Title: The Lightning Strike
Fandom: Marvel (movie 'verse)
Betas: Runic, SharaLunison, Nimohtar
Pairings: Loki/Tony Stark, Phil Coulson/Clint Barton/Natasha Romanov, Thor/Jane Foster
Warnings: Alpha/Beta/Omega trope (to an extent), actual wolf pack dynamics, intersexual Jötnar, sexism, suggestion of previous dub-/non-con, mating, hurt/comfort, Loki just needs some love, Bruce really wants to go Hulk on Odin, Tony is confused about everything (but not as much as Steve), Clint is an absolute ass (& drags Natasha and Phil along for the ride), Pepper is kinda a BAMF
Summary: Pack dynamics are confusing enough for the Avengers without adding the complete mess that Thor and Loki grew up with, but they aren't given much choice when Loki goes into heat in the middle of a battle and Tony's alpha instincts tell him he has to take care of his pack, enemy or no.
III – Daybreak
Tony and Loki – to the surprise of all that knew them, had anyone bothered to ask, rather than just assume – had gone to the apartment and done nothing more sexual than stripping to their underwear and curling up on the bed together, Tony the big spoon to Loki's little spoon.
For breakfast, they went out to a burrito place that Tony had ordered from most mornings during the week of Loki's heat, then made for Stark Industries. Having Loki there meant Tony didn't have to manage the stairs between the reactor and the generator, and the god didn't seem to mind teleporting Tony up to the top of the building to repair that damage, then back down to the reactor to get to work.
Loki was bored for all of about thirteen minutes before Tony realised he would have to keep his mate amused while he worked. He knew there were correlations between human science and Asgardian magic, and he knew Loki was an accomplished... Magician was, perhaps, a bit grade-school, and wizard was very Harry Potter, but Tony was having trouble thinking up other words for magic-wielding characters, given his preference for technology.
In the end, it didn't really matter what sort of word he used for Loki's abilities, the god was definitely intrigued – almost excited, Tony thought – about learning more about Tony's work. Tony didn't mind giving explanations; he knew it could only help if they had something to talk about that interested them both. And the fact was, Loki was brilliant and a quick learner and Tony had never really had someone – other than Bruce, whose focus was more biological than technical – who was honest-to-God interested in the most minuet aspects of his work.
(For a moment, one brief, shining moment between two minor repairs in a long line of them, Tony realised he was giving a man on SHIELD's watch list lessons in using human technology on a level that even Tony, himself, would be hard-pressed to combat. But then he waved the thought away, decided he didn't care what might happen, and kept right on talking.)
With Loki providing even so minor a distraction – and JARVIS finding a way to overload the circuit Tony had been working with, for all that there shouldn't have been any power getting to it, in an attempt to remind him that lunch was a necessity for the continuation of his creator's good health, and Loki taking the hint when Tony would have just brushed it off – it was just past three in the afternoon before Tony felt secure in his work. He shoved all the panels closed first, checking to make sure there weren't any errant wires crossed in the wrong places, then slowly fed power back into the building.
JARVIS returned mostly good news as everything flickered back to life. There was a minor hiccup when turning power on in one of the labs on the seventy-second floor caused a minor explosion – "This is what I was saying. You can't just cut all the power to a building like Stark Industries and expect everything will be fine," Tony muttered, half to Loki, half to Fury's absence – but the damage was quickly contained by the emergency robot crew, and after pausing the power return for eight minutes, JARVIS gave the all-clear.
By four, everything was back online and running smoothly. Tony immediately rang Pepper, as promised, while he and Loki put away all the spare parts and tools scattered around the walkway and consoles. "Hey, Pep. Power's back up, but JARVIS is suggesting we keep the building mostly shut down until tomorrow morning, just to be sure."
"Complications from turning everything back on?" Pepper asked, concern heavy in her voice.
Tony shrugged his shoulder, pausing to untangle a couple of wires from a hammer that he couldn't begin to imagine the point of, given that he hadn't needed to hammer anything. (He supposed he might have repurposed the claw as a wire-stripper at one point, once he realised that using his teeth made Loki nervous.) "Minor explosion in one of the tech labs – JARVIS handled it, no damage to structural stability and please don't start lecturing me about personal safety again – and some chemicals left out in two of the bio labs are making for some interesting smells in the duct system. JARVIS is certain it's nothing lethal, but we've apparently got enough staff who are sensitive to strong smells that it would be easier for everyone involved if we just let the air filtration systems run overnight to clean everything out."
"It would help with stale air, too," Pepper admitted.
"Oh, come on. The building hasn't even been down for a day." Tony huffed and muttered, "Stale air."
He could practically hear Pepper rolling her eyes at him. "Have JARVIS send out a mass email and text to let everyone know the building will reopen tomorrow morning at six. Anyone attempting to gain access to the building before then will be spending time at the nearest precinct."
"Way to be harsh, Ms Potts," Tony teased. Before she could tell him to shut up, he called up, "Got that, JARVIS?"
"I am composing the message now," JARVIS reported. "There are three employees who request updates be given through the telephone. Shall I make those calls, or will you be seeing to them yourself, Ms Potts?"
Pepper was quiet for a brief moment, then she replied, "I think I know who they are. Send the numbers to me, JARVIS, and I'll handle it." She sighed and tiredly added, "I need to do something."
"You can call Fury up and yell at him for thoughtlessly causing an explosion?" Tony suggested a little helplessly; he knew what it was like to feel useless when you usually didn't have enough hours in the day to finish everything you needed to do.
At his side, Loki let out a quiet, amused huff and curled an arm around Tony's waist, drawing the human against him. Tony allowed it without complaint, leaning against his mate like it was one hundred percent natural and not nearly as new a thing as it really was.
"I might just," Pepper replied drily, and Tony couldn't tell from her tone if she was actually considering it or not.
He hoped she did. And that JARVIS recorded the call.
"Are you keeping the Avengers out of the tower as well?"
Tony considered that for a moment, glancing up at the full-size arc reactor, as though it held the correct answer. The labs that had caused a stink were far enough away from the Avengers living quarters that there shouldn't be anything up there to bother them, and none of them had a particularly over-sensitive sense of smell.
Still. There were some chances Tony wasn't sure he could take with his pack, not when he didn't have to. "I probably will," he decided. "We'll all trickle in sometime tomorrow. Freak out lobby security." The last was Clint's favourite pastime, and Natasha and Phil both seemed to derive some measure of silent pleasure – Tony would almost call it glee, really – on the rare occasion they found cause to go through the lobby.
Pepper sighed, resigned to the difficulties inherent in letting the Avengers reside in the same building as a multi-billion dollar multinational corporation. Though, really, such things as terrorised security guards and lab techs who thought Tony and Bruce were gods were small prices to pay, all things considered; barring events like SHIELD getting a stick shoved up their ass by an Asgardian with a grudge, Avengers Tower was the most secure of the seven locations Stark Industries claimed majority control over, and neither Pepper nor Tony could pretend that wasn't due entirely to the presence of the superhero team claiming the upper floors as their own.
"Let me know when you get in, please," Pepper requested. "There are some things you need to look over after this mess, and we should discuss procedure any for future occurrences, especially in the event that you aren't in the building."
