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“Someone’s going to be a sleepy little Norse god in the morning,” Tony said, reaching over to turn on the recently-replaced bedside light (one of Hela’s Spellwerki products, from her growing Home Décor Division). If he continued to feel surprised that his small daughter had a Home Decor Division, that was his problem, really, not hers.

He’d also learned the hard way that J.A.R.V.I.S. was not allowed in their bedroom when Loki was present. Fair enough. He'd have done anything, agreed to anything, back in September, to get his husband to come home to him from Salem Center, after their weird interlude with Loki's mumps, and his own concussion, and some genuinely disturbing and delusional stuff he himself had said in the aftermath. If that meant switching off his own damn lamp, well, that was a job Tony was perfectly capable of doing for himself, even if it meant fumbling for a second in the dark, trying to find the switch.

Loki asked little enough from him, he deserved his privacy. He deserved to feel safe, and if humoring his distrust of J.A.R.V.I.S. accomplished that, then banished J. would be.

The original Art Deco (or so Loki told him) analog (of course) clock on his husband’s side of the bed said just past two-thirty. In the A.M. Tony had been home for three exactly hours, the StarkJet fresh in from LAX. He hadn’t wanted to disturb his god of mischief earlier when he was working, out on the terrace, hunched over his laptop with an expression like a phenomenally fierce bird of prey about to swoop down upon its victim with deadly results.

Over by the closet, Loki mumbled, “Not a god,” into the muffling folds of the sweater still pulled halfway over his head. There was nothing underneath, Tony was pleased to note, but smooth, bare, sleekly-muscled, alabaster chest.

“I had not meant to wake you,” he added, emerging.

“Jesus, Lok.” Half-naked Loki was a sight well worth appreciating, even in the wee hours of the morning.

Tony wasn’t pleased, however, to see his husband freeze, his head jerking up like a deer in the forest getting ready to flee.

Bambi, there are hunters in the woods.

In retrospect, he probably should have asked himself what made Loki react that way in the first place. He'd thought all the words had been said, that they were past the fear.

Tony softened his voice. “Oh, gods, no, babe, nothing bad. Quite the contrary. I was admiring the view. You look fucking good enough to eat.”

“Do I?” Slowly, the tension visibly seeping out of him, Loki undid the button fly of his black jeans. Maybe it was because his not-all-that-long-ago-mangled hands hurt. He had just spent the last twelve straight hours typing at light speed out in the fucking freezing cold (roaring fire-pit or not) of the terrace, after all--where Loki, weirdly, preferred to write, with his state-of-the-art solar-powered charger and extra batteries for the laptop. Tony would be the first to confirm that writers were… uh… was quirky the word?

His husband was, indeed, undeniably quirky, but Loki’s slow undressing also closely resembled a striptease, especially when he started to ease the jeans and his black boxer briefs over his narrow hips, so all was totally forgiven, particularly in the light of the two breath-stealing, arching steps he took out of them as they dropped to the floor.

“Okay, gorgeous, you have my undivided attention.”

Loki gave him a smile that was sweet but, without a doubt, also wicked, from over his shoulder, just before he bent to collect his discarded clothing, an exercise in leg, ass and hip porn. Not even trying, Loki could make the most ordinary things look almost unbearably sensual.

“My entirely undivided attention,” Tony added.

Naked, Loki glided over to the mirror. He frowned at himself in the glass, turning slightly back and forth as if trying to see what Tony saw, those elongated miles of smooth, flawless, hairless white skin, accented here and there with the palest flush of rose, all-but-invisible except for a few places, most of all on his cock. The emerald eyes with their dark lashes, the soft curls framing his face…

Tony found himself--far from the first time--aching for his husband, not even to take him, not just to fuck, but to run his roughened hand over Loki’s smoothness, to bury his face in those curls and make Loki’s scent all he breathed, more important to him than oxygen.

“Beautiful Loki,” he murmured, half-surprised at the hoarseness in his own voice. “My beautiful, beautiful Loki. Gods, how I missed you.”

