|Tony Stark is characteristically hyperverbal. (the_iron_man) wrote in avengers_logs,|
@ 2018-08-22 14:48:00
|Entry tags:||-complete, tony stark, valkyrie|
|Late that first night, when the shelter-in-place order was given following the dusting, Loki was poking around in Stark's sizable fridge. He found and opened a bottle of coconut water, giving it an experimental sniff. |
Val looked as well, sniffing it. "That smells like Thor's feet."
The Valkyrie was there. Fair enough, Loki thought to himself. Her timing couldn't be better.
"It does not. It smells...a little sweet, a little dank, and somewhat vaguely tangy." That may, indeed, describe Thor's feet, a strange potent aroma when combined together. He held the bottle out to her. "Drink it. Go on. I want to see if it kills you."
"You think there is anything I could drink that would kill me?" she was amused. "Also no."
"You're no fun." He mock pouted, pouring some into a glass and putting the cap back on, before idly tossing it back into the fridge without a care where it landed. It's obvious that someone is in a mood, and he wasn't volunteering that the reason why was due to the 'heroes' he was stuck with.
"What did Captain Jawbone lose that's got him so...tense? Same with the metal guy."
"Jaw bone? Metal guy? Do you mean Stark?" he asked her.
"Who is Jawbone?"
"The shorter Thor. With all the speeches."
"Ah, captain jawbone. Yes. The Captain. Steven Rogers," Loki mused, tapping a fingertip against his chin. "I suppose he lost someone dear to him as well? Stark has lost his future wife, and, from what I read on this network, his unborn child."
The Valkyrie frowned. "Shit."
"If true, then the captain seems to be weathering it better than the man of iron," Loki said, taking a sip of the coconut water and pulling a face, before he made a soft 'eh' noise. Not good. Not bad, either. Kind of like Loki, himself.
Val frowned more. "...she was with child?"
"Does he drink?" She pulled out a small bottle of Not Midgardian alcohol. "Think he'd trust this coming from a stranger?"
"Yes, he does. I have seen him. When I first arrived and after Thor found me, he took us to a tavern on a green. He imbibed quite a bit." He looked at the bottle, asking in an aloof tone as though he couldn't care less, "Going to drown his sorrows, Valkyrie?"
"If it was I..."
"I care not," he suddenly announced, before wandering off.
Val's mouth dropped open. "Emotional child."
"Drinky old bat," he called back, followed by the sound of a door opening and closing, quietly.
"I'm going to stab him." Val was talking to herself. "I'm going to fucking stab him."
Loki sighed while leaning against the other side of his door, saying with the utmost fondness, "....I am going to stab her."
Outside, Tony was on the observatory deck, the top floor of the penthouse he and Pepper once shared. He was staring out at....well it looked like it was the view but really? It was a spot about three feet in front of his face, in midair.
Valkyrie was cautious, walking up near him slowly, leaning her arms on the railing. "I am sorry for what you are going through, Stark."
Tony was quiet for an almost painfully long time, before his mouth opened and words started to gradually tumble out.
"I drank with you. Once. You know, there was this stupid raging party that Thor threw. Other Thor. And I swear to god...ha, that's funny...that someone....Loki...spiked the punch with this rocket fuel I made for you guys. I know it wasn't you, like you are now. Or Thor, like he is now...."
There was another long pause before he added, "...but that other you chased a couple of old lesbians out of a bathroom. She and I couch danced and got shitfaced. I was going through a bad time then, too. And you know what? It was still epic."
"It is likely why I feel drawn to you now. Our past bonding. That all does sound very like me."
"Yeah, maybe. That's kinda why I'm not surprised you're here." He made a sweeping motion with one arm, indicating around them. "When everyone else right now is...wide circle."
"I did not know there was a past me."
"Shit, no one says anything about it. It's weird. Lewis was a whole other Lewis."
"Darcy was not always Darcy?" The Valkyrie squinted. "They are so bonded. Do you like certain versions more than others?"
He shrugged at the bonded thing.
"I dunno. I never thought about it. It's kinda turned it into a huge ass mistake when you get burned. Except with Pepper..." He looked ready to choke up just saying her name, and had to collect himself. "...was here twice. She forgot in between that she was part of the crazy. She didn't forget me. In general."
"Must be a very strong love, to have it returned to you so many times," she said, with a gentle pat on his back.
There was a sharp exhale as he stared out out at the city he wasn't really even staring at.
