When Silence Falls

By: The Hatter Theory

Chapter 11

Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to characters or concepts created by marvel (or Tolkien and Skyrim since I shamelessly borrowed a few names of metals and a dwarve city). Anywho.

Episodic chapter is short and episodic. Sorry.

Thor did not return to earth. Actually, Thor made several hunting trips to Vanaheim. Tony only knew this because Heimdall's observatory seemed to be working overtime, the bright light of the bridge opening flashing consistently even when Tony was back in Asgard. And because Thor had invited him, several times, to go hunting for 'warrior bonding', something Tony had gracefully turned down, not particularly keen to step into that series of accidents waiting to happen. He did however, wonder who Thor thought he was fooling.

Splitlip held to his word. He got the workshop, and the dwarves seemed more at ease around him instead of less. The library, if it could be called that, was nothing like Asgard's library, similar only in that books were bound. But even the texture of the paper was different. Thicker, less delicate, and the writing was thick, the letters written in a heavy hand, bold lines against the off color of the pages. The library was nestled into the same building that housed the workshop, and Tony wondered how separate the blacksmith's were from the rest. If it was a matter of status, of if their work for Asgard somehow lowered their social standing within the hierarchy. He never remembered to ask, and he was never keen to explore.

When he was first allowed to start working on an anvil, Split had given him a base metal, something akin to steel but stronger, and commanded he make a gauntlet. No size measurements, nothing, just the hasty command before the dwarf had moved over to his own anvil and begun work.

Tony began making tools instead. Files first, which were easy to shape. Splitlip had shaken his head and muttered, but hadn't stopped him. He spent time in his workshop scouring neat, precise lines into the smooth surface, and then letting them pile up haphazardly on the table.

Splitlip kept tossing metal at him when he first walked into the forge every day, and he continued making tools. Screwdrivers, big first, then smaller and smaller. Wrenches, pliers, clamps, hammers. The list went on. Most of it came almost naturally. Everything he would need to create a simple suit of armor. Split didn't comment.

If Tony was honest with himself, he was almost worried by how naturally it was coming to him, how easy it was to make everything from scratch. He had an engineer's mind, sure, but everyone should hit a stumbling block at some point, and he hadn't. That it came so easily didn't necessarily mean that it was a good thing. Maybe he just wasn't challenging himself enough.

Which was why he was pouring through books right now. After Thor had returned, shoulders sagging and expression bleak, what had been 'guilt' decided to become, well, he wasn't quite sure what it was. It wasn't shame. Shame was a foreign and utterly mortifying concept to him.

It was guilt. And he knew guilt. And even if it was because of Loki, well, he felt more guilt for Thor. Because Thor hadn't gone back to earth yet. Thor was going into town more and more often at night with his friends. Thor was going hunting on Vanaheim. Thor was everywhere but where he was supposed to be. And Tony felt bad about that, because Thor looked like shit when they crossed paths, and was back to asking him about Loki at every opportunity.

So he felt a little bad about driving Loki off. But he felt more bad about Thor. And he knew the only way to really fix either situation was to apologize.

Therein lay the rub.

Apologies were almost as foreign to his nature as shame. He just didn't do it. Apologies were for people that genuinely regretted their actions, and he couldn't ascribe genuine regret for pissing Loki off. Because it had been an accident. But he was more annoyed with the consequences than anything. Loki had caved his fucking skull in. So he'd already been punished. He shouldn't have to apologize. Except Thor. Damnit.

So he was doing what he did best. Because he couldn't verbally say 'I'm sorry', Starks just didn't fucking do that, especially not Tony Stark, he was figuring out how best to make Loki at least tolerate his existence and stop pissing on other people for what he'd done.

All in all, between his notes and help from Majhild, who'd actually approved his idea, he thought he was doing pretty well.

He just had to get Split to show him where the materials were kept.

"Oh, so now you want to make somethin' useful," Splitlip muttered.

"I was making useful things. Besides, I learned more making those things, so I won't screw things like this up."

"And what is this? I see a decent sketch and nonsense."

"It's not nonsense. I even did research," He stressed the word just so Split would know that he didn't normally go that route. "They're perfect, and it'll work for what I want to do."

"You still haven't told me what you're trying to do."

"That's so it looks more impressive if I pull it off, and not dumb as shit if I don't."

"Looks dumb as shit anyway."

