Housekeeping notes are at the end, BUT FIRST...
I would really love it if every single one of you could drop a note and let me know what you thought of this story. Did you like it? Why? If you didn't like it, why did you keep reading? What did you love about it? What did you hate? What could I improve? What would you like to see in the sequel? Give me some feedback please! I accept anonymous reivews.
In addition, I have a tumblr. If any of you have questions, and you're anonymous, it's likely that I'll answer those on tumblr.
Also, once the sequel is up, there will be an additional chapter posted to this to let you guys know.
The rough bark under his fingers was the last thing he felt before his entire world whited out and he knew nothing more.
After, he drifted in the darkness. It wasn't good, but he had been so tired. Was it so terrible if he wanted to rest? Even for a little?
Considering where he had just been, it was probably a terrible idea. He'd die before anyone could ever find him. So he should really wake up now and find a way back home because they (who exactly?) would be worried.
Struggling through the murky darkness that surrounded him, he clawed his way back up to consciousness. He wouldn't be defeated by this; he wouldn't.
He could feel his body now. Everything seemed to be in order; he wasn't in any pain at all (that raised all sorts of flags). Not even his chest hurt, and he'd been dreading that most of all.
Focusing on his eyes, he blinked blearily as he struggled into wakefulness. The lights of the room (not the desert?) he was in were blinding compared to the darkness of before. The bed was as comfortable as it got in a hospital, and he was wearing one of those paper-thin gowns he absolutely despised.
He wasn't alone, though. Stiffening, his eyes darted around the room to take in the people that were apparently camping out by his bedside. Two were resting by his bed; one was sleeping and the other was reading a book. The sleeping guy was pale with freckles and ginger hair. The book guy was really beefy and had blond hair and what looked like blue eyes; he also looked a lot like Captain America.
There were what looked like three children slumped over one another on the only couch in the room.
Curled up against a wall were a man and a woman. The woman had fiery red hair and the man short dusty blond. They were slumped against one another, deeply asleep. Slumped against the side of the couch was a black-haired guy with a lined face who managed the impressive feat of looking tired even though he was sleeping.
Then – much to his relief – there were Pepper and Rhodey. They were stretched out on the floor on what looked like towels.
So he only recognized two people out of everyone in the room. Not alarming (totally alarming) at all.
His attention turned to his chest, which felt great despite the arc reactor that was in it.
Only when he looked down, there was nothing there.
He must have a made a sound of distress because bookish Captain America guy looked up, his face lighting up when he saw that he was awake.
"Tony!" he whispered joyfully. "You're awake!"
Tony stared blankly back at the complete stranger who was greeting him like an old friend. "Uh…"
Several different expressions flashed across the other's face, eventually settling on cautious. "Are you all right?"
"The reactor." There. His words came out easily. "Where is it?"
The other's expression was becoming vaguely alarmed. "Reactor, Tony?"
"It was in my chest. Where's the reactor?"
"You never had one." The man was trying to sound soothing but failing. "Tony…do you know who I am?"
Might as well indulge the guy. Tony wasn't going anywhere now. "You look like my Dad's photos of Captain America, only that's impossible since he's dead."
The man's face twisted in sudden realization; his mouth dropped open in a silent "Oh."
"What?" Tony asked impatiently, barely managing to keep from loudly snapping and waking everyone up.
"What year is it?" the man said instead, as if Tony was the one who needed help.
"It's two thousand nine," Tony answered shortly. "Are you going to tell me who you are now?"
The man's brow furrowed unhappily. "I'm Steve. And it's not two thousand nine, Tony. It's two thousand twelve."
How was that possible? He'd been in Afghanistan scant days ago!
"What do you remember?" Steve asked neutrally.
"I was in Afghanistan." Tony looked up at the blank ceiling, trying not to hyperventilate (he could breathe). "Shit, shit, shit. How is this possible?"
"Calm down." Steve (just like Captain fucking America) rested a hand on his wrist, the contact soothing. "We'll figure it out. Let me wake the others."
"No!" Tony's fingers had wrapped around the other's hand before he realized what he was doing. "I mean, don't," he started again, more calmly. "Not all of them. Please." He doubtlessly would be overwhelmed. They probably all knew him, even – God forbid – the kids. And how the hell had he gotten to know kids?
"Okay," Steve said calmly, settling back down. "I won't wake all of them. But I will do him." He nodded at the still sleeping ginger. "He had the next shift anyway."
Tony let him go, pushing back into his pillows as he desperately tried to settle his racing thoughts. Or maybe he should just leave it, because it was a nice alternative to the empty silence that was still ringing through his head even now.
"Jarvis," Steve said quietly, catching Tony's attention.
