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Through burning blood

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He ran, breath coming in quick gasps at a time with each new step. His heart was beating like a crazed drum in his chest, he swore he could feel it against his ribs. Every new drag of air into his lungs felt like knives piercing him, making him cough. But he never stopped. He couldn’t stop. Tears were prickling the corners of his eyes, blurring his vision.

A quick turn to the left, then down just a few steps… there! Please, please don’t be too late. With all the effort he could muster into his tired arms, he slammed into the door, pushing it completely off the hinges. The heavy rock-slab collided with the ground, breaking in two. He barely noticed, too busy drying his eyes and looking around frantically. The bedroom was empty, but he could smell…

“Loki!” He tried to shout, though it came out more as a desperate cry, voice shaking. Time slithered by unnaturally slow, his panic rising with each passing second. He was about to give up hope, when a small, almost inaudible voice, spoke:

“Anthony?”

The closet door slowly opened, a blue head peaking out to see. Tony felt his heart lighten with relief. Red eyes met his, and he hurried over, returning his sword to the scabbard hanging from his hips. He embraced his husband, unwilling to let him go. Loki was still wearing the light gown he had been gifted by the queen.

“Norns, I thought the worst…” Tony breathed, tightening his hold. It wasn’t until Loki pulled away that he let go.

“Anthony, what is going on? I heard the horn, but…”

“Asgardians. They are attacking the palace. I never figured Odinson to be so bold...” He spoke quickly, looking over his shoulder. In the distance, he could hear the fighting. “They have breached the walls. Where are the twins?”

Loki opened the closet door, revealing a large basket where two baby boys were sleeping soundly, unaware of the danger raging around them. Tony’s burning heart steamed at the sight of them, and he quickly grabbed the basket, careful not to awaken the two boys. He handed the basket to Loki, who took kept it close to his chest.

“Where’s my staff?” Tony said, looking around the room. The fighting was getting closer. They had to hurry.

“By the bed” He rushed over, spotting the weapon and grabbing it. Screams of pain could be heard just down the corridor. Tony cast a look at his husband, clutching their children to his chest. His heart ached at the mere thought. If something were to happen to them… No, he dared not even think it. They would get out, even if Tony had to set fire to the universe itself.

“I’ll go first. We need to get to the bridge” Loki’s eyes widened.

“The bridge? But it’s not safe! The twins, we don’t know if they would survive the jump between worlds!”  

“I know… Surts crown, I know. But we don’t have another option. Now we need to go

“What about Jotunheimr? We could call for reinforcements. My father could bring his army to help us” Loki’s voice sounded so hopeful, crimson eyes staring widely at Tony, filled to the brim with fear as he huddled the children closer to his chest. Tony’s eyes travelled down to his children, sleeping so soundly, not even knowing the danger they were in… If the asgardians got a hold of them... he couldn’t even bare the thought.

“Loki… Jotunheimr… it’s gone. Laufey, his army… I’m sorry” Loki stared at him, frozen to the spot, unbelieving. Tony hadn’t believed it either, not until the asgardians were upon muspelheim as well. Laufey being defeated... it had sounded so preposterous. Had he not seen the ice giant’s head himself, he would have never believed it.

The battle grew closer, Tony’s guards barely holding them off.

“No… no that’s not…” Loki stammered, shaking his head.

“Loki, I’m sorry… but there’s no time. We need to get the twins away. I can’t let you stay here to get slaughtered. Please, we need to go now

Loki’s eyes finally regained their focus, staring at Tony for a second before the young jotun nodded. Tony returned the gesture, moving to the door to look out. At the end of the corridor, a vicious battle had broken out between the Asgardian soldiers that had followed Tony, against his royal guardsmen. Among them were Thrym…

“My liege! Run, quickly!” The eldjotun shouted, pushing a burning dagger through the heart of the enemy. “We will hold them back!”

Tony gave him a short nod, knowing this would be the last time he would ever see his lieutenant again. He didn’t even have time to wonder where his father was, though he would guess dead. There was no time to let his thoughts dwell on that, however, not yet. He turned, grabbing Loki’s hand and pulling him along. With his staff in one hand, and his husband in the other, he ran.

They ran down the corridor, hearing the battle fade in the distance, but not fast enough. Not daring to turn around, the two princes kept their gazes forward. It felt like forever, running down the corridors, stopping to look around every turn.

“We’re almost there. Come on” Tony mumbled, not for the first time, as he pulled his husband along. Only a few more steps, and they would get to the bridge. He could see the eternal flame lighting up the room-

-A hammer came whizzing past them, slamming into the wall before shooting back. Tony was barely able to evade it. Turning around, he saw none other than the creator of this conflict. Thor Odinson approached them, face contorted in a dark expression.