"I'll make a deal. You let me try this, and if it fails, I stop being an insubordinate fuckhead and make whatever it is you tell me to make. I manage it, and you let me keep learning how I learn."

Splitlip looked more than tempted by the offer, eyeing him steadily, one eye almost shut. Tony waited patiently, not bothering to smile, even if their tone had remained light throughout the conversation. It wasn't a light decision. He had a feeling he had unintentionally screwed up somewhere along the way, and no one had taken the time to tell him. Or maybe he just hadn't noticed if they had. And he knew he was more than capable of missing 'hints'.

"Fair enough deal, Stark. Be interestin' to see if it works." That the dwarve didn't think it would went unspoken.

And like that, he was being led from the room behind the forge and down the tunnel to an open entrance that led down, instead of up. It veered away from the forges, down, curving slowly. The dim light from Split's lantern was insufficient for his height, and the tunnel was low enough that he felt his hair brushing against the top, forcing him to stoop a little just to be safe. The further in they went, the colder it became, and Tony found the quiet unsettling. There was nothing but the sound of their feet on the stone and the darkness that swallowed it.

He sensed the abrupt widening of the cave as much as saw it's edges in the dim light. As Splitlip walked through the room shadows glanced over dozens of sharp angles, growing and retreating, sliding over angle after angle. Within moments the light grew, although dim still, but the cave began to take on more solid proportions. The moment he saw the back wall, he began to understand. Splitlip continued lighting various lanterns while Tony remained oblivious, eyes on the neat stacks of metals. Shelves had been carved into the walls to hold chunks of varying sizes, the smallest on the top, biggest at the bottom. The further down the light reached, the smaller the bigger pieces became, the metals further from the entrance of the cave either being more precious of of heavier mass, or possibly both. Tony went over what he had learned and figured it was both, some of the metals being too heavy even for the natural shelves of the cave.

"Get what you need, and only what you need."

No indication of what materials were what. Tony shrugged, figuring Splitlip was testing to see if he even had an inkling of what he was doing. As though he wasn't being carefully watched, he walked past the different shelves, mentally naming the different ores and memorizing locations. Without asking about a ladder (and there had to be one somewhere, how else did the short bastards get anything down?) he used the shelves as a ladder and found the first, noting the almost tarnished sheen on it. Galvorn. It was lighter than he thought it would be, and he hoped the chunk he pulled down was enough. Dropping down and landing on his feet, he continued looking for the other metal. It wouldn't be in raw chunks like everything else, couldn't be if what he'd learned was true, so he easily skipped over shelf after shelf until he saw a shelf of hand made metals. From marble sized orbs to large, thin sheets of red and green, the dim light seemed to seep into the metal. Two thin sheets of the green (Loki had a pretty obvious color scheme) and he was done. When he turned back to Splitlip, he saw the dwarf was watching, expression neutral.

"Well, waitin' for my permission boy?"

Taking that as much as he would ever get, he walked past Split and back for the tunnel, careful to keep his head down, not so much to avoid hitting it, but to hide the grin he could feel itching at the corners of his lips. Shit eating, Clint had always called it. He was probably right, and Tony had a feeling Splitlip would only hit him if he managed to see it.


Tony didn't bother hiding his grin this time as he watched Splitlip examining the vambraces. They weren't one hundred percent completed yet, but the finishing touches didn't count towards construction. And Splitlip would probably brain him if he saw them.

"Took awhile, but I figured it out. Had to borrow a couple of small pieces just to test my theory before working with those," He answered, nodding at the gauntlets. Forging had been harder than he had initially anticipated. The two metals had opposing natures, and getting them to flow together with nothing but brute force had been damn near impossible, as though they recognized their opposing natures, like magnets trying to repel each other. And it was only that analogy that had kept him from skirting too closely to the uncomfortable, magic based explanations that had more readily available in the library.

Reaching for a mug of beer, Tony thanked whatever faceless dwarve kept his workroom stocked. He wasn't sure if the dwarves even drank water anymore, the only uses for it he'd seen thus far for cooling off either metal or themselves.

"Wouldn't still have those pieces, would you?"

