A/N: Hey guys! You're all probably tired of hearing this, but I'm so so very sorry for the long delay. I have no excuse.
I just hope you all enjoy the chapter and hope that it makes up for not updating in so long.
"Drowning is a bit dramatic." Tony spoke to no one in particular. He was in his lab, fiddling with some scrap metal and looking at the blue prints for a new suit, a smile tugging at his lips.
His eyes scanned the paper, picking out faults and making mental adjustments to the armor. When completed, it would be a thing of beauty and also his fourth suit that month.
According to Pepper, he'd taken refuge in the building suits as a way to escape the traumatic events of his life. It was his way of avoiding the situation, of trying to erase the stains that his time in Afghanistan had left him with. According to Pepper, he was immersing himself in building suits and making improvements to the ones he'd already built because his PTSD was getting worse and the suits were his retreat.
Pepper was wrong, Tony assured himself. His PTSD was most certainly not getting worse nor was he running from his problems. Tony just liked building suits. What was so wrong with that?
He ignored the aching that echoed in his chest.
"Would it really be drowning if it happened willingly?" He mused out loud a moment later, returning to his previous train of thought.
Pausing, Tony waited for Jarvis to reply.
"Well … technically drowning is to die under liquid of suffocation so it wouldn't really matter if it was an accident or on purpose."
The only sound present in the lab was the drumming in Tony's ears.
"Jumping off of a building is overrated, as so is hanging from a fan."
He concluded that he was lacking sleep.
"Poison is anticlimactic and bleeding dry is not an option. Not quick enough."
Or maybe he was finally going insane.
"Over dosage …" Tony let the thought hang in the still air.
He just needed to stop thinking.
However, being that that was impossible, Tony focused all his attention on the blue prints for the suit and the pieces of metal piled on his desk. Somewhere along the lines, he'd decided that he wanted to make his new suit out of recycled scrap. It'd been a pain gathering all the pieces, but Lucas had insisted that he needed a hobby that wasn't shutting himself up in his lab.
Tony had succeeded in following Lucas' advice for a record time of two days.
So, as the situation stood, Tony had all the equipment he needed to build his next masterpiece, but, at that moment, for all the worlds worth, he couldn't find the motivation to move his too heavy limbs or fight the gloom bubbling inside of him.
As he stared into the pile of scrap, the gloom grew and Tony found himself inwardly cringing.
Sighing, he steeled himself and got up from his lab chair. He'd decided on the colors gold and blue for his new suit, and just the prospect of seeing the finished piece, its fresh coat of paint gleaming in the too bright fluorescent lights of the lab, was enough motivation for him.
Once he'd started, Tony found himself getting lost easily in the process.
Crafting a suit was something, which at this point, he could do in his sleep. Despite this, the thrill that went through him as he melded the metals together and smoothed out the rough edges, never faded.
By the time he was done, hours had passed.
Smiling at the shining armor, Tony ran his hands over the chest piece, over the shoulders and down the arms, marveling at the smooth texture, the fine curves of the metal as it molded together. The fresh coat of paint shone, the rich navy blue melting into a dull gold. As Tony ran the pads of his finger around the area where his arc reactor would go, he felt a ludicrous smile creep onto his face.
Soon, however, the smile slipped off.
He had a new suit but no one to show off to.
Tony wouldn't admit it out loud, but he missed Jarvis.
Maybe that was his problem.
He'd always had a way with words but he never knew what to say.
By now Loki had learned to relish in the cold; the very cold that he'd once despised.
He stood still, face turned up towards the shower head as it spewed ice cold water. His posture was sagged, his eyes closed, and his mind drifting. The god's skin had become wrinkled from being exposed to water for too long, but he didn't mind.
As the water fell on him and trailed down his body, Loki found all thought leaving him. He could spend hours under the cold water, and he did. It chilled him to the bone, leaving him shivering for hours after, but Loki embraced it with open arms.
Loki had learned that it was better to live with indifference, complete and absolute, void of any and all emotion than to bottle up hate and resentment, and that's where the cold water came in.
He'd discovered that a splash of cold water did wonders for clearing a muddled mind and for driving away any emotions.
His life was so much better now, even if the panic attacks were more frequent. He just took them in stride. It had become a normal occurrence for him, after all.
