A/N: Based on *Feriowind's deviation! Steampunkish Alternate Universe, so expect cameos from Captain America, Thor and Hulk movies. This will be... interesting, for lack of a better word. I know more than I should about medieval times and D & D-esque types. Well, welcome to the land of my insane mind and I sincerely hope you enjoy the trip. I have a different version of Bruce in my head though. There's a shy, warm Bruce and then there's the stronger, more concentrated warrior. Hope you like him! As always, folks, review! It makes me happy someone reads my stuff. Words with one of these (*) will be explained at the end of the one-shot.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own The Avengers. I wish to all that is holy that I did. However, I do not and this is a fanfiction. *sigh* Although it would be nice to have Captain America at least. He'd give me piggy-back rides to the ASPCA so I wouldn't have to bother the 'rentals.
WARNING: This will contain light yaoi (also known as boys love and man-on-man). If you don't care for it, there's the back button up there or you could just exit out of the window. However, should you stay, there are mishaps, adventures and knights giving kisses. Also, complete silliness plus lots of Point-of-View shifts. Cursing is bound to happen. If you like a great story and can ignore my awful attempts at Scienceboyfriends, Thorki & Clintasha plus Steve you're welcome to the story. Flamers will be laughed at and forced to serve my Muses. Ta ta!
TIKatGM TIKatGM TIKatGM TIKatGM
It is this Bard's greatest pleasure to tell you the tale of four men, a woman (who is most certainly NOT a lady) and two Demi-gods. You see, it all started with the Iron Knight and the lofty quest of retrieving Lady Potts' kerchief from the bandits known as S.H.E.I.L.D...
Sir Anthony Edward Stark the Third hated jousting. Not that he minded the violence or even getting unseated by the lance of a rival knight; no, what he wanted was a grand adventure. One that the Bards would sing for the rest of time it was so entertaining. He would have companions, a Mage and even a lady fair or two before living happily ever after. Except Tony's life hadn't been all that great recently. He was down on his luck, not attached to any Lord currently and running low on coin. Tony needed this tournament to catch the attention of Lady Potts. He halted the sword of his opponent, barely even moving out of the way, his mind going over the calculation for a new suit of armor that wasn't so heavy nor expensive as this last one had been. He was smarter than your average knight and certainly more kind than half of them were inclined to be. A sharp clang and scrape had his attention diverted to his opponent as he finally decided to stop toying with the green knight (barely past his squire-stage). He parried with a vicious thrust, using his mind to see where the boy was going even before he went. The clanging grew louder as he badgered the still-growing teen into dropping his broadsword before kicking him down and holding the tip of his blade at the poor child's throat.
"Do you yield?"
"Good. You put up a good-Ah, ah. No cheating." he said as he pulled the gangly teen up, almost falling for the oldest trick in the squire's handbook. Tony tightened his grip to crushing the chain-mail covered hand until the boy gasped. "Work on your footwork, boy, and you might stand a chance. Never watch your opponent if he's to appear first. You lose the battle if you see him pulling moves you can't do just yet." he offered as Jarvis handed him the reins of Obadiah. The war horse was not the best of mounts but he bore Tony with enough dignity that he kept the beast. Tony waited until the tournament was over and the other knights had been beaten before he approached the stage where Lady Potts resided along with her Father.
"Milady Potts." He flicked up the protective part of his helmet to look at the fair-haired woman. "Beautiful as always."
"What do you want, Sir Stark?"
"A token of the Lady's affection. The tournament was in her honor after all, Milord."
"Oh, Father, be kinder. You may have my kerchief Sir Knight. Come closer so that I may tie it to your arm." She bade him and Tony held out his arm with a cheery smile.
"Milady does me an honor." he replied. As she finished tying it around his armor, black-clothed thieves swiftly untied it and made off with the delicate scrap of lace. "Scoundrels!"
Lady Potts gasped and turned to him with slight tears in her eyes, "Sir Knight, that kerchief belonged to my dear departed Mother."
"I shall retrieve it, Milady and quite gladly. Who were they, Milord?"
"The bandits known only as S.H.I.E.L.D, Sir Stark. What do you want in return?"
"In return? Merely to see the Lady smile again." he lowered his voice when Lady Potts left with her maids. "A sack of gold would also greatly aid me on my quest."
"Fine. That is all my daughter has of my belated wife so you will retrieve it." The man's eyes flash with fire as he's handed his winnings as well as an extra sack of gold.
"Gladly, as I told the Lady."
Bruce Banner, also known as Banner the Green, stared at the ale placed in front of him with a mild grimace. The barmaid giggled as she informed him that his buyer had been a noble lady on the upper floor of the tavern.
"My thanks to the Lady then." he murmured as he cast discreet spells on the drink to make it into water. Bruce also cast the typical poison and truth serum spell that all Mages knew. The water glowed a deep crimson to his MageSight as the danger dissipated; a deadly poison then. He'd have to personally THANK her. He held his cup up to the balcony in the tavern taking a gulp of his favored water from a spring in a very deep mountain hold. Bruce ordered a plain meal of soup and bread, ignoring the flirting barmaid in favor of his food.
"You're a strange one, sir."
"I've heard that before." he countered, not lowering his hood or even moving as the girl looked him over again. He couldn't help but smirk at her gasp when she spotted his hat and the emerald green band around it on the table.
"I'm sorry sir... I didn't know."
"Most don't and I prefer my privacy." Bruce murmured as he stood and paid the girl. "I suggest you start asking people to leave." He snagged his staff and pulled off his hood, placing his brimmed hat on his head, striding confidently up the tavern stairs as his magic crackled. The woman also stood up as he stopped at the top step.
"The Green Mage."
"Poison's really out-moded these days, madam."
"I am not some peasant-"
"Nor am I a fool." came his abrupt response, cutting off her snide tone. "Who sent you?"
"Again? They should be wasting their coin on far more dangerous Mages; the Crimson and Gold for example. What do they want with a Healer and doctor? Why poison me?" he mused out loud as he summoned his water with a casual wave of his staff. Bruce took a long drink out of his cup, looking at the woman over the rim.
"They did not say, Mage, just that they wanted you dead." That brought laughter from him. "You laugh at death. What sane man laughs at that which plagues all of us?"
"I can't die. Even if I ingested the poison I would have lived. You see, assassin, they didn't tell you everything." He flexed his magic and revealed a sharply taloned green hand with a flick of his robe. "I harbour a cursed monster inside of me. Still want it to come out?" The woman peered closely at it before shaking her head.
A thicker accent than what she'd had before answered him with, "That, they did not bother to tell. Perhaps I am working for the wrong people."
"You can join me, if you like, or go your own way. I suggest you don't report back to S.H.E.I.L.D. They'll think I killed you like I did with the last one. Stay low for a few months and they'll forget about you."
"Why do they want to kill you?"
"It's the monster they want, not the Mage."
"I do not think I will be joining you."
King Steven "Steve" Rogers had many problems, not having a wife among the most prominent the Council pressed upon him. They wanted to see if the alchemy-serum that Doctor Erskine had given him would be passed down to any child he fathered. They'd conveniently forgotten his problem with the women they presented him with were not his type. These women all wanted his child but did not expect him to want to raise it as he saw fit. He wanted a family; if he had to leave his kingdom in the capable hands of fellow royalty, then so be it.
He exchanged his crown for a plain circlet and allowed himself to be dressed as a traveling merchant. Bucky looked him over and gave him a warm smile.
"Steve, they're going to go for your looks first."
"I'm looking for the type of woman who looks past all of this."
"She'd better be one stubborn lady and probably prettier than you too."
"I wouldn't mind a pretty lady with a personality." he admitted softly as he swung his leg over his warhorse Charcoal. "She'll be feisty, that's for sure."
Natalie "Natasha" Romanova never expected to be free of anything in her short life. The Mage had let her go with surprising aplomb, giving her a small genuine smile as he left. She'd quickly become a wide-eyed innocent barmaid at the same tavern tossing her red locks playfully like she didn't know what she was doing. The letches chased after her innocent act but never caught her as she disappeared around the corner. Only two men saw through her and one had just smiled before shaking his head. He was a traveling merchant, goregous as they come & looking for a wife.
"You could have anyone." she told him honestly as she took her break on the bench beside him.
The man had smiled sadly before telling her seriously, "I know; I want them to look past my physical self."
