AN: Sorry about the sudden hiatus! Life got in my way, and before I knew it, I was way late.


The next few days were filled with tense, awkward silences, helped only by the fact that the Asgardians stayed in their rooms for most of the day. Capsicle was still staying at the Tower, possibly under Fury's orders (but most likely by his own noble choice), but Tony didn't see much of him, either.

In fact, the billionaire's usual schedule continued at a steady pace: wake up, coffee, work, coffee, more work, more coffee, sleep (optional), rinse and repeat. Now, he wouldn't say that having guests in what had previously been his and Bruce's space bothered him, but…

It kind of did. Awkward silences are only funny when you're an outside observer.

He hadn't seen Loki since that night on the roof, and he wasn't sure whether he was glad about that or not. Something just seemed off (Loki sane was probably it), and his first urge was to try and understand what wasn't working (Loki sane was probably it).

"Tony," Bruce called from the other side of the lab. "You're starting to obsess."

Tony started in surprise, nearly dropping the tweezers he was using to insert… something into… something; he wasn't quite sure. He'd have to check the design schematics later (also, mental note: must fix brain-to-mouth filter).

"Come on, Brucie," he said, swivelling around to look at the other scientist and pointing the tweezers at him. "You can't say it isn't bugging you, I know it has to be. Nice big puzzle like this, of course I'm going to poke at it."

Bruce looked over from his own thing (something to do with biology, maybe). "Yeah, but this is the fifth time in the last two hours you've mentioned it." (Really must fix brain-to-mouth filter.)

Jabbing the tweezers at him once, Tony turned to reach for his mug, grimacing at the lack of caffeine within. "But come on, Bruce, it's not just Lokes. I mean, look at Thunderboy! It's like they, they flip-flopped or something. Bizzaro Thor."

"Tony, I think we should leave it alone," Bruce said softly, stopping what he was doing but not turning around. "We already know what Loki ends up being like, we already know what happens. Trying to fix the future or the past never ends well, no matter what you reference."

Tony gave a frustrated sigh and tossed the tweezers back onto his work table, glaring at them as they nearly clattered to the floor. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, don't mess with timelines and all that jazz. But I don't want to mess with it, Bruce, I want to… to understand, you know? How could Past-Lokes have gone all Alien Dictator? I mean, I'd just like to, to, to know, right?" Still gripping his empty mug, he sprang up out of his seat, moving to a clean (mostly clean) corner of the room, Bruce watching him in consternation.

"Tony, what're you doing?"

"Nothing, Brucie. Hey, J, could you bring up the video feed of Thing 1 and Thing 2's room?"

"Of course, Sir," the AI responded, promptly bringing up a holographic screen.

"Tony…"

"It won't hurt anything, Bruce, come on. I just wanna see what they're doing in there all day."

"You mean you're being nosy."

"Tomato, tomahto."

Still emanating an air of general disapproval, Bruce finally left his own table, moving closer to the holographic screen dancing at Tony's fingertips.

The Asgardians had been situated in a relatively sparse (at least by genius billionaire standards), uninhabited room in the Tower's top floors, "the better to keep an eye on them", as Fury had growled.

To Tony's surprise, Thor was up and pacing, glowering furiously (that part, not so much a surprise), gripping Mjölnir tightly as he moved back and forth across the span of the room. It didn't look like he was actually talking, but Tony bet he was too busy vibrating in anger to bother with words.

Loki, on the other hand, was seated at the foot of the bed, watching his brother pace. He looked unhappy (troubled was a better word for it), and he was talking, to Thor, obviously, though that didn't seem particularly appealing to the gods' secret observer.

"J, gimme some sound," Tony muttered after several unsuccessful seconds of trying to read lips.

As it turned out, Thor was too busy growling to actually converse, but Tony called it close and gave himself a point anyway, ignoring Bruce's mildly disapproving sigh and intently listening in on the brothers' conversation.

"Thor, please," Loki entreated. "We are guests here, you don't understand what you may cause-"

"Prisoners, more like!" Thor snapped, whirling on Loki and gesturing towards the door with Mjölnir. "These Midgardians think they can trap Thor Odinson, Prince of Asgard? I will make them regret such presumptions!" With that, he started towards the door, raising Mjölnir as if intending to smite the offending obstacle where it stood.

