Das Ende der Welt; Das Ende unserer Welt

Rating: M for violence, profanity, sex, guns, alcohol, nicotine, gore, an animal getting hurt, and character deaths. I'm also adding Hollywood science, medical crap, and physics freeform to the warnings because all this research has made my brain numb.
AU!Tony Stark/AU!Loki, Tony-centric
In which Agent A. Stark (codename: Iron Man) and his fellow SHIELD authority agents are on the hunt for a man who has committed fratricide, patricide, and various other crimes. The culprit in question just so happens to be the stepbrother of one of his close co-workers…and also a particularly memorable one-night stand partner that Stark finds himself gun-to-gun with the second time they meet.
Notes: Based on a mash-up of U.S. Marshalls/Wallander screenshots floating around Tumblr. Originally a one-shot on AO3 by the same time; cross-posted here in four parts. Enjoy!

It was snowing pretty tamely. That alone had prompted Stark to cancel calling a cab and just...start strolling down the sidewalk.

His house was a good 30-minute walk from the bar, but everything seemed settled enough. After days and days of snow shitstorms (blizzards just did not cut how bad they had been) and having to go outside during these snow shitstorms, it was a nice change to just have these tiny white flakes flutter to the Earth from a dark, moon-lit sky at 1 AM.

It helped that he had a half-loaded Glock .22 with him, as well as enough martial arts training to break somebody's neck.

Placing his hands in his coat pockets, Stark breathed, watching vapours puff out of his mouth before they wisped away.

For the first time in a long time, Stark felt...liberated. Free. At peace.

Huh. This was kind of nice.

Maybe the medical leave was actually a good idea. (No, it was actually a great idea; he just being him just disagreed with what everybody else thought.) He should definitely thank Don and Steve personally when he came back from the Christmas holidays. Maybe invite them over for a huge New Year's bash involving legal and illegal fireworks being lit on the streets and potentially accidentally lighting some trees on fire if there wasn't enough snow that night. Open all the old, expensive spirits that he had not yet consumed from his liquor cabinets. Toast to the mighty who have fallen and celebrate what good men they were when they had been alive rather than keep fucking mourning them for the rest of your life.

It wasn't being a good guy entirely, but it sounded like a nice start.

Maybe it was how calm everything was, even as he decided to shortcut it through a thing of fucking trees that he wouldn't call a forest, just because one, that sounded cliché and two, a set-up for a really bad time.

"What the FUCK!"

Didn't help at all for the motherfucking wolf that came out of nowhere – these trees were deciduous for crying out loud and they had no leaves on it whatsoever. Did it fall out of the fucking sky or what? – tackling him down with a vicious snarl.

With all due respect to Balder, the mistletoe thing was pansy shit compared to this. How much bad luck did you have to have to get tackled by a wolf in New York Fucking City?

Trying to get his arms around the thing's neck before it tore off one of its limbs or ate his face, Stark pushed himself up against the back of a tree and gripped. He only briefly wondered why the hell its fur was so wet since the air was still frigid and the snow wasn't wet, and why this animal smelled like road kill.

Wait, if he hadn't even lashed back or had something yanked off his body, why were his fingers covered in –

Jesus Christ born on the 25th of this month. There was blood on this fucker's teeth and paws. He could even smell it from the bastard's fur. It definitely wasn't his blood, and it definitely wasn't about to be his blood. Unless this fucker killed a moose or whatever large domestic animal decided it's a good idea to roam around when there were wolves on the loose, this was enough to rouse Stark's suspicion.

Even more so when Stark found his grip on the dog's collar. He was about to rip the bronze tag clean off with his free hand, when at that moment something hurt and he let out a pained gasp as his eyes squeezed shut. He prayed that the moron who owned this thing gave it shots already, because it was biting down on his arm, and he was 100% sure that the fangs had broken through the fabric of his coat already, based on how he could feel them digging into his skin.

And that's when Stark lost his shit.

"Fuck you, PETA," he spat.

Gun. He needed to get his glock out right the fuck now. This husky was ravenous, probably rabid, and had gone beyond that stupid one-bite rule anyway.

Stark forced more weight against the dog, pinning it down with the arm he had around the back of its neck, the other trying to pry itself away from the dark husky's jaws (at the rate this thing was attacking him, he was probably infected by now) and attempt to unbutton whichever button was closed to his fucking gun.