"Past that body and good looks?"
"Yes. Just as you wish the men who stare at you would understand that." he murmured, glancing at the harp that no one used in the tavern.
"You play the harp?" she pressed when he sighed.
"I play a little."
"Use that instead of your coin, merchant, and you might catch a woman who appreciates the finer arts."
"Thanks for the advice...?"
"Steve." She chuckled quietly as she went to resume her duties, never noticing the smile she brought to the man's face.
Clint Barton knew what he was doing was wrong. He was doing it anyway. S.H.I.E.L.D. had killed what he had treasured most; they deserved this. He scooped up little piles of gold, giving the room one last glance before he left silently, his bow strung and an arrow nocked in preparation for guards that never came.
He gave back to the desolate people the gild of thieves stole from. Clint knew it was only a matter of time before they realized and posted guards, but for now he reveled in the praise. These people had done nothing but wrest a living from the hardened ground. S.H.I.E.L.D. would pay for that with their own blood. Clint never did trust ol' One-Eye... His instincts had yet to fail him.
He found Natasha playing innocent barmaid and swooped in to save her from the attentions of a brutish thug. He planted his booted foot on the guy's back, grinning at his old friend.
"Hawkeye..." she didn't seem to appreciate his rescue effort. "I could have handled him."
"Aww, Widow, you hate me that much? Thought we stuck together?" She gave him a wry grin and kicked the guy for good measure.
"We do but you've busted my cover as barmaid. You owe me."
"Nah. I did manage to sack S.H.I.E.L.D.'s store of treasure, though, if that makes it any better." he walked the length of the guy and pushed his face into a pile of manure for good measure. "I don't like it when guys think they can have their way with you." She gave him a genuine smile then, her eyes soft and warm for a fleeting second. Clint's heart stopped for a moment before he unconsciously smiled back. Yeah, it was better when he was with Natasha.
Nicholas Fury watched as each of the people he'd manipulated into going on an adventure paired up or went solo. He needed these people to get together to stop the war brewing underneath the happy exterior of the Seven Kingdoms. He knew that there was a mastermind behind all of the subtle manipulations but he had yet to find out who. He hoped that the team would meet up on time...
Thor loved his brother. There was no question in any Asgardian's mind that the thunder god held affection for the god of mischief. Loki was the counter-point to Thor; silent where Thor was loud, slender where Thor was broad and cautious where Thor found himself in battles he didn't need to participate in. Yet the pair were close as ever, even with Thor's up-coming crowning.
"Brother, I found-Loki?" Wounded green eyes looked up at him, the slender fingers clenched tight around his helm.
"I am not your brother." the voice was cold, filled with the venom Loki often used to attack others. "Nor is Freya my Mother or the Allfather my Father." Thor embraced Loki, lifting the smaller god off the marble floor.
"No, you are my brother. It does not matter who your true parents were." Loki looked up again; this time the Asgardian's form fell away to reveal a deep blue skin and burning red eyes. Loki shoved him away, staring at him before hurling more venom his way.
"And now, brother? Would you still walk the halls of Asgard with this by your side? Would you defend this monster?!" By this time Loki was snarling, tears freezing as they slid down his brother's cheeks. Thor hugged his brother anyway, burying his face against the cool blue skin and humming softly.
"Yes, Loki, I would." he murmured his voice quieter than usual and dead serious. "I would go to the far ends of the Realms and take you with me in both forms. I do not care how you look, brother, neither should they."
"You... You like this form?" The question was laced with uncertainty and incredulity.
"Yes." he answered as he lifted his brother bridal style and planted them both in front of the gilded mirror. "See? This form is also pleasing." He ran his fingers along the raised, tattoo-like markings on Loki's face and grinned as Loki swatted his hand away.
"Stop that. It makes me uncomfortable."
"Loki, did I touch something I should not have?" he asked, following the Jotun form of his brother with his eyes.
"No... It..." Loki was at a loss for words? This must be truly embarrassing. "It aroused me." The last part was whispered and Thor almost didn't catch it. "You should probably leave. I'll be escorted back to Jotunhiem soon enough." Loki's voice gained strength again as he melted back into his Asgardian form. Thor smiled softly at his brother.
"No." He surprised himself with his answer but one look at his brother's face told him he'd said the right thing. "We will go to Midgard. Is it Father you are worried about?"
"It is them I fear. I am a runt by their standards and even by Asgardian standards."
"You'll fit right in with the mortals then. Pack what you must Loki but do it quickly. I will create a distraction." Thor thought for a moment before kissing his brother soundly, whispering his last words carefully. "I love you, Loki Laufeyson, do not forget this."
He stormed through the open halls of Asgard thunder roiling through the sky as he made his way to the throne room, his expression one of discontent.
"Yes, my son?"
"There is something wrong with Loki. He will not speak with me."
"You have tried?"
"Yes. Normally we are close, Father. What have you told him?"
"He is adopted, Thor. Loki is a Jotun." The Allfather says this in a grave voice. "They'll be taking him back shortly."
"You-WHAT?! MY BROTHER CANNOT BE!" he roared, lightning brightening the darkened sky. "MY BROTHER IS NOT A MONSTER!"
"He is, Thor." His Mother says gently, a hand raised as if to placate him.
"Forgive me if I do not believe you that my brother is a monster." he hisses, turning on his heel and slamming the doors behind him. Thor quickly strides back into his room and also slams this door, smiling at the two packed satchels on his bed. "You are quick Loki."
"Your argument did not phase me."
"The kiss did give me a pause however. How far are we going to go with this farce?"
"Farce? Those words were no farce, Loki. I do love you."
Loki paled rapidly before regaining color. "How long?"
"A few centuries now." He admitted with a shrug. Loki smacked him on the arm harder than he expected it to be.
"Idiot. You could have told me."
"I thought I did." he countered with a grin.
Bruce scowled at the horizon, staring out into the sea.
"Ho, there!" He turned to see a knight dismount a horse and clank towards him. The glowing center in the armor intrigued him.
"Have-Whew, this armor is hot!-Have you seen any black-clothed assassins and/or thieves lately?" The voice echoed a bit in the helmet before the knight growled and pulled it off. "Ah, much better."
"You mean S.H.I.E.L.D.?"
"You know them?" Sharp tawny eyes took in his Mage attire before looking him in the face.
"Yes, far more than I like." he replied as the breeze swept up the cliff and blew in their faces.
"Care to help me out? I'm on a noble quest. Sir Stark at your service." The care-free, lazy grin was a little contagious so Bruce smiled back.
"What kind of quest, Sir Stark? Robert Banner but most folk call me Banner the Green. You can call me Bruce, if you like."
"To retrieve something that belongs to a beautiful lady, Banner."
"I trust you know something of my reputation?"
"Occasionally a roaring green rage monster? Yup. Do I care? Nope." Bruce snickered at Sir Stark's plebeian mannerisms. "You can call me Tony if you like. Sir Stark sounds like a stuffy old man; more like my old man, actually."
"Well, Tony, I think we'll get along just fine."
-A Few Months Later-
They do and Bruce hasn't laughed like this in years. Tony's manservant is discreet, getting them food and drink as they stroll through the Kingdom of America.
"This is actually my home kingdom." Tony admits wryly as a few women give him obscene gestures. "My Father's fief is only an hour's ride on horseback. Jarvis?"
"King Steven has gone on holiday in search of a wife, sir. Prince Bucky is in charge as of now."
"Huh. Never thought he'd get tired of American women... Hey, Banner?"
"Which Kingdom are you from?"
"Here. It's not a pleasant place where I'm from."
"Oh. You can ride with me on Obadiah. If the beast accepts you anyway." Tony muttered, poking the grey horse with a mulish expression. Bruce stared at the temperamental beast before offering his hand. The gelded stallion sniffed his hand, huffing sharply as he pulled away. "Hey, you passed his test. He doesn't like most people."
"He's got a good sense of self-preservation. Something you seem to lack." he told Tony honestly as he mounted first.
"Me? What told you that?"
"That attitude of yours. No sane man would associate a Mage of my stature without a deal of some kind or a geas. You have asked me for neither." Tony threw his head back and laughed, his tawny eyes full of a light Bruce swore was remained of Tony's innocence. The knight mounted the horse with precision as was proper.
"No need. You probably put a geas on yourself not to harm me. You're just that kind of Mage." Tony replied cockily, clicking his tongue and nudging the war horse forward.
