Fandom: Avengers, Thor 2, Iron Man 3
Pairing: Tony/Pepper (implied)
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Marvel et al. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Summary: Tony has been doing some research and not all the data is adding up to the conclusions SHIELD and everyone else seem to have come to. Of course Loki is in the middle of it all.
Author's Notes: Written for Cascade #47 and our prompt word is 'crazy' - who else could I write about except Tony and Loki? Thanks to Soph for the beta.
Word Count: ~1,480
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Tony liked to keep an eye on any and all information to do with the Avengers. Ever since the whole Mandarin incident he had increased his plans. The Tower was ready and he was almost on the point of coaxing his fellow Avengers to move in. He knew Thor was back and living with his main squeeze Jane. Thor had helpfully given a long and detailed report to SHIELD about the whole convergence mess which Tony had read and digested. However, the whole thing just told Tony that more was coming, much more.
The thing was, he was beginning to realise that he had made a mistake. If there was one thing Tony hated it was making mistakes and this one was called Loki.
Everyone had said Loki was crazy. All the pointers had been that Loki was out of his mind and taking out his daddy issues on Earth. It had all been so straightforward. Only, now Tony wasn't so sure. He'd gone back over every piece of information SHIELD and he had on Asgard, Thor, Loki and their people and he was seeing more than simple crazy.
The more he looked, the more he saw and the surer he became.
"Loki's not crazy," was what he finally decided as he sat on the couch looking at the information yet again.
"Pardon?" Pepper asked, glancing up from her reports.
They were sitting companionably together each doing their own thing, but now she was looking at him.
"Loki's not crazy," he repeated.
"He looked crazy enough to me," Pepper replied.
"Oh, he's a little unhinged," Tony agreed, "and I think he had a mental break during the whole Thor falling to earth gig, but a lot of what we saw was an act."
"Why?" Pepper asked, not yet questioning his conclusions.
"He's playing the long game and he needs the big players to write him off," he explained, "and I'd bet my fortune that he's not even a little bit dead."
"Thor believes he is," Pepper pointed out.
"Thor isn't devious," he said, "oh the big guy is intelligent enough, but he's not devious, that's what he has Loki for."
"You're speaking in the present tense," Pepper said.
"Loki doesn't really want the throne," he elaborated; "he's like me, he'd be bored in days. Why do you think I made you CEO?"
Pepper had to nod at that.
"The whole throne thing is making a point and making him look crazier; it's got nothing to do with what he really wants. No, I'd guess that in the end Thor will end up king with Loki right there beside him to keep him out of trouble..."
"My, my, aren't we clever," said a smooth, aristocratic voice that almost made Tony jump out of his skin.
He turned to find the very god in question leaning against his bar as if he owned the place. Tony wasn't going to lie; his heart was beating a mile a minute.
"You really need to learn to knock," he said, because sass was his default defence.
Pepper, beautiful, wonderful, intelligent woman that she was just sat there.
"Ah, but aren't gods supposed to appear when you say their name?" Loki asked.
"That's the devil," he replied and Loki simply smiled.
At least Loki wasn't wearing his armour. He was in green, gold and black with lots of leather, but it wasn't combat gear, which made Tony think Loki was not simply there to wipe him off the face of the planet.
"So, the long game," he said, because there was no point in pretending Loki hadn't heard all of the previous conversation.
One day Tony wanted to know how, but for now he just accepted it.
"You are fooling yourself," Loki replied.
"No, see, if I was completely wrong, you wouldn't be here," Tony countered.
"Presumption," Loki said.
"Logic," he replied.
Loki's expression was closed and cold now, but Tony was well aware he had the god's full attention. He was also more than aware that if he did this wrong he and Pepper would be no more than blood stains on the upholstery. It was a dangerous game.
"Let's just pretend for the moment that I'm right," he said, leaping straight in anyway, because he really didn't know any other way to play it. "You know something big's coming, something really big and you made damn sure Earth started preparing for it. Nice little demonstration of how outmatched we are if we don't do something about it and the way you lost was really clever. Took me ages to realise you did it deliberately. Then you left enough information in Selvig's brain to make sure we could deal with this convergence thing, which makes me think that has something to do with it as well. You seem to have a lot of focus here, including making sure your brother came back (haven't worked out how you did that yet, but I'm sure you had a hand in it), so I'm guessing at least part of the focus will be on Earth. How am I doing so far?"
Loki simply lifted an eyebrow.
"You were only here for a few days last time, but boy were you busy," Tony went on, "and it wasn't all to do with the Tesseract. I've found at least five research projects that started suspiciously close to your visit, none of which SHIELD seems to have noticed yet, but I haven't just been looking at weapons. I've talked to the people involved, discretely of course, and it's amazing how they all suddenly just seemed to have ideas one day."
There was a flicker of something on Loki's face and Tony liked to think he might actually have impressed the god.
"Were you going to drop one of your ideas into my head, but the little performance issue mess that up?" he asked.
Now Loki actually smiled; it was unsettling.
"No," Loki replied, "I was simply going to use you as a diversion. You would have noticed the interference."
That was almost a compliment.
"What are you preparing us for?" Pepper broke into their conversation and asked the pertinent question.
Loki paused, looking at them and finally pushed himself off of the bar.
"A clash of power beyond your imaginings," Loki finally said. "They are called the infinite gems and you have seen the power of two of them. There are more and when joined in accord they can do anything."
"Anything?" Tony checked and Loki nodded.
For someone like Loki, that wasn't just a simple exaggeration.
"A being called Thanos wishes to possess them," Loki said, "and that can never be allowed to happen. Midgard is the nexus of the struggle and the game will be won or lost here."
"How do you know?" Tony asked.
"When I fell from Asgard I passed through a vortex of incredible energy," Loki replied, "and it destroyed me and remade me. In doing so it gave me a glimpse of infinite worlds and I saw the reality. There is one thing you are wrong about, however."
"I am insane, Mr Stark," Loki replied with something of a worrying smile; "I have been since the moment that power touched me. I am chaos and sometimes that is so very hard to control."
Then Loki was simply gone.
"Oh my god," Pepper said.
"JARVIS," Tony said before responding to her.
"Yes, Sir?" JARVIS replied.
"Did you get all of that?"
"All of what, Sir?" JARVIS asked and Tony swore.
He had suspected, but hoped it wasn't true. Loki had been and gone like a ghost.
"Is there something the matter, Sir?" JARVIS asked.
"Check your chronometer."
"Oh dear," JARVIS said almost instantly, "I appear to be missing several minutes of time. I am not sure how this could have occurred, Sir."
"Don't worry, JARV," he assured the AI, "I know what happened and it's nothing to worry about."
"As you say, Sir," JARVIS responded.
"What are we going to do?" Pepper asked, looking straight at him. "Do you believe him?"
"Oh yes, Pep, I believe him," he replied going over all the facts in his head.
"And there are some projects that need funding and Avengers who need gathering," he replied.
"If he was really the bad guy we'd be dead," he said simply. "I have a very nasty feeling he could have just wiped us out with a thought. We must be following his plan or he'd have removed us from the game or pushed us in the right direction, so we keep going. He may be a sandwich short of a picnic, but I'm not sure he's even what Asgard thinks he is anymore and I know we better pray we're ready when he thinks we should be."
Pepper held out her hand, her fingertips glowing a gentle red before fading again.
"We'll be ready," she said.
This entry was originally posted at http://beren-writes.dreamwidth.org/276438.html.