Title: Out of Space and Time
Rating: T (to be safe, there's some swearing)
Genre: Avengers/LOTR crossover
Summary: The Tesseract and the Bifrost aren't the only ways by which to travel between the worlds, and there are more worlds than Thor has spoken of. When one of the pathways goes awry, the Avengers are called in to clean up the resulting mess.
Disclaimer: If I owned any of it besides the plot, I wouldn't be slaving away in retail.
A/N: I'm much more knowledgeable in the LOTR universe than I am in the Avengers universe. This is movie based on the Avengers' side of things and both movie and book based on the Tolkien side. Those familiar with my LOTR stories know that I cheerfully mix bookverse and movieverse without prejudice towards either.
This is my first foray into Avengers-verse. I may make canon errors, which I assure you are completely unintentional.
Hideous was the only word to describe the creatures. One moment the street was a relatively safe residential street, the next there was a bright flash of light and it was under siege by foul creatures who seemed to thrive on inflicting pain and death. Unfortunately for the creatures, they were wreaking havoc in an area that was under the protection of a very special response team...
"Damn, these things are ugly!" Stark commented as he blasted one of the creatures that was attempting to stab Steve in the back. "You're welcome, Capsicle."
"Be glad you aren't down here, Stark," Natasha retorted. "At least you can't smell them."
"Charming," Tony said dryly, speeding through the air to head off a trio of the beasts that had taken off after a group of civilians. "And I thought the Chitauri were nasty."
"Tin Man, there's another group of them about a block north of your current position. They have a hostage," Clint chimed in, putting an arrow through the third one in front of Stark.
"On it," Tony replied shortly. "JARVIS, divert power to the thrusters."
"Already done, sir," the AI replied.
"Good." He flew above the group, dropping down in front of them and blasting them before they could react. "Got the civilian," he said through the com link. The man had fallen where his captors had dropped him and had not moved. He was filthy, his long tangled blond hair matted with dried blood and obscuring the side of his face as he lay half on his belly, half on his side. Tony frowned as he realized the man's wrists and ankles were tightly bound. There was blood all over him, hardly any part of his body was without some sort of wound. Even the top of his head was not unscathed; his captors had been dragging him by his hair. Gently as he could while in his suit, the billionaire/playboy/genius/philanthropist rolled the man onto his back. And stared. This was no man. Tony was not sure exactly what the being was, male certainly, but not a man. "Cap, I think we might have a complication."
"Talk to me, Stark," Steve replied.
"I don't think this guy's from around here. He's not human. Don't exactly know what he is, but I doubt he with those things by choice; he's bound hand and foot." Tony said, for once not a hint of sarcasm in his tone. "He needs medical attention, too. He's pretty beat up. Breathing okay so far as I can tell. Where's Bruce?"
"Still on the Quinjet. So far we haven't needed the Big Guy," Steve replied. "These things aren't that tough or very smart."
"Okay, I'll get this guy to Bruce and then come back and help you finish mopping up."
"Copy that. Barton, any more strays?"
"Just one more group that I can see, Cap. Two blocks east, north side of the street in some bushes. Looks like they might have a camp there."
"Copy that. Natasha and I are on it. Tony, meet us there when you've dropped off our guest." Steve hefted his shield and headed for the last group, the Black Widow keeping pace with him.
"On my way," Stark acknowledged.
"How's he doing?" Steve asked, looking down at the being Tony had rescued.
"Cuts, bruises, possibly internal damage I have no way of detecting here. I'd say he's been tortured, Steve," Dr. Banner replied, cleaning a wound on the being's left arm and beginning to stitch it.
"I'd say you're right." He shifted, grimacing. "We found the remains of at least four men in that camp. Two of the bodies had similar wounds to what he has. The others..." Steve met the scientist's eyes. "We're pretty sure they were...eaten." Bruce wore a grimace that matched Steve's.
"How soon until we can get to the Helicarrier? He needs better than what I can do here, as soon as possible." Bruce looked sickened, but remained focused on the survivor.
"The clean up team is here, so as soon as the others get here, we'll take off."
"Light a fire under them, would you Steve? I don't like the way he's breathing."