He simply didn't care anymore and that made all the difference.
Truth be told, some credit went to the infernal meetings he had to attend.
It had been a little more than a week since his sessions with Stark had begun. In the beginning, Lucas had spent the sessions trying to coax both men to talk and failed horrendously each time.
Sometimes Lucas would ask questions and receive groans in reply, but that was the most of a reply that either man graced him with.
After a day or two Lucas had given up … except, "given up" wasn't the correct term. He'd stopped all attempts at making conversation and let the men sit in silence; and it was perfectly fine with Loki … it was just that the fire in the doctor's lavender eyes was unsettling. It was as if the whole thing was a part of his grand scheme, as if he was angling at something and the men were playing into his trap.
The god wasn't fond of being thought of as a chess piece.
But it was easily ignored. As they all settled down, the two men easing into their chairs and Lucas sitting rigid at his desk, elbows placed on the wood, chin resting in clasped hands and gaze unwavering as he looked at the two men simultaneously, the silence swallowed them all whole.
At first, Loki loathed it. He was so sick of silence, of the underlying noise behind it, the constant buzzing it surrounded him in. Under its weight he found himself constantly shifting, waiting for someone to speak up. Many times he tried to speak, but at those times he found that his mouth had gone dry and that he'd lost the ability to form words.
For a while Loki resorted to glaring at Lucas, waiting for him to speak, daring him to.
When all else failed and when he couldn't find the motivation to break the silence himself, he settled into it, letting it shroud his senses. It was then that he found his salvation.
The god was used to noise lurking in the fine lining of silence, but sitting in the large armchair in Lucas' office he found that the silence was just that, silent. It was mind-numbing and dizzying and wonderful.
When he'd fallen off of the Bifrost, Loki had accoutered a similar sensation. The silence in the abyss was blessedly just that, and had engulfed him. But at that time, he had been so full of hate and rage that the silence only added fuel to the fire.
But now that Loki had "let go," the silence wasn't filled with overbearing thoughts nor was it an open invitation for his demons to tantalize him.
The god chose to ignore the fact that the fierceness behind Lucas' eyes burned holes into his already torn up soul.
Tony grimaced, and rubbed his wrists. He was in his room, engulfed in a pile of soft covers.
Exhaustion racked his body, even though he'd spent the day doing absolutely nothing … well, there was building his suit but that didn't qualify as a tiring task.
Ignoring his aching body, Tony turned to lay on his stomach, sending another wave of pain rippling through him.
Closing his eyes, Tony sighed, cringing when it caught in his throat and came out as more of a broken sob.
He wished Jarvis would ask him what was wrong.
Well, it wouldn't really have mattered since nothing was wrong.
It was just that Tony was so damned tired.
It was all Pepper's fault, he decided.
After all, it was she that made him go to those god forsaken therapy sessions.
He knew they would never work. Instead of helping him, Tony found that going to the therapy sessions had only made his condition worse.
Groaning, he buried his face into his pillow, willing himself to stop thinking.
Instead his thoughts drifted to the previous week.
The first two days in therapy had been a disaster. The both he and Loki were too stubborn for their own good, and Lucas was even more so.
He'd tried to incite conversation but failed miserably, neither man providing a response except for the occasional grunt.
It was the third day of their session when he saw a flash of determination pass through Lucas' lavender eyes.
From that moment on, Tony knew nothing good could come from the therapy sessions.
The next day was filled with an abhorrent silence.
It suffocated him, his breathing occasionally becoming sporadic. He began to fidget, twirling his thumbs around each other, running one hand through his hair, scratching the stubble he hadn't bothered to shave.
The silence reminded him too much of the cave in Afghanistan, and sitting in the therapy room with its air conditioning, Tony found himself unbearably hot. It was as if the Afghan sun was still shining over him, surrounding him in heat and suffocating him.
Tony found himself undoing the top buttons of his shirt, and the buttons of the sleeves. He was sweating and it was ridiculous since the room was perfectly cool.
He had opened his mouth a few times, wanting to make a sound; any sound to put an end to the silence, but at that time, Tony found himself unable to make any noise.
Instead, screams welled up in his throat. The sound of footsteps echoed in Tony's ears, approaching footsteps that had filled him with dread when he'd been held hostage; for the steps singled the arrival of his tormentors.