The man – Jarvis? – blinked awake, looking up at Steve with blue eyes. "It's not yet my shift." His accent was English, and the flow of words so familiar.
Jarvis's attention snapped to Tony, his face hopeful. "Sir?"
That cinched it. Tony's face twisted in disbelief. "JARVIS?"
"He doesn't remember," Steve said. "He thinks it's two thousand nine."
Jarvis's eyes flickered to Steve's face for a second before going back to Tony's. "Afghanistan?"
"It's where I was," Tony answered quietly.
"What is the last thing you remember?"
"I…I touched this tree." Tony screwed his face up. "Man, I knew that was just a hallucination. Shouldn't have done that."
Jarvis's face was neutral. "Nothing else?"
Tony frowned, frustrated. "No! And I don't know who anyone in this room is! How did I get to know this many people?"
"Well, sir, it is quite a story," Jarvis said primly, sounding so much like Tony's AI it made him dizzy. "Perhaps it would be better left for later, however. Your friends would prefer to see that you are awake now."
"Are you sure, J?" Steve asked. "Tony's feeling a bit overwhelmed."
"Quite, Steve." Jarvis smiled at Tony. "He can handle it."
"Are you JARVIS?" Tony asked suspiciously. "Because you sound an awful lot like him, but that can't be possible because I'm still years away from putting him in anything close to resembling a humanoid body."
"That, sir, is part of the story." Jarvis stood, reaching to rest a hand on the pillow next to his head. "Why don't you rest? We'll wake the others."
Unable to do much else, Tony settled back, mouth dry as the two men proceeded to do that.
He had a feeling his entire world would be turning topsy-turvy in a little bit.
"Topsy-turvy" had been an understatement. His entire world had been completely uprooted and ground into dust.
The kids… Let's start there.
After everyone had been woken up and informed as to his unfortunate amnesia, it was the kids who had insisted upon still speaking with him.
"Dad…" That had been the one who had looked eerily like Tony himself as a kid. "You're all right?"
Tony had smiled weakly and managed a shrug, bit taken aback by the "Dad." He'd had a lot of one-night stands, but he'd always been so careful. How'd he end up with three kids who looked nothing alike? The second looked like a girl from India and the third Chinese (and not Japanese, though he didn't know how he knew that).
"You came back," the first had said when Tony still hadn't spoken. "You're here."
"Yeah," Tony had eventually managed. "Guess I am."
Jarvis had thankfully interfered then. "Dummy, he needs to be checked over by the doctors. Why don't we give them some room?"
So, world still reeling because of that, Tony had been subjected to the medical staff, none of whom actually looked medical. They all seemed too shifty.
After they were all done poking and prodding and interrogating him (after giving him many speculative looks he couldn't decipher at all), they left without explaining a thing, leaving Tony completely alone for the first time since he'd woken up.
Looking up at the ceiling, Tony began thinking about that badass suit he had invented days (or years, all right) before, thinking of ways he could innovate it and make it better (the silence in his head was too much, too much).
Then Steve walked in, face carefully blank.
"Let me guess," Tony said before he could. "I'm as healthy as a horse and they don't know why I can't remember squat."
"Well, yes," Steve admitted, a small smile crossing his face. "But the main point is that you're going to be just fine."
"Doctors say you might remember," Steve said, brow furrowing slightly. "Or not. To be honest, we're all kind of uncertain as to how this is going to work out."
"Why? I just lost my memory of the last three years; nothing new." Tony flapped a hand. "They've had amnesiac patients before. What was I doing anyway?"
"You kind of lost it in unusual circumstances."
"The last thing I remember is building a metal suit and flying out of a cave system and then touching a giant tree in the middle of a desert. I think I can handle unusual."
Steve had an unusual look on his face. "This is really unusual."
"The circumstances or what we're talking about?"
Steve said nothing more, as a black-haired man with startling green eyes walked in at that moment. His clothes looked really weird, the cloth thick and his shoulders covered with some sort of padding. He was holding what looked like a really small sword, though the hilt was far too fat.
"I see you really are awake," the man said, the words strangely formal.
Tony arched an eyebrow. "Yeah, and I don't know who you are."
"I am Loki."
The name rung bells. "The Norse god of mischief?"
"The same." An amused grin flashed across Loki's face. "Though I am now advisor to the king."
Tony frowned, trying to remember who that was. "Odin?"
"He was my father," a new voice said. This one belonged to a scruffy blond-haired man who was also wearing weird clothes. "I am Thor, king of Asgard."
Tony honestly had nothing to say to that. "Oh."
Practically everyone else he had seen after he'd woken up earlier was now in the room as well. Only this time there was also a man with a black trench coat and an eye patch and an unassuming-looking man in a business suit as well.
