Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers.

Author's Note: This story is cross-posted here and on Archive of Our Own. Well, actually it's posted first there and posted here when I remember to do it. I'm still pissed at the purging ff dot net has been doing with mature-rated stories and I also don't really like the update system here. But at the same time, ff dot net is my first love when it comes to fanfic archives, soo... yeah.

You can find it at archiveofourown works/ 431106

Or you can google '"Loki's Game" Sarshi'. Or you can google a quote from the story. It'll take you there.

Author's Note about the stuff in the story: I should really be working on other things, but I was also thinking that I should start writing a mastermind sometime if I want to introduce a few in an original story. So here I am, experimenting with Loki.

Enjoy.

(by the by, if Loki doesn't seem very sane, it's because he's not ;) )

Chapter 1

He had nearly killed Tony Stark.

Not personally. But one thing had led to another and then Iron Man was riding a bomb to his impending doom. Loki had started it, therefore it was his fault. He had nearly killed Tony Stark.

There had been no way to foresee it, of course. Particular details of battles and plans were never entirely clear. But the general scope?... He should've seen it coming. He had made sure that the Chitauri wouldn't harm any of the Avengers, but he hadn't for a single second thought that humans would harm their own.

After all, for Loki it had been clear that he would lose. He had assumed that it would be clear for everybody else as well. There was one Loki - and there were a lot of Avengers. One mischief god versus a thunder god and a more than sufficient handful of worthy heroes. The equation was easy. It was clear. Loki would be defeated.

'Your kind are idiots,' Loki thought at his mental image of Tony. 'I could see my own fall there, but they couldn't. Tell me, Iron Man, is humanity as a whole no challenge to my intelligence?...'

But, being a mental image, Tony Stark didn't reply. Loki could picture a hundred replies, ranging from apology to anger, but there was no way to actually know what he would say. More the pity.

Loki had thought ahead and considered a scenario in which, with the aid of the Chitauri, he would be too strong. Then the humans would send more troupes, defend their civilians and crush Loki under a million bullets from a hundred thousand shooting guns. This would bring him to his knees, but not kill him, because he had his magic and knew when to fall to his knees to make them cease firing. In case the humans would be unable to close the portal, he would do it himself. The silly old man he had made his servant had believed that he had gotten away with making his staff the key to close it all, but it had been Loki's idea, naturally. It was good to have a handy way of controlling your own devices.

'You didn't see that,' he told imaginary Natasha. 'For all your cleverness, you didn't see it. Why would I fail to see what my brainless minions were doing?'

Yet it seemed that he had overestimated his enemies. Scenario numbre three: he won. Then the logical thing to do where humans were concerned was to give in and bide their time until they could shrug off Loki's rule. He hadn't realized that humans would kill innocents in a stupid sacrifice - a sacrifice which would also be pointless since the portal wouldn't have closed when the bomb went off. The Chitauri far enough away would stand back, wait for the brunt of destruction to go away, then attack again, this time without being faced by anybody but the Hulk and maybe Thor.

A bomb. He had nearly killed Tony Stark because he had misunderstood the way that human political leaders thought.

It was strange that this, of all things, should come to mind again and again.

Hear it again, world: he had nearly killed Tony Stark.

'You were supposed to be a genius and a heartless bastard,' he told imaginary Tony. 'You should know better. Not dying is better than dying heroically. Thor should have done the idiotic gesture, not you. He's resilient, that one. He could've survived the bomb. I think.' Loki paused in his mental rant. Would he have preferred losing his brother over Iron Man?...

But he didn't have to choose, now did he? It was all over and done and Loki was the sort to focus on the present and the future, not on could-have-beens and should-have-beens.

...He kept pacing and pacing around his cell. The prison in Asgard was better than the one the humans would have offered. The cell was comfortable because nobody had seen the point of making it uncomfortable. There was a carpet on the floor and his bed was soft. There was no way to hide anything, like the fact that you were digging a tunnel out. The very fact that everything was beautifully decorated and carefully elegant insured that a single new mark stood out. The elegance insured that you didn't want to destroy things, because the guards would get angry and then you'd have to be beaten up a little to understand what was good for you.

Above the cells were seven underground floors belonging to the army, in which new recruits trained. After that you could escape into military buildings. Then onto the island where the army had its major headquarters. If you managed to sneak out of your cell you had to pass through any number of trained guards and warriors. Loki felt he should applaud the thoroughness of the system and its impenetrability, but he knew exactly how to escape. He was Loki, former prince of Asgard, and nobody should own a prison that they could not get out of.

Not that he wanted to get out yet. The cell was comfortable and certain things had to happen before he could officially escape. Otherwise there wouldn't be a secure spot to rest.

...He had nearly killed Tony Stark, his thoughts said again.

