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Of A Strange and Distant Time

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‘’I just wanted to say sorry again,’’ Birger says, ‘’for betraying you, with the dwarves and stuff. I shouldn’t have done that.’’

Loki remains silent, focused on Tony’s still form. The elf is breathing deeply, but hasn’t woken up since the start of their travel, hours earlier. Loki has feel his madness abating and worry eating him up. He clutches the necklace in his hand.

‘’I don’t care for your apologies,’’ he bites back.

Birger glances at Tony. ‘’You seem to care a lot for him, though. More than I’ve seen you care, you know, before.’’

Loki shifts. ‘’It’s none of your business.’’

‘’You love him.’’

‘’I told you to shut up,’’ Loki gives Birger the darkest look he can manage, but it is ruined when Tony grunts and opens his eyes. Loki doesn’t even care that they’re golden right now; he is by his side in an instant.

Tony’s eyes flutter, and focus on Loki’s face. He grabs his own arm immediately and bites down on his lips. ‘’What happened?’’ he asks faintly. ‘’Please tell me we’re on our way back home.’’

‘’The ship is set for Midgard,’’ Loki confirms. ‘’We managed to acquire one of Frey’s ships.’’

Tony puts his hand on Loki’s knee to support himself as he gets up and focuses his eyes on the windows. Loki’s not sure he’s even doing it on purpose. Then he takes a look at Loki’s face again, and drops his hand into his lap. ‘’Sorry,’’ he mutters, and then glances at his injury again. ‘’Why is my arm hurting so much?’’

Loki takes his hand back, a silent confirmation. He does not heed Tony’s wondering glance as he answers. ‘’There was some sort of magic potion on the knife, I believe. The use of magic injures you further; that’s why the teleportation hurt you so much.’’

Tony raises his eyebrows. ‘’That’s… dubious. Then I suppose it’s only a good thing that I never actually use any magic.’’

‘’Apart from Shapeshifting,’’ Loki points out.

He gets a wince. ‘’I have a feeling we need to talk about that.’’

‘’So you’re an elf who lives on Midgard and pretends to be human?’’ Birger butts in.

Tony sighs. ‘’It’s a long story. But yes.’’

Loki shoots Birger another look, and the elf leaves the room. Loki hopes he senses that he will actually kill him if he doesn’t give them a little privacy, and he’s smart for recognizing it. But Loki already knows Birger was smart, or he wouldn’t have been friends with him, lifetimes earlier.

‘’Tell me,’’ Loki says.

‘’I would. I will. But Loki, I was, like, very young when I left Alfheim. I don’t know why we left, or if it was going to be permanent. I just know that it ended up being that way because my mother died. I just kept going, and I didn’t want to go back, in the end. I still don’t. Just because I may be an elf, genetically, doesn’t mean that I choose to be one. I don’t enjoy the lie, really, I don’t, but, well, it’s not as if I was ever given a choice, you know?’’

Loki is silent for a second. If Tony was really as young as he says he is, it would explain much of his behaviour. And besides, it’s not really fair to blame him for the decisions his mother made, but they don’t excuse the fact that Tony kept up the lie.

‘’I understand why you had to initially,’’ Loki says slowly, ‘’but you could have said. After all aliens that rained down on Midgard, certainly people would believe you and be unable to cage you away. Besides, you had me. Were you never going to tell me? What about when you age beyond a mortal’s lifespan?’’

Tony doesn’t meet Loki’s eyes, but caresses his wounded arm, deep in thought. ‘’I didn’t want to be an alien,’’ he says eventually. ‘’I didn’t want to have another reason to be the odd one out. I thought I could get to enjoy my life as it was, and cross the bridge when it came to it. And as for us – well, we’ve never really talked about us. What were you going to do with a mortal, anyway, Loki? Do you want me to assume you’d feel the same about someone that was going to die within the coming thirty years as I feel about you?’’

Loki comes closer, so close that he can feel Tony’s breath on his skin. He holds Tony’s gaze with his own, and his hand finds a way into Tony’s hair, so he can hold his scalp. Tony’s face is different, yes, but in another way, it’s still completely the same.

‘’What way is that?’’ he asks, and the question is gone as it breezes past Tony’s ears. Loki enjoys seeing him shiver.

