Stark tower, now with only the letter 'A' remaining on display, was undergoing reconstruction work on the damage inflicted by the recent alien invasion. Tony was happy to keep the 'A' as it was, realizing it could stand for 'Avengers'. Under normal circumstances he would have had his surname restored with the rest of the building, however Dr. Banner was now living there too, and he was frequently visited by other members of the team. S.H.I.E.D were keeping their distance for now, but who knew when they would next darken his doorstep.
Tony Stark was tweaking and tinkering with his current project. He wanted to make his inventions more appealing visually as well as being fully functional. He was done with weapons trade: It had been going on for far too long, and now he was more interested in creating useful tools and machines that would be useful to the public. He did not want to please the average lazy person by making something that did all of their work for them. He simply wanted to create a better quality of life for those who needed it, and maybe create more time for people to spend with their families. Right now though, he was having a break from all this selflessness, and was reworking the dynamics and design of his next suit.
Tony had been frustrated over the past few weeks, in more ways than one. He had drifted away from Pepper, who had begun to see a change in Tony. It was a change that Tony himself was confused by. He could not place it, but he just felt differently, and that had made Pepper choose to put some distance between them. Tony remembered how strange it had been for him when she had explained to him. She had said that he was still the same person, but something had been altered by the events surrounding the invasion. Tony had let her go. He still did not know why. He had kicked himself for allowing her to walk away from something that had clearly been working out. But then he had also felt right in his decision. He wondered if they simply weren't meant for each other, or if he was really just loosing the last remaining fibres of his sanity. Subconsciously, a part of him had moved somewhere else, though he had no idea where: It had gone on that day when the Avengers had won, and Tony had saved the planet by redirecting a missile into the heart of the enemy space ships. Something that had happened that day had left a gap in him though. He had turned to his machines for consolation.
The billionaire philanthropist playboy was just setting up his airbrush to give the armour a nice coat of paint, when he heard thunder in the hallway.
"Oh great," Tony mumbled, "Goldilocks has come for dinner. She'll gobble up the contents of my fridge."
"Who is this famished woman of whom you speak?" Came the enthusiastic male voice, as Thor strode happily into the room. "And greetings to you old friend!" Tony did not recall these supposed many years of buddy-hood with the Norse god, but he let it go,
"Oh hey, Thor; I wasn't expecting you. As you can see I'm a tad busy right now and..." Tony stopped making excuses as the bulk of a man was clearly not listening. Thor was peering down at one of Tony's old models for a type of bazooka. Tony winced as his hand moved to his forehead, his brow furrowing, "Thor, man you really don't want to touch that."
"What is this exactly? It vaguely resembles a Midguardian hair drying device." Thor lifted up the weapon as if it were no heavier than a pistol. Tony thought the all-muscle man must have no difficulty getting women to like him, especially with that puppy like behaviour of his. Thor saw Tony's horrified expression as he swung the gun around, so he put it carefully back on its stand. "I actually came here with a request." Thor finally moved on to the reason for his untimely arrival,
"Please say it doesn't involve aliens." Tony sighed,
"Not quite. It is my brother you see." Thor began, causing Tony's ears to prick up. He could not help but remember the intense encounter he had experienced with the god of mischief and lies. He had felt strange: unnerved, challenged, and yet somehow in awe of him. Loki was not a man one forgot so easily. "He has been imprisoned for a while now, but he will not give in to my pleas. After only an hour of imprisonment, his boredom sent him mad." Tony was surprised that Loki could achieve a new level of mad,
"Thats hardly surprising, being locked up and all. Prisoners do that." Tony commented,
"Perhaps, but a week later he began making... requests." Thor's tone told Tony more than he had meant to,
"He's not really in a position to be making demands. What does he have that you want?" He asked the god of thunder,
"His old self. I want my brother back, Tony Stark. I want the old Loki." Tony Nodded,
"And what were his demands?" Thor hesitated before replying,
"He wishes to negotiate. He wants company. He becomes angry when I try to speak with him. Yet when I asked him who he would speak with, he said that he wished to know more about Midguardian 'technology.' He said that when he tried to take control of you, that something about you would not let him. He wants to know why." Thor paused there, seeing the confused look on Tony's face,
"I don't think its a good idea to tell the bad guys how all my tricks work. My arc reactor must be what stopped him, but I don't want him knowing that. If he ever escaped, he could find away to use it against me." Tony hoped that Thor was not ignorant enough to let this information slip in front of his brother.
"I understand, however I would like you to come back with me to Asguard and aid me in keeping Loki from going over the edge. I fear that I have had too large a part to play in his undoing to be of any good to him now." Tony found it amusing that this god still had hope for his brother, after everything that he had done.
"Well I'd love to help you Thor, buddy, but I'm needed here. I gotta get this done before my current suit gets bashed up inevitably in some natural disaster or whatever war some idiot gets us into." Thor looked crestfallen upon hearing these words, until Tony saw a spark in his blue eyes,
"It is a shame Stark, I was going to introduce you to some of the finest Asguardian women. We could all dine together." Tony blinked. Dinner with goddesses? Thor knew how to bargain.
"I'm listening." Tony said, wanting to milk this offer for all it was worth,
"And you would be served by the palace staff of course." Tony did have the best servant in the world, as well as all the money one man could possibly need. Thor would have to do better than that, "And I am sure, that if you succeed in helping my brother, that Odin will reward you." Tony sucked in a breath,
"What kind of rewards does the all-father hand out? Eight legged ponies? Arranged marriages to warrior princesses?"
