I was working on The Claiming of Beauty, but then I got distracted by something on youtube and it led me to something on yahoo and then I read something about name meanings and coincidentally came across 'Anthony', read it cause it's my dad's name, and then thought: Plot bunny! Here we go…

"Worthy of Praise"

Disclaimer: The Avengers, Tony, Loki, etc belong to Marvel, Stan Lee, et co. I make no money from this and own nothing, don't sue.

Summary: [Tony/Loki] Sometimes we deny being worthy of praise, despite the words of our friends and families. Lovers who say you are wonderful are biased. But your mirror never lies, when it shows you a monster, you believe it because you want to. Because when you look at yourself, you can't see what everyone else sees in you; it's human nature for good people to see only their flaws, which is why Loki doesn't want Tony to be human anymore.

Warnings: Slash. Loki/Tony. Post-Avengers. Mash-up of Comic and MCU. Minor character death. Golden apples. Tony is fucked up emotionally. Loki is too. But they have each other. Dark thoughts. Angst. Established relationship.

Rating: PG15 for dark thoughts?

A/N: Well… That escalated quickly.


Words: 2,026

Chapter 1

The world looked at Tony Stark and saw a hero. Once, they looked upon him in anger, some of them, hated him for his weapons and his wealth, while the other half wanted him for those same reasons. But after Afghanistan and Iron Man, he was their hero and the people loved him and the villains reviled him and reports stalked him. When the Avengers looked at him they saw their friend, their comrade, a man who smiled with them, fought with them, paid for their injuries to be healed and created them weapons and asked for nothing in return.

When Loki looked upon him, he saw the man who could look upon him and never falter. Who had never once turned away from him, even before they began their relationship. He was smart-mouthed and cocky, shoulders straight and head high as he marched towards his death with a cocky swagger and offered Loki a drink. He didn't beg as a hand closed around his throat, he didn't cry as glass shattered at his back and he was falling while Loki watched, and he flew right back up and looked Loki right in the eyes as they fought.

He was the man who was too brave for his own good, to smart, too funny, and had attracted Loki's attention like no other had. Anthony was the man who had found Loki broken and bleeding, after his allies had turned on him, a day after destroying half of New Jersey but instead of calling SHIELD he had taken Loki home, cared for his wounds, and let him go. He had muttered something about Germans and the English playing soccer at Christmas and how Thor might kill him if he let Loki bleed to death, but the God had seen the look in his eyes, knew what it meant because Loki saw that look reflected back from his own face most days. To save someone was to matter to them, to matter was to be remembered, and there was nothing more terrifying to people like them than to fade into nothing. So Loki let himself be saved, and he came back over and over, pretending to be hurt, carrying superficial wounds or walking with an exaggerated limp, loitering until Tony came out to rescue him again.

He was a good man, Anthony Stark. Kind, clever and viciously loyal to those who had won his trust, but he was morally ambiguous too. Nothing was too much or too far, in order to protect those he loved. He would raze cities in revenge, destroy or conquer worlds if he had to, but he was careful to keep other people from seeing that about him when they looked upon him.

Some people saw a genius, some a hero, some a friend or a lover or family. But when Tony looked at himself in the mirror, he saw none of that staring back at him. He saw what Loki saw when he wore his blue skin and his red eyes watered in disgust at the sight of it. He saw a monster, a murderer, no matter what skin he wore, what costume he hid behind, he saw someone who took lives in the name of something else. First it was weapons, made and sold for money, to protect America's troops, for God and country. Then it was those terrorists in that cave and he killed them all because it was them or him, right, and he needed to get free, he had to escape. Obadiah had to go; he'd tried to rip out Tony's heart, so Tony had to kill him. He had to. After it was the Chitauri, destroying his home, invading his world, and he had to wipe them all out, destroy them all so that they'd never again try and touch what was his. Then Doom, and then HYDRA, the Melter, Viper, how many others had there been? How many villains had armed themselves against the Avengers and been mowed down by Tony's repulsors, by the weapons Tony had created for his friends? How much blood truly stained his hands, and how could he tell when he couldn't see it, because they always looked clean but he could see it every time he looked in the mirror, his face lined, his face unworthy of love, eyes blinded by hatred and fear, and mouth screamed soundlessly, reliving the deaths of those who had fallen before him.

But they had been necessary, he was told. The world said so, the Avengers said so, even Pepper had whispered it into his ear once when he woke crying years ago, remember Yinsen in his nightmares. They had died for him to live, for him to save the world. It made him a hero, it made him good and worthy and brilliant. They told him to be proud and some times he was, when there were people to laugh with, to joke about it to, or when Loki held him close and told him instead about the Jotuns who had died when he had tried to implode their planet. How he had been angry it had failed, angry it had succeeded, angry that they had died, that more hadn't, that he hadn't. Pride was a better emotion, Loki had told him, nothing good came of anger.