"We're no closer to finding out how our guest and his captors got here, but we have more information than we did two days ago," Fury said, pacing back and forth along the bank of windows in the Helicarrier's conference room. "The bodies that were recovered from the camp were definitely human, with some interesting variations. Non-terrestrial humans, we think. Our guest, while humanoid, is more closely related to the creatures that were torturing him than he is to the humans the creatures killed. Common evolutionary ancestor, according to our geneticists." He turned back to the table that the Avengers, minus Thor who was visiting his parents on Asgard, were seated around. "There haven't been any sightings of the creatures in the last 12 hours, so we hopefully have tracked all of them down.
"As for our guest, they really did a number on him: cracked ribs, too many bruises and cuts to catalog, burns. He was tortured for an extended period of time, probably several days. The bodies in the camp show evidence of the same type of treatment."
"What have we been able to find out about tracking any new incursions?" Steve asked.
"We're no closer on that than we were two days ago. I'm hoping Stark and Dr. Banner might be able to shed some light on that issue."
"We can try," Banner said. "We haven't picked up any gamma signatures like the Tesseract threw off, but that doesn't mean anything. Thor's travel via the Bifrost doesn't produce a gamma signature, either. This could even be something entirely new, in which case it's going to be like looking for a needle in a haystack unless we have another incident." He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose before looking up again. "Right now, Tony's got a program running that looks for anomalies, both atmospheric and magnetic as well as the program to detect gamma signatures. That's the best we can do for now."
"Keep me posted, gentlemen," Fury said. "In the meantime, we'll keeping monitoring all civilian law enforcement channels for word of more of the creatures."
"Something's got you bugged, Big Man," Stark commented, glancing away from his holographic display to study his friend.
"The problem we're working on isn't enough to bug me?" Banner asked mildly, arching a brow at Tony.
"No. Either we'll find the needle in the haystack or we won't." He dismissed the display with a wave of his hand and called up another in it's place. "It's the hostage, isn't it?"
"Well, at the very least he might have a piece to the puzzle." He sighed, taking his glasses off and rubbing his eyes tiredly. "That is if we can even manage to communicate with him. We were lucky in that respect with Thor. I wouldn't bet on it with this guy."
"Any word from medical on him? I know you've been checking."
Banner snorted. "So have you. You aren't as slick as you think you are, Tony."
"I wasn't trying to be," the billionaire retorted with a smirk. "I know better than anyone that you don't miss anything." He shrugged. "Besides, I have an interest in how he's doing since I'm the one who saved his bacon in the first place. But, medical likes you more than they do me."
"That's because I don't hack into their computers or give them a hard time when they're only trying to do their jobs," Bruce pointed out, returning the smirk.
"I don't like needles," Tony said flatly. "I especially don't like needles filled with unknown substances held by S.H.I.E.L.D. medics." Bruce sighed, giving up.
"To answer your question: he hasn't so much as stirred. I asked them to notify me if he showed signs of waking." Tony just nodded.
"Have you slept at all since we got back? You look like hell." Banner grimaced.
"You know it's difficult for me to sleep here. I have, just not that much."
"You know, I've got this for awhile. Why don't you go grab a nap?" Tony turned to face him directly. "Go on, I promise I won't hack anything until you get back."
"I'll settle for you not blowing anything up," Bruce chuckled. "Okay, I'll go. But if we get any hits..."
"I'll call you immediately. Go."
Gray eyes fluttered open and darted about the room fearfully. What was this place? He took a quick inventory of his body, noting many aches and pains some of them more serious than others. He was lying on a soft surface, covered with warm cloth that was also soft to the touch and he could tell that his wounds had been seen to by a skilled healer. The room frightened him, however. It appeared to be made entirely of iron. To his knowledge, even the dwarves did not make such structures. Where was he?
A slight noise to his left startled him and made him turn his head sharply to look. A Man sat dozing in the chair next to his bed. His clothing was strange, like nothing the injured one had ever seen before. The Man was slightly disheveled, his wavy dark hair mussed. The injured one remained quiet, watching the Man until he stirred, opening his eyes with a start, as if he sensed the other's gaze on him.