"What is that thing in your chest plate?" he asked as they made their way out into the gorgeous countryside of America. Tony hummed as he leaned forward, seemingly intent on making him uncomfortable.
"It's... a secret."
"Are you playing coy with me?" he teased with a soft smile.
"It's a Stark secret. Unless you're hiding a feminine form under all those robes, I can't tell you."
"You're implying that if I was..."
"I could marry you, you'd be a Stark and in on the secret. Ta-da!" Bruce couldn't help but laugh at Tony's logic because it worked. "Hey!"
"I could probably make myself a lady Mage but then I'd have the other Mages wondering why the Green Mage is female as opposed to male."
"You don't have lady Mages?" came Tony's interested question.
"We do actually. The White, Black, Blue and Purple Mages are all highly talented in their areas. It's odd for me to be the Green Mage."
"You're actually supposed to be a manly color?" Tony offered, leaning forward again.
"Oh. Sorry, Banner." Tony lost the spark in his voice and the way he carried himself the further they got into Stark territory.
"How far in are we?"
"Less than two miles, why?" He kneed Obadiah gently and the horse stopped with the subtle command. "Umm, Banner..."
"You've lost that spark."
"What spark?" A small grin was flashed his way before Tony sobered up at the sight of Stark peasants bowing to him.
"Sir Stark, welcome home."
"Harvest Leader." Tony's warm ochre eyes had frozen over like blocks of ice. "The wife?"
"Good, sir. She asks after your health as well."
"As well as I can be."
"You're accompanied by a stranger."
"He's a friend." Tony's voice was dismissive, bordered with an edge that is dangerous for those that cross it. The man nodded and let them through.
Tony hates going home. His Mother is gone, taking what little light his Father had left. Howard Stark the Second was no peach and he'd used that philosophy on Tony a little too well. He stopped slouching in the saddle and held the reigns properly, putting his helm back on with alarming ease even before he gets to the castle. Banner is giving him these (dare he say it) thoughtful looks as he straightens up his act. He's glad he had Jarvis polish his armor the day before as an afterthought. Maybe now Father will accept his accomplishments...
The blank stare that slides over to Banner makes Tony growl under his breath. Everytime someone sees Banner (Bruce, his mind unhelpfully supplies), they look between them before they glare at the Mage, as if the shy unassuming man has done something wrong.
"Father, this is Robert Banner, the-"
"Green Mage. Your geas?"
"Harm not Stark, the younger in both name and heart." Banner said blandly, weaving his hands in a familiar pattern. "You will have to negotiate your own deal, Lord Stark."
"You mean your geas for Anthony is freely-given?" Tony looked at the Mage with wide eyes. A geas made freely is rare; even when they were more common, it was considered a gift of the Mage to the holder.
"Yes. As I said, you will negotiate your own deal." Bruce stubbornly repeated. "Tony is perfectly safe."
"... I see. Would you like a room and permission to freely roam the castle?"
"Acceptable." Bruce grinned as he swept out of the room motioning for Tony to follow him. As soon as the heavy study door closed, the Mage cracked up laughing, his features relaxing from the stern expression. "Is he always like that? Lead by love, not by fear and they will follow you anywhere. Has he never heard the phrase?" The man grumbled as they wandered aimlessly through the halls of Stark Hold. "By the way, where are we?"
"Hmm. Oh, we're near the observatory." he hummed, tracing his fingers along the carvings in the wall that he'd placed there as a teen.
"How do you know that?"
"Mother allowed me to carve arrows into the walls when I was about to be fostered so that I wouldn't lose my way to the library when I came back. It was my-our safe haven for the longest time when Mother couldn't have another child." Tony admitted, his eyes unfocused as his feet took the path long remembered by his heart.
"Oh. You're different here." Tony gave Bruce a wry grin as he cracked open the library doors. He gasped as he saw the room the same as if his Mother had never left it, quills and stacks of parchment piled with snippets of her hand-writing; including her attempts to teach him quill work. "Should I leave? This is rather personal..."
"No. I've never really shown it to anyone." What he left unsaid was far more persuasive that what he had said.
"I'm honored then."
He spent a few minutes browsing the shelves before he found what he was looking for. Tony made a triumphant noise and snagged the heavy book, plopping down on the pile of cushions with a satisfied hum.
"Go ahead and grab a book. We'll be here for a while." He pulled out new pieces of parchment, losing himself in the design for new armor and the container for the lightning that kept the enchanted sword tip from entering his heart.
"What is that?" Bruce tugged the parchment closer to himself, eyes widening at the formulas for the lightning.
"My secret. No peeking, okay?" he gave the Mage a pleading look.
"... Alright. If you need alchemy, I'm right here." Tony's respect for the Mage grew as the man settled back down with several alchemical texts. Tony was silent for a moment before his manners forced him to reply.
"Thank you. Most would pry."
Bruce chuckled softly, shaking his head, "You've yet to ask me about my-what was it?-roaring green rage monster. Most would press me for the full story."
"You'll tell me when the time's right or it's a dire situation." He stated confidently as he finished the container transfer device. "If Father doesn't approve of you, you're usually good for me. He hates Jarvis." Banner looked at him incredulously even going so far as to raise an eyebrow. "Seriously. I took him from Britannia when he was fourteen summers."
"... You took a citizen of Britannia." The tone was dry, the sarcasm evident.
"Hey, he was starving, kinda charming in that odd British way and he helped me reign in Obe after the beast ran off during a tournament." Tony defended himself abruptly, leaning over his new mound of papers. "I mean, have you seen Obe in Britannia? The idiot almost mounted a carriage horse! The only reason I keep him is because he's like a wall when it comes to jousting! Plus he looks good in caparison, but it has to be red and gold because it's Stark colors and he's a grey and-"
"Your mind goes faster than a steam engine. Where do you keep it all?" This time the question has an amused tinge to it.
"Hnn? Dunno actually. I need the formulas for Lightning containment, metallurgy and the measure of red jasper against green." he absently muttered, scanning the shelves for the books he needed with his eyes. An echoing thud in the hallway made him look up. His Father had dropped the wax tablet that held the records of Stark Hold, staring at them with cold, calculating eyes.
Loki crossed his arms and looked at Thor from the middle of the giant crater, tapping his foot.
"I apologize brother."
"Get. Me. Out. Of. Here!" he hissed. Thor grinned brightly and hauled him out.
"Hale, warrior! Have you fallen from the sky...?" Loki growled as Thor looked at the mortal warriors.
"From an aeroplane?" Thor looked at Loki, who laughed. "Have you hit your head?"
"No, mortal, I have not."
"Play nice with the humans."
"As you wish Thor; know that I will not stand easily if they insult you." he murmured in Norse, sneering as the men looked at them in confusion. Loki switched back to the native tongue to make communications easier. "Well? Where is the nearest town?"
"Six miles north of here. Are you sure you're alright? You're, uh, holding his hand."
"... Thor, tell me I can't harm them." he stated to his non-brother, looking up into confused cerulean.
"You cannot harm them."
"Good. Next time someone crashes down take in their clothing, you idiot." Loki snarked, tugging a bemused Thor along behind him.
Three miles up the road Thor had him pinned to a huge oak tree and was kissing him senseless. He gasped as Thor moved on to his neck, nipping a path that was making Loki purr.
"Nngh... Okay." He barely concentrated as he shifted forms and dress, lost in Thor's rather thorough attention.
"Look at that... He's got a pretty lass. Hey, mind if we join your fun?" Loki's attention was now concentrated on the black and red clad men coming closer.
"Thor, your hammer would be nice right about now." he hissed in Norse as he dimensionally snagged his whip.
"Thugs, Thor, have no morals. Hammer." he reminded the thunder god. They turned as one unit; Mjolnir slamming into the leader as Loki lashed out with his whip, catching up two of the six remaining thugs.
"Scat-What in the holy hell is that?!" Loki moved the illusion to herd them as Thor knocked out all but one. "Who are you?" Thor smiled softly at him and he dropped both the illusion as well as his form back to Asgardian. "Mages?"
"No, foolish mortal, gods." he purred, placing his whip back in its harness. "Meet Thor, god of thunder and Loki, god of mischief. Exactly what were you doing by harassing a seemingly innocent couple?"