"Nor of pride," Tony whispered at the mirror. In it he was pale and blind, mouth full of teeth and blood specked across his cheeks and chin. There were names written in scars upon his skin, those who had died by his hands or his deeds, those he had hurt, old one night stands who had genuinely believed him when Tony had told them they were special, ex-girlfriends he had dumped because he was 'bored' of them, the ones who were pregnant and he had laughed in their faces, old friends he had betrayed, let down, Rhodey who got hurt because Tony was too slow, too stupid, and Justine Hammer took him out. Pepper whose insides didn't work anymore because of him, Pepper who had wanted to die but Tony was selfish and cruel and he had kept her alive, built her Rescue and gave her purpose, had driven her away at the same time. And Loki's name, in the centre of his chest, written over the arc reactor which pulsed in time with his heart beat and his breathing. Loki, who was worth so much more than him, a God, a villain and a hero all in one. Just Loki, his Loki, whom he didn't deserve. Loki who kept saying 'I love you, foolish mortal'. Loki who had given him a golden apple and left him alone for the weekend to think about his offer without any pressure, his apple which still sat on the bedside table it had been left upon, untouched, uneaten, because Tony didn't deserve immortality.

There were better people out there. People who deserved to live forever, people who should be brought to Asgard and protected when Thanos' war eventually came to Earth, and it wasn't Tony. Tony wasn't worthy.

"Yes you are," Loki whispered from behind him.

His weekend must be up, Tony thought detachedly, turning away from the bathroom mirror to glance at his lover. Loki looked pristine in comparison to Tony's unshaven, half-dressed state, but there were bags under his eyes that the God hardly ever sported.

"Did you not sleep for two days or something?" Tony asked with a fake laugh.

"I was worried about you. I know you, Anthony," Loki told him softly, striding forward calmly to pull the mortal against his chest. "I know the way you think and the way you feel and I know that you are wrong." When Tony went to protest Loki pressed their mouths together to silence him. "As I am repeatedly told I am wrong by you whenever I think poorly of myself, I tell you now that you are wrong. You are a good man, in the best of ways to be, open-minded, calm and fierce. Morals should never get in the way of protecting your family and you should not feel guilty for believing it to be so. You are intelligent and wonderful, you make me laugh every day, you make me angrier than I've ever been in my life but you make me calm just by smiling at me. You terrify me every time you go out to fight in your tin can and refuse to cower behind me while I protect what is mine. You amaze me every time you take a beating, but get back up for more. You make me feel safe and loved when we are alone together, your touch brings me comfort, your heart beating beneath my heart brings me peace. When people look upon you and see a hero they are not wrong, Anthony." The mortal scoffed, and Loki rolled his eyes, long used to Tony's aversion to his full name.

"You are worthy of their praise, of my love and of Asgard's gift. Your very name makes it so, Anthony. It means 'worthy of praise', did you know? Your father, for all of his faults, named you well, my love." Tony eyed him calmly, before glancing at the apple from the corner of his eyes. "It is not permanent. You'll need another in twenty years, and then in fifty, until eventually you will need one every hundred like the rest of us."

"Jane wasn't allowed," Tony began to protest and Loki sighed as he finally came to understand his lover's hesitance. Thor had bargained for Jane to be permitted immortality and had been refused. His second attempt had been interrupted by Heimdallr charging into the throne room to warn Thor of an attack on Jane's home city. By the time he had arrived, Odin still having not changed his mind in the interim, Jane was dead. Thor had avoided Asgard, blaming his father for refusing her a place in Asgard the first time, his fault she had been on Earth at all. He had avoided the Avengers, unable to look at Tony and Loki without knowing that somehow, someway, Loki would get what he wanted, and there he was burying his love in contrast. And Tony felt guilt for actions which were not his.

"Jane was not ready to be one of us, she had yet to prove herself capable of passing the tests. You have, you will. If that is not enough to calm your heart, think of this instead," Loki pressed another kiss to Tony's mouth in between words, "if you do not eat the apple you will get twenty more years with me, thirty at most, unless you die sooner. If you eat it, you will have me for eternity."

Yes, Tony was a good man, and when he wasn't feeling lonely or confused or melancholy he could admit that. He was smart, funny, and attractive too. A fucking genius to boot. But he was also selfish. Hadn't he kept Pepper alive against her wishes because he hadn't wanted to let her go, and now Loki talked about leaving him, living his life without Tony by his side? That wouldn't do. He didn't expect Loki to lie down and die beside him, that was too much to ask anyone for, but Tony wasn't about to allow Loki to talk about them ending yet, not ever, not when there were options remaining open to them still.

"Give me that apple," Tony demanded, holding his hand out over Loki's shoulder. With a click of his fingers, the apple had travelled from the bedside table to Loki's hand, and the God pulled back enough to see Tony take it and take a bite.

As Tony swallowed the first bite, Loki smiled softly at him. "You are worth this," the God whispered, seeing the monster Tony wore beneath his flesh and loving him anyway. But that was why Tony kept chewing, because he loved Loki's monster too. They were of the same breed, and Thor was right to guess that they would get what they wanted, regardless of the feelings of others.

The End