"She was my one thing. That mattered. As many times as I messed up and...whew....I do mess up, big time? We kept doing this magnetic...mutual attraction. It's weird. But not wei-...it wasn't weird."
Tony suddenly looked over at Val. "You wanna drink?"
"Those are the best types of love. The ones who do not leave even when you expect them to." She looked back at him. "I always want to drink."
Tony was staring like he was looking right through her, if not for the fact that there is fierce intelligence in his eyes, and anger, and pain.
"I made some real rotgut for you Asgardians. Rocket fuel. Probably give me instant liver failure but eh, you only live once.
He started walking off toward a nearby refrigerated liquor cabinet to get some of the quality combustible stuff. He came back with a bottle of clear liquid, but everyone could tell by the smell when it was uncorked that it wasn't water. He poured them a couple of shot glasses and made a little toasting motion.
"Kanpai, liquor fairy."
Val toasted before throwing it back, hissing at the fire pouring down her throat with a smile, before widening her eyes and looking at Tony.
"Please don't die," she said.
Tony gave a horrible one eye squinted after he threw back that drink.
"Kinda don't have much to live for. Not gonna die without taking Thanos out with me," he explained, before he looked pensively off over the city. "There was this kid in Queens. It's a place across the river. Protege. Avenger in training. He's gone now, too. Again. I checked. Last time, over wherever it is that this happened? We were on Titan. Apologized...heh...to me, of all people. Should have been the other way around. Dust. Gone. I bet that kid's aunt is out of her mind. In both places."
He poured them another round.
"Now it's like....I lost him twice, but I wasn't here when Pep...uhh...I was on another planet. Looks like I got hit with both ends. I want to jackhammer Thanos' face in with my fist. Then I can die happy."
"If you die then you will not be reunited with anyone. Also I don't want to be the one blamed for your death. Thor likes you and Captain Jawbone seems like he'd pop me off easily given the chance if I got on his bad side. Letting you die would do that."
"Wha? Jawbone?" Tony's eyebrows went way up.
"Loki said his name, but to be honest, I wasn't listening. Angry one, with the beard."
"Cap? Super serious type."
"That's the one."
"Oh yeah. Well. We've butted heads a lot. I fly off the handle more than he does. Point Break's a fun guy though. When he's not grabbing me by the throat in a neck hug and lifting me up."
Val was fond. "Aren't those the best?"
"Asgard," guessed Tony. In his mind it must be an Asgard thing. There wasn't much in the way of humor when he said so, sarcastic or otherwise.
"I don't know what Point Break means but I do know who picks you up in a neck hug. Don't spread that I enjoy them though, then people would think they could just... touch me."
"Point Break is a movie. Patrick Swayze. Roadhouse. Another movie. Everything's solved by kicking things in a bar," Tony said, and he normally would have shrugged at this point. He didn't. "I won't tell. Don't tell Cap I've got a death wish with a vengeance right now and we're square."
He looked out at the city again, before passing her the bottle.
"What is that neck thing? Like a term of endearment or something? Thor's way of saying 'you make me angry but rawrrr, I care about you?"
"Yes. He is like Hulk." She grinned.
"...Bruce!" he actually, almost, sounded like himself for a second. "I miss that guy."
Val grinned wider, her voice fonder. "Me too. Both of em."
"You knew him. I mean, not....you didn't....big green.... So weirded out now thinking of zucchini. Why am I doing this."
"Things never got that wild."
"Weird place. Wife's dead. Kid's dead. Zucchini."
He had no one. No one he was close to. He needed a diversion to claw his way out of that angst pit. Still. Thinking of his friend's super-sized gamma-ray-green junk? This is not the diversion you are looking for.
"Don't remind Thor, I think he's still scarred."
"He saw it?"
"Oh yeah," she laughed.
There is the first sparkle of humor in his eyes since Pepper disintegrated, but it's gone in an instant.
"I'm gonna remind him. Right after I remind myself that I am not gonna be ok for a fucking long ass time."
"Mmmph?" Tony asked, in mid-drink.
Val sighed, knowing too well, but just nodded. "If I was a hypocrite I would tell you it would be okay and that it would get better but I know not of such things."
"How'd you know? Huh? How."
"How did I know what?"
"About bein' a hypocrite if you said it was ok. Means you know it's not. How do you know? What happened to you. Why're you like the only person with the cajones...internal...to come out here."
