Chapter One Hundred
Milky Way Galaxy
Nine Realms / Planet Earth
'Oh, Norns, I danced,' Loki groaned the second he woke up.
'Yeah, you did,' Stark laughed as he rolled over to kiss him on the lips. It had to be the first time he woke sooner than Loki. Elven wine always did make him incredibly sleepy. Loki rubbed his eyes and swept his messy hair out of his face. When he finally opened his eyes he saw that Stark was looking at him, propped up on one elbow, his face bright with amusement and warm with fondness. It was perhaps strange, but Loki could be still surprised, seeing the love in his gaze.
'You danced with the elves,' Stark started to list. 'And with Hatchet, then with some Fae, with Juyu, Gerd… then Thor and Fandral.'
'But that was more of a group dance thing,' Stark said with a grin. 'I totally have it on my StarkPhone.'
Loki pulled the laughing man down for a longer and deeper kiss. Stark was all too happy to comply, burying his hand in Loki's hair and sliding fully on top of him. If someone would have told him in the past, that feeling the weight of a mortal man would ground him as if he were the very foundation of the world, he wouldn't have just laughed, no, he would have claimed to have seen true madness. And yet… he wished Stark were even heavier, just to feel his presence, the warmth of his body, even more.
'But I failed to dance with you,' Loki said when they parted. 'Such a grave mistake.'
Stark smiled again, and made no move to roll off of Loki. 'Our dance was a little different, and more private.'
Ah, yes, Stark was a little too worn after their quick tumble to enjoy dancing. Not that Loki felt all too bad about it. It was Stark's dirty idea in the first place after all, wanting to be ravished, hard and fast, so close to all their important guests, barely hidden and in danger of being discovered. It gave Loki so many ideas for the future. He couldn't wait to surprise him with wandering hands in the most unlikely places. If Stark wished to be shameless, Loki could provide.
'It felt a little different being with you like that… good different though,' Stark said and it took Loki a moment to realize that he was talking about his Jotun skin.
'It was not the first time you touched me while in that shape,' Loki reminded him, although he knew what Stark meant. He just wanted to hear him say it. The twinkling in Stark's eye told him that he knew what Loki was doing.
'You're a little colder, even your dick,' Stark said quietly, his eyes dropping to Loki's lips for a moment, then back up to his eyes. 'It made the feel of you even more… dominant. It must've been pretty damn good for you too.'
'Oh, you were scorching inside, Stark,' Loki told him, running his hands down Stark's back, digging in his fingers. 'So very tight and so incredibly hot…' There was nothing Loki could compare it to.
Stark hummed and leaned down to kiss at Loki's jaw, then neck.
'So what made you so wild?' he asked. 'The way we sneaked off for a dirty fuck in the bathroom…'
'There was not much sneaking involved in our departure,' Loki reminded him, dropping his hands down to Stark's ass to grip it firmly.
'Or the way I felt?'
Loki considered his answer as they started to move a little, just a little friction to elevate the low thrum of desire that was building between them.
'You wish to hear how much I desire you?' he asked in the end. 'How much I thirst and hunger for you?'
Stark's eyes darkened with lust, obviously enjoying hearing this. So Loki continued, his lips curling up a little as the words slipped out.
'You want to know how much I crave you?' he asked, rolling his hips up some more. 'How much you ignite me? How much I enjoy your pleasure?'
'Oh, fuck, the things your voice does to me,' Stark said and he captured Loki's lips in a kiss again, more heated than their previous ones. Loki spread his legs some more to let Stark slip between them and kept his hands running up and down on his body. He moaned as their hips moved. Neither of them bothered with night clothing yesterday, so their naked cocks touched with no barrier separating them.
Stark pulled his head back a little to be able to look at him.
'Want me to…?' his words trailed off and he just hummed in pleasure instead of finishing his question, but Loki knew what he meant.
'No,' he breathed, dragging Stark back close, biting and kissing at his mouth between words. 'Stay. This. Just this. Just like this.'