Tony and Bruce exchanged a worried glance as Loki leapt up to grab his brother's arm. "Brother, please," he entreated, moving between Thor and the door. "We cannot leave this realm yet, not until-"

"Sir, Director Fury is calling and politely suggests that you meet with Captain Rogers for an urgent discussion," JARVIS interrupted, cutting the sound on the feed to relay his message.

"Tell him I'm busy," Tony muttered in exasperation, still watching the two gods in their silent argument. "Doing stuff, I dunno. Make something up, J."

"Shall I tell him that you and Dr. Banner are occupied with eavesdropping on your two guests?"

Bruce gave a soft laugh while Tony looked around the lab in indignation. "I don't remember programming sarcasm into you."

"I am an AI, Sir. Following that definition, I learn and adapt to suit the situation."

"Whatever," Tony said with a slight smile. "Besides, he'd probably be overjoyed to hear that I'm violating the privacy of alien entities."

"Captain Rogers and Director Fury are awaiting your arrival on the top floor," JARVIS continued, the holographic displays disappearing entirely.

Still smiling faintly, Bruce departed the lab, Tony close behind (always good to see Brucie smiling). The elevator was just down the hall, and it was a very short ride up to the top.

The Capsicle was wearing that disapproving patriotic look Tony was so familiar with (reminded him of that disapproving disappointed look dear Dad had favored), opening his mouth to chastise the two of them, probably.

"Okay, so, last time I checked, my tower, my rules," Tony quipped before Rogers could speak. "Ordering a man around in his own home, what's the world come to?"

Fury wasn't amused, already frowning (just a lip twitch, that's all Tony asked) as he glared between the billionaire and the physicist. "Now that you've deigned to join us," the Director barked, "perhaps we can finally address this new issue of ours."

"Thor and Loki have been behaving," Spangles broke in, turning the Patriotic Dad look on Fury now. "They haven't even left their room. Huginn and Loki said it would only take a few days before they could go back to their own time." Tony would have bet his considerable fortune that Cap had to resist from pulling Patriotic Puppy Dog Eyes at Daddy Fury.

The Director took a moment to glance between the three Avengers. "It's possible that… new information has come to light," he stated, brow reaching new levels of furrow. "Agents Barton and Romanoff made a formal report after the little reunion at the infirmary."

"Does it still count as a reunion, if half the party is time travelling from the past?" Tony wondered aloud, drawing a small smile from Bruce.

"What information?" the Captain asked, ignoring the remark with aplomb (Tony gave an internal sigh as he subtracted more points from the Sense of Humor category).

Heaving a sigh, Fury gritted his teeth and said, "... According to Agent Barton, there is a possibility that, three months ago, Loki may not have been operating of his own will."

The stunned silence was brief; Tony choked out a shocked, disbelieving laugh as he looked between the Captain and the Director.

"What, you mean like, mind-whammied?" Tony asked, mind racing and putting together a scattered assortment of pieces he hadn't seen before. "Like with the fancy stick?"

"Are you sure?" Cap asked, brow furrowing in all its patriotic glory.

Fury didn't seem sure in the slightest, but was spared from answering by JARVIS.

"Sir, Agents Barton and Romanoff have arrived. Would you like me to bring them up?" the AI inquired pleasantly, Tony responding with a hand wave.

For the two minutes it took the agents to arrive, the atmosphere was surprisingly strained; the Director and the captain were doing their fretting thing, and Bruce remained his quiet self. All of them (not counting a distracted smile from Bruce) ignored Tony's noble attempts at conversation, much to the billionaire's disappointment.

Down the hall, there was a soft ding as the elevator opened, and Birdboy and the lovely Ms. Romanoff entered the room a moment later. As always, Natasha was immaculately put together. Clint, on the other hand, wasn't looking nearly so well (though Tony had never spent much time around the guy, he was pretty sure Birdbrain didn't normally look like he was sleep-deprived and homeless).

"So," Clint said, after a few moments of silence. "I guess Fury's told you about our new problem."