He hucked the empty bottle high up into the air, raising one arm as the nanites spread the armored gauntlet down the length in a shimmer of red and gold. As the bottle hit the apex and began to come down, the RT formed on his palm and a blast shot out. The glass shattered to pieces, raining down like glitter.
Tony flexed his fingers. "Aim's off. Or I'm getting drunker."
Val's mouth was hanging open, shocked but loving it. "You would have loved my ship."
"What'd it do?" He hated space, or the thought of what lurked in space. However, he liked space ships.
"That sounds promising."
"I had gauntlets, would allow me to shoot the weapons while standing outside and in front of her. That's... how I captured Thor. Well part of how."
"Big guns. Like it more."
"I fight better with my sword but I can man a good gun when I need to."
With a mental command, the suit began to move out over him like a second skin, until it finally covered his face.
His voice could be heard on the outbound comm, "I packed an arsenal in here."
Pepper was always less than enthused with his tinkering. It was hard not to imagine her ever telling him that he was being obsessive when he spent a week adjusting one tiny thing for eighteen hours a day.
Right now, that sounded good.
"Want some big guns back?" he asked the Valkyrie.
"Who would say no?"
"I like you." Tony gave her a thumbs up. "You're good people."
"I like you as well, metal man," she replied. "I am only one person. Most days."
"No that means...you're good. Let's leave it at that. Did you ride a unicorn or whatever?"
"Why am I thinking of Rainbow Brite?" he asked, although he was also thinking of his lost Arwen with her strawberry blond hair. Fuck Clint 'Legolas' Barton, and his Boromir reference.
"Also not a unicorn, I don't think No horn, just wings."
"I know it's random but...oh you mean a pegasus. Winged horse."
"Yes, his name was Aragorn. He has perished."
"That sucks. Sorry. Wanna another drink?"
She nodded. "That day? Was my today for you. The loss you feel today, is what I felt that day. It is how I know."
"Oh. Shit. Guess that makes sense now."
The suit retracted away and Tony was staring at her with an unflinching squint. He turned away to get them another bottle.
"There is only one other who knows, Loki. But that knowledge was taken not given."
"Figures," Tony scoffed. "That bastard threw me out a window. It wasn't an open window either. Off a building taller than this one. Had to remotely suit myself up before I went splat."
Tony didn't mind gossiping about others. As much as he was accused of being self-absorbed, it helped get his mind off himself. For instance, he still considered Lewis and the Lokester to be like Hufflepuff dating Slytherin. Those two houses just didn't mix. He didn't voice that out loud, though. He was already coming back with some champagne, and glasses, and scotch, and vodka.
"It's a good thing you can afford to replace all this. Because I will drink it."
"I used to hit it hard. So. We're stocked up for a rainy day."
"I do like the rain. Sorta comes with the Thunder God best friend territory."
The bottles clinked as he set them down on a table, conveniently located next to the outdoor couches. He waved a hand around for her to sit down wherever she wanted and laid down with a stiffled grunt. A few crash landings and rough test flights left several of his joints aching, further proof that he was going to get too old to do this shit, someday.
"I guess I got it easy since I'm flying around in a tin can. The only thing I hate is ice. Screws with the aerodynamics."
Val nodded as she sat on a couch, looking up at him. "Do not tell Loki I called Thor my best friend. They are fighting for the spot."
There was a sneer on Tony's face. "Loki has friends? This is some fresh hell world I live in."
Val laughed. "We are at odds sometimes. But I would die for him the same as Thor."
"Wow, you have got to check those priorities."
"Hah, this is nothin."
"Outta whack. Phew! Big time."
"I've been sworn to worse."
"He'd probably kill you before you got a chance to die for him."
Val scoffed. "You assume he can kill me."
"Backstabbing? Yeah, he could probably kill all of us. Now he's in...." he almost said our house. "....my house."
He grabbed a bottle of scotch and poured.
"Loki would never top me in hand to hand combat."
"Could if he cheated. Betcha money."
"I'd still best him. Thor as well, if he did not have Stormbreaker."
"Can't fault you for self-confidence. And pffttttt, Thor's soft spot is his brother. It's obvious. Adopted. That guy literally got away with murder."
"My King's soft spot has shifted."
"...hopped on board the crazy train and started racking up a body count," Tony continued to grumble about Loki.
"All of us have."
"Whatever." She was ruining his blame game.
"As for my confidence, I captured and subdued the Hulk on my own. As well as Thor." Loki had been there for 'weeks' before, weaseling around.