His husband frowned slightly, twisting a little to get a glimpse of his backside in the glass. “But I am not comely like…”

“If you follow that up by saying ‘Thor,’ I swear to all the gods in your old neighborhood I will chuck a box of tissues at you. I keep it on my table expressly for that purpose. If I could find a convenient Sharpie I’d write ‘FOR PELTING LOKI’ in big block letters on the side.”

“Can one truly engage in pelting with one object only?” his husband pondered. “Does not the act of pelting require more?”

“Oh, never fear, I will find more,” Tony laughed. “Come to me, naked gorgeous you.”

“I’d meant to say, ‘like you, most-loved husband.’” Loki pounced onto the bed.

Whether or not that was a fib, it was still a pretty adorable thing to say, and even more adorable was Loki’s softly curly head pillowed on his stomach, those big green eyes gazing lovingly up into Tony’s eyes, his fingers tracing patterns gently through Tony’s chest hair. Tony got that maybe it was too late and they were both too tired to start anything for real, but it was great just to lie there a little, exchanging touches, talking idly about their days after being apart.

“So, you got it finished, my internationally renowned author-guy? Sent it winging electronically on its way?”

Loki sighed. “Yes, though Nornir witness, I would rather write an entire book than one fjandinn cover letter—that is what devoured the final hour.” He laughed, in a less-than-completely-happy way. “Even so, the work is completed and sent, as you state, and I am truly the god of lies.”

“Come on up here,” Tony said, stretching out his arms, wrapping Loki up tight once he’d repositioned himself, head on Tony’s shoulder. “Lo Stark, best-selling author of Sons of Asgard, may I mention that it’s supposed to be lies, which is why it’s called fiction? Plus, the real story wouldn’t exactly be appropriate reading for the Young Adult market. Have I mention lately how proud I am of you, husband o’ mine?”

Loki laughed softly again, nuzzling into the side of Tony’s neck. “I have finished three weeks before the schedule. My agent and editor will be proud of me also.”

“It’s good, though?—what am I saying? Of course it’s great, you’re a fantastic writer, Lok. I mean, are you happy with it?”

“It is never in my nature to be satisfied,” Loki answered, and shrugged. “Especially with anything I have attempted. It is in the nature of a villain to be forever thwarted.” He lay quietly for a bit, and in the borderlands of his thoughts that Tony caught from their close contact, seemed almost sad—maybe it was some sort of post-novel let-down, the same kind of down-in-the-dumps feeling he got himself when he stamped “finished” on a major project.

“You’re not a villain, Lok. Did someone say something to you? Nat? One of the guys?”

“No, nothing of that sort. They speak not to me at any time. Indeed, they would not piss on me to put out my fire. It is a thing Director Coulson said to me, in our morning meeting—that he would not reduce his vigilance over me even through the coming holiday weeks, that I must continue to report myself, each Moonday and Freyrday, although that I did so was more his hardship than my own, as on Tyrsday and Thorsday I must not cease to present myself at the Lower East Side Club of Boys and Girls for my work. In truth, I do find reward in the occupation, and care dearly for the younglings, only…”

Moonday and Freyrday, etc., huh?   Lok really had been immersed in his imaginary version of Asgard.

“Disregard me,” Loki said, “For I am indeed very weary, and my spirits are sunk a little low. Only a little, I assure you, Tony.”

Add that, Tony reflected, to the fact that it had been a spectacularly difficult year—bad enough for him, a hundred times more so for his husband.

“Except for certain things,” Loki added, shifting downwards again, kissing Tony just over the belly button, then swirling the tip of his tongue around its hollow. Enough of that and, low spirits or not, Loki would make him purr like a kitten. He squirmed a little with delight as Loki kissed a trail up his chest and throat, finishing with a soft bite to his lower lip, then another kiss, Loki’s slippery warm tongue exploring Tony’s mouth in stroking touches that made his toes curl.

Loki broke off the kiss to bury his face in Tony’s shoulder again. There was some big emotion there, just under the surface, that “only a little” didn’t begin to cover. Loki’s muscles were in knots.

“Gods, you’re so tense, babe! Why are you so tense? From Director being a jerkwad? From all the typing?” Tony rubbed his husband’s back until the tight muscles released a little, and Loki let out another soft sigh.