Loki spoke again, turning the sword round so that the hilt was facing Tony. "I wanted to give you this. I…found it where we last saw you."
Tony didn't touch it. "You mean it's mine?"
Tony wasn't the sort to carry swords around, especially funny looking ones like this one. Still, no one looked like this was any kind of joke. In fact, they were all looking rather eager, as if they expected something to happen the moment he touched it.
Eyes flicking back to the innocuous sword Loki was offering him, Tony figured that things couldn't get any crazier if he reached for it. So he did.
The moment his fingers closed around the hilt, he realized that it felt so damn familiar. The weight, the feel of it in his hands, and how his hand went to grip it as if he had done so hundreds – no, millions of times before.
He flicked it between his fingers, careful of the sharp edges of the blade. There was nothing remarkable about it other than the strange shape and the way it felt so familiar in his hands.
Keenly aware of everyone's attention on him, Tony felt inexplicably guilty as he shook his head and rested the blade on the blankets. "Sorry. It…feels familiar, but that's about it."
For some reason, this made Thor brighten. "This is most promising!"
"He still can't remember anything," a guy from the back of the room chirped.
"Yet he probably can," the red-haired woman said.
"Look," Rhodey said, beaming down at Tony, "at this point I'm just glad he's here. We all kinda thought you were dead."
Tony frowned slightly, looking between each one of the strangers that were inside his room. "You guys keep saying that. What happened? Captain America-lookalike over there insists it's a crazy story, but it can't be that crazy."
"You'd be surprised," the guy in the monkey suit said, sounding so dry Tony was surprised his voice wasn't on fire.
"You see," Jarvis said slowly, "to us you are Tony Stark, Father, and Gabriel."
The first two he could get, but Gabriel? "What?"
"'I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God,'" Jarvis said, sounding like he was quoting someone. "The messenger and the harbinger of justice and mercy."
"Okay…" Tony tried his best not to sound like he thought they were all smoking some sort of crack. "Why don't you start from the top."
"Of course, sir." Jarvis smiled faintly, taking a seat by his bedside. The others also began settling in for what seemed to be the long haul; the trench coat guy and the monkey suit guy both looked like they were insanely eager to hear this story. "It begins after you come back from Afghanistan in two thousand nine…"
In the middle of Nebraska, there was a gigantic crater. For miles around this site there was nothing but destruction and death. As humans began to filter back into the town they had left by order of the government, they wondered what exactly had happened even as they moved into their daily lives and fixed up what had been destroyed.
The site of the crater was unknown to the common American, but certain people who had satellite images from certain time points wondered what had happened to turn a stretch of land that had been – if not exactly being teeming with life – relatively normal land to a barren desert with no warning.
Yet no one ventured down to the center of the crater, for the sight of the hole in the ground – so perfectly gouged out – was a deterrent to anyone who happened upon it (not that there were many who did so).
In the middle of this crater, in the very center, a lone daffodil pushed its way to the surface, petals lifting toward the sunlight. Small blades of grass surrounded it, but it was the flower that was bursting with life, the colors vibrant, a direct contrast to the destruction surrounding it.
One day – one ordinary, unassuming day – a pair of black boots appeared before the daffodil, which was fluttering gently in the breeze. The boots belonged to a tall black-haired man adorned in green and black.
A small grin fluttered across Loki of Asgard's face as he looked down at the innocuous flower. He crouched, fingers perched on the dirt as he inspected the brightly colored flower.
"Captain, I have it."
The daffodil can mean unrequited love, but it also symbolizes rebirth and new beginnings. Apparently giving only a single daffodil can mean bad luck, but I think that would depend all on context really. Bad luck for whom exactly? The receiver or the giver? The people around the receiver? Anyway, I think that a daffodil for Gabriel's Grace is perfect considering this is a new beginning for him.
This is the part where I publicly confess that when I started this story, I was only up to the third episode of season 3, having also cheated and watched the first episode of season 4 and "Changing Channels". Now I'm up to episode 5 of season 3... So, yes, I wrote this entire story before I got to the angels and the Leviathans. I relied pretty heavily on Supernatural's wiki for a lot of details, particularly when it came to the Leviathans. I aim to watch more before I get cracking on the sequel. But before that, there will be a side story involving the Fantastic Four in purgatory.
I make no promises as to when the sequel will be out. My Big Bang in the Avengers fandom will be posted sometime in the next couple months, but I've got some other things on my plate. One is this story that's been a WIP for about 5 years and I'm currently in the middle of heavily editing and eventually finishing up. Another is my Harry Potter story, which I'd love to finish because I've already got an outline for what's supposed to happen. But since we all know the muse can be horribly fickle, I make no promises as to what will be happening. But in any case, the aforementioned WIP is first on my list.