The Man spoke, but the other could not understand his words. He sighed, frustrated. He had been hoping to get some answers to his questions. The Man did not look like the Men of Harad, so hope began to bloom in the other's breast that his fears had not been realized and he had not been sold into slavery by his former captors. He sank back into the soft pillow, watching the Man out of the corner of his eye. Suddenly, he gasped, his breathing coming quickly, his memory returning in full. Orcs! The Haradrim had been overtaken by a very large band of orcs! His eyes darted to the Man again.
The Man was speaking in a soothing manner, showing both empty hands in a non-threatening manner. The other, with great effort, slowed his breathing and regained control of himself. He truly wished he knew what the Man was saying.
"Easy, easy now. I'm not going to hurt you. The creatures are gone. Easy now," Bruce kept his tone gentle, careful to show his hands and not to move suddenly. He really didn't want to have the other panic. He didn't want to risk triggering the Other Guy. He poured a cup of the water on the bedside table and offered it to the other. The being carefully took the cup, sniffing the contents before taking a cautious sip. Apparently not detecting anything amiss, he drained the cup and handed it back.
"Good, see? I'm one of the good guys." Banner smiled slightly, amused at himself. Tony would never let him hear the end of this if he had hacked into the surveillance system again. "Now, let's see if we can try to communicate at least a little." He pointed to his chest. "Bruce. Bruce." He pointed at the other. The being cocked his head, clearly debating whether or not to respond. Finally he pointed at Banner.
"Bruce." He pronounced it oddly, accenting the end of the name rather than the beginning. Banner nodded. He pointed to his own chest. "Legolas." Banner's eyebrows rose into his hairline.
"Legolas?" He was careful to pronounce it as the being had. The other nodded, repeating his name. Banner took a deep breath before replying, "Legolas Thranduilion?" The other started, staring at the man. Slowly, he nodded. Banner shrugged. "Well, if Thor's real, why not you too?" He chuckled, "Tony's going to love this, closet Tolkien geek that he is." Legolas frowned, clearly wishing he understood what Bruce was saying. The door opened, startling both of them, and a dark haired woman entered.
"Dr. Banner? Is everything all right?"
"Fine, Ms. Allen. I just didn't want him to wake up alone. We've got a language barrier, but I do know that his name is Legolas."
"Seriously?" she asked. Banner nodded. "I suppose nothing should surprise me any more," she sighed. "Do you think he'll let me take a look at him? I'd hate to have to trank him just to take his vitals."
"Why don't you demonstrate on me? He might be more apt to cooperate if he knows what's coming and knows that it doesn't hurt."
"Good idea, and it's kind of you." Allen was one of the few S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel who didn't shy away from Bruce and he appreciated it more than he could say. She wrapped the blood pressure cuff around Banner's arm, going through the motions of taking his blood pressure. Banner sat calmly through the procedure. Once she remove the cuff, she pointed at Legolas' arm. He nodded slowly and she wrapped the cuff around his arm and inflated it. He sat still, his pulse indicating that he was not as calm as he appeared, but he made no move to free his arm.
Next she took Banner's temperature reading and Legolas also cooperated, though he flinched a little when the device touched his ear. She checked Banner's pupils, then Legolas'. He flinched again, but not enough that she needed to redo the test. Smiling, she thanked him.
"I'll see what I can do about getting you something to eat. I imagine that you're very hungry by now," she said, speaking directly to him as if he could understand her. "Be right back. She slipped out of the room and Legolas shot a quizzical look at Banner. The man shrugged.
"Sorry, I have no clue how to explain that one to you. You'll see when she gets back." Banner stayed until Allen came back with a covered tray.
"It's not much, but it's hot," she said, pulling the table up and adjusting the setting on his bed until he was sitting up a little. He had jumped when the bed began to move, but hadn't made any attempt to leave the bed. Setting the tray down, she removed the cover. His nostrils flared a bit, but he made no move to pick anything up for several minutes. Hesitantly, he picked up a spoon and stirred the soup, examining it. Slowly, he spooned a small amount into his mouth. Encouraged by the flavor, he began to eat in earnest, making short work of the soup, crackers, and fruit juice. The pudding he hesitated over until he cautiously tasted it and it too disappeared quickly. Allen smiled at him. "Now, we'll let that settle awhile and if it doesn't come back up, we'll see about something more substantial for dinner."