Loki woke up half-hard and he was already on his way to fulfilment, he did not have patience for lengthy preparations. Stark nodded, sealed their lips again in a biting kiss, and started to move his hips with more intent.
Loki's limbs were still all pleasantly warm from sleep and he was getting even hotter now that he was covered with Stark's body. Sweat was glistening on both of their skin, it made the slide of their bodies that much smoother, the scent of arousal in the air that much stronger. Loki's body hummed with pleasure.
'Did I tell you already how much I love it when you wake up in a good mood?' Stark asked, a little breathless. 'Well, and when you wake up horny. Or both.'
'If you can still talk this much we are not doing something right,' Loki told him, then hooked his leg around Stark and swiftly flipped them over, pinning him to the mattress and straddling his waist. His hips barely stopped moving, his rhythm almost did not falter at all. Stark gripped his hips with both hands and moaned loudly, obviously pleased. He loved the way Loki could move on top of him, it was no secret. It was also no secret how much Loki enjoyed it as well. Their cocks were getting wet between them from the fluid dripping from the fat tips.
Nothing could compare to fully giving in to their desires, surrendering their bodies to one another, but there was something exceptionally thrilling about moments like these, when they were so completely overtaken by need that they could do nothing but writhe and grind, chase their pleasure with no finesse or conscious thought. Loki's mind did feel numbed. He was reduced to his baser instincts, addicted to the warmth, the scent and noises. These were the moments he could truly let go. He did not think or pretend, did not even try to compose himself.
His moans hit a brand new height when his seed finally spread out on Stark's skin. His body was shaking with pleasure, but he did not stop moving, he kept up the fast and hard rolls of his hips, giving Stark what he needed to follow him over the edge, making him groan, breathless and guttural. It was quick, primal, ungraceful and utterly glorious.
He dropped back down on Stark to kiss him again, not satisfied until his plump lips were deep red and swollen. Stark lay underneath him, his body loose and sated, his face showing nothing but contentment. It was one of Loki's favourite sights.
'Shower?' he asked with a smile when Loki finally allowed him to use his mouth for speaking.
'Oh, yes,' Loki agreed as he looked down at the drying mess between them.
Loki was still towelling his hair, but Stark was already flicking from one holographic display to another. E-mails, newspapers, news channels, he was either searching for something or checking up on things. Loki dropped down next to him on the couch, and tossed the damp towel on the armchair next to them.
'I love your curls,' Stark said without glancing in his direction. Loki scoffed and ran his fingers through his hair, smoothing out the waves a little.
'You were ready to fall asleep in the shower, what got you so awake now?' Loki asked.
'Well, I remembered to check what the reactions to our little press conference were,' Stark said.
'So, what is the verdict?'
'Controversial,' Stark said, pulling up some new windows. 'They either love us or hate us. Nobody seems to be indifferent.'
'As expected then,' Loki concluded.
'Mostly,' Stark nodded. Footage started playing on one of the screens, showing the two of them standing before the cameras and photographers. Loki was rather annoyed by the way they kept shouting questions at them. Not showing an ounce of respect. Loki knew exactly what he wanted to tell them, but the way they kept yelling, demanding to know who Loki was, simply angered him. And they were not even asking him, they kept looking at Stark, as if Loki were not able to answer questions on his own. Maybe it was some remnant anger and resentment from his years spent being ignored in Thor's presence, or simply just the insolent rudeness, but he was still rather pleased with his reaction.
'Perhaps I can answer that question best,' Loki said on the screen, drawing attention to himself. Stark turned to look at him as well, but Loki gave him no chance to speak. He gripped him tight, pulled him flush to his body and captured his lips in a rather filthy kiss.
'We look really good together,' Stark commented as they watched themselves kiss on the screen.
Loki hummed in agreement. The colours of their garments matched up perfectly and the contrast between Stark's lightly tan skin and Loki's Jotun blue face was stunning.
The Loki on the screen pulled back from Stark and turned to grin sharply at all the humans watching them.
'All your other questions will be answered at a later date,' he told them pleasantly.
'They're dying to know who you are,' Stark said, pushing the display showing the footage of the two of them into the background and showing his e-mail inbox.