"Orders from the General." the man licked his lips nervously as Loki toyed with his dirk, picking the dirt from underneath his nails with the tip.
"Elaborate, or I'll have him kill you with one swipe." Loki threatened with a smile, no trace of humor on his face.
"The General wants war. He's trying to get Britannia involved with the Kingdom of America and the other lesser Kingdoms..."
"Profit. He makes weaponry! Please, he'll kill me if he finds out I've said anything!"
"Is there an underground-"
"They're called S.H.I.E.L.D. Look for a man with an eye patch and surrounded by black-clothed thieves."
"Excellent. You won't remember a thing." Loki chirruped as he wiped the man's mind of the memory of even meeting them. "Let's go find those underdogs Thor. You were right, Midgard is much more fun."
Clint and Natasha ran across the thatched rooftops of the villages, slipping past the S.H.E.I.L.D. operatives in black as they met up with Banner the Green. The Mage had sent them an urgent message... Well, Natasha anyway, but Clint followed her anywhere.
"You said something about a knight? How do you know my name anyway?" Natasha demanded, pinning the grim-looking Mage with what Clint liked to refer to as The Glare of Doom.
"Not now assassin. His Father technically can't disown him but he's forbidden to associate with me. Tony needs your help now to escape Stark Hold. I was hoping you could help." Clint suppressed his whoop of glee by biting his lip and dancing in place. "It's dangerous and Lord Stark has alchemical weaponry on the lookouts as well as the gates. I can stop them for a short time."
"Let me guess, Tony Stark needs his horse, his servant and his weaponry." Tasha sighed as she scanned the massive castle.
"Yes. We have a quest to complete."
"That... thing isn't going to come out?" Banner's gaze turned hard and his eyes glowed an eerie shade of green.
"Only when I allow it and only if Tony's been hurt."
"You did something you weren't supposed to." Yeah, did Clint mention the slightly creepy, sort-of magical thing she sometimes did? No? Well, he was mentioning it now. She was really good at reading people.
"A freely-given geas for the younger Stark. I told the Lord he had to negotiate for his own. I do not know why Lord Stark saw fit to toss me out of the Hold." Clint gasped quietly at the admission.
"How long were you in there?"
"Several hours. I drew what I could remember." Here he lit up the staff with a glowing green light so that Tasha could see the rough sketch.
"This is a decent map of Stark Hold. You should probably burn that." Banner nodded sharply as he burnt the map into a crisp after Natasha had let go. "Alchemy?"
"Already dismantled. Go, before I can no longer hold them."
They crept along the dimly-lit corridors, Clint keeping an eye out for a glowing chest. Natasha nodded to him before splitting off to retrieve the weaponry and the horse.
"Tony Stark?" He'd finally spotted the glowing blue light.
"Who are you?" Clint had to give the guy kudos; he was quiet as a mouse.
"An... acquaintance of Banner's. Your servant with you?"
"Jarvis has packed our satchels. Bruce did say he was going to get help... You are?"
"Great. How much longer until the traps give out?"
"Judging by the hum they're giving off I'd give them another five minutes. Come on, I know every nook and cranny of this castle." He found himself being tugged along twisting hallways and confusing corridors until they nearly ran over Natasha who was holding the reins for a huge grey geldling. "Huh, Bruce really does make friends who're good in tense situations. I'll have to ask him how he does it."
The longer Clint was in the company of this man, the more he felt lost. "Plans for the container, lightning catcher papers, hmm... Red jasper but no green. Damn. Six towns over has a supply but Father'll be watching for Jarvis, myself and Bruce. Will they even help out much farther? Doubt it, the man has signs of loyalty to the woman but she's about to bail. By all that is holy, why does he hate my friends so much?" Natasha looked at the knight as though he was crazy; to be fair, though, no one had ever talked so much so fast in front of her before. "Disguise is best, but do I want sword-smith on commission or jeweler for the higher quality? Jarvis?"
"Jeweler, sir. The containment field will require better quality." The quiet, well-mannered voice made Clint flinch from his hiding spot in the copse of trees. Jeez, did everyone have training in 'scare the fuck out of Clint for fun lesson'?
"Oh, goody. Master or Journeyman because I know what the hell I'm searching for and I don't want to be 'tricked' by some low-balling bastard." This knight was getting stranger by the minute. "Okay, for the rest of the class. I'm going into Montpelier Chateau for the jasper that I need. You're welcome to join me but I'll have to disguise Bruce, Jarvis and my horse."
Steve watched the clearly disorganized party wade through the castle-town of the Chateau seeing the maiden from the inn grip the elbow of an archer and laugh. She'd found her partner then. He smiled softly to himself, oblivious to the sighs of several maidens and harlots next to him. The unofficial leader sighed as they took shelter close to the nook he was in, "This is more difficult than I'd imagined. I need a merchant who knows the higher-end jewelers." The maiden smiled in a dangerous manner at their leader before striding over to him with a bounce in her step.
"Hey, Widow-" the archer reached after her, his fingers brushing her cloak. The man pulled his hand back and scraped it through the short brown locks as if he'd planned it that way. Steve knew the move; Bucky'd done it hundreds of times with the serving girls and they'd always ended up in bed with the Prince.
"It is good to see you again, Merchant Steve. Any luck on the wife-hunting front?" He returned her smile and shook his head.
"Unfortunately not, Miss Natasha. I take it you were reunited with your husband?" The delightful red-head laughed brightly before shaking her head.
"He is a good friend, Steve, nothing more."
"Surely you see the look in his eyes. He looks at me with anger burning in his gaze."
"Clint's been a good friend for a long time. He couldn't possibly-" Steve angled her towards a cheap mirror stall to let her see the hurt facial expression that faded back into bravado. "Oh. How is it you spot my troubles so quickly and yet ignore the women drooling over you less than three feet away?" she asked with amusement as he finally spotted the giggling group of women following him. He blushed bright red and walked over to the group she had just left. "I know Steve from an inn. He can take us to the more promising jewelers in the city."
He took them to several excellent quality stores, the leader sorting through the green jasper with a critical eye and selecting small, powerful container pieces.
"Just Tony for now. Maybe later, when we are out of the city's limits."
"May I ask what you are containing?"
"You'll see soon enough Merchant." was the absent reply as the man bargained fiercely with the craftsman.
They made it out to an open field that was clearly no good for an encampment.
"Shouldn't we settle further into the forest?" he asked, patting his Friesian to calm him. "Hush, Charcoal, we'll get you back soon enough."
"You named your horse after the King's?" the archer asked lightly, looking him over with narrowed eyes.
"Who doesn't? His horses are beautiful and I'm lucky Charcoal is mine." he bluffed with a smile. "But seriously, we should settle further in and start a watch."
"Caravan's been raided one too many times?"
"Clint! Quit harassing the man." Natasha barked from the center of the clearing. "Steve, we could use your help."
"What do I need to do?" he asked as he trekked across to them, Charcoal absently trailing behind him. "Shoo go bother the archer." Steve laughed as Charcoal nudged his ribs.
"Your horse isn't necessary. I need you to put this together with Bruce." Tony commanded, shoving a piece of parchment at him and pointing him in the direction of the Mage. "Natasha, I need you to pin this down with your weight." Slowly Steve realized that they were constructing a lightning catcher with the jasper hanging in the center.
"Do you have a permit?" It was the first thing that popped into his mind.
"Permit? For-Oh. Of course I do." Tony waved him off, tying the last of the structure together.
"Okay..." He said slowly, giving the man a wide berth as he set up his pavilion. "He's crazy." he told Charcoal, burying his face into the horse's mane. "And my self-appointed quest is ending nowhere in particular."
"What quest, Merchant? Can I help?" The Mage asked as he also set up his pavilion.
"Unless you've suddenly become a woman, I highly doubt that." he sighed, staring longingly at Natasha as she brought down a stag with a knife.
"Why not ask the assassin?"
"She's attached to the archer." Steve muttered as he removed Charcoal's tack and used it as a seat around the fire. "I do have some form of honor. Chivalry isn't dead just yet."
"I suppose you still have quite a bit, Your Majesty." Steve looked up and saw that the entire camp was staring at him.
"I have no idea what you intended with that remark, Banner." he growled as he paused in sharpening his spare blade. "I'm a merchant."
"A merchant that carries around plate armor with a war horse that matches the King's? I'm not a fool."
