Summary: When the world is at risk, Loki finds the time to clear up Tony's misconception about magic.
Pairing: Tony/Loki
For: [livejournal.com profile] misaki_kaito
Note: I am so sorry these are taking so long. It's been a rough couple of months and creativity has taken a beating.



“Sir, I can assure you we have the greatest minds on Earth working on this.”

Nick Fury’s voice filtered through the darkness of Tony Stark’s workshop. Tony stood over a glowing machine and whispered a curse. The greatest minds on Earth echoed in his ears, taunting him. Whenever people heard those words they pictured him. It was a reputation he had always felt he deserved. He was a genius among geniuses. There was no problem he couldn’t solve.

Yet here was a conundrum. A bomb created by a madman with intelligence to rival Tony’s own. There were no blinking little red numbers, just a slow pulsing light from within that changed colour as their doom grew closer. So far Tony hadn’t even been able to find the damn light source. The casing was impenetrable.

Like every bad workman, he had blamed his tools. Well, in this case his colleagues. He had sent Bruce Banner and Reed Richards off to get some rest. They only agreed to it because he had promised to go too so that they could all look at the dilemma with fresh eyes. Tony had gone into his room, closed his door and laid on his bed until Jarvis confirmed his guests had fallen asleep. Then he returned to the workshop.

All he knew about it was its name. The Reality Bomb. Did exactly what it said on the tin. Bye-bye everything. Worst of all, what little explanation they could extract from the psycho had been alarmingly coherent and logical. It was scientifically sound.

And counting down to detonation.

The glow changed shade, from dark-orange to a rich red. Tony’s stomach churned. At least if it blew up with him next to it he wouldn’t live long enough to hear dying people curse his name.

He was out of ideas.

“Man of iron!” Thor’s voice boomed merrily into the room and Tony grit his teeth. The hammer-wielding God always seemed to turn up in the most morose times. Whenever Thor wanted to be alone he just told them, so he often failed to pick up the more subtle signs of irritation in his team-mates. “How goes your work?”

“Badly, Thor. We’re all about to die.”

That took the smile off of the man’s face, which didn’t actually make Tony feel much better. “Truthfully?”

“Yes, truthfully. Greatest minds on Earth and we’re all about to be smeared across the carpet of the universe.”

“Perhaps we need a greater mind.”

Tony sighed and turned to the Asgardian. “The greatest minds on Earth, Thor.”

Thor nodded slowly as though Tony was being the thick one. “Aye, and I am suggesting we need one greater. Do not fear, I will return shortly.”

He strode out of the room. Tony rolled his eyes. “Thank goodness. We’re saved,” he muttered sarcastically to himself.

“How’s it going?” Nick Fury asked, entering the room almost immediately after Thor had left.

“It would be going better if people would stop fucking disturbing me!” Tony yelled, slamming his fist against the workbench for emphasis.

Fury stared at him impassively. “Or maybe if you stopped throwing damn tantrums.”

“We’re all about to die horribly and there’s no way to stop it. I’ll throw a tantrum if I want.”

Although Fury opened his mouth to retort, something behind Tony’s left shoulder interrupted him with a sound like ripping fabric. Whatever it was, Fury grit his teeth and pulled his gun to take aim.

“Wait!” Thor cried out. “He is here to help at my request!”

Tony turned slowly to find Thor and Loki stood there. Behind them, a rip in… the air... slowly mended itself with a searing light and a bizarre inversion of the ripping noise from before. Tony sighed at the sight of Loki’s scowl. “That’s a nice thought Thor, but I think we’re beyond the help of a magician.”

Loki raised an eyebrow at him then pushed him out of the way.

Nick met Tony’s eyes and shrugged. Though he didn’t put his gun back in the holster, he did lower it to his side. “I think at this point we’ve gotta take what help we can get, Mr Stark.”

“Indeed,” Loki muttered to himself. Whatever punishment he had undergone on Asgard didn’t seem to have left any scars, though he was thinner than Tony remembered. His hair had been washed too. But then, Asgard was probably one big L’Oreal advert if Thor was any indication. Loki’s dark, lanky locks had probably shamed his family more than the Chitauri invasion.