That's when it started biting his hands, rousing a scream from Stark when he felt skin being ripped off. His eyes stung and he would have screamed longer if he hadn't bitten his lower lip down because of how much that hurt.

Then he felt its teeth sink into his leg.

That was the point in when Stark cried out and he kicked the husky off – giving him ample opportunity to rip his coat open, snap off almost every button, yank out his gun, and shoot.

Of course it just grazed past the fucker's ear since his hand was shaking.

Of course it would be more provoked as it barked and leapt towards his face.

Of course he would miss a vital part of this asshole's body again and shoot its paw.

The foot was apparently a more convincing way to tell this bitch (if it was a bitch; screw it, it was still a bitch even if it was male) to fuck off, though, because it backed away the moment it landed on him, yelping and making these half-snarl-half-whimpers. It glared up at Stark, a low growl rumbling from its clenched jaw baring blood teeth. Stark, ignoring how fast his pulse rate had shot up, glared right the fuck back into its bright, bloodthirsty yellow eyes, finger from his bleeding hand placed right over the trigger of the firearm in his hold and aimed straight at its head.

Out of all the standoffs that Stark had ever experienced, this one definitely took the whole goddamn cake.

Then Stark fired at the ground in front of it, prompting it to burst off deeper into the woods with a yelp and a limp in its sprint.

Shit, maybe it wasn't such a good idea to leave it alive. If it found its way to the residential area (which wasn't far off from here), it might end up mauling some poor kid when the sun rose, or a moody teenager running away from home at this time. He'd probably have to call the cops later and let them know about that so they could issue a public announcement about it right away – just not now, he had his phone on silent anyway and he really didn't feel like being social at all tonight.

But wow. That shit escalated really quickly. He even realized that he had just let himself not die at the hands of a crazy fucking dog.

Huh. This whole day wasn't kind of nice at all.

Stark wiped the back of his good hand against his forehead, chest rising up and down as he gulped in cold breaths of air. Then he took off his coat and blazer and crouched back down, burying his hand straight in the snow and seething as he wiped off what he could. When it was evident that these scratches were not going to clot anytime soon, he tore off a good half of his left shirt sleeve, ripping it into two to tie around the wound on that arm and the gashes in his right hand.

Placing only his blazer back on and draping his coat over his back since he was still perspiring, Stark squeezed a good fistful of snow into a ball of ice before standing up. Pressing it against his injured hand with his lips pursed in disapproval, he resumed walking.

There was an old shed that someone had built around this area that Stark often passed back when he used Tilly to get home faster. (Also back when he actually worked his legs rather than call a taxi or drive.) If the world wanted to spare him any mercy at all tonight other than not ending, it would make sure that that shed was in the exact same place Stark remembered it being in after three years, because shit he was tired and he just needed to sit down and settle his nerves right now.

Sure enough, it was there – along with some rusting lemon lacking a license plate which had been upgraded and equipped with blinding blue as balls Xenon bulbs. Giving it only the most cursory of condescending glances, Stark approached the shed and knocked on its door.

Well, nobody was answering the door, so the shed was probably hobo-free. Perfect reason to throw open the door with a grin and toss his jacket to the floor next to the illuminated mangled corpse of HOLY FUCKING SHIT.

Taking five seconds to compose himself and not vomit, Stark moved his palms off his chest and away from his mouth as he crouched down next to the dead body. His eyes darted up and down on the shredded clothes, the two fingers that had been severed off the guy's left hand, the still-bleeding gashes across his face (and why did this bearded face look so familiar), and it was pretty obvious now why that son of a bitch from earlier had all that blood on it. God, he even managed to slash this guy's eyeballs and that shade of blue looked almost exactly like –



Medical leave was back to being a terrible idea again.

Stark fumbled for his phone, sliding his thumb across the screen. That's when he realized that he had missed a fuckload of text messages and calls from Rogers and Romanov, all of them about how Odinson's father had been kidnapped and they had issued a missing person and culprit alert for both him and Loki.

It was Rogers that Stark dialed to first, plopping himself down on his jacket right next to Odinson Senior, drumming his fingers impatiently against his thigh because holy shit you better pick up Steve or I will shove firecrackers up your ass when Independence Day rolls around.


"Cap, oh, thank Godyou picked up. I got big news – "

"Stark, that's what I should be telling you right now! Why in Sam Hill didn't you pick up when Agent Romanov and I were trying to reach you?"

