The nights had been the hardest.

Darcy had become so accustomed to having Loki near as her own personal cooling body-pillow, without him she would wake in the middle of the night, bedsheets sweaty and tangled around her like snakes. When she could eventually sleep for a full night her dreams drifted towards the day he left. Of course he hadn't wanted to. He'd explained all that he could so she wouldn't be in danger but it didn't make the waiting any more fun.

It had been three years since the Avengers had saved the world and Darcy was still living with Thor and Jane, mostly because Thor couldn't bear if Loki came back and he wasn't there to beg his forgiveness. Her days were filled with S.H.I.E.L.D and reruns of Man V Food. Thor and Jane refused to let her leave their apartment, even when he proposed to her with an ancient sword and there was a serious danger of third wheel-dom. After an outdoor shotgun wedding where Tony Stark insisted on hiring the whole of Central Park "for some privacy" followed quite a hastened baby shower. On a particularly non-eventful Tuesday, little Kenneth Samuel Odinson came screaming into the world.

The labour has been fairly easy as far as pushing a melon out of a canal the size of a tube of Smarties can be.

Apparently on Asgard men weren't accustomed to seeing the full miracle, however Thor played the doting husband. He mopped Jane's brow, took her abuse and when it was all over he cut the cord and brought her flowers. All the while Darcy held hands, called relatives and found a guy who made a bouquet of balloons.

Seeing the newest member of their odd little brood Darcy was filled with more joy than she'd had in who knows how long. This little baby who had so much potential and a completely clean slate, who could do anything and be anyone he wanted. The realisation almost reduced Darcy to tears. As she held this perfect infant it dawned on her of how, slowly but surely, her hope for Loki's return had ebbed away. It had been nearly five years, not that she remembered the exact date what with the impending apocalypse preoccupying her timekeeping. She missed him so much it ached. However for this child she would be strong. She was going to be needed as much as his parents in their bizarre living arrangements and Darcy would be damned if he ever went wanting.

After only two months of being on this planet the apartment was practically covered with pictures of Kenny, courtesy of Thor's newfound love of his camera, as well as a plethora of presents from almost everyone they knew, including a Tiffany's rattle from Tony and first edition Beatrix Potter books from Fury. Thor and Jane had taken a long weekend to introduce the little one to her parents up in Maine leaving Darcy to deal with the mess of crap that gets forgotten when a new baby comes home. As well as laundry that consisted mostly of baby-grows and a shitload of weird baby food, some of which she and Thor had tried one night when Survivor wasn't on, there was vacuuming and general organising to do. With all the time off she'd taken her workload was piling up, but now that Earth was seemingly safe, unless you believe what you hear on Fox News, working for S.H.I.E.L.D had lost a lot of its' original allure. Luckily the occasional drunken visit from Tony in his Iron Man suit was totally worth the paperwork.

So Darcy settled into her cleaning routine, organising shit that would get itself lost or fucked up about an hour after the Swiss Family Odinsons got home. Oh well, four whole days of clean peace was nothing to be sniffed at.

Her Sherlock box set that needed breaking in and a tub of Ben & Jerry's that wasn't going to eat itself. Somehow she'd become one of those annoying people with no lives. She had plenty of friends at S.H.I.E.L.D and she wasn't unpopular. In all honestly she felt a bit of a tit for waiting for so damn long when it looked like Loki clearly wasn't going to appear any time soon. The dreams he sent her with clues of his whereabouts had basically stopped with the exception of the odd flash of scenery which were about as useful as condoms to the Pope. Whenever she explained them to Thor he's tell her everything he knew about where they could be but eventually they became too sporadic to keep track.

She had dozed off somewhere between Sherlock and John eye-fucking and them denying their undying man-love.

It was stupidly late, a quick change of clothes, some juice and bedtime was needed, And tomorrow I'll make an effort to be sociable. So she pulled out some old boxers and that Sonic Youth t-shirt and went back through the living room to pick up her iPod. It took a few second to realise she wasn't alone.

In the moments she drank him in, the real him, that gaping void that had grown inside her, that had poisoned her thoughts like a parasite and made her question everything was instead filled with an inexplicable joy.

He was sitting on the very edge of Thor's Laz-E-Boy, looking ragged and drawn and ready to pounce in he needed to. He wore a dirty green tunic and black boots and breeches. However he had managed to get to Earth it clearly hadn't been an easy trip.

Darcy was torn between a sudden urge to vomit and an even more powerful need to hold him. She chose the latter. They crashed together, arms holding tight and hands grabbing with no intention of letting go. Loki fell to the floor on his knees and held Darcy in his lap while she cried into his neck with a smile on her face, administering the odd kiss on whatever part of his anatomy was closest. He in return turned her face to meet his and kissed her with all the love and energy he clearly didn't have at that moment. They didn't say a word to each other for a good hour; instead both were just content sitting there in a heap on the floor.

Eventually she moved back only slightly to get a proper look at him. Around his mouth were small scars dotted around his lips. One of his eyes had a hazy milky glaze over it.

"I returned to Asgard after running around the realms for two years. Odin himself passed the sentence on me. He took some enchanted thread and sewed my mouth shut and for a year I was shown as a spectacle in the Great Hall. At least he had the gall to do the deed himself." Loki told his tale slowly, as if it had been rehearsed in his mind a hundred times, "I was then handed over to Skadi; a J├Âtunn goddess. She bound me to a rock and tied a snake above my face whose poison eventually blinded me. That was for two more years. I was released about a week or two ago, regaining my strength before coming through the Bifrost."

Darcy cupped his face in an air of comfort and kissed each tiny scar and finally his blinded eye. Even when he told her they would eventually all heal she fussed and soothed him. When he was done telling of his woes Darcy explained why their reunion had taken place in the middle of an army of baby toys. She showed him pictures, how Kenny had gotten his mother's dark hair and his father's blue eyes and of Thor's bravery in the delivery room. Loki stopped at one of Thor holding his son for the first time and smiled so hard it almost broke Darcy's heart.

He took advantage of the empty apartment and literally jumped into the shower, exclaiming how he had missed it almost as much as he had missed Darcy. Realising just how exhausted they were they ended up in bed ready to submit to sleep.

Well, not exhausted enough that they didn't indulge in the third favourite thing Loki had missed being in Asgard.

They wrestled and swayed, taking out all the misery they had been made to feel over the past five years through the clawing of backs and the biting of collar bones, the pulling of hair and hands grabbing too hard and leaving red marks in their wake. Neither of them cared. This had been needed for so long, a combined power they had together. They had saved the world, they could do anything. When their combined release came they propelled each other further into the abyss until there was nothing left.

In the wake of their passions Darcy commented that he had a lot of birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine's Day's to make up for. He rolled her into the nook of his shoulder instead of telling her outright to shut up.

After that, the nights weren't so hard any more.