Tony sat rigid in his chair, his hands twitching. Once or twice he found himself grasping at the edges of the arc reactor under his shirt, and one too many times his head snapped up toward the door as if he expected men holding guns and speaking a foreign language to come barging in.
The silence drove Tony insane and Lucas himself didn't help the situation. His jaw was set and there was a fire raging in his eyes that said that he was not to be deterred from whatever he was heading towards.
Never once did his gaze waver from the two men.
After the second day of following this routine, Tony decided that he was wasting his time on the sessions and that he wouldn't go.
He still found his feet dragging him to the god forsaken place.
Each day he entered the room with an iron resolve, head held high and his stride confident, and each day he left, his shoulders sagged and his tread heavy.
Maybe he wouldn't need to drown, overdose, or bleed dry.
Maybe the silence would be enough to do him in.
Loki didn't scream. He'd gotten used to the feeling of something crawling under his skin by now. The fact that it was a little worse than usual didn't seem to make a difference.
Loki wouldn't admit that he was scared out of his wits.
He vaguely remembered Thor saying something about Lucas being the best therapist in all of Manhattan.
The god feared for the city if Lucas was the best it had to offer.
Loki swallowed, despite the fact that his mouth had gone dry, as he felt someone breathe down his neck and felt slimy hands run up and down his body.
As something tore his heart from his chest, he doubled over in pain, not letting even a whimper escape his lips.
It was entirely his fault … he'd been neglecting his medicine.
Tony hated mornings.
Another morning meant another day. Another day meant more regrets.
Tony didn't think he could handle more regrets.
He wished he hadn't sent Pepper off on vacation, insisting that he would be fine. It was just that she'd really needed one. Tony knew that this whole affair was just as stressing for her as it was for him, so when she'd refused, he'd forced her to go.
He refused to acknowledge the fact that he hated seeing the way she looked at him these days, face melancholy and eyes near tears.
Pepper Potts was a very strong woman. She didn't cry easily.
The fact that just looking at Tony was enough to bring her near tears wasn't something he was proud of, or ready to face.
He could still see her worried eyes and the small and broken "Tony" that'd escaped her lips when he'd watch her get on her plane.
She'd wanted to say something to him. Something to reassure him, but in the end, she hadn't been able to come up with anything.
Or maybe she knew words would be useless.
Tony wished that she hadn't looked so hurt as he watched her climb into the jet.
"Jarvis . . ." He croaked, wondering if the AI would reply. He'd been receiving the silent treatment from the computer for the past few days. Apparently, Jarvis didn't approve of Tony going out for jogs in the pouring rain past midnight. Nor did he appreciate the fact that Tony would get drunk and fall asleep on the roof.
"Jarvis, you'd make a terrible friend."
"Stop ignoring me." Tony hated how broken he sounded, his voice barely rising above a whisper.
"I'm not ignoring you, sir. I've just found that nothing will get through to you at the moment and have saved myself the trouble of talking." The computer replied a few minutes later.
Tony felt his lips tug up into a small smile.
"Good to know you're still alive."
Tony ignored the implications behind the reply.
At least, he still had his computer butler.
"Yes, Jane, I think it would be a very good idea." Lucas replied, keeping his frustration from leaking into his voice.
He was working very hard at getting Jane to agree to have Thor come in for a few sessions with Loki.
"I can assure you that no buildings will be blown up … he's above throwing a tantrum …"
"What progress have we made?" Lucas pursed his lips.
"Well … progress isn't the word for it, but we're getting there."
The doctor could just picture Jane Foster on the other end of the phone, shifting from one foot to the other, hesitant to agree with his plan.
"It would be beneficial to both Loki and Thor." He added, not being entirely honest. There were several ways a session between Loki and Thor could turn out, at least from what Lucas had gathered.
They could either reach some cold peace or Loki would either
1) rip Thor's head off
2) rip his own head off
There was a pause in the conversation, in which Lucas guessed Jane was weighing the same options in her head.
"That's great!" Lucas exclaimed when the woman finally caved in. "I'll set up the appointment in a week's time?"
"No, Jane, a week isn't too soon."
"Yeah, that's perfect. Okay, see you then."