Tony’s expression turns from uncertain to decisive so quickly that Loki would’ve missed it, had he not been staring. ‘’Love,’’ Tony answers, steadily.

Loki kisses him.

~*~

They’re curled up on the couch. The ship is fit for a royal, as Loki has imagined it would, considering Frey’s usual lifestyle. Tony is half-lying on Loki and half-leaning on the couch, his good hand resting on Loki’s knee, the other arm stiffly held to his body. Loki has Tony between his legs, tracing figures with his toes on the man’s upper legs; fingers tracing runes on olive skin.

‘’I don’t know how old I was when my mother told me we had to leave. I know that we left immediately, not leaving a note for anyone. There was someone waiting for us, so she must’ve planned it. Did you ever talk to the Guardians? Peter was taken from Earth by someone named Yondu. In fact, he was the smuggler to get us to Earth. I’m not sure why, or how my mother paid for it. She was just a regular elf, I think. She used to work at Frey’s Palace, but I’d never been there.’’

Loki hums. ‘’You were familiar with Alverbyen, then?’’

Tony frowns. ‘’No, actually. I think we lived on the other side of the Palace. God, I don’t even know what it’s called anymore. It seemed so natural, then, you know? Anyway, Yondu took us to Earth and dropped us right into the middle of nowhere. We were wandering for days, I remember that. We probably would’ve died right there if SHIELD hadn’t found us.’’

Loki’s hand stills. ‘’They found you?’’

Tony’s nose twitches. ‘’Well, Howard Stark did. He was searching for Steve, you know. It’s a bit funny, because he always kept comparing me to that guy. Made my life miserable as hell. But if Howard hadn’t admired him so much, I wouldn’t be here today.’’

‘’I am glad you are,’’ Loki says, not sure what else to say. The same is true for him, if he thinks of Odin. He has accepted his past, but he’ll always have mixed feelings on his adoptive father. But whatever he thinks of him, if Odin hadn’t brought him to Asgard, whether it was for his own purposes or not, Loki would’ve been dead.

It’s a difficult feeling, knowing that you wouldn’t exist without the people you used to loathe the most.

‘’How did you end up being Tony Stark?’’ he then asks. It’s a question he’s wondered about since he found out the truth.

Tony shrugs with his good shoulder. It pushes him further into Loki’s embrace and he snuggles into it. ‘’I was good with machines, the way I wasn’t with magic. My mom died. Peggy refused to let me become something to be experimented upon. My entire existence hadn’t been filed, I think, or at least not digitally. I looked, a few years ago. Probably only Howard and Peggy knew.’’

‘’And then Howard adopted you,’’ Loki muses. It explains a lot.

Tony gives a tight smile. ‘’Well, not really out of the kindness of his heart. He couldn’t get kids, and he needed someone to be his heir. I don’t think I would’ve been what he wanted, but I was smart, orphaned, unexplained. I was his best choice, but he never liked me. I just shifted into what he needed, which was really boring for the baby years, I can tell you, and grew up there. And now I’m here.’’

‘’And no one knows who you really are.’’

‘’Except for you.’’

~*~

The trip is dull, for the most part, Tony is surprised to find. His arm still hurts like hell and every time he’s out of bed for more than a couple of hours he vomits, but it’s progressively getting better. After all the running and tripping and adventuring they’ve been doing ever since getting to Alfheim, he’s getting some much-needed rests. Not just him – both Loki and Birger as well sleep longer than they would normally.

But at least Loki sleeps next to him again.

His heart feels lighter after the talk with Loki. He didn’t seem to agree with all the choices Tony has made, but at least he understands. And that’s more than Tony could’ve hoped for.

Now he’s fully rested again, though, he is agitated by the unending space they are in. Loki is still lying on the bed they found. They took the lavish bedroom in the back of the ship, while Birger went into a smaller bedroom. There is another bedroom, they figured out while searching on the ship, but that remains unused.

Tony looks at Loki again, paler than usual. The trip’s taken their toll on both of them. He’s sleeping deeply, dark locks of hair against his cheek. Tony would like to touch him, but doesn’t want to risk waking Loki, so he stands up instead. His arm stings, and he absentmindedly rubs it.

Space is huge. He stares at it, and tries not to remember his nightmares.