"If you got Bruce...Hulk, whatever, it's both of them....then hey, you kick ass. Good job." Tony made a toasting motion with his glass.
"I miss him I hope he's safe."
"He's fine. He's indestructible. He kicked Loki's ass, too. He's the toughest person I know Angriest too." And probably more tired than they all were, combined.
"Yeah but that's one of his good qualities. He calls- called me angry girl."
"Finally, someone who agrees with me. And ha! Nice."
Val gave a very endearing impression of Hulk, "ANGRY GIRL!!! WE TRAIN!!! YOU STAY!!"
Having spoken to him after he fell back to Earth, a few months ago, he didn't seem too surprised. In fact, he agreed (surprisingly sedate by his normal standards), "Yeah, he talked more. I saw that too. He didn't used to."
Val sighed before taking another long swig of the rocket fuel, "Really?"
"Nope. Like talking to a small child."
"Still kinda like talking to a small child."
"More words chained together? Improvement."
"Also taught him? Please. I was proud of that one."
"Polite's no fun. Now you're ruining it. Hulk smash. Rawr."
"I'm not the most polite person. If you couldn't tell."
"Good," he agreed. "Waste of time. People who are way too polite? Covering something up."
"Or sucking up."
"Yep, familiar with that. Lots."
"Hah, living in a place like this? Can't imagine."
"Paid for by B is for Bombs," he said, without any cheer or pride at all.
He quickly amended, "Nah, that's not true. I went clean-tech a while ago. The house in Malibu? Paid for by our friend letter B. That existed until I told some terrorists to come get me. They did. While Pep and I were bickering."
"I am very fond of the letter B."
"Bombs? I used to build 'em. Not fond of what they did."
"No. Well I'm sure, yes."
"That yes. But my true name begins with the letter B."
"Can I guess?"
"Oh this should be fun. Do go on."
He was already getting his buzz on so he could work. Like he used to. It was the fringe benefit of once being a functional alcoholic asshole.
"Ok, so," he paused to down the scotch in one go. "Bertha."
"I beg your pardon." She looked at him." Do I look like a Bertha?"
"I dunno, do you? Can I call you Bertha for fun and maybe bust up a stereotype?"
Tony mock pouted.
Val signed. "Never in front of Loki. Or Darcy."
Tony let out a teeny tiny: "...yay."
It was not as sarcastically mirth-filled as usual, but there it is.
"She already sees it fit to squeeze my face many times a day."
"Lewis does that? Yeah. I can see it. She's....."
Val remembered their past conversations and took an extended drink, muttering, "Something."
"She's very hands on. Social. She cares too much."
"Can be. I'm exhausting." And that was true. He was. People couldn't keep up with him, his train of thoughts, his sarcasm, his pushiness, his restlessness...
"But I have not had friends in nearly 2000 years. So I may be out of practice."
"She and I....wow that's a shit ton of a long time but....yeah, you might be. Out of practice. Maybe just say so. She and I have some stuff in common, personality wise. Sarcasm as a defense mechanism. We give a shit but act like we're put out sometimes. Hacking. Blah blah blah."
"You and Darcy are like Loki and I."
"Huh?" Tony didn't see the similarity there.
"More in common than you'd expect."
"You're nothin' like the Lokester. That guy's a war criminal."
"I could be called a war criminal to some. Odin did not always send us on happy missions." Val spat on the ground.
"Ok, so...Odin bad. I get it. Now back to Jokestick over there. Did you come here to try to bust it up, killing people, mind raping them, and bring an army to bust up a city so you can take over the planet?"
Tony knew he was getting agitated and felt compelled to explain why, "Because I'm one of the guys who had to stop him."
"It is good you did," Val said. "He did not mind rape you, did he?"
Tony taps a finger against the housing in his chest. "Blocked it."
"What is that?"
Tony took a swift drink. "Arc reactor. Housing for my suit, powers it too."
"In your chest?"
"Yep. Had a teenaged girl surgically implant it."
"Wow," she said, impressed, drinking deeply.
"Pep-...." He stopped talking abruptly, remembering how upset Pepper was when he dropped his idea on her. "...yeah that was a conversation."
Tony was staring straight ahead and playing over the sight of her turning to dust over and over and over again in his head. A trauma-laden anxiety loop that he needed to bust out of fast.
"So Loki's not up to shit is he?" he blurted out quickly, grasping back onto the nearest convenient scapegoat before he facerolled into science and no one saw him again. "Lewis thinks his mind was jacked. Even though I kinda hate it, I'm right on the edge of believing her."