Sighing, Lucas turned his phone off. Leaning back into his chair, he pinched the bridge of his nose.
It was he that would be needing therapy after all of this was done.
Lucas had contemplated why he was going at such lengths for this case. He'd spent nights pouring over Loki (and Tony's) files, spent hours staring at the words on paper, wondering how he could help them.
Maybe his mother had been right. He had too big of a heart for this field. He got attached too easily.
Tony (tried to) set his jaw as he pushed the door to the dragon's den open.
Setting one foot in through the door, he already felt his knees turn to jelly as the cool air hit his face.
He was having an off day.
Running on zero hours of sleep and countless cups of coffee wasn't the best idea Tony ever had.
It was just that he'd been laying on the roof again and the night sky had been mesmerizing. Not to mention the fact that the image of his body, broken and bent, falling down to the earth from a gaping hole in the sky had kept him awake.
Tony gave himself some credit for making it to his chair without incident. Only once he was seated, did he notice that Lucas was missing from the room.
Confused, he looked at the watch around his wrist, wondering if he'd come in early.
No, he was on time.
Looking around the room he noticed that he wasn't entirely alone.
Loki was sitting in the chair to his right, lost in thought, his eyes fixed on a random point in space.
Tony would like to say that he had completely forgotten about him, but that wouldn't be entirely true. He had some sense that he was attending these sessions with Loki siting in the chair next to him, but as soon as he sat down and the silence swallowed him, Loki would be the last thing on his mind.
Happy to have finally found a distraction, Tony angled his body so that he was slightly turned towards the god. He occupied himself with watching the other man, the memory of Loki's panic attack still vivid in his mind.
Seeing the glazed look in the god's eyes, his slack posture, and taking in the fragile air around him, Tony wanted to reach a hand out and place it on the god's shoulder.
He immediately dismissed the absurd idea.
And yet, he couldn't tear his eyes away.
Tony pulled at his memory, vaguely remembering the other man telling him that he'd been diagnosed with PTSD and depression among other things.
Biting his lower lip, he found himself unable to do anything other than observe Loki. Not that he wanted to do anything else.
Tony had never thought about, and nor would he ever voice this out loud, but now that he took his time to look at Loki, Tony concluded that the god had a handsome profile.
He internally shuddered at having just called Loki handsome.
Maybe he was really going insane.
His eyes traced down Loki's jawline, and down the pale spans of neck. Loki swallowed and Tony's eyes watched as his Adam's apple bobbed up and down.
He ignored the fact that his observation of Loki could be misunderstood for him checking the god out.
Again and again, Tony found himself drawn to the god's eyes, of which he only had a side view, since Loki was facing forward.
The emerald color was striking, as sharp as finely cut glass, and yet at the same time the god's eyes were dull, strangled by despair, and enclosed by dark bags.
When the pain present in the other man's eyes became too much for Tony, he focused his attention on something else, that something else being Loki's hair.
Boy, did he need a haircut; and yet, Tony couldn't help but find the way that Loki's hair curled at his shoulders endearing. He thought that he would very much like to run his hand through the god's hair.
In the end, Tony summarized that it'd been a while since he'd been with someone. There could be no other reason for him finding Loki even slightly attractive.
His last time had been … well, Pepper, and that was a chapter that Tony had long since closed.
For once the pain in Tony's chest wasn't from the arc reactor.
Why again was Tony thinking about this now?
A sound that seemed to be coming from a dying animal reached Tony's ears, and he snapped out of his thoughts.
Some days were better than others for Loki.
Today was not one of those days.
He really shouldn't be neglecting his medicine, but Loki didn't like the fact that he had to rely on pills to keep him sane.
So when he found himself alone in the comfortable silence in Lucas' office, he let himself drift.
It'd been a mistake.
He found himself shivering for no apparent reason, panic building its way through his system.
And yet Loki remained adamant. He would not rely on pills to get through this. He wouldn't.
When was the wretched doctor going to get here?
A sudden pressure on his shoulder made Loki jerk back and he ended up painfully jabbing his own elbow in his side. How that was possible, Loki didn't know.
The pain seemed to drive the oncoming attack away.
Returning to reality in a flurry of rage, the god swatted away what he registered as a hand from his shoulder.