In order to distract himself, he walks around the ship. When he reaches the cabin, he enters. Hundreds of lights are bleeping peacefully. The soft whirring of machines is so subtle that it’s nearly inaudible, but Tony’s spent his life listening to the soft lullaby of it.

He sits down in a chair, closes his eyes, and just listens.

They’re a few hours away from Earth, still, and then they can go back. Tony has managed to make Loki promise that he won’t tell anyone that Tony’s an elf, on the condition that Tony himself will think about it. Tony’s still not sure he wants to. Sure, he wants the lie to stop, but the Avengers are rebuilding. He’s not sure what a secret like his will do to the tentative trust that’s returning.

But, maybe. One day.

He falls asleep again in that chair, just listening to the comforting whirring of machines.

~*~

He wakes up when he is thrown out of the chair by the moving ship. Luckily, he lands on his good side. Tony scrambles up and watches the lights bleep incessantly, the warning in them clear.

‘’Shit,’’ he mumbles. Earth is right in front of them, and of course this is the moment that things go wrong.

Loki storms into the room, obviously having just woken up. ‘’What did you do?’’ he demands, walking over to the controls all at once.

‘’Nothing!’’ Tony says, ‘’I was sleeping!’’

Loki shoots him a glance, but then focuses on the controls again. ‘’Maybe this button,’’ Tony says, and presses one. A monitor comes into existence before them – showing two space ships behind them, stalking them silently.

‘’Frey and Freya,’’ Loki says, and there is something worried in his voice. ‘’They shot us.’’

‘’Well, that’s in no way good,’’ Tony remarks. ‘’Can we shoot back?’’

Loki smirks, and Tony is reminded that this is the God of Mischief. ‘’Well, we can definitely try.’’

But before they even have the option, there’s another shot that makes the ship grumble in protest, and a warning sign flashes, signalling one of the engines is down. At the same moment, Frey’s head comes into view on a monitor.

‘’Well, Loki, making me shoot down my own ship is a new low for you,’’ Frey says..

‘’You can always decide not to,’’ Loki replies, ‘’Just as compensation for the time spent in your sister’s cell, of course, and my companion’s injuries. Seems fairly reasonable to me.’’

Frey fixes his eyes on Loki. He hasn’t even seen Tony, he thinks. Typical. ‘’Maybe that was just compensation for not returning my sister’s necklace to her.’’

‘’Maybe that was just compensation for killing my snake,’’ Loki says.

Tony sniggers, while searching for the way to fire back at their followers.

‘’Why do you keep mentioning the snake?’’ Frey says.

‘’It was very valuable to me,’’ Loki continues. ‘’I even gave him such a beautiful name. The smallest snake, it was. Hardly a threat to Freya. Jormungand was a complete darling, you know. And Freya never even apologized for murdering him in cold blood.’’

‘’You realize no one cares about the snake?’’

‘’I did,’’ Loki says, and then Tony thinks he’s found the guns on this ship. He presses, sees the sensor aiming for Frey’s ship first, and fires.

Communications go down immediately and Tony smirks at Loki as he gets up. Loki takes Tony’s face and kisses him fiercely. Tony is breathing hard when Loki lets go. They haven’t done any bedroom activities since they arrived on Alfheim, and Tony is really missing that now, but there’s no time. The engines are still down, even if they damaged Frey’s ship, and there still another ship following them, presumably Freya.

‘’We need to land,’’ Tony says, and Loki gives him a knowing look.

‘’I take it I’m not interrupting anything?’’ Birger says casually as he enters the room.

‘’Oh you know, just the usual,’’ Tony answers. ‘’Life-threatening situations, evil monologue, that kind of thing. Though the monologue was kind of interrupted by Loki this time.’’

‘’Let’s focus on getting the ship to Earth, shall we?’’ Loki says. ‘’We’re gaining speed very quickly.’’

Tony grimaces, and looks at the nearing surface of Earth. ‘’We need to aim for the water,’’ he says. ‘’We can’t injure anyone. Loki, Birger, can you slow us down with magic? Or at least make sure that we don’t catch on fire? I’ll go for the aiming and see what there’s to salvage from here.’’

Loki nods, then runs away to the mid-part of the ship. Birger follows him.

‘’Let’s crash this thing in style,’’ Tony says, and he pats the necklace in his pocket and prays to it to save them yet another time.