Tony grimaced. "I need to have a talk with Phil. See if we can't work in some sort of secure way to fucking warn us if SHIELD is trying to cause trouble again. But, I know, you're right. There is a very limited number of people with sufficient knowledge of the arc reactor systems, and if one of us isn't nearby when something goes wrong..."
It could have been worse. It wasn't easy to overload the reactor – Tony had put redundancies on top of redundancies in place after Obie's treason – but it could be done if one was determined enough and Tony couldn't get in fast enough to shut it down. In a low-rise building, like in Los Angeles, the damage would be upsetting, but nothing like if one blew out one of the bottom floors of a high-rise like Avengers Tower.
There was nothing like SHIELD coming in to steal his mate to remind Tony that, for all his preparations, he could never actually be prepared for every eventuality.
"Tomorrow," Pepper insisted. "Bring Phil with you and we can all discuss it."
"Right," Tony agreed, turning closer to Loki, a subtle hint that the god should wrap his other arm around the human, which he did. "I'll see you tomorrow, Pepper."
"Remind your mate that I need you at least semi-functional tomorrow, so he needs to let you get some sle–"
"Oh my God, Pep. Whatever happened to ripping heads off?"
Pepper was silent for a moment, then she admitted, "He suits you," and hung up.
Tony stared at his phone for a moment, as though uncertain if it was some sort of alien communication device to an alternate reality, then shook his head and dialled Steve's number, tugging back from Loki as he did so and motioning that they should leave. "Pack dinner tonight?" he asked the god as he pressed the 'call' button.
Loki considered that for a moment, then shrugged. "I am not against such."
Tony nodded, then grinned as Steve answered the phone and set about debating which restaurant they could all stand for the evening. (And had clothing for, because Phil was probably the only one who'd have thought to grab a serviceable suit for the extended leave from the tower.)
The pack dinner had gone well. There was some moaning at the insistence that they wouldn't be able to return to the tower that night, but security concerns were not unfamiliar to any of them. At least Tony could continue to give them comfortable beds and a roof over their heads. (He very pointedly pretended Bruce wasn't giving him that look that said 'I told you that you make a brilliant alpha'.)
It was when they were standing on the pavement outside the restaurant that Steve brought up a concern. He and Bruce must have discussed it ahead of time, because the good doctor had distracted Loki out of hearing range, leaving Steve room to quietly explain, "Thor came by this morning."
Tony frowned and glanced towards Loki, mentally noting the preplanning put into making sure the god wouldn't overhear this conversation. "What did he need?" he asked, looking back to Steve.
Steve shook his head. "Dr Foster was apparently in the middle of something when we sent him out there. She's been working on it in bits and pieces when she could, but Thor knows he's been disrupting her work. He was hoping he could stay in New York until she's at a spot that he can more easily interrupt for an extended stay."
"He came to you?" Tony murmured, a little surprised. Thor didn't care for the arrangement, but he usually followed the rest of them in deferring to Tony at home and Steve in the field. Since this was more of a home situation...
"He went to the tower first. JARVIS directed him to Bruce and me. You were with Loki."
Tony nodded and ran his fingers along the grain of his beard for a moment. "Well, he's certainly welcome to stay in the apartment you and Bruce are staying in, or I can get him one of his own. I don't mind him staying in the city–"
"And I would prefer it, after this last event, honestly," Steve cut in.
Tony grimaced and quickly turned his thoughts away from how things could have gone if Thor hadn't shown up when he had. "Agreed. I just don't want him near Loki if he's not sure he can control himself."
Steve nodded. "I know. Bruce thinks, though, that since Thor could sense the bond between you and Loki, he might be a bit calmer if Loki goes into heat again, but he suggests we wait until the bond solidifies before trying anything."
Tony glanced towards Loki again. The god was starting to tense up, like he always seemed to do when Tony wasn't there, but he was smiling at something Clint was saying. "And if a fully formed bond doesn't put him off?" He closed his eyes. "I can't hold Thor back without my suit, Steve."
"Bruce and I both promise to be there, and he's willing to bring out the Hulk to help, if it's necessary."
"Best set up this meeting in the park, then," Tony muttered and Steve smiled at him. "Alright. I'll let Loki know. Tomorrow, Bruce can see about trying to find out more about his heat while Phil and I are meeting with Pepper. Can you handle setting Thor up? JARVIS is back up to full strength, so he shouldn't have any trouble helping you find another apartment for him, if it's too cramped."
"We'll manage," Steve promised, clapping Tony on the shoulder, an easy sort of motion that would have sent Tony sprawling if the Captain wasn't so careful with his strength.
"Good. Fuck knows I have enough problems of my own," Tony returned wryly, starting over to the rest of their pack. As soon as he was close enough, he slipped his hand into Loki's, and the god immediately relaxed, leaning towards him ever so slightly. "Ready to go back to the apartment?"
"I believe so," Loki agreed easily enough and everyone offered their goodbyes.
Tony waited until they were back in the apartment, curled up under the covers of the bed together, before he said, "Thor is in town."
Loki's tense was so subtle, Tony might not have even noticed it if they weren't pressed so tightly together. "Indeed?" he murmured, voice carefully even.
"Mm." Tony pressed a kiss to Loki's shoulder, tightening his arms around the god's abdomen. "Apparently he's been in the way of Doc Foster's experiments. Seems it's preferable to be in our figurative dog house than the one she's keeping for him in New Mexico."
"...I do not understand that reference," Loki pointed out.
Tony breathed a quiet laugh into the god's shoulder. "Do they have dogs in Asgard?"
"Hunting dogs, after a fashion, yes."
Tony nodded. "Humans with their own house and a big yard will often have a small house built in the yard for their dog. If the dog behaves itself, it might get to spend the nights inside the house, especially if the weather's nasty. But if the dog's misbehaving, he or she will be forced to stay outside in their dog house all night, bad weather or no."
"Ah." Loki finally let himself relax again, turning his head slightly so he could look at Tony in what light escaped from where the arc reactor was pressed between them. "And where is Thor's dog house?"
"Steve's going to sort that out tonight," Tony offered.
Loki hummed in understanding and turned his head back into his pillow.
Tony allowed a moment's silence, trying not to trace his fingers against the god's skin, because he knew that would give away his nerves, and he was pretty sure Loki needed him to at least appear calm for this. "Once our bond is solidified, Thor wants to try again. To see if he can be near you when you're in heat."
Loki tensed again and his head jerked around to stare at Tony. "And you?" he asked, something sharp in the last word.
Tony shifted back enough to let free more light and met Loki's eyes without flinching. "I want you comfortable," he said, unbending, and Loki relaxed, though he didn't look away from Tony's steady gaze. "But what he did yesterday, picking us over Baldr, that went a long way towards soothing my anger with him." He looked away then and admitted, "I don't like it when my pack is spread out like this. Less so since you just got kidnapped and Bruce attacked. I can make do – fuck, this is the first pack I've been a member of that both lives in the same building and isn't constantly apart for some business related reason that requires a multi-hour flight to reach – but I'm not particularly happy about it."
