It's sometime later the next day, maybe late evening, Tony isn't sure, when he corners Bruce as he's puttering around in one of the R and D labs, putting the final touches on something he's working on for Stark Industries, or maybe for S.H.I.E.L.D, Tony can't really keep track anymore. And maybe corner isn't the best word, as Tony strolls in, drops into the chair Bruce had previously been occupying, and starts talking without preamble. Maybe, 'bombard,' would be a better word.
He's in the middle of a sentence, explaining to him some of the new suit modifications he has in mind, that he might or might not want help on, when he glances over at Bruce and Bruce meets his eyes from over the beaker he's holding (now empty, so he's likely in the middle of cleaning up) and Tony thinks, huh, I wonder what he was working on. Because likely he's been at it all day if he's still in the lab this late.
And really, it's not thatlate, just after sunset, Tony thinks, but they didn't have a team dinner or anything tonight, so he can't be too certain. If he isn't eating regularly with the team, or looking directly at a clock, he usually isn't keeping track. And that usually means he's in his own lab, not sleeping oreating, and not paying a lick of attention to the clock he actually does have in there (at Pepper's insistence more than anything; he'd have thrown it out otherwise.)
And as it is, he hasn't been in his lab at all today, has mostly just spent it avoiding Pepper and doing more work when she found him anyway, and he's pretty certain there were at least two far too long conference calls squeezed in there somewhere, and after it all he'd fallen asleep and slept his evening away.
(So maybe there was a team dinner tonight, maybe he just slept through it.)
Bruce clears his throat and pulls him from his thoughts and Tony realizes he had just cut off in the middle of what he was saying and not said anything else, so he continues with what he had originally stopped to say instead.
"Whatcha working on?" he asks, and then doesn't wait for Bruce to answer, simply snatches up the notebook Bruce has just set down and flips it open. Something involving DNA and medical terms and it looks far too boring to really start a conversation about so he drops the notebook back onto the desk without a word.
Bruce looks at him with an expression of limited patience and picks it right back up. "Do you need something, Tony?"
Tony sighs and settles into the chair and decides he should just get to the point then. "Yesterday?" And Bruce knows what he means and there's no need for explanation, except on his part, which is what Tony's here for.
Bruce leans against the desk and does that thing he does, where he pushes up his glasses to rub at the bridge of his nose. "Yesterday," he begins, "Could have gone a lot smoother, so thank you for that, Tony."
Tony grins. "You're welcome." And then an awkward second passes and Tony realizes what that was. "That was sarcasm, right?"
"It was." And Bruce now has the notebook open and is writing in it, probably jotting down a quick thought or maybe trying to quickly finish what Tony had clearly interrupted.
"Well, you suck at it," Tony tells him and, because he hates being ignored; and because he clearly has no self preservation, he pulls the notebook straight out of Bruce's hands without warning, even as the man is mid-writing with his pen. A nice, scratchy ink line now crosses the page, and Tony looks at it and realizes just how freaking stupid that was, all things considered.
He chances a hesitant look at Bruce who looks totally fine and only a little put out, and he manages to offer him a weak grin. Bruce just stares back at him. "Fine," he says, "We can talk."
"Good," Tony says, and, he thinks, he's been doing an awful lot of talking lately. "Good," he says again. "Because that's what I'm here for. So–"
Tony pauses, for effect, of course, and totally not because he's struggling to find the words he wants, and he tosses down the notebook in order to reach forward and pick up Bruce's abandoned pen, simply to have something better to do with his hands. He spins it back and forth between his fingers, considering Bruce for a moment. "Were you actually trying to talk Thor into taking Loki back to Asgard?" he asks at last.
"Is it so hard to believe?" Bruce asks, "We did all agree and–"
"No, I believe it, just–" And Tony stops there, looking down at the pen in his hands, as if it might somehow tell him the words he needs to say next. He fumbles it as he moves it between his fingers once more, and it falls, clatters to the floor, the noise somehow louder in the silence, and Tony promptly leans back and pretends that didn't just happen. When he looks back at Bruce, the man is poorly suppressing a grin, and just like that the potentially awkward moment is passed, so Tony forges ahead.