"Feel free," Tony answered easily, grabbing the small, flat disk off of his table and tossing it to the smith. Splitlip caught it easily, eyes running over the textured surface. The gauntlet was sat on the table, forgotten as the dwarf turned the disk over to inspect the smooth side. It was smaller, rougher, granted, but maintained the same pattern as the gauntlets. The galvorn and tilkal were braided together, but more than that, each blended into the other. Tony wasn't sure if the combination worked as anything other than theory, but given the research he'd done, he'd bet dollars to donuts (not that he had either) that it would.

"Fine work." It was as close as a compliment he was going to receive, he knew it. And damn if he didn't feel a smidgen of pride to hear it, coming from Splitlip. He tried not to, didn't want to, but couldn't really stop it.

"Does that mean I get to be an insubordinate prick and keep doing this my way?"

"Maybe, if you show me how you accomplished this bit."

"More than willing. After I deliver those."

"Never did say who they're for."

"Does it matter? It's one of the Æsir, and you hate them all." The only answer was a grumble, though Tony knew it well enough to know it was an agreement.

"Long as it's not for Odin."

"Fuck no. Old One Eye won't get anything from me. Doesn't appreciate genius when he sees it."

"True enough. I'll leave you to it then," Split told him, turning on his heel and exiting the workroom. Tony didn't bother to comment on the fact that he'd taken the disk with him. Grabbing one of the gauntlets, he picked up the burin he'd fashioned earlier, specifically for this project. He'd murder for a dremel, but he hadn't gotten that far into making his own tools yet, though he had his heart set on figuring one out.

The inside of the gauntlets were flat and smooth, a minor miracle he'd barely accomplished. The colors blended more noticeably, the green and black, both more vibrant after being worked and polished some, twined and twisted around one another. Carefully he began to etch, free handing the words. That the letters were made of nothing but straight lines helped. He'd decided against any ornamentation, remembering that Loki didn't seem to favor it as much as Thor, or any of the other Asgardians for that matter.

Words he memorized slowly began to appear. Despite the ease of writing, he paid careful attention, spacing everything perfectly, blowing away the almost dust like particles that came free. When he finished, he picked up a polishing cloth, wishing desperately for Jarvis and his multitude of machines. Although, he admitted to himself as he watched the metals come to live, supple in his hands, he hadn't done a bad job. Not a bad job at all.


He was lost. In a forest. In another realm. Or on another planet, possibly. Why, why did everything have to look the same. And why, goddamnit, did it have to be getting dark?

Heimdall was probably laughing his ass off.

The horse beneath him blew out a gust of air, obviously as impatient as he was. Or bored.

"Quiet, or I'll force feed you a gps," Tony snapped impatiently, eyes still scanning the forest for any sign of a path. There was nothing, not even a sign that anyone had walked through the forest recently. And turned around as he was, he had no clue which way to head to get to the edge of the wood to find whatever village Mimir lived in. He somehow doubted showing up in the wrong one asking for the Asgardian would be received well, not if the attitude he'd seen before had been any indication of how the Vanir as a whole felt.

For lack of any better options, he picked a direction and urged the horse on, thanking whatever horse deities around that the horse seemed to be able to see well enough despite the quickly growing darkness. Eyes on the canopy above, he tried to gauge what time it was back in Asgard. He'd probably be late to the forge. Hopefully Split wouldn't hit him with whatever it was he normally hit him with. He still hadn't managed to see it, but had the feeling it was something like a mini flail. That's what it felt like at least.

As the horse continued and the shadows turned into complete darkness, Tony wondered how exactly he was going to give Loki the gauntlets. A verbal apology was pretty much out. He didn't really know how to make one, knew he couldn't fake it, and was positive it would only piss Loki off more. The gauntlets should speak for themselves. But Loki was also a prick, and would probably try to drag something out, if only to make him uncomfortable.

An errant prayer slipped out. Please let Loki not be there. He could just drop them off with Mimir and get back to Asgard. Sleep was pretty scarce these days anyway, so he'd skip bed and just head for the forge. Life would hopefully return to normal, and Thor would stop skulking around like a puppy that had been yelled at.

"You know, you're heading the wrong way," A kindly voice called out. Tony immediately recognized it and turned around in the saddle, not able to spot where Mimir was.

"Over here Stark." A spark, and then a steady ball of glowing blue light rose from Mimir's hands to hover over his head. Slipping down from the horse, Tony took the reins and walked over to the Asgardian, a gusty exhale of relief making itself known.

"Got turned around when I first headed into the forest," He admitted. No point in lying if Mimir had felt it necessary to come find him.

