Disclaimer: Don't own.


Chapter Twenty Eight

"I'm going to skin him." Harry groused lowly as he literally rolled out of bed, not even bothering to brace himself before he hit the floor. From there he dragged himself to his feet and looked around in irritation. "JARVIS, what time is it?" He rumbled.

"It is six fifty, Mr. Potter. Would you like me to put on coffee for you? I just made a pot for Mr. Rogers before he left for his morning run, but he seems to have consumed it all." The AI replied.

Harry frowned. He'd only been asleep for an hour. Apparently Fenrir thought that was enough sleep. "Yeah, that would be great, thanks." He replied absently. With renewed annoyance, he began searching again for the wolf pup who had decided that it was a prime time to play, and had jerked the human unceremoniously back to the waking world by pouncing repeatedly on his chest, then running off.

When it had been made apparent that neither the wolf nor his brother were in the room, Harry stumbled in a zombie-like manner out the door. He knew he had closed in the night before, but it had somehow been opened enough for both animals to get out.

"I hate mornings." He muttered, grunting and scowling as he tripped over somebody's shoe that was left in the middle of the floor. After that JARVIS made sure to light his way clearly. The two culprits were nowhere to be seen. Harry marveled slightly at that. After all, it wasn't easy for Sleipnir to conceal his bulk. The smell of coffee distracted him from his search for revenge a few minutes later, and drew him into the kitchen area. He picked a mug out of the cupboard then looked from it to the full carafe, put the cup back, and got a much larger one. He was tempted t just drink straight from the pot, but Pepper would probably have his hide for that.

A few moments later he was glad for the decision , because the woman herself came striding confidently into the kitchen, her smart dress suit and neatly pinned up hair a stark contrast to his rumpled clothes and most likely disastrous hair. He really couldn't muster up the brain power to care, though. He took the monstrous cup to the counter and slumped onto one of the tall bar stools set up at the kitchen's large island, only making a small grunting sound in acknowledgement at the woman's presence. She smiled and rolled her eyes, obviously used to people who had to take time to reboot their brain.

"Good morning, Mr. Potter. Did you sleep well?" She asked brightly.

"Harry." He grunted, scowling into his cup.

"I'm sorry, what?" She asked as she poured herself a cup of coffee in a mug that was significantly smaller than the one he held.

"I asked you to call me Harry." He reminded her.

The woman smiled again. "Of course. Then you must call me Pepper."

"'Kay."

She took the seat beside him, perching daintily on her own tall chair, and they sat in companionable silence while the sky outside the window grew greyer with pre-dawn light. Harry allowed the caffeine from his nearly drained drink wash through his system with relief. He was going to be needing a lot of it today, he expected.

He was about to ask Pepper a question when his body froze up. On an unseen horizon, the sun made its first appearance. At the same time a feeling both familiar and alien washed over the exhausted wizard. It was only there for a moment before it dissipated, gone just as quickly as it came.

"Mr. Potter? Mr. Potter? Harry!" Pepper called softly, a worried look on her face. He snapped from his stupor.

His face crinkled with thought. "I'm sorry, Pepper... I've gotta-" Before he could lurch off his stool, Sleipnir ambled into the room, a sleeping Fenrir on his back. As if they had not been Merlin-knew-where for the past half hour.

"So you felt it finally?" The horse asked, and Harry got the distinct feeling that Sleipnir was probably laughing at him.

"Yeah, I felt it. Whatever it was. Where have you been?" He demanded.

"That is of no consequence. What matters is that you know what it was that you just felt. And I suspect you do."

Running his hand through his hair in a gesture that had followed him through years and lifetimes, the wizard scowled. "I felt... like you two, and Hel, but not exactly. So I'm guessing that was-"

"Our brother, yes. He has been sending out that signal to us every morning since our arrival on this planet. You have missed it each time. I had to convince Fenrir to wake you up so you would not do so again." Sleipnir's tone was chiding.

"Well, I'm sorry, but I was a bit busy to notice a signal at sunrise that only lasts a single moment. And you couldn't have just told me about it? You had to wake me up for it?"

"I'm sorry but... what's going on?" Pepper asked, watching a conversation that she only knew one side of.

"I adopted a bloody sadist and his unwitting accomplice, is what's going on." Harry grumbled, glaring dully at Sleipnir.

The horse sniffed derisively. "I'm no sadist, I merely wanted to make sure you felt the signal. You would not be able to track it by me telling you about it. Only if you felt it consciously for yourself."