"Ok, listen," he continues, "I can't say I would blame you or Steve if you changed your minds on this. I mean, this is hardly the best decision the team has ever made–" Tony looks carefully at Bruce, who shakes his head, his body now relaxed beside him, the tense lines of his jaw and face finally smoothed out. "Alright, well, it did look like it was heading in that direction when I left–"
Bruce shrugs. "Tony, you left before it could really head in any direction," he points out.
"Yes, but I left to go take Loki dinner, so–"
"And how did that go, by the way?" And Bruce looks genuinely curious, no trace of sarcasm in his features.
"It went well enough," he tells him. "I mean, he did show up for breakfast this morning." And Loki had, though he had sat away from the team, head in a book. But he had eaten, which was good, as Tony was pretty certain he hadn't eaten all weekend outside of the dinner he had brought him Sunday night.
Bruce looks thoughtful at that. "That was you?"
Tony nods. "It was, he and I had a bit of a talk." He pauses and there is a second where he realizes that Bruce has changed the subject, and perhaps not entirely by accident. Or maybe it is unintentional, you can never be sure with Bruce, just like with the sarcasm thing.
"You," he says, pointing, "changed the subject."
Tony 'hmphs' and crosses his arms. "You did. We're supposed to be talking."
"We are talking."
"Yes, but we're supposed to be talking talking."
"Talking talking?" Bruce echoes, mouth twisted into a smile. "We are talking talking–"
Tony waves his hand through the air, cutting him off. "Okay okay, talking about yesterdayI mean, smartass." He says it with a grin, and Bruce chuckles.
"Yesterday, I tried to talk to you, remember? I tried to tell you when I came and got you for dinner–"
"Did you really?" Tony blinks at him and, yes, he totally remembers that, only he doesn't really. Just remember's Bruce talking at him as he followed in a tired daze, not listening.
Bruce leans his head back to stare at the ceiling, sighing. "Yes."
"Oh, well, you know–"
Bruce nods. "I do." There's silence for a moment, in which Tony follows his gaze to the ceiling, to the rough, cobbled texture in the tiles there, and he thinks that maybe this conversation is doomed to go nowhere, and maybe he should leave Bruce to finish up what he was doing instead of hassling him. And then Bruce speaks again, and Tony looks at him to find him already staring back at him.
"We're worried about Thor," he says.
Bruce gives him a lookand Tony manages to look as innocent as possible. "Alright, so obviously not you, Tony," he begins again, "but Steve and I– You haven't really been around this weekend, you haven't seen him, Thor has been so–"
"Quiet?" Tony tries, recalling the god's strange silence at dinner the night before, and how he'd looked at the mention of his brother.
"It wasn't all that hard to."
Thor is boisterous and loud and the light of every moment, and Tony is not sure if that is a god thing or a Thor thing, but either way, Thor not acting like Thor is a thing people notice. Like quiet, contemplative Thor approaching him at three in the morning to talk about feelings.
"So we're worried about Thor?" he confirms, leaning forward. "And–?"
"And we talked, and it went well, and now we're less worried about Thor."
"Good, that's good. And Loki?"
Bruce shrugs. "Personally? I, well– It's Loki. So–" Tony arches an eyebrow at his pause and Bruce sighs and runs a hand through his hair. "I could be sleeping better at night, maybe," he continues, "But no, no real problem here. And what about you? You've spoken to him already more than the rest of us."
Tony frowns, recalling his several conversations with Loki. "It's– It's been interesting so far. I'm mostly just taking it one day at a time." And for the sake of clarifying his thoughts, Tony adds, "He's different. Now." It's not something he's thought about a lot, but it is definitely something he's noticed. The Loki they knew is unrecognizable in the Loki prowling the halls of the tower now. He's something like the 'less evil twin;' he looks the same and sounds the same but he is very much notthe same.