'I know,' Loki grinned widely.
'You're such a diva,' Stark said as he turned to look at him. 'I love it.'
Loki just chuckled and went back to smoothing his hair out a little.
'But honestly,' Stark continued after a moment. 'Yesterday was the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself. Why not do it?'
'I want to control what they know and how they get that information,' Loki told him. 'When I intr- well, re-introduce myself, it won't happen with annoying flashes in my eyes in front of obnoxious humans that are yelling at me.'
'That's the press for you,' Stark shrugged. 'Wanna go the intimate interview route?'
'Not yet,' Loki shook his head. 'An official statement will suffice, beyond what we tell them there, they will have to keep guessing.'
'It's just gonna make them more curious,' Stark said.
'I know,' Loki smiled.
'You're good at this.'
It was Stark's turn to laugh, but then he closed up all the displays and turned to Loki again.
'Should I be concerned about all the schemes you apparently did not inform me about?' he asked. There was something strange in his tone and it took a moment for Loki to place it. Stark was only half-joking.
'I keep no secrets from you,' Loki told him, his tone turning more serious as well.
'No, I know that,' Stark said without hesitation. 'But you also don't always get into details.'
Loki frowned. 'I don't know what…'
'Like when you cut me off while you were on the Helicarrier. Or like you not even mentioning what it was that Natasha said or gave to you at the party.'
Loki licked his lips. 'I was going to mention it,' he told Stark, his voice dropping down in volume.
'Right,' Stark said, sounding utterly unconvinced. Loki contemplated what to say. He did not have to think about his words around Stark for a long while now. It was disconcerting having to do it again.
'Cap walked up to me last night, while you were on the dance floor,' Stark spoke again before Loki could answer him. 'He told me that now he can finally see that you turned over a new leaf. I didn't have the heart to tell him that it was bullshit. It also would have been counter-productive.'
'What?' Loki asked, something a little colder gripping his heart. Stark looked at him.
'No, wait, I'm not saying this right,' he said. There was still a frown on his face, but his features softened significantly. 'I mean, yeah you did change, but there are things that are always going to be the same. You're scheming. I know you're scheming, and you're not telling me about it.'
Loki opened his mouth right away to speak, but Stark put up a hand and went on.
'I know you have good intentions, the best intentions. I 100% believe that, no doubts whatsoever. But your good intentions tend to blow up in your face. I would love to help you prevent that, but you're not letting me. So tell me, what the hell should I do with all this?'
Loki looked back at him for a long moment then huffed and smiled.
'So observant,' he remarked.
'I know you,' Stark said.
'Yes, you do,' Loki agreed, looking down at his hands, forcing them to unclench. Stark scooted closer and a moment later he had his hand on Loki's face, his thumb caressing his jaw, making him look up again.
'Just talk to me,' Stark said without a hint of anger or even annoyance. Loki had the strong urge to kiss him.
'You know why I cut you off on the Helicarrier,' Loki told him.
'Yeah,' Stark said, pulling back from him and leaning back on the couch. 'I think it was some plausible deniability bullshit. I guess that answers the question what business you had with Romanoff.'
Loki did not deny or confirm that, because that would have negated the "plausible" aspect. Agent Romanoff was forthcoming with information, but also secretive. Loki did not know whether the list of names came from Fury himself or from just Romanoff, both possibilities were more than likely. He did not care really. He knew now who the council members were, only that mattered.
Loki's reason for wanting to take revenge was the attack on Stark's residence, but either Fury or Romanoff was apparently more than happy to take advantage of Loki's willingness to get rid of this problem. The council did make a deal with the Other, so there was no doubt in Loki's mind that SHIELD wanted them gone, and of course in a way that couldn't be traced back to them. Now Loki had all information he needed to get that done, he even decided the best course of action already. But Stark did not need to be a part of something like this. Not this sort of cold-blooded murder Loki already looked forward to committing.
'I don't need you do my dirty work for me,' Stark said firmly. 'Or to be my fucking scapegoat.'
'That's not what this is.'
'Then what is it?'
