- Alternate Universe
This is a sequel to Families.
Tony was surprised when Charles told him that Loki was at the Institute again and asking for a meeting, a meeting he asked Tony to attend as well.
“I have to say, Reindeer Games, even when they told us that you were staying on Earth, I didn’t expect to see you so often,” Tony said when he saw Loki.
“‘Reindeer Games’?” the older man with Loki asked with a grin. “I assume it’s a reference to-“ He pointed to his head.
Tony was almost certain Loki was pouting. “Yes, it’s a reference to my helmet.” He cleared his throat. “I would like to introduce you to Prince Vili, Odin’s brother. “Vili, these are Guide Tony Stark, Iron Man, one of Thor’s shield brothers, Sentinel Erik Lehnsherr and Guide Charles Xavier, the heads of this school.”
Vili smiled at them. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. We were happy to learn that there are still Sentinels and Guides on Midgard.”
“Likewise. The knowledge about Sentinels and Guides was lost for a long time, we have only started rediscovering our abilities in the last 20 years. It would be interesting to learn what you know about the earlier Sentinels and Guides on Earth, considering your longer lifespan,” Charles said.
“I’m afraid my own knowledge is limited but I can ask among our people if some of them remember more,” Vili offered.
“But I assume the history of Sentinels and Guides is not what brings you here,” Erik said.
“It isn’t, you’re right. We would like to once again ask for your assistance,” Vili replied. “As my nephew, Loki, and Doctor Banner have informed you, we are working to re-establish Asgard’s alliances with the other realms. Our next destination is Nidavellir, home of the dwarfs. They are gifted craftsmen and women, creating marvels. Not just weapons, though that’s what most Asgardians know and admire them for, but also other things, ships, even a boar moving like a life one. Loki has told me that you are a craftsmen yourself and how impressed by the armour you created he was, so we were hoping to convince you to come along with us to Nidavellir, to assist in the negotiations.”
Tony stared at them, surprised by the request. Were they serious? He was supposed to negotiate on Asgard’s behalf?
“How long do you expect the negotiations to take?” Charles asked.
Vili gave the question honest consideration. “Dwarfs place importance on respect and the proper protocol but they also have no patience for empty words. The meeting will also be mostly to re-establish the relationship, not to decide each and every individual point of our alliance in the future. I believe it should take no longer than a day or two.”
“And you would guarantee our boy’s safety while he is with you?” Erik asked.
It took Tony a moment to realize that Erik was talking about him. He wasn’t sure how he felt about it. On the one hand it always warmed him when Erik or Charles truly did consider him like a son, on the other hand he way embarrassed to be referred to as ‘boy’, considering his was a grown man.
“Of course. I do not expect any danger. Otherwise I would not bring my nephew along. He is still young yet and has faced enough,” Vili replied.
Tony thought Loki looked about as embarrassed as he felt to be talked about like they were hardly more than a child.
“Will you give us a moment to discuss it?” Charles asked.
“Yes, of course. There is no pressure. Should we come back tomorrow?” Vili asked.
“It won’t take that long, I think. Would you mind waiting outside? A teacher will be here in a moment to show you the way,” Charles said.
“That’s fine with us.”
Ororo knocked at the door just then, called by Charles, Tony assumed.
“What do your abilities tell you, Tony?” Charles asked. “Are they genuine in their request?”
Tony hesitated. “I felt no falsehood from them. I don’t think they were lying.”
Charles nodded. “Neither did I, neither in their emotions nor their thoughts.”
“You read their minds?” Tony asked, surprised. He knew how important consent and not violating boundaries was to Charles.
“They’re asking to take you away from the planet, without one of us. I didn’t read their mind in depth but I did make sure that they were being honest.”
Damn. Alex and Peter were right, he was the baby of the family.
“Then the question is if you want to go with them, Tony,” Erik said.
Tony thought about it.
Everyone was sitting down for dinner. Alex liked these dinners, having the whole family together. One or both of his dads and siblings was often away, for politics or for lectures, so having everyone sitting at the table was nice. He was just a bit worried at the looks Erik and Charles were exchanging. He was used to them spending a lot of time looking at one another and communicating, either through their bond or Charles’ telepathy. One of the first things he’d learned after coming online as a Guide was how to block out the arousal that often accompanied those looks. There were things you were not supposed to know about your parents and that was definitely one of them. He was very happy pretending their relationship was entirely platonic.
These looks today were different, however. They were more the looks when they did not want to come out and say something, a very rare occurrence. Finally he couldn’t stand it any longer. “Okay, what’s going on?”
They exchanged another look, then Charles slowly put down his cutlery. “You are aware that Loki was here today?”
“Yes, together with some other Asgardians. We saw Storm show them around,” Peter said.
“They were here to ask for Tony’s help. On the diplomatic meeting with the dwarves. On Nidavellir.”
