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It sounds like an odd thing to complain about, but Loki is bored. He’s been sitting in his cell for who knows how long, with only Heimdall to keep him company. Of course, it’s better than being alone, but he and Heimdall have never been very close, and the other Asgardian seems content to close his eyes and wait.

Loki knows that he’s not getting out of here. Frey has done a marvellous job of making sure of that, and he knows that Heimdall is right – there is nothing they can do. Heimdall has seen Loki requesting back-up from Thor, and he can see it’s coming. According to Heimdall, they’re very close.

But according to Heimdall, Frey has also found Tony and thrown him into a dark cell. According to Heimdall, Tony is screaming out his lungs to no avail.

Loki doesn’t know if seeing everything in the world is a good thing, or it isn’t, because he’s not so sure he wants to know. Tony doesn’t know he talked to Thor, has no idea that help is on the way. At least Heimdall had assured him that Freya and Rhodey still remain in their ship, vigilant but safe.

Loki just wants to go to Asgard to start his courtship with Tony. Instead, they’re both being held in separate cells by Tony’s father.

~*~

Tony doesn’t know how long it’s been. There’s no light, he hasn’t been fed. He’s just lying on the hard ground, shivering from the cold. He’s long given up on shouting; it’s not going to do anything.

He’ll have to lie to Frey, the next time he comes. It’s the only way he’s getting out of here. Still, he hopes that Frey will hurry up and come, because he’s been held prisoner too often in his life.

It’s not Frey that comes, though.

Heavy footsteps are heard, unlike any elf or Vanir. Tony holds his breath; until he knows who is here, he won’t make a sound. ‘’Loki?’’ a voice calls then. ‘’Tony? Are you here?’’

‘’Thor?’’ Tony abruptly says, and walks forward until he’s pressed against the cold bars of the cell. ‘’Thor! It’s me! Thor!’’

He doesn’t know how Thor got here, or how he even knew to come. Still, it’s doubtlessly the God of Thunder that comes to a halt in front of his cell, a grim expression on his face. ‘’Tony,’’ Thor says. ‘’Are you alright? Are you hurt?’’

‘’I’m fine, big guy,’’ Tony says. ‘’Not that I don’t appreciate it, but what are you doing here?’’

‘’Loki talked to me before you came here,’’ Thor answers, even as he takes his hammer. ‘’Asked me to send some back-up, because he didn’t trust it. He was right, evidently. I decided to come, myself. Now step back; I’ll destroy the bars.’’

Tony does as Thor says, and takes a few steps back as Thor raises Mjölnir. Electricity sizzles for a moment; a loud noise; then the bars are on the ground. Tony steps over them easily, nudging Thor with his shoulder in thanks. ‘’We need to find Loki and Sif,’’ he says. ‘’Did you find Rhodey and Freya?’’

‘’Banner went to them,’’ Thor says. ‘’Valkyrie and young Peter are trying to find Sif and my brother. I am sure they will find them; we should find Frey. He is your father, and he has wronged you.’’

‘’Look, that whole Frey thing will sort itself out, eventually,’’ Tony says. ‘’I just want to leave.’’

‘’We can’t,’’ Thor says. ‘’You’re not a legal citizen of Asgard, nor officially any family of mine until you have finished a courtship with Loki, but Frey has unrightfully imprisoned my brother. Besides, I’d like to throw my hammer at him for this.’’

‘’Well, that’s a good reason,’’ Tony allows. ‘’Let’s make sure we find Loki and Sif first, though. I’ve been kidnapped too often recently, and I’d just like to go home.’’

Thor smiles at him. ‘’You will,’’ he promises, and they take the stairs to go up. There’s elves running around everywhere, and Tony tries not to get overrun by them even as Thor pushes past them easily. He grabs one by her collar, her eyes flashing a dark blue. She doesn’t do anything to stop the god, though; she probably knows it wouldn’t end well for her.

‘’Where is Loki?’’ Thor bellows at her. Tony winces. Frey did a bad thing, but that’s hardly the fault of the elves.

The elf only gives Thor a look. ‘’Up,’’ she says.

Right. Up. Tony starts running before Thor can even release the elf. He’s quick and nimble, and once he finds the stairs that go up, he runs up to them easily. Still, up isn’t very clear, as instructions go; Tony runs and runs towards the darkest rooms, in the hopes to find Loki.

He runs right into a room full of cells, and the first thing he sees is two golden orbs, and a smiling face. ‘’Heimdall?’’ he asks incredulously.

‘’You’re alright?’’ another voice says urgently, and Tony looks to Heimdall’s right to see Loki, in Jotun form, standing up quickly.

‘’Loki!’’ Tony exclaims. ‘’Yes, yes, I’m fine. Wait, how the hell does this cell open?’’