Loki sighed. 'You do not understand.'
'Then make me understand, because I don't like this! I don't want you to do things behind my back, or to protect me from ugly truths.'
'But I do!' Loki told him very firmly.
'No, screw that. That's bullshit. We're in this together, dammit, even when there's chaos or blood and death,' Stark stood up from the couch to stand before Loki, his brows truly angry now. 'You can't just decide what I can or cannot know about. You just can't!'
'I will not let your love for me drag you down!' Loki said, raising his voice a little.
'I will not let your heart darken any further,' Loki said. 'I will not allow myself to ruin the good person you are.'
Stark was taken aback for a moment, but he recovered quickly.
'You are, to me you are,' said Loki before Stark could deny it. He stood up as well to get them closer to one another again. 'We walk the same path, yes, but you need to allow me to leave you in the light sometimes when I venture deep in the shadows.'
'You can't just decide something like this for me.'
'Maybe not, but I will anyway,' Loki said with a faint smile. 'This one thing you need to let me protect you from.'
'What? Protect me from what? You?!'
'Yes,' Loki agreed simply. 'You just said it yourself. Some things won't ever change about me, but at the same time there are things I don't want to change about you.'
'And how am I supposed to protect you… if you go without me?' Stark asked. Loki stepped closer to him, reaching out to put his hand on the side of Stark's neck. After a moment he leaned forward until their foreheads were touching.
'You need not protect me from everything, love,' Loki told him. 'I can have others watch over me when you cannot.' Like Hatchet, but he did not have to spell that out for Stark.
'I really hate this,' Stark said, reaching out to grip Loki's hips with both hands. 'I really…' he took a deep breath and pressed his forehead more forcefully to Loki's, visibly being at war with himself.
But he had to understand already, that was why he remained silent. Loki could not leave behind or be rid of something that was so deeply a part of his nature. And for all Stark denied his own goodness, his own selfless, inherent noble spirit, he could no more be rid of his light than Loki could be rid of his darkness.
He was glad he did not need to burden Stark with being the only one who could make Loki want to return from those dark corners of his mind. A few years ago he was the only one, the sole reason, but now he was but the strongest among the beacons Loki kept close to his heart.
'I want you to trust me,' Loki asked from him. He did not plead or beg, but it was close enough.
'I should trust that you won't do anything too bad behind my back then,' Stark said after a moment. Loki pulled back from him to be able to look at his face.
'You should trust that I will not harm anyone who is undeserving,' Loki told him. 'That is the only promise I can give you, that I shall not shed innocent blood again.'
But he would spill the blood of those who are guilty, and spill it generously.
After a few heartbeats Stark nodded. Loki did not resist the urge to kiss him this time. It warmed his heart when Stark welcomed his lips just like he always did.
'So, anything else you need to confess?' Stark asked when they parted. 'Any plan, scheme or information I should know about? I'm pretty sure this is your opening right here, you know, to come clean.'
Loki paused, thinking about it.
'Oh, I knew it, what is it?' Stark asked with a sigh. His reaction made Loki smile.
'Nothing like that, I promise,' Loki said as he grabbed Stark's hand to drag him back down on the couch.
'Out with it.'
'I also had a conversation with Babba Queen last night,' Loki told him.
'From your tone I assume it was not just chit-chat.'
'Not at all,' Loki said. 'She seemed to like you quite a lot.'
'I'm very likeable,' Stark nodded.
'She kept hinting at how unfortunate your mortality was,' Loki said.
'Uhm… is that not something like a threat?' Stark asked.
'Not the way she said it,' Loki shook his head. 'It was more of a suggestion of… amending that weakness.'
Stark understood right away what he meant, because his face went through a series of various emotions under a few seconds.
'Okay, first of all don't go around trying to "amend" my mortality without talking to me first,' he said.
'I wasn't,' Loki insisted. 'She brought it up herself. I think she saw the possibilities of what you could do for the Fae-kind on Midgard and elsewhere, if only you stayed around longer.'