"A warning would have been nice, though. Right now I can't even generally pinpoint it, because I wasn't expecting a signal. My magic needs to be poised to follow the signal back to its point of origin, and it most certainly wasn't ready today." The wizard shot back.

He didn't notice Steve come into the kitchen, back from his early morning run. The hero blotted his face with the towel around his shoulders. He raised his eye brow when he took in the scene of the exhausted looking dark haired man glaring at the bored looking horse. And the woman who was looking between the two with confusion written all over her face.

He sidled over to her. "What's going on?" He murmured lowly.

Pepper shrugged her thin shoulders. "I'm not entirely sure, but from what I can tell, Harry just recieved some sort of signal that he needs to track but can't because he wasn't prepared to do so."

Steve tilted his head slightly, and wished for what wasn't the first time that he could hear what Sleipnir was saying. It would probably clear up a lot. Since Harry wasn't even acknowledging him, he figured that it would be a while before he found out what was going on, so there was no use standing around listening to only half of the story. He wondered off to his room to take a shower.

Pepper shot one last look at the two before following Steve's lead and leaving them to it. Tony had an early morning meeting anyway, and he was going whether he liked it or not.

Not even noticing the byplay, Harry and Sleipnir were left alone. "Then you will have to listen for it again tomorrow." The horse-god said with casual ease.

Harry scowled. Sure, the horse could demand that of him no problem. He wasn't the one who would have to act as a go between for two worlds today. Once again Harry was leaving the two at Stark Tower while he dealt with matters in Asgard. "So that's it then, be up at sunrise tomorrow, or waste another day with no idea where to start searching for Jormungand?"

"Yes." Sleipnir replied instantly and flatly.

The man groaned and slumped, choosing to turn his gaze into his empty cup. "I'm going to need more coffee for this."

Sleipnir just snorted, and a smug gleam entered his eyes.

OoOoOoO

Harry stifled another jaw cracking yawn as Martha Banks stared down at him from her screen. "And that is our only choice. Allow Loki to walk freely on Earth? Just like that?"

If the wizard was feeling more charitable, he would have complimented the woman on her steel nerves. He knew she had to have already experienced the first life, as all the others had, and she was the only one who wasn't cowering in her screen, though the lines around her mouth were sharper than they were the day before.

"Just like that, Councilwoman." He said airily. "Trust me, Loki is getting his comeuppance."

"I would rather we be allowed to execute him." She glared venomously down at him, the unsaid 'and you too' hung in the air, ignored blatantly by the wizard, "than you use your unnatural powers freely on him." The other men and women on the screens made vague sounds of agreement, but immediately quieted when he glanced flatly their way.

He rolled his eyes. Cowards. Though he had known that before. What kind of government council ran their agency by hiding behind bad lighting and great distances? Apparently one so mistrusting and cowardly that they didn't even let the person they left in charge know who they were. Though of course Fury knew that without them telling him anyway. He was crafty like that. "Do you think you could execute him, Madame? A man so powerful he's known as a god? And I doubt his father would be happy with you if you were to even try. And believe me, where his sons are powerful, Odin is power itself. I would not try his patience."

Martha scowled, and huffily turned off her display. The others scrambled to follow her lead.

Turning to Fury, Harry finally let the yawn loose. "I hate dealing with politicians." He complained to the man, who was looking at him with new respect. "They're so... politiciany."

"... Poli... ticiany?"

"Can you come up with a better word to describe them?"

The director thought about it for a moment, then let it go. No, he really couldn't.

"Alright then. So are you ready?" Harry asked, offering the man his hand. Fury looked at it like it was a viper that would suddenly decide to strike at him if given the chance.

"Ready? I was under the impression that you would be bringing Odin here." He said, frowning.

Harry shrugged. "I can't. At least, I don't think I can. When I said Odin was power, I wasn't kidding, or exaggerating. His power field would effect mine too badly for transport, causing a rippling that could either kill me and leave him floating in a void between dimensions, or could drop us on a world that is nowhere near our destination. In theory anyway. And I for one don't want to test that theory in the lightest. Mainly because dying in the void would mean I would come back to life there, under the same conditions, which would result in instant death, then rebirth in an endless, painful loop." He shook his head. "Safer all around that I bring you to him. Powerful though you are politically, I've no doubt, there's no spark in you that'll leave me in an infinite loop of painful deaths."