"Cap, look, that's not the important shit right now, and in my defense I'm on my holiday vacation." Stark peered out the window. "Old shed in the shady area, just near Captain Tilly's park. There's an ancient as fuck 1999 Civic parked outside it, blue, ugly, no license plate, keys still in the ignition. I'm probably gonna check it out in a bit. Just get SHIELD over here right now."

"Tony, why?"

Okay, for a guy who had been in the army and a guy who had a knack for being on top of things, Rogers could be just plain fucking stupid sometimes. Stark's palm slapped his forehead and ran down his face as he groaned.

"Steve, I found him. I – "

The door chose to swing open at that moment. Stark did not hesitate to drop the phone in favour of pulling out his glock, placing on his best "I will fuck your shit up" face as he pointed it straight at –


Stark's mouth went dry and slack, and he gazed up in a mixture of horror and awe, ignoring the cries of Steve demanding who did you find? Tony? TONY, doing this damnedest to stay focused on the gun pointed directly down at him.

It wasn't really working when he noticed that Loki's knuckles were turning white as the grip on his gun tightened, fingers clenching. He was wearing that black jacket from that evening too. Stark considered whether or not it would be a good idea to ask about that arm Odinson shot, lest it get him shot and tossed out the window. That's when finally allowed himself to look at his face.

God. He just didn't get Loki no matter how much he'd never admit he wanted to. Why did this guy have to feel jealous enough to start kicking other people's buckets with those bright eyes staring down at him with this barely composed conflict?

This wasn't a man with ulterior goals of taking down people out of sheer revenge for his personal gain.

This was a man who just wanted everything around him to burn and crumble to ashes, right before the flames he lit swallowed him whole.

The shock dissolved, and the lighter-haired of the dark-haired men narrowed his eyes as he craned his neck to the side accusingly.

"You don't have to do this," Stark hissed.

The darker-haired of the two just barely shook his head, black curls lit with blue just moving slightly with the motion.

"Oh, but I've come too far to do anything but," Loki breathed.

Stark's glare hardened. Without averting his eyes away from Loki's, he placed his free hand behind him to prop himself on one knee, and he would have managed to do it if Loki's eyes didn't suddenly flare up as he jerked the gun forward and nearly caused him to piss himself.

"No, no! Do not do not! Fucking – don't, don't, goddamn it!" The glock's grasp tightened in Stark's hand as he glowered threateningly back towards Loki, leaning forward instead and placing his open palm on the ground in front of him, glock still aimed. "Just...just let me stand the fuck up. If you're gonna make this a Mexican stand-off, then I really, really don't want to keep crouching next to your old man's corpse. It's gross and he smells worse than shit."

Loki didn't waver.

"That man is not my father," he responded airily.

On his feet now, Stark brushed off the sides of his pants and blazer.

"I know. But you still killed both of them anyway."

This time, Loki wavered. Stark lowered his gaze defiantly.

Loki's eyebrows scrunched, and his face practically said if you don't tell me right now how you know that I will blow your brains out. Stark's free hand raised into a finger as he tilted his head in a gesture of understanding. It reached for his belt and didn't stay there long as he raised it back up swiftly with a fierce no do NOT fucking shoot me you bitch expression aimed towards Loki's do NOT fucking pull some shit over me you cunt urgency when the blue-or-green-eyed man jerked his gun again.

Fingers unraveling first to become an open, calm down palm, Stark slowly pulled open the right side of blazer, revealing no extra guns or weapons on his belt. Loki seemed to calm down at this as his eyebrows stopped scrunching. Trembling only slightly, Stark reached very carefully into his pocket, before gingerly lifting out his badge and presenting it towards Loki.

He should not feel bad about the absolute betrayal that broke the man's collected façade a moment ago. A restrained laugh was spat out of Loki's lips, and the mask was back again as he clenched his teeth savagely. Stark took a deep breath.

"Agent Stark, Superior Headquarters for Immediate Enforcement of Law Division." If Loki flinched at that, Stark didn't pay any heed to it as he re-pocketed the Silver Eagle. "Loki Odinson, you've been found guilty for patricide, fratricide, homicide, possession of unlicensed weapons, extortion, breaking and entering, kidnapping, and sic'ing Whitefang's evil twin on the old man which, by the way, totally falls under violation of the Dangerous Dog Law." He took another long breath before continuing. "There's probably more, but I'll stop there since I don't really want to know what else you've done. The cops can read you your Miranda rights; right now, what I need from you is for you to put the gun down on the ground, and turn yourself in."

