A/N: Hay guys! We're so sorry for keeping you waiting for TWO WHOLE WEEKS. D': I (Trashy) had horrible writer's block and like no motivation and it was horrible and it took me every ounce of will to churn this bad boy out, then I handed over the wheel to npeg and as usual she saved the day with the fight scene (they are totally going to be her responsibility from now on) and finished the chapter off, making it possibly THE best one of the fic so far- not that I'm biased or anything! Big thanks to everyone who reviewed, favourited, story alerted, and read the fic, we love getting feed back and we love knowing that you're enjoying reading IIWT.
So basically, get on and enjoy it! Although there isn't much smut in this chapter there is plenty of plot development: shit is going down.
"I am not finished with you yet."
Tony was starting to not like this at all. His thoughts were so clouded that he couldn't think straight: he felt like someone had scooped his brains out of his head, put them in a blender, and then poured the mess back in. It was this distinct lack of cognitive control that had him so uneasy. Because he was used to having focus, he was used to having control, always. Even under the familiar fog of inebriation he could still build a jet engine from scratch if he wanted to. But this, this effect the demigod had on him, it was worse than alcohol. It was debilitating.
So yeah, it was probably best to just man up and admit that he was attracted to Loki, extremely attracted, erection-straining-against-his-jeans attracted, and yes, he was aware that that was the only thing the old Tony had needed to justify fucking his latest conquest into the floor, but he wasn't the old Tony anymore. He was dating someone. And, well, wasn't that just the reason for his confusion in a nutshell? He couldn't just throw caution to the wind and turn his conscience off, because in every touch, in every kiss, was the faintest comparison to Pepper's kisses, Pepper's touches. It also didn't help that Loki was a homicidal maniac and a sworn enemy of the team of superheroes Tony just happened to be part of. Not to mention that you know, he was, well, male.
Tony needed time. He needed space. And God, he needed Loki to just not be squirming so very deliciously on top of him. Most of all, Tony needed a clear head, and that was an absolute impossibility with the demigod sat astride him, because his mouth was on him, his voice surrounded him until his senses were smothered, and utterly unsurprisingly, it was incredibly hard to concentrate.
"Okay, I don't think you quite understand the definition of the word no," he muttered, moving his head back to pin Loki with a hard look, his wrists struggling to free themselves from the bindings of the demigod's hands. Then the demigod chuckled, and even that was enough to send a traitorous shudder trickling down his spine.
"Oh, I understand it perfectly, Stark." Loki replied, returning the mortal's stare with a cool indifference that fell as a film before the smouldering desire in his eyes, "What I cannot comprehend is why in all the Nine realms you would say such a thing, when you so clearly do not mean it." He rolled his hips to prove his point and Tony let out a little gasp at the contact; before he snapped his mouth shut and mentally told himself to keep his shit together.
"Well that's clearly because I'm currently thinking with my dick, and not my brain," he ground out through clenched teeth, still stubbornly maintaining eye contact. The demigod merely stared back at him, a slanted smile on his lips and amusement crinkling at the corners of his eyes. Tony felt a hand release his wrist and long fingers trace upwards along his arm to splay out on the back of his neck, tangling in his hair.
"Oh but I do so like the idea of you thinking with that part of your anatomy," Loki crooned, his words a purr brushing Tony's lips in a cool, exhalation of air. The billionaire experimentally flexed his free hand, and seriously considered punching the demigod in the face again, but his ribs still kind of ached from their fight earlier, and sitting underneath the God of Mischief didn't exactly give him the biggest strategic advantage. He could see the cogs whirring in Loki's head as he realised that Tony wasn't about to play fair, and his fingernails dug into Tony's scalp, pulling his face closer until his mouth was at his ear once more. The billionaire's pulse quickened at both the pain and the proximity, the latter perpetually intoxicating. He opened his mouth to inhale sharply when he felt a tongue trail along the shell of his ear. Lips brushed against his tragus in a soft caress and Loki's breath was curiously cold on his skin, sending another shiver down his spine, as the demigod demanded in a whisper: "Give in to me, Stark." And then Loki was biting and sucking and kissing his way down his neck, and Tony was having trouble breathing, and his head was tilting back and his eyes were sliding shut because wasn't giving in such a tempting thought?