Banner rose, addressing Legolas with a little wave. "I'll be back later, Legolas." The other's eyes followed him to the door, but he said nothing.
"You don't look like you slept," Stark commented as Banner walked into the lab.
"I did," he replied, "just not for very long. I went to visit our guest."
"Oh?' Tony's eyebrow lifted but his tone was not one of surprise. He knew Bruce too well by this point. "Did he have anything interesting to say?"
"Other than his name, no." Banner reclaimed his stool and fiddled with his tablet for a moment. "As I suspected, there's a language barrier."
"Oh well, can't always be lucky. Unless you're me." Tony swept his fingers across the display screen in front of him, sending the contents to Banner's screen. "Take a look at that and tell me what you think."
"Interesting. Atmospheric anomaly, but nothing weather-wise that would have triggered it." He met Tony's eyes. "We found our haystack?"
"Hell, Big Man, I think we found the needle." He tapped the screen in front of him again. "Let's run it through the simulator program to be sure, but yeah. I think we found it."
"I've found four anomalies so far," Banner said, eyes glued to his screen.
"See them," Stark replied. "I see the same four, and no others. I think that accounts for all the creatures we've dealt with. I've got a tracking program roughed out. Just need to test it and we'll be able to update Fury and the others." He touched the required portions of the screen and sat back, casting a speculative gaze at Banner, who grinned when he noticed it. "Do I detect a touch of 'Cat ate the canary' face, Dr. Banner? Spill it."
"I think we need to have a conversation with Thor when he gets back," Bruce said, amusement patent in his tone.
"Do we have to?" Tony quipped. In reality, Tony got along well with Thor, despite their getting off on the wrong foot with each other during their initial meeting.
"It appears that he's not been entirely candid with us."
"Thor? We are talking about the same demigod, aren't we? Mr. 'I'm incessantly cheerful and an open book in love with my hammer of doom' Thor?"
"The same," Banner confirmed with a chuckle. Tony's description was accurate, after all.
"Evidently, there are worlds beyond the Nine Realms."
"And..." Tony turned on his stool to face Bruce. "You're killing me here, Banner." Bruce chuckled again. It wasn't often that he could get the upper hand with Tony.
"Well, let's just say that another legend may also be based in fact."
"Bruce. Buddy. Come on, you're killing me."
"Curiosity killed the cat, Tony."
"Satisfaction brought it back again." Tony leveled a pointed look at his fellow Avenger. "And also Tim Burton. Wait, that was a dog." Bruce laughed outright at that.
"Our guest's name is Legolas."
"Not at all. Hack into the security footage if you want to, I'm sure the exchange was recorded." Bruce's expression was amused, Tony's shifted from surprise to calculation.
"If that's so, and the Professor was correct on a lot of the other stuff too, I may have a partial solution to our language barrier." He pulled out his phone. "JARVIS, locate my English to Sindarin translation program and upload it onto my phone."
"You created a translation program for Tolkien's work? Why am I not surprised?" Bruce shook his head, laughing.
"English to Sindarin and English to Quenya," Tony replied, laying his phone on the counter. "I would have done dwarvish too, had Tolkien been more forthcoming with it."
"How old were you when you did this?"
"Probably 13 or 14. It was around the time I read 'Lord of the Rings' and 'The Silmarillion'." He shrugged. "Dad was off at some conference over the summer and I was bored. That was before I got into MIT."
"Better that than blowing something up," Banner commented.
"Oh, I did that too. This is me we're speaking of," Tony deadpanned. "If it works, I'll upload the program into S.H.I.E.L.D.'s computer." He glanced at Bruce, the expression on his face that of a kid with unlimited funds entering a candy store. "When can we test it?"
"Legolas was awake earlier, he might still be," Bruce said, shaking his head with an amused expression. Tony, for all his genius, really was just a big kid at heart. For him, now was always better than later unless he was in trouble with Pepper.
