- Alternate Universe
This is a sequel to Families.
Rhodey smiled indulgently, enjoying the happiness Tony was radiating talking about his visit to Nidavellir. Some of what he had seen, both in the forge and being used outside of them, sounded a lot like engineering to Rhodey as well. He was certain already that he wanted to come along on one of the next visits Tony was already planning, to get some first-hand experience with the work there. People often forgot that he had befriended Tony when they had been attending MIT together, that, while not a genius of Tony’s level (but then, who was?), he was an accomplished engineer himself.
His smile slowly faded as he remembered what he had volunteered to bring up with Tony.
“Rhodey?” Tony asked, even better attuned to his friend’s emotional state since coming online.
He slowly reached out to lay a gentle hand on Tony’s lower arm, giving him an opportunity to avoid the touch if he did not feel like being touched today. He was pleased when he didn’t pull away. “Tones, Daniel’s coming today.”
Tony stared at him. “That’s today?” He had not remembered. The excitement of visiting another planet, a planet that seemed a lot like his ideal vacation spot, had made him completely forget about the planned visit.
“He called while you were away,” Rhodey said quietly, “to confirm that he’s coming and that he’ll be here before noon.”
“Oh.” Tony ran a nervous hand through his hair.
“I told you, I can stay with you when the two of you meet if you want. Or we can Charles or Erik or one of your new siblings.”
“No. no, we don’t need to bother them. It’s Uncle Danny. I can meet with him on my own.” Tony paused, then continued more softly: “But you’ll be there afterwards in case… just in case.”
“Always,” Rhodey vowed. “And just for the record? I doubt any of them here would consider being there for you a bother. They’re your family.”
Tony smiled slightly. “They are, aren’t they?”
“Are you ready, brother?” Thor asked.
Loki sighed. “Yes, Thor. Really, you’ve heard how well the last two visits went. There’s no reason to check if we’ll keep doing our best for Asgard.”
“I mean if you’re ready to go to Jotunheim,” Thor corrected. He kept his gaze out towards where the other Asgardians were going about their new daily lives. He knew better by now than to face Loki when bringing something like this up. Loki was more likely to give him an answer that was at least close to the truth if he did not have to worry about hiding the emotion in his face.
“I will do what needs to be done,” Loki said.
“I don’t doubt that. Perhaps Vili and you can tell me more about the heritage of our grandmother when you return, instead of the lies we’ve been told about Jotunheim?”
“Perhaps,” Loki conceded. “I have to go, Vili is likely waiting for me already. And aren’t you having a lunch date with Banner?”
“We’re just eating together, to have a chance to catch up and let him tell me more about the UN and politics here on Midgard.”
Loki smirked. “As I said.”
Tony stood when Daniel came in. He had considered having the conversation in his room but he was afraid how it was going to go, that it might go badly and he wouldn’t have a place to withdraw to. After talking to Charles, they had instead prepared another smaller room.
“Tony.” Daniel just stepped up to him and hugged him. “It’s so good to see you.”
“Hey, Uncle Danny.” Tony returned the hug briefly but couldn’t melt into it like he used to, not with the doubts in his mind. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to the funeral.”
Daniel took a step back so he was able to look him in the face. “Nah, we all understood,” he assured him. “We know from personal experience that duty often has to take precedence. It’s why we were surprised to see Rogers there.” He shook his head, not wanting to talk about him, especially not with Tony. He waited for Tony to sit down, then sat in the chair opposite him. “And I meant that it’s good to see for myself that you’re okay. After seeing the fights on the news, both in Leipzig and then against Thanos, I was worried that you might be hurt more than they were telling the public.”
“I’m fine,” Tony said reflexively, then admitted: “At least I will be soon, the doctors say.”
“That’s good to hear.” He paused, considering how to continue, then decided to be blunt. “You’re tense. Are you still hurting? Is it a bad day today?”
“No, that’s not it. It’s…” Finally Tony couldn’t keep it in anymore. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Tell you what, Tony? What do you mean?” Daniel asked.
“You were leading SHIELD back then, you and Aunt Peggy. You must have known. I would have been obvious, so you must have known it wasn’t an accident. Why didn’t you tell me?” Tony asked.
“‘Accident’?” Daniel repeated, trying to understand what Tony was talking about. “Are you talking about what happened to Howard and Maria?”
“Of course I am,” Tony exclaimed.
Daniel could only stare at him in confusion. “I don’t understand. We told you. Not personally, I mean. We couldn’t get away, we were stuck either in the field or in headquarter dealing with it, so we sent an agent to you. We ordered him to get you to safety and to tell you what happened, both the official version and what actually happened.”
“They told me it was an accident. That dad had lost control of the car.”
The two of them stared at one another, trying to understand how this could have happened. When he realized it, Daniel closed his eyes and sighed. “Fucking HYDRA.”