God, Tony really needed to sleep. But they’d all be in the sleep eternal if they didn’t sort this out, so instead he stepped up beside Loki and observed the device with him. “It’s a—“

“Reality Bomb, I think you would call it,” Loki said. “I know.”

“And how would you know that?” Nick Fury asked suspiciously.

The God turned his cold stare onto the General. “I’m not an imbecile. Speaking of which…” He turned to his brother. “You should have fetched me the moment this was found.”

Thor hung his head with shame. “I’m sorry, brother. I thought my friends capable of preventing destruction.”

Loki waved a hand dismissively. “Go.” When Thor obeyed, dragging his feet out of the room like a scolded child, Loki glanced up at Nick Fury. “You too. Your one-eyed glare is distracting.”

Tony thought that a little harsh, but Fury actually obeyed, albeit with a growl of “I’m increasing security on this room, Laufeyson.”

“Whatever makes you feel safer,” Loki said. But his tone was distant. He was already studying the bomb.

Once they were alone, Tony spoke up. “I appreciate the help, but I really don’t think we can magic our way out of this.”

Temporarily looking up from the device, Loki wrinkled his nose in confusion. It was the most human expression Tony had ever seen on his face. “What an odd thing to say. Magic got you into this, magic will get you out.” Fingers beginning to glow with a pale light, Loki ran his hands gently over the casing. Tony’s stomach turned like he was watching someone lick a landmine.

“It’s magic?” That would explain everything.

Again Loki seemed perplexed. “What did you think it was?”

“All the preliminary scans suggested some sort of exotic energy signature. But given the presence of mechanical components we just assumed it was scientific in origin…” Tony trailed off. “You look like I’m poking you with a stick. What did I say?”

“This word, scientific, what does it mean exactly?”

Tony blinked. Maybe the bomb had detonated and killed him and his life of hedonism tempered with heroism had left him in the middle ground of Purgatory, where Loki would stand around asking him stupid questions for all eternity. It was the only plausible explanation.

“Well, you know…scientific. Pertaining to science. Knowledge or facts about the physical world that you get through experimenting or observing.”

Loki nodded. “As I thought. And magic?”

“Uh… is this a test?” Tony chuckled nervously. Loki just continued to stare, so he answered. “Okay, well, magic is…weird. It’s stuff we don’t understand happening as if out of nowhere.”

The God tapped his fingers against the workbench thoughtfully. “Hmm. Would you object to a new definition?”

“Depends on what it is.” Why were they debating the dictionary when the world was about to end?

With a hand splayed out flat on the glowing red bomb, Loki smiled. “Magic is science that man has observed briefly and not yet experimented with.”

The casing fell open under his slender fingers, exposing the core. Tony gasped at the various components therein, including… “That’s an arc reactor!” He grabbed his tools from the bench and carefully set about trying to remove it without initiating the explosion.

“It is?” Loki asked, a slight smirk on his pale lips. “It looks like a magic trick to me.”

There was a strange golden glowing string threaded through some mushy substance. Tony had no idea what it was but Loki stepped over and severed the string neatly with a shimmering blade. Then he scooped the gunk up in his hands and tipped it into his mouth, much to Tony’s revulsion.

“It has to be consumed or it will multiply,” Loki explained. “It is sweet, though. Try.” He held out his fingertips to Tony’s mouth as the man worked on detaching a volatile element.

What the hell. He licked it quickly, the fastest course of action. Loki wasn’t lying, it was sweet.

Between the two of them they soon had the thing mostly dismantled. Tony reached out to a wire with a pair of clippers.

“Wait.” Loki held out a hand. “That isn’t to be cut.”

“Sure it is. It’s a wire, I know wires.”

“It’s a thread of reality. It needs to be dissolved in blood.”

Tony frowned at the little red wire. “Okay, you try and dissolve it in blood, then when that doesn’t work, I’ll snip it.”

Loki shrugged, rolling up his sleeve. “If you will.” Then he snatched the clippers from Tony’s hand and scratched them down his own arm with a ferocity that made Tony wince. He stretched out his pale arm over the Reality Bomb and crimson droplets fizzed when they landed on the ‘wire’.