"Okay, let me set the simulation to run while we're gone. That way we can kill two birds with one stone," Stark said, his fingers flying over the surface of his screen. "Annd...set! Okay, it'll take roughly an hour to run. Let's go see the elf prince."
Bruce passed through the doorway into the infirmary room followed closely by Tony. He paused just inside the door, Tony fortunately stopping before he ran into his fellow Avenger. Legolas was asleep, eyes closed and curled on his left side. As the two Avengers watched, his brow furrowed and he shifted restlessly in his sleep. Stark and Banner traded a look. They were both well acquainted with nightmares.
Bruce stepped to the side of the bed, motioning for Tony to stay where he was. Opting for the gentlest, least invasive method of waking the elf he cleared his throat and spoke in a moderate tone of voice, "Legolas? Wake up, Legolas. It's just a dream." The elf shuddered, murmuring something neither of the men caught. Bruce sighed, reaching out to lightly touch the elf's shoulder. "Legolas?"
The elf startled violently, slamming his body back into the opposite guardrail of the bed, his eyes flying open and his breath coming rapidly. Bruce stepped back, showing his empty hands and speaking softly and calmly as he had before.
"Easy now, you're safe," he soothed. Gradually, Legolas focused on him and his breathing slowed. "Good." Bruce reached behind himself and grasped the chair, turning it backwards and sitting down before pouring a cup of water for the elf and offering it to him. Legolas took it, his hand trembling slightly but stilling as he drained the cup. He handed it back, nodding briefly to Banner.
"Bruce." He caught the slight movement that Tony made then and his gaze turned sharply to the billionaire. Tony smiled and waved, patently trying to look harmless. He grabbed the other chair in the room and pulled it over next to Bruce's, mimicking the other man's placement of himself.
"Tony," Stark said, tapping the arc reactor under his AC/DC t-shirt. The elf studied him for a long moment before nodding.
"Tony," he replied, again putting the emphasis on the second syllable of the name. Sighing deeply he pulled himself into an upright position, wincing as his injuries protested the move and raked his hand through his hair, pulling it away from his face and revealing his pointed ears. Tony's eyebrows rose.
"Well, that answers that one," he commented quietly to Bruce. Banner frowned slightly at him.
"Rein it in a little, Tony. I'm not sure he's up to the full Stark experience." Humor laced Bruce's tone, but he knew Tony would take him seriously.
"Right. Let's see if this works, then." He laid his phone on the table after touching the screen briefly. He settled himself again, draping both arms over the back of the chair. "Hopefully, this'll make things a bit easier." Legolas' eyes widened and he stared at the phone. "Are you able to understand us better now?" Tony asked.
"The grammar is odd, but yes I do," the elf's reply was translated by the program. "Do you understand me as well?"
"Apparently, the grammar issue is one sided. Maybe you can help me work that one out later," Tony set his chin in his palm.
"How is this possible? The box speaks for you in my tongue?" The elf examined the phone, but from a distance.
"Oh, it's just another kind of magic, " Tony said in an offhanded tone. "I'll explain it later if you want. Unfortunately, business before pleasure. Bruce and I were hoping you could help us with something else." He glanced at Bruce. "We've been trying to work out how you and the creatures who hurt you got here. We think we've found out how to track it, if it happens again, but that's only part of what we need to do. We will also need to work out how to get you home." He paused, letting the program catch up. "Anything that you might remember may help with that."
"And may help you in the event that more orcs do end up here," Legolas replied softly. "I will help in any way I can but I have very little memory of it." He sighed, focusing his gaze on the far corner of the room, a habit both men recognized as a soldier's method of dealing with trauma. "Orcs are not kind to their captives. I remember a bright light, the orcs were screaming, and then everything smelled differently." He glanced at the men. "The next thing I remember is waking here."
"The bright light was probably the transfer," Bruce mused. "The anomaly would appear that way if you were inside it." He took his glasses off, turning them in his fingers as he thought. "Legolas, you might remember more later. In the meantime, since this seems to work well, Tony and I will make up a device for you to keep with you." He studied the elf for a moment. "Now, how are you doing?" The elf looked from Bruce to Tony.