"Right... okay. So we're going to Asgard then?" Fury said, clearing his throat and wondering just how many times Potter had died in the past in order to speak of future deaths, even the possibility of endless deaths, in such a blase manner. He took the offered hand of the man who was his newest headache.

"To Asgard then." The world-walker said with a short nod, and with no further ceremony dragged them both into the flow of powers that he didn't really understand, into a debate he wasn't really looking forward to, that would lead to a future he wasn't sure he would enjoy.

Altogether, this was going to be fuuuun.

OoOoOoO

Fury shook himself unconsciously when he set foot on the solid ground of the Bifrost chamber. "That was... unsettling." He admitted. Harry quirked an eyebrow at him.

"You get used to it."

The Director leveled a dead pan look at him. "Hopefully I won't have the opportunity to."

Harry snorted and moved past him towards the entrance, where Heimdall stood guard as he usually did. "Director Fury, this is Heimdall of the All-Seeing-Eye. Heimdall, I'm sure I don't need to introduce Fury to you."

Heimdall smiled stiffly. "I know who he is. I have been watching him more closely than I do most other Midgardians due to the fact that some of his plans involve Thor."

"You've been watching me?" Fury demanded, crossing his arms.

The wizard glanced at him. "Not like he has much choice. What part of 'All-Seeing' did you not get? That sort of power isn't something you can turn on and off." He brushed off the man's slight outrage, knowing it would fizzle quickly if he allowed himself to listen to logic. "So, Heimdall, how are the repairs to the Rainbow Bridge going?"

"Well, now that the source of power that was used in the original construction is back in our hands. But now that I have the opportunity, I was considering some changes-"

Harry and Heimdall began talking about theories and ideas that Fury couldn't even begin to comprehend, and the man just stood off to the side, waiting to be remembered. After what felt like an eternity, but in reality was only a few minutes, he cleared his throat.

The world-walker glanced at him, sighed, and pulled away from his friend. "We'll continue this later, I suppose. I guess I can't put off today's political dance any longer."

The god nodded and gave him a sympathetic look, and the wizard led the spy-master off, towards the golden castle. Harry had hoped that Odin would at least have someone meet them at the Bifrost chamber, but this was, first and foremost, a political meeting. Odin would most likely have his entire family on their gilded thrones in the throne room, dressed to intimidate.

Not that Harry could really blame him. On everything else today, the god was at a disadvantage. He was sending his younger son to Earth to pay repparations, and could only hope that he would come back a better person than he left. Odin also knew that his heir saw Fury as someone of power and position, and could easily become used to taking the human's orders while he worked with the Avengers. That was not a good habit for someone who was so close to inheriting the throne. When Odin and Fury were both long gone, and Thor was left in charge of his realm, he needed to be used to being the one giving the orders, not relying on someone else to do so.

Harry wished that he didn't find it so easy to predict and read the king, but having held a similar postition, it was impossible not to.

Director Fury walked quietly beside him, leaving the wizard to his pensive thoughts. He 'entertained' himself by looking around, taking in the sights with much less awe than any other human ever would. Instead his eye swept the area with practiced ease, picking out people who had hidden themselves to watch the king's guest and the human walk up to the castle.

It usually felt like it took such a short amount of time, but today's trek between the Bifrost chamber and the golden castle felt like the slow march to the gallows, in Harry's opinion (another unpleasant thing he had experienced). He was going to have to be the diplomatic middle ground between two bull headed males who were probably going to get along as well as a cat and a dog.

He could already feel a headache brewing behind his tried eyes.

They went through the front entrance uncontested, the gold helmed guards nodding to the world-walker, and staring as subtly as they could at the human with him. Harry waved absently. He would stop and talk, as the two guards had often given Fenrir tidbits of food when he and Harry were heading out, but he had bigger fish to fry.

Harry grabbed the other man's arm outside the doors of the throne room, speaking lowly and quickly. "I would give you tips on how to deal with Odin, but I know you'll probably just ignore me. Just... don't be too disrespectful. The guy could fry you in a peak of irritation. Remember Fury, to your precious council, you're replaceable."

That last bit was most likely a lie, but it would hopefully get Fury to be a little more respectful.

Fury sneered. "I am the world's spymaster. There's no one who can replace me."