His arm holding the gun steadied as Loki just shook his head with a tight-lipped, furious smile.

"A SHIELD agent." Loki scoffed. "Of course. You couldn't just stay a charming man I met once with a wit as quick as your tongue that I met at a dirty pub and frolicked with in a dirtier hotel room. No, I had the pleasure of seeing your face again, and this time you just had to be a SHIELD agent out of all the fucking occupations you could have held." He kept shaking his head as his smile soured. "Lady Luck is ever so kind to me."

Stark hadn't even realized his shoulders had tensed less as he let out a quiet whistle towards Loki, a grin threatening to show up anytime on the lower part of his mug.

"Well, face it, Pretty Boy," he murmured. "You just hit the jackpot."

At this, Loki gave a light, mocking laugh.

"I imagine that feeling isn't entirely mutual."

Something twisted within Stark's gut, and that's why Stark just guffawed back, his tone more scathing than Loki's. The damn boy actually pouted at him.

"I mean that most sincerely, as hard as that is to accept," Loki drawled.

It wasn't because of the cold when Stark shook again, nostrils flaring as he forced all of Loki's bad qualities over his good ones again.

"I don't know, Loki." He allowed himself to smirk. "From what your family – sorry, your adopted family – has told us, you're not somebody that's really all that capable of sincerity."

Loki did not return the expression as he raised his chin.

"Then you should consider yourself most fortunate, Agent Stark." His face started making that threat towards unstably angry again. "You, a mere stranger with an attractive face and a bright mind, whom I allowed myself to be honest with, whom I allowed to glimpse the weakness that corrupts my very soul – "

"Except you left out the important part where you were planning to kill your own brother!" Stark snapped, and he couldn't help that, he really couldn't, especially when it provoked Loki even more as he shouted right back at him.

"He is not my brother! None of them are! I am bound by blood to not one single member of this wretched legacy!"

"Not even Don? Boy, I don't know what your standards are ever since life started to suck for you, but he sounds like a guy I would be more than happy to call a brother even if we didn't share the same DNA."

"Ah, but you forget the part where we are not the same," Loki hissed venomously.

Stark breathed wearily.

"No, but don't try to tell me I don't know what it's like to get pushed aside by other people, by my own family, just because they thought I wasn't good enough." This time, it was his eyes that bored into Loki's, this time he allowed his own flaws to show. "Don't fucking tell me nobody understands you, because guess what, princess? You're not the only one who's got issues. Don't think you get special treatment just because you think your life sucks more than anyone else's does."

"And what do you hope to gain out of this pathetic, self-centered attempt at empathy, Agent Stark?" Loki scowled. "I was under the impression that this wouldn't stretch beyond one night. So why stall the inevitable conclusion that one of us will have to die tonight?"

"I'm sorry, but this coming from the guy who splurged his insecure little feelings on my – "

Shit, he prodded too hard.

One step even closer to him, Loki's pale fingers wrapped around the gun trembled. "Choose your next fucking words carefully, Stark, or I might have to lodge a bullet in that thick skull of yours," he gaze became withering again. "Why do you stall?"

Stark did not budge as their eyes stayed locked onto each other.

Then Loki jerked the damn gun again as his face twisted agonizingly and he screamed.

"Why do you stall?"

"Because it doesn't have to be like this!" Stark barked. He gasped, chest heaving as he shook his head towards Pretty Boy. "It doesn't have to get worse than this, okay? I just..." His nostrils flared again, and his eyebrows creased upwards. "I just want you to listen to me, alright? You can be a good guy, Loki. You don't have to be the bad guy just because you think you don't matter."

Loki sneered at him.

"And what makes you think that I believe I don't matter?"

Stark's tone became somber.

"I work for SHIELD, but that doesn't mean my ledger is anywhere close to being clean."

And Pretty Boy – he got that. Pretty Boy understood what he had meant by that by the way his bravado cracked again as his jaw slackened, and his eyes became wide and readable again, shining arduously in the light, all this anger and frustration and confusion threatening to pour out any moment against his will.

And his arms dropped and he actually looked down, lookedaway from him; away from the only thing that could stop him. Whether that was the glock or he himself was not something Stark thought about. No, fuck, far from it.