It wasn't unfounded, though. He and Nat talked about it before half the people on Earth were wiped out. Might as well not be subtle about it. Tony didn't do subtle anyway. He ripped off the bandaids every time he saw one, and Val seemed like she had some good insights into what made Loki tick. She didn't have the hang up of being related to Loki either, or else he'd be bugging Thor.
"No, he is not."
"Shit." He drank more, visibly unsettled.
"That has not been brought up to me but..." She sat up, squinting. "Oh my god."
"What? No one brought this up? Or....what?"
"No, I mean why with the the oh my god."
"It is a very involved story but, if he had been controlled by Thanos, that would explain some recent events in a dream of mine."
"....whazzit? Spill the beans. Aid and abet my coping methods."
Val nodded, leaning towards him, concentrating. "Loki was in my dream, like with me, a little magic guy of him."
"Was he a chibi?"
"What is that."
"It's like this little funny fat headed cartoon thing that...here, look." Tony took out his phone and showed Val a chibi Tony Stark. "Look. Cute, huh? Chibi. You said it was a little magic guy. My brain went places."
Val laughed. "No but now I will imagine him as that. In my dream, there was this pressure. I thought it was because of me but, if Thanos had some previous hold on Loki-"
Tony squinted and listened, like he's thinking of those possible connections and how it could be exploited. Sure, they all had reasons not to like Loki, but the most recent meeting where Loki started talking about the Titan made him wonder just how much more the God of Mischief knew. Or that he might have forgotten out of some sort of mental or physical duress, if Nat was right. It might not be the right time to dive down that rabbit hole. Every angle still needed to be considered too. Information that their other counterparts didn't have access to, since everyone was so spread out and caught with their pants down.
"It was like the entire sky was pushing in. Like someone was -gestures- what is it, when you make the thing bigger."
Tony squinted. "...not sure I get what you're aiming at. What'd that sky look like?"
Tony jerked back and looked at her with round eyes.
"It was like something was zooming in on us."
"Collapsing?" Tony guessed. "Racing at you? Exploding and not imploding?"
"Just pushing down, pressure, like it was- Like it was trying to find him."
"And smush him. Right?"
Tony stared straight forward- "....sonuvabitch."
He staggered onto his feet.
Val stood and caught him by the elbow, which caused Tony to stare down at her hand like 'Why touchy?'
"Ok, we're good. You aren't handing me anything," he confirmed to himself out loud. "It's all good. What'd that sky look like? Color. Patterns."
"Red. Damn." He seemed disappointed. "Ok, well that rules that theory out."
"Nothin'. Just this thing he used to brainjack a scientist here. I thought there might be a connection to it."
"A red sky doesn't have any meaning? It has to mean something, I'm not crazy." She thought for a moment. "Well. That's another day's topic."
"Likewise. And not that I know of. Well, wait. Strange said one of those stones was red...."
"Yeah. Can't ask him now. He's gone. That went nowhere fast. I had something and pfft! Gone."
"Nah. Any chance it wasn't just your...you know, dream things? Not chibi Loki running amuck?"
"Cos I was about to bang on his door and accuse him of shit for a sec there. Lewis would probably get pissed again." He shrugged and swayed on his feet.
"If my mind had taken over, truly, things would have been disastrous fast."
"Valkyrie were the elite warriors of Asgard. Think, like... Thor had me in paintings on his walls."
"Kinky." Tony didn't say the next thing that popped into his mind. Thankfully. For everyone. Because in his head that must have been the equivalent of teenage boys and girly magazines. "Yeeeeeeeep."
Val does not say gross as per usual, "Anyways."
Tony needed to stagger pace while listening so he did that.
Val let him walk but watched him for a moment before laying down. The last thing she needed was Tony taking a dive over the edge of the building.
Tony contemplated taking a swan dive more than once. Didn't do it. Revenge first. Swift death afterward.
"They were my best friends, my family. My love." She paused and breathed.
"...chick on chick action. Respect." That made it past the filter. He nodded and stagger paced, walking off some of the alcohol. He could only feel sorry for himself for so long.
Val ignored him.
"Odin sent us to kill Hela, his daughter. Thor's sister. A monster. She wielded his hammer before him. And was as powerful as Odin himself the longer she was on Asgard. He had banished her and when she tried to fight it, he sent us.