"I wouldn't be so sure." With no further wait, he threw open the large golden doors. As he had predicted, the royal family of Asgard were dressed to impress and intimidate. Odin sat proudly on the gilded throne, Frigga standing slightly off to his left, Thor to his right, and a subtly bound Loki standing right behind his brother. They all gleamed almost blindingly.

The moment they entered, there was a breathless pause, the calm before the storm.

Harry pointedly conjured and donned a pair of sunglasses.

Thor laughed in his booming manner.

The moment was broken.

"World Walker." Odin thundered, "This is the human you spoke of?"

Harry sketched a short bow nodded respectfully. "Yes, All-Father. This is the Midgardian Nicholas Fury." He nudged the man.

Fury glanced at him.

'Bow.' Harry mouthed.

Fury smirked and ignored him.

Harry sighed.

This was definitely going to be a fun negotiation.

OoOoOoO

Fury had his arms crossed, his jaw set stubbornly.

Odin's power crackled around him.

Thor looked between the two with worry.

Harry sat sprawled in a lounge chair he had conjured earlier, drinking coffee from the thermos he had packed. This staring contest had been going on for ten minutes. It was like watching a pair of bulls butt heads. Or was it just rams that did that?

Shaking the thought out of his head, Harry glanced at his watch and sighed. It was almost midnight back on Earth. He had a little over seven hours before he had to track the signal Jormungand was sending out.

And the 'negotiations' looked as if they were no closer to being settled than they were when Harry and Fury arrived eight hours ago.

Fury demanded too much, Odin was willing to give too little.

Clapping his hands to call everyone's attention to himself and standing up, Harry knew it was time to end it.

"I should have listened to my first instinct, and that was to do these stupid negotiations myself. But when you-" He scowled at Fury, "Demanded to be the one to do it, I figured that maybe you would be wise enough. I was wrong. You honestly thought that you would be able to convince the King of Asgard to let you execute his son if Loki tried anything devious? He's the God of Mischief. He's the very definition of devious. And you-" He shot an accusing look at Odin, "You know what's at stake here, and what needs to be done, and you're just dragging this out and turning it into a contest of wills. How in the universe did you convince yourself that I would be willing to ferry Loki back and forth between worlds every single day? Not happening. So here's how it's going to be, no ifs, ands, or buts. Loki is coming with us. He will live on Earth for five years minimum. He'll help rebuild the parts of the city that he helped destroy. I'm going to add my own little flavor of punishment on top of that. You can visit. But he won't be coming back here for at least five years. And if he tries anything too outrageous, I'll deal with him. Is. That. Clear?" He knew his magic was manifesting visibly. He didn't care. He was tired. And sick of watching these two all but compare penis sizes.

"Ah... seems like a fair deal to me, World Walker. As long as you keep your word." Odin said after gaping at him. He knew he could not expect much from this, and had hoped for a bit more... but he knew better than to argue with the wizard in this state.

Harry snorted. "I am nothing if not a man of my word."

"Now see here Potter-" Fury began, but his mouth sealed itself shut.

"No, you see here, Fury." He pointed at Odin. "God." At Fury, "Human." Then at himself. "Tired of this shit. We're done here."

Turning away from the dark skinned man, he addressed Odin with a forced smile. "Great, we have a deal. Everyone reasonable goes home happy. Now, I'm leaving in twenty minutes, could you have everything Loki is bringing in the entrance hall by then?"

The god nodded. "Of course. Most of it is already gathered."

"Good, well then, Thor, Loki, Fury, into the hall with you. I want to talk to Odin and Frigga alone."

Thor happily dragged his brother and the still silenced Director out of the room. Harry visibly deflated. Odin pulled himself from his chair and made his way over to the wizard, Frigga close behind him.

"You will take care of him?" Odin asked.

Harry rubbed his eyes. "Yeah, as well as I can."

The All-Father sighed. "That is all I can ask."

"He will come back... different?" Frigga queried hopefully.

Here, the world walker grinned sharply. "He'll be different by the end of the first day. Trust me."

"What do you have planned, Harry?" Odin rumbled.

The dark haired man's innocent expression did not appease him one bit. "Nothing that will affect him physically. But... well, this will be a lot of fun for me."


This chapter. This fucking chapter. GAH! Harry's little outburst may have been a product of my irritation with this chapter. It did not want to be written. At all. I had to force it out. Which makes me feel like this chapter sucks. I'm not sure. But if it does, oh well. At least I'm done with it. I'm going to go drink tea, eat chocolate, and fume. Hasta.

Lionna