All Tony wanted to do was throw down his gun and grab this stupid fucking kid and wrap his arms around him; run his fingers through his hair again, grip it just enough out of affection, tiptoe enough so he could whisper into his ears that it's going to be okay, Pretty Boy, I know, I'm sorry it got this fucked up and I'm sorry you're so fucked up but you'll be okay because so am I, kiss those tears running down his chin, run his tongue across his cracked lips and dart it behind his teeth, hear those whimpers and half-sob-half-moans as fists clutched the fabric of his tie, yanking them even closer, together...

How upset Pretty Boy would be if that actually happened.

Stark's face was all sympathy as he breathed.

"If you put the gun down, walk out there with empty hands, and turn yourself in now, you can get away from this, all of this." He beckoned his empty hand to the shed around them, the body on the ground; the phone with the call that had long ended a while back as he knew SHIELD was right on their fucking way. "There are people who will be willing to listen to you, there are people who won't make you feel like shit and who would give a damn."

Loki shook his head furiously, trembling as he just looked at Stark. He brought out a smile as he blinked towards Loki.

"Come on, Pretty Boy. Even that night, I listened to you."

And then Loki gave that same closed-mouthed smile back as all his second thoughts were locked away once more.

"Oh, how could I forget? Even that night, you responded with smiles crafted out of lies," he spat.

Stark's blood went cold as the smile vanished. Loki's cackle was sardonic as he straightened his posture again, raising the gun back up.

"Don't think I was fooled even for a second. I've always successfully called out bluffs in pokers, and I have a tongue made out of silver." He grimaced. "It takes one to know one."

And God, Stark was the poster boy of sheer ignorance right now. He should have known from the start; the moment the warning alarms had gone off and he had flashed him the Smile that should have clearly conveyed look, nice fucking you and all, but I'm not interested in going beyond that so I'm going to just go now.

"You knew it was a lie," Stark challenged.

"And you meant it as a lie, a blatant tell with a hidden purpose – so you could win the upper hand even when the stakes were rising beyond the meager amount in your own pocket that you cannot afford to lose." His arms were shaking again as his glare darkened. "I've seen it more times than I want to remember. And whether or not its intentions are unconscious or fully aware, they hurt."

The dark-haired man sneered again.

"So don't whisper sweet, saccharine nothings into my ear to ease my own bitterness. You don't know a single thing about me."

"I could if you let me," Stark responded, and shit, did he really mean that?

"I've let enough people get close to me, and look how that turned out." He nodded towards Odinson's father. "Besides, it would be a short date anyway."

"Unless you change your mind."

"Oh, grow a fucking pair, why don't you?" Loki snapped, eyes flying open again in disgust. "I'm sick of all the responsibility assumed that it's me who has to fix every problem that I have. Why is no one charitable enough to offer their assistance, to show that they at least care? Don't think you stand with me based on had your opportunity, you had your privilege, and you were the one who left it behind!"

"It was a one-night stand," Stark growled back right away.

The corners of Loki's lips quirked snidely.

"Precisely why it's a little late to be begging for second chances, don't you think?"

"Then let me put one on the table before this turns domestic." Stark's shoulders tensed as he placed both hands on his glock, brown-eyed gaze firm. "And it's going to be your last chance too. Put the gun down now, and nobody gets hurt."

"Oh, you're asking for a lot considering how glowingly trustworthy you are," Loki snarled back.

"Look, Loki, we can settle this once you've made bail or if I finally win the fucking lottery. Come on, put it down."

That was the last moment Loki kept his façade up.

Because after that pained look vanished, Loki started to laugh. He laughed softly at first, before it escalated into something that disturbed Stark based on how shattered it was; how a tear rolled down each of those perfect cheekbones; how he was shaking his head again as though he really couldn't believe the nerve of this motherfucker in front of him who still believed that he could change for the better.

And honestly, at this point, Stark wasn't even sure how strong his faith was anymore.

Yes, he was breaking all the rules of being calm and collected and cordial when confronting somebody armed and trying to settle matters as peacefully as possible. Because what Loki said before, how he walked out on him and all that shit?

That wasn't an invitation to be peaceful at all. Fuck that. No, really. Fuck that.

Maybe, maybe Loki could have been super sweet and 100% perfect boyfriend material; smooth gentleman by day, sex god by night. But Stark never liked letting people get close to him, regardless of the Golden Rule of One-Night Stands. Because of shit like this.

And you know what else he realized?

