Loki would have liked to lie about this. In the same way he had lied about almost everything else, he wanted to tell himself that this didn't matter. He wanted to say that he didn't matter…that this man, this human man held no hold over his aching, broken heart. But he didn't have the strength to fool himself anymore.
He couldn't convince himself that he wasn't in love with Anthony Stark. He couldn't even tell you how it started, because to him, it feels like it's been this way for centuries. Like he was just waiting for this moment, wasting what seemed like century after century for his life with this arrogant human.
It all started that fateful day, just barely on the brink of his war. In Stark's tower.
"This usually works." Loki muttered, as he pressed the tip of his scepter once more against the spot were Tony's heart should be. There was a soft tink of metal against metal. He heard the mortal smirk, felt his breath against his hand.
As Loki glanced up into Tony's deep brown eyes, he felt his mask, this terrifying alter-ego slip. Before he could stop him, Tony had one hand wrapped around Loki's wrist, the other around the scepter. Tony watched as the color in Loki's eyes drained from bright blue to a soft, warm green. When the tip of the spear left the Arc reactor, the blue color bled back in. The billionaire couldn't help but smirk again as his theory was proved true.
"I had my suspicions after Point Break mentioned that this…attack you were launching wasn't like your normal tricks. Looks like I'm right! Of course…when am I not? We're gunna put the scepter down, Reindeer Games…" He was speaking to Loki like one might speak to a petulant child. Under normal circumstances, that would have seriously offended the God. But these circumstances weren't normal. He dropped the glowing rod and Tony immediately pressed Loki's hands against his Arc reactor. This time, Loki's eyes turned back to green, and remained that way.
"It looks like the reactor counteracts the influence of the Tesseract." Tony knew he was mainly talking to himself. Loki looked too in awe to be paying attention. "I'll need you, Rudolph, to keep your hands right here." He used Loki's hands to pat the metal circle on his chest. "I'll take you up to the device you made Dr. Erik build…and we'll shut it down. And after that…I'll tell everyone how you were being possessed, and how I saved your life and the life of…well…everyone. Got it?"
Loki could do nothing but nod.
As everyone sat around what Tony had christened The Round Table, no one could deny that Loki was staring at the billionaire like he was…well…a God. The black-haired trickster was seated next to his affectionate older brother. Thor was grinning ear to ear, a strong arm wrapped around his younger brother's shoulders.
"I knew you couldn't be capable of such things, brother!" His voice was so loud. Loki wasn't paying attention. He was watching Tony, who was conversing with Dr. Banner. Every move the inventor made, every word he said, Loki was watching. Loki was enthralled.
The meeting began, and the cleanup of Manhattan was discussed, and then the topic fell to what Thor was going to do with Loki. The Thunder God grinned once again, slapping a hand down onto the smaller God's shoulder. This caused him to wince.
"I should very much like to take him home, where Mother and Father would-"
"I wish to stay here." Loki cut his older brother off midsentence. The magician was now gazing up at Nick Fury where he stood at the head of the table. "I wish to stay with Anthony."
Everyone fell silent. Loki looked around expectantly. When he saw the doubt in their eyes, the hesitation…he began to bite his lip.
"He was the one who saved me! No one has ever done that for me before! Please, I haven't done anything wrong. If anything, I'm just another victim. Can't I be granted this one thing?" He cringed inwardly. He sounded too much like he was begging, and perhaps he was. But he couldn't deny it…he wanted nothing more than to be by Tony's side. He almost craved it now.
Tony was the first to speak.
"He can stay with me. I've already divided out the floors between all of us, but there's plenty of room on my floor for him. I put in an extra bedroom for…other activities, but hey! Who doesn't like company?"
Loki's face brightened.
"Oh, thank you! Thank you, Anthony! I promise you won't regret it!"
Tony silently prayed that the Liar God kept his promise.
Eventually, Thor couldn't help his curiosity. Why did his brother want to stay here with the Man of Iron? The thunder God knew that Tony Stark had been the one to free Loki of the Tesseracts power, but that wasn't a reason to be so obsessed. He finally got Loki alone in the bedroom that Tony Stark had prepared for him.
"Brother…why do you wish to stay with the Man of Iron?" Thor asked, resting both of his hands on Loki's smaller shoulders. The younger God had a small, wispy smile playing across his lips. "Do you feel as though you owe him a debt?"
At this, Loki quickly shook his head.
"No! No, Thor. Being around him makes me feel…" He trailed off. He was searching for the right words, for the first time in his life. This is how Thor knew he wasn't weaving lies. When Loki finally found his voice, it was softer than it had ever been.
"Being around him makes me feel like I finally have a home that is mine. Asgard is not my home. Jotunheim is lost. But here…here I can just be Loki. I can be…his…"
The truth suddenly clicked in Thor's mind, and his grip on his brother's shoulders tightened considerably.
"Brother…you love him." His voice held understanding, compassion…he would no longer judge his dear brother. Thor had made himself a silent promise, the night before he descended to Midgard to bring his brother back, that he would be the elder brother he always should have been. He would protect Loki, and support him.
Loki nodded slowly.
"Aye." Said the younger God. "But I have heard from Lady Pepper that he is not keen on 'settling down'. She had tried with him, but he invited other women and men back to his bed. She's forgiven him, of course. That is her nature. But it is not mine. Such acts would break me."
Loki sounded so forlorn, and Thor found himself mentally scrambling to comfort his brother.
"Perhaps you will be the one to change him! We thought the same thing of Lady Sif, did we not? We thought she would never settle! And Hogun managed to tame her wild spirit!" Thor smiled broadly as Loki's eyebrows shot up.