‘’Frey carries the keys,’’ Heimdall says patiently. It seems like he is unbothered by everything.

‘’I’ll have to get Thor to break it open,’’ Tony sighs. ‘’Where’s Sif? She’s not with you? And where is everyone else?’’

‘’Thor just reunited with Valkyrie, who’s found Sif already,’’ Heimdall answers. ‘’Young Parker is trying to fight Frey. Banner, Rhodes and Freya are looking for him.’’

‘’Peter’s fighting Frey by himself and Freya is walking around on Alfheim freely?’’ Tony asks. ‘’Well, it could be worse. Okay, I’m going to help Peter and then come back to break open the cell.’’

‘’Tony,’’ Loki says, and Tony pauses. ‘’Be safe. Don’t harm Frey.’’

Tony blinks. ‘’Don’t harm Frey?’’ he asks. ‘’Loki, he’s imprisoned both of us. He’s an accomplice of Jotunheim.’’

‘’I know, I know. There’s just – we need him. The elves will rebel if we harm him, but if we don’t, there’s a way to move forward from all of this. Promise me.’’

‘’I’ll try,’’ Tony answers. ‘’I’ll be back soon.’’

With that, he runs away.

~*~

Loki sighs as Tony disappears. At least he’s safe, but Loki wants to leave and be useful. Heimdall fills him in on what’s going on, from time to time, but doesn’t seem to feel the need to join. Loki wishes he could feel the same; however, it seems more and more unlikely he’ll be joining before it’s all over.

‘’How are they doing?’’ he asks, slightly annoyed. He wants to know, though.

Heimdall looks at him knowingly. ‘’Tony has joined Parker, along with Thor and Valkyrie. The others are getting the elves under control. Frey has laid down his arms.’’

‘’That’s good,’’ Loki says. If everything passes peacefully, the elves may be convinced that Frey shouldn’t be on the throne. However, if Frey gets harmed, they may just get a little bit more protective. Dealing with elves is never easy, especially not when it includes situations with people they’re loyal to. Still, Loki is determined to follow through with this plan – Byleistr was right, after all. His methods are wrong, but his ideas are right.

It’s time the Realms became independent.

‘’Frey hands over the key to Sif,’’ Heimdall says. ‘’This will be over soon, and the world will be a better place for it.’’

‘’That’s the plan,’’ Loki says easily.

Maybe this whole thing has just been a push they needed.

~*~

It’s Tony who has taken the key, when Loki sees him walk in the room again. He’s walking easier, now, and there’s a relief on his face that tells Loki that it’s over.

Tony frees them, and removes the rope from Loki’s wrists before he kisses him, finally, deeply.

‘’It’s done,’’ he says. ‘’Thor has Frey now, it’s over. What is your big plan?’’

‘’Gather the court elves,’’ Loki says, as he rubs his wrist. The blue colour is slowly receding, leaving the pale skin he’s more familiar with. Tony looks at him with curious golden eyes, but nods, and Heimdall and Loki follow him downstairs, to the throne room. Everyone’s gathered there, even Freya is silently glowering at them from the corner of the room.

Frey is on his knees, eyes neutral, even as Thor stands beside him, obviously keeping him in check. ‘’Brother,’’ Thor says brightly. ‘’And Heimdall – I’m glad to see you’re safe, even if we didn’t know you were in harm’s way until a few minutes ago.’’

Heimdall smiles. ‘’I am glad to be back.’’

‘’Frey,’’ Loki says, slowly stepping forward. Tony gives Loki a curt nod and leaves the room to get the elves. Loki watches him go for a moment, before turning back towards the expectant Vanir. ‘’Frey, you’ve been king of the elves for a long time now. Recently, I’ve come to understand that it’s partly because you were friends with Asgard that it’s been so long. The elves are loyal to you, they’ve always been. We know they can be fierce creatures, though – it makes me wonder why, exactly, they’ve stayed under your rule for so long. And now you wanted to force your son to follow in your stead, to keep your legacy safe. You are right, in a way; Alfheim needs someone to come after you. Someone to continue it on. I don’t think Tony wants to fulfil that task, however. I don’t think you or your sister should. I think it’s time the elves decided what they want.’’

Frey laughs. ‘’That’s nonsense,’’ he says. ‘’They’ve always wanted me. They love me.’’

Loki shrugs. ‘’Perhaps. But we should let them decide on that.’’

‘’And what if they decide they want us?’’ Freya asks out loud. Loki gets that. She has most to lose, here; her future is uncertain anyway. Having the elves on her side is her best bet.

Loki looks at Thor. ‘’Then we’ll have to accept that. Asgard isn’t supreme. We shouldn’t get to have a say in matters like these.’’

‘’And yet, you want me off the throne,’’ Frey says.