They all stared at Charles, certain they must have misheard.
Then Rhodey turned to Tony. “What did you say?”
Tony wouldn’t meet any of their eyes. “I agreed.”
“You agreed?” Stephen echoed loudly.
Rhodey took a deep breath. “What did you say, Tony?”
“… I agreed,” he said softly.
Alex could just see how the three unbonded Sentinels were close to blowing up but he also knew that would be just about the worst thing they could do right now. He quickly nudged Hank.
Luckily he understood at once. “Right. We’re having another Sentinel training session. Right now.” He stood up and left the room, the three following after him.
Seeing Tony’s confused look, Alex explained: “He’s helping them deal with their instinctive reaction. You’re a Guide, an unbonded Guide at that. For newly online, unbonded Sentinels, letting you go alone to somewhere you might be in danger goes against their instincts.” He figured that mentioning that part of it was because all three of them were interested in bonding with him would not be in Tony’s best interest.
It was the right decision, Clint figured. It actually was, not like a number of his other decision in the past year. He needed to accept that he had to move forward. Working for another agency, the same one Coulson’s father worked for, could help him with that. The agreement reached for his being seconded their included the same provisions that he would have the opportunity to regularly see his family but professionally, it would allow him to start anew. Coulson’s father was to pick him up today, then take him to the HQ.
Clint found that he was actually a bit nervous to meet Coulson’s father. He hadn’t even known that he was still alive, never mind working for another agency who had been aware of aliens before the Invasion in 2012. “Didn’t you say once that your father died when you were 10?”
“I thought he did. The agency he works for had different regulations for their agents. When they joined, they had to completely give up their old identities, including what family they had at the time. He did contact me when my clearance got high enough but we had to keep it quiet, since it was still against regulations,” Coulson explained.
“And the regulations have changed now? They would have had to, for Fury to have contacted him about your memories and you to have called him now? Or did his boss make an exception?”
Coulson looked at him, surprised, then his expression turned a bit embarrassed.. “I didn’t say?”
Coulson shifted his weight in a way Clint remembered being a sign of him being nervous. “He’s the director of his agency now. He changed the regulations. His ex-partner supported it and since they were the most influential agents…”
“Okay, so I’m meeting your father and my new boss,” Clint concluded. He wasn’t sure if he should be pissed or not that Coulson hadn’t warned him earlier. Trying to distract himself, he asked: “So what, Fury isn’t even going to see me off?”
“I told you, Dad’s still pissed at him. Fury’s avoiding him.”
Okay, now Clint was nervous. Anyone having Fury hide from them was intimidating. Before he could decide if that made him change his mind about working for that other agency, there was a knock at the door.
Clint didn’t doubt that the man who’d come in was Coulson’s father. The dark suit, the form of his face, the way he looked to be as unflappable…
Coulson Senior (seriously, how was Clint supposed to tell them apart?) took off his dark sunglasses. “Phil. You’re looking much better.”
“Yes, my memories are all back now and there’s no sign of any side effects.” Coulson, Clint’s Coulson, nodded in his direction. “Dad, you know Clint Barton, of course.”
Clint offered his hand. “Director Coulson.” And really, didn’t that get confusing, that they now even had the same title?
“Call me Kay.”
Tony stood in front of Rhodey’s room, wondering if he should knock. Before he could decide, the door opened. “Come in, Tones.”
Tony followed him quietly. “Are we okay?”
“Of course, Tony,” Rhodey assured him at once. “I’m not angry or anything. I’m worried, yes, but it’s your decision. I don’t think you or Erik and Charles would agree if you thought it was needlessly dangerous. It’s just… hard for me.” He considered how to explain it. “Did they explain about a Sentinel’s instincts and how we remember all sense memory, even before we come online?”
Tony frowned, surprised by the second part of the question. “Yes, why?”
“This will be the first time you will travel somewhere without me since I came online. I travelled to Washington and New York a few times but you were here. With my instincts telling me to keep you safe, the sense memories of Afghanistan are making a reappearance.” Seeing Tony flinch, he hurriedly assured him: “I talked to Sandburg and the others. They don’t think it’s some kind of vision or premonition or something like that. It’s… well, it’s kind of a Sentinel-specific form of PTSD.”
“Do you want me to stay here?” Tony asked.
“It’s intriguing for you, isn’t it, the thought of going there?” Rhodey replied. “I’ve never particularly cared about Norse mythology but if those Tolkien movies and books are in any way true, the dwarves are gifted craftsmen. I can imagine how appealing that is for you.”
“And it’s only for a day or two. I’ll be back in time for Uncle Daniel’s visit.” Tony looked up at his friend. “So we’re okay?”
“Yeah, Tones, we are.” He smiled. “Though I hope they know what they’ll face if anything happens to you.”