"I am healing." He met Bruce's eyes. "I am alive, as I had not expected to be." He sighed. "I am missing my home, but do not take my saying so to mean that I am in any way ungrateful for your actions on my behalf."
"Ah, well, thank Tony for that: he's the one that got you away from the orcs," Bruce said.
"That was a team effort, Big Man. Clint spotted him in the first place, and you patched him up as best you could until we could get him here," Tony pointed out.
"You all have my thanks. I am in your debt." His expression was even more solemn than before. All three looked up as the door opened. The medic, Allen, frowned at Stark.
"He needs to be resting, without being stared at like a zoo animal, Mr, Stark." She moved the table over the bed again and set a tray down, her expression shifting into a smile for her patient. "I have something a bit heartier than soup for you this time. I even managed to snag a brownie for you." She raised the head of his bed again.
"Wait, how is this all on me?" Tony asked in a mock-affronted tone.
"Dr. Banner knows better than to overtire someone who's recovering from injuries like his," Allen said, checking the pitcher next to the bed. "I'll get you some more ice water," she said to the elf, smiling at him again before exiting the room. Bruce chuckled.
"And that's why you don't aggravate the medical staff." He shook his head. Tony gave him an arch look.
"Bruce, we're talking about me. I aggravate EVERYONE," Tony retorted. He leaned forward to examine Legolas' meal. "Oh, yay, Mystery Meat, limp green beans, instant potatoes, and the inevitable gluey pudding. The food here is a bad parody of school cafeteria food. The brownie is a bonus. Apparently, Allen likes you." He stood, picking up his phone. "I'm smuggling in some real food next time I see you. Don't worry, we won't leave you to suffer with that crap." He glanced at his phone. "I'll get you the translator as quick as I can."
"Rest," Bruce said. "Now that we can communicate, Fury will want as much information as you can give us."
"What does 'Fury' plan to do with me?" Legolas asked, his expression impassive.
"You aren't a hostile. So long as you stay that way, you won't be harmed." Banner said. Legolas nodded, turning his attention to his food.
"I have no plans to be hostile. I only wish to return to my home. I will assist you as I am able towards that end," he said, poking the green beans and wrinkling his nose. Tony gave a bark of a laugh.
"Don't eat that. Seriously." He touched the screen of the phone again. "JARVIS? Place an order with Goldman's Deli. The usual, for twenty, and have it delivered to the Tower. I'll have it picked up from there." He glanced at Banner. "We might as well go check on the simulation and then clue Fury in." He looked at Legolas again. "Don't eat that. Except for the brownie."
"For twenty?" Banner asked as they walked toward the door.
"We're feeding Cap and you never know when Thor will show up. Besides, I thought I'd butter Fury and Hill up a bit. Goldman's is the best." Tony smirked at him. He looked back at the elf, "We'll see you in a bit, Legolas." The elf nodded, picking up the brownie.
"You're telling me that Tolkien had inside information from another world during World War I?" Clint asked.
"Apparently," Tony said, fiddling with his phone. Fury had yet to comment. Steve just looked interested. He had read the books recently, and they had watched the trilogy over three nights while they were recovering from a previous mission.
"I'd say their time runs differently from ours as well, from what little Legolas told us," Banner put in, turning his glasses in his hands.
"And from the fact that orcs are still an issue," Steve mused. "Question is, where do we go from here?"
"He's not a hostile," Fury said, "but we can't just turn him loose, for obvious reasons. The last thing we need is another incident with the media."
"He shouldn't stay here. If what Tolkien said holds true, it may well adversely affect his health to be cooped up inside a huge hunk of metal," Stark said. "Not that my place is much better, but I can bring in some potted plants. And we'd be there to keep an eye on things."
"I want to hear you explain this one to Pepper," Steve said, grinning slightly. "Given that you've already inflicted us on her."
"Dibs on the ticket sales and popcorn concession," Barton quipped. Natasha just smiled.
"It's not a bad idea, really." Banner crossed the room towards them. "The building is secure, JARVIS keeps an eye on everything, and if the Other Guy can't destroy it, I doubt he could."
"Especially given that he's not from a technically advanced society," Tony agreed. He glanced down at his phone. "And if Pepper can put up with me, she can handle an elf prince. By the way, the food's here."