“Fucking HYDRA,” Tony agreed.
“Shit.” Daniel ran a hand through his hair. “Peggy and I should have been more insistent when you didn’t want to talk about it the next time we tried to bring it up. We should have made sure you were dealing as properly as possible with what happened.”
“I was really stubborn about ignoring it,” Tony pointed out. He did not mention that he had been blaming both Howard and himself for having fought with him before they left.
“You’re still stubborn,” Daniel said. “But you were a teenager. We were adults. It was our job to make sure you were okay.”
Tony was about to disagree when he remembered Harley and Spiderling. “I guess.”
Loki stayed close to Vili from the moment they arrived. Part of it was that he had a hard time navigating in the snow, in telling which way they had to go. The other part was that he was worried about how the frost giants would react to him, to an Asgardian, a son of Odin, the one who had killed Laufey, their king.
He gasped when the structures he had assumed to be mountains of ice and snow revealed themselves to be buildings as they got closer. Everything was made of ice, shimmering white and blue in the light. He was fascinated as more and more details became apparent, reliefs of battles and other events he could not recognize, depictions of plants, animals and geometrical forms. “Did they chisel it out of the ice, the way the dwarves carved their halls?” he asked, voiced hushed.
“No, they have ice mages who create them,” Vili explained. “Well, obviously the law of the conservation of mass means that it is easier to take a mountain and form it into a building than to conjure all to necessary ice but powerful mages have been known to manage.”
“Not since we lost the Casket, Asgardian,” someone said. Loki jumped, not having noticed frost giants approach. “What do you want?”
Vili bowed low. “We would like to speak to request an audience with the king.”
“I don’t see what he would have to say to Asgard. Or rather what remains of Asgard. I hope for you that you are not here to beg assistance. But very well, I will let him know,” the frost giant said. “Come along.”
He made some gestures Loki couldn’t follow, probably to inform any other frost giants around who could see them while remaining unseen themselves.
Loki tried to hide his reaction to what he was seeing but he did not think he was very successful. All he saw was so different from what he had learned as a child. People at the palace would talk about Jotuns like monsters, without reason, living without shelter or, at best, in holes dug into the ground, like animals. This was so much more. Not only did it look beautiful and serve as proof that they had a culture, his surroundings were resonating with his magic. He’d never experienced anything like this.
He couldn’t help but gasped when they entered the room their guide had stopped in front of. He wasn’t sure if it was a throne room or an audience hall, he just knew that it certainly achieved his aim of leaving him speechless with awe.
He quickly turned his attention back to the frost giants around them when he felt Vili tense beside him.
Vili bowed low. “Well me, Blýeistr Laufeyson.”
Loki’s eyes widened slightly. Laufeyson. Didn’t that mean that he was his brother? He should have expected it of course but he had not considered if Laufey had any other children.
Blýeistr stood up. “I was certain that my brother Helblindi’s message must have got mixed up.”
Loki looked back to the doorway over his shoulder. Another brother?
“What would bring Vili Borson and Loki Odinson to Jotunheim? The brother of the man who almost destroyed our home and the one who tried to finish the job?”
Loki raised his chin. “And the one who killed Laufey.” He would not show weakness, not even in front of his brother. Especially not his brother.
Blýeistr actually snorted at that. “Laufey wasn’t the same after the war, the loss of the Casket, of…” He shook his head. “By killing my bearer you might have actually done a favour to Jotunheim and Laufey himself. Though I’m sure that was not your intention.”
“After Asgard’s destruction and Odin’s death, we want to change relations going forward,” Vili said. “We are hoping to rebuild the relationship between Asgard and Jotunheim, especially considering that many Asgardians are part Jotun.”
“Why would we agree to that?” Helblindi asked, having followed them inside. “You said it yourself, Asgard is destroyed. What do you have to offer us?”
Loki took a deep breath. He had not talked to Vili about it before but had decided privately that his spontaneous action just before he had triggered the destruction of Asgard might proof beneficial here. “We would return the Casket of Ancient Winters to you.”
Not only the two Jotun, Vili turned to stare at him in surprise as well.
“The Casket? We assumed it was destroyed with Asgard,” Blyéistr said.
“I took it and hit it just before,” Loki admitted. Like the Tesseract, it had drawn his attention as he was walking through the vault. Something had made him take it along as well, though he hadn’t been able to explain it.
“Why would you take it to safety? Why save the Casket while destroying Asgard?” Helblindi asked.
Loki hesitated. “Perhaps because I am more Jotun than Asgardian.” He conjured the Casket from the pocket dimension he had kept it in. His fingers flinched back from touching it, knowing what would happen when he did. Then he grabbed hold of it and pulled it out, offering it to Blýeistr. He kept his eyes on him, though he could see out of the corner of his eye how his skin turned Jotun blue.