"Lady Sif…and Hogun? Hogun the Grim?" Loki asked incredulously. Thor nodded.
"Aye! They are wed!"
Loki was wearing yet another soft smile, as he thought of Sif's wildness. He missed his friend. Sif had always been there for him, through their childhood and beyond. He figures that is why she was so angry when she found out he had plotted against Thor. She was heartbroken, and to Sif that translates to anger. But now she was tamed, as tamed as was possible for her! Loki laughed gently.
"I may still have luck left, dearest Brother. And I shall win him with no trickery. Such things have burned me in the past." Loki said. Thor touched the side of the younger God's face.
"I have never been so proud, Little Brother."
Loki felt like his heart just might explode.
He hadn't expected it to be easy. He knew that Anthony Stark would be a hard man to tame. But Lady Pepper had succeeded (for a short time at least), and she had given him her blessing. Loki rather liked Tony's secretary. Women of tenacity always made him feel safe…protected. He supposed they reminded him of his mother, Frigga.
But before Loki could tame him, he first had to notice him. In a romantic light. And the inventor just didn't do that. Stark would acknowledge him in passing, or speak to him during breakfast, but it was always idle chit-chat. So, Loki began dropping subtle hints.
"Anthony, would you like more coffee?" Loki even shocked himself with how sweet his voice sounded. He hadn't spoken to anyone politely like that in ages. And then again, he hadn't wanted to. Tony looked shocked for a moment, before smiling smugly and handing the demigod his empty cup.
"Sure, Rudolph!" He sounded jovial, and a little thankful. Loki smiled as he grasped the ceramic mug with both of his hands, making sure his fingers touched and lingered against Tony's.
"I do love your endearments, Anthony." Loki commented on being called Rudolph, before turning and sauntering into the kitchen. Tony raised his eyebrows and turned a skeptical eye to Thor and Bruce, who were the only other people in the dining room.
"Is it just me, Point Break, or is your brother doting on me?" Tony asked Thor. Bruce cut in before Thor could reply.
"Loki doesn't seem like the kind of person…God…who dotes. It's kind of…odd."
Thor was smiling at Tony, in that bright, goofy way that made him the guy he was. Tony figured out right away that Thor knew something he didn't. And Tony hated not knowing.
By this time, Loki walked back into the kitchen, a steaming cup of coffee gripped in his hands. He carefully set it down in front of Tony.
"There you are, Anthony. I made it just how you like it." He said so sweetly, Tony could practically feel a toothache coming on.
"What's up with you, Loki? I know I saved your life and all that, but you're being too nice. What the fuck did you do? Did you sneak in to my lab? And break something? Or are you planning another hostile take over of Earth right here beneath our-"
"Enough!" Thor bellowed, slamming his fists down on the table as he stood. "You complain that my brother is too hostile, and yet when he acts polite you accuse him of terrible things? Perhaps he is trying to turn over a new tree-"
"Leaf, Thor. Turn over a new leaf." Bruce interjected. Thor nodded.
"Yes, turn over a new leaf. Or, perhaps he has taken a liking to you!" The thunder God regretted those words as soon as they came out of his mouth. He never was good at filtering himself…or keeping secrets.
As Tony turned to look at Loki, the younger God looked mortified. His cheeks and ears were red, and he was glaring at the cup of coffee like it had done him some kind of personal wrong.
Tony cleared his throat. "Is that true, Ice Princess? Do you…like me?" His voice had a teasing note to it, but Loki could hear the seriousness of his question, dancing just below the surface.
Loki was silent for a few moments as he calculated his options. His possible responses. He chose to disobey his natural reaction to lie. He took a deep breath.
"You saved me. You intrigue me. You make me feel as though I finally have somewhere in which I belong. Somewhere to call…home."
Tony snorted. "So, it's a yes, then. Man…you've got it bad for me. I hate to break it to you, but I'm not the exclusive type. Why don't you think it worked out with me and Pep? If it didn't work with her, it sure as hell won't work with you-" Tony paused, "Shit, that sounded a lot worse than-Loki? Wait!"
But Loki was already gone. He had teleported away in a gold and black shimmer, leaving behind two teardrops on the mahogany dining table.
Thor was angry enough to catch fire. Tony turned to look at him. It wasn't rage that radiated from the golden God, but rather a simmering, bubbling rage. It was more controlled than it normally would have been, and Tony guessed it was out of respect to his younger brother.
"Man of Iron, I will try not to lose my temper, but I will make no promise to you. My brother is fragile. More fragile and more delicate than any of those women and men you bring to your bed. But he will love you, in fact I'm most certain he already does. He will love you with his whole heart, his whole being. Every part of you, even that dark, cold part I see when you drink yourself numb. He understands that part of you that Lady Pepper never could. I know it, because I've seen it. I've seen him wake during the night, screaming. It's the same scream that tears from your throat, the one I hear echo through the halls. He has seen horrors the way you have. And yet you turn him away for meaningless trysts with strangers that are nameless and faceless to you."
Bruce felt like he wanted to clap, and Tony was suddenly sick to his stomach. Thor heard him scream at night? He woke up almost every night from nightmares of his time in captivity in Afghanistan. He still hadn't spoken to anyone about the horrors he'd endured. He refused to. He built the suit to keep people out. Iron Man was his mask, his safe place. But when he slept, he couldn't lie to himself anymore. But for some reason, what Thor said only pissed him off more. He turned to leave, stalking toward his lap.
"What about your coffee?" Bruce asked, his hands folded on his lap.
"Dump it." Tony snarled over his shoulder. "It's probably poisoned anyway."