"What food?" Fury asked.
"I ordered from Goldman's. You're included." He smirked at the director. "You're wanting to question Legolas anyway. Why not do it over a meal? Might actually put him at ease a bit."
"Is he even well enough to be up?"
"So long as we keep it brief and he eats something, I'd say so. His healing factor's about on a par with Steve's from what we've seen thus far," Banner replied. He looked at Tony. "You know he'll insist on walking in here under his own power."
"Hello: elf prince and warrior. Of course he will. Same as Cap or Barton would." Tony smirked at the two. Barton shrugged.
"He's not wrong," the archer conceded. He looked at Steve. "You know he's not." Steve just gave a little, sheepish grin and shrugged.
Tony quickly drafted Steve and Clint into helping set the food out when it arrived in the conference room. Banner had gone to help Ms. Allen assist Legolas to the conference. He returned shortly, he and the medic steadying the elf between them. They settled Legolas in a chair and Allen fussed over him for a moment, the elf assuring her via his new translator device that he was well enough for the time being. Tony watched, a smirk on his lips.
"Allen." Stark beckoned her over. "Banner will make sure we don't overtire him." She frowned at him, fazing him not in the least. "Have you eaten yet?"
"I'm headed to the cafeteria when I leave here," she answered.
"I have a better plan." He handed her one of the styrofoam meal containers, stacking a dessert container on top. "Goldman's Deli, with my compliments." The look she gave him was both shocked and skeptical. "You've been kind to our guest beyond your job description and you're good to Banner when most people, even the ones who should know better, aren't. Let me spoil you just a little, no strings attached. Just my appreciation, and you're welcome to continue to bust my chops like you usually do." She gave him a slight smile.
"Well, someone needs to try to puncture your ego occasionally," she said, shaking her head. "Thank you, Mr. Stark."
"You're quite welcome, Ms. Allen." He nodded to her and sauntered over to Legolas. "So how was the brownie?" The elf gave him a quizzical look, apparently trying to decide if he was serious.
"It was very good." He almost smiled. "Mistress Allen was distressed that I declined to eat the rest of the meal." Stark snorted.
"That wasn't a meal." He set another of the styrofoam containers down in front of Legolas. "This is a meal." He opened it. "Roast beef sandwich au jus, coleslaw, German potato salad, pickle spear, and chocolate layer cake for dessert." He pointed to each item as he named it. "Eat as much as you want, there's plenty." He glanced at Barton, who was already digging in. "Cupid, were you raised by wolves?"
"He was," Natasha said, walking past with her own meal. "And so were you, Stark. The only ones with manners are Bruce and Steve." She shot Barton a sardonic glance, which he returned in kind.
"It's Goldman's," Clint said by way of explanation, taking another mouthful of potato salad.
"I have to agree with that," Bruce said, sitting down between Legolas and Clint with his own container. He did, however, wait to start eating until the rest of the team was seated with their food. Banner opened his container and then the smaller container that held the au jus before picking up his sandwich and dunking the corner of it, demonstrating the proper way of eating it to the elf. Legolas followed the scientist's lead, eating slowly and clearly savoring the flavor of the sandwich. They ate in silence for a few minutes before Tony wiped his mouth with a napkin and cleared his throat.
"Okay, now that the initial 'Grab, Root, and Growl' period has passed, introductions are in order." He turned to the elf. "Starting to my left we have Steve, also known as Cap, Capsicle, Spangles, or Captain America, Natasha Romanoff, also known as Agent Romanoff or Black Widow, Clint Barton, also known as Agent Barton, Hawkeye, Cupid, and Katniss. Director Fury and Agent Hill will be joining us in a moment." Lightning crackled across the bank of windows, startling Legolas. The team just exchanged a significant look and grinned.
"Good thing you ordered extra, Tin Man," Barton said, around a mouthful of sandwich. "Looks like our other champion eater just arrived."
Fury and Hill accompanied Thor to the meeting room and as soon as the Asgardian had greeted the rest of the team, they too sat down with their meals, Thor taking two for starters. Tony resumed his self-imposed role of introducer.
