The sun sinking down over the ocean was a sight that Tony never thought he would tire of, the orange tint that glittered over the waves more than breath-taking. The water was calm, just the slight rolling swell that was present no matter what, but with no breaks in the surface until the waves hit against the base of the cliff.
The sound of it still bothered him sometimes, that rushing of water over rock filling his head with swirling memories and cold shards of fear. But only sometimes. Most days, Tony could stand on the edge of this cliff, the sounds of the water almost soothing. It reminded him of how far he’d come, just how far away all that horror was from where he was now.
A soft sigh escaped his lips as he leaned forward, resting his forearms on the low wall that lined the cliff outside their house. Their house– the one that had once been Tony’s, but which now belonged to the both of them. As they’d planned, they had moved themselves to Malibu after Steve and the other Avengers had agreed to leave them alone, and Fury had followed their lead. Tony was still unsure about Fury– he genuinely did seem glad that Tony had risen from the ashes, and he had given up trying to rebuild SHIELD on the down-low. But Fury still thought there should be something more than the UN watching over the extraordinary beings of the world, and Tony… well.
He quite liked having everything out in the open, actually.
The Avengers operated out of a facility in upstate New York, while Tony and Loki lived in their own home. They had a system that worked, a system which meant they didn’t need to bother each other. And Tony and Loki were able to live together in peace.
He still missed the house in Italy sometimes, but it wasn’t as if they never went back– and besides. It wasn’t the house itself that was important. It was the times that he had spent there, and the people he had spent that time with that was truly precious. And they really did visit quite a lot, because Barnes was still Italy, enjoying his own slice of peace and quiet among the rolling hills and thick forest.
Loki was there now, actually– Barnes had asked him to go over to help with the wards on the house, which were starting to get a little old. And Tony would have gone with him, of course, if not for the fact that Rhodey had all but begged for Tony to give a lecture at MIT, since the department there had apparently been sending him hundreds of emails. So, you know. It was for a good cause, and Tony agreed.
They could have gone together. Barnes could have waited for them until Tony was done in MIT, but… they had a plan to take a vacation, and they hadn’t wanted to delay. So, rather than postponing their trip, Loki had skywalked across the oceans alone, and Tony had flown to Boston in his black and green suit.
It was… hard, being away from Loki. But it wasn’t unmanageable. They remained connected through JARVIS, who was able to let them know that the other was safe at any given moment, and they still had that thread between their minds that had only grown stronger with every day of being together. Once, being that close to another person might have scared him but… Tony revelled in it.
Not just because it meant that he knew Loki was safe, but because it held that perfect intimacy, that warmth of being known that he wouldn’t trade for the world. It wasn’t something that he needed– the connection could fall away tomorrow and he would love Loki just the same. It simply brightened his day in moments when Loki was not there, because even half a world apart– whenever Tony realised that Loki was smiling about something, it was hard not to smile in response.
Take earlier that afternoon, for example. Tony knew that Loki had been hit with a sudden and intense joy, the soft glow of it curling through the back of his mind. Loki was almost giddy, and Tony had paused in the middle of the lecture he was giving to a very… unconventional group of students as his lips curved into a smile, just… happy that Loki was, as well.
Just like Loki seemed to be now– that small spark of warmth pressing into him again, different to the intense happiness of before. This was… softer, a kind of gentle contentment that Tony knew very well, and which had a light glow of excitement curling through his chest.
His eyes remained closed and his smile felt easy as familiar arms curled around his waist, and Tony every ounce of tension melted away as Loki leaned down to touch a kiss to Tony’s shoulder.
‘You’re back,’ Tony whispered, tilting his head so that his lips brushed over Loki’s temple.
‘So are you,’ Loki replied. His hands slipped under Tony’s shirt as he pulled him a little closer, so that Tony’s back was flush against Loki’s chest. Loki’s arms were firm around his waist, and Tony’s own slipped from the wall to rest over Loki’s instead. ‘How did it go?’
“As well as could be expected,” Tony said. “It was fun. Even though most of them seemed to be confused anthropology students, and the physics went a little over their heads. I think they snuck in with hopes of meeting you.”
“I shall make sure to come with you next time,” Loki promised– and Tony felt Loki’s lips curve into a smile as they brushed along his cheek. “I wouldn’t want to leave the students disappointed.”
“Of course not,” Tony snorted– though despite his amusement, he felt warmth blossom in his chest. He always enjoyed things more when Loki was by his side, even if it had taken a while for the world to accept that they came as a matched set.
Their plan to release all that HYDRA had done worked exactly as they had hoped. The world saw why they had acted, and the court of public opinion had swayed in their favour. That hadn’t meant that people had forgotten what they were capable of, however. Even now, after three years of living in peace, there were still those who watched them warily on the streets, or servers who took orders with nervous trembles to their fingers when he and Loki went to a new restaurant on a date.
But… things were still getting better. They had been pardoned for what they had done, and they had even been forgiven when they paid back damages. Even the American media had mostly got off his back after he had donated a whole pile of cash to Arlington to make up for the damage he and Loki had done to the grounds.
And when Tony was invited to a lecture at MIT, he had once again been met with cheers as he had stepped out onto the stage, his arms spread and a flashy grin stretched across his face. It was nice, in a way, to have that back. Even if every moment he spent on that stage, he just wished that he was already on his way to Alfheim for his and Loki’s planned vacation. As much as the lecture had been fun, he just… he would have preferred to be spending the time having adventures with his other half.
Tony really did love going to Alfheim, to that place where everyone accepted them for who they were and didn’t care about the things that they had done on Earth. That place where they could just be themselves. But… Barnes was on Earth, and Rhodey. So were JARVIS and the bots who had come to adore Loki so much that Tony had begun to wonder if there was reason to be jealous. So, they had decided to remain with Earth as their home, but the option to leave was always there– and by god, that was freeing.
