic names – warrior names. But, man, who in their right mind would name their kid Thorstein. It means 'Thor's rock'. Why would we name our kid after his rock? And why would he even have one in the first place?"

Loki opened his mouth but nothing came out, eyes concentrated on the bottom of his list.

"And what about Torquil? Seriously. 'Thor's Cauldron'?" Tony scowled. "Cauldron is like a fancy way of saying pot and I don't like the implications there, mister."

"I am of the opinion that my brother is only teasing you," Loki interrupted the rant with a smirk. "Look at these at the very bottom."

Tony made a grab for the list and looked down to where Loki pointed with a slender finger. "Oh, that asshole."

Loki snorted. "He probably knew you were going to act in such a fashion."

"I can't believe that jerk." He said, eyes widening halfway down the paper. "JARVIS, scan this document and run a search on the names and their meanings, history, whatever you can find."

'Of course, Sir.'

"Well, that solves the whole Asgardian name thing," Tony announced. "Choosing's another story though."

There was no answer like he expected and Tony turned to Loki who was looking at him intensely. His eyes were unreadable and right now, Tony couldn't figure out what he was thinking since they've been okay just a few seconds ago.

He knocked his shoulder against Loki's, visibly jolting him from his thoughts. "Hey, what are you thinking about?"

Loki sighed and looked away. While the prospect of spending time in Asgard was something he was beginning to look forward to again, instinct told him that he should stay in Midgard with his family. There was this sense of foreboding that he just couldn't ignore since this morning and somehow, it had grown exponentially the moment Tony mentioned that he would be going to that party. He was considering either staying in Midgard (Thor would surely understand) or forbidding Tony to go to that party (which would be a task not for the faint of heart).

"I do not want to leave you for Asgard," he said decisively.

Tony's eyes widened and he blinked. "You're gonna have to," he replied, shaking his head. "You promised Thor and the big guy's obviously excited for your little camping trip."

"Then you will come with me instead and you shall stay in the palace where you will be safe. I can take you there myself since I don't need the Bifrost to travel between realms."

"Uh, no can do," Tony sighed. "As much as I hate to admit having them, I do have – hah! – responsibilities here. Plus, Pepper would castrate me if I don't haul my ass for a little elbow-rubbing. And don't even start with the magical clones. They'd probably act all weird and shit." He bumped Loki's shoulder again, receiving an annoyed glare that didn't faze him in the least. "It's just an hour and I'll be home before you will. You won't even notice I'm gone."

Loki didn't look settled as he'd hoped. In fact, he looked even more sullen.

There's got to be something more to this. "Okay, what's really wrong?"

Loki opened his mouth to speak but he closed it again, thinking over something. "Nothing. Perhaps I am thinking too much." He paused, watching Tony's eyebrows rise in inquiry. "I feel that something bad will happen and I was never one to ignore such signs. Something is telling me it would not be wise to leave you alone."

Tony felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise at that and remembered that same feeling this morning. But he tried to shrug it off. It was probably nothing anyway.

"Don't worry about it so much," he said, reassuring Loki and himself. "The party is like two days away and like I've been trying to tell you, I won't be staying there for long, just about an hour or two. You'll be away for only a couple of days, killing things and doing collateral damage with your brother then you'll be home just in time for the Gala. Heck, you can even drop by if you want."

Loki didn't look comforted and his scowl became more pronounced.

"Oh, come on. If it makes you feel any better, Pepper and Natasha are gonna be my dates for the night. I'll totally be safe."

"Like the last time you were taken," Loki deadpanned.

"Hey, we were all caught offguard back then," Tony retorted. "It's going to be just fine. You'll see."

meru meru meru Page Break meru meru meru

It was no lie that Tony loved parties. He loved mingling, he loved being in the spotlight and he looked forward to the flashing lights, crisp suits and elegant gowns. But right now, he just wanted to go home, slip on some sweats and just lie around all day in bed or spend a few hours in the workshop doing whatever he wanted and eating some leftovers with his feet up. It also wouldn't hurt to have Loki home but he had yet to get back from Asgard so he'd have to settle with Buffalo wings and hot chocolate.

Fuck, it was so unlike him but he really missed having Loki around and being as impatient as he was made waiting worse – like watching a kettle boil or waiting for his downloads to finish on low speeds. He took a deep breath and leaned back on one of the pillars in the Museum's medieval exhibit, glaring haughtily at a random statue that seemed to stare into his eyes.

Damn, statues were creepy. They were amazing pieces but being alone up here with all of their eyes staring at him made the hair on his neck stand. Maybe he should have gone to the armor exhibit instead. Oh, well.

He started walking around the empty room, just breathing deeply, relishing the silence. The loud music, the crowd of people back in the Great Hall, the smiling… it had become nauseating. Literally.

At least there was some part of this museum where he could just wind down for a bit before going back out to join Pepper and Natasha.

"What are you doing way over here?"

Tony swiveled to see Charles Anderson, Jr. himself, cocky smirk twitching on his lips, his arms crossed with a flute of wine held in long fingers. His heart pounded in his chest.

He was dressed impeccably as usual and he was leaning on the doorway to the exhibit. Something was off, though. He definitely looked like Charlie Jr., blond hair combed to the side, "sparkling, baby-blue eyes" and great smile worthy of a toothpaste commercial but at the same time… it wasn't him.

Tony couldn't quite put a finger on it but there was something edgy… almost dangerous to the man who was looking at him right now. This was not the simpering wannabe he met about a month ago and it made him very suspicious and wary. He wondered if he just didn't know the man well at all.

"Aren't you enjoying yourself?" he asked again, that smirk still on his face and it was just so wrong, the way his teeth were bared and his eyes were almost manic.

"Shouldn't you be, oh, I don't know, back at the party that you're hosting?" Tony asked haughtily, taking a step back as Anderson moved closer. "Instead of worrying about little, ol' me?"

"Not when I have a guest who seems… unsatisfied," he answered smoothly. He approached and Tony wondered how he could not have heard him approach with his leather shoes making echoing taps on the floor. He stopped when he and Tony were only inches apart and Tony was not about to back down, glaring at him as he stood his ground even when this asshole was way in his personal space. "And you are hardly little or old…"

Tony backed away as soon as he saw Anderson's hand lift to his face. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" he hissed at him.

"I only want to get to know you better, Tony Stark," Anderson purred and it made Tony want to punch his lights out.

He could literally feel his hackles rise. "Too bad I don't feel the same."

meru meru meru Page Break meru meru meru

Author's Note: Once again, I apologize for the very late chapter. Work has been strenuous and sadly, I really didn't have much time to work on this one. Never fear, though, because I will finish this story.

Comments, suggestions and questions are welcome as always.