'I did not agree to anything,' Loki said. 'But Sta- Tony, we did not discuss this at length, but… this may be the solution-'
'No, not a solution,' Stark interrupted him. 'Because this is not a problem that needs to be solved. Or something that's wrong with me and in need of fixing.'
'Possibility then,' Loki amended. 'Or opportunity.'
'I don't know if I want it,' Stark shook his head.
Loki swallowed and kept his tone neutral. 'You should think about this more and at length, I believe.'
'I think you should think about it some more,' Stark countered. 'Because you only look at the advantages.'
Loki resisted the urge to scoff, because Stark would not have taken that kindly. 'It is difficult not to,' he said instead.
'You really think that a handful of years are enough to decide whether you want me to stick around for centuries? Or thousands of years? Because there is long term and then there is this.'
Loki did not know whether to be insulted or simply incredulous.
'You doubt that I will want you in a decade or a century?' he questioned.
Surprisingly enough, Stark shook his head.
'It's not you I doubt,' he said. 'You're old. You know how to live like this. I know you will love me even a century from now or several centuries, just like how you still love Thor, and your Mom, and Hatchet.'
Oh… 'You doubt your love for me then.'
'No!' Stark protested right away. 'No, not that… I just doubt everything else that I am. I'm meant to be a mayfly, so what am I if not that? What will I turn into if given more time?'
Loki reached out to touch his face again.
'A phoenix,' he told him.
'Come on,' Stark snorted.
'I mean it,' said Loki sincerely. 'Given more time, you either become constant, eternal or you will change, always change. And I think we both know which is more likely.'
'And what if I change for the worst?' Stark asked, clearly voicing his greatest doubt. 'What if watching almost everyone I know age, wither away, and die will drive me mad?'
'No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness,' Loki quoted. Stark smiled a little, probably recognizing the words. 'And if you'll change, so will I. Stagnation is not in our nature.'
'What if I can't handle it?' Stark asked.
'You forget the other side,' Loki told him. 'You would get to see your world change, be the one who shapes it to be better. I know of your plans, why you have your company work so hard on the technology you copied form the Iron Mage. You don't just want to defend this world, but make sure it becomes the best it can possibly be. If you remain alive you can make sure it happens, personally. And the friends you lose will leave this world with the knowledge that you will remain here even when they cannot. If they have children they will know that you will be there to watch over them. You would have the chance to achieve so much more than just leaving behind a legacy.'
Stark's lips curled up a little. 'That sounded a little practiced.'
'I may have thought about the arguments a couple of times,' Loki said.
'Good arguments,' Stark admitted quietly.
'And I would not have to live without you,' Loki told him, equally quiet. Stark looked at him with a mixture of sadness, guilt and a little annoyance. 'I did not say that to make you feel guilty. It's but the truth.'
Stark sighed. 'I know…. Damn, I don't know, Loki. I really don't.'
Loki firmly pushed down on the words that wanted to come out. His most selfish part wanted to push, wanted to bring up how if Stark remained mortal he won't get the chance to truly see Juyu and Bee grow up, since what was their young age compared to the almost two centuries that were still ahead of them. But he did not say it, for he may be a trickster, a sliver-tongued deceiver, but he would not use love and guilt as weapons, not against Stark. If he did, it would be the start of their undoing. It was hard though, unfathomably difficult, to not use the tools that were right there within reach to get what he wanted.
He took a deep breath and clamped down on the urge even firmer.
'Loki,' Stark called his name. 'You zoned out for a bit there.'
'We have long years still to make this decision,' Loki said, but his smile was a little strained and Stark most definitely noticed. 'No reason to rush.'
'You're already sure,' Stark said as he tilted his head in consideration. 'You already know that you want this.'
'I have not a single doubt,' Loki answered.
'You could get bored.'
'Never,' Loki smiled widely, a lot more honestly this time.
'Maybe not today, tomorrow, or in a few years from now, but eventually,' Stark said with conviction.
'If I do get bored – not of you, mind – but the realm itself or humanity in general, then maybe that will be the day we need to venture out into the universe again.'
'Just grab the crew and off we go?' Stark asked.
'Why not?' Loki shrugged.
