[Author's Note: To "Guest": You were right to point out that I glossed over a couple continuity choices that I made, so just for you, I'm adding my explanations into this chapter.]
"They're in Sweden?" Steve moaned, once informed of their destination. Unfortunately for him, the plane was already in the air, and he wasn't one of the flying team members, so he couldn't just hop out.
Tony poured him a glass of scotch from the well-stocked bar. "Relax, Cap. Just enjoy the flight. My plane has got every luxury you could want, from flatscreen TVs to top of the line sound systems." He gestured to the speakers, where Bruce Banner was plugging in his iPod. Soon the questionable notes of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" were blaring through those vaunted speakers, much to Tony's amusement.
Steve shrugged and settled back into the admittedly comfy seat. "I was kind of hoping we'd make that ball game tonight." Formerly a die-hard fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers, but since that team didn't exist anymore, he was now growing pretty fond of the Yankees. It was either that or transfer his allegiance to the LA Dodgers, which he was too much of a New Yorker to do. And now they were going to a country where he couldn't even watch the Yankee's game on TV.
"This doesn't have to be a one-day trip, you know."
That was hardly the point, considering the Yanks were prepping to take down the Sox, but he tried an argument that he hoped would carry more weight with Stark. "Doesn't Miss Potts expect to see us back at the mansion this evening?"
"Forget Pepper. She's used to it." Tony toasted him with a glass of his own. "But if you're dead set on tonight's game, we don't have to stay in Sweden long. I doubt there's much to see there, anyway."
Thor, who'd been looking out the window, rejoined the conversation to contradict him. "On the contrary, it should be most enjoyable. From what I understand, that region of Midgard still holds onto old ties with Asgard."
"You mean, people worshiped you there."
"I am merely interested in seeing the similarities."
Natasha flipped through her phone, doing a quick Google search and mulling over the results. "We could try the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm." She turned it around and scrolled through the images page for him. "What do you think?"
"If Barton approves of the detour." He anxiously loomed over Clint's sleeping figure. Hawkeye had conked out practically as soon as they were in the air, his good hand firmly clasped around the pistol strapped to his left thigh. (Though he was ambidextrous, he'd been doing a lot of lefty shooting lately, so the sleeping position looked pretty natural.) In any case, he wasn't about to object to their itinerary.
"Why not?" Then the music changed to a tune about Spider Man, and she glared at Banner. "Are you trying to get theme songs for all of us? If so, you should know that this one is taken by someone else."
"Yeah, well, my next choice was the 'Itsy Bitsy Spider.'"
Thor raised his eyebrows as he absorbed the song's lyrics. "Is there truly a man-spider here on Midgard?"
Natasha bobbed her red head in confirmation. "Another superhero. Strictly local. SHIELD's met him a few times, though."
When she turned to Coulson for confirmation, he was quick to throw in his assent. "Not a bad kid. Very concerned with doing right, but he's not always the most reliable or mature person in the city." He removed his sunglasses to wipe off a speck of dirt that only he could see, and then he shifted position so that he was facing Bruce. "Did you get Captain America's theme song on your playlist?"
Bruce frowned and considered his iPod. "I didn't know he had a real theme song, so I just went with the national anthem."
Coulson plucked his phone from his pocket. "I digitized it from some old film reels. Here, I can send it to you."
Steve Rogers buried his head in his hands with a deep shudder. "Not the 'Star Spangled Man.' Please, not the 'Star Spangled Man.'"
"I would hear this tune," Thor declared, slamming a hand onto his armrest, and Coulson was happy to oblige.
Natasha shook Hawkeye awake so he could enjoy the Captain's humiliation as the song played loud and clear through the jet. It took the entire flight to placate him, but just as Coulson and the Avengers were piling down the ramp, Tony got a new text with his new "Star Spangled Man" ringtone garnering howls from his teammates. Rogers shoved through them all and returned to the plane, looking very much like he would have slammed the door if he could find one.
Three figures were waiting anxiously at the bottom of the ramp at the semi-abandoned landing strip outside Stockholm. "Aww, that cast looks awful," said a dark-haired girl who was instantly shushed by the other two. Thor hurried forward to introduce her as Darcy Lewis, and the other two as Jane Foster and Erik Selvig. He looked mostly to Hawkeye as he spoke, recalling the purpose of the expedition.
"I remember Dr. Selvig," Clint replied. "He worked for SHIELD, remember? Then we were brainwashed together."
Selvig nodded sadly. "I left America to avoid those memories."
"I thought about doing the same."
Tony laughed and slapped Thor on the back. "Looks like your contribution to the project's a failure. And no one thinks the museum side trip will make it any better."
"Is this a competition?"
Everyone's eyes widened as they stared at the Asgardian. It was perfectly clear to the rest of them. "Obviously." He herded them all to the two stretch limos he'd had on standby. "The text is from Pepper. She's aware that we're gone, but never mind. Let's get this museum out of the way so that we can hit the clubs."
Jane bit her lower lip and leaned close to Selvig. "Is it really wise to fill this group with alcohol?" she asked.
Erik smiled briefly, probably remembering the time he'd been out drinking with Thor. Then he stared around at the assembled Avengers. "No, it's not. I'm sure we can find something in the city that's just as entertaining but not quite so intoxicating."
Darcy raised an eager hand. "I know! I've been checking the Internet for stuff to do when I get bored in the lab, and I found out that the Cirque du Soleil is in town." She accepted champagne from Tony with a flirtatious flutter of her eyelashes that caused Jane to take the glass right out of her hands. As they drove along, Tony called over to the other car to inform them of the circus-after-museum plans. There was a long pause, and Darcy said, "But if you don't like the idea…"
The others' voices piped over the phone. Steve's came with unexpected enthusiasm. "I think it sounds great!" he said. "A good old-fashioned show."
"Won't get too violent, either," Bruce added.
"Then we're going to the circus," Clint confirmed, sounding strained. "Should be fun."
They hung up, and Darcy squirmed in her seat. "Y'know, I don't think I believe him…"