Liesmith on his lap or not, Tony almost jumped a foot in the air when J.A.R.V.I.S' voice suddenly rang out across the lab.
"So sorry to interrupt, Sir," the AI began dryly, "But I thought it prudent to inform you that SHIELD will have a lock on Mr. Laufeyson's location in approximately 90 seconds. It may lead to, shall we say, unpleasant circumstances if he is found to be at the Avenger's mansion, in your presence no less."
Loki growled in annoyance, but still pushed himself up off of Tony, straightening to tower over the mortal, who thought absently that it was really quite ridiculous how tall the god actually was. The billionaire quickly scrambled out of his chair to stop himself from breaking his neck to look up at Loki, and he watched astonished as with a strange motion of his hands, the demigod's armour suddenly slithered back over his frame, moving like oil on water. For a moment it looked more like liquid than the leather and metal it had to be made of.
"Looks like you've gotta run," Tony said, in a vain attempt to be nonchalant that failed miserably as Loki looked pointedly at his crotch, and raised an eyebrow.
"Mark me, Stark, we are far from finished," Loki replied, after the slightest pause, and Tony didn't doubt him for a second, the spark in his eyes burning with that promise; as red hot and as permanent as the mark left by a branding iron. The demigod abruptly pulled him into a hard, possessing kiss before he vanished just as suddenly, leaving Tony panting and alone in his workshop.
"Well, fuck," he muttered, to no one in particular.
"Agent Hill is on her way down to the workshop, Sir." J.A.R.V.I.S announced.
"Well, fuck,"Tony repeated.
Tony spun round and rapidly typed in the end sequence for the heart monitor and exited the program. He still needed to work out how Loki had muted the computer and verify whether it was permanent or not… but he didn't have the time. He was about to have his workshop invaded by the angry pirate's lapdog and he wasn't even wearing a shirt. He ripped off the transmitter belt and unceremoniously stuffed it, along with the detector, into the bottom drawer of his desk, promising himself that he'd put it away more tidily somewhere else, later.
"J.A.R.V.I.S, talk to me buddy," he said, picking up his shirt and pulling it over his head, "Does SHIELD know Loki was down here?" He threw himself into his chair, desperately trying to not think about what had transpired in it moments before as his fingers raced over his touch-screens and keypads, closing everything related to his little experiments.
"No, Sir, target lock was not confirmed. I believe they lost the signal approximately 12 seconds before they were due to successfully determine his location," the AI replied before adding, "And may I also suggest sitting with your legs crossed, Sir?"
The billionaire was about to snap at the ceiling when his eyes glanced down to his crotch and caught sight of the distinctive bulge that would just be far too awkward to explain to Hill, so he kept his mouth shut and hastily crossed his legs instead. He glared up at where the AI's sensors were before proceeding to pull up a window monitoring the alarm's progress.
"Delete all surveillance footage involving Loki from SHIELD's database, and pause construction of the alarm, I'm going to add something else to it later," he mumbled as he flicked through the schematics on the touch-screen. He wanted to build an override function into the alarm so he could turn it off whenever he wanted, in case he, you know, maybe wanted Loki to visit. He figured he could have the alarm up and running while he got his thoughts in order, successfully removing the possibility of a surprise appearance from a certain God of Mischief. Then, when he had managed to finally decide what he was going to do, or had his head wrapped around what the fuck was going on even just a little, he could override the alarm, wait for Loki to come (and he was pretty damn sure the demigod would come, sooner or later), and then tell him his illuminating conclusions. He could always turn the alarm on again and lock the bastard up if things got nasty, of course. Piece of cake.
He heard the whoosh of the elevator doors before his all-time-favourite lieutenant's voice ground out a curt "Stark," and the familiar heavy clunk of Hill's boots echoed around the room. Tony turned to face her just as they reached his desk, a smirk plastered on his lips.
"Maria, to what do I owe this rather dubious pleasure? You don't usually come and visit," he smiled up at the agent, desperately hoping that she didn't know that Loki had been there, twice, in the space of two hours, and hoping even more desperately that if she did know that she had no idea as to the true nature of both interactions. And actually Tony really needed to stop thinking about that because now was definitely not the time to get light-headed and, God forbid, blushy.
"Fury sent me to check on the status of the alarm," she said, her face as emotionless as a slab of rock, "Have you made any progress?"