Stark looked at him for another long moment. Loki could not even guess what was running through his mind.
'Give me time,' Stark asked then, closing his eyes and rubbing his face. 'It's not easy to wrap my head around the sheer amount of time I would be given and what it would mean.'
Loki leaned closer to kiss him on his brow.
'I will wait,' he said. Then he took Stark's hand and pulled him up from the couch. 'Now, come and have breakfast with me.'
Stark did not protest.
The rest of the crew were already eating by the table. They were the only ones who stayed at Stark's house after the banquet. It was fine so, for Loki was in no mood for anyone else's company. The others must've sensed that they had an overly heavy discussion behind them, because all their conversation topics were almost ridiculously light-hearted.
Hatchet knew about Babba Queen's offer, so his eyes were a lot more questioning, but Loki just shook his head and mouthed "later" at him, avoiding the conversation just a bit longer. Loki wanted to forget the conversation just a little longer altogether, but it kept nagging his mind. It was not like Stark said no. He just needed time to consider all aspects, understandable, really. Loki was quite certain that even if it took a few years, eventually Stark would agree. Once his new technology was out and about and he realized how much work there was left to be done, how Midgard would always be in danger and in need of defenders, he would agree. He was selfless like that. He would put aside his personal feelings, not acknowledge the inevitable pain he would feel from losing friends, and focus on how needed he was. How much Midgard would always need him as an inventor and as a protector. And maybe he would also think about how much Loki needed him.
Loki promised to live on, even without him, and he would. He would be anything but alone, yet imagining such a future made something in him feel very hollow. He did not fear that he would go mad, but he did fear that something within him would irrevocably change, that the sound of his laugh or the shape of his smile would never again seem true. He did fear that he would become but a shade of his current self. He would not tell this to Stark, for the same reason he did not bring up the girls while they were talking. Stark would have to agree out of his own will, out of his own desire to remain in this world and by Loki's side. Forcing him would make him bitter or resentful, and Loki never wanted to see such a version of him.
'Well, aren't you two just buckets of sunshine,' Juyu said. 'I thought you would be a bit more chipper after last night.'
'Or at least beaming with smug satisfaction,' Drongo added.
'Did something happen we do not know about?' Bee asked. Her gaze was – as always – a lot more scrutinising than her sister's.
'Well, with Loki's big appearance in front of the press yesterday, it looks like it's time to get you guys out in front of the public eye,' Stark said easily.
'How wise is that?' Drongo asked.
'Take The Avengers,' Stark explained. 'Fully public, so the people trust them. If we give them nothing and let them guess, they're gonna come up with the worst possible answers and scenarios. Trust me.'
'So what do you suggest?' Hatchet asked. 'And fair warning, people tend to like me more the less they know about me in my experience.'
'Yeah, well that's why you need good publicity,' Stark said.
'That's why we need to control the flow of information,' Loki added. 'Give them something before they go to other sources, who would then paint an unfavourable picture of us.'
'Exactly,' Stark nodded. 'Loki plans to give out an official statement about himself, so we're just gonna attach one about each of you to it. Make it available to everyone.'
'And what exactly are we supposed to put in that?' Juyu asked.
'JARVIS?' Stark prompted.
'All Avengers have a short public profile, which contains basic personal information like age, nationality and known aliases. It also includes a short biography that gives a clear picture of their background, a rather vague description of their training, skills or abilities, and of course their greatest achievements.'
'Well, mine's gonna be short,' Juyu snorted.
'Nonsense. Defending San Diego from alien invasion, right there,' Stark said with a smile.
'You are going to keep most abilities a secret though, right?' Hatchet asked.
'Obviously,' Stark answered. 'Especially things like your little mind control powers. We want to whet their appetite, not give away trade secrets. JARVIS, start profiles for everyone.'
'Right away, Sir.'
'Use our crew codenames for aliases,' Stark added.
'Do you wish me to list Master Loki as "Odinson" and include his relation to Thor?' JARVIS asked.
'Good question,' Stark said and looked at Loki.
