To Loki, Tony Stark is quite the curious case, and that curiosity was what unraveled The Secret.
From the moment he laid eyes on him, he was intrigued. A man with demons not unlike his own, hiding behind a smirk and golden armor. On the side of 'good'. Man of Iron, he's heard the Oaf call him. Perhaps, he thinks, it is not just his armor that is made of metal. The facade is something almost stronger.
But just like any metal, it can be dented. Bent. Melted.
Before, he thought that maybe it had not yet happened. Some scratches maybe. Nothing that time and/or effort could buff out. This man had faced hardship, sure, the blue radiating from the chest and defensive nature proved it. But the Man of Iron had not been broken.
(Not like he had)
Of all of the so called Avengers, he was easily the most entertaining. The so called 'Captain'? Too vanilla. The arrow one and Widow he'd already figured out. The green monster was not a thing he enjoyed getting near. The Oaf needed no explanation. So Stark it was. Besides, he had a genuinely enjoyable sense of humor and the ego and temper was fun to poke at. His intelligence wasn't that bad either.
So naturally, like a fascinated child, he decided to play.
The boredness that flowed since his escape from Asgard (yet again) wasn't unexpected, but what to do with it was a good question. Taking over Midgard had never been his objective (only Thanos'), and he was tired of those huge elaborate schemes with the only goal being to hurt and destroy. Pranks had been his style, always had been. So that's what he did. Admittedly, he'd never did the 'average' pranks, the little small ones, but hell, he was Loki, God of Mischief. So what was the harm in a little fun?
Doctor Doom (for a smart man, was rather… dumb) had decided to play with the Avengers with his seemingly endless wave of Doombots. Boring. So Loki made them all bright pink, two feet taller, and then wreak havoc wherever they went… and not listen to their previous 'master' at all. All there was left to do was sit back and watch.
Doctor Doom's frustrated screams were hilarious.
However, not all the actors were on stage, which caused a state of discontentment Loki disliked.
The Captain was there (as usual), throwing his shield like a toy, but it certainly wasn't by the way it was decapitating quite a few robots. He could not see Widow but he didn't need to. Her presence was always subtle, after all. The Oaf was thundering around like he owned the place, yet again. The Green One's screams dwarfed every other sound. The arrows from the one so skilled with them wouldn't have done much damage had they been normal, but the explosions following each (and the subsequent pink metal flying everywhere) assured Stark had put some work into them.
Stark… where was he?
The red and gold streak that he had become accustomed to seeing simply wasn't there, not in the sky nor the ground. Even when blood stained the side of his metal armor he always still fought, not even slowing down. Despite the fact they had only been enemies, Loki still knew it wasn't like the man to miss a fight.
It was obvious that Loki had a hand in what had happened, but they had not yet seen him. It was easy to slip away.
The inside of Avengers Tower was less… extravagant than he assumed. Though certainly showing signs of living, there wasn't really much of what he'd come to know as Midgardian technology. At least in the past, this had been Stark's home, and surely someone who enjoyed flaunting his technological skills as much as Stark would have such displays around his living space, but there was nothing besides the large screen on the wall across from the couches and the smaller one on the table next to one of the couches.
"Loki," a voice coughed from behind him. "T-The rest of the party too dull for you?"
Loki turned to face Stark, and was both surprised and somehow not at the same time at the sight in front of him.
Bloodshot, glossed over eyes and sweat-soaked hair met his was shirtless, one of his shaking, pale hands curled over the blue metal embedded in his chest, sweat glistening on spider-web scarring radiating from the foreign object. His other hand was gripping the door frame, fingers white from the pressure, and even with the extra help he was still leaning forward slightly.
"You are unwell…" Loki mumbled, ignoring the man's words.
"No shit!" Stark snapped before instantly going into a coughing fit. Only once it had ended did he continue. "Now why are you in my house? Want to give killing me another go now that I'm down for the count?"
A bitter laugh rose in Loki's chest at the suggestion. "As insufferable as you are that is not my intention." Never was. "I was simply curious on why you were missing from the 'fun', as you've called it. You are not often absent. You must be quite unwell to stay behind."
Instantly Stark bristled. His back shot straight up, and a pained gasp left his lips before he continued. "I'm not- I didn't stay back because I'm sick. I have some stuff I need to do here."
He raised a brow. "Everyone gets sick. Taking a break to let the illness run its course is much more preferable to pushing yourself and making it worse. There's no shame in it, Stark."
"Of course there is!" He moved to slump against the door, his hand pushing back his short hair uncertainly. "It's- me, I… I'm different. Different from other people. I can't-"
"Cannot be sick?" Stark tensed as he approached. "That's ridiculous. All your intelligence, and you still can't see that?"
"He was smart too! He was smart too and he fucking-" He took a shaky breath before wet coughs followed once more, and pain flashed across his features. Loki frowned.
"What are you rambling about now, Stark?" But it wasn't like the man was listening anymore.
"-God, I hated him, but not as much as he hated me. Fuck, who drags his kid to a charity party when he's throwing him and can barely stand, and then beats the shit out of him when he ends up -guess what- throwing up!"
Loki was by his side now, frown deepening as he placed his hand on Stark- No, Tony's chest to steady him.
"Jesus! You dip your hand in ice water, Elsa?!" His words were starting to slur.
"You are feverish." It wasn't a lie, but not why his hand was cold. "You need sleep, Stark. Or you will kill yourself before any man will get the chance."
"Sir's room is down the hall, third on the right, Mr. Laufeyson." A cool voice echoed from the ceiling. Loki frowned but didn't question it. After all, it wasn't like the man he was half-dragging, half-helping down the hallway was in any way coherent.
"Contrary to what you may believe I know something about a less than ideal father," Loki mumbled as he threw a blanket over the unconscious form sprawled across the oversized bed. It wasn't like Stark would remember his words, so he didn't hesitate in saying them. "Perhaps we are more alike that I first assumed, Tony Stark."
In the morning, all Tony would remember was a flash of green light and a bitter laugh, and even then, he would consider it a dream. Maybe it was better that way.
All he wanted was for The Secret to remain in the dark, after all, even from himself.