"We didn't even injure her. Every- every person I loved, slaughtered. Our horses, our children, torn right out of the sky. With us upon them. Rota and I were the last. Hela advanced on me, and she dove in front. Took the hit. Shoved me back through the portal, and the last thing I saw was Hela killing her before it closed. And I couldn't get back through."
"Asgard sounds like a fun place. How messed up are all you from mopping up daddy's mess?" He stopped, remembering his talk with Thor and Loki at the Tavern On The Green, right after their arrival. "Or sounded. I had night terrors when I found out what Surtur was. I hate space."
"I abandoned my oath and lived alone on a junk planet for a few thousand years."
Tony stopped pacing. Now space was a different story altogether.
"That sounds like heaven. Legit space junk? Onboard."
"Until Odin delivered both of his bloody sons to my lap."
"How'd you hook up with the Super Asgardian Bros? I never asked before."
"I captured Thor, delivered him to the Grandmaster as a fighter."
"He fought Hulk, would have won too but they blasted him so Hulk wouldn't lose."
"Tall, chiseled and thundery then did his whole, that's what heroes do speech."
"What about Reindeer Games?"
"He and hulk escaped and then the grandmaster sent me and Loki after them."
"Ohhh bad team up," tony said with a wince, pacing again and snatching up another bottle. He was about to slow down the pacing, since a buzz was acceptable, but off his man-tits shitfaced was not.
"He wanted to spar, and ended up invading my mind."
Tony almost sprayed out that tiny sip of booze he was taking. "Wait. Without the scepter?"
It was obvious to see that Tony was TENSE. He stiffly turned to look at the glass doors leading inside.
"It was just a memory recall."
"Oh yeah? Not better."
"He did not bend my will."
"Still NOT better." Tony was thinking of Clint and if he got reminded of that mindjacking. How messy would that be? Talk about a time bomb. Tony took out his phone and started tapping his thumbs on it, changing around Friday's parameters to compensate, ready to send out warnings, put his old suit on autopilot take-down mode....
"Anyways, I captured him and gave him to Thor as a peace offering. Joined the Revengers. Went through the Devil's Anus."
"Yay for that," Tony said, and it was hard not to sound sarcastic as his thumbs were tappatappatapping away. The tapping slowed to a stop. "....the...oh what wait a minute...what? The Revengers? Devil's anus?"
"Watched Surtur destroy Asgard."
"Sorry that sucks, but Revengers, anus?"
"Thor's team name."
"Rip off! We're the Avengers. How lame. What a lame ass. Does he know it's copyrighted?"
"Well the team is disbanded now."
"Same," Tony grumbled. "Basically. Officially."
"Now he is just my king."
Tony continued writing a new protocol on the fly for Friday.
"Good for him. Why the fuck is Project Reject here then? Sure, he mended me up once, helped with a rescue op, but...how'd he end up with the rest of you? Thor said, a while ago, that he was watching him, and he was here under his protection. But that was months ago.
"And by the way, you got shafted. Sorry you got shafted. And ended up here. After he ended up king or whatever happened. In space."
"He joined the battle against Hela."
Tony was still in mid-coding. "...buh?
"Found alongside Thor and I."
Tony wasn't stopping. ".....meh?"
"Loki is good."
A disbelieving Tony stopped tapatapping. "....nuh?"
"I would not permit him near Thor if he wasn't."
"Wait. So....he...." He pointed at the doors leading inside. "....is good."
"You should know, he's so good, that if he ever shows his face without a disguise? They'd lock him up so far and so deep, that none of you would ever find him again?"
A very unsettled Tony explained so it was clear where he was coming from, "War criminal. Charges still stand. Without Lewis proving he was coerced, and he isn't answering on that? Byebye 'good' guy."
"I accept that."
Tony put the coding aside and queued up the SHIELD video on his phone, handing it to her so she can see what he looked like when he arrived.
"It is not my place to tell you how to feel about-"
"Watch it," he insisted. "Tell me if anything's different. Sure the guy just got shot through space through a portal opening energy cube but..."
He shrugged, unapologetically.
Val squinted, clearly disturbed at seeing her friend this way.
"His eyes. His eyes are wrong, there is something wrong with your tape."
"Nope. That's the cleaned up version. And yeah, that's what Lewis was saying. And look. He's staggering. One of the mindjacked agents had to put a hand on his back." Tony pointed it out. "Eyecolor? Accurate. Skin discoloration, dark areas around his eyes? Yeah, that's there. Not shadows."
"This is not Loki. I mean it very clearly is Loki but not."