'So I did. Why does it bother me? He is safe now. I will plan better in the future. I will learn my enemies better, I will understand them better. That is the lesson.'

The Chitauri were down, the Frost Giants were frightened. They could have been dead, but Odin was Odin. Thor was bound to Earth now and Asgard was unsettled by the fact that Loki was imprisoned. He would go after the dark elves next and draw them in the battle, watching humans and Asgardians defeat them together.

Somewhere in the middle of all that he would get what he wanted.

'What are you doing?' the voice of Tony asked. 'Why are you manipulating the chess board?' Loki really wished they could have this conversation. He wanted to be asked, wanted to tell. Wanted to get just drunk enough to explain things to Tony and make it look like an accident. What would the man say?...

He pictured Tony in his penthouse apartment, drink in his hand, looking relaxed on his couch and aware that Loki would never really hurt him, that the way he'd been thrown through the window was due to the fact that Loki knew he would get away just fine. The Tony in his imagination trusted him because Loki wanted the man in his imagination to trust him right now. 'Because I have a game going on, clever man.'

'Obviously.'

'Yes, I know all about you and your little friends now. I've gotten you angry, I've seen you doing your best against the Chitauri. You have no secrets. I've learned you. Thor remains Thor, Natasha has reached her deadly limits, the Hulk is impressive, but non-changing. But you, Tony, you can change. You can come up with a clever way to improve yourself, I'm sure. You can improve again and again and offer a challenge.'

'Flatterer,' Tony says. Loki likes to flatter people and he imagines Tony would be pleased to hear that. A small smile in the corner of his mouth, then he would ask, 'So what are you doing?'

And Loki would kiss him. He'd run his hand through Tony's hair, loosen a button on his shirt. 'I am happy to know that your lit chest device won't allow you to fall pray to magical enchantments. Or maybe it's your interesting mind that won't let you do it.'

'You're avoiding the subject,' Tony says.

'And you're not real. Which is why I can picture pressing you against the wall hard, picture feeling your breath on mine, hearing you say you desperately want me. I can have my way with you in each and every way, do any number of perverted things to you and swear you to secrecy as you die drowned in pleasure with me. But it's all unsatisfying.'

Loki ceased pacing and flopped on the bed. No. Self-awareness shouldn't enter fantasies because then they became something stranger. You do not tell a fantasy that it is a fantasy because it becomes a bit too real then. The image should pretend to be real to remain an illusion. Especially when you were the god of mischief and could, as it were, create an image of Tony Stark and have it do things for you.

And here was the problem. Loki, damn himself, wanted. Ever since studying Earth more carefully and observing his enemies, he had wanted.

Genius, playboy, scientist, inventor. A short-ish handsome man with a great potential and great stupidity. Self-destructive tendencies, brilliant mind. He didn't know what it really meant to have it hard because he simply never allowed himself to feel it. He was an embarrassment to himself and his friends when having a bad day, a man you were proud to know the next. And Loki... he needed to conquer and break and have. Tony was such a target, a megalomaniac target who was simply too high on a pedestal and needed to be brought down on his knees, preferably right in front of Loki.

Loki wanted to break him and unbreak him, bring him to bed and humble him and make him beg. He wanted to strip him of his Iron Man suit and of his pretenses and cockiness. He wanted to find out what was inside and then force Tony to become aware of it.

The Hulk was a stone who had no weakness except his stupidity. Loki was not interested. Bruce Banner was Hulk. Loki was not interested. Natasha was a steel rose, beautiful and hard and hiding nothing despite all the lies - she knew herself and was strong and clever and aware of her true worth. Loki was almost, but not quite, interested. Thor was a hero made of muscle. Loki was not interested. Clint was too weak. Loki was not interested. Steve Rogers was simple and good. Loki was very slightly tempted to have him broken, but in the end he was not interested. It was Tony who'd caught his attention. He was a pleasure. A refinement. Because what Loki really wanted was to be able to break and then have the pieces come back together in another way. He wanted to see imperfection ruined and perfection emerging. And, maybe, tears and pleading.

'I want to strip you,' Loki told the Tony in his imagination. 'Tie you up. Hurt you. Caress you. I want to have you in my own prison and visit you day by day, seduce you and harm you until you come running in my arms. I want to have you here with me, in this cell, wear you out minute by minute until you cannot but give in. I want to push you in a corner, pin you to the wall and make you realize you cannot defend yourself against me and threaten you until you forget to bluff. And then I could be kind.'

'Has anybody ever told you you're deranged?' the imaginary Tony asked.

'Only the voices in my head,' Loki answered. 'When I make them do it.'

Author's Note: The next chapter is already on Archive of Our Own. I'll post it here soon-ish, after formatting it for this site.