Chapter 24: Like a God

"What is this to you?" Loki asked as they lay together, propped against Tony's headboard.

"I haven't had this much fun since..." Tony paused and thought. "I've never had this much fun."

"And is that sufficient?"

"Yeah. Yeah, it is."

"For how much longer would you like to have it?"

There was a silence and Tony didn't want to allow it to lengthen.

"So I guess you noticed how I deftly avoided the whole 'distant future' subject back there on the plane."

"Yes," said Loki simply. There was something terribly, painfully accepting in those deep red eyes, and Tony recognized it, and he hated it in Loki as much as he clung to it in himself.

Howard Stark had treated him like one of his machines, always wanting perfection, consistency, predictability. Then he'd gone and died, and Obie had done everything in his power to keep Tony that damaged, oblivious kid his father had created.

Changing himself, reshaping himself, being adaptable and independent and resilient; these were the things that were within his power, that made him feel powerful. Not his genius, or his money, or even his armor. The ability to carry on after anything; to take whatever was in front of him and create a life that he could live.

A future that could be relied on...it was too much to think about, because he knew the pain he would feel if he allowed himself to build on it and then it got snatched away.

"Talking about the future? Really not my thing. I'm very much about the now."

He avoided the red eyes and instead he played with Loki's ear, tugging on the lobe playfully, the back of his mind cataloguing comparative skin elasticity and noting the speed at which the isolated piece of blue tissue warmed under his touch.

He sat there for a little while longer, until that hatred for the acceptance in Loki's eyes became more than the...he supposed the word was fear...of letting his mind go where it hadn't for a long time.

"Look, I don't need anything other than you. That's not it. If I woke up here, twenty years from now, and you were there, God I can't do this. I can't let myself think about that." Tony buried his face in the pillows.

Then something occurred to him and he rolled back to look up at Loki's face again.

"I don't do well with time. Time and I aren't exactly best buds. Especially since this." Tony tapped his reactor. "I have to do everything now in case I never get a chance to do anything again. If there's one thing I am, it's mortal. But you, Springbok, you've got literally all the time in the world. And you're a god. I guess you can spend it however you want. My life must seem like the blink of an eye to you, so what does it matter whether it's a month or half a century? You'll forget it just the same."

"Do you truly believe that?"

"I don't know, I've never lived a thousand years then tried to remember something. I forget what day of the week it is and the last time I ate."

"Will you ever forget Yinsen?"

Loki had asked about that name after Tony had called it during his nightmares.

"...No," said Tony. "Never. But..."

The god interrupted then, pulling Tony's face up towards his own and capturing Tony's brown eyes with those inescapable red ones. "You are a beautiful storm of truth and lies. Fascinating in their own right, but once I rode through them it was as if you offered yourself up like a sacrifice to me. Showed me your heart and mind without hesitation. I don't ever remember not being feared. That changed me forever. Even if I lose myself again, I won't lose what you gave me. A memory of finding peace in the eye of the storm."

Then Tony could see what the red eyes had been hiding with that terribly blank, empty calm. A devastatingly powerful hope. And hope is a destructive force, Tony knows this. It moves into your mind and starts rearranging all your shit until it finds a way to get you what you want, or destroys your mind in the process. Hope got him out of that cave, and left his mind a blasted lanscape of ruined habits, overturned assumptions, and this hyperawareness of his own impermanence.

Hope had turned him into Iron Man.

Tony knew what this god was capable of with a beast of an emotion like that running free in his mind. It freaked him right out, to be honest. Here was Tony Stark, possibly the only thing standing in between an insane god and a doomed planet.

Well, it wouldn't be the first time.

Tony had stood in front of this man without his armor and talked (threatened? Stalled? Bluffed?) his way through the few minutes he needed. No, he hadn't been afraid. He was pretty sure he was going to die, though. So he thought, might as well make the best of this. Here's a puzzle. Can I solve it before time runs out? And Tony had smiled, and he'd played the game for the sheer pleasure of it.

He had a hell of a lot less armor on now. It was no longer an option to confuse Loki with a storm of words. But it was still the same basic choice. What did he most want to do with the time he had?

He kept his eyes on those red ones, because he wanted to spend as much time as possible looking at them. "Forget losing or keeping. Forget time. Time's a jerk anyway. This is all you need to know. If I had the choice, every day, starting now, I'd wake up and see you."

The red eyes turned bright at that.

"Then all I can do is offer you that choice every day, starting now. And maybe give you less to fear from the future."

Loki held out his blue hand, and in it was a golden apple.

"You already think of yourself as a god. We might as well make it official."

"What is that?"

"You don't like to think about the future. So don't think. Just eat this."

Tony hesitated. He didn't understand how it worked. On the other hand, he always did like trying new foods.

"Trust me," said Loki with a twisted smile. "I have a plan."

And how could Tony say no to that?

He took the apple.


Author's Notes

So that was my first slash fic ever. Normally it's not something that appeals to me. There's just something about Tony and Loki that seems right to me.

My author's notes got way too long so I'll continue them over on my blog, which is at qwanderer dot wordpress et cetera. I'll post a proper link in my profile as well.

Quick note, golden apples: The apples of Idunn, the goddess of youth and rejuvenation.

Neko: Yeah, I imagine blue!Loki to be the color of Mystique, but with a bit less texture. Just a few extra lines rather than all those scales.