Turning his head so that he could face whoever this person was that thought they had a right to touch him, Loki found himself staring into a pair of very familiar eyes; eyes that were always lurking somewhere in the back of his mind.
And again, the hidden pain in them made Loki cringe.
"Stark," he growled. Only then did it occur to Loki that he'd completely forgotten about the other man, too occupied with the silence.
"Good to see you too, princess." Stark smirked at him.
Tony had a solid resolve to not reach out to Loki when he saw the god's body begin to shake.
He knew what was coming, having been through it himself countless times.
It wasn't a good idea to be left alone with your own thoughts, when they were your worst enemy.
Let's just say Tony's solid resolve wasn't so solid.
He'd found himself hoisting his body out of his chair and rushing to Loki's side. Placing a hand on Loki's shoulder, Tony wasn't so sure what to do next.
Apparently, he didn't have to do anything. Loki snapped out of his thoughts on his own, jerking away from him and swatting his hand away.
So much for trying to be helpful.
Crisis averted, Tony returned to his seat, all the while feeling Loki's eyes on him.
Silence ensured itself between the two again, but this time it was different. Now it was just plain awkward.
Tony Stark and Loki Laufeyson did not share awkward silences.
"Was it really that bad?" Tony found himself saying.
There was no reply, he hadn't been expecting one.
"Was what that bad?" Loki sounded annoyed.
Well, it wasn't like Tony had begged him to reply, he had no right to go and sound annoyed.
Tony slightly shook himself, trying to get his ind back on track.
Truth be told, Tony didn't know. He had asked the question without thinking and he, himself, wasn't sure what he meant. He said as much.
"I don't know. Just … everything." He finished off with a shrug.
Suddenly Tony was very tired.
After a moment, he inclined his head so that he was facing Loki. The god was watching him out of narrow eyes.
They stayed like that, seizing each other up, trying to make sense of the mess they were in, trying to figure out what was going on.
And then Tony turned away. He always had a habit of letting his mouth run off. He wasn't really interested in Loki's problems. All he was, was tired. Tony needed his bed.
And where the bloody hell was Lucas.
Did he really just say bloody hell?
Silence stretched between the two again.
Tony found himself hating it more than usual.
For a second Tony wasn't sure if the word was actually spoken out loud or if it was just his imagination.
Loki's voice had been barely above a whisper, and the word was said with so much certainty, that it made him shudder.
It, whatever it was, had been that bad.
Bad enough to cause PTSD and bad enough to trigger panic attacks.
Tony was most certainly not feeling sympathy for the god and something most certainly did not shift in the atmosphere of the room.
Lucas, god damn his soul, chose that moment to walk in.
"What type of therapist are you?" Tony greeted him, his tone joking, relieved that he was finally here.
Even Loki let out a sigh of relief.
Tony concluded that he didn't understand the god at all.
The man had been looking through some papers and when he heard Tony's voice he looked up.
Upon seeing the broad grin on his patient (and friend's) face, Lucas felt his eyes widen.
"An insane one. I don't know why I agreed to this." He shot back, "this" being a wide range of things.
A chuckle escaped Tony.
Maybe there was still some hope.
"So I take it you're ready to cooperate." Lucas stated as he sat down in his chair.
Tony shot Loki a glance from the corner of his eye and saw that the god was doing the same.
Both men nodded, hesitantly, receiving a blinding smile from the doctor.
"Great." Lucas stated, shuffling through the papers. He didn't question what had brought the change about.
Even if he had, Tony wasn't sure he could have provided a response.
All he knew was that he was tired. So very tired.
The word echoed in Tony's head.
Loki found himself hating Stark, more than usual that is.
"Was it really that bad?" The question had caught him off guard and the other man's voice had been laced with raw emotion, sincere.
Loki had found himself replying, without meaning too.
He also hadn't missed Stark's posture going rigid and his body shaking when he'd replied that yes, yes it was that bad.
It'd confused him. After all, it wasn't as if the mortal cared.
For some god forsaken reason Loki had found himself nodding when Lucas had asked if they were ready to cooperate.
Once Lucas had found what he was looking for, he looked up at both men and his expression turned serious.
"How about we start by finding some common ground between you two."
Tony almost snorted. As if he had Loki had anything in common.
"Let's begin by talking about your fathers."