“Huh. Well that shows me. What’s next?”

“This otherworldly wand,” Loki said, reaching out with his undamaged arm.

Quicker than he knew he could, Tony grabbed him. “No! That’s highly corrosive. I don’t know about Gods but it’d burn through me in seconds. Let me just…” He picked up a pair of tongs and carefully, so carefully, lifted up the rare element and quickly deposited it in a safe vault on the adjacent table. He was going to have to scan himself later to check he hadn’t been exposed too long. The safe clicked shut and Tony turned back to the bomb. It was no longer lit up at all.

“Is it… have we finished?”

Loki smiled slightly. “The threat has been neutralised, yes.”

“We did it?” Tony asked, incredulous. Then it sank in. “We did it!”

A combination of sleep-deprivation and adrenaline had led Tony to do various inadvisable things in the past. Now he added one more to the list.

He grabbed Loki and kissed him.

The stupidity of such a move only sank in after a little while, as Loki made no move to return the kiss. His skin grew strangely cold under Tony’s fingertips.

Oh god, he was going to die for this.

When he stepped back nervously, Loki stared at him with wide eyes. The God looked almost fearful. Definitely surprised.

“Um.”

“Sorry,” Tony said awkwardly. Asgard probably had rules about men kissing men, even when drunk on victory and the knowledge that they would survive another day.

“It is of no consequence,” Loki said hurriedly.

Before they could discuss Tony’s faux-pas further, Nick Fury walked in. Readings on the bomb confirmed that Earth was officially out of danger and he wanted to congratulate them. Tony started to explain their work and by the time he turned to ask Loki about something, the Asgardian sorcerer had vanished.

*

The Avengers strode through Asgard as though they were completely unfazed by the splendour around them. Tony, Steve, Clint, Natasha and Nick Fury, all escorted by Thor.

Tony hesitated to eye the mead fountain suspiciously and said, “Okay, I get that Bruce didn’t want to come along, but did Reed Richards really want to miss out on this?”

“He did want to,” Steve explained, “But there was, uh… a family emergency.”

“That family are an emergency,” Clint muttered.

“Now, now children,” Nick Fury said quietly. He was in a remarkably good mood. But then they had been invited to Asgard in the spirit of gratitude. That sort of thing didn’t happen to them very often.

They were brought into the throne room of the Asgardian palace, where Odin Allfather was waiting. Before the royal court of Asgard the ruler of the gods professed their gratitude and their eagerness to assist humanity in the future. That Loki had assisted them with their work was a good omen, as it indicated that man and Asgardian could bring out the best in each other through co-operation. It was a rousing speech that Tony swore brought a tear to Nick Fury’s good eye. The applause was deafening.

“But that is enough of speeches and standing,” the Allfather said, sinking back into his throne. “We have much to show you, Avengers. We hope you will stay for the entertainment. Mead, women and banquets. But first, we would have you display your skills in the arena!”

A cheer rang out through the hall. Tony glanced around and was pleased to see his comrades all seemed excited about the chance to show off their prowess to the proud warrior people.

“We would be honoured,” Steve said with a courteous nod.

“Excellent! Thor and the Warriors Three will escort you to the arena. Man of Iron, I am aware this might be of little interest to you. Loki has graciously offered to take you to our libraries and halls of artefacts, which might be more compelling for a sorcerer such as yourself.”

“Mr Stark is actually a scientist,” Natasha amended politely.

But Tony looked over at the lithe figure stood in the shadows of the throne. He could just about spy the slight grin on Loki’s lips. So he shrugged and stepped forward.

“It’s pretty much the same thing,” he said with a bright smile. “Lead the way, Loki.”

Just as the people began to file out of the room and the party moved to split up, Steve grabbed Tony’s arm. “I’m sure you can join us in the arena if you want, Tony.”

“I really think I ought to go with Loki,” Tony argued.

“Why?”

“Mr Stark,” Loki said, mouth close to his ear. The god wore no armour, simply tight black silk-like garments that clung to him like a second skin. Instead of the horned helm he had small silver decorations woven into his raven-black hair. And he wanted to take Tony to the seclusion of the library.

Tony cleared his throat and nodded to Steve.

“For science.”

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