His mind seized onto that dark spot of dust on his carpet where his wife and kid died a few scant hours ago. If he thought about it...if he dwelled, it was a dark place he was not going to crawl back out of. Someone else's dark place was still better and safer for him to figure out. It was also sobering him up. Fast. He was almost ready to dive into work. But first, he had to make sure the wolf in the henhouse wasn't going to latch onto anyone.
"This isn't Loki, Tony. I do not know what Darcy's theory is."
"....that the scepter he's holding was used on him, torture, you know...he apparently doesn't remember things about that time," replied Tony.
Val squinted more, looking off into space. "That would explain the lack of grace."
"The staggering," he confirmed with a nod.
"Yes, also his aim, the amount of effort he is exerting."
"Dinnit notice that," he sat down and hit replay, "The effort thing."
"Look at the way he has to throw his entire body."
Tony looked at what she was pointing out.
"That's not right."
"I thought it was just overshooting it into bad ass land, like Asgardian overkill."
"No, that's usually much more graceful. Also Loki's overkill would never be physical in such a way. It would be mental, or verbal."
Tony was listening, absorbing.
"Thor, Myself, yes," she added.
"He likes a cerebral attack," he agreed.
Val: "Yes. Like this," she pointed down at another SHIELD video, "when he tricks Thor into jumping into the holding cell. With his illusion. But stands to gloat."
"Yep," he said, playing some of video again. "Ego. Pride."
"With Thor? Showing he is better"
"Rubbing it in his bro's face. Yeah."
"Imagine your father never saying a nice word about you your whole life."
"Oh, honey," Tony said with what almost become a laugh. It didn't quite make it.
"While telling your brother he was-" her voice trailed off.
Tony did laugh, a brief bark of a laugh and it was over. "Been there. Only child, but wow. I heard a shit ton about Captain fucking America. I get it. His brother was Point Break, the jock, obviously."
"Jawbone? You are the same age?"
"Yep. And nope. Hundred years old, that guy."
"Get outta town."
"Super soldier serum."
"That is precious."
"It is!" Tony stopped, taking in a deep breath. Pepper was and any exuberance, even just a wiff of it, didn't seem right. He sobered up immediately. "Anyway."
"Humans and their tiny lifespans," said Val.
"Yeah, I'll be pushing daisies soon, sweetheart." He rubbed his goatee. "Thor's like the star guy on the team."
"And there's Loki. And he's....what the hell is he anyway? Severus Snape?"
"Until one day dad tells you that the monster you were taught to fear at night is you."
"Loki is," she paused. "Loki is not Asgardian, by blood."
"Thor told us...I mean very briefly, that he was adopted and....there was some....something, yeah. Sore spot with them so I heard. He went a little loony toons."
"It pains Loki greatly. Odin once set out to kill every frost giant living."
"Why'd he pick up Loki?"
"Thor and Loki would have grown up being told this story."
Tony frowned a little.
"Sworn enemy race, thousand years of war, very unstable peace. Now you find out that your entire life, you've been one of them. Makes every 'good job thor, bad job loki' look a lot different. Especially to a child. Loki is a child to us."
"So did Odin literally just...kinda hijack a kid so...wha? Wait. Huminawha?" he asked, intelligently.
"He is the equal to a... 16 year old human?"
"Did you not...was that not explained?"
"...the fuuuuck," Tony finished.
"Thor is only 23 in human years. Roughly."
"Ok. Mind exploded after today."
Val looked at his head, concerned.
"Wife, kid, gone. Asgardian bros....TEENAGER." He was reaching the limit of interaction and mind blowing. Almost. Once he started in the lab, there would be no coming out and no reason to come up for air. "But that's gotta be off, because that still doesn't....exclude the fact that they've accumulated that vast amount of knowledge and skill and training. They've had way longer, you have too, to go beyond what we know."
"Oh no, they are both over a thousand years old."
"So it wouldn't really translate. Right?"
"But our lifetime, is quite a bit longer than yours."
"So Loki...is still....a teenager."
"Someone who is 1000 years old to us would be the same to a teenager for you in terms of lifespan. He is. A child."
"How old is Thor?"
"Over 1500 years."
Tony was number crunching a sliding scale in his head. "....wow, ok, so emotional maturity...."
"They are both not as advanced as you or I."
"Yowzers," said Tony. At least this gave him something else to think about other than...things he couldn't think about. He needed to get numb. He needed to work. He needed to fix this, for everyone left alive.