"If you earn it." Thor smiled. Tony was not sure that he wanted an eight legged horse, however it sounded as if the sky was the limit with this guy.
"Say, for a moment, that I was to go along with this." Tony began pacing around the room, "If I was needed here. If something happened on earth, would you be able to send me back?"
"Of course. The Bifrost has been repaired enough for the occasional trip, so we are only using it for emergencies and important visits such as this one. Heimdall would alert us immediately if anything were to happen that would require your attention." Tony nodded as he continued pacing,
"I suppose I could give it a shot. But if Loki, if your bother isn't showing any signs of cooperating after a few days, I'm coming straight back." Thor's face lit up,
"Thank you for kindly accepting this quest." He said, slapping Tony on the back: causing him to crash into his desk, "Oh sorry. I forget my strength." Thor's expression was indeed apologetic, but Tony grumbled.
After a shot of brandy, Tony dragged himself back over to where Thor was. He had the new rings for his suit on his wrists, and he was carrying the suit in it's compacted form of a briefcase. Thor then lead Tony to the Bifrost sight.
Tony was not sure what to make of the rainbow bridge. It made him wonder if Thor had not really entered his room but if someone had slipped an LSD into his drink. This thought was seeming more likely, until the light of the Bifrost died down, and he could make out the city in front of him. Asguard. It was like nothing he had ever seen. The shining towers of light rose in tall spires, making the city look like a beacon. That was, Tony realized, probably what it was. A beacon of hope. He smiled, wondering if he would faint at some point from shock. He had seen a lot of strange things in the past few months though, so despite the overwhelming presence of the celestial place, he swallowed and strode forwards onto the bridge.
On the bridge Tony was greeted by a very tall man who made him think immediately of a Minotaur, but then he remembered that was a Greek legend, and that all this was supposed to be Norse. He did not know much about mythology though, so who was he to try and differentiate? He just nodded to the guy, trying not to think about how the man seemed to ooze power just from standing there. His image alone was imposing. It was the armour, Tony told himself. He wanted to believe that in jeans and a T, the god would be his equal. Yes, jeans made everything casual.
Heimdall nodded back to Tony, before switching off the Bifrost to let it cool down. He returned to his position on the bridge to see that Tony was walking away faster than necessary. Heimdall chuckled to himself in his deep voice, leaning slightly on his staff.
Tony was trying not to look down. He was not afraid of heights, and he had flown into space before, but the bridge was not wide enough to hide the vastness of the chasm below them. The abyss was not dark, but Tony could see how far he would fall if he did somehow go too near the edge. The bridge was, however, far too wide for this to be a problem. Tony just kept walking, trying to focus on the reward that he might receive if he should succeed. Seeing the city was an enticing prospect, and he wanted to try some of this Asguardian mead he had heard so much about.
As they reached the end of the bridge, Thor stopped. Tony turned, to see the god hesitating,
"Something you haven't told me?" Tony's eyebrow raised of its own accord,
"Only this. You should know, that you are the first human being to enter these walls." Tony could take the hint. He would need to pay attention to how everyone behaved. He did not usually care who he pissed off, but if he came across Odin, the last thing he wanted to do was offend him.
"I have to ask," Tony braved the question, "What happens to anyone who makes your father angry?" He swallowed again,
"It depends. I was stripped of my powers and exiled until further notice. Loki was imprisoned, gagged and tied. And we are his closest family. You do not wish to know how he treats those he does not care about who betray him. But fear not, you have come honourably to do us a favour. He will not wish to make an enemy of Midguard either." Thor finished explaining, and seemed to have freed himself of a large burden. Tony still felt that he was missing something though. Why would they suddenly allow a human being into Asguard after the thousands of years they had been forbidden, just to keep a prisoner company? It was all highly suspicious, but for now Tony would play along. Once he had a better idea of what he would be dealing with, he could decide to leave or stay and try to complete his 'quest'.
Part of Tony was strangely looking forward to seeing Loki. He wanted to know what it looked like. He wanted to see what it was like to fight to become king, only to fail and wind up bound and locked away. Tony had never been the spectator before. As he thought about this, he was beginning to wonder if perhaps he was the right guy for the job. He had been there. He had had his low moments. His company had done more damage than Loki. He had done good too though. Tony knew how to rise from the ashes. He might just be able to help Loki, if he wanted to be helped.
They strode forward through the city gates, and something rose inside Tony. He could not name it, but it filled him with something good, as he drew nearer to the people of Asguard. They were simply dressed, yet elegantly. The men were somehow different to mortals; perhaps it was something in their eyes. There was an eternal desire for all the men here, Tony could see no greed in the hearts of these people. He was not far off believing in heaven, when they were only walking past the first tower.
The buildings grew more grand and tall as they approached the palace. Thor told Tony that Loki was being held deep underground in a guarded cell. Tony wondered what it was like, living in all this splendour, then being taken captive where you could not see it. To be brought up with royalty, only to learn that your perception of your own existence was a lie. Loki had been adopted by the all-father, but was told that he was his son. Growing up as an equal to the heir to the throne, but knowing he never had a chance at it. Thinking you were second only in the eyes of your father. Tony swallowed for a third time.