‘’No. I’m merely giving the actual inhabitants the option to get you off the throne.’’ As he says it, Loki hears a few elves shuffle into the room. He turns around, to see Tony among them. He’s worked fast; it’s likely the elves were all huddled together, and there’s at least forty of them, staring at the proceedings.

‘’I’ve told them,’’ Tony says, ‘’that they get to choose their future. That’s what this is, right? Democracy. It’s about time.’’

The elves look uncertain, mostly. Loki thinks about what will get them to truly consider their options – he’s an Asgardian prince, and surely they’ll listen to him, but he’s not certain he will also be able to convince them. He’s an outsider, and Frey has been their king for hundreds of years.

Before he even has time to form the words, though, Tony turns to his fellow elves. His eyes glow, and he looks determined. ‘’I know you’ve always had a king, long as you could remember. I know you had a queen, but she went away, because she did some bad stuff. You survived her departure, and you could survive Frey leaving, if that’s what you wanted. Just because you’ve always been used to a king, doesn’t mean you need one. It’s not – I’m not necessarily saying you have to get rid of Frey. I’m saying that there are options, and we’ll help you whichever one you make, and then we’re going to get out of your hair. I know it’s not ideal, and that we shouldn’t even interfere, but Asgard is not your boss. It never should have been anyone’s superior. And we’re just trying to do it right, this time.’’

The elves look at each other.

The whispering amongst themselves starts, and Loki grins.

~*~

‘’Are you certain this is a good idea?’’ Thor says. His gaze is far away; still aimed at the disappearing Alfheim. Being back on the ship, returning to Asgard; Loki wouldn’t have expected it, only hours earlier.

‘’I’m not certain,’’ he admits. ‘’But I know that it’s time for us to stop interfering. If the elves want our help, they’ll ask for it.’’

‘’Not ours,’’ Thor says, sounding somewhat amused. ‘’They specifically asked for Tony to be their guide, in this matter. Not for you or me.’’

Loki smiles, and looks at where Tony’s sitting. His lover’s golden eyes are focused on the young Peter Parker, sternly talking to him. Rhodes is sitting there as well, laughing at Tony’s attempt at mentoring. Loki feels his heart overflow with fondness. All of it could’ve turned out so much worse than it had, and the sight of his lover with his protégée is something he values.

‘’He’s still an elf, after all,’’ Loki says. ‘’I think he’s starting to see that, as well.’’

‘’They way you’re starting to see you’re a Jotun?’’ Thor asks lightly. There’s a sharp undertone, though. Loki doesn't mistake it for anything else than it is.

‘’If I choose so, perhaps,’’ he answers. ‘’We’ll get Jotunheim sorted, brother. They weren’t wrong. I think we can teach them, if they’re amenable. I’m sure I’ll be able to convince them.’’

Thor huffs, and turns so that he’s standing next to Loki. ‘’So that is where we’re going? Peace treaties and negotiations? You’re going to represent Asgard for Jotunheim and Tony for Alfheim?’’

Loki shrugs. ‘’If all concerned parties agree. It’s the least violent option, even if I’m still somewhat inclined to bash Byleistr’s head in for kidnapping Tony. We managed to hand over Frey and Freya to the elves, though, so perhaps I’m more forgiving than I used to be. Besides, I’m going to court Tony, make everything official. No one will be able to lay a hand on him ever again; and we’re going to be on Asgard for the coming months.’’

‘’So he’s cutting his ties with Midgard? You’re getting what you wanted?’’ Thor says. He’s more thoughtful of it than Loki would’ve expected. ‘’Make sure he won’t resent you for it, brother. Tony is fierce, and Midgard is his home. It’s where his family is.’’

Loki shakes his head, watching Tony again. The elf is smiling, his eyes crinkling with mirth as he claps Rhodes’ shoulder. Parker is also smiling, obviously having worked himself in Tony’s good graces again. Not that Loki didn’t think he would; Tony loves the young man like a son, and Peter’s well-meaning attempt to help Tony would be enough to make Tony even more fond of him. Loki isn’t afraid of Tony’s love for the Midgardians, any longer; he knows the only way Tony would resent him is if he tried to stop it.

‘’No. Tony’s family is on Midgard, but it’s also on Asgard, and the elves like him for his actions today. I doubt he’ll turn his back on Alfheim, now. Tony isn’t just an elf, but he’s also our family, and the Avengers’ family. He’ll always have family everywhere, and he’s not cutting ties with any of them. He’s merely realizing some truths.’’

‘’Which are?’’ Thor asks.

Loki looks at his brother, and pats Thor’s shoulder. ‘’You should know by now, brother. He’s realizing that his family loves him, no matter what or where he is.’’