Loki shifted and Tony pre-empted the coming request by loosening his grip so the god could turn around and face him, which Loki did. A cool hand cupped Tony's cheek and he glanced up to meet the green eyes. "We don't really have packs on Asgard, not like here," he said quietly, the well of ancient sorrow in his eyes lit too-bright by the pale blue of the arc reactor's light. "When we were children, perhaps, but once Thor and I were old enough, we were given our own palaces and expected to spend any time not at feasts or on quests there. Æsir are very solitary creatures."
"You're here now," Tony whispered, pressing his forehead to Loki's and running his fingers gently along the god's spine.
"I am," Loki whispered back.
They were quiet for a moment, just sharing breath and space, fingers tracing over the skin of Loki's back and the edges of Tony's goatee.
"I don't know how to complete a bond," Loki said at last. "It's not– Bonds aren't...common, in Asgard. And I never thought to look for information on them."
'I never wanted/thought I'd be part of one,' hung between them.
Tony swallowed, wondered if this hadn't come up during one of Loki's talks with Bruce, but he had no way to know for sure. "For humans," he explained, "mate-bonds are supposed to form during a heat, through sex."
"So we would have to wait," Loki assumed.
Tony shrugged. "Not necessarily, no. Bonds can form between two humans without one needing to be in heat, if they're both in the right frame of mind. And, well, considering our bond is already half formed..." He offered a helpless sort of half-smile.
Loki watched him for a moment before he slowly slid the hand on Tony's cheek down his neck, over his shoulder and along the edge of his chest, until those long fingers rested at the top of Tony's boxers, pausing when Tony's breath hitched. "Do you want–?"
"God yes please," Tony got out before he leaned forward to press his mouth to Loki's, the hand on Loki's back dropping down to grab at the god's naked ass cheek, fingers brushing against the fabric of his loincloth.
Loki pressed back into Tony's grope with a sound that was somewhere between a keen and a growl, his hand shoving under Tony's boxers and taking him in hand.
Tony choked, the touch like a shock to his system. Thirty years of fucking anyone who was willing to come along with him when he shot them a smile, and it had never felt anything like that. Like– Like a connection of cosmic importance, or, or...
God. Touch that could scatter his thoughts. Right. Dangerous weapon.
Oh, but, holy fuck, if that was just a hand, what would it feel like to be inside Loki?
"Lube," Tony managed against Loki's mouth, his hand on the god's ass shoving the loincloth out of the way.
Loki nipped at Tony's lip, his eyes impossibly dark in the light of the arc reactor, and he rolled them so Tony was half hovering, half leaning above him. "Not necessary," he breathed out, sounding just as breathless as Tony, but less like he was losing control of his thoughts. He let go of Tony's cock to make a motion with his hand, and green light lit up the room for a moment, the last pieces of clothing between them vanishing.
The moment's disconnection let Tony gather his thoughts a bit and he grabbed Loki's wrists with a growl, pinning them to the bed to keep the god from touching him again and scattering his thoughts. "I'm not taking you dry, Loki," he snarled.
Loki groaned at the show of dominance and tilted his head back to show his throat. "Check," he rasped out.
Tony slowly let go of one wrist. "Don't move that," he ordered and Loki jerked his head in a nod. Oddly certain that Loki wouldn't move his hand, Tony reached down and carefully pressed one finger into the god's opening, only to find it plenty slick and just relaxed enough that the fit would be tight, but not painful.
Some of the anger drained from Tony and he leaned down to nuzzle at Loki's neck just under his ear. "Magic?" he asked, using a finger to gather some of the lube from inside his mate for spreading on himself.
Loki let out a quiet whine as Tony's finger left him. "Yes," he agreed, voice cracking. Then, "Please. Sta– Anthony, please."
A part of Tony – an extremely distant part of him – wanted to tease Loki, watch him fall apart under Tony Stark's sexual skill. But most of him, the part that had all the control, wanted to be inside his mate as much as Loki wanted him there.
So Tony directed Loki's legs to wrap around him and guided himself into the god's passage, gritting his teeth at how fucking tight Loki was.
But, God, tightness aside, Loki was a fucking perfect fit. Tony bottomed out before he ran into any resistance, balls pressed tight against Loki's ass, and the feel of him, pressing just tight enough, temperature just slightly cooler than Tony and working to combat the scattering of his thoughts.
And Loki, the little bastard of a god, was letting out absolutely sinful noises of pleasure. He waited until Tony stopped before tilting his head down enough to meet Tony's eyes, a glint in his own, then lifted the hand that Tony had told him not to move, brushing it along Tony's throat.
Tony let out a low growl, feeling it vibrate from deep, deep down in his chest, and grabbed Loki's wrist. "I said," he snarled as he slammed the god's wrist back against the bed, "don't move that."
Loki had a moment to flex both his hands, trapped by Tony as they were, then he yowled as Tony pulled out of him almost all the way. Both hands twisted to grab at the sheets and he stuttered out, "P-Pl– Norns. Nor-rns please, Antho–!"
Tony leaned down and clamped his teeth around Loki's right nipple as he slammed back into the god.
Loki let out a scream that was nothing but pleasure and need, fingers scrabbling against the sheets, chest arching up against Tony's mouth as though seeking more.
Tony pulled back and let go of Loki's wrists, knowing he'd need better balance to deliver the sort of pounding his body – their bond – was demanding. "Hands up, grab the headboard," he ordered as he braced himself and Loki better.
Loki did as ordered without a sound, something wild and pleading in his eyes when he looked back at Tony.
Tony didn't let himself think, just started slamming his hips against Loki's ass as hard as he could, digging his fingers in where his hand was braced against the god's hip and refusing to turn his eyes from Loki's. He wanted to see it, that moment when the god fell apart and became just a man. When he gave himself over to the pleasure.
Tony wanted to see the moment Loki became his.
At last, with a whine of submission, Loki's body went taut against Tony's, his eyes sliding closed, and something beyond the physical snapped into place between them, dragging Tony after his lover into a world of bright green sparkles and twisting blue triangles.
Blissful exhaustion swept over Tony so suddenly, it was all he could do to slip from his lover – his bonded life-mate, Christ – ignoring Loki's quiet noise of complaint, and curl against his side, nuzzling against his shoulder. "Sleep," he ordered, distantly surprised that the word wasn't slurred.
Loki's chest jerked with a silent huff, but he turned onto his side, spooning comfortably into Tony's chest, and his breathing evened out.
Tony followed him into slumber a heartbeat later.
Tony drifted for a bit upon waking, a part of him settled in a way it had never been before, and while he suspected that had to do with the completed bond, he couldn't be sure. And, to be honest, he wasn't sure he cared.
Positive thoughts; he was happy.
His phone let out the Men in Black theme – Phil's ringtone – and Tony groaned before peeking his head up to figure out where the damn thing had ended up. Thankfully, it was almost in his reach, requiring only the slightest stretch before he could grab it and settle back down against Loki's back, eyes closing. "Someone better be dying," he growled as soon as the call connected.
Phil let out a huff of noise that was almost a laugh. "Clint might just be," he reported drily. "I probably won't be able to get to the tower until noon. Ms Potts has suggested that a meeting over lunch might be an easier option, if you're amenable?"