"As I told Clint, it's a coincidence that happens quite often. My caravans have had less attacks due to my wearing the armor."
"Where is it now?"
"The season is low." Steve was mentally thanking his tutor for all of those lessons long ago. "As I said, I have a self-appointed quest."
"He's looking for a wife." Natasha pointed out helpfully, "He plays the harp and he's too young to be the King."
"Too young?" Banner looked at her like she was on some form of opiates.
"King Steven is nearly ninety-four. Steve is in his late-thirties."
"... Very well."
"Oh, uh, you asked who I was, Steve. I'm Sir Stark."
"The younger as the elder has put out wanted signs for the Green Mage and the Iron Knight. I noticed them around the town. Care to tell me why?"
Natasha pillowed her head on Clint's arm her mind working at a much faster pace than normal.
"Tasha, you think any harder and your brain will fall out." Clint told her as she shifted for what seemed like the thousandth time that night. She huffed and sat up, handing Clint her brush. "You think he really is King Steven?" He asked as he ran his fingers through her hair first and gently tugged out the knots.
"The signs all point to it but he is more subtle than most in displaying it."
"He kept his horse and plate armor, Tasha. That's not subtle."
"Steve came up with plausible answers to the argument. That shows that he's intelligent."
"Does he really play the harp?" Harps were a sore subject with Clint. He'd wanted to be a wandering minstrel before his father had broken his harp and told him to work in the fields. Clint had ended up as an archer for the Duke before he was nearly executed for refusing to shoot an innocent child.
"He does, can't you hear the strains?" she asked softly as the music floated up. A violin joined him, soft yet insistent. She wondered who was playing it. "You see?"
"Tasha? Do you like him?" Clint's voice was unsure as his arms encircled her waist. "I can just-" She laughed softly placing her finger on his lips.
"Shh. I'm not in love with him just yet, silly archer. Do you like him?"
"As a person?" Clint hummed as he buried his face in her neck. "He's likable enough."
"Clint..." she warned.
"Honestly Tasha? I think he's painfully naive to certain things. He's a battle-hardened warrior and yet it's like breathing in sunshine around the guy. He never gives up. When did you meet him?"
"Nearly a year ago now."
"He still hasn't found a wife? He hasn't gone home with the first woman to show interest?"
"He said he wanted someone who saw past his features and saw the person underneath."
"When do we move?" Sometimes Clint was smarter than her.
"Just because I'm jealous doesn't mean I didn't notice those abs."
They implemented their plan slowly but surely over the next few weeks as they followed Stark on his ridiculous quest for a Lady's kerchief. Clint would linger his touches and Natasha would draw Steve into the conversation.
"So, question, Stark. Why are we after this thing?" Clint asked one night hanging upside down on a tree branch above Steve's head.
"S.H.I.E.L.D. stole her kerchief. It's the only thing left of the former Lady Potts and she gave it to the current Lady Potts as a reminded of her." Natasha traded a look with Clint, who smirked.
"I... know where a base is."
"What? And you didn't say anything?!"
"Shut up, Stark. S.H.E.I.L.D. tried to kill Tasha when she was sent to kill him," here he pointed at Banner the Green, "I thought she was dead, so I raided them."
"... Okay, I can see how you'd be reluctant to give us the info."
"Ya think? You may be smarter than me, but sometimes I have to wonder-Whoa!" Natasha watched with an amused smile as he fell right into Steve's lap. "Sorry? I'll, umm, go?" Steve had been half-asleep by this point and merely cuddled Clint closer.
"Mmm-mmm." came the slurred answer, the man's grip shifting Clint to a more comfortable position. "Dun wanna get up." Another note in their journal then; Steve was a cuddler.
"Did he just use Barton as a cuddle-toy?" Stark asked incredulously, not even realizing how close he was to Banner's lap.
"Yes he did."
Thor did not understand why the mortals were looking at them so strangely. Loki was in feminine guise and sitting on the back of his horse side-saddle in a flowing green dress.
"Loki why are they staring?" he asked his lover in Norse, reigning in the dappled grey Percheron mare.
"Thor, silly man, they're staring because of how we look."
"And how is that?"
"Perhaps we should leave and return as warriors?" Loki sent him a brilliant smile for his thoughts before using his magic to wipe the memories of the town. They turned around and entered again, this time as warriors. The stares were non-existent as he and Loki tied up their mounts, Loki's a beautiful black Lybian mare that he'd made from magic. They blended in with the other knights also wearing armor.
"Hey, you there!"
"Yes?" he answered, turning around in his seat and straddling the tiny chair.
"I want to arm-wrestle you for that hammer of yours. Where was it made?"
"In the forges of dwarves, my good man." Laughter was heard as they set up the table but Thor was unfazed.
"Your companion seems a little weak." That caused him to laugh as Loki shrugged. "This amuses you?"
"Loki can handle himself." he told the mortal as he allowed his hand to be moved into position. "All I am to do is hold your hand away from the table?"
"You have to keep yours from hitting the table. If you put mine on the table I forfeit a month's salary from my Lord Stark." He allowed the man to push his hand only a little before he pushed back, careful not to use his full strength. "Are you holding back?"
"Don't. It's insulting." He pushed a little harder and the table cracked as he held down the knight's hand with no struggle at all.
"Aye, it is insulting but it kept your hand from being cracked Sir Knight. Loki?"
"... You are incorrigible. Here, give me your hand." He watched as his lover healed most of the damage he'd accidentally caused and left some as a reminder. "There will be some pain in it still. Think before you challenge, knight, and you might live long enough to father some children." Loki murmured as he pulled bandages from his satchel, wrapping the hand tightly. "Do not remove that for a week. I will know."
"You're a Mage?"
"Bah, do not compare me to them. Small magics and illusions are different from their flashy displays." Loki scoffed as he took the seat beside Thor. "I am a warrior as well." The whip harness had grabbed a lady knight's attention.
"A whip? What is it made of?" Thor felt an inexplicable urge to throttle the woman as she sat on Loki's lap, running her fingers up towards the groin area of the armor.
Loki gave her a wolf-like smile as he answered, "It's made from the hair of my ex-lovers and strengthened with magic. The strength depends on my mood. It's as good as that claymore you swing around, darling." She suddenly pulled away as he finished the last part. "Anyone else? No? Great. Thor, book our accommodations. I will check up on the mares." The collective men and women shuddered as he left.
"I see you were not jesting, warrior. Your name?"
"I'm Sir James Morita but you can call me Jim. Your companion?"
"We recently left our home, which is much like this place. Loki does not appreciate barbs directed at his warrior abilities. His frame may seem weak but he can wield my hammer just as easily as I can and even better on occasion." Thor hummed as he took the ale Loki offered him.
"Thor are you telling tales again?" Loki asked as he took the seat next to Thor, his green eyes amused. "Don't listen to the idiot, he exaggerates half of the time and the other half he's telling the truth."
"I do not exaggerate nor jest about you." he returned evenly, making a face at the taste of the Midgardian spirits. "Is there not something stronger?"
"Yes the alcohol is slightly less than where we are from. You can ask the bartender, if you like. I doubt it."
"Hmm." he huffed as he drained his mug and placed it on the table. Father'd had quite the fit when he damaged a very precious set of mugs from one of the Sidhe Rulers; as a result, Thor was more careful of such containers. "I was hoping to obtain information on S.H.E.I.L.D."
"S.H.I.E.L.D.? Why are a pair of good warriors searching for the scoundrels and thieves of the forest?" Jim asked, sipping his beer as he looked between the two of them.
"They have enemies. Said enemies attacked as we were engaged in... carnal pursuits. It did not end well for them and the one we left alive pointed us in the direction of S.H.I.E.L.D." Loki purred as he took a mouthful of wine so red it looked almost black. "Thor and I agreed that if this General is to start a war for his profit, we want to be on the opposing side."
"That is what the idiot said. Apparently this General makes weaponry. We all know that war is the only reason anyone would need it. Therefore, he aims to start one with an international incident." Loki reasoned out, frowning as he dug out his dirk and threw it at a fleeing black-clad man...
At least Thor assumed it was a man as there were no curves to suggest a womanly figure. He was proven wrong when Loki snapped his fingers to discover the person's true identity after they'd left the inn.
"Why should we trust you?" her voice was flat, distrusting from first glance at their armor.