“Somebody—like yours truly—needs to schedule you for a really thorough massage. Hey, maybe we could book a couple’s thing? Like a long spa weekend, or something? You could meet with Director Dickhead first thing Friday in the morning, then leave straight after. Pep’s been dying to hold a slumber party and spoil the ever-living hell out of our kids. She’d collect them from school.”

“Only rub more. It is extremely pleasant.” Loki stretched, then wriggled closer. “Ah, that is good, that is wonderful. Do you mind overmuch that I do not pleasure you tonight? I am truly weary.”

Tony digested that for meaning and concluded that Loki really must have edged out beyond exhausted. Otherwise he would have said absolutely nothing.

“My poor baby, you know that me getting it every night we're together is not a requirement of me loving you, or our marriage, right? I can actually go more than twenty-four hours. Or even forty-eight, at a pinch.”

Loki gave him a sleepy, lazy, loving smile. “I’m not always certain that I can.” Loki nuzzled into his neck again, then playfully nipped at Tony’s earlobe. “Most scrumptious of husbands.”

That, in Loki’s voice, could be marketed as an aphrodisiac.

They lay quietly again for a little, Tony almost wondering if his husband had fallen asleep, until Loki suddenly spoke up again.

“I neglected to say, best belovéd, as you mentioned slumber parties, our dearest Hela sent to me earlier. She does well at the dwelling of her classmate, Jeanette. They have together watched Tangled whilst playing at Lord of the Rings Monopoly, and spaghetti with meatballs was eaten for supper. The father of Jeanette is an editor of documentary films, her mother you employ as one of your electrical engineers. They are—and I quote our daughter—‘most delightfully geeky, completely pro-mutant and pro-marriage equality, so you don’t need to worry, dear Pabbi.’ It being generally thought that we are mutants, rather than gods—excepting you, of course, belovéd. No one, I assure you, thinks you a mutant. Of course I had already determined as much before I consented to the arrangement. Though not like our Hela, this Jeanette is a clever child. They become increasingly companionable.”

“That’s fantastic, Lok. I’m glad she’s fitting in. It can’t always be easy for her.”

“Hela is a chameleon. I believe the challenge of acting a role helps to make life more tolerable for her—though I believe she will be glad, as well, when the growth of her body no longer requires her ever to play the part of a child.”

Tony shook his head. After a series of fantastic growth spurts in their first year, all three kids had slowed into a normal, steady pattern. They looked like perfectly ordinary seven-year-olds—Jöri even had a front tooth out at the moment, which was especially adorable when he morphed into a dragon.

Jöri was also, in pretty much every way but the morphing and his genius IQ, a typical kid of his apparent age. Fen, on the other hand, although he tended to like the same things his brother did, was very much a preschooler in an older child’s body.

Or so Loki told him. Loki was forever reading books and articles about kids with special needs and child development, as if one of them would somehow drop the magic key into his lap that would unlock the door back to the way Fen had been pre-Doom.

As if the Doom-ray was his fault. As if it hadn’t caused untold damage to Loki himself.

In the meantime, he loved Fenrir fiercely, protectively, completely. And Fen just loved. He was the most loving child Tony had ever met, sweet-tempered, happy, doted on by his siblings.

Hela, though, his Childlike Empress, his Blesséd Death, was a young woman in a small child’s body, fierce and fiercely creative, powerful, independent, sometimes inscrutable, Queen Bee to what Tony couldn’t help but think of as her younger brothers (even if they were actually triplets), Loki’s partner-in-crime and Tony’s own (though he’d never tell, he truly loved them all) personal

Tony couldn’t help but wonder (“Why not give me a nice papercut and pour some lemon juice on it,” as Miracle Max of The Princess Bride would say) how baby Wilhelm, not planned for, but so very wanted, would have fit into the dynamic. If only…

And damn, now his shoulder was getting wet. He’d thought too fucking loud again and Loki had heard him.

Loki’s arm went around his waist, holding him tightly, as Tony held him tightly in return. His own eyes were leaking too, the way they always stupidly did in these situations.

They fell asleep in each other’s arms, pretending not to cry together over the child they’d lost, far away, in an underground cavern in Wales.