'Adopted brother,' Loki answered. 'But no, not "Odinson", I really do not want to be known as such.'
'Any preferred alternative?' JARVIS asked.
Loki had to think about that for a moment. He most definitely did not want to go with "Laufeyson" either. It was more than enough that he would have to use it officially in the Nine Realms if he wished to take advantage of the title he was going to receive on Jötunheimr.
'What about Friggarson?' Hatchet asked. 'I'm sure your Mother would be overjoyed.'
'Or you could be a Stark,' Stark said.
Loki frowned and made a face. 'I'm not your brother.'
'That's not the only reason people share a surname,' Stark answered, rolling his eyes. It took a moment for Loki to remember human customs.
'Oh,' was all he managed to say after.
'Why not? "Loki Stark", that sounds pretty awesome,' Stark said.
'It sounds exactly like "Tony Stark"',' Juyu remarked.
'Yeah, like I said: awesome,' Stark grinned. 'I mean, come on. A) I love you. Like, really. I mean… I'm even cool with the ridiculously co-dependent relationship you have with your brother.'
'It's not…' Loki started to protest, but Stark gave him a meaningful look, his eyebrows were almost up in his hairline. 'Go on,' Loki sighed and ignored the smirks and snickers around the table. He would make them pay for it later.
'So B) Fury's totally gonna get an aneurysm when he hears about it,' Stark continued. 'And C) Well… I kinda plan to stick with you until the day I die, whenever that is going to happen.'
The silence around the table had a very specific anticipatory feel to it, not to mention all the eyes that were locked on Loki. He felt like even JARVIS was focused on him.
'Oh, fine, write "Stark", JARVIS,' he said after a few long moments, his tone dismissive and long-suffering on purpose. It did not stop the others from breaking out in too-loud shouts, cheers and whistles, or Hatchet from squeezing him so tightly that he felt it down to his bones.
'For the record, that was the least impressive proposal in history,' he said, looking over to Stark, who was of course grinning like a madman.
'You loved it,' he said with utter confidence.
'And no jewels or other expensive gifts whatsoever. I expected better from you, Stark,' Loki countered. Stark just grinned some more and leaned over the table to kiss him.
'I'll get you something later,' he promised.
'It better take my breath away,' Loki smirked back.
'Challenge accepted,' Stark said, kissing the smirk off from Loki's lips.
'I feel like alcohol won't go that well to my cereal, but I'm still gonna raid your liquor cabinet,' Juyu declared as she stood up from the table.
'I'll get the elven wine I stashed in my room,' Hatchet said, jumping up from his chair as well.
'I don't think my pyjamas fit the occasion,' Bee commented absent-mindedly, then she went back to eating from her bowl.
'I'll bring something that goes better with wine than cinnamon chips,' Drongo said, heading towards the refrigerator.
'This is ridiculous,' Loki huffed. He did not have the right words to express how absurd this morning had been. What an emotional slippery-slope it was, he felt like he was already done with the day when it came to stupid sentimentalities.
Stark leaned closer until their shoulders touched and turned to look at him again with a smile.
'Yes,' he agreed. 'And it's perfect.'
Some dangers were most definitely lurking just beyond the horizon. The Jotnar could change their mind, SHIELD could turn against them again, the Mad Titan was weaving his plans somewhere in a far galaxy, and eventually Loki would have to deal with Odin. And yet no danger from far and near could touch them in this very moment.
Loki laughed because he had to agree with Stark, it really was perfect, their sort of perfect. A little broken, a little battered, scarred and haunted, but very much their own, life built from blood and ashes, but he wished for nothing different.
-= THE END=-
Author's Notes: Well, here we are. After over a year this story came to an end. It's been an enormous and exciting journey and I thank you all for joining me on it.
Thank you for all your kind comments, your critics, your kudos and encouragements. I thank all of you who have created art for the story. You took my breath away and made me squeal like an overexcited dolphin.
Thank you for giving this story a chance, thank you for reading it, because that is how it came alive.
I'm taking a break, but I won't be gone forever. I hope some of you will join me again when that time comes.
p.s.: "No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness." — Aristotle