Tony sighed and pressed his forehead against Loki's spine. "What time is it?"
"Not quite oh nine hundred."
Tony resisted the urge to comment on the military phrasing. "Right. Twelve thirty?" he asked, knowing when Pepper preferred to break for lunch.
"Just remember to clean off any blood before you show up. If you put me off my lunch because of Barton, I'll be most cross."
Phil let out a quiet noise of amusement. "Noted," he said in that familiar dry tone of his.
The line clicked.
Tony groaned and tossed the phone towards the far side of the bed, letting his arm fall at the end of the swing to wrap around Loki's chest.
"Good morning," Loki murmured, voice rough from sleep, as his arms came up to rest against Tony's arm over his chest.
Tony hummed. "Sorry if I woke you."
"You didn't," Loki assured him, fingers brushing lightly against Tony's arm.
Tony was just starting to doze off again, lulled by the light touch, when Loki tensed. Tony immediately came awake, asking, "What's wrong?"
Loki took Tony's hand in his and directed it to a patch of skin directly over his heart.
Tony couldn't feel anything odd under his hand, and Loki didn't seem interested in speaking, so he sat up to look, moving his hand. His eyes widened when he found a marking in neon blue that resembled the arc reactor. "What–?"
Loki's hand came up and pressed against the real reactor in Tony's chest, which brought attention to the very new bright green colour light it was suddenly putting out.
Tony felt dizzy for a moment, terror zinging through him like electricity, but then Loki was pulling him down against his chest, pressing Tony's phone into his hand. It was exactly what Tony needed, and he would probably question it later, after he'd checked in with JARVIS, because this was wrong, but he was still alive. He wasn't even breathing hard as he barked out, "JARVIS. Check my arc reactor."
The phone let out a chirp, the hum of distant machinery, and then JARVIS reported, "I am sensing no change to the reactor itself, Sir, though there seems to be some sort of energy barrier on the front casing."
"What sort of barrier?" Tony asked, relaxing into Loki's embrace and letting the hand not holding the phone trace the familiar shape over Loki's heart.
"The energy itself is unfamiliar, Sir. I apologise, but I am unable to discern its function."
"Thanks, JARVIS." He tossed the phone off the bed and leaned up to look at Loki. "Any ideas?"
A hand trailed up from his waist to rest next to the reactor, just brushing the metal edge when Tony breathed. "It's my magic," he decided after a moment of consideration, "but I'm uncertain as to the purpose for it. It may simply be a way to return this–" he tapped the new mark on his chest and Tony tried not to grin "–or it might be a protective shield of some form."
"There's no, oh, I dunno, scanning spell or something?"
Loki's lips twitched, amusement glinting in his eyes. "You mortals and your ideas about magic."
"Hey!" Tony swatted him, but he was grinning too widely for anyone to think he felt insulted.
Loki chuckled, a sound that was entirely too beautiful to Tony's ears, then shook his head. "In answer, no, nothing quite so simple. There are spells I could use that could give me an answer, but I am uncertain what effect they would have on your arc reactor." He smoothed his hand over the green light as Tony sobered. "I wouldn't take that chance."
Tony laced their fingers together, letting their joined hands press against the cover. "It's not that important." He let his mouth hike up on one side in a crooked smile. "It'll take some time to get used to the change in colour."
Loki tilted his head slightly, eyes glinting with mischief. "I like it," he decided.
Tony laughed and leaned down to kiss the god, mumbling, "You would," against his lips.
Both Pepper and Phil had raised eyebrows at him when he joined them for lunch, so he really wasn't all that surprised when the first thing Clint said to him when he got upstairs was, "How was the sex?"
Tony smirked at him. "You'll never know," he said before walking into the kitchen with the cupcakes he'd picked up on their way back. When Phil had looked at them askance, he'd shrugged and explained, "Celebrating our return to the tower." What he hadn't told Phil was that they were expecting Thor for dinner, something Loki had approved before Tony called the estranged member of his pack, so the celebration was as much to welcome Thor back into the tower as it was to celebrate their own return.
"Clint, no," Phil hissed just before Tony could exit the kitchen. "You haven't been back two hours. No."
Tony paused at the threshold, considering his options. He could go out there, see how Clint was going to push his buttons today, and hope he could find something to calm him down fast enough to keep from actually strangling his pack mate. Or he could hide in the kitchen until Clint got bored – unlikely – or someone – Steve, usually, or Bruce if Steve was out – answered Tony's call for help.
And then Tony realised that he was actually stopping to consider his options instead of just stalking out there and yelling.
"Only a little different," he muttered to himself and walked out into the main room.
Clint had pulled Phil down into his lap, grinning at his mate's unimpressed stare. They both turned to look when Tony stepped out, Phil with an apologetic expression, Clint with a taunting smirk.
The familiar fury didn't sweep over Tony, and he smirked right back at Clint, enjoying the way his eyes went wide and his mouth went slack. "Don't let Steve catch you two; I'm not sure who would die of embarrassment first, Agent Kay or Uncle Sam," he warned before whistling a jaunty rendition of Jingle Bells and turning to go down to the lab.
"You're cheating somehow!" Clint shouted after him.
Natasha was coming through the door of the stairwell when Tony reached it, eyebrow raising at his out-of-season tune. "Your mates are having fun without you," he informed her, then slipped past and started down the stairs.
"Stark!" Natasha called after him, and he paused to look up at her. "Do I need to call someone to clean up blood?" she asked drily.
Tony took a moment to consider that, feeling unusually playful. "It's only a minor spill. You know where the paper towels are," he decided, then continued on his way. He waited to start snickering until the door had slammed shut behind her.
In the lab, he stepped up next to Loki and wrapped an arm around his waist, leaving it to the god to settle his own arm around Tony's shoulders. Bruce came over with an odd look on his face. "Clint seems to think you've been possessed," he informed Tony.
Tony grinned. "He had Phil on the couch. I didn't start yelling."
Bruce's eyebrows flew up on his forehead and he looked between Tony and Loki. "I can only assume this is connected to the completion of your bond." He shook his head and took off his glasses to clean with the corner of his button-up. "Loki was being rather reticent with information about the bonding."
Tony glanced at Loki, curious, and the god grimaced. "It's personal," he explained.
Tony considered that for a moment, then looked back towards Bruce. "Is the data absolutely necessary for your work?"
Bruce shrugged. "Not absolutely."
Tony nodded. "It's personal."
Loki relaxed slightly against Tony, telling him exactly how long he'd been going around in circles over this matter with Bruce.
Bruce, for his part, just sighed and nodded; he knew when Tony wasn't going to explain any further. "I still haven't found a way to anticipate Loki's next heat, but there has been a change since you two bonded."
Tony frowned as Loki tensed next to him; clearly, Bruce hadn't mentioned his finding to the god yet. "Change how?"
"Nothing bad," Bruce assured them, and Loki relaxed a bit. "Or, well, I don't think it's bad," he admitted. Before Tony could snap at him, Bruce quickly explained, "There was a particular pheromone Loki was putting out that is completely gone, now. It's not something humans ever release, so I can't say what it was for." He shrugged. "Thor's never put it out, either. I assume it's something specific to Jötnar, and unless you start showing adverse reactions, I'm not going to worry."