"One of the children saw you earlier," Mimir acknowledged. "When you didn't arrive, I supposed you didn't remember the way."

"Not used to the woods."

"And yet here you are."

"Got a delivery for Loki."


"Not much." He really didn't feel like explaining everything to Mimir. Mimir seemed like a pretty likable guy, and he didn't want to come off as a complete jackass. Time for that after making sure he didn't get banned from Vanaheim. The blue light made it easy to avoid fallen logs and the profuse undergrowth that would have otherwise tripped him. The horse was doing well enough, completely at ease. The reins were slack in his hands, and he was sure if he let go it would probably just continue to follow placidly.

"You've come a long way just to deliver a package. Thor has been on Vanaheim several times." He could hear the unspoken question and wondered what he could get away with saying.

"Personal. Ish. Besides, came almost straight from the forge. Hit the stables in Asgard and headed back for the observatory. And it's Raldbthar, the city." A change of topic would be amazing.

"Second only to Sindri's forge, from what I remember. Not a bad place to undergo an apprenticeship."

"The guys are nice enough. Haven't been able to see much of the city though."

"I suppose not. So, a gift for the prince from Raldbthar. Have you moved forward in your training?"

"Could say that. Split gave in and let me try out an idea I had. It worked, so I think I might actually be allowed to start working on what I want instead of the training assignments."

"Unusual. Dwarves are rarely moved to break patterns, especially those concerning the forge."

"I'm stubborn," Toy chuckled.

"Indeed. It seems to be doing you in good stead."

Nothing more was said as they moved through the forest. Tony noticed Mimir walked completely silently, as though he was hovering above the ground, whereas he made more noise than a stampede, breaking twigs and crunching leaves beneath his feet. Feeling more clumsy than usual, he attempted to lighten his steps only to fall behind within minutes. A mental reprimand and he caught up, not looking at Mimir to see if the god was amused by his antics.

The forest ended abruptly, opening into the village. There were still people moving through, and even a large fire going somewhere behind one of the other buildings. Tony could hear music and singing, and even the occasional loud burst of drunken laughter.

"I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"

"Not at all. Two children were born yesterday. Births are rare for long lived races such as ourselves, and the Vanir celebrate new life. For two to be born is a great cause for joy."

"Oh. Congratulations to the new mom. Or moms," He added thoughtfully.

"I will be sure to tell them. Loki is in my home, over there," Mimir pointed out.

"Not joining me?"

"Perhaps later, Stark. I have been asked to give my blessing to the newborns."

Huh. Tony realized Mimir must be closer to the Vanir than he thought if the locals were asking him to bless babies. Or it was a perfunctory thing, some sort of diplomatic hand shaking. Nodding as Mimir strode away, long legs carrying him closer to the fire, Tony walked over to the house and tied the reins to the post outside, shifting his pack experimentally.

He still hadn't thought of what to say.

Forgoing any prayers in the event that someone could read his mind and decide to fuck him regardless, he pushed the door open and walked inside, not entirely unsurprised to see the table set for three, Loki sitting there calmly reading a book and eating.

For a minute he considered dropping the pack on the table and leaving. But that would be giving ground, and he'd given enough by even making the gauntlets. Strolling over, he took the seat across from Loki, sliding his pack off of his shoulders and letting it rest on the table.

Loki ignored him, eyes fastened on the book.

Tony waited.

Loki continued ignoring him.

Quickly growing bored and antsy, Tony reached for one of the green apples and bit into it, the loud crunch echoing through the room.

Loki continued ignoring him, but Tony was positive he saw Loki's jaw clench for a moment before relaxing completely.

Each bite of the crisp apple seemed to be louder than the last. Loki's face was a study of relaxed apathy.

Once the apple was finished, Tony threw the core past Loki and into the hearth where fire immediately began to consume it.

"I know I'm the low man on the totem pole and everything, but you can usually muster up an insult or two for me."

The book closed with a snap and Loki's green eyes moved to rest on him, barely leashed impatience obvious.

"What, Stark?"

"I come bearing gifts."

"I doubt you could procure anything worthy of being called a gift."

"You're probably right. Good thing I made it."

Loki's sneer was enough to spark his own temper. He was trying to, in a roundabout, very Stark way, apologize. Opening the pack, he pulled out the gauntlets and dropped them on the table in front of the god.