"I've noticed," Bruce murmurs, thoughtful, "He's a lot different. It's– It's strange."
"It is," Tony agrees. He wonders what happened to him, to take him from what his is now, to the crazy god that tried to take over the planet. It seems like something best left to Thor to explain, but judging from the way he looks at Loki now, and from how he has spoken of him in the past, it is possibly something even he does not know the answer to.
"The two of you must have a lot in common," Bruce says idly, after some time has passed in silence, and Tony swivels his head up to look at him, frowning.
"I said, 'the two of you must–'" he begins to repeat, but Tony gestures wildly, cutting him off.
"No, no, no, I mean–" Tony pauses, searching for what he wants to say next. "Is this a thing? Like– Do you guys think we have stuff in common?"
"I don't know about everyone else, but I guess it's something that has crossed my mind once or twice," he tells him, pushing away from the desk. "You're both smarter than average. Thor said Loki was a genius back on Asgard. I'm sure both of you could have plenty to talk about on that front."
Tony nods, considering it.
"And Loki's supposed to be the God of Mischief," Bruce adds, smirking, "So there's something. I'm not entirely sure if I'm looking forward to the day you two team up to cause trouble, or if I'm dreading it."
"Between his magic and my science? You should definitely be looking forward to that."
Bruce rolls his eyes. "Pretty sure I'm dreading it actually," he corrects after a moment, "Not sure that's good for my blood pressure. You and Clint are bad enough."
Sometime later, maybe the next day, maybe the day after, Loki can't be sure (he loses track of time between sleepless nights and avoiding Thor and fits of inexplicable anger,) he seeks out Tony Stark. It is hardly difficult to find the man. He is sprawled out on the sofa in the team's main quarters, simultaneously eating and watching images flicker across the screen against the wall (a television, his mind supplies, though he does not remember being told this,) and doodling, no, writing on what appears to be a napkin flattened out across his chest, and Loki stumbles upon him, like this, almost by accident as he is leaving the kitchen.
Stark looks up at his approach and grins at him around a mouthful of food. Loki would be appalled at his manners if he had not already realized it would be a waste of time.
"Hey, Loki Loki Artichokey," he says, mouth still full, eyes shining with something that might be humor, and Loki frowns, confused.
"I– Nevermind." He drops his eyes back to the television and, crumpling up the napkin and tossing it aside, gestures to the other end of the sofa. "Sit," he says, moving his feet to make room and Loki eyes the spot warily before doing so.
There is silence then and he stares idly at the television. No sound comes from it, though he suspects it should, and after a moment, he looks to find Tony staring at him. He looks thoughtful, his forehead creased just so, and Loki shifts uncomfortably, wedged where he is into the corner of the sofa.
"Do you need something?" he asks, and Loki looks away with a frown, recalling why he had sought him out. For the company, partly, but also because he had nothing much else to do.
"What does one do on Midgard to pass the time?" he prompts, looking at him again.
Beside him, Tony smirks. "Why, you bored?"
"A bit," he responds, almost teasingly. But it is true. He has run out of books from his personal collection of interest to him enough to reread, and avoiding Thor has become increasingly difficult without the excuse of something to do. He is around every corner, at every turn, with too big smiles and too sad eyes, and Loki can stand it no longer.
His eyes flicker once more to the television, and wonders what entertainment value the images moving across the screen holds. Very little to him, he reasons, watching as an explosion rocks the image and throws several people across a field.
"What did you do on Asgard to fill the time?" he asks, and Loki frowns, considering the question. Time is different on Asgard, feels different, passes different, but he does not say as much, unsure of how to explain. It is not something a mortal can even come to understand, he is certain. Although looking at Tony, and recalling his extraordinary room of technology, he thinks perhaps he might not be just any ordinary mortal.
"Many things. I trained, I read, I studied," he says softly, looking at the television, though simply because it is something to look at that is not Tony and his inquisitive gaze. "On Asgard, I was a prince. I had responsibilities, as well." And he isn't quite sure what to do with himself here, what his place in all of this is supposed to be.