"We can ask Thor," Tony suggested. "He might know the difference."
"Unlikely," Loki muttered, but he slumped down so he could comfortably rest his head on Tony's shoulder, his arm sliding down to curl around the human's waist.
"Did you need him for anything else?" Tony asked Bruce.
"Hm? Oh, no. You can rescue him from the bad old doctor now."
Tony rolled his eyes and tugged Loki towards the door. "Want to see my lab?" he offered.
Loki's eyes lit up. "Yes," he breathed.
Tony laughed and led him into the stairwell to his main tech lab.
"You smell the same to me as you always have," Thor said to Loki after dinner, once Tony and Bruce had explained the question to him. He shrugged. "Well, the same, but also like Tony." He glanced over at where Tony was giving the brothers space, but fooling no one in pretending he wasn't listening. "Had Bruce not told me there was a difference other than your bond, I would not have noticed it."
"But you can tell I'm bonded," Loki said drily. Then, raising his voice, "Just come over here, Anthony."
Tony grinned and slid comfortably into the spot that seemed naturally fitted for him against Loki's side. "I missed you too, babe."
Tony chuckled and used the hand he'd wrapped around Loki's back to tangle their fingers together. In response, Loki reached down Tony's shoulder until his free hand reached up to twine together.
Thor shook his head, amusement lighting his whole face. "I hardly need scent for that, Brother."
Loki levelled a bland stare on him.
Thor let out a booming laugh, uncaring as Steve and Bruce looked in from where they were talking on the balcony. Clint, Phil, and Natasha had left earlier with the last of the cupcakes; Tony had decided he was best off not asking, lest they discover there was a point where his old anger would return. (Clint would find out how far he could push soon enough, no need to help it along.)
"Yes, Loki, I can smell it," Thor agreed. "I could smell the difference on the helicarrier, even, though it was not so strong as now." His brow furrowed. "The difference between then and now is quite great."
Tony glanced up at Loki, leaving the decision to tell Thor that the bond hadn't been complete before to him. Personally, he didn't care one way or another if Thor knew he'd defended a partial bond, and it was always better to get these sorts of things out in the open before they blew up. But, well, there were centuries of history between the two that Tony wouldn't even pretend to understand, and he refused to take any choices away from Loki when it came to what he wanted to share with his family.
Really, the only choices Tony would probably chance taking away from Loki were ones that might adversely affect their pack.
Loki met Tony's eyes, then glanced up at Thor. "It was only partial."
Thor's eyebrows raised. "A partial bond?" he asked, an odd note in his voice.
Loki tensed. "Must I always repeat my–"
"Forgive me, Brother," Thor soothed, the odd note still there. "It is simply..." He cleared his throat. "There are tales of bonds which will begin to form of their own, but no recorded cases. You will recall our laws tutor?"
"Which one?" Loki muttered, the defensive anger drained from his tone. "You scared off three of them."
"Two," Thor corrected. "You scared off the third."
"Boys," Tony interrupted, sensing the impending debate and moving to stop it before they could really get started. "Laws tutor," he added to Thor when the blond gave him a stunned look, clearly having not expected someone to interrupt. "Fairy tale bonds. Don't leave me hanging, buddy."
Thor's mouth twitched with a quickly suppressed smile. "Our last one," he said for Loki's benefit. "One of the days you vanished before lessons, I asked her about bond laws."
Loki made a disgusted sound. "Of course you did. Thor, you spent far too much time–"
Tony squeezed both of Loki's hands. "Hush. Story time now, griping time later."
Loki snorted, but obediently subsided.
Thor didn't bother suppressing his smile that time, though he made a point to not look at Loki. "Bond laws have become less complicated since Father forbade travel to Jötunheimr," Thor explained to Tony, "since the omegas were removed from reach, but there are still complications in policing bonds without them."
"We've got enough complicated bond laws here on Earth," Tony replied with only a hint of bitterness – he didn't want to think about how difficult it was going to be to get American law to recognise his binding with Loki, given he was the same gender, an alien, and a wanted criminal. "Skip the technicalities, tell me the story."
Thor's smile widened slightly and his eyes flickered towards Loki's unimpressed stare before returning to Tony's openly hopeful expression. "There is a law, one very old, older even than Bestla and Borr–"
"Who and who?" Tony whispered to Loki.
"The Allfather's parents," Loki whispered back.
Thor rolled his eyes at both of them. "Older than memory," he continued, silently daring Loki to interrupt, which the Trickster pointedly didn't do. "Rumour says it was given by the Norns, for only the Norns might give the rule occurrence. Of course, the Norns are sworn–"
"Thor," Loki interrupted, sighing when Thor grinned in victory. "Yes, very good, you've surpassed droll and are travelling into the realm of sleep-inducing. Feel free to reach your point some time this century."
Tony bit his tongue to keep from laughing; he'd never seen Thor this good-humoured, and even Loki seemed more amused than irritated with his brother, for once.
Thor, at least, seemed to know how far he could push Loki, for he finally got to the point: "The law is for those bonds that begin to form without intent, to give them the same rights as any other bonded pair even before the bond completes." He shrugged, smile turning uncertain. "When I asked her how many times the law had been put into effect, she said none. For no two destined souls can deny their bond long enough for a bond to force itself."
"That...almost makes sense," Bruce cut in, surprising all of them. He and Steve had come in at one point and settled in to listen. "Think about it, Tony, it was the perfect set-up. Three alphas, and an omega going into heat. One alpha has familiar ties, another can't parse out the pheromone-based signals. The last one is in the perfect position to take what the universe has put in front of him."
"The last one had morals," Tony replied drily.
"Such pesky things," Loki commented, amusement in his voice.
Tony's expression tightened and he glanced up at his mate. "Tell me you would have accepted the bond. If I'd given in to instincts and just fucking did whatever I pleased with you in that apartment, tell me you wouldn't have run the fuck away as soon as you could, hating me and everything I stood for."
Loki looked away.
Tony shook his head and looked past Thor's naked curiosity to Bruce's grim smile and Steve's helpless understanding. "Perfect set-up, maybe, but shitty timing."
"Right people, wrong time," Bruce agreed with a shrug. "It hardly matters, now."
"This is very true," Thor agreed. "The Norns' plan will see itself done, against our own wills, if necessary."
"That moment I'm reminded that even gods have people pulling the strings," Tony muttered under his breath. Then, loud enough for all of them to hear, he said, "I'm ready to turn in. Loki?"
Loki nodded. "I am willing."
"I should probably turn in, myself," Steve agreed, stretching his arms over his head. "We should discuss whether or not you're intending to help us on the field, at one point," he added to Loki as the three of them started for the elevator and stairs, Thor and Bruce falling in behind them.
Loki blinked in surprise, then shook his head. "I do not enjoy battle as Thor does."
Steve shrugged. "Neither does Tony or Bruce. And Natasha and Clint would much prefer going unnoticed." He hit the button to go down, assuming Tony and Loki would take the stairs up, since Tony usually did. "You don't have to decide right this moment, and nothing on this Earth could make you come out on any one day if you didn't want to. Just...think about it, okay? Any and all help is appreciated."
