Not my characters.


"Thor, what are you doing here?" Tony asked, entering kitchen #7, the one where he and Bruce most often met in the morning to share breakfast.

"Are you not glad to see me, shield brother?"

"I'm glad, Point Break, I just thought you were busy doing the crown prince thing on your planet. More to the point, what are you doing here with...her?"

It had taken every ounce of Tony's diplomacy - before he'd had his coffee, he might add - to say "her" instead of "that", which may have been taken poorly. Because the being sitting across the kitchen table from Thor was vaguely young in appearance and female-shaped, but looked like something out of one of Harvey Dent's wet dreams - half-pretty and whole, half-rotted and corpse-like.

The two of them were eating strawberry and cream cheese toaster strudel. With big mugs of milk. And flaky pastry was spilling out from the guest's decayed jaw half, though she demurely caught the crumbs with her napkin.

"This is my niece, Hel. Say hello to Tony Stark, the Man of Iron of whom I have told you, my dear."

Hel rose to her feet and gave a little bow. "I hope I am not infringing on your hospitality."

"Oh, not at all, plenty of toaster pastries to go around." Tony flipped through an index in his mind, where he'd done a lot of research on his teammates. Only the research on Thor had involved a lot of mythology, and hoping to gods that a significant amount of it was embellished by drunk and bored vikings. "Are you, uh, Loki's daughter?"

"Yes. He is my mother. If you find this strange you are not the only one." Something cold and dark infused her otherwise polite tone, there.

"I assure you, we are among friends." Thor patted Hel on the back and explained, "My father felt it was best for the realm and the distress it was causing the court that Loki's children be raised by others and eventually given positions of rank that were elsewhere, away from the attention of those who would question too loudly. Hel rules the dead of Asgard that are not destined for Valhalla but are still worthy of preservation by soul-binding, not allowed to slip into true Void."

"Huh. Some of us on Earth have been trying to figure out how to do that with computers."

Steve wandered in then, dressed rather adorably in a flannel robe and loafers over checked pajamas. He sometimes met Tony and Bruce in this kitchen, especially when he hadn't slept well. He stopped and blinked but recovered well. "Oh, hi Thor. You're on vacation? And who is the young lady?"

"Hel Lokisdottir," she said, allowing him to take her good hand in a handshake, though she let her hand hang limply as if not sure what to do with it but going with the flow. "I do not wish to cause distress on Midgard, but Uncle Thor suggested we meet here knowing my discomfort in Asgard as an exile of sorts."

"The myths are at least partially true," Tony explained while busying himself with the coffeemaker. "Seems Loki's got ladybits despite being for all intents and purposes a dude, and his kids have been scattered around as minor officials because they're kinda freaky. No offense meant, just telling it like it is."

"I appreciate your lack of pretense or fear," Hel replied, then taking a drink of milk. "This is good milk. There is not much variety of food in my domain, as I and my servants are the only ones there embodied."

"I hope you are not being deprived. I will not stand for it."

"Oh, no, Uncle, we are treated well, albeit with great caution. But it is not worth the effort to keep cows, for example, so what dairy foods we have is sent down the branches of Yggdrasil from Asgard itself."

Steve took a moment to process this - Tony had given them a multimedia presentation on the less alarming aspects of Norse mythology one night after Thor left - and took a seat across from the two. "So what brings you both here? Or are you just having a little reunion?"

"Loki's gone missing. I wanted to ask Hel if she knows where. As his only daughter, Hel is Loki's favorite, and there is a possibility he might have visited her."

Hel raised her good eyebrow. "I was just about to tell you, Uncle, that I had a unique visitor shortly before you called. Not Loki, though."

"Who, then?"