He sits with the rest of the team, and he still feels out of place and awkward, and Thor is no help, with his not-so-subtle attempts at conversation. And Loki spends his time there ignoring everyone, head buried in a book, answering to those around him only when asked. And he has been, they have made no small amount of attempts to include him, but somehow he feels out of place. He feels as if he has no common ground with any of them, no idea as to what to talk about.
Beside him, Tony stretches completely out across the sofa, his feet bumping his arm, and Loki moves it in time for Tony to drop both of his feet into his lap. He stares at them, startled, and almost misses Tony's words
"But on Midgard, you're not a prince," he points out, interrupting his thoughts, and Loki nods. "You're still a God, though."
"A God whose lap you have just put your feet in," he says, though he doesn't quite mind, all things considered.
Tony shrugs, gives him a crooked grin, and pointedly ignores the comment. "Alright, so you're a God, among men, who isn't quite sure of his place. I guess this counts as some kind of identity crisis, huh?"
Loki snorts. "I would not go so far as to say that," he tells him, resting a hand on Tony's ankle. "I am merely at a loss as to what my place is among this team."
"What do you want it to be?"
"I don't know," he replies honestly.
Tony considers him for a moment, his expression pensive, and Loki thinks maybe he sees something sad reflected in his eyes, but Tony blinks and it's gone, and he can't be sure he didn't imagine it.
"You're a genius, right?" Tony asks at last. "Thor once said something along those lines."
And Loki nods. "Yes, something like that," he murmurs. Genius is, perhaps, not quite the right word, but it is close. Loki does not see reason to correct Tony any more than he has.
Tony cocks his head, studying him. "Alright, so your problem is this, I can see it right now– So you didn't fit in on Asgard, right? Thor has mentioned that as well. And now you're here, and you also don't fit in. Am I getting close?"
Loki swallows, throat suddenly tight. "Is there anything Thor hasn'ttold you?" he asks in lieu of a proper response, voice scathing and sarcastic, and Tony's grin falls away and his jaw tenses slightly.
"Plenty," he replies smoothly, and Loki scowls. "But no, seriously, Loki, hear me out here," he continues, nudging him with his foot. Loki tightens his grip on the man's ankle and hopes it hurts. "I'm shit at giving advice, but I'm really trying to help here."
He pauses there, and stays silent long enough that Loki thinks, at first, he is finished speaking. But then a moment later he continues.
"Think of this as a fresh start," Tony tells him, looking at him pointedly, and there is something unreadable in his expression. "You're in a new place with new people, and your life on Asgard can't reach you here."
Loki nods, slowly, taking in his words. It is not completely terrible advice, regardless of how he feels about it, and Tony has, as of yet, not been completely terrible at giving it.
"Thank you," he murmurs, because he feels he owes it to this man, who has taken the time to even give him advice. And Tony grins, huge, in response.
He stands a moment later, lifting his arms above his head to stretch, and Loki catches himself staring at the strip of flesh exposed by his rising shirt. He looks him over and, as Tony turns, Loki thinks he catches a spot of blue shining through his shirt. He opens his mouth, to ask about it, because surely that is not something he has just imagined, but he is interrupted by a shrill sound that, out of nowhere, begins to echo throughout the room (and the whole of the Tower, he suspects, judging by how loud the sound is.)
Tony freezes, his grin dropping as quickly as it had come, and Loki looks at him, confused.
"What is that?" he asks, standing and chancing a glance out of the window, to where something that might be smoke rises in the distance.
"The alarm," Tony replies, already turning and heading for the elevator. "It goes off for emergencies."
"Emergencies?" Loki follows after him, stepping into the elevator just before the door closes. The noise is significantly quieter in here, but he can still hear it, ringing in his ears.
"Yeah, something bad happens, we go save the day, that kind of emergency."
Tony eyes him cautiously, frowning. "You're coming too," he says, and Loki blinks, startled.