"I'll consider the opportunity," Loki promised.
Steve grinned. "Swell!"
"No. No, Steve, we've talked about this," Tony complained.
"He's doing it on purpose. Go to bed, Tony," Bruce insisted, gently pushing Tony towards the stairs. "Loki."
"Old fart!" Tony called as he let Loki lead the way into the stairwell.
Steve's laughter followed after them, echoing in the stairwell.
There was some strain, trying to include Loki in their pack, but there had always been strain over the meeting of two very different cultures, and they made it work. It helped that Tony was calmer, now, was willing to let Clint and Natasha and Phil get away with more; for the first time, they managed to sit through an entire film without Tony needing to walk out.
The most complicated part about the merge, really, was that Loki didn't know how to be an alpha. He'd spent so many centuries being a beta, and he was comfortable there, but mating with Tony had automatically made him their pack's second in-home alpha. Which, given that the Avengers weren't a particularly needy pack, didn't mean much in the short-term, but there was a sort of deference suddenly given to him by the other humans, and he kept experiencing an odd sort of need to see them happy, which Loki hadn't felt for anyone since Hela had outgrown his care. He'd struggled with managing the change on his own for almost a month, feeling constantly lacking, before finally breaking down and telling Tony.
"You know," the inventor said, running his fingers through Loki's hair, the god's head in his lap, "I fought so hard to keep from letting myself be named alpha. Everyone knows I'm far from the picture of responsible adult, and I had no interest in being the one anyone looked to for comfort or support." His smile was rather self-deprecating, and he shook his head. "I suppose that's a good thing about this pack, really. Steve only ever seems to need help catching up on the modern world – a problem he and Thor share, to be honest, but Thor usually asks his girl, since I apparently make him feel stupid."
Loki snorted. "Not hard to do."
"Be nice," Tony returned, but he was grinning. "Bruce is full of science and awkward, and while we sometimes stumble over the giant green rage creature in the room, he's pretty easy to manage. Clint, on the other hand..."
Loki turned his face to laugh against Tony's thigh, well familiar with the most troublesome member of their pack.
"Phil and Natasha aren't too bad at handling him, when I start feeling murderous, and he's pretty good at knowing where the line is, if nothing else." He grimaced. "I'm still waiting for him to find my new limits."
Loki peeked up at him, a smile curling his mouth, but uncertainty still in his eyes. "Be that as it may–"
"The point is, being an alpha isn't easy, and it's not comfortable," Tony interrupted, brushing his thumb along the edge of Loki's cheekbone. "We're, neither of us, born into the position. Not like Thor. We fell into it by chance, and there are going to be bad days, days when you just want to hide in the bathtub with two bottles of one hundred proof and pretend the world doesn't exist." He sighed and offered a tired smile down at Loki. "You've got something I didn't have, when I got dropped into this mess, though."
Loki raised an eyebrow at him. "You?" he suggested drily, but the uncertainty in his eyes was being pushed out by a sort of fond amusement that Tony was becoming entirely too attracted to.
"Absolutely. And you know what I've got?"
Loki closed his eyes a bit helplessly, but he was smiling.
Tony chuckled and leaned over a little awkwardly to brush his lips against Loki's. "I've got you." He closed his own eyes and pressed his forehead against Loki's chest, over his heart. "Thank you," he whispered, so painfully honest it ached.
Loki huffed. "Sentiment."
Tony was learning to understand that meant Loki was grateful for him, too.
Loki was uncomfortable walking around in the common areas shirtless, and Tony started wearing the cover he'd made for the arc reactor after Pepper had complained about the light one night full time, so it took almost five months before someone realised their bonding had resulted in any physical changes.
After a rather nasty battle with Steve's old 'friend', Red Skull, they'd all taken far too many hits for Bruce to have an interest in patching up back at the tower, so they got dragged into SHIELD Medical. Loki was off trying to get Thor to sit still – he was the only one, other than Steve and the Hulk, who could come close to matching the Thunderer's strength, and Steve was being treated for his own wounds, while Loki had come through mostly unscathed – and Tony had a concussion, so neither of them were really capable of keeping an eye on the nurses who were checking Tony out.
He was just trying to blink the light-bursts from the penlight out of his eyes, when one of the nurses said, "If you keep it covered, how can we know if it's still in working– Mr Stark!"
Tony looked down at the horrified shout, and it didn't quite connect that she was freaking out over the changed colour of his arc reactor until Bruce stepped in and asked, "Tony, is there a reason the reactor is green?"
Tony blinked a couple times, then looked over at Loki, who looked worried, but less unwilling to share than he had been all those months ago in Bruce's lab. He shrugged and turned back to his own bed, trying to spot his cover. "Sure, there's an excellent reason. And I am so totally willing to talk about it once we get rid of McFury's paid minions."
Bruce glanced over at Loki and Steve, seeking the approval of the two alphas not suffering from a head wound, and when they both nodded, he handed over the arc reactor's cover. "Let Tony and JARVIS worry about the functionality of his tech," he suggested to the nurse.
She stuttered out an apology and skittered away, leaving a space for Loki to occupy, once he'd decided to leave Thor to the human staff. The god did nothing more than lace his fingers with Tony's, but it spoke volumes.
The others waited until Tony had gotten some sleep, thankfully, before asking for an explanation over lunch, all of them miraculously in the kitchen at the same time. (Tony suspected they'd done it on purpose.)
"I don't know why it's gone green, but it's been like that for five months and neither JARVIS nor I have noticed any problems," he told them, not looking up from the orange he was peeling.
"Five months?" Steve demanded. "Tony, this is the sort of thing you need to tell us about."
"I asked him not to," Loki interrupted, frowning at the soldier from where he was leaning against the wall at Tony's side. "It is a proof of the bond. Had the change proven dangerous, you would have been made aware of it."
"That is the shade of your magic, isn't it?" Bruce realised, rubbing his fingers over his lips. "I didn't even make the connection."
"None of us did," Phil offered drily.
"Brother," Thor interrupted, "have you proof?"
All eyes turned to Loki, who glanced down at Tony. Tony didn't bother looking up from his orange, just shrugged; it was a little too late to keep it from their pack now, but he wasn't going to tell Loki to do anything.
"I have a mark," the dark-haired god said, looking towards Thor. "No, you may not see it."
"Not sure we want to," Clint said, grin wide and obnoxious. "For all we know, it's on your ass or something."
Tony glanced up, then, eyes dancing. "If I'd had my way–"
Loki very gently smacked the back of his head, careful of the white bandaging standing out against the dark colour of his hair. "Shut up, Anthony."
Tony grinned at him and held up half of the orange, which Loki took with a heavy sigh.
Everyone took that as a sign to move on to other topics.
Tony was in his lab when Thor found him, bent over a strip of metal with an engraving tool in one hand. He was working on a gift for Loki, their one-year anniversary fast approaching, and he was so caught up in it, he didn't even realise Thor was there until the power to the engraver suddenly cut out.
He looked up to find Thor holding the plug, the god's expression torn between irritation and a distant sort of disgust. "I was working," Tony snapped, reaching out for the plug.
"My brother requires your presence," Thor reported, voice tight.