Maybe it's not that he shouldn't have broken the Golden Rule. Stark could do it any fucking time he pleased and get away with no strings attached. He did whatever the fuck he pleased and he would fix that shit if it went wrong. But this particular situation? No, it really fucking wasn't that Stark shouldn't have broken the Golden Rule.

It was that Loki broke the Golden Rule by trying to hold onto a complete stranger at one of the lowest points in his life and then clinging to it in the after-sex haze and not being able to just let that go, because of his fear of being let go.

It was neverStark's fault. This was all on Loki.

This was Loki's fault.

"You think this is a fucking joke?" Stark snapped. "Alright, I'm done fucking around with you, Pretty Boy."

"You're the same as all of them," Loki whispered, still chuckling hopelessly.

"Drop it, Loki."

"Lies, lies."

The chuckles dwindled into heavy, short breathes, and the next thing he said was in the form of a strangled whine; an accusation, one that he dared Stark to prove him wrong on when the sounds of police sirens were approaching.

"Everything is made of lies."

Stark was trembling again. His heart pounded so much it hurt.

"Loki, that's enough."

"All of it, lies!"

"Drop it right now or I swear to God I will shoot," Stark hissed, releasing his injured hand from the gun to hold up to his tightening chest.

"There is nothing you can do!" Loki balked. His index finger was directly over the trigger as he aimed for Stark's heart. "There is nothing anyone can do!"

It was getting harder to breathe. Stark chose the exact same target on him.

"Last chance, put it down!" Stark croaked.

"There is nothing."

"Put it down!"

"That's all everything is, nothing," Loki sobbed. "Nothing."

"Loki, don't do this," Stark gasped.

His voice was drowned out by Loki's shrieks, howling the word like a mantra, strained and sharp blue-green-eyes flickering with a primal rage, vicious and raw.

This was Loki's fault.


This was Loki's fault.


This was Loki's fault.

"Loki, stop!"

"It's the end of the world, Agent Stark. There is nothing left and that is why nothing is going to stop me!"

"Drop the gun now!" Stark cried.

Loki's finger moved.

Stark pulled.

Their gunshots blasted together.

It had started off innocently enough.

Whatever the fuck Stark's definition of that goddamn word was.

In fact, Stark wasn't entirely sure how he would redefine "innocently" anymore. He knew this was far from it. But something was off about it all.

Was it the sounds of the sirens getting closer, or was that just his imagination telling him he was in trouble again? Was it that knowledge that there was an insane dog running rampant and most likely devouring some poor bastard's innards right about now? Was it the mangled body he collapsed and slumped on the wall next to, glock sliding out of his fingers?

Or maybe it wasn't any of his shit. Maybe it was Loki's.

Was it Loki himself, standing rigid as he gawked down at him with those tear-streaked cheeks? Those pink lips parted? The shuddering fingers that had been pressed against the left side of his chest, now raised away from his chest and in front of both of their visions, red clearly visible on them as well as the spot on his green T-shirt growing bigger?

Those wide eyes that immediately gazed back towards him?

Those amazing eyes, these bright fucking marbles of blue or green, or maybe both, that swam with some sort of vague, cryptic mood that Stark wished he could put his finger on?

That he'd never figure out what mood it exactly was when he realized that even though they were locked onto his own eyes, they weren't actually looking at him anymore?

That remained open as the gun hit the ground first right before Loki did?

God. He had looked so sorry, as though it had just hit him exactly what the fuck he had done to everyone, to everything. Assuming it was all nothing, detaching himself from it all just so in the end, it would be easier to just take everything down with him. He looked like some little kid who had overfed the fish that night, hoping it would grow bigger by the next day, and had found it floating upside-down in the bowl the next morning. Some stupid, naïve, ignorant, innocent kid.

What was innocence anymore? Just being good?

What was being good about?

Was being good like the cops that had flooded into the shed soon after, guns akimbo? Was it Squad A, rushing to his side – except for Odinson, who had frozen at the door, the colour draining from his face as he realized who the other two parties were with Stark? Was it Steve bolting straight at his side again, screaming culprit down, Agent Stark down, demanding that they get an ambulance ASAP or somebody was gonna die and it wasn't going to be Stark?

Was it Banner's voice saying Loki's going into cardiac arrest, before he felt two fingers against his pulse and another pushing aside the arm he had clutched around the agony searing somewhere near his stomach or under the ribs? Banner saying oh God tell the ambulance to hurry the fuck up, get me a bunch of the kits we have, he's in fucking shock and he knows it's for him more than it is for Loki?