~*~

‘’So you’re staying?’’ Rhodey asks. His tone is light, but his eyes are serious. Tony smiles tightly.

‘’Yeah. I want to do this thing with Loki.’’

‘’It’s like a marriage, yeah?’’

Tony shrugs. ‘’Kind of. The way towards it, at least. Don’t worry, Rhodey, I won’t get married without you there. You know I need a best man. I think it’s for the best, though – I’ll be back, but I can’t be tied to Earth forever. Not with Loki, and not with me being who I am. I’ll miss you, though.’’

Rhodey lays his arm around Tony’s shoulders. ‘’It’s not like we’re not going to be able to talk,’’ he says. ‘’Don’t worry, Tony. I understand, and so will the rest. And you’ll have Bruce in Asgard, so at least I’ve got a man on the inside.’’

Tony laughs at that. ‘’As if Loki will let me out of his sight, after this thing,’’ he says. Loki can be very protective, though he usually tries to hide it. Tony’s the same, though, so he doesn’t exactly mind. He likes spending time with Loki, obviously, and he’s sure there’s enough for them to do in the new Asgard.

Rhodey raises his eyebrows. ‘’Loki is usually the one to drag you into stuff like this.’’

Tony grins, and bumps his friend’s shoulder.

Peter comes looking around the corner. ‘’We’re almost there!’’ he informs them, cheekily and out of breath. He probably ran all the way from the control room to here. Tony smiles.

He’s going to miss his friends, but he can’t help but look forward to what’s going to come.

~*~

Asgard is pleasantly warm, even after the sun has set. Tony stands on a balcony, looking at the stars. He’s trying to see if he can find Alfheim, from here; the sky is very different, here. It’s nothing he can’t get used to, though.

‘’Didn’t change your mind, did you?’’ Loki asks, and Tony smirks as his lover joins him.

‘’It’s too late for that,’’ he offers. Rhodey and Peter have already gone home to Earth, so he can’t join them anymore. ‘’I’m just – well, old habits.’’

Loki presses a kiss to Tony’s mouth, and Tony let himself drown in it for a moment. ‘’It’s not too late, of course,’’ Loki whispers against him, ‘’but I still hope you didn’t. I want to do this, Tony.’’

‘’Yeah, me too,’’ Tony says earnestly. ‘’I know we still have a way to go, but I want to help Alfheim. The Elven Council is still new, and I think I’d like to help them figure it out. And make sure they know what to do about Frey and Freya.’’

Loki nods. ‘’Thor has contacted Jotunheim already, as well. They’re angry with us, but Byleistr is shrewd. I hope he’s smart enough to accept our help; we’re basically giving him what he wanted, after all. And if not, well. We’ll figure that out. Don’t worry about your father, Tony. The elves are fierce enough, and their loyalty to the Vanir is shaken. They’ll uphold their promise to keep Frey and Freya on Alfheim, I’m certain of it.’’

‘’Well, then I’m sure we have enough to do for in the future,’’ Tony says, and intertwines his fingers with Loki’s. ‘’But I know enough other stuff we can do, as well.’’

Loki smirks, but then the expression on his face turns into something a little softer. ‘’Let me do this right, first,’’ he says, and conjures up a flower. It’s not a biological one; it’s made of some sort of metal, cool to the touch. It looks fragile, but when Tony takes it, it feels like it’s more durable than he would expect. Its petals are a gorgeous mix of gold and red. Loki closes his hands over the petals, and they begin shining like stars.

‘’What is this?’’ Tony asks, examining the flower closely. It’s beautiful.

‘’It’s a flower, made of stardust,’’ Loki explains. ‘’It’s not actual stardust, but that is its given name, because of its appearance. It – well, it has some symbolism. I’m aware of the irony of red and gold, given those are your suit’s colours, but it actually represents both of us. The start of both of us, at least – the species we were born into. Your golden eyes, and my red ones. But that’s not the important thing. I’m giving it to you, because it’s my first courting gift to you. To show to you that I love you, whether you’re an elf, Vanir, or human. First gifts usually more of the aesthetically pleasing and symbolical kind.’’

Tony regards the flower again, and then looks at Loki. His lover is regarding him with some anxiety, and that’s not something that Tony is used to, so he kisses him to make the expression go away.

‘’I love it,’’ he says. ‘’Am I supposed to give you a gift as well?’’

‘’It’s the custom, yes, if you accept this gift, and thus our courtship,’’ Loki says. ‘’I’ll explain everything that is expected of you, later. If you accept now, though, we’ll have to be on Asgard for the coming time.’’

Tony knows. Loki has said it before, and he takes a moment to think about what he really wants.

It’s not necessary, though. He already knows what he wants, and it’s standing right in front of him.

‘’I accept the courtship,’’ he says, and watches Loki’s face light up.