"Then he can damn well come down here himself and– Hey. How did you get past the door?" he realised, turning to check that he didn't need to replace the heavy iron door he'd installed to keep Thor and Steve out after one too many interruptions to a project.
Thor let out an irritated sound and ripped the engraver from Tony's hands, tossed it on the table, then grabbed Tony and tossed him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
"What the fuck!" Tony snarled as they passed through the, thankfully intact, iron door. He knew better than to think he could get Thor to release him through physical means, so he fell back on orders. "Put me the fuck down right. Now."
"No," Thor replied, stepping into the elevator.
"JARVIS!" Tony shouted, trusting in his AI.
"I apologise, Sir," JARVIS said drily, "but Mr Loki asked me not to interfere."
Somehow, Tony suspected, the video of this would reach SHIELD and he'd have to put up with being mocked for approximately a week before he got fed up and reminded them that he could ruin all of their lives with a couple lines of code. Clint, of course, wouldn't be so easily stopped, but he could leave that to Phil and Natasha–
The elevator doors opened, admitting them to the common floor and a cloud of pheromones.
Loki was in heat.
"Put me down," Tony ordered, voice lacking all the anger of a moment before.
Thor carefully set him down on the floor, then retreated into the elevator and – Tony assumed – down to his own room.
Bruce and Natasha were sitting with Loki on the larger of the two couches. Bruce had some of his equipment on the coffee table, clearly having been taking readings of some sort before Tony arrived. For the moment, he and Natasha were bracketing Loki, Natasha running her fingers through Loki's hair while the god curled around his knees, whole back tense.
"Out," Tony ordered once he was just out of arms reach of the couch.
Some of the tension left Loki at the sound of Tony's voice, but he didn't move. Bruce and Natasha, however, immediately scrambled to get off the couch and moved past him, towards the elevator and stairs.
Tony waited until they were out of the room before finally coming close enough to slide one hand into Loki's hair, the other working between the god's knees and chest until it could rest above the hidden mark over his heart. "I'm sorry," he murmured as Loki leaned into the touch.
Loki turned to press his face against the hinge of Tony's jaw, letting out a huff. "JARVIS has been trying to get your attention for the past hour."
Tony winced. "You could have come down?"
Loki pulled back enough to let Tony see his narrowed eyes. "I'm not getting in the elevator just because you can't pay attention to the AI you created to play nanny for you, and I can't teleport while I'm in heat. Which you know."
Tony swallowed. "How can I make it up to you?" he hurried to ask, uninterested in being further berated.
"I require a bath, you, and classical music."
One day, Tony would find out who had introduced his mate to classical music and make them fully regret it. He would have suspected Clint, had the archer not already shared Tony's distaste for it. Not that that distaste had kept him from telling Loki about how often one could go to see it performed live, especially if one was mated to Tony Stark. Clint had only regretted that when Tony made it a pack outing.
Still, Loki loved classical music, and Tony could suffer through a bit of Beethoven – or whichever composer Loki was currently obsessed with; he'd stopped keeping track a few months ago – for his mate.
Really, he could. He'd even keep from complaining about it.
There was a minor scuffle in getting up to the penthouse – Loki didn't like riding in the elevator, and Tony wasn't about to let his mate in the stairwell while his scent was so pronounced – but they made it up eventually. The bath was run – bath bombs included because they were both fond of them, for all that neither would admit to it – and JARVIS put on Loki's requested music while Tony eased his mate into the tub and back against his chest.
"Better?" he murmured into Loki's hair, unbothered by the way it tickled his nose.
Loki hummed and turned slightly so he could curl up between Tony's legs, ear pressed over Tony's heart.
They were quiet for a long while, soaking in the dissipating warmth of the water and each other's presence.
Eventually, when Loki started to shiver slightly, Tony got them both out of the bath, dried off, and curled up in their bed. "Go to sleep, Loki," he suggested quietly, threading his fingers through the slight curls Loki's hair developed when he wasn't using magic to tame it. (Tony was ridiculously fond of the wave, though he'd never dare say so to his mate, who hated it.) "I'll be here when you wake up."
Loki let out a sleepy, pleased noise and curled a little tighter against Tony's chest.
Tony let his mind wander as his mate slept, tracking over designs for his suits or a couple of other projects he was working on, but he kept coming back to the metalwork he was making for Loki.
For all that Tony had spent his entire life working with metal, he'd never before considered making something decorative. But then he and Loki had had the – extremely uncomfortable, thanks – talk about children, since Loki could get pregnant if he was in a female form (or his Jötunn form, according to Thor, but since Loki avoided that form even more than he avoided letting his hair curl, Tony had a feeling they wouldn't be finding out). And Loki – Tony's gorgeous, broken mate – had admitted to having children already. (Yeah, the myths were right. Who knew, right? Thor hadn't known, not about most of them, much to Tony's surprise.)
Bringing up Loki's kids meant bringing up their absence. And while Loki swore he was fine with not seeing any of them – "Sleipnir was the only one I had any hand in raising," he'd said with a shrug, "and he outgrew my mothering centuries ago." – Tony couldn't imagine that wasn't, at least a little bit, a lie. (God of Lies and all.)
So he'd looked up pictures of the kids, and asked Thor for any descriptions he might have – which was how he'd found out that Thor hadn't know about most of them, though he'd met them all at various points over the years. He'd had JARVIS work it all into a single image, which Tony had tweaked a few times before he decided it was both elegant and something he could manage to shape with his limited skills.
"I can hear you thinking," Loki mumbled against the arc reactor.
Tony smiled and scratched blunt nails over the god's scalp. "Sorry."
Loki hummed and raised his head to blink drowsily at Tony, one hand coming up to brush along the edges of the lines on the human's forehead. "Don't stop."
Tony leaned up into the light touch. "Are you hungry?"
"When was the last time you ate?"
Loki glanced away. "Breakfast."
Tony shook his head, more fond than anything else, because God knew he was forever forgetting to eat. "JARVIS, have something ordered in. Uhm, for the whole pack. See if one of them will bring some up to us."
"It will be twenty minutes, Sir," JARVIS reported.
Tony turned his attention back to Loki. "Pants, at least, I think."
Loki groaned and clung to Tony, forcing him to stay in the bed for another fifteen or so minutes, but when JARVIS warned them the delivery man was downstairs, the god allowed himself to be dragged over to the closet. Pants were put on – everything awkward because Loki refused to stop touching Tony – and Loki tugged on a shirt to hide his mark, then they walked out into the empty hallway between their bedroom and the guest room that had been mostly repurposed as an office slash library that Loki got the most use out of, for all that the majority of the things in there were Tony's.
It was Bruce who brought up the food, smiling as Tony accepted it with a grateful grin. "Do we need to set up a feeding schedule for you two?" the doctor asked. He'd threatened something similar for Natasha's heats, but Clint and Phil could at least take turns.
"Probably," Tony admitted as he passed a paper cup of greasy French fries back to his mate; Loki had developed an odd sort of fascination with potatoes and the different ways they served them, which not even Thor could quite seem to understand. (Tony was slowly coming to understand that there were a lot of things Thor either didn't know or didn't understand about his brother.) "Should I leave it up to Steve to figure it out, or have JARVIS do it?"