“Anthony Starkson, you have commited crimes against Asgard and therefore all the nine realms” Bullshit! Tony thought angrily, stepping up to stand in front of his family. It was no secret that Thor hated the jotuns, be them fire or ice. And although Tony had done many stupid things in his life, he would never do anything to provoke the wrath of asgards forces. This wasn’t war, this was genocide and they both knew it.

“Loki, take my staff. Get the kids somewhere safe. I’ll hold him off as long as I can, but if I don’t look like I’m going to make it, you go without me, understand?” Tony ordered, never taking his eyes off the approaching god.

“Anthony, no!”

“No time. Go!” He shoved the staff into Loki’s hands, pulling out his burning sword. Thor came to a halt, as if daring Tony to move. And move he did. Lightning quick, he rushed forth, bringing his sword down on the god’s head. Only, a hammer came in between, followed by a sharp blow to the gun. He stumbled back, gasping, barely able to block off Thor’s attack from the side.

The battle was a cruel one, Thor trying to push past the eldjotun prince. Yet Tony refused to, not until he heard that the bridge was ready. He could feel the sulfuric taste of blood in his mouth, probably due to the hard blow to the lung he had taken mere seconds ago. Another incoming hit from the hammer, aimed at his head, but he blocked it, only to feel the crushing weight of Thor’s strength from above. He fought to keep the hammer, now crackling with lightning, away from him. Please, just a few more seconds. He could hear the bridge opening behind him.

“Anthony!” Tony heard Loki shout behind him.

“Go!” he gargled back, loosening his grip. But that was okay. If he was to die in this battle, he would do so, knowing that Loki got away with the twins…

Thor let out a surprised yell, staggering back. Confused, Tony looked up to see one of Loki’s daggers sticking out of the aesir’s chest. Before he knew what was happening, someone grabbed him from behind and pulled him. It took some time before he realized that it was Loki.

“Loki- why? The twins-”

“I am not leaving you here to die, my love. Not when you can live to fight another day” Loki replied, pulling him to his feet. With the support from the frost giant, Tony managed to stumble over to the bridge. The eternal flame had risen, now forming a giant, burning wall. The bridge was ready, and next to it lay the two twins. They were crying now, he realized, arms wrapped around each other. He wanted to reach out and comfort, but the sound of Thor recovering behind him, told him not to.

With effort, he hauled himself up, taking the staff Loki handed to him while he grabbed the twins’ basket. Thor had gotten back on track, and was now running towards them at full speed. Tony slammed his staff into the ground, engulfing them all in the eternal flame.

They were hurled through space, Loki latched onto the basket, and Tony onto Loki and his staff. Everything around them was burning white, spinning uncontrollably. Tony could feel his grip around Loki loosen, despite his efforts to hold on. He was about to lose his grip-

They slammed into the ground, remnants of the bridge etched into the green grass around them. It took Tony one glance to tell where they were: Midgard… they made it. They were safe! They were-

Loki screamed, startling Tony. He turned around, heart already rising in his throat. Had Thor managed to follow them somehow? Had he not been quick enough? Had… no… oh Surt, please- no!

Loki was hunched over, curled around something. The basket lay abandoned on the ground next to him, but Tony barely even registered it. He could hear Narfi cry, knew it was Narfi, because his cries were always a higher pitch then Vali…

Vali… who lay unmoving in Loki’s arms. Vali, who wasn’t crying for his mother. Vali…

“no… no no no!” He rushed over, sliding down on the ground next to Loki, hand reaching out uselessly for his son… his… son… Loki was shaking the little bundle, somehow trying to bring life back into the small, innocent little body.

Vali was… dead. His son was dead… He had let his son die… his child!

In a daze, Tony stood, walked over to the basket and picked up Narfi. The boy was still crying while Tony soothed him, shushing him slightly like he always did when his sons would wake up at night. But Narfi wouldn’t stop crying, even while Tony sang his favourite bedtime song. Why wouldn’t he stop? Tony didn’t understand… his son wouldn’t stop crying. Please, stop crying.

Loki and Tony buried Vali in that same clearing. They didn’t mark the grave, but Loki left some pretty flowers he found. From the ashes of their son, they would grow strong and beautiful. The three of them left when the sun rose, taking on human forms to avoid being hunted. Narfi was still crying when they left, wondering where his brother was. Tony held Loki close, neither of them saying anything. It was just the three of them now. Alone in a world they didn’t know.

It was on that day that Tony swore vengeance on the Odinson. He wouldn’t rest, until the god had felt the exact pain Tony felt when he saw his child dead. Thor would pay for what he had taken, eye for an eye, a son for a son…