God, these agents just had no facial expressions, and if they had emotions at all, they didn't show them. Tony briefly wondered if SHIELD injected them with botox every day to keep their faces like that.
"Not quite done, ran into a little calculations snag, but it'll be fixed and ready in about, thirty minutes?" he said nonchalantly, and span around in his chair to add something to the alarm schematics. He hoped that it would look like he was working on finishing it, when, actually, he was writing the code for an override. He prayed Hill wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
When her face betrayed no hint of dawning realisation, if it even could, he had to hold himself back from letting out a sigh of relief: his dubious fraternization acts were to remain secret for now, it seemed.
"How's the hunt going?" he asked, with carefully feigned indifference. Hill made a noise somewhere between an irritated snort and a growl.
"We almost had him but then we lost the signal," she said to the back of Tony's head, the tiniest hint of aggravation in her voice. Everyone hated being thwarted by the Liesmith; that feeling was universal, whether you were an Avenger, a nameless, faceless cog in the SHIELD machine, or Director Fury himself.
"You have twenty minutes to get it finished, Mr. Stark," the agent ordered, turning on her heel and making her way back to the elevator.
Ten minutes later Tony was almost done with the override code when a voice came booming through his emergency intercom (the one strictly for Avengers stuff that he had actually had to sign a contract for, a contract in which he promised he wouldn't shut the thing off).
"Mr. Stark," the familiar voice of Nick Fury drawled, "I hope I'm not interrupting anything, but we have ourselves a situation. You're needed downtown. The team were looking for Loki, figured he couldn't have wandered too far since we lost our lock on him, and guess what? They found our shiny friend Doctor Doom instead. They need more fire power, Stark, so suit up. I want you in the air immediately." And then his voice cut out, signalling the end of transmission, before Tony could even begin to complain that, uh, hello, he was kinda busy right now? And to subtly mention that he was pretty sure he had cracked ribs and a bruised spine from his "hand-to-hand combat" with Loki earlier. Instead, he let out an exasperated little growl before pushing himself away from his desk and heading over to his suits.
Something exploded far too close to his head. The city was in chaos, Doombots crawling along every surface he could see, and though his visor was cracked from an earlier brush with one of the aforementioned invading army, the HUD was still functional. Tiny dots were blazing red all over, so many of them that Tony could barely distinguish one from another. They all bled together in a seemingly endless haze of incoming attackers. As soon as one point of light died out, a dozen more sprang up to take its place. Where the hell were they coming from?
"God damnit Thor, I need back up and I need it now!" Tony shouted into his comms.
A well-timed repulsor blast obliterated the chest of a Doombot that was attempting to make short work of his thigh panels, and Tony cemented its demise by smashing an armoured fist into the gaping hole left by the blast, dislodging the bot and sending it spiralling downwards through the air.
"What the fuck are you all doing down there, taking a fucking nap or something? Did someone call a goddamn coffee break? Somebody get me some fucking back up because I am a sitting duck up here on my own!"
A burst of static in his ear was shortly followed by Hawkeye snarking through the comms, "Maybe if you weren't so goddamn shiny they wouldn't be so attracted to you, Stark."
"Shut the fuck up, Barton," Tony growled, "they're robots, not fucking magpies. And wipe that smile off your face. I can hear your smirk from here. Get your ass up to the roof and get these fucking things off my tail. I have to find the leader."
Hawkeye's chuckle was cut short by Steve's voice ringing in his ears, and man, did he sound pissed.
"Wait, Tony, you lost visual on the lead Doombot? When were you going to tell-"
Tony cut him off, "Cap, just, shut up, alright, I got this. You do your job, and let me do mine, and for fuck's sake Hawkeye don't shoot so close to me, Jesus fucking Christ."
The archer laughed again, mocking, as he notched another arrow, "Cool your jets, Metalman, I never miss my mark."
An arrow whistled past his face and Tony growled into the HUD, eyes frantically checking the scanners for a trace of the leader. Where in the hell had that freaky hunk of metal scuttled off to?
A flash of movement in the bottom corner of the map in front of his eyes caught his attention, and Tony shot upwards, making a beeline straight for it, no caution whatsoever. That was how Tony Stark rolled, after all; act first, plan later, the polar opposite of a certain Captain Steve Rogers now shouting into his ear through the shared channel. Tony muttered to J.A.R.V.I.S to turn the volume down on the captain's increasingly abusive orders to get back down here and regroup, Stark, we need to take this on together, you are no match for-
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, chill out would you, Rogers?"