"Quaint," Loki sneered, not even bothering to look at them.

Okay, enough.

"Look, I was trying to apologize for being a dick. You hate me, fine. But stop pissing on Thor because you're mad at me."

Loki actually looked confused for a moment, but Tony wasn't sure if the expression was genuine or pure artifice.

"What are you talking about Stark?"

"You. Avoiding Thor and Asgard. Thor looking like someone took mjolnir away. Sulking puppy faces. Him asking me, of all fucking people, if I have any clue what you're up to and when you're coming back. Because 'trading sarcasm' is apparently code for 'Loki's Buddy'," Tony snapped.

Loki didn't bother with sneering, his expression breaking into unbridled amusement, laughter echoing through the room. It was genuine laughter, and Tony thought that might actually be worse than the mocking, smirking kind he was used to seeing from the god. But the laughter died down quickly, but the raised brow was enough to make Tony feel like a moron. God he hated how some people could do that. One minute change of expression and he knew he was silently being called a dumbass. Fury had perfected that.

"You are a narcissist," Loki replies, voice cool. "To think something so small would keep me from Asgard. I have no want for an apology, and no desire to aid you in your childish attempts to absolve your own guilt."

"Wait-" Tony snapped, face going hot as realization dawned. "Are you telling me you haven't been avoiding Asgard because of what happened?"

"As I said, narcissist. My own actions do not hinge on you, Stark. I have my own affairs to attend to."

Tony stared in slack jawed disbelief, face shamefully hot because-fuck, Loki was right.

"Then why didn't you tell Thor? You obviously had a chance."

"My business is my own, Stark. I do not need Thor to come to my aid at every slight."

Well damn.

"Fine. Since you do admit there was a 'slight', take the fucking things. I'll get out of your hair."

"What makes you think I would accept so trivial a gift for such offense?"

"Because," Tony snapped, finally comfortable with the normal rancor Loki inspired, pity gone. "It's not 'trivial'. Those are a fucking work of art, and I know that. Not my problem if you can't spot good fuckin' work. Should have known."

"Oh yes, so masterful. You braid colors very prettily."

"Fuck you. You try blending galvorn and tilkal without magic."


Tony couldn't stop himself. The grin bloomed before he could stop it as he pointed down at the gauntlets.

"Take a good look Rock of Ages." The air had a weighty feel to it, tense from his own anticipation to prove that impossible was possible. The apology was the furthest thing from his mind, his eyes and easy slouch providing all the challenge he needed.

Loki's eyebrow didn't lower in the least as he picked up a vambrace and eyed it shrewdly. There were several minutes of tense silence as Tony watched him examining it, obviously looking for flaws. When he turned it over to examine the blending lines of green and jet, Tony didn't miss the minute widening of his eyes. However, aside from the flash of recognition, there was nothing else evident in his expression.

The first was laid carefully on the table, the second examined just as carefully. Loki's gaze lingered on the back, and Tony noted how Loki moved, his free hand coming up to trace one of the letters or names, or possibly just the blend of the two metals. Tony reminded himself that Loki was manipulative, that Loki was an act, and that he wasn't hiding a secret sensitive side. But for a minute it was suicidally easy to believe that Loki might just have a bit of a sentimental streak in him after all.

"These are acceptable," He finally said, sitting the vambrace down and looking Tony squarely in the eye. Despite the intense regard, Tony couldn't guess what Loki was thinking, the god's face a study in neutrality. Any thoughts of sentiment vanished, dying more easily than they had been born. Tony reminded himself that Loki was artifice, Loki was a lie, and that any and everything could be and probably was an act. The heaviness in the atmosphere tightened. It broke on his shoulders with a careless shrug.

"Coming from you, I'll take that as a compliment," He smirked, getting up and grabbing his pack.

"You may tell Thor I will return within three day's time, Stark."

Tony stopped, slightly surprised by the sudden accommodation. Suspicion quickly smothered it.

"You're setting me up again."

"You are painfully ignorant of our ways, Stark. The giving of a gift, even as reparation, requires the return of one. Consider us even."

Tony couldn't help but be suspicious of Loki's intentions. "Fair enough," He shrugged, pretending an easiness he didn't feel. "Peace and all that jazz."