“How was Barnes?” Tony asked. “Still looking after those goats?”
Honestly, when Barnes had decided to turn the old Faraday cage into a goat pen, Tony’d thought he was joking. But then he actually went and bought the goats. Oh well, he seemed like he was enjoying himself over there and that was all that mattered.
“He’s doing well,” Loki said. “The goats are as rude as always. Oh, and he has requested that we video call more often.”
“Yes, mom,” Tony sighed. Then he perked up a little as he remembered– “Did he like the bananas you brought him?”
Loki laughed, his breath tickling over Tony’s skin. “There’s a banana cake in the kitchen. We’re to give an opinion.”
“Is that what had you so happy earlier?” Tony asked– and as he did, he turned in Loki’s embrace so that he was leaning back against the wall instead, looping his arms around Loki’s neck to exchange the view of the glowing sunset for something far more beautiful.
Loki’s expression was soft, softer than Tony had been expecting, and he was smiling as his hands began to stroke up and down over Tony’s waist.
“I may have lied to you,” Loki admitted– but his smile didn’t dim.
“You may have?” Tony asked, arching a brow, his fingers starting to play gently with Loki’s hair. “I should have known. I knew DUM-E wasn’t the one who took that last bit of pizza.”
Loki snorted. “He’s a menace,” he said. “And he needs more coaching when it comes to telling lies. He gave himself away far too easily—”
“Don’t you dare start teaching the kids how to lie—”
“It is a useful skill,” Loki insisted. “And stop distracting me.”
Tony grinned, and leaned forward to press his lips to Loki’s in a quick touch that could barely be called a kiss. “All right,” he said. “What did you lie about?”
Loki’s lips quirked. “Barnes didn’t need help with his wards. They remain as strong as ever, of course.”
“Of course,” Tony said, amused by the smugness in Loki’s tone– but too curious to make more of a comment on it. “And…”
“And that lecture at MIT was full of confused anthropology students because… it was an anthropology lecture,” Loki admitted. “It was the only one available that day with a lecturer who was willing to lose a class to a guest speaker.”
“Okay…” Tony blinked. “So you, Rhodey, Barnes and probably JARVIS conspired to get me to go to Boston. Where were you?”
Loki’s eyes were bright, far brighter than Tony would have expected when he said– “Asgard.”
The whole time that Tony had known Loki, he had never expressed a desire to go back to Asgard. Not once, not even on the days when he talked about his mother. He was happy on Earth, he was happy with Tony– and Asgard had always been something of a risk.
But, after everything, Thor had apparently delivered Loki’s message to Odin, and that had been that. They didn’t bother Loki and Tony on Earth, and they didn’t bother with Asgard. That was the way they liked it.
“Thor assured me that I would be safe, and he arranged the meeting with the Allfather,” Loki said. “And when I was granted an audience, I made the argument that I have served my time– that my sentence was to be served on Midgard in decent conditions, and that what had happened should constitute completion of my punishment. My mother…” Loki’s hands tightened slightly. “She said that she is happy for me. She spoke in our favour, and Odin was forced to agree.”
“I’m sorry I missed it,” Tony said. And he did half mean that watching Loki get one over Odin no doubt would have been glorious, but… he just wished that he could have stood at Loki’s side and supported him as he overcame this demon from his past.
“I am, too,” Loki said. “But, Anthony… it worked. Thor came through for us, and after all of that… Anthony, I have it.”
Tony’s eyes widened– after all of the conversations they’d had over the years, he didn’t need any more than those words and Loki’s joyously tender expression to understand. “You mean…”
“I have something for you,” Loki said, one of his hands shifting from Tony’s skin to lift between them, palm up.
“I was going to give you this on Alfheim, but…” he glanced out to the orange-stained sky for a moment before turning back to meet Tony’s gaze with yet another soft smile. “I realise that there isn’t any reason to wait. This moment is as perfect as any.”
Then Loki curled his fingers in a bright shimmer of green, and then there was an apple sitting in his hand– almost glowing gold in the light of the setting sun.
Once, Tony would have reached out and taken it immediately, would have bitten down into that crisp sweetness and tied his life to Loki’s in a hurry. But… the apple wasn’t going to run away, and there were some moments that didn’t need to be rushed. Not when Tony already knew that he had the rest of his life with Loki, not when he knew that they were safe.
So he simply curled his hand over Loki’s, their fingers fitting together over the smooth skin of the apple while his other hand slid through Loki’s hair, pulling him down to bring their lips together in a kiss. The kiss wasn’t an answer to a question, and it wasn’t a promise– it just was. They kissed because they wanted to, because they loved each other, and because they didn’t need any other reason. And with the golden apple held between them, there was no need to say anything. They already knew where they were headed.
Because… yeah. Sometimes, the sound of the ocean was too much for Tony to bear. Sometimes, there were still days when Loki wasn’t able to stomach eating a single thing. Sometimes they would wake up screaming, because there are some wounds that don’t quite heal.
But that was only sometimes, and that was okay. Because in those moments they would always help each other pull through, with calm breaths and whispered words of comfort. Neither of them would ever be entirely the same as they were, but… there was something exquisite in the broken, glittering shards of their lives. Things weren’t perfect, but Tony didn’t think that perfect was what either of them needed.
Because as Tony shifted from calming himself with counted breaths and lists of things he could see to instead making a list of things that mattered, he knew that he and Loki? They were going to be all right.
They were safe, they were happy, and they were together.
And really, that was all they would ever need.