"Ah-ah. I asked the question first. I swear not to use it in any spell, chant or illusion unless necessary for a protection spell in your name only." The woman eyed his lover coldly causing him to rumble lowly, snagging Loki's waist and kissing him until they were both breathless. "Thor, are you jealous?"
"Yes. You are mine and these women look at you as though you can be easily seduced or fooled." he answered honestly, stroking fingers down his Jotun's back as he stared at the woman while wrapped around Loki.
"You should learn to lie, thunderer. It will end badly for the humans if and when we are found out. Much killing will abound if we are kept apart or they attempt to kill us." Loki chuckled dryly in Norse before reverting back to English. Thankfully Thor knew both languages due to Loki's magics and from his travels in his younger years. "Do we have a deal?"
"... Fine. Maria Hill." Loki wriggled out of his grip and he frowned, missing the feel of the smaller, cooler body pressed against him.
"Will you take us there?"
"We don't trust so easily. What were you saying earlier?"
"It's not up for sharing. Unless you'd like to know exactly what I said to get him like that." Thor didn't bother to hide his lustful reaction to Loki, going so far as to snag the other god's waist again just to nibble on his neck. "You could ask him, if you like."
"... No thank you. Can he stop the groping for a moment? We need to get going if we're to make tonight's meeting."
Nick Fury will tell you he's seen a lot of shit. He'll also tell you that he's never seen a guy that big being calmed by a man who seems to radiate wickedness.
"What is the meaning of that dishonorable attack?! This war is not fun and games, woman!" The blond snarled, rubbing at the back of his neck with a grimace.
"I apologize. We cannot allow you to see the entrance until we know where your loyalties lie." Maria said steadfastedly as she could with the rumbling of thunder sounding overhead, lightning flashing dangerously close to their hide-out.
"Thor! Du vil vise vores placering, dit fjols. Kom her of holde mig varm.*" The dark-haired man barked sharply in what sounded like a Norse language. The bigger man (Thor, he assumed) deflated instantly, the broad shoulders lowering from their rigid stance as hard ice melted into softer sapphire.
"Ja, Loke. Er du okay? Jeg kan ikke lide udseendet hun sendt din vej, min elskede." Thor stroked a gentle hand down the other man's cheek.
"Now that you've managed to thoroughly piss off Thor, let us introduce ourselves. I am Loki Laufeyson and this is my companion Thor Odinsson. You are S.H.I.E.L.D., notorious bandits and secretly the savior of the Seven Kingdoms. Would someone like to come forward as the leader of this rag-tag group?" The smile directed at the organization was, dare he say it, terrifying.
"I'm the leader." he stepped out of the group and crossed his arms. "What do you want?"
"Ask that one." Loki pointed at Maria. She handed him a slip of parchment with the exact conversation. She'd also written underneath the information; 'Thor is extremely protective of Loki.' "Well?"
"You came into contact with the General's warriors?"
"I can display the memory from my view or Thor's. Which do you prefer?"
The meeting concluded in absolute silence. They had two Demi-gods sitting around the fire, Thor telling tales of Loki's bravery in a quiet voice as the god of mischief had fallen asleep on the thunder god's shoulder.
"Loke, vågne op. Den spion vil tage os tilbage til kroen.*"
"Okay, men du er nødt til at tage Fenris en tur." Thor chuckled at Loki's slurred answer and hefted the smaller god up into his arms.
"Show me the way."
Loki hummed as he buried his face further into the warmth surrounding him.
"... Breakfast is downstairs."
"Do we have to move?" he answered, snuggling up against Thor like he's a pillow.
"Yes." Loki sits up, absently shoving his hair out of his face. It's getting a little longer than he's used to and so is Thor's. "Could you cut my hair?" Loki sighed as he conjured a pair of scissors and an animal skin to bundle the hair into. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes he focused on the task of making all of the strands even, snipping off little pieces as necessary. Thor didn't move once and Loki was done within ten minutes.
"Would you do the same or do you prefer it longer?"
Thor embraced him and inhaled his scent, rumbling softly, "I do not mind either but would prefer it longer. It is easier to grab you for a kiss with the length."
"I'll start growing it out again. You made that face when your Warriors Three cut my braid off." he laughed quietly as Thor made the exact same face. "How long do you want it?"
"No longer than last time, I think." came the absent answer as Thor pulled his boots back on and fastened his cloak. Loki lazily dressed himself with a wave of his magic, leaving his helm off and still within reaching distance.
"Waist-length braid it is. Midgard time or Aesir?"
"I wish to watch it grow, so Midgard time."
"As you wish."
It was early morning, so farmers and merchants were sleepily accepting their meals without much chatter. They walked down and the low hum of conversation stopped for less than a moment before resuming.
"What can I get you?"
"Whatever the other warriors are having, Miss." Loki looked up from where his head was placed on the table for politeness. Freya had at least drilled that into one of them.
"So polite... You have a bad night?"
"I'm not a morning person. My brother is." he replied with a bit of snark.
"We were fostered in the same castle. A brother-in-arms, if you will." he explained at her confused look.
"Ah. We do have some Arabic coffee if you'd like that. It's a small shipment though, since it's so expensive to get here."
"Coffee would be much appreciated." he murmured, placing his head back down. Thor patted his back before going back to his intense conversation with the knight he'd won wages off of.
"Your companion is not looking so well. Rough night?"
"He does not like mornings. That is all. He slept soundly."
"By the Aesir, why does everyone assume I had a terrible night?" he grumbled at his lover in Norse.
"Your sleep patterns are odd. It is common to get up in the morning in both Asgard and Midgard." Thor replied unfazed at his words.
"Screw mornings." he sighed in English, eyes widening as he smelled coffee. "Mmm, coffee." Loki just sat there inhaling the steam it let off before conjuring milk as well as sugar and dumping both into his coffee. He stole Thor's spoon to stir his coffee before handing it back and taking a sip of coffee. "Much better."
"You certainly are odd for a magic user."
"Magic is what you make of it." he returned, his temper much more mellow now. Loki pulled a quill, parchment & ink out of thin air mentally thanking Thor for the birthday present of animal skins and ink.
"I have always wondered... Do you conjure out of thin air?"
"No. We exchange one thing for another or we make it entirely of magic and therefore create it." he replied, sketching Thor from memory.
"That's a decent portrait." Loki ignored the man as he put the finishing touches on Thor's hammer summoning lightning. "Fantasy, hmm?"
"Memory." he corrected as he started on another, this time of his pup Fenrir. "I do not particularly care for subjects I have not known long."
"Fenrir? Where is he now? I know Slephnir is with Father..." Thor murmured uneasily in Norse.
"Both are free right now. I have brought them with me and they roam as wild animals. Jorgamund could not be pulled away from his duties at Yggrasil. Hel refused to come up from her self-imprisonment." he reassured his lover, tapping his wrist. "I have spells keeping track of them."
"It would not do to start Ragnarok on Midgard too soon." Thor smiled at him as he said it, meaning no harm.
"You and I both know that Fenrir loves you to distraction and Slephnir holds no grudges against Odin. Mortals are so silly." he said as he put the finishing touches on his drawing. "S.H.I.E.L.D. said to meet up with a rag-tag group in the Kingdom of America."
"He called it something else..."
"Yes, the Avengers. That man has no imagination."
They crested the hill and were met by the sight of two warriors in armor.
"Hale! Are you Anthony Stark?" The blond greeted with a smile.
"If I am?"
"Forgive Thor. He's a bit eager sometimes. We were sent by S.H.I.E.L.D. to give you this," here the dark-haired warrior held up Lady Potts's kerchief, "and a message."
"What makes you think we trust you?" Bruce asked, his eyes glowing green behind his bi-focals.
"I swear by my magic." The man drew a glowing symbol into the air and Bruce gasped. "I swear by my life."
"That binds you. Why would you-"
"Do that? Death is the least of my worries. We come with something you need and a warning."
"There is a war brewing, warriors. The opponent fights in the shadows and wishes to profit from said war. He goes by the name of General."
"General? Do they have black and red uniforms?" Tony looked at Steve, who had turned an alarming shade of pale green.
"You know of them?"
"Know them? I fought the bastards!" The group looked at Steve in shock as the man willingly cursed for the first time out in the open. "I thought they were gone... How are they still here?"
"This is news. I think you need to meet with S.H.I.E.L.D."