"This is Thor, Asgardian prince, God of Thunder, also known as Point Break and Hammer Time, Agent Hill, known as nothing else, and Director Nick Fury. I'll tell you his nicknames later." He smirked at the very slight frown Fury shot him. "Thor, this is Legolas. By the way, we need to have a little talk about information sharing later."
"Can it, Stark." Fury apparently had reached the end of his patience. "Thor, what do your people know of the worlds beyond the Nine Realms?" The Asgardian looked pensive for a moment.
"There are many, only a few of which have we been in contact with in any significant way," he said, brow furrowing slightly. "Why do you ask me of this?"
"We need information on one in particular, called Arda."
"Arda?" The furrows deepened. "I know little, my friends. Arda is insular, protected by a group of beings much like the AllFather. From what he has told me, they deem their charges not yet ready for contact with any outside their own world."
"You speak of the Valar," Legolas said, speaking for the first time since Thor and the S.H.I.E.L.D. director and agent had entered the room. Thor nodded.
"Yes, that is how they were named to me. You came from Arda?" Legolas nodded. "I was not aware that there were any pathways from Arda."
"I am not here by my choice, my lord, nor by the choice of the Valar, I suspect," the elf said with a grimace. Thor's expression turned thoughtful.
"Loki taunted me once by saying that there were hidden pathways between the worlds. It is unlikely that he is the only one to have discovered them." His expression became concerned. "He may have shared the information with his unknown ally as well." He met Fury's eye. "Of one thing I am certain: Loki himself did not cause this. The AllFather has stripped him of his powers and bound him too tightly to his quarters on Asgard for even Loki's wiles to break." His gaze swept around the table. "Heimdall will inform the AllFather of what has transpired. If he has any information that will help us, he will make it known to me." Fury nodded, knowing that that was the best he could hope for.
"Legolas, have you remembered anything more than what you've already told Banner and Stark that might help us?" The elf frowned, clearly thinking hard for a moment.
"As I have said, I remember a bright light and the orcs screaming." He glanced up at the Avengers briefly. "They do not like bright light. There was a sound as well, a deep hum, but discordant, out of harmony with the surroundings. After that came the light and then everything smelled strangely. I no longer recognized the sounds around me or the stars above me." He shrugged helplessly. "I know no more than that."
"You might still remember more later. It works that way sometimes," Fury said, his tone not unkind. "For the time being, you're almost well enough to be released from the infirmary. Stark has offered the use of one of his guest rooms for the remainder of your stay if you'd prefer to be somewhere other than here." Legolas seemed to look through Fury for a moment.
"I appreciate that you are not treating me as a prisoner, Director Nick Fury."
"You haven't given me a reason to," Fury returned, unfazed. Legolas merely nodded, returning his attention to his food. Fury looked around the table. "Anyone else have anything to add? Then we're done for now." He turned to Tony. "Thanks for the meal, Stark. I haven't had Goldman's in a couple of years." Tony gave him a sardonic nod as he and Agent Hill rose together and exited the room.
"Okay, the teacher's gone. What can we get into, kids?" Bruce shook his head with a chuckle, Steve looked torn between amusement and disapproval, Clint smirked and Natasha raised an eyebrow at the billionaire. Thor just grinned before taking a hefty bite of his sandwich. "Legolas," he said, turning to face the elf, "how are you holding up?"
"I am well enough," the elf replied. "I thank you for your offer of hospitality."
"The more, the merrier," Tony quipped, taking a bite of potato salad. "I wouldn't wish having to stay in this tin can on anyone. Well," he added, frowning darkly, "almost anyone." His expression brightened again. "Besides, I have better toys than Fury does."
"You're tiring, aren't you?" Banner asked the elf, his expression concerned. "This is the first time you've been out of bed for any significant period of time since you were injured."
"A little," Legolas admitted. "I am well enough to finish my meal, however," he said, a slightly impish expression crossing his face as he glanced at Tony.
"Good." The billionaire replied, humor lacing his tone. "If you thought that brownie was good, wait until you taste the cake." He shot a glance at Steve and Thor. "I haven't met a warrior yet who couldn't appreciate good food."