Blyéistr ignored the Casket, however, instead staring at Loki, eyes roving over his face. “Impossible,” he breathed. He turned to glare at Vili. “Did you know?”
“I suspected his heritage,” Vili admitted. “I had no idea that Odin had kept it from everyone, including Loki himself.”
“I only found out I’m a Jotun when Thor came here,” Loki said.
Blýeistr opened his mouth, then closed it again and shook his head. “Helblindi, go get Fárbauti. Our sire should be here for this conversation.”
Helblindi was still staring at Loki. He seemed reluctant to comply.”
“Helblindi!” Blýeistr repeated.
He finally turned to leave, not without looking back at Loki again.
“Your sire?” Loki asked.
“Fárbauti, Laufey’s husband. He agreed to stay in the capital as my advisor. Laufey was my bearer. He was the bearer of all three of us.”
That confirmed that Loki had not misheard but he was still confused. “I thought Laufey… He was king. How could he be king if he birthed you?”
“He was king because he birthed us,” Blýeistr replied. “Life here on Jotunheim is hard, even before the Casket was taken. Bringing forth new life in these conditions is seen as a great and revered achievement, especially giving birth to three healthy sons.”
“Then it is certain he is my… my bearer?”
“Yes, you are our half-brother,” he confirmed. “Your kin markings prove it.” Seeing his confusion, he explained: “The markings on your skin, especially your face. They show your lineage, who your parents were. You are clearly Laufey’s third-born.”
“But not Fárbauti’s,” Loki stated. “Then who is my sire?”
“Aside from the line of Laufey, you also bear the markings of Bestla.”
“Who is Bestla?” Loki asked.
“Bestla is my mother,” Vili said.
(NAME4) resisted the urge to slam the door behind him. It wasn’t the fault of the café or the other customers after all. He was just frustrated and needed out.
When he had been asked to meet Steve Rogers, to see if they would be compatible as Sentinel and Guide, he had been flattered. Like many others in the US, he had grown up with stories of Captain America and the Howling Commandos, though he, like many agents, had been rather disillusioned after how he mishandled the revelation that HYDRA had infiltrated SHIELD and his overreaction to the Sokovia Accords. Still, he figured that it was likely due to a misunderstanding, to SHIELD not properly introducing him to the present. A friend of his in the Army had suggested that he should stay away but he had wanted to make up his mind on his own.
He was almost afraid to know what else his friend could tell him after the disaster of this meeting.
It had started out well enough. Rogers certainly was attractive, even out of his armour. But when they had started discussing the changes brought on by coming online, as so many others had recently, he had started complaining.
“The Army has changed since my time,” he’d said. “Now it’s obviously being led by politicians with agendas, not soldiers. They’re bullies, trying to make me pay for standing up to them. They’ve even taken my rank, saying I’m just Private Rogers.”
(NAME4) had caught that statement of the news. A week or two after the fight at the airport in Germany, the Army had issued a statement disavowing Captain America and stating that it had been just a stage name, that Rogers had never had a higher rank than private.
“And those Guides in the armed forces aren’t even standing up to those bullies. They have all refused to meet with me, to see if they can bond with me and join the Avengers.”
He had been a bit surprised at that. As far as he knew, the Avengers had been scraped for the time being, seeing as they were made up of only two members and no agency or other institution backing them.
“If we bond then you can take over the support for the Avengers, at least until we make Stark see sense.”
That had stopped him short. “What do you mean, take over support? I’m an FBI agent.”
“You will of course have to resign. They say that a Guide’s role is to support the Sentinel, so obviously you will work with me. I understand you’re not a hero, so you can’t become an Avenger yourself, but you can still do your part. It won’t be hard, don’t worry. I’m sure Stark will come to his senses soon and come back. He will finance us and make our weapons and armour. His computer will help you with your job but you’ll have to keep an eye on it, make sure it doesn’t go crazy like ULTRON did.”
“I’m not interested in resigning and joining the Avengers. I’m happy in my job.”
He had looked all disappointed at that. “Being a hero is much more important. We are saving lives.”
He’d finally lost his temper. “I am saving lives. All you seem to do is bring chaos and destruction.” Then he’d stood up and left.
Steve stared after him, shocked and insulted. Did all those Guides have no sense of duty?
And he needed one. His senses were spiking regularly and he had zoned a few times now. The UN were refusing to sign off on him returning to the field until he got his senses under control and the Avengers had more members. Perhaps he should write Bucky another letter, ask him to come back, assure him that he would not have to work with the X-Men, considering they had bullied him to the point that he had left the US with Sam. He regularly wrote but hadn’t received many replies. He probably hadn’t received all of them. The post service in Wakanda didn’t seem to work very well. If only Tony would finally see sense, then everything would go back to normal.
He perked up when he remembered the rumour that he had come online as a Guide. If he bonded with him, he could make him come to his senses and he would be able to keep him in his place, offering support but not on the field himself.