Loki didn't offer anything else as he left the longhouse, door swinging shut quietly behind him. Tony untied the horse and wished for Mimir's magic ball of light as he pulled himself up and headed for the treeline. Unsure how well the Vanir would take the very obvious light that came with every pickup so close to their village, he allowed the horse to pick it's way through the growth without direction, examining the brief exchange now that he was away from Loki.

He felt a little smug, if he was completely honest with himself. If for no other reason than he'd surprised Loki with the alloy that had been created between the blurred lines of the two metals. He somehow doubted Loki was surprised often. Which counted for two moments in history he had been able to pull it off. And Loki hadn't been entirely unaffected by the names inscribed inside the gauntlets. That had been a 'sentimental' touch. Thor had once told Tony Loki wasn't the type for 'sentiment', the word sounding personal the one time Thor had mentioned it. Tony didn't quite get the history the word obviously held for the thunder god, but it obviously wasn't true, or else Loki would have gutted him for doing it to begin with.

Acceptable. He could deal with that.

The 'gift' Loki had given in return felt far more suspect. He'd have to ask Thor if the gift giving thing was true before mentioning it. In the grand scheme of things, it would be a petty joke if Loki was lying. Thor wouldn't be angry with him, not even disappointed. Everyone was used to Loki tricking people, and it was probably common knowledge that he had it out for Tony. If it was a trick, it probably wouldn't even register on Thor's radar. And while Loki could be petty, Tony doubted he would be petty when it involved Thor.

Shaking himself, he stopped trying to discern Loki's motivations. A quick question would solve it regardless, and he could stop worrying about him completely. Maybe, if he was lucky, they'd have the same sort of 'uneasy alliance' the Vanir and the Æsir experienced. No outright hostilities, just silence. He could deal with that, more than deal with that if it meant the servants weren't reduced to pulling dents out of the walls and buffing bits of gray matter out.

"Heimdall!" He shouted, figuring he had put enough distance between himself and the village. "I'm lost. Help a guy out!"

There was only a moment between his shout and the light blinding him, the familiar lurch of the Bifrost. Swallowing the surge of bile and clenching his eyes shut, he opened them again when the horse took a tentative step forward.

"Welcome back, Stark." Heimdall's face was as impassive as ever, but the greeting was new.

"Thanks," He muttered. "Any idea if Thor's stateside?"

"If you mean to ask is he on Asgard, then yes. He returned from hunting this morning."

"Thanks," He repeated, already walking out of the observatory and down the bridge. Urging the horse to go faster, he realized it was midafternoon. He'd be late to the forge. Hopefully Splitlip would just laugh when he explained he'd gotten lost on Vanaheim. Hopefully he wouldn't ask why he'd been on Vanaheim.

After leaving the horse with the stablemaster he considered getting cleaned up and changed before finding Thor. He hadn't taken the time the day before to shower and change out of his working clothes, but he was more than eager to get back to the forge before Splitlip considered changing his mind about the free reign access to work. He was striding quickly through the halls, heading for the wing that contained his rooms when he saw Frigga.

"Hi," He greeted gamely.

"Hello Stark. I had thought you would be on Svartálfaheimr."

"Just dropping by. Seen Thor by any chance?"

"He is currently on the practice field with his friends."


"How is Mimir? It has been a long time since he and I had the chance to converse."

Her question stopped Tony short, and he chewed on what to say. Mimir didn't seem overly fond of the Æsir, and it was the first time anyone aside from Thor had mentioned the displaced Asgardian.

"He's doing pretty good. Was happy last time I saw him." Frigga nodded, smiling softly at the admission. Tony wondered why she bothered asking him since she obviously knew he'd been on Vanaheim. Surely she'd know how he was doing.

"It is well. My thanks."

Tony nodded and almost started walking when he stopped again, wondering if he was about to sound stupid and figuring Frigga couldn't have much lower of an opinion of him anyway.

"Someone mentioned something about gift giving. Is it true the Æsir have to exchange gifts?"

"Do you mean, must a gift be returned when one is given?" At Tony's nod she nodded. "It's considered polite."

"So it's not required," He intoned, voice flat.

"It is considered extremely rude to accept a gift and offer nothing in return. Has someone given you a gift, Stark?" Frigga seemed genuinely curious, and having her regard turned on him like that felt like having a cat watch him, a study in contrast to Odin's owl stare. Tony didn't feel like a mouse, but he wasn't stupid enough to believe she didn't see him as one.