"They tried to kill me. Forgive me if I don't trust your word. We don't even know your names." Bruce growled, his grip tightening on his staff.
"Ah. Loki Laufeyson and he's Thor Odinsson. We're not part of that group, we're just the messengers. They figured you wouldn't listen to one of theirs." The now-named Loki said lightly, holding onto the cape of Thor as the blond warrior went after a butterfly. "Thor, stoppe jagter den stakkels sommerfugl. Jeg er helt sikker på at det ikke vil have din opmærksomhed.*"
The bigger man looked at Loki before countering with something in the same language, "Det var for dig Loke. Vil du hellere jeg håndværk noget ud af torden of lyn?"
"Ja. Et stykke rustning, måske?"
"Uh, hate to interrupt, really I do, but what were you saying before about being the messengers for S.H.I.E.L.D.?" Tony asked, not sorry that he had to interrupt the gooey looks the two were sending one another as they spoke. He was pretty sure they didn't even know they were doing it. "Oh and you might want to reign in those puppy eyes. I don't care but someone else might."
Thor frowned at him and Loki just laughed, "I am aware of the puppy eyes. I honestly could care less what people think."
"... Okay. Just warning you...?" Tony blinked and there was a dark-haired woman in Loki's place, familiar green sparkling from her gaze. You could call Tony impressed; that looked like it was fun.
"I can make anyone see what I want them to. Am I not a fine specimen of female?" The hourglass figure spun around and landed in Thor's arms. Thor's eyes softened as he held the woman Loki. "He doesn't mind the form shifting." Loki shifted back, the process merely blurring the air around the obvious magician before he was a man again.
They warily rode into the town, men and women watching them just as warily if not more so than they were. There were no children and Steve stuck out, his bright smile faltering into a tight-lipped neutral face. Black Widow slipped her hand into Steve's and the man's smile wavered back into place for a short moment before snapping back into the mask. She scowled at the black-clad village as Barton also rode his horse closer to Steve's, flashing the merchant a quick smile. Bruce did the same for him. Thor seemed unfazed and Loki sneered whenever a person laughed cruelly at Steve's discomfort.
"We are here." Loki informed them dryly. The sky seemed to rumble before it poured down in buckets. Bruce and Loki conjured umbrellas for everyone in their party, even extending the awning over the horses to provide temporary shelter. Lightning cracked across the sky, dangerously close to the town as Thor's normally (from what Tony'd seen) happy facial features pulled into a ferocious frown. "Thor, calm yourself." The sky rumbled before the lightning faded and the clouds dispersed.
"Well, isn't this the poster town of happiness." Tony snarked, dismounting his horse and leaving his sword on as he saw blades being drawn.
"Why are you here?"
"Fury asked that they be brought." Loki purred, the green eyes brightening as he caressed what looked like a staff, the blades covered in a glowing blue substance that Tony didn't want to know about. Although he was curious. Damn his mind for being in several places all at once! There was that conundrum with Bruce, where he understood that he liked the Mage more than was socially acceptable. There was also the fact that he knew Steve was more than he proclaimed he was, the assassins were set on seducing the naïve man and the fact that he didn't seem to mind... Yes, he needed a quiet spot to sort everything out.
"Wait here, outsiders."
"Thank you for the bigoted statement." Tony said out loud, ignoring the dirty looks he got. "How can anyone take you seriously if you don't do people? I mean really, those scowls were soooo 15th century ago. C'mon follow his example." He pointed at Steve, who was back to smiling under the protection of the assassins. "Smile for a few seconds. It'll crack your face, sure, but it'd be worth it."
"Stark, now would be a good time to shut up." The voice was not familiar and Tony turned on his heels to see a grim, one-eyed man.
"Why? Does everyone have secret names and facial expressions hidden under the scowls? 'Cause it's a turn-off. I don't even think Steve can scowl; if he can't make the face, you can bet it isn't attractive."
"Banner, I suggest you silence him. Before a knife is lodged somewhere he doesn't want it." Tony growled lowly under his breath before taking the attention away from Bruce; he'd examine the unexplainable monster in his chest later.
"Pwahahaha! A knife? Please, I've had those before. It's that annoying bit of enchanted sword that's peskily trying to stab my heart that worries me." The single eye widened as did a good part of the crowd's eyes that gathered. The others (aside from their recent partners) merely rolled their eyes as he grinned at the shock. "So, yeah. Gonna tell us why we're in Depression Central?" Tony finished with a smile his mother liked to call the Stark Grin; it drew you in oh-so-sweetly before the Stark in question ripped you apart, regardless of the form.
Steve watched as Stark manipulated the masses with clever and calculated words designed to draw them together. He knew that Tony got it from Howard, who in turn had gotten it from his Father. The thing about Starks was that once you had their loyalty, nothing short of a knife to the back or public denouncement could get them to turn on you. He'd been too distanced from his Kingdom because he'd wanted peace after the war with Red Skull. Now he knew that it was a bad idea to leave his country in the hands of politicians.
"Steve, you said that you fought these men."
"Yeah, when they were under Red Skull. How is he still alive? Is there any way to prove it?" he answered absently before realizing exactly where he was. Bucky wasn't here to catch his slip-ups.
"... You read way too many history books if you know what the guy was called." Clint muttered.
"No. I fought him." he was tired of lying to them.
"So you are who I said you were."
"You figured it out faster than most." he acknowledged to Bruce.
"Wait, wait... You're really King Steven? Ninety-four is a good age for you." Tony shrugged, smiling before turning back to the war table. Two of the 'Agents' stared at him with a little bit of awe and Fury frowned at him.
"You're telling me you're the King? And I didn't know? I'm supposed to be protecting you!" Steve wracked his memory for the man before smiling.
"Director Fury." The remaining eye twitched spastically before Fury's nostril's flared and he turned on a booted heel. "Hey, I thought we were planning?" The only Agent still in the room gave Tony a dirty look and addressed him.
"Sire, Director Fury sent his best men after you since you disappeared without a trace."
"I intended to keep it that way... For a while yet, actually, but it seems like God's got a different plan in mind."
"... Did you at least find a wife, sir?" The question was hopeful.
"I did one better; Consort and Queen, I hope." Natasha and Clint stared at him in shock. "Give me a minute, Agent...?"
He wrapped his arms around both of them, allowing them to straddle his lap with little effort.
"I won't force you. You're too good for a boring old man anyway." he murmured, inhaling the soft scent of chamomile and the distinctive scent of gunpowder as he committed them to memory. "I'll be gone as soon as this thing with the General wraps-Hmm?" Clint hummed into his mouth, using the shock to explore Steve's mouth. Steve moaned softly as Natasha ran her lithe hands down his back. "Wha-What are you doing?"
"Making sure you don't say stupid shit like that again." was Clint's no-nonsense answer, the archer stroking back a stray strand that fell into his eyes with gentle fingers. "You aren't going anywhere if Tasha and I have any say."
"Steve, are you scared for us or of us?"
"What? No, I'm not scared of you... I just thought you wouldn't want-"
"You? Steve, our ledgers run a far deeper red than your own." Natasha said seriously, her blue eyes softer than normal. "What do you have that is so terrible?"
"I can't age." his deepest, darkest secret. "My body regenerates too fast for me to age. I'm stuck like this forever. I can't die." He said it in a whisper, tears welling in his eyes as he buried his face into Clint's shoulder. "They've been trying for decades to get me to age. Nothing works; alchemy is absorbed and used as fuel, the Mages refuse to work with the Court and I've just... I've just stopped caring." The last part was admitted lowly as Natasha ran her fingers through his hair.
"Shh. I'm sure Banner knows a few Mages willing to work on the problem." Clint soothed, smiling as he pushed the stray strand back again before it flopped forward. "Stubborn hair."
"It's always given me trouble."
"So are we, if I have my way." Natasha said smugly as she whistled out of the window.
Clint watched everything from his perch in the rafters. Neither of his lovers quite understood his fascination for heights but they allowed him to go as high as he pleased without bothering him. It wasn't for nothing that he'd earned the name Hawkeye. Fury looked up when Agent Coulson called for role and spotted him but didn't say anything.
"The strategy's changed in seventy years. I know his weapons will still be harnessing lightning though. He's too fond of it, says it reminds him of something called the Tessaract." Steve was in warrior mode and if he wasn't in the middle of a meeting, Clint would have been tempted to kiss the breath out of their blond.