And suddenly, there. There it was again, that flicker, that brief flash on the HUD; one particular dot blinking erratically in and out of existence. Was it a glitch?
Now that thought irritated him. Tony Stark didn't do glitches. Tony Stark didn't make mistakes; certainly never more than once, anyway. He gritted his teeth against his annoyance, and soared in the direction the signal had last appeared in.
He'd know what it was soon enough.
. . .
Tony landed in the charred shell of an office building with a heavy thud, floor rumbling unsteadily beneath his feet, the metallic clang resounding through the room. His stabilisers were kicking up paper and dust, and debris filled the air, swirling in a tiny maelstrom around him. The signal flickered again on his HUD, barely enough to get a target lock, and Tony cursed. This was definitely something he needed to improve on when he got back to base, instantaneous target lock, but he pushed that thought away to deal with later. His eyes were still searching the display for that flashing dot, vision clouded by the dust and ash in the air, queerly silent amidst the chaos reigning outside.
In the corner of his eye, something flashed green, and his mind immediately screamed Loki.
But it wasn't the slender demigod's fist which made sudden stunning contact with his visor, oh no; the hand was larger than his head, a solid block of gleaming chrome, flickering erratically with streaks of deepest green, and as Tony's head snapped back, it was all he could do to think "Fuck" as he spiralled backwards across the floor of the blown-out office, crashing into a heap of broken furniture. The impact sent dust billowing around the room.
He lifted his swimming head, and immediately froze in paralysing shock as through the settling dust he met the violent red eyes of the lead Doombot, suddenly crouched inches from his face. It was looking at him with what could have passed for curiosity, its unnerving eyes focusing, circles within the terrible red spheres rotating and zooming, mapping, cataloguing, archiving, remembering. What was it looking for?
Because it wasn'tlooking at him. Those pools of blood red glass were looking through him, and the feeling made his skin crawl.
Jesus, but the thing in front of him was as tall as Thor, though so skeletal it looked like bare bones encased in metal, and Tony took it all in; he needed to see, he needed to know, just as the machine before him seemed to need to know him, in turn.
It was crouched barely a foot away, coiled as if ready to spring, and in that moment Tony's brain bizarrely admired the beauty of it, the mastery of the engineering, because, truly, it was exquisite. For a robot hell bent on the death and destruction of, well, apparently anything and everything.
It was roughly humanoid, though its limbs were a shade too long, and Tony's mind jumped to images of apes. But the proportions of the thing were just wrong. It was of slender build, the surface of its plating not quite like scales, more like panels, and entirely silver, tarnished in places as if burned. The fit of the plates was so tight, so perfect, that the metal almost looked like skin; gleaming, cold, silver skin, that shone and, bizarrely, almost rippled in the shifting light. At random intervals, Tony saw brief snatches of curious green shiver across it.
The shape of its head was vaguely human, though it had no face to speak of, no ears but for holes in the sides of its head, chin pointed like a long teardrop, no other features whatsoever in the smooth surface.
But for those terrible eyes.
They glittered, a deep, awful red, burning in a sea of brushed silver, and their gaze was so foreign as they scanned him, sat collapsed in the rubble, but at the same time so disturbingly human, that it shook Tony to his very core. Its eyes were almost manic, intense and fevered, but inexplicably cold, strangely calculating, in the exact same moment.
Tony looked into that endless, soulless red, and thought only of blood.
In the first clutches of total, all-encompassing panic, one thought surfaced.
I need to get the fuck out of here.
Just as he made the decision to propel himself upwards and away from the monstrous thing he was fairly sure he was no match for (even if his suit had been at 100% functionality, which it really, really wasn't), he watched in abject horror as its face began to change.
Over what should have been lips, the metal oozed back, rippling like liquid, pulling back wider than any human mouth could possibly stretch, and the creature let out a terrible piercing scream that reverberated through the air and jarred Tony all the way down to his bones. The blood-curdling screech ricocheted round and round, unending, and God, it was nails on a chalkboard, it was a knife against a porcelain plate, it was unbearable. It sounded like torture. The very darkest, deepest pits of hell were full of damned souls that screamed that same long scream. It sounded like agony, like blood and the stuff of nightmares, and the fear it awoke in him was a yawning abyss of black, terror choking the breath from his lungs.