Bruce grimaced. "We'll discuss it with JARVIS. I assume you don't want Clint coming up?"
"He can come up if he behaves himself," Tony decided. The archer and Loki had apparently worked out an odd sort of system where they were best friends and partners in crime one week, making the rest of the pack miserable, and the next week they were snarling at each other over the littlest things. They'd all just learned to make do, but it happened to be an off week between them, and there was no telling, really, what Clint would do.
"I'll let him know," Bruce replied drily.
Tony flashed him a grin, distractedly grabbing for Loki's hand as the god reached into the bag for more fries, missing entirely. "What about Thor? How did he handle it?"
Loki froze at Tony's back, the hand attached to his waist spasming and gripping a little too tight. Tony didn't say anything, just turned his mind from the ache.
Bruce's eyes flickered to where Loki must have been peeking around Tony's shoulder. "He said he wouldn't have even guessed Loki was in heat. To him, it just smells like Loki'd come from... Oh, how did he put it? 'Bathing in your stink', I think."
Tony choked on a laugh and shook his head. "So, no crazy?"
"No crazy," Bruce promised, a spark of humour in his eyes. "He probably won't want to come up here, though."
"That's fine. I'd tell him to go to his lady scientist's if he's really uncomfortable, but you all might end up needing him."
"With you and Loki out of commission? Steve would probably have a heart attack if Thor tried leaving."
Tony snorted. "We wouldn't want that." He shook his head and used the bag to salute Bruce, mostly just to keep it out of Loki's reach. "Thanks for the food, Shrek."
Bruce rolled his eyes and turned to leave. "We'll have JARVIS let you know what we figure out. Keep your room door closed if you're not both decent, please."
Like Tony was actually going to let any of his pack see his mate naked.
He turned back to Loki, only to find the god looking at him with wide, pitiful eyes. "You are entirely too good at that," Tony grumbled, handing over the other cup of fries.
Loki flashed him a smirk that was one hundred percent smug bastard, then dragged him back into the bedroom.
The first part of Loki's heat lasted almost two days, warning Tony – and the rest of the Avengers, through JARVIS – that this heat wasn't going to be nearly as quick as his last one. Tony found himself torn between pleasure, because longer meant more time spent marathon fucking Loki, and concern, because it had been bad enough being kept away from his pack for a week the last time. At least JARVIS would let him know if anything went wrong, and they'd be bringing food, for all that Tony wasn't likely to see any of them while they were doing so.
And, well. Tony could absolutely trust Steve to keep an eye on everyone. Which was more calming than the knowledge that JARVIS would keep him updated.
The first day was a little rough; their genetics were just different enough that Loki's pheromones weren't affecting Tony quite like they should have been, and so it was a bit hit or miss whether Tony would be ready for the next round when Loki needed him to be.
After twenty-four hours, though, their bodies met in the middle and the toys Tony had pulled out from under the bed got tossed in whichever direction they happened to be facing when they found them in the twisted mess of lube- and ejaculate-stained sheets. (Tony was pretty sure one of them had hit the full-length mirror between the bathroom and closet doors, but honestly didn't care, beyond a brief moment of concern for broken glass.)
As a general rule, they would have a little over an hour of downtime before Loki would be clawing at Tony for another round. That break lengthened a bit if whatever meal came late in the cycle, Loki's body aware that they both needed the food, even if the two of them weren't actually feeling hungry right that moment.
Sleep was, apparently, less of a concern, and Tony chalked that up to the simple fact that Thor and Loki needed less sleep than their human pack mates. At least Tony was used to not getting near enough sleep, and someone had apparently talked Bruce into letting him have real coffee with every meal, which helped a lot.
After almost three weeks, they started to slow down. The breaks between sex were longer, and Tony found himself less inclined to bite and scratch at Loki as he fucked into the god. (And, wow, that had been odd; Tony had nothing against a bit of an edge in bed, but there was rough sex, and then there was aiming to physically damage his partner, and this had been more the latter. If it had been anyone other than Loki, he would have got the fuck out of Dodge, but he knew he couldn't cause any permanent damage to his mate – could barely manage to bruise him as it was – so he only put up a token fight and was secretly grateful for his short nails.)
When Tony woke to light fingers running through his hair instead of Loki's mouth around his cock, he knew they were in the clear. "Morning," he murmured, leaning up for a kiss.
"Evening," Loki corrected against Tony's lips.
Tony glanced towards the darkened windows – JARVIS had just left them dark after the first time Tony whined about sun in his eyes while he was trying to catch some sleep between fucks – and shrugged. "If you say so."
"It is, indeed, evening," JARVIS supplied. "Just after eight o'clock."
Tony huffed a laugh. "Is there food outside?"
"It was cold," Loki supplied.
Tony raised an eyebrow – he'd been the one gathering the food each time, partially because he didn't care who saw his mark of their bonding, partially because he liked seeing Loki sprawled naked across their bed – then shrugged. "Cold as in 'only a vagabond would touch it', or cold as in 'only Loki won't touch it'?"
Loki's hand in his hair gave a tug, making Tony wince. "If you're distracted enough, you'll eat anything."
"Are you calling me a vagabond?" Tony demanded, more playful than annoyed. (Though, really, that hair pulling had hurt.)
Loki didn't respond, just kept watching him, expression blank.
Tony tensed and sat up, unintentionally knocking Loki's hand from his hair. "What is it? What's wrong?"
Loki didn't respond, just leaned forward and pressed his forehead against the arc reactor.
"Loki?" Tony asked, wrapping his arms around the god's shoulders and trying not to panic. "Babe, come on. Talk to me."
Loki's whole body shuddered and his arms came up to wrap around Tony, holding him almost too tight. "Thank you," he whispered, voice cracking.
"Oh." Tony leaned forward, over Loki's back, and pressed a kiss against his spine. "You're welcome."
Loki shuddered again and something wet splashed against Tony's thigh.
He closed his eyes and pressed another kiss to Loki's back, feeling lost. How was he – broken enough as he was, in his own way – supposed to pull his mate back together? How could he possibly heal all the damage that Loki had suffered, all the things he usually hid away behind a too-sharp smile and tense shoulders?
"I love you," he said at last, because he knew what it was like to need to be needed.
And because, after a year of finding their way around each other's sharp edges, it was true.
Loki let out a quiet noise, almost like a sob, and he pulled back enough to meet Tony's gaze. Water-logged green to helpless shades of brown.
Tony reached up and cupped the god's cheek. "I do," he whispered.
Loki closed his eyes and reached up to hold Tony's hand in place. "I–" He choked, pressing Tony's hand a little tighter against his cheek.
"Loki. It's not– You don't have to–"
Loki's eyes snapped open, a fire in them that made Tony's mouth snap shut. "I love you too, you infuriating human."
Tony blinked, then let himself grin. "I'm not nearly so infuriating as Clint."
Loki let out a snort, looked adorably surprised for a moment, then burst out laughing, leaning forward to curl against Tony's chest again.
Tony grinned, victory a heady feeling, and he wondered if, maybe, Thor and Loki's fate-tellers – Norns, or whatever – hadn't known exactly what they were doing the whole time.