"I believe also that is why Thor continues to give him more chances. Despite the multiple betrayals and multiple fake deaths."
Tony didn't like where this was going, "And if he landed in Thanos' lap...."
"He would have been putty."
"Fuck," summarized Tony, with an exasperated sigh.
"Even as an Odinson."
"So there's basis." He meant for what Lewis was poking around with, with what Natasha noted was a possibility. That was why he sang under his breath a little bit, "Lets do the mind warp again."
"I probably gotta talk to Clint and Nat about this," he added.
"I do not know them."
"Redheaded woman, stoic. Archer guy, sarcastic ass."
"An archer? Oh what fun."
"Yeah. He's like the world's best."
"That would be exquisite. I haven't been shot at by someone worthwhile in ages."
"Ask him. Might be up to it. He shot some arrows at Loki before."
"Did any land? I hope not otherwise I will be disappointed in him."
"Blew up in his face, or so Clint was bragging about."
"I guess he caught it but it still had a charge in it."
"Loki? Zero. Clint? One."
Val snickered, "The trickster was tricked. It does not happen often, he should be proud."
"Tell him sometime. Clint can use a back pat. Sarcastic one."
Tony took his phone back and scrolled through the videos. This was a good enough diversion. He'd be conquering quantum mechanics by the time the sun came up.
Val winced, clutching her forehead, whispering momentarily before reaching for a drink and dooooowning it.
"Just a fucked up teenager. Wow, smells like teen angst," Tony mumbled and then looked at Val. "You all right?"
Val nodded, rubbing her forehead. "I uh..."
"What's up. Headache?"
"Something like that."
"It's been a shitty long day. Better go get some rest. Welcome to stay out here if you want. Probably quieter than inside."
He vowed then and there that he was not sleeping in that master bedroom, ever again.
"I appreciate it, but I don't really sleep."
"Neither do I." He looked up just as the doors leading to the balcony opened up, and out walked the skulker of the hour, Loki.
Loki turned around immediately and walked back inside.
Tony pointed, "Neither does he."
"Lokiiii," Val said.
The doors shut.
"I think you scared him, Tony." she called out, "LOKI FRIGGASON!"
"...suspicious teenager is suspicious," Tony said, watching.
The doors, which were currently set to automatic, didn't open again.
"How dare he slam the door on me," she scoffed.
"Uh yeah. Ooops!" Tony shrugged. "Not coming back."
"I'm going to work," he said, figuring his post-dead wife break was over. He stood up, getting up onto his feet.
"Are there any places you don't want anyone in there? I was going to do a head count," the Valkyrie offered. "But I do not want to intrude on any private spaces."
"Don't open....there' s a closet, in the master bedroom." He had a moment. Handfuls of what was Pepper cupped in his hands. The closet. It was closest. He put the dust there and closed the door. He sat outside it and stared at his hands. Then at the spot on the floor. At where she once stood. And time sort of...drifted away like Pepper did, until he finally answered the notifications on his phone.
He was starting to feel every inch that 'merchant of death' moniker the papers once gave him. Parents. Butler. Mentor. Sokovians.
"Just...don't," he finally finished, trying to fight off a wave of nausea.
Tony grabbed a bottle.
"Gotta go crunch some dark matter and quantum energy particles and....yeah?" He was looking everywhere but at any other living beings right now.
"Don't start any mission to get yourself killed until everyone is awake. Please."
"Nah. Lab space. Up there." He motioned to a staircase just inside the glass doors leading to the roof, or what looks to be it, and a glass room atop it. "Lab. I got....work. Just find out if he's mind fucked so we can clear him or get Lewis to stop worrying or whatever. I like her. She's a friend.
"Otherwise I'm not joking. They'll bury him deep. After this is over, I mean, work on it...we've got...stuff. Revenger Avenger stuff."
"I will follow Thor's lead if it comes to that.
"Thor's biased. Follow your own lead. No one else's. It's what I do." Tony took a swift swig off the bottle while walking inside.
"Gut instinct!" he called out.
Val chuckled. "Thor is the best person I have ever known. I'd be honored to die for him."
"Me too, but biased. Asgard's probably messed him up too."
"Let me know if you need anything," she offered.
Tony walked toward the sliding glass doors. They parted like the sea parted for Moses when he waved his arms open, dramatically.
"Will do. I got this. I'm used to losing people," he said, a little too cheerily to be believable. He began strut-staggering up the stairs to the lab, and was out of sight in an instant. He wasn't coming down again, either.