Tony's hands flew up to claw at his head, desperate for the noise to just stop.
The awful scream abruptly cut off, strangled in the robot's throat, and the metal, like quicksilver, crawled back down its face, leaving the surface smooth and unbroken once more.
And before Tony could blink, before he could react at all, the Doombot threw him straight through the shattered window, and out into the open sky.
As he fell, he watched the thing jettison itself from the ruins of the office block and launch through the air, colliding with him with bone-shuddering force, pinning him against the opposite building, and the scream of metal on metal was hideous, jarring in his ears, rattling inside his skull, until he was deaf with it. Jagged pain sliced through him as he felt his collarbone break with a sickening snap and he screamed in agony inside his helmet. Through the comms he heard the team shout his name, and there was true fear in their harsh voices, anger and panic both, howling in his ears.
His vision swam and his bones creaked and he dragged his eyelids open to find those hideous eyes, so red, so utterly empty, locked with his, and Tony felt himself recoil inside his suit, body pressing back in an attempt to get as far away as possible from the metal thing pinning him with its unyielding weight. But he couldn't break that terrible soulless gaze.
Something was wrong here. There was something he was missing, dots he wasn't connecting. His brain swam in a hot fuzz of dizzying pain and he couldn't think. The panic was choking him, the fear and the agony vibrating in his chest. He couldn't move. He couldn't fight. He couldn't free himself. His arms were pinned to his sides, and those whirring, spinning, unearthly eyes glowed inches from his face, watching him.
And he saw it. Through the haze of red, through the layers of glass and metal and magic, he saw it.
A dilated, human pupil.
Thick skeletal fingers glinted in the daylight as Tony strained against their grip, understanding seizing him like mania, and as the thing regarded him with those awful red eyes, its fingers abruptly tightened their hold on his torso, squeezing, grinding and grating against the armour, and with sudden paralysing clarity, Tony felt the metal buckling, stays giving way, wires snapping, and suddenly the scales of his suit were mashing together in a shower of sparks and the pain in his ribs as they were crushed like dry kindling blinded him.
He heard the captain's scream in his ear, as it echoed his own, and it sounded so far away. He saw white as the creature's grip closed ever tighter around him, before the world faded, shuddering, into the blackness of nightmares, and he spiralled down into terrible, terrible silence.
The laser hissed as it cut through layer upon layer of metal, and though there was no safe distance, for who among them had before seen magic and science combined?, they kept well back from the thing lying ruined on the slab in front of them.
With a deafening crack, the laser breached the innermost layer of the Doombot's shell.
Pincers slid down and under the lip cut into the metal, and there was a crunch and an awful sucking, peeling sound, almost like the opening of a chrysalis, as the shell was pulled back to reveal the mechanism underneath.
Nothing could have prepared them for the nightmare inside.
One technician doubled over and was violently sick down the side of a cabinet, another clutched desperately at the worktop, before collapsing into the arms of a colleague as nausea dragged them into unconsciousness.
The shock radiated through the room, and all stood in total silence, unable to tear their eyes away from the hideous creature broken open before them.
Encased in the gleaming silver shell, lay a disgusting, oozing foetal mass, limbs limp and repulsively skeletal in their metal prison, flesh sloughed from the bones gleaming white under the fluorescent bars of light hanging above them.
It had no eyelids, no nose, and its mouth was a gaping chasm, without teeth, without a tongue. Those terrible eyes stared up from its bone white face, if it could be called a face at all, and a sheen of clear liquid slid across the surface as the air touched its skin, dripping onto the metal around it.
It stank of rot, and decay.
It stank of death.
At last, one man found his voice, and fractured and ragged as it was, it was deafening as he whispered,
"Command, are you seeing this?"
And as hysterical panic boiled up, sweeping through them like a wave, as hands clutched at doors, as bodies pushed and shoved to get out of the place that contained that pitiful, terrible, dead creature, the voice that spoke trembled.
"Mother of God, they were human."
A/N: Please feel free to review, and don't forget to read npeg's phenomenal Stony fic: Drowning in a Sea of Stars