"I gave one," He admitted slowly.

"Then why the cause for concern?" Her expression was one of honest bafflement.

He eyed her shrewdly, wondering if she was fucking with him again. She seemed over fond of it.

"Hard to trust information when the one giving it is considered the god of lies."

Frigga didn't even bother trying to look insulted by the blunt statement. "Loki would not return a gift with a lie, Stark. It is ingrained in him that all gifts are precious. He remembers it more than most, in fact," She admonished, as though he had done a disservice to question the nature of the information he'd been given.

"Thanks." Tony nodded, not bothering to mention that where Loki was concerned, Frigga appeared to have rose tinted glasses.

"Loki's gifts are rarely simple, Stark. But if you were the first to broach the subject, then whatever he offered is trustworthy," She added, tone resolute. With that she didn't even bother with a polite goodbye, walking away and leaving him standing alone in the corridor.

Gift giving was obviously serious business on Asgard. And Frigga had been adamant about it. That, combined with the assurance that Loki wouldn't stoop to pettiness concerning Thor, Tony shrugged and figured it had a decent chance of being genuine. Asking for directions from one of the guards, Tony was surprised he was actually able to remember the way there, for the most part. Silently congratulating himself for not getting lost for the second time in twenty four hours, he walked outside into the sunlight and stopped short of the sparring pair.

Sif was smiling the sort of smile Tony was used to seeing on Jane's face. Tony wondered if Thor was aware of her feelings, feelings that were painfully obvious as she teased and attempted to provoke a smile from Thor. Thor was obviously still wrapped up in his depression concerning Loki. The warriors three were watching the fight, too wrapped up in calling out directions or taunts to notice him. Five minutes in and Thor finally saw him, darting away from Sif and dropping his shield.


"Hey. Got a message for you from Vanaheim."

Tony prayed it wasn't Loki being a dick when a slow, almost hesitant grin stretched Thor's features.

"Good tidings?"

"Three days. Now I gotta get the hell out of here, Split's gonna have my ass for being late."

He was already turning to walk away when Thor's hand grabbed his shoulder, forcing him to spin.

"Thank you, Stark." It was said with the same level of depth a thank you for saving the world would. Tony shrugged and smiled.

"No problem. No go have fun getting your ass kicked by Barbie."

"Aye. Easy travels Stark." And Thor was practically skipping back to his shield. Tony waved absently to the others and ignored their pointedly curious stares before walking back inside. Any sense of guilt absolved, he focused on getting the hell out of Asgard.

Tony felt, impossibly, at home. The others were paying rapt attention as he explained the process of folding the two metals. Their natural opposition had actually worked for him, in the end, forcing the repelling energy into doing half the work for him. Splitlip was nodding approvingly, and the others remained quiet, expressions radiating curiosity and grudging respect.

"Had to go to the lower level to get the heat I needed to get them to melt together," He finally finished.

"S'fine work," Hathgar admitted. "Wish we'd thought of it."

"Not much use for anyone but those that got magicians workin' with 'em."

"Still, s'good technique," Splitlip reminded them. "All knowledge is worth knowin'."

That was definitely praise coming from the gruff dwarve.

"So. Stark and I made a deal. He succeeded with this, he gets to start real work. What think you?" Splitlip asked the room at large. The dwarves went quiet, eyes on the scattered papers with his notes on them. The small disk lay on the table, testament that he had actually pulled the experiment off.

"He doesn't seem like to blow the forge to shit," Hathgar pointed out. Tony wasn't entirely sure that it was a positive endorsement, but given his previous experiments on Earth, he couldn't entirely blame them. The others began nodding, one by one, in agreement. Hopefully that meant what he thought it did.

"Good enough. I suppose that means you'll be working on that armor of yours now," Splitlip said, breaking through the quiet.

"I need to make some more tools first, refine my designs. If there's something else I should work on-"

"Now you're wanting to listen to me?" Split snorted. "Nah. Stubborn ass, you are. But smart enough. Figure your armor out. Should be plenty of entertainment for us."

"I get an audience?" He smirked. Obviously they trusted him, but apparently not as much as he'd thought.

"Oh, I'll be overseein' your work," Splitlip assured him. "Never know what fool thing you might try next."

"Hey, it worked out," Tony defended, voice light. Splitlip nodded.

"Never know when it won't though."