"Did you say Tessaract?" Thor asked, his eyes suddenly sharp and alert.
"That is an Asgardian device that was lost centuries ago."
"Well, it fell into the ocean when we both went down in that aeroplane. I know Howard Stark has been searching for it and may have left it where it was. They almost didn't find me." Clint growled lowly at the thought of never meeting Steve. "Red Skull's minions must have found him. But why the name change?"
"He realized you were still alive. It wouldn't do if his old enemy realized what he was doing."
"Red Skull's always been a sneaky son of a gun. We have to fight back, but I don't want to do it underhanded like he's doing. I want the Avengers out in the open. I want us winning the hearts and minds of the people."
"Excellent strategy. Where does S.H.E.I.L.D. come in?"
"You'll do the undercover work? I can't be in two places at once. I trust you." Steve gave Fury an earnest look, the gesture tugging on Clint's heart-strings. He hoped Fury had a heart under all of that armor and leather.
"Thank you. Tony, I need you to fix that armor so that it can do something the General's men can't do." Stark gave Steve a wicked grin.
"Ten steps ahead of you, Cap. My armor flies and shoots recalibrated repulsor rays. I invented it as a precaution; looks like the Mark I gets to see battle."
"When did you have time to build it?" Banner asked, his gaze looking Stark over in a worried manner.
"I substituted my sword training for armor building and I've been toting the complete armor around for a while now?" he said in response, his voice not wavering once. Clint gave him a mental high-five for not squeaking when Banner loomed over him. "Half on Obe and half on Jarvis's horse."
"You neglected your training in favor of armor."
"Hey, I still know all of the forms and I haven't practiced those since I was seven summers." came the knight's stubborn response. The Agents dispersed when it looked like Banner was calmed down. "I could beat these guys in my sleep, really, and that's without the sleep-fighting."
"Have you not seen me do forms in my sleep? I thought you kept watch around the time I do it."
"Actually I do, Stark." Clint spoke from his perch. "He's pretty good and I've sparred with him." He lounged on the beam as they spoke specifics, not really listening until Natasha spoke.
"They won't accept assassins. It's not something we can just overcome in one day. Clint and I have bad reputations as Hawkeye and Black Widow."
"Well, we'll just have to show that you aren't and get you some masks." Steve mulishly responded. Natasha looked up in exasperation. Clint hummed lightly before popping up to tight-rope walk the beam as the thought wound through his mind. He sprung back-handed cartwheels as he thought it through, weighing the pros and cons of being a good guy. Hanging upside down, he gave his answer to both of them, "I think we should at least try. Besides, no one could hate Steve. It's kind of impossible unless you're the General or a born asshole."
Loki found himself impressed with the mortals. They had their fights (lingering from before he and Thor had joined the group), their differences and yet they worked well as a team. The fights never occurred where the public could see them in their uniforms. Thor and he bickered often enough that they became known as the fighters amongst the group.
"To be mortal is to be at fault; this guise will not last much long if they refuse to fight in front of a crowd." His lover murmured as the argument of the day was Tony's ability to go over the top.
"Did you see the crowd? They loved it!"
"We're getting a reputation, Tony. If you ruin it I swear-" Steve started in on the fun-loving knight.
"What? They love us."
"Tony?" Loki was surprised it was Banner speaking, the tone harsher than normal.
"Yeah?" He smirked at the tension in the air between the two men.
"Could you help me with this alchemy equation?"
"You messed with the junction formula, didn't you? You have to move that there and..." Loki tuned out of the conversation, smiling at Thor.
"I never thought I'd enjoy our stay on Midgard."
"It is a place with fine warriors. I knew that there would be more than enough trouble to keep you occupied." Thor hummed as they watched Clint fire one of his dummy arrows at Tony, who retaliated with a repulsor blast, which rebounded from Steve's shield and was grounded by Bruce who lectured all three men with a stern expression.
"It is I who should be thanking you, Loki. You gave me the courage to confess to you." Loki snuggled into Thor's warmth and kept an eye out for enemies as the night slipped past.
How he got into these situations, Bruce never quite understood. Tony was bleeding profusely, Steve happened to be locked in battle with the General, Clint very much occupied in saving Natasha from the trolls (yes, really) and the Demi-gods were wreaking absolute havoc on the remaining troops.
"Tony, can you hear me?"
"Nngh... Bruce... you always... this kinky?" Tony was, of course, referring to the fact that he was straddling the knight's lap.
"Shut up, you idiot. I can't heal you if you squirm." He concentrated but the lightning in Tony's reactor shocked him. "Ouch! What do I have to do to heal you?"
"Haha... The thing is... the Mage who... did this said I'd die alone. She hated... my guts."
Bruce snarled as he pulled the talisman from around his neck and sliced his palm, "Joanna Nivena! I summon thee." Blue lightning crackled over the field before the Mage in question appeared, not even dressed in her robes. "The knight. What is your grievance with him? He will die if I cannot heal his wounds."
"He was meant to die from the enchanted sword. He rejected my advances repeatedly." the woman sniffed as Tony lay gasping under him.
"Did you sign them?" Bruce questioned, his voice holding an undertone of a growl.
"Properly?" She was silent for a long moment as she summoned her robes and took in the battlefield.
"Release the blade."
"I cannot. The blade is intended to kill him. It is a cursed sword I bought from the black-magiks market."
"And you left it in a non-magical?! Are you stupid or just plain crazy? It's killing him regardless of whether or not you release the geas you have on the blade, you idiot! I want the geas gone." he snarled, his hands turning a deep emerald as he dug his hands into the ground.
"Why? It is not like he is woven in the strands of the universe tapestry."
"Of course he is, I can see-Oh. Oh Merlin no." Bruce was shocked as he saw gold and red threads weave into his MageSight tapestry. "He's in mine." He watched in awe as the Stark Banner planted itself right over the heart of his magic.
"Your tapestry is not supposed to change, Nature!"
"It just did. Your geas; remove it." He rumbled, baring sharpened canines at her. Plants began growing around them as a shield for the stray shots of lightning and arrows from the few remaining troops of the General's.
"At once, Nature." The sparks of lightning faded and Bruce sank into his magic, healing the gaping wounds. He panted as he lay on top of Tony's healed form.
"I had no choice."
"Huh?" Bruce smiled at the confused look on Tony's face.
"Your Family banner is a part of my magic now. I'm a Stark."
"Bruce Banner-Stark. Hmm, doesn't sound quite right." Tony hummed as he absently caressed Bruce's cheekbones with his gloveless hands (he'd lost them about halfway through the battle). "Bruce Stark. Perfect. Any catches?"
"You're my husband."
"Seriously? Because I have to say that's impossible by about a thousand odds to one."
"Magic, Tony; you are my husband."
"Can I give you a kiss then? 'Cause that's what husbands do." Bruce expected a rough kiss. He was surprised when Tony pressed butterfly kisses to his face before a chaste one was placed on his lips.
"I know you can kiss better than that." Tony flashed him a devilish grin before wincing slightly. "Maybe some other time."
"No, I got it." Tony reached up and tugged him down for a kiss that was the stuff of legend.
And so ends the adventure of the Avengers. This Bard can be coaxed into giving another tale. But, dear listener, it is entirely up to you. It is late and this Bard is tired. Perhaps another time, another place but not so far into our hero's futures.
Ending A/N: Why the hell is this so long? All I wanted to do was write a pretty fic with just Scienceboyfriends and a temporary place. Damn Muses never listen to me... They just waltz off in a direction I don't want them to go in and I have to follow them, typing as they play out what they want inside my head. Yeah. Whatever. Anywho, review! An Epilogue is in the works but needs reviews to encourage it. Cyber cookies to the uber Marvel fans if you spot the obscure references! There are quite a few. Why did I spend two weeks of my life on this? *headdesks* Never mind.
REMEMBER: REVIEWS = LOVE
*Danish - Thor! You'll show our location, you fool. Come here and keep me warm.
Yes, Loki. Are you alright? I do not like the look she sent your way, my love.
Loki, wake up. The spy will take us back to the inn.
Alright, but you have to take Fenrir for a walk.
Thor, stop chasing that poor butterfly. I am quite sure it does not want your attention.
It was for you Loki. Would you rather I craft something out of thunder and lightning?
Yes. A piece of armor, perhaps?