Was it when Don started to cry? When Clint had placed a hand on his shoulder as he stared gravely from Don's father's body to Don's brother's body? When they had put Stark on a stretcher and he managed to get one last look at Loki before he had been wheeled into the ambulance van, having doctors attach God knows what to him as Natasha and Bruce explained what his blood type was?

Was it how Loki still looked sorry, even with his fingers limp as his eyes stared into nothingness?

Was it any of that?

It was cold. He felt dizzy, drained, and defeated. He wanted to pass out. He wanted to die. He wanted the doctors to say that it was cardiac arrest or a punctured lung or stomach he had, not a fucking flesh wound that he could make it through once they transfused enough blood and plasma into his systems, got some oxygen into him, extracted the bullet, regulated his heart rate. What about Loki? Don's going to completely break the fuck down if both his dad and his brother are dying today.

Fuck, what about Loki? Was he gone already? Was it too late? Why can't they save Loki instead? Odinson, Romanov, Banner, any of them? Why couldn't they save Pretty Boy?

Why couldn't he save Pretty Boy?

In the end, Stark decided that it was his fault.

Nobody was perfect. Rogers and Odinson were definitely pushing it, but really, nobody was perfect.

It was his fault that he was a selfish asshole who only cared about what he wanted and not what anyone else really wanted. And Stark wanted a lot of things, most of them implausibly unattainable. He wanted to be able to get off this stupid leave and not feel absolutely useless after Fury chewed him out when he was finally able to stand on his feet and get out of that hospital. He wanted to be able to drink and smoke without having to keep counting down the number of years he was going to live, before lung cancer or liver poisoning would get in an argument with his shitty heart about who was going to make him kick the bucket first. He wanted to be able to sleep around without worrying about not having lube or condoms, or catching the clap or knocking up a woman or sleeping with a Yakuza agent, or calling out the wrong fucking name, even if the partner for the night hadn't even given their name.

He wanted to be able to sleep in general without a bunch of people from his past visiting him dreams: his dad, his mom, Edwin, Obie, people who he had lost that didn't deserve to go so soon, people who he had lost who did deserve to fucking rot. Old flames he had held some commitment to that he still remembered their names; Joanna, Whitney, Tiberius, Edwin II, Indries, Ritsuko, Stephen, Pepper.

He wanted Pretty Boy. He really had wanted Pretty Boy.

Right now, though, he wanted Pretty Boy to stop trying to pry his fucking way into that list of People I Actually Had Something With because he didn't count. He was a one-night stand. He could give less of a shit about that kid now that he was dead and gone. Stark's faults were his faults; Loki's faults were Loki's faults. He accepted that Pretty Boy was right; he really didn't know a damn thing about Loki, and if he did, maybe it was only the tip of the iceberg. Not like he wanted to know Pretty Boy as Loki anyway.

Stark only went to Loki's cremation (which was held a different day than his stepfather's; that he had also gone too) because he felt guilty for Odinson and Odinson only. Stark had only attended the dinner after when Odinson had recalled better times because there was a bunch of alcohol and a little more celebrating than crying, and hey, why the fuck not. Stark did not dwell on how Loki would have liked having people that put up with his shit every damn day still dare to have him around because apparently he wasn't a completely useless prick – and though he'll never say it, he was more than grateful that they were there for him, seeing as they were the only things keeping him grounded and convincing him that maybe his life wasn't worth an overstocked cargo ship of crap.

Stark did not at all think about what it would have been like if he had been the one to jump in front of the SUV instead of Steve, wondering what Loki's face would have been when he realized that he had hit him because come on, he was only a one-night stand. Stark did not wish that he could have asked him out that night they had slept together so he could have showed him off to Pepper and Rhodey at Phil's funeral because it was a fucking funeral, not a bragging contest.

Most importantly, Stark did not go to Eisen Eis on the midnight of the 24th, and if he did, it was because it was open on Christmas Eve and he had nothing or nobody to do that evening, not because dreams poisoned with Loki's body or his face or his damn voice or those godforsaken eyes the same colour of the Midori he did not order were keeping him awake.

And Stark definitely did not shed a goddamn tear as his lips closed around the bottle's mouth for one last sweet, melon-flavoured kiss from Pretty Boy.